Staunton, January 31 – Russian democrats have denounced Donald Trump’s ban on some Muslims entering the US as a violation of human rights, while the Russian government media have been far more restrained or even supportive of what the new president has done, the clearest reversal in the way the two parts of the Russian political spectrum view the United States.
In a commentary in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” Aleksey Gorbachev, the political observer of that Moscow paper, says that under Barack Obama, the Russian opposition generally supported official Washington’s moves while the Russian government condemned them. Now in the Trump era, the reverse is true (ng.ru/politics/2017-01-31/1_6916_oppozicia.html).
Konstantin Merzlikin, the deputy head of the PARNAS Party, says that “no one prohibits a migration service from strictly checking the admission to its country of citizens of states with a heightened level of terrorist threat. But when such a measure is introduced … toward those with visas and resident permits, serious questions arise about fundamental rights and freedoms.”
He adds that in his view, “this will produce an increase in anti-Americanism around the world.” Yabloko Party leader Emiliya Slabunova agrees: Trump’s action, she says, “will not only deepen the split in America and in the world community but increase the risk of new terrorist actions.”
Sergey Mitrokhin, another Yabloko leader, says that the wave of protests against Trump’s actions clear show just how much what the US president has done “contradicts American civilization” because the US is “a country of immigrants.” Imposing a religious test “not only points to double standards but raises the risk of terrorist attacks against Americans abroad.
Moreover, according to Mitrokhin, the order “testifies to the lack of analytic thinking in Trump and his entourage.” Any further steps in this same direction would become a chance to rethink the basis of [America’s] existence.”
But Russian state television, Gorbachev says, “assess the situation differently.” Its broadcasters talk about how Trump is “a builder of a new America” and criticize the opponents of his immigration ban either as those who long for Obama’s time or who want cheap labor for American factories.
According to the “Nezavisimaya gazeta” journalist, “experts are certain that Russian media will be sympathetic to Trump just as long as he will keep their hopes alive for the lifting of sanctions.” Up to now, he quotes Aleksey Mukhin, head of the Moscow Center for Political Information, they remain “in a state of euphoria about Trump.”
Mukhin says that he doesn’t share that euphoria because despite Trump’s “pro-Russian rhetoric,” the American president remains “a very complex personality with whom [Moscow] will find it extremely difficult to agree on something.”
Nonetheless, it is striking and disturbing that Russian democrats are condemning what Washington has done while Russian authoritarians are praising or at least not criticizing it, a pattern that represents a departure from the past and that should be a warning signal to those who care about democracy in all countries.