Staunton, June 10 – Russian journalist Andrey Babitsky says that “Russia has ceased to be a failed state and thus demands respect,” an implicit but important acknowledgement that in the 1990s, the Russian Federation was a failed state, something few have been willing to acknowledge even in retrospect (vz.ru/opinions/2018/6/7/926496.html).
(For the author of these lines, this acknowledgement however indirect is welcome. Fourteen years ago, I published an article entitled “Russia as a Failed State” in The Baltic Defense Review (bdcol.ee/files/docs/bdreview/bdr-2004-12-sec3-art3.pdf) and have been much criticized for the arguments therein. It will be interesting to see if Babitsky is similarly attacked.)
The occasion for Babitsky’s remarks is the proposal by Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin to come up with legislation that will protect senior Russian government officials from defamation. Because of their responsibilities, he says, such officials cannot go into court to defend themselves as others do. And so the state must protect them by law.
“There exists, of course, a small probability that the legislators will go to far and develop a law in which any critical opinion can be equated to an insult,” the Russian journalist continues; but senior Duma members say they will guard against that, especially given the changes that have occurred in Russia since 1999.
According to Babitsky, “the term ‘Russian Federation’ over the years of Putin’s administration has begun to sound completely different” than it did under Boris Yeltsin. “Over this period, we have learned to respect our own state, to see and value the dynamic of its development, its strength and its prospects.”
Russia today “is no longer a failed state which Russia was in the Yeltsin period but an organized and mature form of statehood, the presence of which even its opponents are not in a position to cast any doubt,” the journalist continues.
If 15 or 20 years ago, it was not inappropriate to call senior officials all kinds of negative things, today, anyone who wants to make such charges must offer the public “facts which testify to the idea that they really are as described.” That often doesn’t happen; and the situation must change because those now in power aren’t the destroyers of the state but its revivers.
“Criticize as much as you like but provide evidence for your opinion and be ready to defend your position in court,” Babitsky says, not as a result of suits by senior officials but against criminal charges. That is entirely justified now that Russia is again on its way to greatness and is not the failed state it once was.