By Julian Pecquet - 11/04/12 10:00 AM EST
The Russian government is lambasting the U.S. presidential race as an undemocratic spectacle amid growing concerns about the country’s own commitment to free and fair elections.
The Foreign Ministry this week accused America of hypocrisy following reports that some U.S. states would turn away international election monitors at the polls.
The U.S. electoral system, Russian elections chief Vladimir Churov declared this week, “is the worst in the world.”
Observers say the attacks against America's election system are largely fueled by domestic politics in Russia.
Voting has become a touchy subject for the Kremlin following the massive demonstrations that pro-democracy activists staged against the legislative elections that were held in December. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the fraud allegations that sparked the turmoil raised “serious concern.”
Further, observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said President Vladimir Putin's election to a third six-year term in March was marred by “serious problems.”
The U.S-Russia relationship “has become a part of the chess game of domestic Russian politics,” said Matthew Rojansky, the deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“It's not surprising that attacking the United States — and trying to diminish the credibility of what is said by Americans and what comes from Washington — is very much now in the interest of the Russian authorities,” Rojansky said.
"It says something about the state of the relationship. There's not a lot of trust right now. We're defaulting to a lot of bad old habits, this kind of tit-for-tat criticism, which was common during the Cold War."
Members of Putin’s government have paid particular attention to the move by Texas and Iowa to reject election monitoring by the OSCE, a 56-member group that the United States has relied on to criticize flawed elections in other countries, including Russia.
This year's Republican-led backlash against the OSCE — a group that has monitored six U.S. elections since 2002 without incident — was quickly seized upon by Russian officials such as Churov, who is widely known in the country as the “magician” for his role in helping Putin and his United Russia party stay in power.
“It is strange why the U.S. authorities, who often accuse other countries of being not democratic enough, prefer not to notice such violation of democracy in their own country,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
Still, Rojansky said, much of the criticism appears to be aimed at silencing critics at home and abroad. Russia has taken steps to silence independent election monitors, which get funding from the United States and other foreign sources.
The attacks are part of a broader backlash against the United States in Russia, according to Rojansky. The Kremlin threw out the U.S. Agency for International Development this fall and announced last month that it was ending the 20-year U.S.-Russia partnership to contain loose nukes.
“It's worse this year because the relationship has become much more overtly political,” he said.
“It's sort of an across-the-board, you America are unwilling to acknowledge the reality that Russia today is different than Russia in 1993 when you first negotiated all these agreements, and basically it is a political thing and it is a power thing: We're back on our feet, and you cannot run these things in the sort of heavy-handed way that you did right after the end of the Cold War.”