Welcoming remarks from NED President, Carl Gershman at the 2007 Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture

Canadian Embassy – Washington, D.C.

I want first of all to thank Kevin O’Shea and the Canadian Embassy for hosting this Fourth Annual Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture on Democracy in the World.  Marty made Canadians and Americans interesting to each other by explaining how and why we differ, and it has been on the basis of that self and mutual understanding, engendered  by Marty’s incomparable comparative scholarship, that the NED has established a thriving partnership with the Munk Centre at the University of Toronto, where the Lipset Lecture is also delivered annually.  Pierre Hassner is scheduled to deliver his address to the Munk Centre on November 26.

I also want to thank the three institutions that are supporting this lecture – the American Federation of Teachers, the Albert Shanker Institute, and George Mason University  –, each of which had a special relationship with Marty, as well as our good friend Bill Schneider for his generous contribution in Marty’s memory.  Bill regrets that he can’t be with us since he’s in Las Vegas covering tonight’s Democratic debate.

While this is the fourth annual Lipset Lecture, it’s the first since Marty’s death last New Year’s Eve.  The memorial meeting we held in February at SAIS was a somber but still glorious event, addressed by ten of Marty’s closest friends, each of whom gave an eloquent and moving tribute.  All of you should have a copy of Marty’s academic memoir, appropriately entitled “Steady Work,” that Marty’s widow Syd has had reproduced as an attractive new pamphlet.  We’re very grateful to her for that and for being such a wonderful friend to so many of us, and of course for the extraordinary love and loyalty that she gave to Marty.

Marc Plattner has the honor of introducing Pierre Hassner this evening, and I just want to say a brief word of my own about him and about Russia, a country that is of more than passing interest to the NED.  I first learned of Pierre many years ago from reading Survey, a quarterly journal of Soviet and communist studies edited by our mutual friend, the late Leopold Labedz.  I don’t know if Leo would have agreed with the recent statement of a prominent American leader that authoritarianism is built into the Russian DNA, but I do know from many things Leo said, and from a heated conversation we had about a year before his death in 1993 – at the height of the Yeltsin euphoria – that the resurgence of autocracy in Russia would not have surprised him one bit.

How we understand this resurgence is, of course, critically important, to say nothing of how we assess its implications for global politics.  A report in Monday’s New York Times about President Putin posthumously bestowing Russia’s highest award on a leading spy for the GRU (the Soviet military intelligence agency), who penetrated the Manhattan Project to build the atom bomb, would suggest that the communist apparatus was never fully dislodged in Russia, and that may be a big part of the problem today.  In any event, I don’t think we should talk about the return of autocracy in Russia without noting that there are many thousands of Russian activists who continue to press for human rights, free media, democracy and the rule of law, and even give their lives in this struggle, as Anna Politkovskaya did a year ago.  The NED is proud to continue to help these people, despite dire warnings from the Kremlin, and to give them moral and political solidarity.  There is no doubt that things are headed in the wrong direction in Russia, but there has not been a return to totalitarianism, and I agree with our friend Ludmilla Alekseeva that the revival of civil society that has occurred over the past decade and a half will not be reversed and will eventually bear fruit.

In the meantime, we have to deal with the consequences of an aborted transition in Russia and the new assertiveness of a government empowered by high oil prices.  A debut report on EU-Russia relations just published by the new European Council on Foreign Relations makes clear that there is at least as much concern in Europe over Russia’s new belligerence as there is here.  So it’s especially timely that we have the opportunity to hear this evening from a distinguished European thinker on this problem, a compatriot of President Sarkozy, whose sincere friendship is both refreshing and deeply appreciated in this country.  I’m pleased to call upon Marc Plattner to introduce Pierre Hassner.