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News flash: Russia is still corrupt 2010-Jul-05 at 09:33 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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From Russian Mayor Irks Security Agency, and Suffers, by Clifford J. Levy, 3-July-2010

Ms. Kazakova was not a typical bureaucrat. She was one of the most successful businesswomen in this vast region, a real-estate magnate with a blond ponytail who represented a new breed of Russian entrepreneur.

She filed a lawsuit against the resort, and asked the regional prosecutor to open a criminal inquiry.

A criminal inquiry was indeed opened — against Ms. Kazakova.

The resort belongs to the F.S.B., the main successor to the Soviet-era K.G.B., and the F.S.B. arrested her and had her prosecuted.

She is now on trial in a case that has already become a disquieting example of the power of the security agency in today’s Russia.

After her arrest in March 2008, she was held in a cell at Pre-Trial Detention Center No. 1, a jail in the Siberian regional capital of Irkutsk that was once used by Stalin’s secret police. For nearly two and a half years, she was denied all contact with her fiancé, mother and three children, including a 15-year-old daughter who has a neurological disease.

Late on Wednesday night, after The New York Times made repeated inquiries to the F.S.B. about the charges against Ms. Kazakova, the judge in the case reversed previous decisions and agreed to release Ms. Kazakova on bail. The next day, Ms. Kazakova embraced her family for the first time since 2008.

So, in case you had forgotten… Russia is still really, really corrupt.  I know.

But it’s getting better.  Medvedev wants it to go that way.  And if you take the long-term view, you’ll notice that every time there’s been a rising middle-class in a country, at some point they’ve demanded political, economic, and civil rights, and at some point, they’ve gotten those things.  Even in post-WWII history, this rising middle class also moved their nation from a “one-party democracy” to a true multi-party democracy.  Mexico went through this, so did Japan.

So will Russia.  So will China (and we’re seeing the start of it there with these strikes at Honda plants).  Keep hope alive.  It’s coming, and both of these nations will be powerful partners with the United States in safely and confidently dealing with the challenges of the 21st Century.

So… eyes on the prize.  There will be bumps in the road, there will be difficulties, there will be the hangover of old structures of power in transition.  But the long-term trajectory is good… very good.

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