That awkward moment when Putin takes cues from Harper

What does it tell us when Vladmir Putin, leader of what is likely the most oppressive “Western” nation on the planet, speaks in the same political terms as our own prime minister? Normally, we might say that this is a step in the right direction for Russia; in this case, we would be wrong. Putin’s latest move is not an example of a developing economy approaching a higher standard. Rather, it is our country moving downhill, slipping closer to a petrostate whose oil wealth affords those in power a stronger hold, while forcing an escalation of repression to maintain that power.

petrostate (ˈpɛtrəˌsteɪt)
derogatory a small oil-rich country in which institutions are weak and wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of a few

The move I am referring to is eerily similar to a discussion that has dominated Canadian politics since January. A new Russian law states that NGOs must declare any funding they receive from abroad, and label themselves “foreign agents”. Sound familiar? If you are a Canadian, and watch the news, this will sound uncannily like our Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver, declaring this January that the Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline project hearings are being hijacked by “foreign-funded radicals”. This sentiment was soon echoed by pro-pipeline groups like Ethical Oil, and thereafter by a special Senate enquiry into the funding of environmental groups. Environmental groups have been on the defensive ever since. Meanwhile, the rights to ever-larger swaths of Northern Alberta have been sold off to Chinese, American, Norwegian, French, and British oil companies, while our federal government fights tooth and nail for China’s right to get bitumen, and BC premier Christy Clark calculates how much the health of the west coast is worth.

The tactic of distracting national attention towards the shoestring budgets of a few green groups has been recognized since the beginning as a transparent political attack against the opposition to the pipeline. What’s interesting is the emerging parallel between our government and that of one of the world’s best-known petrostates, Russia. For the first time, Mr. Harper is ahead of Mr. Putin in cracking down on those in the way of his plans. It seems that great minds (or is it big heads?) think alike.


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