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Masha Lipman and the Carnegie Moscow Centre

Masha Lipman. Photo: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Masha Lipman is the editor of the Pro et Contra journal published by the Carnegie Moscow Center. Lipman is also an expert at the Center's Civil Society Program. She served as deputy editor of the Russian weekly news magazines Ezhenedel'ny zhurnal (from 2001 to 2003) and Itogi (from 1995 to 2001). She remains one of the most outspoken liberal voices in Russia.

She has analysed the system of power in Putin's Russia in a large number of articles:

 "The Kremlin keeps a firm grip on societal forces: Its concept of civil society implies loyalty to the state and rules out genuine autonomy. Those who dare defy the Kremlin vision may be tolerated, but they are consistently marginalized. Assistance to such groups from abroad is treated with great suspicion. Moreover, the West, and the United States in particular, are viewed as a threatening force seeking to do harm to Russia. This dramatically hampers Russian development and leaves Russia still further behind the developed nations … It is up to the Russian people to change this, but they will have to overcome their apathy and fragmentation."[53]

During a 2008 debate on the role of the Russian media she was one of the most outspoken voices:

"Lipman focused on the evolution of the media from the relative pluralism of Boris Yeltsin's presidency to the tight control of Putin's system. … She noted that the state and Gazprom were the two largest players in the national media market and that loyalty to the state is a requirement for success in any business sector, including media. The state's control of broadcast media is particularly important, as television is the overwhelmingly primary source of information for the Russian public. Meanwhile, on a regional level, journalists are routinely punished for attempting to uncover local malfeasance or corruption.

Although the Russian leadership has consolidated a majority of the media under its control, Lipman said, media with independent editorial content still exists. She speculated that there were a number of functions that having a tiny minority of independent media could serve: existing for the sake of external consumption, a valve to let off some steam, and potentially an in-house bulletin board for the use of elites to signal dissatisfaction or to inform the leadership of conflicts."[54]

The war on Georgia, Lipman noted, has further undermined America's popularity in Russia:

"The United States no longer has a sympathetic constituency in Russia that views America as a force for good that may help make Russians' lives freer, more democratic or more prosperous. These days, people who still view the United States so positively are hard to find, even among the liberal intelligentsia, and the U.S. reaction to the war in Georgia further reduced their numbers.

Putin's autocratic regime enjoys strong support here: In September, Putin's approval rating was 88 percent and Medvedev's 83. This is not loyalty driven by fear of repression – the Russian people rally behind the leader who has delivered better living standards and reasserted Russia's international standing. It may sadden Russian liberals, including me, but political rights and civil liberties simply do not matter much in Russia these days.

Relations between Russia and the United States have entered a dangerous stalemate. America can't accept Russia's aggressive posture, but U.S. anger is only making things worse. The risk of Russia slipping toward an isolationist course and a militarized economy is growing. Events of the 20th century indicate that in the long term, Moscow's own irrational pursuits may prove more baneful to Russia than any foreign adversary. But in the short term, Russia's neighbours as well as European security could be at great risk."[55]

 


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