EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT/International games
Being involved in politics is similar to playing Russian Roulette, but in the country for which the game was named, politics — even at the municipal level — is proving to be deadly serious. While those who work in America’s city and county governments often face angry residents or suffer outrageous accusations from aspiring candidates to public office, the murder of a top official in charge of a city’s subway system, for example, is anything but routine.
Unfortunately, Russia, our newest and potentially most important ally, is faced with an unsettling number of attacks on its municipal leaders. For example, two months before the deputy chief of Moscow’s subway and rail system was gunned down last month, a second assassination attempt was made on the city’s deputy mayor.
The motive for those attempted and successful murders appears to be money rather than politics, according to the Moscow-based newspaper Top Secret. The perpetrators reportedly are members of organized crime or businessmen who either find themselves in partnership or at odds with local politicos.
Armed with guns, bombs or vials of acid, thugs have attacked numerous Russian officeholders — including Moscow’s education administrator, two deputy mayors and several district administrators — in the past 10 years. Even the head notary was killed in his apartment early last year. In his case, as in others such as the deputy chief of the railway system, organized crime had an obvious motive for mayhem: He had campaigned to rid his system of the Russian Mafia’s influence.
Some political analysts have suggested that the current problems in the national government can be traced directly to a judicial system that tolerates official corruption and to the lack of stability in its municipalities.
Because Russia’s stabilization ultimately will be critical to our efforts to maintain security at home and peace throughout the world, I urge you to consider participating in the Open World Russian Leadership Program, created by the Library of Congress and Washington, D.C.-based Sister Cities International (SCI). The program currently is bringing Russian elected officials, candidates for elected office and emerging political leaders to the United States for one of six theme programs, including representative government and rule of law. The foreign guests will spend most of their time in one of the more than 90 SCI member communities with sister cities in Russia.
Only municipalities affiliated with SCI are eligible to participate, so if you are interested in joining the organization, call 202-347-8630, or contact it through the Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you believe that a strong municipal system is the backbone of our government, then you can see the benefits of becoming part of this program. A few forward-thinking communities already realize that and are trying to help turn Russia into a friendlier place to play its political games.