The Blog

McCain's Floor Statement on Russia

3:30 PM, Dec 16, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Senator John McCain just delivered this lengthy speech on Mikhail Khordokovsky, Platon Lebedev, and U.S.-Russia relations:

McCain's Floor Statement on Russia

Mr. President: I recognize that we are discussing the New START Treaty at this time, and I look forward in the coming days to returning to the floor to speak about this important national security issue, and to offer amendments. But this afternoon, Mr. President, I would like to speak about a different though related matter: the continued imprisonment of Mikhail Khordokovsky and his associate Platon Lebedev – and the imminent verdict by a Russian judge to likely extend that imprisonment, which was delayed from yesterday to December 27.

As if we needed any more reason to know what verdict is coming, this is it. The Russian government seems to be trying to bury some inconvenient news by issuing it two days after Christmas, and after we will probably be finished debating the possible ratification of a treaty with the Russian Federation. Some may see this as evidence that the Russian government is accommodating U.S. interests and desires. I would be more inclined to believe that if these political prisoners were set free.

Until that time, I will continue to believe that when Prime Minister Putin says Mr. Khordokovsky, quote, ‘should sit in jail,’ as he said just yesterday, that this is exactly the verdict the Russian court will deliver. For the fact is, Mr. President, the political fix has been in for years now on this case. Mr. Khordokovsky built one of the most successful companies in post-Soviet Russia, and while I am under no illusions that some of these gains may have been ill-gotten, the subsequent crimes committed against him by the Russian government have exceeded the boundaries of human decency, equal and lawful justice, and the God-given rights of man.

In 2003, when Mr. Khordokovsky became increasingly outspoken about the Russian government’s abuses of power – its growing authoritarianism, corruption, and disregard for the law – he was arbitrarily arrested and detained under political charges. His company was stolen from him by Russian authorities, and he was thrown in prison through a process that fell far short of the universal standards of due process. Mr. Khordokovsky was held in those conditions for several years, and when his sentence was drawing to a close, lo and behold, new charges were brought against him, which were even more blatantly political than the previous ones: Mr. Khordokovsky was charged with stealing all of the oil of the very company that had been so egregiously stolen from him. The trial that has now concluded did not even have a jury – just one judge, whose independence from the political pressures of Russian authorities was always in doubt.

So what will happen next, Mr. President, seems rather clear. After spending seven years in prison, Mr. Khordokovsky will likely face many more, which I fear is tantamount to a death sentence. This case is a travesty of justice for one man, but it is also a revealing commentary on the nature of the Russian government today.

Yesterday, the Senate voted to take up the New START Treaty. To be sure, this Treaty should be considered on its merits to our national security, but it is only reasonable to ask: If Russian officials demonstrate such a blatant disregard for the rights and legal obligations owed to one of their own citizens, how will they treat us – and the legal obligations, be it this Treaty or any other, that they owe to us?

What’s worse, the sad case of Mikhail Khordokovsky now looks like one of more modest offenses of the corrupt officials ruling Russia today. I would like to quote from a recent article in The Economist, dated December 9, 2010 and entitled ‘Frost at the Core,’ which I would like to enter into the record, Mr. President.

“Mr Khodorkovsky,” The Economist writes, “is a symbol of the injustices perpetrated by corrupt bureaucrats and members of the security services, who epitomise the nexus between power and wealth.” The article goes on to describe the staggering scale of corruption in Russia today, and I quote:

Shortly before his arrest Mr Khodorkovsky estimated state corruption at around $30 billion, or 10% of the country’s GDP. By 2005 the bribes market, according to INDEM, a think-tank, had risen to $300 billion, or 20% of GDP. As Mr Khodorkovsky said in a recent interview, most of this was not the bribes paid to traffic police or doctors, but contracts awarded by bureaucrats to their affiliated companies….

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers