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article imageOp-Ed: Vladimir Putin, the new leader of the free world

By Justin King     Sep 9, 2013 in World
During recent negotiations, Vladimir Putin demonstrated his skill at using peace as a weapon, and placed Russia in a position to take the title of the guardian of democracy and western values.
It is hard to imagine the “leader of the free world” administering a nation where journalists are imprisoned, militarized police kick in doors without warrants, where any citizen can be arrested and shipped to a remote prison without charge or trial, where police can kill unarmed citizens with impunity, where the government orders military attacks in defiance of international law, where dissidents flee in fear for their freedom or lives, where constant identification checkpoints stop citizens on the road, and where security services spy on every citizen in the country. However, that is the country that President Obama currently reigns over, leaving the title of “leader of the free world” up for grabs.
While Russia’s human and civil rights policies are only slightly better than those of the United States, the unapologetic nature of President Putin places him on a higher moral ground. Some of his actions may be unfavorable to certain parts of his country, but they are done in the open with a "love it or leave it" attitude. The United States, however, has developed a reputation for hypocrisy.
In 2007, we held congressional hearings into Yahoo’s involvement with getting a journalist, Shi Tao, arrested in China. The United States condemned his 10-year sentence for sharing state secrets on a website. Chelsea Manning was just sentence to 35 years for the same activities.
The systematic nature of those abuses is also very different. For example, when the Russian army kills civilians in a counter-insurgency operation, they do it with artillery that is notoriously inaccurate, and it is not a calculated decision. When the United States kills civilians, it is with a drone strike approved after a commander sees a live feed of the target, and the missile is accurate to within one meter. Even with the lesser technology, Russia has killed half as many civilians in a counter insurgency operation lasting the same amount of time.
With the notable exception of gay rights, Russia beats the United States in almost every metric of individual liberty. With many expecting a reboot of the Cold War, it will be interesting to see who plays the villain this time.
Update 1-hour after print: The United States Senate delays vote on a Syrian strike, partially because of President Putin's efforts.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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