Our hearing today is also intended to look at the current United States-Russia relationship. However, the hearing is also designed to review the current political environmental in Russia and to assess the status of Russia's transition to democracy.
In a July 2001 Brookings Institution Policy Brief, Tom Bjorkman wrote that,
''President Putin has spoken repeatedly about his commitment to democracy as the only way forward for Russia.''
But Bjorkman went on to observe that,
''There is also a serious threat of a more resolute authoritarianism in the course that Putin has set.''
In a Los Angeles Times editorial just last week, Dr. McFaul, one of our witnesses, suggested that, ''there were clear signs that Russia is backing away from democracy.'' The article pointed out that Putin's government has seized control of Russia's last independent national television networks, silenced or changed editorial teams at several newspapers, continued to harass human rights activists, has created state-sponsored civil society organizations and has launched criminal investigations against corporation executives who have opposed him or who have contributed to opposition political parties.