What’s going on in Russia? It’s starting to look like the Soviet Union again. In some respects it probably never changed, but this isn’t exactly a step forward. Russian President Vladimir Putin arrested a wealthy businessman, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who also happened to be a political opponent of Vladimir Putin. The arrest was made in the most obnoxious manner possible, with masked Fedskies storming the businessman’s private plane. The government even seized a chunk of the stock of Khodorkovsky’s company, Yukos Oil.
The thug-like actions aren’t exactly reassuring to Russia’s stock markets. Or Russian businessmen. “Shut up or be shut down” is not a reassuring message. Or a liberalizing one. It’s possible Khodorkovsky is guilty of shady dealings. But some reports suggest that his business operation is one of the most open in Russia. What we do know is that Khodorkovsky had traded sharp words with Putin at a meeting a few months ago, complaining about corruption in the sale of an oil company to the Russian government. And Putin hasn’t done anything to allay the impression that this is a political counter-strike. Russian politicians of every ideological stripe have denounced it for being just that. This is bad stuff.
Ordinary Russians with no assets to loot should complain as best they can. Too bad they don’t also have the power to recall their president. The good news is all the public complaining already about Putin’s action. Even his own prime minister has gone on TV to question the move. Fifteen years ago, you wouldn’t have seen that kind of opposition in Russia.
This is Common Sense.Â I’m Paul Jacob.