Russia's Bad Example
A joint report by Human Rights First and Free Russia Foundation
Since the start of Vladimir Putin’s presidency in 2000, Russian authorities have been continually reducing the public and legal space for civil society institutions, particularly human rights groups, NGOs, opposition movements, media outlets, and journalists. However, since the beginning of his third term in 2012, the number of laws and policies restricting freedom of assembly and association, freedom of expression, the right to liberty, and personal and information security has dramatically increased. Concerned by revolutionary actions in Ukraine and mass protest rallies on Bolotnaya and Sakharov squares in Moscow, the Russian leadership sent a clear message that any act of resistance will have serious legal and even criminal consequences, which has resulted in an unfortunate successful crackdown on Russian civil society.
Predictably, the effectiveness of these new laws, together with a very limited reaction by the international community, set a bad, but popular example for other authoritarian-leaning regimes. For decades Russia remained a country without an ideology to export. Now Putin’s Russia has realized that it can capitalize on its foreign policy goals of sowing democratic discord and countering an universal human rights discourse by disseminating, or at least promoting its unique system of suppression of opposition, NGOs, and media.