Robert Amsterdam: Russia’s Rule of Law

Robert AmsterdamThe rule of law needs to be brought to the center of Russia’s relations with the outside world as a deep security issue, writes Robert Amsterdam on Huffington Post.

In his opinion, US president Barack Obama’s meeting with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev revealed the “emergence of a more definable Obama doctrine, balancing “hard security” issues like arms and nuclear proliferation against “deep security” issues like rule of law and governance.”

Obama’s “foreign policy-making was not for short-term domestic consumption, but was rather looking four moves ahead, laying the seeds for a convergence between both rule of law and security.”

There seemed to be some awareness of the Russian policy environment during the Obama visit. The clear message to take away was that this administration approves what President Medvedev says he wants to do, but are disappointed by the authoritarian conduct of PM Vladimir Putin, who “has one foot in the past.”

Some comments from Obama seemed targeted to diminish Russia’s ability to blame all of the country’s ills on the United States and counter the millions spent by the Kremlin on anti-American propaganda. Yet at the same time, Obama did more talking about democracy, rule of law, and human rights during this visit than anytime seen during the Bush administration.

The fact that we are seeing the new U.S. administration make a dual push in relations with Russia, signing security agreements on the one hand, while keeping rule of law on the table on the other hand, shows a new way of thinking. In many respects, rule of law is just as important as the nuke agreements, having a far-reaching impact beyond just former oilmen, foreign investors, and a few murdered journalists.

If we consider that Russia is one of the world’s foremost suppliers of civilian nuclear technology, the #1 exporter of natural gas and #2 exporter of oil, and a strongly growing arms supplier, we must also conclude that a firmly independent mechanism of accountability must be in place to provide oversight for officials dealing in these matters.

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