Is Russia’s Credibility Dropping To Level Of China’s? – OpEd


A  few decades back, Russia and China claimed that they were the “greatest” communist countries in the world, representing the interests of the proletariat and fighting against the “evils” of capitalism.

Later, Russia shed the communist philosophy and started claiming that it is a democratic country and begun conducting periodic elections. However, the Chinese government continues to claim that it is a government of the communist party, though every one including the Chinese people know that China is now no different from any other capitalist country in the world and there is no communism in any of its actions and policies today.

At the same time, similarities between Russia and China continue in several aspects.

The most glaring example is that both Xi Jinping, President of China and Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, have declared themselves as life Presidents. In other words, both of them will continue to be President for many years, until the end of their lives, though Putin has put some time limit for his life Presidentship, which is adequately long considering his probable life span. 

It is very well known that dissenters and critics are mercilessly suppressed and in most cases eliminated by the dictatorial Chinese government. No Chinese citizen can criticize the Chinese government and hope to survive in China.

Now, a similar situation seems to be happening in Russia. Though, Putin claims that he is a democratically elected President, the world view is developing that his mindset is still dictatorial, which is proved by his attitude towards critics. Indeed, his approach does not seem to be much different from that of Xi Jinping.

The critics of Putin in Russia seem to be now living in fear that they won’t be spared if they question any decision of President Putin. Several of such critics have suffered in the recent past, just like the critics of Xi Jinping in China have suffered and lost their lives.

Alexi Navalny, who is a severe critic of President Putin, is fighting for his life after drinking tea that his associates suspect was laced with poison.   Navalny started feeling ill on a plane returning to Moscow from Tomsk in Siberia. He had to be  carried off the plane on a stretcher after it made an emergency landing at Omsk.

There is a long history of critics of Putin suffering. A number of them are suspected to have been poisoned or falling ill after suspected poisoning.   They include Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London in 2006 after drinking tea laced with polonium-210 and Sergei Skripal, a former double agent who was poisoned with a nerve agent in 2018 in Salisbury, England.

The recent claim of President Putin that Russian scientists have successfully developed vaccine to treat COVID 19 and the vaccine would be made available to other countries in the next few weeks have surprised and shocked scientists and researchers around the world. The surprised WHO has asked Russia to provide more details about the vaccine.

Russia has not cared to reveal the extent of clinical trials carried out and the test results in a transparent manner. It is likely that governments in many countries could be hesitant to use the vaccine developed in Russia to treat COVID 19 patients, considering it as a calculated risk.

When Putin made such claims about the development of vaccine in Russia, most people immediately recollected similar claims by China and China too has not cared to share any details with the world community.

When the coronavirus developed in Wuhan, China concealed the information for several weeks and till now has not shared with the world any information that it has, as to how the virus happened, how it spread and how China tackled the COVID 19 crisis. The deafening silence of China on such crucial matter make everyone suspect whether China’s versions and claims can be believed and accepted at face value. 

The suspicion that critics are being eliminated mercilessly in Russia is similar to what has been happening in China, and is becoming stronger day by day.

The claim of President Putin about the development of vaccine without scientifically sharing the data with the rest of the world is similar to the behavioral pattern of Xi Jinping and his government in China.

There is no doubt that credibility of Russian government under the leadership of Putin in the eyes of the world community is dropping and moving towards the low credibility level of China.

Of course, the level of transparency in Russia is a little better than the prevailing transparency level in China. A somewhat redeeming factor is that the dissatisfied people in Russia are expressing themselves to some extent and coming to the streets to protest, which cannot happen in China.

Nevertheless, it is a matter of concern that such disturbing news of critics being eliminated and exaggerated claims about a vaccine and other achievements are coming from Russia too often these days.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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