Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Free but Undemocratic Russia: Policy Recommendations by a Russian General

Last time I wrote a summary and review of a policy brief on Russia by Anders Åslund, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He insisted active commitment by the West to promote democracy in Russia and install pro-American regimes in the Former Soviet Union.

In this post, I will introduce another policy brief by Dmitri Trenin, Deputy Director at the Carnegie Endowment Moscow Center. He was a former general of the Russian army, and faculty staff of NATO Defense University.

Just as Anders Åslund, he argues that the West needs to be patient and inclusive to deal with Russia. On the other hand, General Trenin is more cautious of Western intervention into Russian politics. He presents in depth analyses of democracy in Russia. Though he has an elite career in the communist regime, he understands the value of democracy very well as American and European opinion leaders. From now on, I will summarize and review his essay.

In the essay, Trenin insists that Western policy to Russia is confused because of misunderstandings. While the West criticize Putin’s czarist policies, Russians distrust the West. They feel that the West weakens Russia by installing pro-American regimes around their country, channeling Islamic radicals in Chechnya, and ultimately, planning a regime change in Russia itself. Therefore, he says that the West needs better understanding of Russia.

First, this brief examines democracy in Russia. According to Trenin, current Russia is free but not democratic. What does this mean? Russia is free. The parliament is lively, private business can make profits, and the media can criticize the authority. However, Russia is not democratic. The president is the sole decision maker. Capitalism is dependent o the authorities. “Free” media are owned by oligarchs.

The West is critical to Putin’s czarist policy. But in fact, “free but not democratic” trends began in the Yeltsin era, when he enacted first democratic constitution in Russia. Boris Yeltsin was interested in keeping power, but not building democratic institutions. Therefore, democracy did not develop in a free political system.

Then, what is required to make Russia a true democracy? Dmitri Trenin says that Western democracy did not prevail until a self-conscious middle class takes root and flourish. Only successful and sustained development of capitalism can cause this. This process will take a long time in Russia. Also, the bulk of the nation must be above minimal subsistence level in their living standard. Otherwise, he warns, any attempts for democracy will lead to populism.

Currently, Russian politics is managed by self-absorbed elite. In order to move the country toward democracy, it is necessary to establish the baseline of ownership and decision-making. This process itself does not assure democracy, but it is a prerequisite for a constitutional rule of law.

In addition to founding the baseline, the rise of civil society is necessary. Kremlin officials and propagandists like to say the 19th century conundrum that only true European in Russia is the government. Despite such atmosphere, traditional liberalism of intelligentsia takes roots. However, this liberalism is not widespread because it is at odds with patriotism. Today, liberalism in Russia needs to combine freedom with nationalism. New liberalism will emerge from the new bourgeoisie and urban middle class. They will organize themselves beginning from the local level to process demand effectively, and ensure accountability of the authority. Such a new liberalism will appear coarse and anti-intellectual. It will focus on good governance, rather than social justice and human rights. Initiatives by businesspeople will diminish Kremlin’s one-man rule gradually.

General Trenin describes capitalist development and its impact on democratization. Real capitalism in Russia began when Boris Yeltsin adopted the new constitution in 1993, which secures private ownership and business gains. The West accuses Putin of arresting oligarchs. But this is what Russians desired. As long as oligarchs do not get involved in power politics, they are safe. As capitalism develops in Russia, market expands, which provides consumers with more right to choose.

This transition has caused cultural change among Russian people, from collectivism values to private values. In the past, they took pride in their country’s missile forces, ballet companies, and big dam projects. Now, people take pride in their private properties and schools for their children. As a result, the middle class composed of self-conscious individuals is emerging.

In foreign policy, Trenin says that Russian influence on its neighbors is in decline, and Kremlin has neither resource nor will to compete with the West in expanding influence on former Soviet states. Therefore, he argues Russia should liberate itself from imperial burden, and transform as a modern great power. Despite cooling relations with the United States, Russia recognizes American supremacy. Since the West criticizes Kremlin’s Chechnya policy, Russia distrusts America and Europe. Therefore, it is logical for Russia to make a rapprochement with China.

Though Russian importance on the global stage is declining, Trenin insists that this country will not become negligible. The West has immediate interests in energy security and new security threats such as terrorism and WMD proliferation. Russia is an oil and gas exporter to the West. It is a key partner for the US and Europe to deal with Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan, and Korea.

Finally, Trenin presents the following policy recommendations to the West.

1. Long-term viewpoint: There are no short cuts for democracy.
2. No exclusion: Don’t exclude Russia from G8 and international organizations.
3. Concrete demand: The West must distinguish things they can and they cannot for Russia. Also, make specific demands. For example, instead of a big issue like human rights, the West should demand better treatment for prisoners and professionalism for judges.
4. Contact with grassroots: Never think of king making in Kremlin. More contact with young people will nurture better relations with Russia.
5. Friendly relationship: Don’t treat Russia a “pariah” state just because it is “authoritarian”.

At the end, he advises that the West should stop interventionist policy to Russia, and leave Russians’ business to themselves.

Dmtri Trenin understands essence of Western democracy, and presents in depth analyses of current process in Russia toward democracy. On the other hand, he shows some viewpoints as a Russian, in his skepticism to Western intervention in Russian politics. This essay is quite helpful to understand Russia, and reevaluate democracy in the Western society.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Palestine Turbulance: Can Terrorists Govern the State?

Hamas won the election in Palestine. Can terrorists govern the state?

Israel is surprised to see the result.

Fatah is discouraged.

Hamas is at a loss, becauce they must govern the state!!

Boston Globe, January 27 2006
International Herald Tribune, January 28, 2006

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Brief Review of US-German Talk

Last time, I mentioned that new German chancellor Angela Merkel criticized US treatment against prisoners at Guantánamo naval base. Some people worried that US-German relations would not improve as they had expected just after the election. I argued that the US-German relationship would improve rapidly in my previous post “Bush Foreign Policy: Improving with Europe, Straining with Asia”. I have to admit that this viewpoint was too optimistic. It has become apparent that America and Europe disagree with each other about the balance of counter terrosism and human rights. To understand this perception gap, I would suggest you to read a wellknown book, “Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order.”

How should we evaluate the consequence of Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Washington to talk with President George W. Bush? The Atlantic Review, the bolg I mentioned before, tells as follows.

Most newspapers believe that Chancellor Merkel's warm welcome in Washington D.C. will not lead to a "new transatlantic romance," but to improved, business-like relations based on more hard-headed practicality and reliability. The U.S.-German relationship is expected to be less tainted by populist abuse of political disagreements.The chancellor and the president disagreed on Guantánamo, but agreed on a common approach towards Iran. President Bush did not mention the military option, but stressed UN Security Council negotiations. Chancellor Merkel said that as many countries as possible should be persuaded to ally themselves with the US and Germany and not be intimidated by Iran.

The Atlantic Review concludes the effect of this summit, quoting top media from the US, Britain, and Germany. For detail, please see the link.

Shortly after meeting with President Bush, she visited Moscow to see Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although Iran was the top agenda at the summit, she requested more democracy in Russia as well. Former chancellor Gerhard Schröder was not willing to talk about the latter issue. Chancellor Merkel impressed stark difference from her predecessor.

A chacellor from former East Germany, Merkel is likely to advocate democracy and human rights issues much more enthusiastically than any postwar German chancellors. The centerpiece of German foreign policy will shift from De Gaulle-Adenauer partnership to the transatlantic alliance. However, she will advocate European position that human rights issue cannot be dismissed under the name of war on terror. In any case, Germany will play a key role in transatlantic relations.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Good News from Iraq: Rebels Divided!

Just briefly, I would like to mention good news from Iraq. According to the International Herald Tribune yesterday (and also, the New York Times), the Islamic Army, an Iraqi insurgence group, decided to fight against Al Qaeda. Qaeda guerillas are Arabs from abroad, and Iraqi rebels are increasingly infuriated to see foreign insurgents kill too many Iraqis. Since October last year, Iraqi rebels and Al Qaeda confront each other.

This split is coinciding with the Sunni Arab’s participation to new political process in Iraq. The Sunnis see foreign militants with resentment. Some Iraqi insurgents, including the Islamic Army and Muhammad’s Army say that they feel happy when US forces kill Al Qaeda members.

After all, people realize what is the beat for Iraq, despite criticism to the United States. Once the regime change begins, no one can stop it. As I mentioned in my previous post, “Pro or Con on American Attack against Iraq before the War”, even war opponent opinion leaders are cooperative to postwar reconstruction. Hoever, some commentators and civic organizations encourage terrorists up-rising through continuing negative campaigns against US-lead operations. They do not assume any responsibility to any damages in Iraq, but simply pursue their satisfaction to promote their leftist agenda. Who’s to be blamed for postwar upheaval? The coalition forces, or terrorists? This is apparent. I wonder why those leftists promote shaming? Had there not been their misbehavior, things would have improved much earlier.

US-German Relations, Improve?

I would like to introduce you a link of interest. The Atlantic Review mentions critical issues between Germany and the United States. Quoting Der Spiegel, the Atlantic Review takes up the news that newly elected chancellor Angela Merkel requested to close Guantánamo navy base, because of human rights abuses for detainees.

Merkel’s victory in the last election was regarded as a good sign to improve the US-German relationship. She is on a tour to talk with President Bush. How will things go? See the link, and join the discussion.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Global American Discourse in Japanese Politics

Birthday Statement

Today, I would like to articulate ideological position of this blog in Japanese politics mainly from the following perspectives: foreign policy, postwar regime change, and the constitution. As stated above, this blog is “hawkish and pro-American.” But the stance of this blog is quite different from mainstream Japanese conservatives. In foreign policy, defense, and the constitution, I am a hardliner. However, in postwar regime change, my viewpoints are completely different from those of Japanese conservatives. Rather, I am a “liberal” in Japanese political environment. Maybe, I can call myself a liberal internationalist conservative, or neo-conservative in Japanese context.

To begin with, I will talk about my perspectives on Japanese foreign and defense policy. As to this issue, my position is quite close to mainstream conservatives. I regard the US-Japanese alliance as the key to Japanese foreign policy. However, while some conservatives, like nationalists see the alliance simply from realist viewpoints, I think it a moral commitment for global stability and freedom. For nationalists, the alliance is important to contain Chinese expansionist ambition. They are not interested in global burden sharing. Mainstream conservatives share more or less the same point of view. Since I regard the US-Japanese alliance as the centerpiece of postwar regime change. 60 years have passed since the end of World War Ⅱ, and I believe Japan should make further contribution on the global stage. Hardly, any Japanese politicians and opinion leaders are willing to join the combat for global stability, and still dream of friendly and free-riding diplomacy. In this respect, this blog is more hawk than nationalists and mainstream conservatives.

Regarding Japan’s position in the world, I see this country a member of the Western democracy club, rather than Asia. Though mainstreamers are getting more Asia-oriented, I believe it is America and Europe that share common political values and manage the world with Japan. Asia is important to Japan, but it is a different civilization.

However, I feel skeptic to continual request for apology to Japan’s wartime misconduct by China and Korea. I suspect they try to establish supremacy over Japan and split the US-Japanese alliance to boast their Asian values on the global stage. This is a real threat to Japan. On this issue, I share some common views with nationalists, mainstream conservatives, and also, realists.

As for postwar regime change, I am completely at odds with mainstream conservatives and nationalists. They are critical to US lead regime change, and feel it necessary to revert some “imposed” reforms in the postwar era. For example, they insist that it is humiliation for Japan to continue to accept US-made constitution. Moreover, they dream of restoring some aspects of prewar Japanese political traditions, like submission to the emperor, self-sacrifice to the state, and Confucius value of obedience to social hierarchy. These values are utterly unacceptable for a Japan accomplished regime change. I am a wholehearted proponent of postwar regime change, and I believe Japan should play more active role to promote this regime change worldwide in the post Cold War era. In this respect, I am more liberal than conservative.

Finally, I would like to mention the constitution. The pacifist constitution must be abolished. However, unlike nationalists and mainstream conservatives, I understand that this constitution had an important role in postwar history. It is a necessary punishment for wartime fascism. But Japan has been a good citizen in the global community since the regime change, and it is over. No punishment is eternal. Nationalists regard it a dishonor to accept “imposed” constitution, and mainstreamers share this view to some extent. Though I agree with them to change postwar pacifist constitution, the fundamental ideas are completely different.

This blog has much in common with Japanese conservatives in foreign policy. But on postwar regime change, the Global American Discourse is absolutely in disagreement with nationalists and mainstreamers. As to the constitution, this blog agrees with most of Japanese conservatives in conclusion, but for different reasons.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Year Statement, 2006

Happy New Year. The Global American Discourse will continue to explore the new world order in the post Cold War era. Also, this blog plans to invite a couple of contributors this year. Last year, this blog was taken up in “The Latest Blog Directory of Best 200” by Gakken Press in Tokyo. Also, the Global American Discourse was invited to the German-American blog carnival. I hope this blog will develop furthermore this year.

No one knows what will happen this year. The Global American Discourse will do its best to analyze various issues in the world, in order to advocate its ideals for liberal world order. Thank you very much in advance for your kind attention to this blog.

Shah Alex