To longtime democracy professionals and election monitors like Meadowcroft, this cynical exploitation of the organization's good name set the stage for the OSCE's downfall--a downfall now being blamed on "little brother" non-NATO member countries on the OSCE's eastern flank.
"The sad thing is that because the OSCE has not been as forthright as it should have been, the people who regard monitoring as a waste of time use this as an argument against it," said Meadowcroft, reflecting on current Kremlin-OSCE row. "That's the distressing thing. I feel like even I was compromised by not being tougher. But it's hard when you've got five minutes to go before the press conference and this guy from Warsaw is on the phone saying 'You can't say that!' I said, 'Look I'm going to speak to the press.' The response was, 'No, you can't say that.' It was very difficult for me."
Meadowcroft's revelations are significant for a lot of reasons. In the first place, we at The eXile are left once again scratching our heads, wondering why no one from the mainstream media bothered contacting the man who headed the observer mission during the most "free and fair" election in post-communist Russian history.
His revelations also help put into perspective what is really going on with Russia's near-death experiment with democracy. The new low that we've reached in late 2007 is not some out-of-the-blue invention of Putin and his siloviki cronies, but rather the result of a joint effort which saw the worst of both sides. Democracy as birthed and fed under Boris Yeltsin was always something like the semi-stillborn fetal-freak in Eraserhead. Most of the Yeltsin-era elite saw formal democracy as a pain in the ass that had to be kept alive to for visiting Western delegations, who looked at the croaking, spitting fetus, covered in rot and slime, and declared, "It looks just like Lady Liberty!"
Meadowcroft relayed some of his own experiences with Yeltsin's elite "young reformers" and their western enablers—what he called the"economic mafia":
"What I was being told [by them] in 1996... 'Why are you bothering us about elections? We're not going to let this place fall. We're making too much money. Why bother with elections?"
This paints a familiar if often ignored picture, one that implicates the West in the collapse of OSCE credibility in particular, and the near-comatose state of Russian democracy in general. It's not fair to simply blame the West for Russia's problems; but it's equally disingenuous to deny the West's role in screwing things up. The current narrative of a happy past and pure elections versus a dark present and lost democracy is easy to swallow but destructive insofar as it increases misunderstanding and paranoia on both sides. Needless to say, it also enables those in the west leading us into a new Cold War based partially on the fantasy of a glorious Russian democratic-past that never was, or at least not since Yeltsin's shelling of his opposition parliament in 1993.
It's not that the West won't be right when it condemns this weekend's vote. In OSCE jargon, the Duma elections will be "fundamentally flawed." They will "fall far short" of western standards, if not expectations. It's not a secret that the Russian state-run media are grotesquely pro-Putin. Or that the election laws have been changed to shut out opposition parties. Or that, as in previous elections, there will likely be some old-fashioned ballot stuffing in the provinces.
Not for the first time, the Moscow Times has helped fill in the blanks with regard to the electoral shenanigans taking place across the country. In a report published November 27, the paper details insider allegations of fraud and the pressure—including outright intimidation and threats—some Russians are experiencing from their employers to vote for United Russia, Putin's Party, on December 2.