Rights group: Russia's crackdown on dissent is getting positively Soviet

Mitt Romney got a good deal of flak during the election season for calling Russia “our number one geopolitical foe,” but it turns out that the bigger headlines about jailing free-thinking punk rockers, seeking an international agreement on Internet restrictions, using their regional energy dominance to exert untoward influence, and banning Westerners from Russian adoption is really just the tip of a nefarious iceberg.

At an annual meeting on Thursday, a human rights group claimed that Russia has had a pretty banner year — but not in a good way, via Reuters:

Authoritarianism increased last year in Russia to levels unseen since the Soviet era with a raft of harsh laws curbing political freedoms and harassment of opposition activists and critics, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

The crackdown coincided with the return of Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin and the appointment of his predecessor and protégé, Dmitry Medvedev, as prime minister, according to the New York-based group. …

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow accompanying the publication of its annual report on human rights worldwide, Denber also criticized the government’s stance toward the West.

Since Putin started a six-year term in May, he has signed laws restricting protests, demanding foreign-funded non-governmental organizations register as “foreign agents,” and setting new rules on treason that critics say could place almost anyone who associates with foreigners at risk of prosecution.

So, which cautious approach to our Russian foriegn policy would we prefer: “Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe. They — they fight every cause for the world’s worst actors,” versus “After my election, I have more flexibility”?

As we see time and time again, authoritarian-leaning regimes are not very receptive to many manners of criticism. Russia’s poignant response to the accusations of human rights abuses?

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich… said the Russian ministry’s own annual reports have shown that “there are serious systemic problems in the sphere of human rights in the United States and many European Union countries.”

“Before you criticize others, you should look at yourself,” Lukashevich said at a weekly briefing.