Friday, May 12, 2006

Separating Democracy from Foreign Policy

The Los Angeles Times published my op-ed today, where I develop the theme discussed earlier this week--that promoting greater liberal-democracy in Russia and getting Russian and U.S. foreign policy objectives to harmonize are two separate and unrelated goals.

An excerpt here:

And would a more democratic Russia be more amenable to U.S. interests? Opinion polls suggest that more than 60% of Russians see the United States as having a negative influence in the world; more than half believe that the U.S. is unfriendly to Russia. And although many Americans comfort themselves with the illusion that these figures must be weighted in favor of the elderly with Cold War hang-ups, the reality is that it is the young, college-educated elites in Moscow and St. Petersburg — Russia's wealthiest and most liberal cities — who are the bastion of anti-U.S. sentiment in the country.

Very interesting article. Three problemes:

1) Polls in an authoritarian state are a problematic source. If the media are state-controlled, a controversial discussion about the US role in the world is impossible. If the media were free, there might be different results.

2) Putin sees foreign policy as a power struggle on zones of influence, a zero sum game. This is 19th century realism. I would argue that neither the EU nor the US are thinking and acting in these terms. And I think that a democratic Russian culture would produce other views on Foreign Policy.

3) Putin is supporting autocratic and despotic leaders. If he were a genuin democrat in a genuine democratic culture, he would be less inclined to do so.

It's therefore in the West's interest to have a more democratic Russia.
Ulrich, you need to do some more research on Russia. Russia has pretty sophisticated opinion polls firms that do research and Russians get information from a number of sources--particularly the young who are the most internet capable and also English speaking and so can access and read Western sources. This is the group most anti-American.
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