Helle Dale argues in the Washington Times that the elections in Russia were not legitimate, and Russia should face consequences for this.
Autocrats like Mr. Putin are trying to take back the reins of power carefully and one piece at a time. By international standards, Russia cannot be called a democracy anymore - as German Chancellor Angela Merkel remarked to her credit. She knows something about political repression, having grown up in East Germany. There should be consequences.
While most in Europe and the US have spoken out against the Russian elections, other countries (notably those in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO) have argued that western countries have no right to judge Russia's democracy. From the Washington Post:
"There is not just one category of democracy in the world. You cannot import, copy or buy democracy," said Gao Yusheng, a Chinese citizen who headed the [SCO's] observer mission in Moscow. Observer groups from other republics of the former Soviet Union reached similar conclusions.
So, who has the right to decide whether a democracy is legitimate or not? I certainly have trouble believing the SCO, with a membership composed of non-democracies to include Uzbekistan, Iran, and China among others, is a better arbiter of open government than European countries and the United States.
I also agree with Helle Dale that Russia should face consequences. Democracy is more than an abstract concept; as a form of governance it has important tangible implications for the internal and external peace of a country. Researchers have found substantial evidence that democratic governments have better human rights policies, and are significantly less likely to go to war. Knowing the merits of democracy, it is both a moral and practical objective to encourage democratic governance in other states.
The need for democracy is exceptionally relevant when it comes to Russia, because the world already knows how dangerous a nationalistic and centralized Russia can become-especially a Russia that seeks to exert influence over its former client states, as Putin does.