This is likely to interest only about three people on my flist, and they know who they are. The article appeared in the Financial Times on 6/29/2006.
(Financial Times, 29 June 2006)
The man considered the chief ideolgist to Russia's President Vladimir Putin yesterday launched a robust defence of the country's democratic system and accused foreign critics of double standards.
In the most direct rebuff yet by Moscow of highly critical comments last month by Dick Cheney, US vice-president, and the increasing western criticism of Russia's "backsliding" on democracy, Vladislav Surkov, a deputy Kremlin chief of staff, accused Mr. Cheney of "not properly understanding Russia". He also hinted at hypocrisy by the US vice-president in disparaging Russia's political record and then visiting Kazakhstan, the former Soviet republic run by the authoritarian Nursultan Nazarbayev.
"When he was in Kazakhstan after criticising our democaracy, he gave the highest rating to Kazakhstan's democracy," Mr. Surkov told foreign journalists in a rare public appearance. "The Kazakh people are our brothers. But I will never agree that Kazakhstan has gone further in building democracy than we havae."
Mr. Surkov, a senior official who usually prefers to operate behind the scenes, is viewed in Russia as the Kremlin's political mastermind, creator of the dominant United Russia party and one of the main string-pullers in the country's system of "managed democracy".
In the 1960s he worked for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the now jailed former Yukos chief, and Mikhail Fridman, another "oligarch" who heads the Alfa Group, the financial and industrial concern, before joining the administration of President Boris Yeltsin.
But Mr. Surkov was scathing in his assessment of the oligarchs, businessmen who used their wealth to achieve political power, saying they damaged the country's development and produced a system by the end of the 1990s that in no way could be considered democratic.
"What are we backsliding from?" he said. "We are moving further and further away from this non-democracy."
Mr. Surkov declined to recognise "managed democracy" as a description of Russia's political system - although Mr. Putin himself was one of the first to use the term. Instead Mr. Surkov suggested managed democracy was something other unnamed global powers were attempting to impose outside their borders.
"By managed democracy we understand political and economic regimes imposed by centres of global influence - and I am not going to mention specific countries - by force and deception," he said. Instead, Mr. Surkov said Russia considered itself a "sovereign democracy", a term he has used in recent months as the foundation of an emerging Kremlin ideology.
"That doesn't mean anything special. It means that in building an open society we don't forget that we are a free society and don't want to be ruled from outside."
He added that Russia was tired of being treated as if it had lost the cold war.
"We don't consider that we were defeated in the cold war. We believe that we defeated our own totalitarian system," he said. "It's clear to us that Moscow did far more to democratise eastern Europe and central Asia than Washington or London. Moscow democratised this huge space that is now regenerating itself."