A Longing for the Cold War?
"I can call up spirits from the vasty deep'.'
"Why, so can I, or so can any man, But do they come when you do call them?"
Shakespeare: Henry IV, Part I: Act III
T&B is deeply troubled to see almost daily confirmation of our dire warnings that Western attitudes towards Russia would eventually bear poisoned fruit. An idiocy of historic proportions has been perpetrated, and will not be reversed. That said, given the economic interests at stake, at worst, we expect to see a reasonably civilized divorce, based upon a pragmatic assessment of mutual interests, rather than upon a clash of misguided, fundamentalist ideologies.
T&B has long sought to explain to our readers the complexities of the Russian reality, countering the unbalanced, misleading coverage of much of the Western press. We have warned that, were the West to continue to gratuitously antagonize the Bear, they might indeed succeed in inflecting Russian behaviour - but certainly not in a direction of which they would approve!
Predictably, the constant carping of the EU and the US has only exacerbated the distrust felt by ordinary Russians as regards the Atlantic powers, thus strengthening the more nationalistic factions in Russia. As the relative economic weight of the West declines, the East is rising - despite a deep-rooted historical fear of the "Yellow Peril", as the gradual deterioration in political relations with the West becomes irreversible, Russia is turning towards China, building a deep and multifaceted military, diplomatic and economic alliance - the ultimate nightmare for Western strategic thinkers.
Of course, one needs not be overly alarmist - there is no new ideology to replace Marxism as the basis for a new Cold War, and with the Middle East a desperately unstable place, even the US Neocons seem to have concluded that decent relations with Russia are vital for global energy security. As any lingering illusions are relinquished, what we are seeing is the outbreak of a cold peace - a jockeying for position in the context of the competition for economic power where the West shall be compelled to deal with Russia very much as it deals with a China - a country which equally scorns foreign lessons in "democracy," bluntly rejecting all meddling in its internal affairs.
Although at the beginning of the 1990s America (and the West in general) was indeed seen as a shining City on the Hill by deeply traumatized and disoriented post-Soviet Russians, this gloss has been irretrievably lost; it matters little by whose fault - it is a matter of history. The opportunity for a broader alliance, a realistic hope in the 1990s, has been lost, in large part due to a fundamental misconception underlying the Western approach to Russia -the notion that, as a defeated power, Russia is answerable to the political, social and ideological criteria of the Atlantic Alliance. It is not, and perhaps more importantly, does not see itself as such. The Soviet Union was not defeated on the battle-field, nor was its demise foreordained - the 1980s were a wretched decade, but Soviet power had survived far greater challenges. Instead, the USSR provides us with the unique example of a maj or empire more or less willingly voting itself out of existence.
The Western powers, not just the US, but also the Eurocrats, seem to be incapable of grasping another very simple message - Vladimir Putin is the President of Russia and of the Russians. His job description thus implies furthering the best interests of Russia, as he sees them, rather than those of Russia's purported well-wishers in the West. It shouldn't be terribly surprising that his Russian constituency - no less patriotic than their American or French counterparts - is delighted to see their country taking a more assertive role on the world stage, strengthening her control over vital energy resources, and (not unlike American or British diplomacy) seeking to penalize those countries which would harm, hinder or humiliate her.
Equally unsurprising, despite severe and persistent inequalities in income distribution, a large majority of Russians now enjoy double-digit annual income growth, with soaring home ownership, automobile registrations and foreign travel - this after two decades of deepening misery.
We are still bewildered at the difficulty some foreign commentators seem to have in comprehending these simple truths. The Russians love Vladimir Putin because they believe he has made them richer, and their country stronger and more secure. While some in the West may honestly choose to disagree with this assessment, let them never imagine that the Russian people are about to rise up in open rebellion in support of a deeply discredited Washington Consensus!
Eric Kraus is the author of strategy monthly Truth and Beauty (... and Russian Finance), and the Managing Director of Anyatta Capital - the Investment advisor to the Nikitsky Russia/CIS Opportunities Fund (www.nikitskyfund.com).
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