Monday, June 26, 2006

Monday morning round-up: Russia

Some forthcoming essays dealing with Russia and U.S. policy. It reflects that there is a much broader debate going on than the one taking place inside the Beltway.

Andrei Tsygankov (San Francisco State) will have a piece in the forthcoming issue of Orbis where he argues:

"Putin’s overall policy of pragmatic Westernization and its recent more assertive turn bear no comparison with the Cold War. A more appropriate historical comparison is to Russian policy in the 1890s led by Finance Minister Sergei Witte: strong internal economic development through state-driven liberalization, building extensive transportation networks, and commercial expansion in Asia and the West, while avoiding foreign policy adventures. Witte and his supporters defended Russia’s even-handed relationships with both Germany and liberal Europe, and they worked hard to prevent any involvement in confrontation with major powers. Such pragmatism is not unlike from that of the contemporary Kremlin. Russia remains a conservative power that seeks to reform itself. Conservative powers do not initiate changes, but support them when they can no longer be avoided. Although Moscow is unlikely to follow Washington’s lead and promote revolutions abroad, the Kremlin will defend itself against revolutions at home if that needs to be a condition for continuing with state-driven domestic modernization. In all likelihood, the Kremlin will continue its foreign policy assertiveness by seeking to provide the nation with greater economic opportunities, security, and political stability."

Stephen F. Cohen argues in the July 10, 2006 issue of The Nation:

"Why have Democratic and Republican administrations believed they could act in such relentlessly anti-Russian ways without endangering U.S. national security? The answer is another fallacy -- the belief that Russia, diminished and weakened by its loss of the Soviet Union, had no choice but to bend to America's will. Even apart from the continued presence of Soviet-era weapons in Russia, it was a grave misconception. Because of its extraordinary material and human attributes, Russia, as its intellectuals say, has always been "destined to be a great power." This was still true after 1991.

"Even before world energy prices refilled its coffers, the Kremlin had ready alternatives to the humiliating role scripted by Washington. Above all, Russia could forge strategic alliances with eager anti-U.S. and non-NATO governments in the East and elsewhere, becoming an arsenal of conventional weapons and nuclear knowledge for states from China and India to Iran and Venezuela. Moscow has already begun that turning away from the West, and it could move much further in that direction.

"Still more, even today's diminished Russia can fight, perhaps win, a cold war on its new front lines across the vast former Soviet territories. It has the advantages of geographic proximity, essential markets, energy pipelines and corporate ownership, along with kinship and language and common experiences. They give Moscow an array of soft and harder power to use, if it chooses, against neighboring governments considering a new patron in far-away Washington.


"American crusaders insist it is worth the risk in order to democratize Russia and other former Soviet republics. In reality, their campaigns since 1992 have only discredited that cause in Russia. Praising the despised Yeltsin and endorsing other unpopular figures as Russia's "democrats," while denouncing the popular Putin, has associated democracy with the social pain, chaos and humiliation of the 1990s. Ostracizing Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko while embracing tyrants in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan has related it to the thirst for oil. Linking "democratic revolutions" in Ukraine and Georgia to NATO membership has equated them with U.S. expansionism. Focusing on the victimization of billionaire Mikhail Khodorkhovsky and not on Russian poverty or ongoing mass protests against social injustices has suggested democracy is only for oligarchs. And by insisting on their indispensable role, U.S. crusaders have all but said (wrongly) that Russians are incapable of democracy or resisting abuses of power on their own."

Cohen's closing para raises the right point and the one that has to be the focal point in any foreign policy discussion--whether a particular course of action is worth the risk. No policy takes place in a vaccuum, and also we have to be able to differentiate between preferences and needs.
West never wants to deal with Russia on Russia's terms, they wanted drunk Yeltsin and Russia on her knees.
The Russia we are dealing with today is the Russia we created by a mix of overintervention and neglect. There have been several windows of opportunity where Russia could have been definitely connected to the West but where our cheapness and parochial lobbying prevented that from hapepening. Why shouldn't Russia look eastward if the door to the west is not always open--or more importantly cannot be walked through standing up?
As has been noted on this blog many times before, West calls Lukashenko a dictator but his country has seen no loss of population and preservation of decent standard of living compared to Ukraine which has seen its population shrink. How many girls from Minsk forced into sex trade in Europe versus girls from Kiev?
" The Russia we are dealing with today is the Russia we created by a mix of overintervention and neglect."

Yes. The Russian governments over the last 15 years have comprehensively tested our intentions concerning them, and as you said, given the U.S. government many opportunities to establish good relations based upon some strong mutual interests. And the U.S. government has just as comprehensively shown that it has no desire for anything other than Russia being a vassal to be dictated to while drawing no benefit from the relationship themselves.

Thus, President Putin has been working hard to eliminate dependence on anything other than Russia's internal resources, in order to eliminate our leverage on Russia. And the U.S. foreign policy elite dosen't like that one bit.

And Putin might well reply to their complaints "And what have you done for Russia lately, or ever?"

It is amusing to see the spluttering, impotent outrage this sort of response produces. That's something, I suppose, but its sad to compare it to what U/S.- Russian relations could have been, with a little constructive effort from the U.S.
Like Nixon said: "Russia is down but not out. We should treat it with respect."
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?