Friday, December 12, 2008

Realities behind the Surge of Nationalism in Russia

The Free World may have defeated communism, but have we really won the Cold War? These days, people talk about resurgence of Russia, but come to think of it, this country is still a gigantic nuclear power, roughly tying with the United States. Also, Russia has been the 2nd largest arms exporter after the United States.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, American and British economists may have preached capitalism and market economy to Russians. However, none of Western forces occupied the Russian territory to disarm the Red Army. In other words, post Soviet Russia is neither Japan nor Germany defeated in World War Ⅱ. Actually, I missed this point until quite recently, just as most of the people in the Free World.

The Economist has released a special report on Russia. This report written by Arkady Ostrovsky, Moscow Correspondent of the Economist, presents very helpful insights on a broad range of Russian foreign and domestic politics under the Putin and Medvedev administrations. Quite interestingly, Ostrovsky points out that anti-Americanism in Russia is virulent, not among unreformed communists but among successful and westernized businessmen. Let me review the special report.

Ostrovsky summarizes the current state as the following (“RUSSIA: Enigma variations”; Economist; November 27, 2008). Russia has not become free and democratic as insisted by its government. Also, Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev take belligerent stances against the West: invading Georgia, and threatening to deploy short-range missiles in Kalingrad against US missile defense system in Eastern Europe. In addition, Kremlin decided to produce new submarine launched missile, named Bulava (“Russia starts production of new ballistic missiles”; Reuters; December 1, 2008). Previously, Global American Discourse quoted a comment by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that the United States has stopped producing new nuclear arsenals for a long time. It is a serious challenge to the United States.

Though post-Soviet business élites in Russia have strong ties with the West, this does not deter Putin’s nationalist policy. He portrays himself a symbol of Russian patriotism rising from humiliation in the post-Soviet confusion.

Quite interestingly, Ostrovsky points out Russia’s love-hate relationship with America. He says that anti-Americanism among Westernized Russian élites is based on conviction that Russia is not different from America, both in terms of political and economic structure. They take Western preach of liberal democracy as a hypocrisy. However, new Russian élites are no less hypocritical than Western preachers. Quoting Lilia Shevtsova, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center, Ostrovsky argues that Russian élites reject democratic governance of the West while they enjoy a Western lifestyle. According to Shevtsova, “hostility towards America and the West sustains the authoritarian and corrupt rule of the rent-seeking elite which portrays its narrow corporate interests as the interests of the nation.” Ostrovsky articulates “By imitating and repelling America at the same time, Russia tries to ward off a hostile value system that includes democracy and the rule of law.”

Professor Andrei Zorin of Oxford University comments “Russia may yet emerge as a nation state, but in the process it could also turn ugly and nationalistic.” Ostrovsky introduces viewpoints among Russian liberals that American triumphalism after the Cold War provokes nationalism in Russia, as Germans felt resented with the Allied Powers after the World War Ⅰ(“RUSSIA: Handle with care”; Economist; November 27, 2008). He argues that missile defense system in Eastern Europe and NATO expansion to Ukraine and Georgia invigorate hawks in Russia. The latter was a key issue at the last NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels from December 2 to 3.

Simultaneously, he points out that it is domestic politics that leads to the rise of Russian nationalism. America is a catalyst. Ostrovsky insists that current Russia is more dangerous than the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

This special report presents invaluable psychological analyses of Russia’s new élites and the public. British and American authors will not narrate so much in depth as Ostrovsky does. However, some of his commentaries sound too Russian. From missile defense to NATO expansion, inclusion of New Europe into the West is a vital agenda to restructure the security of the Euro-Atlantic region. It is necessary to be careful to read this article.

Ostrovsky explores furthermore on domestic politics and the economy of Russia in this report. Finally, I would like to introduce his audio comments through this link. Overall, this report is well-balanced to understand Russia from both Western and Russian perspectives. Therefore, I recommend this special report.