During his trip to Russia for the Group of Eight summit, President George W. Bush met with civil society leaders to talk about the human rights situation in Russia:
"I assured them the United States of America cares about the form of government in Russia, that we believe in the universal values embedded in democracy. We believe in rule of law. We believe in human rights. We believe everybody has the right to be treated equally."
In many areas -- from religion and the media to advocacy groups and political parties -- the Russian government has restricted the rights of the Russian people. Most recently, President Vladimir Putin signed a law that limits the activities of domestic and international non-governmental organizations, or N-G-Os.
Several months ago, the Russian government undertook a campaign to implicate the Moscow Helsinki Group in an alleged British espionage plot. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights condemned the allegations as part of "a general assault on civil society and human rights organizations [in Russia]."
Such organizations as the Moscow Helsinki Group are not a threat to the Russian government. Rather, they serve to promote democratic development. That's why, said President Bush, the U.S. will continue to raise the subject of civil liberties with the Russian government:
"It is in the U.S. interest to remain engaged with Russia. . . .The foreign policy of my administration will be to work with Russia to solve common problems and at the same time be in a position where we can have a frank exchange of ideas."
Democratization is never easy. But there is no question that a return to democratic reform in Russia seems like it would generate both success for its people and respect from other nations.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.