Now, the Russian government's s retreat from democracy, as well as its actions to undermine human rights protections have become regular topics in Washington, therefore our topic could not be more timely. What we would like to discuss today is how the U.S. government should respond to those challenges in Russia.
As many of you know Russia has been a consistent concern to the commission, not so much because of the severity of its religious freedom violations but also due to its fragile human rights situation, including that of religious freedom. And trends of the past few years raise serious questions about Russia's commitment to democratic reform and the protection of religious freedom.
After a commission visit to Russia in 2003, we expressed strong concern that the Russian government was retreating from democratic reform endangering the significant human rights gains achieved in the dozen years since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In addition, Russia serves as a model for other countries of the former Soviet Union and other nations emerging from dictatorship.