Some Western governments, meanwhile, have also expressed their misgivings over the Pasko case. The European Union and Germany have each called for his conviction to be overturned, and U.S. diplomatic representatives in Vladivostok took a further step last week by attending the pro-Pasko demonstrations and by expressing Washington’s concerns over the case. Those actions drew an angry rebuke yesterday from the Russian Foreign Ministry, which charged in a note sent to the U.S. Embassy that the American diplomats had acted improperly both in attending the rally and in making statements critical of the Russian judicial system. The ministry also warned vaguely that the incident could force Russia to take “corresponding measures” directed at the diplomats in question. In response, a U.S. Embassy spokesman told Ekho Moskvy radio yesterday that the U.S. diplomats had gone to the demonstration as observers only–an action that he described as “normal diplomatic practice.” He denied that there had been anything improper about the statements the two had made.
The critical U.S. reaction to the Pasko verdict appears to reflect a broader stiffening in the tone that the United States has taken toward Russia over the past several weeks, including statements critical of the Russian war in Chechnya and the impending closure of independent TV-6. A former KGB official who has since emerged as a leading critic of the agency, however, suggested last week that the FSB’s latest push against Pasko and others accused of treason has in fact been triggered by the Russian-U.S. rapprochement which developed in the wake of September 11 and, presumably, by the Bush administration’s concomitant softening of any criticism of the Kremlin’s human rights record. According to Konstantin Preobrezhensky, the Kremlin feels it has little to fear from the West on this score since Russia became part of the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition. With military operations in Afghanistan now apparently winding down, however, the calculus in Washington may be changing, and the softer U.S. line could change with it. How far Washington is prepared to go in this direction remains unclear, however, as does the question of whether European governments, who have been equally enthusiastic about embracing Moscow since September 11, will choose to follow suit (RFE/RL, January 8; AP, January 9; Reuters, RIA, January 14).
NEW SPEAKER TRAILS ANOTHER TRIAL BALLOON.