While Russia’s annexation of Crimea was a nasty shock to many policymakers, it came as no surprise to analysts, such as Freedom House’s experts, who had followed Russia’s trajectory over the past decade. Since 2003, Freedom House has documented the country’s move to authoritarian rule and warned of Russian efforts to restore hegemony over Ukraine (see attached and below a selection of quotes from past Freedom House analysis on Russia). We explained how this increasingly authoritarian system posed a threat to democracy not just inside Russia itself but through Vladimir Putin’s support for dictators and pressure on democratic governments among Russia’s neighbors. Blocking democratic development and integration with the West along Russia’s periphery is integral to Putin’s repressive rule. The nature of the Russian regime—kleptocratic authoritarianism—lies at the core of the current crisis between Russia and Ukraine. Freedom House has shaped debate on U.S. policy toward Russia. We have testified before Congress on Russia on multiple occasions, written frequently in elite media, including the Washington Post, American Interest, Foreign Policy, and Wall Street Journal, and appeared on the BBC, CTV, and PBS NewsHour. We spearheaded calls for the Magnitsky Act, signed into law in 2012, which introduced visa bans and asset freezes on Russian official involved in human rights abuses.
Freedom House’s contributions to the policy debate on Russia are as vital as ever, because the challenge posed by Russian authoritarianism continues to grow, and Freedom House’s analysis is still subject to debate. For example, in a recent Washington Post op-ed, former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Jack Matlock, argued that the “tensions between Russia and the West are based more on misunderstandings, misrepresentations and posturing for domestic audiences than on any real clash of ideologies or national interests.”
We are grateful to our supporters, who recognized and valued the insights we provided into Russia’s political system and the recommendations we offered to U.S. and European policymakers. We hope you will continue your support, so that we carry on our efforts to draw attention to the challenge posed by Russian authoritarianism and to press the United States to rise to this challenge.
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