Gently Protesting Putin

The landslide Dec. 2 victory posted by President Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party set off a small chorus of Western criticism. Germany's spokesman said the process was "neither free, fair nor democratic." The U.S. called for any irregularities to be investigated. But by waiting until election day to draw attention to scattered reports of ballot-stuffing or voter intimidation, the West came across a bit like Captain Renault in Casablanca: suddenly it was shocked--shocked!--to find electoral shenanigans in Russia.

The election was, after all, just the latest stage of a process by which Russia's President, who is due to leave office next...

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