During a trip to Eastern Europe and Eurasia, Vice President Dick Cheney stressed that democracy "is a benefit to all and a threat to none. The best neighbor any country can have is a democracy -- stable, peaceful, and open to relations of commerce and cooperation instead of suspicion and fear," he said.
That is why the United States is committed to helping democracy grow in the region, including in Russia. But future reforms remain at risk in Russia. In many areas of civil society -- from religion and the news media to advocacy groups and political parties -- the government has restricted the rights of the Russian people.
Most recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill that limits the activities of domestic and international non-governmental organizations. The Russian government has also had troubled relations with neighboring democracies. In January, Russian sought to use natural gas as a political weapon in Ukraine. Most of Europe remains largely dependent on Russia for natural gas and was also affected by the cut in fuel supplies to Ukraine. Such actions, said Vice President Cheney, may adversely affect Russia's relations with other countries:
"No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation. And no one can justify actions that undermine the territorial integrity of a neighbor or interfere with democratic movements."
"Russia," said Mr. Cheney, "has a choice to make.":
"There is no question that a return to democratic reform in Russia will generate further success for its people and greater respect among fellow nations."
Democratization in Russia helped to end the Cold War and the Russian people have made heroic progress in overcoming the miseries of the twentieth century. It is time now, said Vice President Cheney, for the Russian people to live at peace under a government that upholds freedom at home and builds good relations abroad.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.