Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Democracy Promotion and Russia
Craner opened his remarks by noting that some believe there is a divide in the Republican Party between "Nixonian realists" and "Reagan/Bush idealists", but pointed out that all Republicans agree that the first priority of U.S. foreign policy is to protect American interests. How the spread of democracy fits into that is the subject of discussion.
With regard to Russia, Craner discussed two recent meetings he had; the first with ambassadors of EU states concerned about the growing trend toward authoritarianism in Russia and the second a group of Central Asian experts who note that Russia's regression toward a more centralized, authoritarian form of governance has made Russia less open, less transparent and less predictable. There is a relationship, he said, between levels of democracy at home and the tendency to engage in adventurism abroad.
Overall, the trend in Russia is one of concern: Russia's federal system is being undermined, changes in electoral laws restrict pluralism, NGOs are under threat and the independence of the judiciary is being eliminated. The policy of the first term of the Bush Administration--to be largely silent in the hopes of encouraging domestic change and greater Russian-American cooperation in the international sphere, has brought about meager results; now there is a shift toward calling attention to these developments.
But the mistakes of the 1990s must not be repeated; to put faith in the success of an indivudal politician as opposed to building viable institutions, and to understand that the process of democracy promotional will be generational, not something "wrapped up" in two to three years. And the role of the educational system in producing future citizens must not be forgotten or ignored.
Simes opened his remarks by saying that the status of Russian democracy is "bleak and getting bleaker" and that not only opposition figures but even people in the current government are concerned about the direction of the country. The problem is that various pieces of legislation which in isolation do not threaten democracy (e.g. having the Duma be elected by party lists, having regional governors nominated from the center, even the amended NGO law) in totality work to shrink political space; moreover, the judicial system is unwilling to act as a check on arbitary bureaucratic power. The oligarchs were eliminated as a political force--a source of much of the corruption of the system--but there is no counterweight at the present time to the state. Moreover, as the Kremlin's treatment of the "Rodina" party demonstrates, it is uninterested in independent political forces.
Political parties and NGOs can have a public role in Russia if they play by the Kremlin's script--otherwise, while Russians are free to have any opinion they want, the Kremlin will decide who gets access to the public square.
Simes noted that those who lament the "destruction" of Russian democracy under Putin have chosen not to recognize that the seeds of the current authoritarian trend were sown under Yeltsin. Moreover, in encouraging Yeltsin to pursue "radical reform" at all costs, the West bears some of the blame. To get this agenda through, Yeltsin relied on oligarchs and security service veterans; Putin has simply been more effective at consolidating this system.
What is to be done? While Craner believed that it would be possible for the United States to be much more critical of Russia but preserve common action on issues of joint interest, Simes was less sanguine about the possibility of an a la carte partnership, that Moscow would be far less interested in accommodating U.S. concerns if the Russians believed that the U.S. was out to undermine their government and block their interests.
What about support for democracy? Simes noted what I have termed in other discussions the "democracy paradox", that most Russians today are not concerned about the shrinking space for democracy and civil society so long as they have access to new economic opportunities; the desire for law and order is outweighing democracy which many still associate with the 1990s period of chaos. Both seemed to see the development and consolidation of the rule of law and democratic institutions as something that will be a long-term process, but Simes was also concerned that the present chill in the U.S.-Russia relationship is leading to a shrinking diplomatic space that could lead to estrangement between Washington and Moscow.
Putin, Russia, and most of the major powers in the world are working to undermine American hegemony under the undemocratic and illegal dictates of fascist cabals in the Bush govenment operating above, beyond, outside, and in total disdain of the rule of law.
It is an abusrd joke and an obscene offense to intelligent people to profess any concern for "the development and consolidation of the rule of law and democratic institutions as something that will be a long-term process" in other countries - when the exact opposite is happening in America.
Our democratic institutions are unraveling and being perverted by the Bush government, who breaks and operates above, beyond, and outside the rule of law "repeatedly and insistantly."
That, however, is not the more important problem. The long-term question about Russia is whether and how that country will reverse the dramatic fall in its population and life expectancy if present trends continue. The changes since 1991 have given the Russian people new breathing room but new hope has been more of a struggle. The question is what, if anything, we can do to help Russia that we have not been doing or urging them to do already.
Our policy has tended to equate short-term reform with long-term gain and Russia's leaders may also be taking the view that their moves in the short-term will be successful decades from now. One can then argue that as both views are failing we should simply pursue our interests in terms of traditional state-to-state relations. Maybe this is all we can do, but I wonder if in placing greater emphasis on Russian behavior in the present we might be reinforcing an emphasis in Russian policy on the short-term.
Simes noted what I have termed in other discussions the "democracy paradox", that most Russians today are not concerned about the shrinking space for democracy and civil society so long as they have access to new economic opportunities; the desire for law and order is outweighing democracy which many still associate with the 1990s period of chaos.
Maybe that is democracy itself - Russians have to decide what sequence they want to reform their nation in. We should be concerned about our national interests, and if coercing Russians into an "ideal" democracy pushes them into actions that undermine our interests, then we are not doing anyone any favors, including ourselves.
BTW, the Hamas win is another data point that helps build the case against depending blindly on democratization for solving the world's problems. I have an entry on another blog on this.
Um, no. It was Vladimir who called george in 9/11, not the other way around. Up until then, Bush's Russian policy was nothing but pressure and demands. But you're right that Russian gestures, like the use of their airspace and the intelligence they provided on the Taliban, brought them meager results, and Vladimir has indeed noticed this development.
Our policy toward Russia was not just pressure and demands before 9/11. On May 1, 2001, Bush gave a speech at the National Defense University offering partnership to Russia in the missile defense he was proposing to build.
We needed then (and still need) to articulate an inclusive concept of strategic defense integrated with a longer-range vision for the future of NATO and Eurasia. 9/11 deflected us from that larger focus.
"Our policy toward Russia was not just pressure and demands before 9/11. On May 1, 2001, Bush gave a speech at the National Defense University offering partnership to Russia in the missile defense he was proposing to build."
In other words, additional pressure on them to join us in ditching the ABM Treaty, which Vladimir never thought was a good idea.
Thank you for making my point for me.
How would the offer of a shared missile defense to replace a unilateral missile defense place either side in a less secure position?
Incidently I would argue that shared strategic defense ceases to be a good idea if membership is closed rather than open. My thoughts about this are here:
This administration does not play very nicely with others, as the continual shrinkage of the "Coalition of the Willing" in Iraq indicates.
"America's dilemma may be that it is so powerful that it feels it can
do any military job on its own, and that, therefore, paying much
attention to allies is not worth the trouble. Many coalition members,
however, don't feel like allies: Instead of having been fully informed
about the war's true aims up front, and instead of being given
meaningful chances to form coalition policy, they are asked to march
in lockstep with the U.S. and follow her military and geopolitical
lead. In this regard, they feel more like military subcontractors — in
which case, they'd at least prefer to be paid as such. Yet the U.S. is
not so wealthy as to be able to pay for their assistance on a
subcontracting basis. If Iraq is a lesson in using coalitions of the
willing, the lesson may be that they can work — but that America
cannot afford them."
If this is an indication of the difficulties that arose cooperating with a government and people as enthusiasticlly pro-American and as unsuspicious of our motives as the Poles, imagine the trouble this administration would have seeing through to a successful conclusion cooperation on missile defense with the Russians.
The part about not being given any opportunity to have real policy input and being required "...to march
in lockstep with the U.S. and follow her military and geopolitical lead." would have been be a source of severe problems with the Russians, had they been foolish enough to take Bush's bait back in May 2001.