Letter From the Editors: Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2017

Author: Laurence Bogoslaw

Superstition Superimposed on Sovereignty: Russia Speaks Its Truth to the Council of Europe, the UN and Ukraine

Those who study Russian as a foreign language occasionally trip over the similarity between the adjectives suverenny (sovereign) and suyeverny (superstitious). In the Russian source articles for this week’s Digest, various forms of the first adjective appear so many times that even a seasoned translator might start suspecting the second adjective lurking beneath the surface: Does the Russian authorities’ obsession with sovereignty border on superstition - i.e., belief or action based on fear or ignorance?

Take the recent statement by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE) calling for the Russian government to allow oppositionist Aleksei Navalny to run in next year’s presidential election. Russia’s Central Electoral Commission and Justice Ministry promptly responded that the European authorities were overstepping their bounds and pressuring Moscow. And then the Federation Council’s Commission on the Protection of State Sovereignty shifted the focus of discussion by announcing that it found evidence of foreign interference - in other words, support for the opposition - in Russia’s recent local elections. Alleged culprits range from the Voice of America and Radio Liberty to Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia. (Never mind that the head of the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, told Rossiiskaya gazeta that "the elections were truly democratic, transparent and honest.")

On the international scene, Moscow is keeping a sharp eye out for how Donald Trump’s reform proposals for the UN will affect Russian sovereignty. Commentators Gevorg Mirzayan and Aleksandr Privalov argue that the stated goal of improving efficiency is all well and good, but several proposals in the Trump package would also concentrate more power in Washington’s hands. These include diluting veto power on the UN Security Council (so that a veto from two permanent members, not just one, would be needed to block a proposal); expanding membership on the ...

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