Although there were initial worries that Russia would be embarrassed by revelations coming out of the leaked US embassy cables, it seems like there isn’t anything in them that wasn’t already common knowledge and certainly – to date – no smoking guns have been found that would provide any real evidence of corruption by high level Russian officials, let alone the hoped for revelations that Putin was on the take.
Instead, the Russian Government have realised that the US, by taking the whole affair far to seriously, is the party looking stupid, and the Kremlin is contentedly crowing.
Calls in the US for wikileaks to be prosecuted have given great ammunition to those who want to criticise the US for talking the talk when it comes to freedom of speech, but not walking the walk. And the arrest of Wikileaks head Julian Assange has allowed people like Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian Ambassador to NATO, to criticise the United Kingdom for not respecting freedom of speech – in a tweet he noted drily that Assange’s arrest demonstrated that political persecution was still alive and well in the West:
На мой взгляд, судьба Ассанжа говорит об отсутствии свободы СМИ на Западе, наличии политических преследований и нарушений прав человека.
And the latest – Russia has gleefully seized the opportunity to suggest that Assange has done such a service to the world that he should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Guardian reports:
“Public and non-governmental organisations should think of how to help him,” the source from inside president Dmitry Medvedev’s office told Russian news agencies. Speaking in Brussels, where Medvedev was attending a Russia-EU summit yesterday , the source went on: “Maybe, nominate him as a Nobel Prize laureate.”
Next thing you know, they’ll be offering Assange a seat in the Duma, so that he can claim immunity from prosecution…
Update: A day later, and Putin weighs in directly, telling journalists at a press conference:
“If there is democracy, it must be a full one. Why did they jail Mr. Assange? Is that democracy?
You know what our villagers say: while someone’s cow is mooing, yours better be silent.”
Source: ABC News
I don’t actually think that this particular arrest of Assange is politically motivated (although I think it’s likely he might have faced a politically motivated arrest sooner or later if this handily timed Swedish prosecution hadn’t been available). Putin’s comments do, though, put into perspective US and UK criticisms of Russia. Sure, there are politically motivated arrests in Russia, but not as many as the regular knee jerk reactions coming out of the US and UK would make you believe.