Thoughts on Russia's future?

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Thoughts on Russia's future?

Post by paulb » Sat Aug 26, 2006 9:54 pm

Article's, comments, predictions, prognosis, thoughts all welcome.
America herself is suffering under critical social and enviornmental issues, but compared to russia we are in a much better position to face future world crisis.
Will the "old gal" make it?
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

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Post by Ralph » Sat Aug 26, 2006 10:29 pm

Russia is eternal. The Russian people will awake from the doldrums and demand the return of the Romanovs.
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Re: Thoughts on Russia's future?

Post by living_stradivarius » Sat Aug 26, 2006 11:18 pm

paulb wrote:Article's, comments, predictions, prognosis, thoughts all welcome.
America herself is suffering under critical social and enviornmental issues, but compared to russia we are in a much better position to face future world crisis.
Will the "old gal" make it?
My grandfather thinks Russia has a huge role with respect to the book of Revelations, e.g. the army of the east. ;) :lol: :shock:
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Re: Thoughts on Russia's future?

Post by Madame » Sun Aug 27, 2006 4:50 am

paulb wrote:Article's, comments, predictions, prognosis, thoughts all welcome.
America herself is suffering under critical social and enviornmental issues, but compared to russia we are in a much better position to face future world crisis.
Will the "old gal" make it?
You sure about that? Russia is an oil-rich country and foreign investors are pounding down the doors to get inside. Depends on the government --will they allow their citizens to enjoy economic prosperity?

Moscow has surpassed Tokyo as the most expensive city in the world to live in, in part because of soaring property values.

Will be interesting to watch.

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Post by Ralph » Sun Aug 27, 2006 7:37 am

There's a good reason why my school's summer legal externships includes Russia.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Aug 27, 2006 2:34 pm

Thoughts on Russia's future?
Bleak. Their experiment with democracy was chaotic and proved to the citizens that a strong man who can afford some security and predictability is better than democracy without security of any kind. I'll look for some articles for you. In the mean time see if you can't find Crystia Freeland's Sale of the Century. She was the Moscow editor of the Financial Times during the 90s when Russia tried privatizing and democratizing to such bad effects. Any titles by Stephen Cohen would be good too.
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Re: Thoughts on Russia's future?

Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Aug 27, 2006 2:37 pm

Madame wrote:Depends on the government --will they allow their citizens to enjoy economic prosperity?
Absolutely spot on. The fact that they are filthy with oil and have 1/3 of the world's rare metals means only that the plutocrats in the old KGB apparatus will get very very rich while the country depopulates, withdraws into the cities, and becomes the object of Chinese encroachment from the east.
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Post by jbuck919 » Sun Aug 27, 2006 2:52 pm

Never worry. Global melting will make Siberia and most of Canada the world's breadbaskets for everything, and then those two countries can slug it out for global dominance. :)

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Post by paulb » Sun Aug 27, 2006 3:26 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Thoughts on Russia's future?
Bleak. .
I'd say so. Its a country where distrust is prevelant, one never quite knows who is your friend and who pretends to be friend. I think democracy there works on the principle of : freedom to take advantage of the other guy. I think china is doing a better job with transitioning from communist to democracy.
Russia is a tough and rough palce to live. i know I could never survive in that atmosphere. Too depressing seeing all the scondrels and cheats walking the streets. They'd tell you sarcastically to your face "its called survival". So they perpetuate the scheming cycle into another generation.

The petro dollars are well protected by the government and a elite wealthy class. Those funds do not flow down into the private and public sector, except by a trickle.

Seems to me only those countries in the world that have at least some commitment to higher principles will be the best success stories in the next 100 yrs. The rest will fall by the way side, in rather dismal states of being.

I'll track down Freeland's book, thanks.
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Post by jbuck919 » Sun Aug 27, 2006 3:37 pm

I hate to say this, but it is kind of scary. I could drive to Russia in a long day but would never do so because first, I don't drive for such distances, and second, they still requre a visa. (I'd love for Europe not to have that division so I could visit the Hermitage the way I might the Louvre.) But more importantly, they are not fully integrated into Europe yet so they still have those little rockets there, you know, that might disturb me during my sleep slightly more than the ones exchanged between Israel an Hezbollah.

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Post by mourningstar » Sun Aug 27, 2006 4:23 pm

I have read an article about young russian billionaires(millioniares)...

straight out of university,...

they are really something, they are in fact, the hope of russia.
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Post by jbuck919 » Sun Aug 27, 2006 4:30 pm

mourningstar wrote:I have read an article about young russian billionaires(millioniares)...

straight out of university,...

they are really something, they are in fact, the hope of russia.
They are the curse of Russia. Even if you believed in trickle down economics, which I don't, those particular billionaires are only going to do whatever corrupt thing they need to do to stay in business. Their wealth does not come from an appropriate position amidst a growing affluence under the rule of law, nor is it likely to lead there. They make John D. Rockefeller's "the public be damned" sound like a paternal blessing.

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Post by paulb » Sun Aug 27, 2006 5:40 pm

John is correct, these new young superwealthy 'entrepreneur" are not what you think they are. They hoard their money and have no sympathy for anyone but themself. Donald Trump is a saint compared to these guys.
A society built on these ideals cannpt last very long. Something dark is building up in that country, how the crisis will unfold will really be something to see. That is if you like horrors. She is always up to playing "dirty tricks". I feel for those who really want to see positive change and those who make sacrifice and work towards ideals that will strengthen russia. But I fear their numbers are too small to make a difference.
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

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Post by living_stradivarius » Sun Aug 27, 2006 10:55 pm

paulb wrote:John is correct, these new young superwealthy 'entrepreneur" are not what you think they are. They hoard their money and have no sympathy for anyone but themself. Donald Trump is a saint compared to these guys.
A society built on these ideals cannpt last very long. Something dark is building up in that country, how the crisis will unfold will really be something to see. That is if you like horrors. She is always up to playing "dirty tricks". I feel for those who really want to see positive change and those who make sacrifice and work towards ideals that will strengthen russia. But I fear their numbers are too small to make a difference.
Interesting claim. Evidence please.
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Post by RebLem » Mon Aug 28, 2006 12:42 am

In most countries, standards of living are directly related to the level of education achieved by the population. Russians are a well educated, but poor country. It is probably the greatest exception to the general rule. It would be unnatural if it stayed that way, and I doubt very much that it will. Russia has a great future.

You might want to check out something called the Hermitage Fund, a mutual fund founded in 1996, which invests almost exclusively in Russia. The CEO is William Browder, graduate of several conservative econ and business schools, former VP at Salomon Brothers. Mr. Browder's grandfather was Earl Browder, the American Communist Party's candidate for president in 1936 and 1940. Here is his bio from the fund's website--

William F. Browder
Chief Executive Officer


William Browder is the Founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, the premier investment advisory firm specializing in Russian equities. The firm’s clients include high net worth individuals and major financial institutions. Hermitage Capital Management currently has around $3.3 billion invested in Russia.

Mr. Browder started Hermitage Capital Management in 1996 in partnership with the late Edmond Safra. Under Mr. Browder’s leadership, the Hermitage Fund has produced total shareholder returns of 2,549%, compared to 1,417% for the CSFB ROS Index. Among other awards, it has been ranked the World’s Best Performing Emerging Markets Fund over a five-year period by Nelsons (1996-2001).

Mr. Browder is a leading shareholder rights activist and outspoken fighter for better corporate governance in Russia. He has been credited with a number of breakthroughs in improving corporate standards at major Russian companies, including Unified Energy Systems, Sberbank and Gazprom. He also spearheaded radical changes in Russian corporate law, including the creation of pre-emptive rights for all minority shareholders in Russian companies as well as the introduction of cumulative voting for director elections.

He serves as Chairman of the Russia Task Force for the Institute of International Finance and is a member of the OECD/World Bank Roundtable on Corporate Governance in Russia. Mr. Browder was named a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute, received a 2004 Industry Achievement Award by Global Fund Analysis and was named a 2005 “Person to Watch” by the Financial News. Mr. Browder was also named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2005.

Prior to starting Hermitage, Mr. Browder was Vice President at Salomon Brothers where he managed the firm’s proprietary investments in Russia. Before that, he was management consultant with the Eastern European practice of the Boston Consulting Group in London. He received an MBA from Stanford Business School and a BA in Economics with highest honors from the University of Chicago.

You might want to check out another business press article about him which is highly informative, at
http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/2006-118-4.cfm
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Post by paulb » Mon Aug 28, 2006 6:49 am

So we one, Reblem, who believes Russia has a "great" future, and others who feel russia as a whole is very doubtful.
Evidence? Look at her history, her people in general.What more proof do you need.
Look a country's future is dependent on the quality of consciousness of a certain majority. And so far that majority is not yet willing to make the necessary changes.
Maybe the fact that Stalin lived on long after the war, 8 yrs, this may have been a factor why russia is in such conditions.
I know there are changes taking place, but this would is moving on and she may not be anle to catch up to these changes. I don't know, I'm pretty pessimistic on russia's future. I have more hope for africa than I do for russia.
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Aug 28, 2006 11:21 am

mourningstar wrote:they are in fact, the hope of russia.
I have my misgivings. The state is determined to reclaim all the privatized profitable industries like oil and gas and metals. Unless these billionaires made their money in something akin to consumer goods, they better take the money and run, as I'm sure they will. The Russian state don't care about consumer goods, although if it had a sensible economic bone in its head, it would care. In fact, it don't care a fig about building a middle class. It keeps looking for economic or political strongmen.
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Post by karlhenning » Mon Aug 28, 2006 11:24 am

Actually, I should think that one of the great lessons of history, is how little accuracy has graced evaluations/predictions which have originated entirely from outside Russia.

Just saying.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Aug 28, 2006 11:35 am

paulb wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
Thoughts on Russia's future?
Bleak. .
I'd say so. Its a country where distrust is prevelant, one never quite knows who is your friend and who pretends to be friend. I think democracy there works on the principle of : freedom to take advantage of the other guy. I think china is doing a better job with transitioning from communist to democracy.
Freeland was on Book TV when her book first came out. She underscored the point about trust. She said people outside Russia lack an appreciation for how thoroughly and deliberately the Communists went about destroying civic trust, the kind you need to have contractual relations, to join together to achieve community and carry on projects for the common good. She characterized the residue as crippling any effort to salvage workable concepts of citizenship. She desrcibed an interview with one of the oligarchs in which she asked him how he went about enforcing his contracts with suppliers if he ran into trouble. She said he reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a gun, introducing her to "Comrade Kalashnikov."

You are also correct that the Chinese learned from the Russian collapse that, according to one Chinese official responsible for midwifing democracy at the village level, "the Russian people obtained the ability to complain about lack of economic progress before they got any sign of economic progress." The Chinese are determined not to let that happen. The insidious thing about democracy is when you let people control their economic decisions they will inevitably demand the right to control their political decisions as well. The question with China is will the people get political reform before the gang in Shanghai and the gang in Beijing take the country into serious conflict with the US and its allies. It's not a certain thing which will come first. Many commentators believe we are in line for a clash with China sooner rather than later.
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Post by paulb » Mon Aug 28, 2006 12:10 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
paulb wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
Thoughts on Russia's future?
Bleak. .
I'd say so. Its a country where distrust is prevelant, one never quite knows who is your friend and who pretends to be friend. I think democracy there works on the principle of : freedom to take advantage of the other guy. I think china is doing a better job with transitioning from communist to democracy.
Freeland was on Book TV when her book first came out. She underscored the point about trust. She said people outside Russia lack an appreciation for how thoroughly and deliberately the Communists went about destroying civic trust, the kind you need to have contractual relations, to join together to achieve community and carry on projects for the common good. She characterized the residue as crippling any effort to salvage workable concepts of citizenship. She desrcibed an interview with one of the oligarchs in which she asked him how he went about enforcing his contracts with suppliers if he ran into trouble. She said he reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a gun, introducing her to "Comrade Kalashnikov."

You are also correct that the Chinese learned from the Russian collapse that, according to one Chinese official responsible for midwifing democracy at the village level, "the Russian people obtained the ability to complain about lack of economic progress before they got any sign of economic progress." The Chinese are determined not to let that happen. The insidious thing about democracy is when you let people control their economic decisions they will inevitably demand the right to control their political decisions as well. The question with China is will the people get political reform before the gang in Shanghai and the gang in Beijing take the country into serious conflict with the US and its allies. It's not a certain thing which will come first. Many commentators believe we are in line for a clash with China sooner rather than later.
Good post.
From my limited perspective , this is how I viewed russia. Folks have been shaken to the core with dirty politics and this fear has been a long standing disease.
Will the new generation strive to overcome the "sins of the fathers"? Or continue along that status quo approach to human relations?

I also think there will be a showdown with China and the US. We know that Ahmadinjead has hinted at the fact that he may use his oil as a weapon. I'm wondering when Iran decides to tinker with its oil sales to the world , will this have affects on its 375,000 barrel/day shipment to china?
Can China find a subsitute supply? Growing at 8%/yr economy, with autos at 50% increase/yearly, that 375,00 is good for today, but what about in a few yrs? The 375,000 may not seem like alot, but throw in those growth facctors and its a matter of life and dearh. And so in that future phone acll conversation, when the chinese prez: " hey Ahmad, Imy port just called to say your tanker didn't show up this moring" ..."Yes I know"..."what do you mean "YOU KNOW!"..."blah blah balh...blah...United States...Israel...war...USA....blah blah..."
In the councel meeting the china prez will be blistering to his cabinets, "its those war mongers the US thats the cause of all this, we won't get our precious oil".

I dunno, we'll have to see how the chips fall as they say around here in the gambling towns.
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

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Post by living_stradivarius » Mon Aug 28, 2006 5:51 pm

paulb wrote:So we one, Reblem, who believes Russia has a "great" future, and others who feel russia as a whole is very doubtful.
Evidence? Look at her history, her people in general.What more proof do you need.
Look a country's future is dependent on the quality of consciousness of a certain majority. And so far that majority is not yet willing to make the necessary changes.
??? How have you come to that assessment?
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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Aug 28, 2006 6:04 pm

living_stradivarius wrote:
paulb wrote:So we one, Reblem, who believes Russia has a "great" future, and others who feel russia as a whole is very doubtful.
Evidence? Look at her history, her people in general.What more proof do you need.
Look a country's future is dependent on the quality of consciousness of a certain majority. And so far that majority is not yet willing to make the necessary changes.
??? How have you come to that assessment?
What assessment? :roll:

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Post by paulb » Mon Aug 28, 2006 7:13 pm

living_stradivarius wrote:
paulb wrote:So we one, Reblem, who believes Russia has a "great" future, and others who feel russia as a whole is very doubtful.
Evidence? Look at her history, her people in general.What more proof do you need.
Look a country's future is dependent on the quality of consciousness of a certain majority. And so far that majority is not yet willing to make the necessary changes.
??? How have you come to that assessment?
Just an intuition based on my elementary psychological studies. There's certain laws men need to live by. If these basic principles are neglected for too long by a majority of the people , the social fabric is not too well constructed.
All I'm saying that its not a very nice place to live, and may see even further decilnes.
We'll all have to watch and see how russia unfolds. Russia has really had some characters in public office. Not to mention the diabolical minds in the arts and culture ministry. Many great composers can tell us stories about the arrogance and constricting position of that government dept within russia.
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

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Post by Gregory Kleyn » Mon Aug 28, 2006 9:43 pm

Ralph wrote:Russia is eternal. The Russian people will awake from the doldrums and demand the return of the Romanovs.

...who, (if we are lucky), will re-issue the complete Melodiya archives.

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Post by Madame » Tue Aug 29, 2006 12:48 am

Corlyss_D wrote:

Freeland was on Book TV when her book first came out. She underscored the point about trust. She said people outside Russia lack an appreciation for how thoroughly and deliberately the Communists went about destroying civic trust, the kind you need to have contractual relations, to join together to achieve community and carry on projects for the common good. She characterized the residue as crippling any effort to salvage workable concepts of citizenship.
So very true, deliberate being the operative word. We see examples of that spirit in numbing the soul of the citizenry throughout the world. Just about everything I offer is anecdotal :) but here goes anyway, through the eyes of a woman who has been there.

My mother's neighbor is from Russia, married to an American man, and the sweetest, most delightful friend you could ever want. We were talking about this and that one day, and got on the topic of my nephew who is a successful software engineer. Natasha perked up and asked "is he married? No? Would he like to meet my sister?" We laughed of course, but then she did go into the story of what life is like there for young people.

That cloud of distrust hanging over people each day has led the young into a sense of hopelessness for their future survival, and many, many young women despair of ever marrying and having a family because the young men they know (and this is not a blanket "condemnation" of young men) can't or don't want to burden themselves with that responsibility. There is also a high rate of alcoholism among the young, and that is hardly conducive to personal achievement. I envision depression at its worst when I hear such stories.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Aug 29, 2006 12:56 am

Madame wrote:That cloud of distrust hanging over people each day has led the young into a sense of hopelessness for their future survival
Back before the fall of the Soviet regime, some news outlet did a story on the stark contrast between Moscow and life a mere 10 miles out from the city. The crew was interviewing a man who lived in a shack with his wife. He talked about his prize possession, a goat. His neighbor, unable to afford a goat, didn't try to earn money to buy himself a goat. He waited until the couple were not at home and killed their goat. To me symbolic of the depths to which the Communist regime drove the civic life. Anything to keep people so distrustful that they would never join groups that could pose a threat to the regime. And the curious thing is that wherever the Russians exported Communism, they exported the same destructive tactics.
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Post by Madame » Tue Aug 29, 2006 1:40 am

Corlyss_D wrote: Back before the fall of the Soviet regime, some news outlet did a story on the stark contrast between Moscow and life a mere 10 miles out from the city. The crew was interviewing a man who lived in a shack with his wife. He talked about his prize possession, a goat. His neighbor, unable to afford a goat, didn't try to earn money to buy himself a goat. He waited until the couple were not at home and killed their goat. To me symbolic of the depths to which the Communist regime drove the civic life. Anything to keep people so distrustful that they would never join groups that could pose a threat to the regime. And the curious thing is that wherever the Russians exported Communism, they exported the same destructive tactics.
You've just hit the essence of what happens to people who have, or feel they have, no options left. It isn't limited to Communist societies, though it certainly flourishes in that regime. There's a mindset that says, "you have something I want. If I can't get it for myself, then the next best thing is for me to ruin it for you." It exists in our own country, and once someone reaches that emotional or mental low, it is difficult to turn it around.

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Post by paulb » Tue Aug 29, 2006 6:58 am

Madame wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote: Back before the fall of the Soviet regime, some news outlet did a story on the stark contrast between Moscow and life a mere 10 miles out from the city. The crew was interviewing a man who lived in a shack with his wife. He talked about his prize possession, a goat. His neighbor, unable to afford a goat, didn't try to earn money to buy himself a goat. He waited until the couple were not at home and killed their goat. To me symbolic of the depths to which the Communist regime drove the civic life. Anything to keep people so distrustful that they would never join groups that could pose a threat to the regime. And the curious thing is that wherever the Russians exported Communism, they exported the same destructive tactics.
You've just hit the essence of what happens to people who have, or feel they have, no options left. It isn't limited to Communist societies, though it certainly flourishes in that regime. There's a mindset that says, "you have something I want. If I can't get it for myself, then the next best thing is for me to ruin it for you." It exists in our own country, and once someone reaches that emotional or mental low, it is difficult to turn it around.
Very good observation. So many cannot figure out the combination to the lock that chains the lead ball to their feet. And if one should perchance free his feet that he may run, the old head of jealousy and worse of evny will raise itself to try to ruin the man's success and happiness.
And yes there's plenty of that here in this country, though in russia the degree of color must be that of putrid balck green.
DEpression inside russia is just a common acceptance of the way of life.

This is why I love the music of Schnittke so much, he has translated this pain and sufferings into profound art. "Out of the darkness will come the light". Schnittke is a light of healing, a modern day prophet.
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23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Aug 29, 2006 2:26 pm

Russia Leaves the West
By Dmitri Trenin

From Foreign Affairs, July/August 2006
Summary: Just 15 years after the Cold War's end, hopes of integrating Russia into the West have been dashed, and the Kremlin has started creating its own Moscow-centered system. But instead of just attacking this new Russian foreign policy, Washington must guard against the return of dangerous great-power rivalry.

DMITRI TRENIN is Deputy Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

THE END OF THE AFFAIR

As President Vladimir Putin prepares to host the summit of the G-8 (the group of eight highly industrialized nations) in St. Petersburg in July, it is hardly a secret that relations between Russia and the West have begun to fray. After more than a decade of talk about Russia's "integration" into the West and a "strategic partnership" between Moscow and Washington, U.S. and European officials are now publicly voicing their concern over Russia's domestic political situation and its relations with the former Soviet republics. In a May 4 speech in Lithuania, for example, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney accused the Kremlin of "unfairly restricting citizens' rights" and using its energy resources as "tools of intimidation and blackmail."

Even as these critics express their dismay, they continue to assume that if they speak loudly and insistently, Russia will heed them and change its ways. Unfortunately, they are looking for change in the wrong place. It is true, as they charge, that Putin has recently clamped down on dissent throughout Russia and cracked down on separatists in Chechnya, but more important changes have come in Russia's foreign policy. Until recently, Russia saw itself as Pluto in the Western solar system, very far from the center but still fundamentally a part of it. Now it has left that orbit entirely: Russia's leaders have given up on becoming part of the West and have started creating their own Moscow-centered system.

The Kremlin's new approach to foreign policy assumes that as a big country, Russia is essentially friendless; no great power wants a strong Russia, which would be a formidable competitor, and many want a weak Russia that they could exploit and manipulate. Accordingly, Russia has a choice between accepting subservience and reasserting its status as a great power, thereby claiming its rightful place in the world alongside the United States and China rather than settling for the company of Brazil and India.

The United States and Europe can protest this change in Russia's foreign policy all they want, but it will not make any difference. They must recognize that the terms of Western-Russian interaction, conceptualized at the time of the Soviet Union's collapse 15 years ago and more or less unchanged since, have shifted fundamentally. The old paradigm is lost, and it is time to start looking for a new one.

A HALF-OPEN DOOR

The West deserves some of the blame for the shift in Russian foreign policy. The sudden collapse of Soviet power and the speed of German reunification took the United States and Europe by surprise. European governments, led by France, responded by transforming the European Community into a more tightly knit European Union (EU), while deferring the question of what to do about Eastern Europe and Russia. Washington, meanwhile, focused on managing the ever-weakening Soviet Union and rejoicing in its victory in the Cold War, neglecting to define a strategy for post-Soviet Russia. President George H. W. Bush's "new world order," articulated when the Soviet Union still existed, asked only that the Soviets stop their meddling around the globe. Only later did policymakers start thinking about organizing a true post-Cold War order, and when they did, their approach to handling post-Soviet Russia almost guaranteed failure.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989, Western governments created a multitude of partnerships with their former communist adversaries in an effort to project their values and influence beyond the ruins of the wall. They hoped that some countries would quickly join Europe, now "whole and free," while others would gravitate toward it more slowly. The conflict in the Balkans dampened this early enthusiasm and demonstrated the United States' aloofness and Europe's weakness in the face of the forces released by the end of the superpower confrontation.

From the beginning of the post-Cold War era, the West saw Russia as a special case. Armed with nuclear weapons, its great-power mentality shaken but unbroken, and just too big, Russia would be granted privileged treatment but no real prospect of membership in either NATO or the EU. The door to the West would officially remain open, but the idea of Russia's actually entering through it remained unthinkable. The hope was that Russia would gradually transform itself, with Western assistance, into a democratic polity and a market economy. In the meantime, what was important was that Russia would pursue a generally pro-Western foreign policy.

Moscow found such an offer unacceptable. It was only willing to consider joining the West if it was given something like co-chairmanship of the Western club -- or at the very least membership in its Politburo. Russian leaders were not willing to follow the guidance coming from Washington and Brussels or to accept the same rules that its former Soviet satellites were following. Thus, despite all of the talk about Russia's integration into Western institutions, the project was stillborn from the beginning. It was just a matter of time before that reality became obvious to both sides.

As other former Warsaw Pact countries were being drawn into the expanding West, Russia, considered too important to ignore, was offered new arrangements, but it was still kept at arm's length. Bringing Russia into the G-7 (to make it the G-8) was intended to tie Moscow to the West politically and to socialize its leaders. The NATO-Russia Council was supposed to harmonize security agendas and to promote military reform in Russia. The EU-Russia "common spaces" were designed to "Europeanize" Russia economically and socially and associate it with Europe politically. The Council of Europe, to which Russia was admitted while the first Chechen war still unresolved, was supposed to promote Western values and norms in Russia.

These arrangements did not so much fail as grossly underperform. The G-8 is still the old G-7 plus Russia, even though Russia technically has equal status with the other countries (except when the finance ministers meet). The NATO-Russia Council is merely a low-key technical-cooperation workshop operating at NATO's side. The EU-Russia road maps for the creation of the "common spaces," meant to enhance cooperation on the basis of greater mutual compatibility, offer only a set of very general objectives with no hard commitments that just paper over a growing gap. The Council of Europe, especially its Parliamentary Assembly, has turned into an oratorical battleground between Russian lawmakers and their European counterparts on Chechnya and other human rights issues. (Moscow has even threatened to halve its contribution to the council's budget if the criticism does not cease.) Even the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which date from the Cold War, are floundering. Russia has chosen to ignore the former, which it accuses of political meddling in post-Soviet states, and has indicated that it might withdraw from the key provisions of the latter, which Moscow believes place unfair constraints on the Russian forces. So much for integration with the West.

After 9/11, Putin took the opportunity to offer the White House a deal. Russia was prepared to trade acceptance of U.S. global leadership for the United States' recognition of its role as a major ally, endowed with a special (that is, hegemonic) responsibility for the former Soviet space. That sweeping offer, obviously made from a position of weakness, was rejected by Washington, which was only prepared to discuss with Moscow the "rules of the road" in the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

The Kremlin gave Westpolitik another try by joining the "coalition of the unwilling" at the time of the Iraq war. By joining the major European powers in opposing the U.S. invasion, Moscow hoped to enter the Western system through the European door and create a Russo-German-French axis to counterbalance Washington and London. Russia failed again. A new anti-American entente did not materialize; situational agreement with Moscow (and disagreement with Washington) could not overcome the fundamental character of transatlantic relations.

Instead, transatlantic and European institutions continued to enlarge to the east, taking in the remaining former Warsaw Pact and Council for Mutual Economic Assistance countries and the Baltic states. With the entry of Poland and the Baltics into the EU, the EU's overall approach became even more alarming for Moscow. At the same time, both the United States and Europe began supporting regime change from within and geopolitical reorientation in Russia's borderlands, most notably in Ukraine and Georgia, thus projecting their power of attraction beyond the former Soviet border into the CIS. The concept of "the near abroad," which Moscow used in the 1990s to justify its hegemony over the new states on Russia's periphery, was suddenly revived -- only now there were two versions of it, one from the perspective of Moscow, the other from the perspective of Brussels, both of which were claiming the same territory. From 2003 to 2005, for the first time since 1991, Moscow's relations with both parts of the West -- the United States and Europe -- soured at the same time.

PARADIGM LOST

Toward the end of Putin's first presidential term, in 2004, Western governments finally concluded that Russia was not going to turn democratic in the foreseeable future. In their view, Russia no longer belonged to the same group as Poland, or even Ukraine. Reluctantly, they put Russia into the same slot as China, even while still hoping -- improbably, perhaps -- to make the most of the partnership established in a happier era.

But the changes on the Russian side went beyond domestic politics and had broad implications. For two decades prior to 2005, Russia had been continuously retreating in the realm of international politics. The "color revolutions" in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan made it clear that even the post-Soviet space -- an area where Moscow was still dominant and felt more or less at ease -- was starting to disintegrate. In late 2004 and early 2005, in the wake of the Beslan school hostage crisis and the Ukrainian election fiasco, the self-confidence of the Putin government hit an all-time low.

Astonishingly, the Kremlin bounced back -- and very quickly. Lessons were learned, new resources mobilized, and morale restored, all helped along mightily by high oil and gas prices. At first, Moscow acted cautiously, still somewhat unsure of itself. It joined Beijing in calling for the withdrawal of the U.S. military from Central Asia. Then, toward the end of 2005, it boldly embraced Uzbekistan as a formal ally, and the year ended with a dispute with Ukraine over gas supplies. The Kremlin did not hesitate to take on the post-Soviet republics' "beacon of democracy."

In the past year, Russia has begun acting like the great power it was in tsarist times. It conducted its first-ever military exercises with China and a smaller one with India. It ended gas subsidies for its former Soviet neighbors and cut off supplies to Ukraine when Kiev balked at a 400 percent price increase. It welcomed Hamas leaders to Moscow after the United States and the EU declared that they would not talk to them and offered financial support to the Palestinians even as the Americans and the Europeans were cutting off or suspending theirs. Russia has squarely rejected placing Iran under sanctions for its uranium-enrichment activities and has declared that its nuclear energy cooperation and arms trade with Tehran will continue and that the Russian armed forces would stay neutral should the United States decide to attack Iran.

Having left the Western orbit, Russia is also working to create its own solar system. For the first time since the unraveling of the Soviet Union, Moscow is treating the former Soviet republics as a priority. It has started promoting Russian economic expansion in the CIS in an effort both to obtain lucrative assets and to enhance its political influence.

Facing what it sees as an emerging new world -- which features a new version of great-power nationalism -- the Russian leadership exudes confidence. Beyond the former Soviet space, Russia sees U.S. influence gradually waning and considers the EU as an economic, but not a political or military, unit that will remain self-absorbed for a while. Moscow admires China's progress and, careful but not fearful of its giant neighbor, is cooperating ever more closely with Beijing; it considers the more distant India unproblematic.

Part of the reason for Moscow's confidence is Russia's much-improved financial situation and the consolidation of power in the hands of the ruling circle. High energy prices have resulted in a huge surplus in Russia's coffers, which has allowed the Kremlin to build the third-largest currency reserves in the world, set aside over $50 billion in a domestic "stabilization fund," and start repaying its foreign debts ahead of schedule. With the standard of living in Russia rising, the political opposition marginalized, and government authority recentralized, the Kremlin has grown assertive and occasionally arrogant. The humility of the post-Soviet period has passed: Russians have made it clear that their domestic politics is no one else's business -- Vladislav Surkov, Putin's chief-political-officer-cum-ideologue, often emphasizes that the country is a "sovereign democracy" -- and Russian leaders have begun playing hardball in the world arena.

FROM IRONCLADS TO OIL RIGS

In the late nineteenth century, Russia's success was said to rest on its army and its navy; today, its success rests on its oil and gas. Energy is a key resource that should be exploited while prices are high, but it is also an effective political weapon, although one to be handled with care. So far, Moscow has done the right thing -- ending energy subsidies to the former Soviet republics -- but in the wrong way. Rather than reforming the energy relationship with Ukraine in a steady and open manner, for example, Russia's state-controlled energy company, Gazprom, resorted to an eleventh-hour pressure tactic, which seemed like blackmail and made Russia look like a threat to global energy security.

To the extent that the Russian ruling elite cares about the West, it cares about economics, particularly the markets for oil and gas. The elite was overjoyed by Gazprom's steep rise in capitalization in early January 2006, which it took as vindication of its hard-line policies toward Ukraine. It wants Russian corporate giants to become transnational, and Gazprom is one of the world's biggest corporations. In several industries, including energy, metals, and chemicals, Russian national champions are looking to compete for places in the top ten.

By and large, however, Russian leaders do not care much about acceptance by the West; even the Soviet Union worried more about its image. Officials in Moscow privately enjoy Senator John McCain's thunderous statements about kicking Russia out of the G-8 because they know it is not going to happen and they take pleasure in the supposed impotence of serious adversaries. Public relations and lobbying are simply not high on the Kremlin's agenda. GR -- government relations -- is considered more important than PR. Russia's engaging former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for a gas pipeline project and wooing Donald Evans, the former U.S. commerce secretary, for an oil job are just two stunning examples of this approach. Russia, the Kremlin believes, will get bad press in the West almost no matter what it does, so why bother?

All of this promises serious tension, and even conflict, between Russia and the West, although nothing like a return to the Cold War. There is no ideological antagonism, since today's Russia lacks a state ideology. And in a number of important areas -- including fighting Islamist radicalism -- there will be cooperation. On others issues, such as the rise of China and energy security, there will be some cooperation, but Russia will hardly side with the West as a matter of course. In the test case of Iran, when push comes to shove, Moscow would prefer to see Tehran pursue its nuclear program, even if it is imperfectly safeguarded, than a U.S. attack to stop it. Whereas the Iraq war led the Kremlin away from the White House and into the arms of l'Elysée, a war on Iran is likely to push Moscow further away from both Washington and Brussels -- and into the arms of Beijing.

NEITHER WITH US NOR AGAINST US

The West needs to rethink the fundamentals of its approach to Russia. Russia's domestic transformation will not follow the course of, say, Poland's: modernizing Russia by means of EU integration will not be an option. Nor will Russia adopt the French approach: an occasionally dissenting but solidly Euro-Atlantic foreign and security policy. Nor should the West be banking on a historical shortcut: no democratic, pro-Western tsar will suddenly emerge from some color revolution to hitch Russia to the U.S.-EU wagon.

On the other hand, Russia today is not, and is not likely to become, a second Soviet Union. It is not a revanchist and imperialist aggressor bent on reabsorbing its former provinces. It is not a rogue state, nor a natural ally of those states that may be called rogues. A Sino-Russian alliance against the United States could only occur as a result of exceptionally shortsighted and foolish policies on Washington's part. Today's Russia may not be pro-Western, but neither is it anti-Western.

In light of Russia's new foreign policy, the West needs to calm down and take Russia for what it is: a major outside player that is neither an eternal foe nor an automatic friend. Western leaders must disabuse themselves of the notion that by preaching values one can actually plant them. Russia will continue to change, but at its own pace. The key drivers of that change must be the growth of capitalism at home and openness to the outside world. The West needs to adopt an issue-based approach when dealing with the Russian government, but it should not expect Moscow always to follow its lead. Engaging Russia is over, and engaging with Russia, where possible and desirable, must be based on mutual self-interest. Most important, Western leaders have to avoid wishful thinking when trying to embrace either a Kremlin ruler or a liberal opposition figure.

Looking ahead, the current complications are likely to get worse in the near and medium term. The G-8 summit in St. Petersburg will be accompanied by intense criticism of Kremlin policies in the Western media. Russia's World Trade Organization accession process has already slowed down as a result of U.S. and EU demands. Kosovo's coming formal independence from Serbia will be taken up by Russia as a model for resolving the stalemated conflicts in Georgia and Moldova, where the West is insisting on territorial unity and Moscow is supporting the separatist enclaves. On the all-important issue of Iran, Russia will continue essentially to share Western goals while opposing Western (and especially U.S.) hard-line policies.

Tension will culminate in 2008, the year of the Russian and U.S. presidential elections. Supreme power will likely be transferred from the current incumbent to another member of the ruling circle in Moscow, and this anointment will be legitimized in a national election. (There are other scenarios, of course -- ranging from Putin's running for a third term to a union with Belarus -- but they seem less probable at the moment.) Thus, the real question will be not about the Russian election but about the reaction to that election in the West, and above all in the United States. Will it be pronounced free but not fair, as before? Or neither free nor fair? Declaring the post-2008 Russian leadership illegitimate could push the U.S.-Russian relationship from cool estrangement to real alienation. And all of this would be happening in the midst of the U.S. presidential campaign and could coincide with Ukraine's taking an important step toward joining NATO.

With U.S.-Russian relations at their lowest point -- and the Kremlin at its most confident -- since 1991, Washington must recognize that frustrated Russia-bashing is futile. It must understand that positive change in Russia can only come from within and that economic realities, rather than democratic ideals, will be the vehicle for that change. And most important, as president and CEO of the international system, the United States must do everything it can to ensure that the system does not once again succumb to dangerous and destabilizing great-power rivalry.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Aug 29, 2006 2:30 pm

The Backlash Against Democracy Promotion
By Thomas Carothers

From Foreign Affairs, March/April 2006
Summary: Authoritarian leaders around the world have recently started to crack down on democracy-promotion efforts in their countries. The Bush administration's pro-democracy bombast has not helped matters, but has contributed to the false idea that liberalization is somehow a U.S.-driven phenomenon.

Thomas Carothers is Director of the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His most recent book is Promoting the Rule of Law Abroad: In Search of Knowledge.

THE AUTOCRATS PUSH BACK

In January, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a controversial new bill imposing heightened controls on local and foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the country. The new legislation, which requires all NGOs in Russia to inform the government in advance about every project they intend to conduct, is another marker of the country's dispiriting slide back toward authoritarianism.

The law is also a sign of an equally disturbing and much broader trend. After two decades of the steady expansion of democracy-building programs around the world, a growing number of governments are starting to crack down on such activities within their borders. Strongmen -- some of them elected officials -- have begun to publicly denounce Western democracy assistance as illegitimate political meddling. They have started expelling or harassing Western NGOs and prohibiting local groups from taking foreign funds -- or have started punishing them for doing so. This growing backlash has yet to coalesce into a formal or organized movement. But its proponents are clearly learning from and feeding off of one another.

The recent "color revolutions" in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan and the widespread suspicion that U.S. groups such as the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), Freedom House, and the Open Society Institute played a key behind-the-scenes role in fomenting these upheavals have clearly helped trigger the backlash. Politicians from China to Zimbabwe have publicly cited concerns about such events spreading to their own shores as justification for new restrictions on Western aid to NGOs and opposition groups. Yet there is something broader at work than just a fear of orange (Ukraine's revolution came to be known as the Orange Revolution). The way that President George W. Bush is making democracy promotion a central theme of his foreign policy has clearly contributed to the unease such efforts (and the idea of democracy promotion itself) are creating around the world. Some autocratic governments have won substantial public sympathy by arguing that opposition to Western democracy promotion is resistance not to democracy itself, but to American interventionism. Moreover, the damage that the Bush administration has done to the global image of the United States as a symbol of democracy and human rights by repeatedly violating the rule of law at home and abroad has further weakened the legitimacy of the democracy-promotion cause.

Just as the sources of the backlash have been multilayered, so too must be the response. To remain as effective in the next decade as they have been in the last, groups that promote democracy must come to grips with how the international context for their work has changed. This will mean rethinking some of their methods. The Bush administration, meanwhile, must also face some unpleasant realities, specifically about how the president's "freedom agenda" is perceived around the world, and must engage seriously an effort to build credibility for its democracy endeavor.

JUST SAYING NO

The most systematic and forceful resistance to Western democracy aid has come from Russia under Putin. The NGO law is just one of a series of recent actions Moscow has taken to constrain or challenge democracy-promotion groups. The Kremlin has also attacked the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for its election-monitoring work in Russia and neighboring countries. Several U.S. democracy-promotion groups have experienced minor but pointed harassment from Russian authorities. Putin's government has criticized Russian NGOs working on human rights or other politically sensitive issues for accepting outside funds, and senior Russian officials have denounced external democracy aid as subversive and anti-Russian. President Putin has also taken to warning fellow autocrats in surrounding countries of the dangers of allowing such aid, and Russia has started building its own capacity to provide parallel forms of assistance, through election monitors and political consultants. Putin's supporters have cast his campaign against pro-democracy groups as a security imperative, asserting that the United States is trying to encircle Russia with pro-Western governments and subvert its political order.

Russia is not the only country pushing back against Western democracy assistance; the resistance has become a widespread post-Soviet pastime. Uzbek President Islam Karimov is currently in the process of shutting down most of the Western democracy programs in his country, as well as most of the domestic NGOs that work on democracy issues: in 2005, more than 60 percent of Uzbekistan's active NGOs were put out of business. Articles in the state-controlled media have accused the United States of trying to undermine Uzbek sovereignty through the Trojan horse of democratization. Meanwhile, in Belarus, President Aleksandr Lukashenko has also forbidden most external political aid and has relentlessly stamped out political challengers and independent civil society. After first putting all foreign funding destined for local NGOs under state control, in 2003, Lukashenko banned foreign funding of any political or educational activities in the country. The Tajik government announced new regulations in April 2005 requiring foreign embassies and foreign organizations working in the country to give the authorities notice before making any contact with local political parties, NGOs, or media organizations. Government-controlled newspapers in Tajikistan have accused the United States of criminality in its support for Ukrainian and Kyrgyz activists and have praised Belarus for its resistance to Western interference. Nearby in Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has enacted similarly tight restrictions on cooperation between foreign entities and Kazakh political parties. In a speech last September, he added his voice to the regional chorus warning foreign NGOs not to try to destabilize former Soviet states.

The backlash against democracy aid has also started to spread outside the former Soviet Union. One enthusiastic participant is China. Last April, an article in the People's Daily condemned the United States' "democratic offensive" in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere as self-serving, coercive, and immoral. The following month, the Chinese Communist Party reportedly mapped out a strategy for resisting U.S. and European efforts to promote color revolutions in China and its neighborhood. Beijing has delayed the passage of a new law that would liberalize the rules on NGOs in the country and has cracked down on various local groups that receive foreign funding, including a human rights group supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a private foundation funded by the U.S. government devoted to supporting democracy worldwide. Beijing is also tightening restrictions on foreign media by stepping up measures to scramble external radio broadcasts and reversing an earlier decision to allow the local publication of foreign newspapers. Elsewhere in Asia, governments have enacted similar restrictions: in Nepal, for example, after 15 years of relative openness to Western democracy programs, the government recently issued new regulations sharply restricting such activities.

The backlash is spreading to Africa as well. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has driven out Western NGOs and forced the closure of many local groups that get external support, claiming that they are fronts through which Western "colonial masters" subvert the government. In December 2004, Zimbabwe's parliament passed legislation prohibiting local NGOs from receiving any outside aid. Mugabe has not yet signed the bill but has kept up his rhetorical attacks on alleged Western meddling. Further north, Ethiopia expelled the IRI, the NDI, and IFES (formerly the International Foundation for Election Systems) prior to national elections last May. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stated on Ethiopian television that "there is not going to be a 'Rose Revolution' or a 'Green Revolution' or any color revolution in Ethiopia after the election." And in Eritrea, the government enacted a new law last year forbidding local NGOs from engaging in any work other than relief activities and blocking them from receiving external support. In August, Asmara asked the U.S. Agency for International Development to cease operations in the country, stating that it was uncomfortable with the agency's activities, which include promoting citizen participation in economic and political life.

In South America, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez regularly blasts U.S. democracy promotion as being part of a Bush administration campaign to oust him. Chávez has accused groups such as the NED and the IRI of supporting the Venezuelan opposition and has intimidated many local NGOs that receive outside funding. And like Putin, Chávez is not content just to block U.S. aid at home. He has allegedly used his petrodollars to support anti-American parties and candidates in Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, and elsewhere, in the hope of spreading what he calls his "Bolivarian Revolution." Although Chávez remains an extreme case, wariness of U.S. democracy promotion is rising in the region, which is rife with anti-Americanism and increasingly dominated by left-leaning governments. The rejection last year by the Organization of American States of a U.S. proposal to establish a new regional mechanism to monitor governmental compliance with democratic norms reflected this growing skepticism.

SEEING ORANGE

What exactly explains this global backlash against democracy promotion? The recent revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan were clearly important events. The dramatic upheavals in these countries showed what huge numbers of ordinary citizens can do when they rally bravely for democracy. But as accounts multiplied of U.S. support for key civic and political groups in these countries, the color revolutions also spread the idea that the United States was the shadowy guiding force behind these events.

Although fear of democracy aid as a tool of the United States may have spiked with the color revolutions, it is best understood as the culmination of a longer trend. When democracy promotion first flourished, during the rapid democratic expansion of the late 1980s and early 1990s, activists usually had to work in one of two contexts: in authoritarian societies, where the door to democracy promotion remained firmly shut, or in newly democratizing countries, where the door to such activities was generally wide open. As time passed, many of the newly democratizing countries evolved into another, intermediate type: the semiauthoritarian state, which proliferated in the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East.

Such regimes typically attempt an artful political balancing act. Their leaders allow enough political freedoms to gain themselves some credit and legitimacy as reformers. Typically, this means holding regular elections and permitting the creation of a few opposition parties, a scattering of independent civic groups, and an independent newspaper or two. But these regimes also maintain a strong enough hold on the levers of power to ensure that no serious threats to their rule emerge.

At first, many pro-democracy organizations found themselves stymied by such semiauthoritarian arrangements. Over time, however, the more experienced groups (such as the NDI, the IRI, IFES, and Freedom House) settled on a more effective approach. Drawing on lessons some of these groups had learned during earlier successes, such as their support for the opposition to General Augusto Pinochet in the Chilean plebiscite of 1988 and for the opposition to Sandinista rule in the Nicaraguan elections of 1990, the approach consisted of providing technical and financial aid to a broad range of local civic and political groups working together to challenge the government through elections. The aid focused on improving local capacity in several, mutually reinforcing ways. First, Western groups helped locals gain the ability to do independent election monitoring, including the capacity to hold parallel vote counts, in order to ensure that citizens could at least learn the real results of elections. Second, they provided backing to independent civic groups, often including dynamic new student organizations, that could foster broad civic engagement in the electoral process. Third, they trained and sometimes provided equipment or other material assistance to opposition parties to help them campaign effectively. And they encouraged these parties to work together and build broad coalitions.

At the end of the 1990s, this approach was brought to bear -- first, in an incomplete form, against Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar of Slovakia and President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia, and then, more fully, against President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia. U.S. and European pro-democracy groups mounted a well-coordinated and well-funded (to the tune of $60 million to $100 million) aid campaign to help Serbian civic and political groups mount an electoral challenge to Milosevic, who was already under pressure from Western economic sanctions and punitive diplomatic measures. As the 2000 elections unfolded, all the pieces fell into place: with Western help, Serbian civic groups convinced large numbers of ordinary citizens to bet on change and engage in the electoral process; the opposition parties performed better than they had in the past; and independent monitoring efforts laid bare Milosevic's effort to override the results. The outcome was the autocrat's ouster in a largely peaceful "electoral revolution."

Since then, Western groups have applied similar strategies -- although never as amply funded or as strongly backed by diplomatic pressure -- in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine, and have frequently been met with accusations of illegitimate political meddling. The groups usually respond by pointing out that they work openly, not in secret, and by arguing that their goals are not to achieve specific electoral outcomes, but just to ensure reasonably free and fair elections. Outside aid is necessary, they argue, to level electoral playing fields and create safeguards against the manipulation of the process by regimes.

The truth, however, is that although most external democracy activists may indeed be primarily interested in achieving free and fair elections, they also frequently hope that their efforts will increase the likelihood that autocrats will lose office. The motives of U.S. government agencies that fund (but do not specifically direct) many of the democracy groups are similarly complicated, ranging from the principled to the instrumental, depending on the country in question and the officials in charge. Not surprisingly, these subtleties are generally lost on the targets of democracy-promotion drives, who tend to view such efforts as concerted campaigns to oust them, instigated or at least backed by powerful Western governments, especially the United States.

FAKE FEARS?

Although autocratic leaders regularly cite concerns about outside influence and the threat of instability as their motivations for resisting pro-democracy efforts, a question naturally arises: Are they genuinely afraid that relatively modest Western democracy-training programs and financial aid for often weak civic and political groups will undermine their hold on power, or is this fear just a convenient justification for repressive measures they would take anyway? The answer varies, depending on the country.

In some places, especially larger countries such as Russia and China, the latter explanation probably holds. The Russian and Chinese governments enjoy a strong grip on power and face no significant challengers. Putin's offensive against Western democracy aid appears to be a way for him to portray his authoritarian project to Russians as a defense of the country's national security. The Kremlin may have been somewhat rattled by the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, but it worried more about the influence it would lose in neighboring states than it did about a political uprising at home. Moreover, denigrating the Orange Revolution as the result of U.S. machinations helped Putin put a positive spin on what was one of his most glaring foreign policy failures: namely, his support for the losing side in the Ukrainian elections. Similarly, the Chinese government's recent invocations of the color revolutions appear to be nothing more than the presentation of a convenient rationale for broadening the antiliberalization campaign it has been conducting for several years.

In other cases, especially in smaller, weaker countries, some genuine fear seems to be at work. The specter of clever U.S. political operatives quietly fomenting local revolutions does seem to have spooked some strongmen, even though in actuality Western democracy aid is not so powerful. Although Washington may spend more than $1 billion on pro-democracy programs this year, the money is spread over more than 50 countries and goes to a wide range of efforts, including court-management programs and assistance for government decentralization efforts. Like all types of external assistance promoting political, economic, or social change, this aid is far from being a magic elixir. It can help boost existing civic groups and opposition parties. But it cannot create them where they do not exist or strengthen them when they are fundamentally weak. Even in the case of Serbia -- a high-water mark in terms of pro-democracy programs' assertiveness and scale -- outside aid played only a supporting role for the courageous and skillful local activists who led the way. And the very same types of assistance have so far proved far less effective in countries such as Belarus, where the political opposition and civil society are relatively weak and the regime is very powerful.

And yet, many people around the world -- not just autocrats feeling the heat -- view external democracy assistance skeptically. They assume that if the United States decides to shape political outcomes in relatively weak countries, it can do so. In many places, the current wave of assertive democracy aid conjures up memories of covert U.S. actions during the Cold War, when Washington did try, and sometimes succeeded in, swinging elections or overthrowing legitimate governments.

To make matters worse, some Western NGOs, whether propelled by hubris or the desire to convince funders of their importance, have a tendency to claim substantial credit for political events in which they played only a very minor role. Occasional stories in the Western media that portray U.S. democracy-promotion programs as having been the crucial factor in certain countries' transitions to democracy also contribute to the misperceptions.

A (DIM) LIGHT UNTO THE NATIONS

The backlash against democracy aid can be understood as a reaction by nondemocratic governments to the increasingly assertive provision of such aid. But it is also linked to and gains force from another source: the broader public unease with the very idea of democracy promotion, a feeling that has spread widely in the past several years throughout the former Soviet Union, western Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and elsewhere. President Bush, by embracing democracy promotion in the way he has, is largely responsible for this discomfort.

Washington's use of the term "democracy promotion" has come to be seen overseas not as the expression of a principled American aspiration but as a code word for "regime change" -- namely, the replacement of bothersome governments by military force or other means. Moreover, the Bush administration has also caused the term to be closely associated with U.S. military intervention and occupation by adopting democracy promotion as the principal rationale for the invasion of Iraq. The fact that the administration has also given the impression that it is interested in toppling other governments hostile to U.S. security interests, such as in Iran and Syria, has made the president's "freedom agenda" seem even more menacing and hostile. This is especially so since when Bush and his top advisers single out "outposts of tyranny," the governments they invariably list are those that also happen to be unfriendly to the United States. Meanwhile, friendly but equally repressive regimes, such as that in Saudi Arabia, escape mention.

This behavior has made many states, nondemocratic and democratic alike, uneasy with the whole body of U.S. democracy-building programs, no matter how routine or uncontroversial the programs once were. It also makes it easier for those governments eager to push back against democracy aid for their own reasons to portray their actions as noble resistance to aggressive U.S. interventionism. And the more President Bush talks of democracy promotion as his personal cause, the easier he makes it for tyrannical leaders to play on his extraordinarily high level of unpopularity abroad to disparage the idea.

The Bush administration has further damaged the credibility of U.S. democracy advocates by generally undermining the United States' status as a symbol of democracy and human rights. Even as the president has repeatedly asserted his commitment to a "freedom agenda," he has struck blow after self-inflicted blow against America's democratic principles and standards: through the torture of prisoners and detainees at U.S.-run facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan; the holding of hundreds of persons in legal limbo at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; the rendition of foreign detainees (sometimes secretly abducted abroad) to foreign countries known to practice torture; the establishment of a network of covert U.S.-run prisons overseas; eavesdropping without court warrants within the United States; and the astonishing resistance by the White House last year to a legislative ban on cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of any person in U.S. custody anywhere. Taken together, these actions have inflicted incalculable harm to the United States' image in the world. This fact is plainly and painfully evident to anyone who spends even modest amounts of time abroad. Yet it is one about which President Bush and his team, with the possible exception of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, appear unaware or unconcerned. Yet the damage has made it all too easy for foreign autocrats to resist U.S. democracy promotion by providing them with an easy riposte: "How can a country that tortures people abroad and abuses rights at home tell other countries how to behave?"

PUSHING BACK, CAREFULLY

So how should the United States respond? There are two answers, corresponding to the two interconnected but different facets of the problem, namely, the efforts by some governments to shut down democracy aid and the growing global distrust of democracy promotion in general.

With regard to the former, Washington should closely monitor measures by other governments to block democracy aid and develop a coherent, nuanced way to express U.S. opposition to such measures and to reverse them when possible. The Bush administration recently succeeded in persuading Putin to water down certain aspects of the Russian NGO law. This effort was reasonably well executed, but it represented a one-time scramble, not part of a systematic plan to address the more general issue.

Fighting the antidemocratic pushback will require a subtle diplomatic hand. In some cases, going public or pushing back hard may get results; in others, it may only fuel nationalist sentiments and be counterproductive. U.S. officials must be reasonable about what they expect from foreign governments in this area, and deciding what is reasonable is not always easy. There are relatively coherent international norms about democratic political practice, embodied in a raft of multilateral and regional agreements. But there is no well-settled body of norms about acceptable forms of involvement in democratization across borders. In fact, the line between reasonable and unreasonable restrictions on outside political aid is not at all clear. Simply pushing other governments to follow U.S. or Western standards in this area will not help much. To the extent there are generalized standards, they generally allow less space for outside influence than Western democracy promoters usually seek. Would Washington countenance the presence, during elections, of foreign organizations -- especially ones funded by a powerful, possibly hostile government -- that underwrite and help carry out voter-education campaigns, the training of and provision of material aid to political parties, parallel vote counts, and citizen-mobilization efforts?

To overcome objections to this double standard, U.S. democracy promoters need to stress (and sincerely believe) two things. First, they must underscore that democracy promotion is not, as President Bush invariably portrays it, a singularly American endeavor. Many established democracies, as well as multilateral organizations, are part of the democracy-promotion community. U.S. democracy groups usually work alongside or directly with European groups and international organizations such as the OSCE and the UN Development Program. Second, they must emphasize that the point of assertive democracy aid is to help or push governments with a record of violating democratic norms to comply with them, not to allow any outside country control over their politics.

No matter how well democracy promoters make their case, however, many people in countries on the receiving end of such efforts will not be persuaded of the legitimacy of their efforts. Democracy promoters may believe that poor democratic performance reduces a country's right to invoke its sovereignty to block external intervention. That idea may be gaining currency in established democracies. Yet it is unlikely to command wide support in the developing and postcommunist worlds, where sovereignty is jealously guarded by governments of all political stripes.

Western democracy advocates thus face a hard choice, which they have yet to frame or debate openly. Should they keep mounting sophisticated, pointed aid campaigns to support challenges to foreign despots, or should they trim their sails to avoid fueling a backlash that might prevent them from doing any work at all in a growing number of countries? The question boils down to how best to ensure the maximum reach and impact for democracy aid.

RETURN TO THE LIGHT

There is only so much the Bush administration can do to ease the broader discomfort with democracy promotion generally. The close association of democracy promotion with U.S. military intervention will not go away for the remainder of President Bush's term. Moreover, even if a relatively stable, peaceful, and democratic regime is achieved in Iraq in the next few years, Washington should not expect this to change many people's minds about the legitimacy and desirability of using military force to promote democracy. On this issue there is a fundamental rift between the thinking of the Bush team and the bulk of world opinion -- a rift that will continue to seriously taint the president's "freedom agenda" in many people's eyes.

President Bush can, however, win back some credibility by showing that he is serious about democracy promotion as a matter of principle, not just as an expedient way to justify military action or the use of other tactics of regime change against unfriendly governments. Pursuing democracy as a matter of principle does not mean focusing only on lofty ideals and ignoring hard interests. But it does mean acting with at least a modicum of consistency. In his second inaugural address, Bush seemed to acknowledge this point when he promised to abandon Washington's unfortunate history of supporting autocratic regimes that served U.S. economic and security interests. Arguing that repressive societies breed extremism that can evolve into anti-Western terrorism, he pledged to stand up for freedom everywhere.

So far, however, he has yet to put his money where his mouth is. In regard to the most significant cases -- Russia, China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia -- the Bush administration has spoken mildly, at best, about the need for political reform. Meanwhile, it has carried on business as usual with these countries. The same goes for U.S. relations with Egypt, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. Last autumn, the pro-U.S. autocrats in all three of these countries faced national elections. Commendably, the Bush administration let all three know that it wanted them to hold free and fair elections. But all three leaders played the classic game of friendly tyrants facing a bit of U.S. pro-democratic pique: they made some modest improvements early on in the electoral process; then, in the crucial late stage of the elections, they cracked down hard on opposition groups, tampered with the votes, and took other measures to ensure they would win lopsided victories. Faced with these tactics, the Bush administration also reverted to the old script, making too much of minor achievements and too little of major failures. Since then, U.S. officials have said little in public about the events. It seems that all three of these strongmen will pay no significant price for their antidemocratic defiance.

Of course, it is unrealistic to expect Washington to become perfectly consistent in its promotion of democracy. But having staked his reputation on the idea that fighting terrorism requires abandoning the United States' cozy relationship with friendly tyrants, President Bush must do something to make good on his pledge. Obviously, a drastic reversal of U.S. relations with important governments would be neither feasible nor desirable. But letting phony elections pass with little response only solidifies the already widespread perception that Washington is hypocritical.

The Bush administration could also burnish its democracy credentials by getting its own house in order. In this area, too, the damage is not going to be remedied anytime soon; actions such as the torture of Iraqi detainees by U.S. soldiers are now indelibly etched on the minds of foreign observers. But the administration can and must do better. The necessary remedial steps are hardly mysterious. They range from rectifying once and for all U.S. mistreatment of prisoners and detainees abroad to coming clean on secret prisons, renditions, unlawful abductions, and unauthorized domestic eavesdropping. Every country facing a terrorist threat struggles to find the right balance between security and respect for civil liberties. But unless the Bush administration resolves the staggering contradiction between its unapologetic proclivity to violate individual rights in the name of fighting terrorism and its preaching to others that liberty is an antidote for terrorism, its democracy-promotion agenda will continue to rest on a shaky foundation. Meanwhile, the democracy backlash will continue to grow.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Aug 29, 2006 2:34 pm

Failing the Stalin Test
By Sarah E. Mendelson and Theodore P. Gerber

From Foreign Affairs, January/February 2006
Summary: Polls show that most young Russians hold ambivalent or even positive views of their country's worst dictator. Such attitudes stem not from defects in the Russian character, but from a massive failure in education. The West can help, and must do so fast.

SARAH E. MENDELSON is a Senior Fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a co-editor of The Power and Limits of NGOs: A Critical Look at Building Democracy in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. THEODORE P. GERBER is Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

RUSSIANS AND THEIR DICTATOR

Imagine that a scientific survey revealed that most Germans under 30 today viewed Hitler with ambivalence and that a majority thought he had done more good than bad. Imagine that about 20 percent said they would vote for him if he ran for president tomorrow. Now try to envision the horrified international response that would follow.

Of course, most contemporary Germans revile Hitler. But ask young Russians about Stalin, and you get answers very similar to those above. Since 2003, we have conducted three surveys in Russia, and according to these polls, there is no stigma associated with Stalin in the country today. In fact, many Russians hold ambivalent or even positive views of him. For example, one-quarter or more of Russian adults say they would definitely or probably vote for Stalin were he alive and running for president, and less than 40 percent say they definitely would not. A majority of young Russians, moreover, do not view Stalin -- a man responsible for millions of deaths and enormous suffering -- with the revulsion he deserves. Although Stalinism per se is not rampant in Russia today, misperceptions about the Stalin era are. Few of the respondents to our surveys could be classified as hard-core Stalinists, but fewer still are hard-core anti-Stalinists. Most Russians, in other words, flunk the Stalin test.

And yet, whereas similar findings about Hitler in Germany would no doubt provoke international alarm, American and European political leaders have failed to respond to this trend in Russia -- and it is doubtful that they will anytime soon. Western policymakers prefer to ignore unpleasant news about the weakness of democracy in Russia, and this preference is unlikely to change before the next meeting of the G-8, the group of the world's leading industrialized nations, which is to be held in St. Petersburg in July. With U.S. troops bogged down in Iraq, American leaders are especially overwhelmed at the moment and have little attention to spare. They will be greatly tempted simply to declare Russia's democratic development finished and to avoid the difficult work of figuring out how to respond effectively to the dangerous legacies of Soviet rule that still trouble their new, uneasy ally.

Statements by U.S. policymakers and some academics on Russia tend to reflect a benign view of the country, lauding its economic growth since 1999, citing its several rounds of elections, and lowering the baseline of comparison so that Russia appears to be a "normal" country. Western cheerleaders of Russian President Vladimir Putin are likely to dismiss positive Russian attitudes toward Stalin as a minor growing pain or a speed bump on the country's road to democracy -- just as they downplay the carnage in Chechnya; the festering, potentially explosive conflict throughout the North Caucasus; the Kremlin's blatant suppression of independent television outlets and nongovernmental organizations that dare to challenge its official line; the sorry state of Russia's disintegrating military; the predatory and ineffective police; and the massive corruption at all levels of Russian government.

Such willful blindness is dangerous. But so is the opposite perspective of some pessimistic Russia-watchers, who take Russians' ambivalence toward Stalin as evidence of an authoritarian gene embedded somewhere in the Russian character. In fact, the Russian public's attitude toward Stalin is neither innocuous (and thus not worth changing) nor inherent (and thus immutable). Our surveys suggest that Russian attitudes toward Stalin owe not to any instinctive authoritarianism, but to the fact that no concerted, effective de-Stalinization campaign has ever been conducted in the country. On the contrary, myths and illusions about Russia's great dictator have been allowed to survive, and even thrive, often with tacit (if not explicit) encouragement from the government. Although some Russian educators, intellectuals, and human rights activists have devoted considerable energy to demythologizing Stalin, their efforts have not produced a decisive shift in public opinion. Indeed, one can walk into a bookstore on Moscow's main street today and find postcards with Stalin's likeness. Stalin playing cards are sold at duty-free stores in Russia's airports.

All of this matters because national historical memory -- or amnesia -- can have concrete political consequences. How states and societies engage their pasts affects how they develop. Nostalgia for Stalin in Russia is not simply a relic that will die out with the older generation. And as long as young Russians remain ignorant about or have positive feelings toward a murderous dictator who institutionalized terror throughout their country, they are unlikely to mobilize behind calls for greater justice, human rights, or transparency -- factors critical to Russia's transformation into a modern democratic society.

ANSWER CLOUDY, ASK LATER

Our assessment of Russian attitudes toward Stalin is based on three surveys: two polls of 4,700 Russians 16 and older taken in January 2003 and July 2004 and a survey of 2,000 Russians 16 to 29 years old conducted in June 2005. The surveys relied on modern scientific sampling techniques and were carried out by the Levada Analytic Center.

Pooling the data from our 2003 and 2004 surveys, we found that when asked, "If Stalin were running for president today, would you vote for him?" 13 percent of the respondents under 30 said they definitely or probably would. An additional 21 percent indicated they would probably not vote for him (as if the decision depended on who else was running), and another 20 percent declined to answer the question. That leaves only 46 percent who said they would definitely not vote for Stalin.

Russians over 30 are more likely than youths to support Stalin: 30 percent of them said they would definitely or probably vote for him, and only 36 percent said they would definitely not. College-educated Russians in all age categories, but especially those under 30, are less likely to consider voting for him. Gender has no effect, nor does residence in Moscow.

The single most remarkable finding of these two surveys is that less than half of Russia's young people would categorically reject voting for Stalin today. Even if younger Russians are less likely to support him than are older ones, the majority of Russia's youth appear to harbor ambivalent or positive feelings toward one of the worst dictators in world history.

The survey conducted last year suggests a similar but more nuanced picture. We presented respondents with six statements about Stalin -- three positive and three negative -- and asked them to say whether they agreed or disagreed with each. The findings were neither straightforward nor uniform. About half (51 percent) of the respondents agreed that Stalin was a wise leader, whereas 39 percent disagreed. Over half (56 percent) said they thought he did more good than bad; only 33 percent disagreed. And 42 percent of those surveyed agreed that people today exaggerate Stalin's role in the repressions, whereas about the same number (37 percent) disagreed. Opinions were about equally divided over whether Stalin was a cruel tyrant (43 percent agreed and 47 percent disagreed) -- a strange finding given that 70 percent of the respondents agreed that Stalin imprisoned, tortured, and killed millions of innocent people (only 16 percent disagreed with this claim). Only 28 percent felt that Stalin did not deserve credit for the Soviet victory in World War II.

These numbers do not suggest that half of young Russians today are Stalinists. Instead, most young people seem to hold ambivalent, uncertain, or inconsistent views about the man, which lead them to adopt pro-Stalin positions on some questions and anti-Stalin positions on others. Only a small proportion of young Russians seem to have strong sentiments either way. When we plotted people's attitudes along a scale, the findings were similar. Young peoples' views, rather than being polarized, clustered at the middle. Only 12 percent of our respondents can be considered consistent pro-Stalinists, and only 14 percent might be considered consistent anti-Stalinists. Again, gender and residence in Moscow did not seem to make much difference.

The rule, therefore, seems to be thorough ambivalence about Stalin among Russia's youth. Although some people might take comfort in the finding that hard-core Stalinism is not widespread, such ambivalence is itself disturbing. It suggests that Russia badly needs a systematic de-Stalinization campaign -- a need that is growing increasingly urgent. Our survey data suggest that young people's attitudes toward Stalin are, if anything, becoming more positive: in 2005, nearly 19 percent of respondents said they would definitely or probably vote for him, up from 13 percent in 2003 and 2004.

THE YOUNG AND THE AMBIVALENT

Some readers might question whether our surveys really tapped into young Russians' attitudes toward Stalin. We did too -- so we designed and observed four focus groups, conducted by the Levada Analytic Center and held with university students in Moscow and a provincial capital, Yaroslavl, in December 2004. In each group, several participants openly expressed positive or ambivalent views about Stalin. Their language illustrates some of the common thinking.

One young man in Moscow explained why he would vote for the dictator this way: "Only because we won the war under Stalin. The rate of growth in the country was pretty inspirational." This man seemed to have no sense that Russia won the war despite, not because of, some of Stalin's actions (such as his decimation of the officer corps through repeated purges, his secret deal with Hitler, and his manifest lack of preparedness). Nor did the student seem to be aware of Stalin's persecution of vast numbers of courageous Soviet troops after the war's end.

A young woman from Yaroslavl voiced similar sentiments. "Stalin had positive and negative traits," she told us. "I think that he was able to mobilize the people in World War II, but his self-aggrandizement was a negative side. It's possible that I would vote for him if his power were limited. I think that he was a fairly strong individual." Another added, in a similar vein, "It's possible that he wouldn't be able to do anything bad now. And his rule would, possibly, only better the situation." This optimism was shared by another young man who argued that were he alive today, Stalin "would be different and would act differently. I wouldn't vote for him. I wouldn't vote for anyone. But I wouldn't be against him and wouldn't protest against him." In the same group, a young man concluded that he would decide whether or not to support Stalin, if Stalin were alive and running for president, on the basis of his "PR campaign."

What is most striking about these statements is the ignorance they betray. This lack of knowledge, however, should not be surprising. After an initial flurry of historical reevaluations conducted during Gorbachev's perestroika period, Russian textbooks have become increasingly less critical of -- and less informative about -- Stalin. In 2003, Russian authorities, with the approval of Putin himself, removed Igor Dolutsky's National History, 20th Century -- a text widely hailed for its thorough and meticulous discussion of Stalin's repressions and his role in World War II -- from public schools. In April 2005, Putin, in his state of the union address, declared that "the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century" -- a statement with which 78 percent of the respondents to our 2005 survey agreed. And in May 2005, on the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, Putin strongly rejected the Bush administration's request that he denounce the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

Given the above, it is no wonder that young Russians today are confused about Stalin's excesses and that they closely associate him with the victory over fascism. As one young man in Yaroslavl insisted, "Stalin is not as bad as he is portrayed [by some]. When he came to power, he did some really good things, and then because of fear of losing power he started the repressions." Another told us, "Yes, there were repressions and famine [under Stalin], but it was with him that we won World War II." He then lamented that in contrast, "in ten years we have been unable to do anything about Chechnya." This speaker was skeptical of Russians who criticize Stalin's record. "We know enough from the school curriculum and from stories," he said. "Whoever wants to know more chooses an appropriate profession. But without having lived through that time yourself, it's impossible to actually know about it." The reason the Russian media spend so little time on Stalin, he said, is that "we have a new cult of personality, and probably they don't want to contrast [Putin with Stalin]." At the same time, he worried that those who talk about the dark side of Soviet history may "want to weaken Russia."

Participants in one of the Moscow focus groups -- one filled with self-described "democrats" -- were especially skeptical of the value of historical knowledge. One woman stated, "I think that there's no point turning back. If you look back all the time then we won't see the present or imagine the future." A young man concurred, saying, "Stalinist times -- that's a tired topic to keep beating to death. History must be studied, but to continually walk around and repeat 'repressions,' 'repressions' -- why?" He believed any interest in the topic was "purely the result of propaganda. Look, under Stalin people lived freely and well, just like right now under Putin."

When asked in the survey where they get their information about the Stalin period, most young Russians first identified television, then school and books, and then their parents, grandparents, and government officials. In the Moscow "democrats" focus group, one university student pointed to school and his grandfather. The moderator asked him, "What did your parents, grandparents tell you about this time?" His answer: "Nothing bad about Stalin, for sure, because of the fear that remained. Although Stalin was no longer, they still said that Comrade Stalin was a great leader, and so on." The moderator asked if this was out of fear or real belief. Someone in the group volunteered, "Habit." Another replied, "Some out of fear. Some out of conviction. Some out of a feeling of deep admiration." And another in the group immediately responded, "No one in my family told me anything." Later, when asked what the acronym "GULAG" stands for, this man admitted that he did not know. "The word itself I am familiar with," he said, "but not what it stands for."

HEROES WANTED

Can Russian youth be persuaded that it is important or even hip to know about their past? Can they be persuaded that Stalin is not a neutral or positive figure in their country's history? The answer is yes -- but only through a widespread effort, backed by international donors. Left to their own devices, young Russians, like young people everywhere, are unlikely to challenge their views. They need help from the outside.

Having said that, creating a mass-education campaign on Stalin would not be easy. Numerous obstacles exist -- including Putin's government, which seems committed to obscuring the truth. Fortunately, at least some respondents to our surveys did seem to want to learn more about their past. Nearly 39 percent of those polled in the 2005 youth survey said they were interested in the period of Stalin's rule and wanted to know more about it. Another 24 percent said they were interested but believed they already knew enough. Responses to a related question suggested a majority believed that they "need to know more about Stalin's period so that [they] don't repeat mistakes of the past."

There are plenty of ways Russian educators could make the past -- even a negative one -- come alive for young people. One way would be to tell compelling stories about the many mysterious disappearances during the Stalin period or about ordinary people of the time doing extraordinary things. Such efforts could tap into the negative sentiments about the Stalin period that young Russians do share. For example, about 26 percent of the respondents in our youth survey reported that they had at least one relative who was "repressed" during the Soviet period, and a majority of young Russians (53 percent) were found to either somewhat strongly or strongly support the construction of monuments to these victims. That number dwarfs the number of respondents (nearly one-quarter) who supported constructing monuments to Stalin himself or naming streets in his honor.

Most of all, young Russians need heroes to inspire them. One additional finding from the 2005 survey is worth noting: young Russians' attitudes toward Andrei Sakharov, the dissident who was lionized in the West for his struggle for human rights in the Soviet Union. Young Russians today are not just flunking the Stalin test; they also fail on Sakharov. Only 28 percent said that they would definitely or probably vote for the man if he were running for parliament today. The same proportion said that they had never heard of him. One-fifth, meanwhile, reported that they would probably or definitely not vote for him, and a quarter had heard of him but could not say if they would vote for him. These answers are worrisome, to say the least. One of the university students in a Moscow focus group, when asked if he was familiar with the name Sakharov, thought hard and then responded, "Sakharov. I can't seem to place it." If his position is in any way typical, his country is in serious trouble indeed.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Aug 29, 2006 2:38 pm

Development and Democracy
By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and George W. Downs

From Foreign Affairs, September/October 2005
Summary: Conventional wisdom has long assumed that economic liberalization undermines repressive regimes. Recent events, however, suggest that savvy autocrats have learned how to cut the cord between growth and freedom, enjoying the benefits of the former without the risks of the latter. Washington and international lenders should take note.

BRUCE BUENO DE MESQUITA is Chair of the Department of Politics at New York University and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. GEORGE W. DOWNS is Professor of Politics and Dean of Social Sciences at New York University.

RICHER BUT NOT FREER

Ever since Deng Xiaoping opened up China's economy more than 25 years ago, inaugurating an era of blistering growth, many in the West have assumed that political reform would follow. Economic liberalization, it was predicted, would lead to political liberalization and, eventually, democracy.

This prediction was not specific to China. Until quite recently, conventional wisdom has held that economic development, wherever it occurs, will lead inevitably -- and fairly quickly -- to democracy. The argument, in its simplest form, runs like this: economic growth produces an educated and entrepreneurial middle class that, sooner or later, begins to demand control over its own fate. Eventually, even repressive governments are forced to give in.

The fact that almost all of the richest countries in the world are democratic was long taken as iron-clad evidence of this progression. Recent history, however, has complicated matters. As events now suggest, the link between economic development and what is generally called liberal democracy is actually quite weak and may even be getting weaker. Although it remains true that among already established democracies, a high per capita income contributes to stability, the growing number of affluent authoritarian states suggests that greater wealth alone does not automatically lead to greater political freedom. Authoritarian regimes around the world are showing that they can reap the benefits of economic development while evading any pressure to relax their political control. Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident than in China and Russia. Although China's economy has grown explosively over the last 25 years, its politics have remained essentially stagnant. In Russia, meanwhile, the economy has recently improved even as the Kremlin has tightened the political reins.

The overlap of these trends -- economic growth and shrinking political freedom -- is more than a historical curiosity. It points to an ominous and poorly appreciated fact: economic growth, rather than being a force for democratic change in tyrannical states, can sometimes be used to strengthen oppressive regimes. Zhao Ziyang, China's premier during the 1980s, may have been right when he argued, "Democracy is not something that socialism can avoid." But there is now plenty of evidence to suggest that autocratic and illiberal governments of various stripes can at least delay democracy for a very long time. Over the past half century, a large number of such regimes have undergone extensive economic growth without any corresponding political liberalization. In other cases, autocrats have been forced to introduce modest political changes but have nonetheless managed to limit their scope and hold on to power.

What explains the often lengthy lag between the onset of economic growth and the emergence of liberal democracy? The answer lies in the growing sophistication of authoritarian governments. Although development theorists are right in assuming that increases in per capita income lead to increases in popular demand for political power, they have consistently underestimated the ability of oppressive governments to thwart those demands. Authoritarian regimes are getting better and better at avoiding the political fallout of economic growth -- so good, in fact, that such growth now tends to increase rather than decrease their chances of survival.

This is a truth that has largely been ignored by both development agencies and the Bush administration. Washington has blithely claimed that globalization and the spread of market capitalism will inevitably lead to the triumph of Western-style democracy. How the Bush administration explains away all the contrary examples is unclear. What is clear is that Washington needs to rethink its plans to spread democracy around the globe. In addition, development bodies such as the World Bank should reconsider the kinds of conditions they attach to their loans. Merely pushing for greater economic freedom is unlikely to have much political payoff -- at least not anytime soon.

ESCAPING THE GROWTH TRAP

Autocrats have good reason to view economic growth ambivalently, as both a tool and a trap. On the one hand, it increases a tyrant's prospects of survival, by expanding the government's resources (through higher tax revenues) and improving its ability to deal with various problems (such as economic recessions or natural disasters). Over the short term, economic growth also tends to increase citizens' satisfaction with their government, making it less likely that they will support a change of regimes.

In the long term, however, economic growth can threaten the political survival of repressive governments by raising the likelihood that effective political competitors will emerge. This happens for two reasons: economic growth raises the stakes of the political game by increasing the spoils available to the winner, and it leads to an increase in the number of individuals with sufficient time, education, and money to get involved in politics. Both these changes can set in motion a process of democratization that can slowly gather momentum, eventually overwhelming an autocratic status quo and creating a competitive, liberal democracy in its place.

Until now, many Western policymakers and development experts have assumed that political liberalization basically tracks the rate of economic growth, with only a slight lag, and that there is little that autocratic governments can do to stop it (as long as they remain committed to maintaining economic progress). Such thinking can be traced back to Seymour Martin Lipset, the eminent sociologist and political scientist who popularized the notion that economic growth fosters democratization by increasing the size of the educated middle class. Lipset, however, cautioned his readers that the process was not guaranteed: although it had worked in western Europe, success there had depended on a very particular set of circumstances. In the years since Lipset published his findings, unfortunately, his cautionary note seems to have been largely forgotten.

Lipset's followers have also tended to overlook the fact that autocratic states are not passive observers of political change; in fact, they set the rules of the game and can rig them to suit their interests. Autocrats enjoy a marked advantage over the average citizen in their ability to shape institutions and political events. And they have proved far more savvy at this than expected, adroitly postponing democratization -- often while still continuing to achieve economic growth.

THE FIX IS IN

To understand how authoritarian regimes manage this trick, it helps first to understand the concept of strategic coordination. The term "strategic coordination," which comes from the literature of political science, refers to the set of activities that people must engage in to win political power in a given situation. Such activities include disseminating information, recruiting and organizing opposition members, choosing leaders, and developing a viable strategy to increase the group's power and to influence policy.

Strategic coordination is a useful concept here because it helps to explain why economic growth has traditionally been thought to promote democratization. The process works as follows: economic growth leads to urbanization and improvements in technology and infrastructure. These improvements dramatically facilitate communication and recruitment by new political groups. Economic growth also tends to lead to increased investment in education, which benefits the opposition by producing more learned and sophisticated individuals from which it can recruit supporters. Strategic coordination, however, also helps explain how some autocrats have managed to break or weaken the link between economic development and democratization. If authoritarian incumbents can limit strategic coordination by the opposition, they can reduce the prospect that their enemies will be able to remove them from office. There is a catch, however: to remain secure, autocrats must raise the costs of political coordination among the opposition without also raising the costs of economic coordination too dramatically -- since this could stymie economic growth and threaten the stability of the regime itself.

Threading this needle is difficult, but not, as it turns out, impossible. Gradually, through trial and error, oppressive regimes have discovered that they can suppress opposition activity without totally undermining economic growth by carefully rationing a particular subset of public goods -- goods that are critical to political coordination but less important for economic cooperation. By restricting these goods, autocrats have insulated themselves from the political liberalization that economic growth promotes.

HOW TO STOP A REVOLUTION

Examples of this strategy abound. Consider a few cases over the last three years. China has periodically blocked access to Google's English-language news service and recently forced Microsoft to block the use of words such as "freedom" and "democracy" on the Microsoft software used by bloggers. These moves were only the latest in a long line of Chinese restrictions on Internet-related activity, strictures that have run the gamut from the creation of a special Internet police unit to limiting the number of Internet gateways into China. In Russia, meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin has placed all national television networks under strict government control. In October 2003, he engineered the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of his most prominent critics; a highly visible prosecution followed.

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez pushed through a new law in December 2004 allowing him to ban news reports of violent protests or of government crackdowns and to suspend the broadcasting licenses of media outlets that violate any of a long list of broadly phrased regulations. And in Vietnam, the government has imposed strict controls on religious organizations and has branded the leaders of unauthorized religious groups (including Roman Catholics, Mennonites, and some Buddhists) as subversives.

Each of these cases has involved the restriction of what might be called "coordination goods" -- that is, those public goods that critically affect the ability of political opponents to coordinate but that have relatively little impact on economic growth. Coordination goods are distinct from more general public goods -- public transportation, health care, primary education, and national defense -- which, when restricted, can have a substantial impact on both public opinion and economic growth.

Historically, oppressive governments seeking to crack down on those pushing for democratic change have suppressed both types of goods -- undermining their economies in the process. This was the dominant pattern in much of Asia and Africa until the 1980s, and it remains the case today in many of the poorest states, such as Myanmar and Zimbabwe. Recently, however, governments in Russia, China, Vietnam, and elsewhere have discovered that by focusing their restrictions on coordination goods only, they can continue to provide those other services necessary for economic progress while short-circuiting the pressure for political change such progress typically promotes.

Of course, the availability of most public goods has at least some impact on the ability of opposition groups to organize and coordinate. But four types of goods play a fundamental role in such activities. These include political rights, more general human rights, press freedom, and accessible higher education.

The first of these goods, political rights, includes free speech and the rights to organize and demonstrate peacefully. Although political rights are largely negative, in the sense that they limit state interference rather than require state action, they do sometimes require governments to take a variety of steps to enforce them, especially when they involve minority groups voicing opinions that are unpopular with the majority.

As for more general human rights, these include freedom from arbitrary arrest and the related protection of habeas corpus; the right to nondiscrimination based on religion, race, ethnicity, and sex; freedom from physical abuse; and the right to travel, both domestically and abroad.

A diverse and largely unregulated press (and other forms of media) is also vital to effective political opposition, since it enables the dissemination of information that can bring diverse groups together around common interests. Like political rights, the right to a free press is a largely negative one, since it generally requires the government not to interfere. It may also require affirmative steps, however, such as granting licenses to radio and TV frequencies, guaranteeing public access to those and other media, and translating official documents into regional languages.

Finally, broad access to higher education and graduate training is vital if citizens hope to develop the skills to communicate, organize, and develop a political presence. Advanced education also facilitates the creation of a large pool of potential opposition leaders, thereby increasing the supply of rivals to the incumbent government.

Some authoritarian governments claim that they deny access to higher education (and other coordination goods) because of their exorbitant costs. In reality, coordination goods are not generally more expensive than other public goods and are far cheaper than some, such as national defense or transportation. When governments choose to restrict them, therefore, it is to increase the political costs of coordination, not to save money. In fact, some coordination goods actually cost more to suppress than to allow -- as when governments expend their resources cracking down on opposition movements or jam free media outlets and produce their own propaganda.

RECIPE FOR (AUTOCRATIC) SUCCESS

Recently, in order to better understand how autocrats and illiberal democratic incumbents manage to embrace economic growth while postponing democracy, we examined the provision of public goods in about 150 countries between 1970 and 1999. Four findings from this study are particularly noteworthy.

First, the suppression of coordination goods is an effective survival strategy; the study confirmed that providing coordination goods significantly decreases the survival prospects of incumbent regimes. The provision of other public goods, meanwhile, either does not affect survival at all or improves it. Allowing freedom of the press and ensuring civil liberties, in particular, reduce the chances that an autocratic government will survive for another year by about 15 to 20 percent: a stark statistic, and one that helps explain media and political suppression throughout the developing world.

Second, the study showed that today's autocrats tend to suppress coordination goods much more consistently than they do other public goods. Around the world, from Beijing to Moscow to Caracas, authoritarian regimes seem to be well aware of the dangers of providing coordination goods to their people, and they refrain from doing so with remarkable consistency. On the other hand, most autocratic leaders appear to recognize that there is little to fear from providing other public goods, such as primary education, public transportation, and health care. Fidel Castro risked nothing politically when he aggressively improved public health care in Cuba, and Kim Jong Il did not place himself at much risk when his government committed itself to increasing the North Korean literacy rate to above 95 percent. Both regimes, however, have been careful to suppress coordination goods.

The study also confirmed that the greater the suppression of coordination goods in a given country, the greater the lag between economic growth and the emergence of liberal democracy. Of course, some undemocratic regimes are more successful at suppressing coordination goods than are others. But there is a clear correlation between failure at this and the likelihood that the state will become a modern democracy.

Moreover, the study found that except at the highest levels of per capita income, significant economic growth can be attained and sustained even while the government suppresses coordination goods (remember China, Russia, and Vietnam). And when such trends occur together -- that is, when a state enjoys economic growth while suppressing coordination goods -- the regime's chances of survival substantially improve and the likelihood of democratization decreases (at least for five to ten years). Although data limitations make it difficult to determine whether in the long term economic growth will tend to push regimes toward democracy, there is growing evidence that at least in the short term economic growth stabilizes regimes rather than undermines them. China, therefore, is best viewed not as the exception to the rule that growth produces liberalization, but as emblematic of the fact that it usually does not.

WHO'S FOOLING WHOM?

The growing disconnect between development and democracy holds three important lessons for those policymakers -- in the Bush administration and in other affluent liberal democracies -- who are frustrated with the slow pace of change in the developing world and hope to speed up the process.

First and most obvious, democratic policymakers need to recognize that promoting economic growth in the developing world is not nearly as effective a way to promote democracy as they once believed. Oppressive incumbents have learned from their collective experience that although development can be dangerous, it is possible to defuse that danger to a considerable extent. By limiting coordination goods, autocrats can have it all: a contented constituency of power brokers and military leaders who benefit from economic growth, increased resources to cope with economic and political shocks, and a weak and dispirited political opposition.

The second important lesson for policymakers has to do with what the above means for the conditions they attach to the loans and grants they extend to the developing world. When the World Bank, for example, conditions a loan to a developing state on the requirement that the government invest in infrastructure, health care, or literacy, it does so in the belief that these investments will lead to increased economic growth, which in turn will lead to an expanded middle class and, eventually, democracy. But this expectation is unrealistic. Such investments are just as likely to extend rather than shorten the reigns of illiberal governments. Foreign aid, as it is currently administered, tends to bolster rather than undermine undemocratic leaders.

The answer to this problem is not to place a lower priority on economic growth or the provision of standard public goods. It is to broaden loan conditions to include requirements that recipient states supply their citizens with coordination goods, such as basic civil liberties, human rights, and press freedoms. Making it easier for ordinary citizens to coordinate and communicate with one another will promote the growth of political freedom. Accordingly, before autocrats get international aid, they should be forced to accept modest reforms such as supporting greater access to higher education, allowing a freer press, and permitting more freedom of assembly.

In introducing such conditions, development agencies should not be distracted by the debate over whether human rights are best defined in terms of housing, food, clothing, health care, and other basic human necessities or in terms of individual freedom and the protection of both minority and majority interests. Dictators prefer the former definition solely because it best suits their interests. Such arguments are transparently self-serving. Copious evidence suggests that political freedom and the provision of basic necessities go hand in hand; those societies that respect civil liberties almost invariably also provide for the survival of most or all of their citizens.

The third lesson of our study for policymakers concerns the recent events in the Middle East. It is tempting to view the elections in Iraq, Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon and the subsequent elections there, the announcement that local elections will be held in Saudi Arabia, and the promise of more competitive elections in Egypt as collectively signaling a new democratic dawn in the region. But it is important to remain realistic. In particular, observers must remember that the repressive policies that have served Middle East autocrats so well for the past 50 years have not been significantly eroded in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or even Lebanon. This is not necessarily grounds for despair. But those interested in measuring the democratic progress of the region should pay more attention to the availability of coordination goods there -- to how tightly the media are controlled, for example, or how difficult it is to safely hold an antigovernment demonstration. These elements, more than the mere presence of elections, remain essential for the transition to real democracy. Until they appear, the United States, the EU, and other donors and aid agencies must keep exerting pressure for change.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Aug 29, 2006 2:59 pm

Putin and the Oligarchs
By Marshall I. Goldman

From Foreign Affairs, November/December 2004
Summary: The jailing of Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has revealed the fault lines running through the post-Soviet political economy. The reforms and privatization of the 1990s were so flawed and unfair as to make them unstable. A backlash was inevitable. Given Vladimir Putin's authoritarian tendencies, that backlash has proved equally flawed and unfair-and perhaps equally unstable.

Marshall I. Goldman is Kathryn W. Davis Professor of Russian Economics, Emeritus, at Wellesley College, Associate Director of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, and the author of The Piratization of Russia: Russian Reform Goes Awry.

THE KHODORKOVSKY AFFAIR

In mid-September, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans for a radical overhaul of his country's political system, with the goal of centralizing power in the Kremlin. Acting in the wake of the hostage crisis in Beslan, during which Chechen separatists killed hundreds of children, Putin claimed that his power grab was necessary to help Russia win its own war on terrorism. Whatever his motivations, the move represents a major step backward for Russian democracy.

Putin's recent actions may be the most drastic of his tenure so far, but they were hardly the first signs of his willingness to deploy the power of the Russian state for his own purposes. A year earlier, he had Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the head of the oil group Yukos and one of the world's richest men, arrested and thrown in jail on charges of fraud and tax evasion-a move widely interpreted as a declaration of war against the so-called oligarchs, who have amassed phenomenal wealth and power since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. A key question now is whether Khodorkovsky's arrest is the forerunner of what will happen to many of his business colleagues.

The Khodorkovsky affair has been a shock for those who had come to believe in the "new Russia." During the previous dozen years, Russians had rejected the Communist Party and the Soviet Union's command economy. To the applause of most of the outside world, Russian and foreign economic advisers drew up an elaborate program for the privatization of industry, housing, and land. In an attempt at "people's capitalism," virtually every Russian was issued a voucher good for shares in a soon-to-be-private enterprise. Stock markets sprouted almost everywhere, while industrial ministries gave way to privately owned, Russia-based multinational corporations.

The largest of these corporations were producers of petroleum, natural gas, or metal that had previously been controlled by a Soviet industrial ministry. Their new executives became dazzlingly wealthy almost overnight. In May 2004, the Russian edition of Forbes identified 36 of these oligarchs as being worth at least $1 billion. Khodorkovsky topped the list with an estimated net worth of $15 billion.

These events appeared to signal the triumph of the market and private industry. To be sure, there were unsettling reports of shady dealings during the takeovers, but most observers explained them away as inevitable side effects of such a far-reaching transformation. After all, did the United States not once have its own robber barons, who, despite early roughhouse tactics, became the leaders of some of the country's most prominent corporations and the benefactors of its most respected charities and foundations? Besides, many argued, it was only a matter of time before the Russian government would intervene to correct the most flagrant misbehavior, much as Theodore Roosevelt did with the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act and other Progressive reforms during the early years of the twentieth century.

The difference in Russia is that the basic reforms and privatization of the 1990s were so flawed and unfair that they created an unstable business environment. A radical resettling of existing ownership arrangements was thus all but inevitable. And given Putin's authoritarian tendencies, it is hardly surprising that when the move came it was equally flawed and unfair-and perhaps equally destabilizing. What has happened to Khodorkovsky and nine of his now-jailed or exiled senior associates is, in short, more than the dramatic saga of a rich man's fall from grace or a despot's capricious revenge: it is a window onto the cracks that run through Russia's post-Soviet political economy.

OIL SLICKS VS. GOVERNMENT STIFFS

The reforms of the 1990s were mainly the work of the advisers brought in under then president Boris Yeltsin. Fearing that the population might soon have a change of heart and turn its back on reform, Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais, the chief Russian architects of the process, decided to accelerate it, selling off state resources and enterprises at little or no charge. Not long into the process, ownership of some of Russia's most valuable resources was auctioned off by oligarch-owned banks under a scheme called "Loans for Shares." Although they were supposedly acting on behalf of the state, the bank auctioneers rigged the process-and in almost every case ended up as the successful bidders. This was how Khodorkovsky got a 78 percent share of ownership in Yukos, worth about $5 billion, for a mere $310 million, and how Boris Berezovsky got Sibneft, another oil giant, worth $3 billion, for about $100 million.

When it came to dealing with the oligarchs, the government was generally unable to exercise much control. Since the state was very weak, these "new Russians" paid little or no taxes on their purchases. And if most American robber barons had at least created something out of nothing, the Russian oligarchs added nothing to what already was something. Virtually all their wealth came from the seizure of Russia's raw material assets, which until 1992 had been owned and managed by the state. An oligarch's success, in other words, almost always depended on his connections to the government officials in charge of privatizing the country's rich energy and mineral deposits, as well as on his ability to outmaneuver or intimidate rivals. (Two senior Yukos executives have been charged with murder and attempted murder, and the mayor of Nefteyugansk, where Yukos' major producing unit is headquartered, was murdered after criticizing the firm's failure to pay taxes.)

By the time Putin succeeded Yeltsin in 2000, there was much to remedy. One of Putin's first steps was to declare a change in the rules of the game. As he put it in a meeting with the oligarchs in February 2000, "It is asked, what then should be the relationship with the so-called oligarchs? The same as with anyone else. The same as with the owner of a small bakery or a shoe repair shop." That Putin said this at a special meeting with the oligarchs and not with a group of bakers or cobblers is beside the point; the statement was taken as a signal that the tycoons would no longer be able to flout government regulations and count on special access to the Kremlin. In July of that year, Putin told the oligarchs that he would not interfere with their businesses or renationalize state resources as long as they stayed out of politics-that is, as long as they did not challenge or criticize the president. Although the promise provided some reassurance, it also displayed a warped concept of how markets, businesses, and the state are supposed to function in a democracy.

Limiting the oligarchs' political involvement proved difficult. As more people grew richer, some were inevitably tempted to expand their activities beyond business. Several, including Vladimir Gusinsky and Berezovsky, created media empires of television stations, newspapers, and magazines and used these outlets to attack not only each other, but also Putin, particularly for his policies in Chechnya and his inept response to the 2000 sinking of a nuclear-powered submarine in the Barents Sea.

As Putin started to feel betrayed by the oligarchs politically, others found themselves victimized economically. Investors in Khodorkovsky's projects regularly found that they had acquired worthless pieces of paper. The American investor Kenneth Dart had to write off an estimated $1 billion. The oil company then known as Amoco (and later as BP Amoco) had a similar experience. Both had put money into an oil-producing subsidiary that Khodorkovsky seized and stripped of its assets. Similarly, when the Russian company Tyumen Oil stripped the assets of a Sidanko Oil subsidiary, BP Amoco had to write off, at least temporarily, $200 million of its $500 million investment in Sidanko Oil.

After the Russian government declared a moratorium on the repayment of its debt on August 17, 1998, most Russian banks, including Khodorkovsky's Menatep, simply closed their doors, depriving hundreds of thousands of ordinary Russians of their savings. Rather than try to help depositors and other lenders, Khodorkovsky took whatever sound assets he could salvage and diverted them to a subsidiary in St. Petersburg, beyond the reach of his creditors. After lengthy and often halfhearted intervention by the government, Menatep eventually agreed to provide token compensation; so did Yukos, to those who had taken its stock as collateral for loans to the company. But by the time Khodorkovsky was through issuing new shares and watering down the old stock, few of the banks' depositors or lenders had much to show for their efforts.

Still, it was less Khodorkovsky's financial skullduggery than it was his interference in political matters that upset Putin. Khodorkovsky was reported to have offered Russia's two liberal parties, Yabloko and SPS (the Party of Right Forces), $100 million to unite and campaign together in opposition to Putin and his United Russia Party. And he broadly hinted that he would run for president in 2008, when Putin's term is due to expire.

Khodorkovsky also actively promoted legislation that would benefit Yukos. It was said that, to ensure such support, he bought control of as many as 100 seats in the Duma (the lower house of the Russian parliament), including several held by members of the Communist Party. Whether the rumors were true or not, he was able to head off attempts by the Duma to increase taxes on petroleum producers in 2001 and 2002.

Such heavy-handed lobbying is hardly unknown in the U.S. Congress, especially on energy matters, but to Putin it represented a violation of the deal he had offered the oligarchs. The siloviki, the law-and-order types from the KGB, the police, and the army that Putin had been bringing into the government, felt the same way. Khodorkovsky's methods were a fundamental challenge to their control of the country-or, as one noted, "a danger and threat to the Russian state."

FLEECING THE BEAR

Ironically, just a few years earlier, Khodorkovsky had decided to turn over a new leaf, at least in financial matters, and he started to change the way he ran his business. In 1999, he espoused the importance of transparency for himself and his fellow oligarchs. He hired Western accounting firms, and Yukos became one of the few Russian companies to acknowledge who its main stockholders were. It began to pay back wages to its employees and publish a more complete statement of its tax obligations. Khodorkovsky reorganized Yukos' board of directors, bringing in several well-respected Western investors, lawyers, and businessmen. He also established the Open Russia Foundation, a charity supporting educational and cultural projects, and recruited Henry Kissinger, Lord Rothschild, and Arthur Hartman, the former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, for its board. Once he had made his billions, he, like the American robber barons, decided it was time to become charitable and play by the rules.

As many in the West applauded these changes, Khodorkovsky became increasingly self-confident and even brazen. Eager to export more oil, he called for the building of new pipelines: one to the Arctic port of Murmansk (a base for exports to the United States), another through Siberia (toward Asian markets). For the latter, he favored a pipeline to China, despite the government's preference for a route to the Pacific, which would serve Japan. Although both proposals already were a direct challenge to Transneft, the state monopoly that owned and operated all of Russia's pipelines, Khodorkovsky announced that he was prepared to build his own pipelines if necessary.

To top it off, at a February 2003 meeting in the Kremlin, Khodorkovsky complained to Putin that the executives of a state-owned oil company, Rosneft, had overpaid for a smaller company in a sweetheart deal. (He was angry because Yukos had also been interested in the company but had refused to buy it at what it considered an inflated price.) Khodorkovsky's denunciation of Rosneft was an open challenge to Putin because Rosneft's head, Sergei Bogdanchikov, was closely associated with the siloviki. More and more, it appeared that, with his immense wealth, control over what was about to become the world's fourth-largest oil company, and considerable influence in the Duma, Khodorkovsky saw himself as beyond the control of the Kremlin. No businessman had ever reached that point before, neither under the tsar nor under Yeltsin, and Putin was determined not to let it happen on his watch either.

Khodorkovsky's financial shenanigans were hardly exceptional. The authorities could have brought similar charges of underpayment, tax evasion, bribery, murder, or attempted murder against many of the oligarchs. It was the audacity that Khodorkovsky and his Yukos subordinates displayed in interfering directly in politics that made them a special target. Like Gusinsky (who was jailed for a time) and Berezovsky (who was exiled) before him, Khodorkovsky provoked Putin by criticizing him and supporting opposition parties and candidates.

To those who believe in the supremacy of the state-as most Russians do-Khodorkovsky's aggressive behavior was suspect on any number of counts. An even more basic question, however, was whether he has the right to claim for himself so much of the wealth that had until recently belonged to the state or, supposedly, to the people at large. This issue loomed increasingly large for the Kremlin and the siloviki. From their perspective, the oligarchs had done nothing to deserve such good fortune. The country's resources had been stolen through the manipulation of a poorly conceived privatization process, thanks to rigged bids, bribes, violence, and dubious interpretations of the law. Until late 1999, moreover, almost none of the oligarchs had done much to restructure or improve the assets they had acquired from the state.

As a few private individuals seized state property, a third of Russia's population was thrust below the poverty line, exacerbating public resentment over such radical redistribution of wealth. According to a recent poll, 77 percent of Russians feel that privatization should be either fully or partially revised. Only 18 percent oppose renationalization. Many of those interviewed were also unhappy with the market system in general and sought to discredit the whole privatization process.

The siloviki, meanwhile, had become concerned that access to and ownership of more and more of Russia's mineral deposits were being sold to foreign multinational corporations, including some owned predominantly by Americans. By the time of Khodorkovsky's arrest in October 2003, Tyumen Oil had formed a partnership with BP, and several other companies (such as ConocoPhillips) were secretly engaged in similar negotiations. When Khodorkovsky, after announcing a pending merger between Yukos and Sibneft, began to negotiate with both ExxonMobil and Chevron-Texaco, government hard-liners grew truly alarmed. They feared that Putin would wake up one morning and discover that Russia's most strategic and valuable energy companies had been taken over by Western corporations. It was one thing for the foreign companies to be minority investors, but quite another for them to buy operational control, especially when some of their payments to the oligarchs were being diverted abroad. Roman Abramovich's purchase of London's Chelsea soccer team for $400 million may have pleased Londoners, but it angered Moscow's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, who wanted to know why the money was not going to improve a Moscow team instead.

That many of the oligarchs were Jewish also helped revive some old and ugly prejudices. It was only a matter of time before a Russian nationalist like Alexander Tsipko dusted off the image of "Jewish capital" from the tsar's days, claiming (incorrectly) that Khodorkovsky had arranged for the transfer of his "stake in Yukos to the guardianship of Lord Rothschild's Institute of Jewish Policy Research in Britain" if anything happened to him.

In short, the oligarchs were an easy target. After Khodorkovsky's arrest, Putin's poll ratings rose from an already high 70 percent to an impressive 80 percent. In addition, running on the slogan "Russia for Russians," Rodina, a nationalist political party only a few months old, was able to win nine percent of the vote in Duma elections two months later. Most Russians feel, with good reason, that if the country's economic reforms in general, and privatization in particular, had been carried out more honestly and equitably, the economic results would have been better, the country's income disparities less pronounced, and control over its resources more widely dispersed.

PUTIN'S HEAVY HAND

If it is difficult to defend Khodorkovsky and most of the other oligarchs, it is equally difficult to justify the methods Putin used against them. The machinations of the siloviki have been particularly aggressive. According to the sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya, the siloviki now constitute 50 to 70 percent of the Kremlin's staff. Although most are not proponents of communism, they do seek to restore power to the state and ensure that the security forces regain a central, if not commanding, role in Russian politics. As Rosneft's Bogdanchikov, a key siloviki ally, boasted, "three days in Butyrke Prison and [Khodorkovsky and his aide Roman Lebedev] will understand who is the master of the forest."

To prevent the transfer of Yukos' ownership to Western companies, state authorities ordered the seizure of 40 percent of Yukos' stock, along with Khodorkovsky's arrest. They also sought to force Khodorkovsky and his aides to transfer control of the company to the state or at least to a more sympathetic Russian owner. Threats against Gusinsky had brought good results: after a few days in prison in a cell with common criminals, some of whom were thought to be infected with HIV, he had signed over his shares in Media Most to Gazprom, Russia's state-controlled gas monopoly.

But the Yukos executives were more resolute. Despite being denied bail and given ever-lengthening prison terms, they refused to turn over their shares. They held out in the face of the prosecutor's warnings that their sentences might stretch from days, weeks, and months into decades. Bemoaning the fact that "sadly, it is impossible to give Khodorkovsky a longer term" than ten years, Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov suggested that the law be amended to extend the maximum term. And to deter anyone who might be tempted to come to Khodorkovsky's defense, Kolesnikov warned, "Let those who are not yet in jail think hard about what they are doing."

Arresting rich businessmen, even billionaires, is no longer a novelty in Russia or elsewhere. But in Russia they are arrested by masked men armed with machine guns, and they are denied bail. Those who are not jailed are increasingly pressured to accept siloviki as partners or return ownership to the state, lest their corporations be stripped of their value. The Natural Resource Ministry has already revoked Yukos' license to drill in some parts of Siberia. In July, the Ministry of Justice threatened to seize the company's largest subsidiary, Yuganskneftegaz, which is worth between $17 billion and $24 billion. Contemplating, ironically, a favorite tactic of Khodorkovsky's, for a time the government considered underpricing the asset and selling it off for only $1.75 billion, as partial payment for the company's $3.4 billion tax bill for the year 2000. At that rate, Yukos would not be able to pay its bill for 2000, or for any year since.

There are those in the Kremlin who would see such a sale as a golden opportunity for the state and the siloviki to regain control from people they consider to be undeserving hucksters. As a sign of what might be ahead, Igor Sechin, a senior Kremlin aide to Putin, has also just been appointed chairman of Rosneft, the state oil company. (His daughter just married the son of Vladimir Ustinov, Russia's chief prosecutor-general in charge of the Yukos case.) A few weeks later, Putin announced that Rosneft would be merged into Gazprom. As Russia's largest company, the new state-controlled entity would thereby become the most likely candidate to pick up Yuganskneftegaz should Yukos be forced to sell it off to pay taxes.

REFORMING THE REFORMS

Any examination of how Russia has come to find itself in such a situation must begin with a look at the original privatization process. The architects of the reforms can rightly claim that their blueprint achieved its main objective: the communists have not regained control of the government. But by moving so quickly to privatize state resources while failing to encourage the startup of new businesses, the reformers inadvertently paved the way for the rise of the oligarchs-and for the state's counterattack. And as the 2003 election results demonstrated, the oligarchic seizure of Russia's resources triggered support for the neo-nationalists-whose agenda is not all that different from that of the communists, at least not when it comes to the state's regaining control of mineral resources.

In response to these political trends, in April, Russia's State Audit Chamber-the equivalent of the U.S. Government Accountability Office-convened a one-day retreat with three Americans and four Europeans to consider what might be done to redress abuses of the privatization process. Its final report is expected by the end of this year, but Russian officials have said in an interim report that inspections of 140 privatized companies have revealed 56 violations of state regulations. Igor Shuvalov, one of Putin's economic advisers, later warned that Yukos would not be the last company to find itself under attack.

The return of the statists and their push for redress are bound to unsettle existing and potential private investors, Russian and foreign. Certainly, BP should be worried about the $7 billion it has already invested in a partnership with Tyumen Oil, a company that has been accused of misbehavior similar to Yukos', including abuse of the legal system, unfair payment for state resources, and tax delinquency. The partnership itself has also been charged with violating the official state secrets act by disclosing the extent of the country's petroleum reserves, even though it is information that the partnership's senior executive officers needed to know. State prosecutors and tax authorities have also raided the offices of Sibir Airlines, the metal producer RusAl, and the oil company Sibneft (which paid taxes on only 7 percent of its profits, less than a third of the statutory rate and half of what Yukos paid).

Foreign investors have not been spared, either. A 1993 tender for development on Sakhalin Island by an ExxonMobil-led consortium was suddenly revoked in February after the consortium was accused of failing to invest as much as it had promised. Since almost all the privatization efforts have involved underpayment, cutting corners, tax avoidance, intimidation, or outright physical force, every new owner has to fear that, if he can be identified, someday a government agency will also single him out for harassment. As a result, the crackdown may have unintentionally set back efforts to make Russian business more transparent.

Recognizing the anxiety that these measures have triggered, Putin has tried to reassure the business community. He made a point of meeting with James Mulva, the CEO of ConocoPhillips, to encourage him to bid for the shares the state still holds in Lukoil. In a December 2003 meeting with the Russian Chamber of Commerce, moreover, Putin noted, "If five, seven, or ten people broke the law, that doesn't mean the others did the same. The rest may not have made as much money, but today they sleep soundly."

This is hardly comforting. Who knows which five, seven, or ten of the 5,500 or so privatized businesses Putin was referring to? And if the past is any precedent, it would be unusual, as the State Audit Chamber report suggests, for so few companies to come under scrutiny in the end. So despite Putin's reassurances, most of those who benefited from privatization will see Khodorkovsky's imprisonment as a warning of what could happen to them if they get too ambitious or challenge the Kremlin.

Russia will undoubtedly survive the flawed process of privatization, just as it has survived more serious crises. But the direction Putin is taking is disappointing. By merging state-controlled Gazprom with state-owned Rosneft, he has signaled once again that the state will become a strong if not dominant voice in energy policy and economic planning. Moreover, the new entity has become the most likely suitor for Yuganskneftegaz once, as seems likely, Yukos is forced to sell it. If the purchase occurs, Gazprom-Rosneft will then account for 25 percent of the country's energy production. Combined with Putin's crackdown on the media and his September order to terminate the direct election of governors and members of the Duma, his increased involvement in economic matters is worrisome. It means that, under Putin, Russia is reversing some of the most important economic and political reforms it adopted after freeing itself from the yoke of communism.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Aug 29, 2006 3:02 pm

Flight From Freedom: What Russians Think and Want
By Richard Pipes

From Foreign Affairs, May/June 2004
Summary: Critics decry Vladimir Putin for turning Russia into a one-party state. But polls suggest that Russians actually approve of his actions by sizable majorities, caring little for core Western principles such as democratic liberties and civil rights.

Richard Pipes is Professor of History, Emeritus, at Harvard University. He was Director of Eastern European and Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council in 1981-82.

When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, expectations were high that Russia, rid of communism, would take a firm pro-Western course: democratizing its political system, granting its citizens unassailable civil rights, and rejoining the international community. Such were the promises made by President Boris Yeltsin when he took charge. But after more than a decade, these expectations have not been realized. Since ex-KGB colonel Vladimir Putin took over as president in 2000, Russia's democratic institutions have been muzzled, its civil rights restricted, and its cooperation with the international community far from assured.

What accounts for these unwelcome trends? Polling data from a variety of sources suggest that the answer is more complex than meets the eye. Although actions undertaken by Putin and his associates play a large part, there is a good deal of evidence that the antidemocratic, antilibertarian actions of the current administration are not being inflicted on the Russian people but are actually supported by them. This evidence also indicates that no more than one Russian in ten cares about democratic liberties and civil rights.

DEJÀ VU

Before examining what Russians say and think today, it is necessary to look back at Russia's past. Despite its reputation for unpredictability, Russia is a remarkably conservative nation whose mentality and behavior change slowly, if at all, over time, regardless of the regime in power.

As recently as 75 years ago, 80 percent of Russia's population engaged in agriculture and lived in scattered, largely self-sufficient villages. (The country had only two major cities -- Moscow and St. Petersburg -- themselves made up of sizable migrant peasant populations.) In a predominantly rural society, the kind of social cohesion that Westerners took for granted in their own countries was very weakly developed: Russia was not so much a society as an agglomeration of tens of thousands of separate rural settlements.

National feelings, therefore, were also poorly developed, except at times of foreign invasions. Until recently, Russian peasants were more likely to identify themselves as Orthodox Christians than as Russians. The pre-1917 tsarist government, which punished any attempt by its subjects to interfere with politics, was a remote force: it collected taxes and drafted soldiers but gave its citizens virtually nothing in return. Until 1861, the vast majority of Russia's population were serfs, beholden to the state or to private landlords. As such, peasants could legally be beaten by their masters, be exiled, and be inducted into the army, but they were forbidden to protest to the authorities about mistreatment. Human rights was an alien notion to them.

Private property and public justice were similarly underdeveloped, arriving in the country relatively late and in an imperfect form. Whereas in England land was treated as a commodity in the thirteenth century, in tsarist Russia all land belonged to the crown until the mid-eighteenth century, when ownership was granted to the nobility. The great majority of peasants lived in communes, which held title to village land and redistributed it periodically to households to account for changes in family size. Only a small minority owned their land outright. An effective Russian judiciary did not emerge until 1864. Even then, the broad range of activities classified as political crimes were dealt with by arbitrary administrative procedures rather than by the courts.

These factors -- the absence of social and national cohesion, the ignorance of civil rights, the lack of any real notion of private property, and an ineffective judiciary -- prompted Russians to desire strong tsarist rule. With few lateral social ties, they relied on the state to protect them from each other. They wanted their rulers to be both strong and harsh, qualities designated by the Russian word groznyi, meaning "awesome" (incorrectly translated as "terrible"), the epithet applied to Tsar Ivan IV. Experience has taught Russians to associate weak government -- and democracy is seen as weak -- with anarchy and lawlessness.

Such is Russia's cultural inheritance, the net effect of which is to make Russians, even in modern times, the least socialized or politicized people on the European continent. Twice in one century -- 1917 and 1991 -- their governments collapsed almost overnight, with people seemingly indifferent to their fate. In both cases, governments forfeited their right to exist in the eyes of Russians because they had ceased to be "awesome."

REJECTING RIGHTS

The current mood of the Russian population can be determined from opinion surveys. The leading polling organization is the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, which is based in Moscow and directed by Iurii Levada (VTSIOM and VTSIOM-A). Its in-depth analyses of attitudes on a variety of subjects provide invaluable insight into the Russian mind. Polling is also conducted by the Institute of Complex Social Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IKSI), and Validata, a center for market and opinion research headed by Maria Volkenstein. Results of these surveys frequently appear in the Russian daily newspaper "Izvestiia."

These sources suggest that modern Russians, like their ancestors, feel estranged from both the state and society at large. Their allegiance is to family and friends, those they address familiarly as ty (as opposed to the more formal vy), and they feel little affinity with any larger community. Trust of outsiders, the basis of civilization in the West, is still largely absent in the country.

Russians openly identify with a "small fatherland." When asked, "What do you connect most directly with the idea of our nation?" in a 1999 poll, 35 percent replied, "Where I was born and grew up," whereas only 19 percent opted for the "state in which I live" (1/17).**(see endnotes)** Russians are far more asocial and apolitical than their Western counterparts, tending to withdraw into private worlds where they feel in control. They are said to live "in trenches," surrounded by enemies (10). Comparing citizens' attitudes toward their government in Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Sweden, Validata surveys concluded that Americans and Swedes display the highest trust in the state, whereas Russians "don't trust the state at all" (3/20).

Democracy is widely viewed as a fraud. There is a prevalent perception that Russia's politics have been "privatized" and are controlled by powerful clans. Seventy-eight percent of respondents in a 2003 survey said that democracy is a facade for a government controlled by rich and powerful cliques. Only 22 percent expressed a preference for democracy, whereas 53 percent positively disliked it (9). Asked in another poll whether multiparty elections do more harm than good, 52 percent of respondents answered "more harm" and a mere 15 percent said "more good" (5/91). Political parties are also unpopular, and most Russians are quite amenable to living in a one-party state. According to a recent survey by the Center of Sociological Studies of the University of Moscow, 82 percent of Russians feel they have no influence over the national government; 78 percent say they even have no influence over local government (13).

Enhancing personal freedoms and improving civil rights do not attract much support. When asked to choose between "freedom" and "order," 88 percent of respondents in Voronezh Province expressed preference for order, seemingly unaware that the two outcomes are not mutually exclusive and that in Western democracies they reinforce each other. Only 11 percent said they would be unwilling to surrender their freedoms of speech, press, or movement in exchange for stability. Twenty-nine percent, meanwhile, were quite prepared to give up their freedoms for nothing in return, because they attached no value to them (14). A survey conducted in the winter of 2003-4 by ROMIR Monitoring, a sociological research unit, found that 76 percent of Russians favor restoring censorship over the mass media (15).

Such opinions led Alexander Yakovlev, a principal architect of Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika, to bemoan his compatriots' penchant for authoritarian rule. In an interview with the "Financial Times," he observed that none of the winning parties in the December 2003 Duma elections "had even once mentioned the word 'freedom' [;] all the slogans were about banning, locking up and punishing" (6).

The judicial system is held in contempt as both corrupt and subservient to the state, especially since Putin took over the presidency. In August 2003, the "Financial Times" reported that Russia's leading businesses had set up an arbitration system to bypass courts that they accused of lacking independence. Court rulings, a businessman claimed, were "swayed by local authorities, government, or businesses 'just paying' for their decisions. We have a new phrase in Russia: 'court auctions.' ... 'Whoever pays more, wins.'"

Russian attitudes toward private enterprise and property rights are hardly more positive. Here, too, the prevailing mood ranges from indifference to cynicism to outright hostility. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed in a poll published in January 2004, for example, said that wealth in Russia can be acquired only through connections. Four out of five respondents stated that the inequalities in wealth in modern Russia are excessive and illegitimate, and most blamed the country's widespread poverty on an unjust economic system (16).

Only a quarter or so of Russians regard private property as an important human right (1/10). One Russian analyst attributes this outlook to the uneven distribution of property in the country. By his estimate, a mere 3.6 million Russian citizens own assets worth preserving: "In Russia, there are too few people who have something to protect. And for this reason, there are too many who want to appropriate the belongings of others" (12). In accordance with this explanation, polling data indicate that slightly more than half the population considers the nonpayment of debts and shoplifting to be "fully acceptable" behavior (1/31).

The spirit of entrepreneurship in Russia also is weak, because the quest for security overrides ambition. In response to the question "Would you accept an executive post?" for example, only 9 percent responded affirmatively, whereas 63 percent said, "No, under no conditions" (5/119). Some 60 percent of Russians would opt for a small but assured income, with a mere 6 percent prepared to accept the risks attendant on private enterprise (1/14). With each passing year, an increasing number of Russians want the government to be more involved in the country's economic life (16). In 1999, 72 percent said they wanted to restrict private economic initiative (1/4). The only bright spot is that the younger generation is more favorably disposed to private enterprise and to fortunes accumulated by capitalist means than are older Russians (1/5).

OF TWO MINDS

Russia's self-image is contradictory. When asked, without reference to other nations, how they feel about themselves and their country, Russians brim with pride. They mention their "dramatic history, rich culture, friendships, honesty, openness, emotions, calm." They especially like to boast of their victory in World War II and of their leadership in space exploration. And they consider themselves to possess the greatest capacity for friendship of any nation in the world (10; 3/64 & 67).

But the picture changes radically when they are asked to think of themselves in relation to other nations. According to Validata surveys, Russians suffer from an acute sense of inferiority: they have the lowest level of self-esteem of the five nations studied (the United States has the highest). This observation leads to a convincing explanation for recent trends in Russian politics: having lost its sense of national identity after 1991, Russia is struggling to create a new one based on a blend of tsarism, communism, and Stalinism (3/14). People's identification with strong government -- at home and abroad -- is a central part of this effort. And a "strong government" means military prowess that foreigners will respect or just fear.

Many Russians still see themselves as surrounded by foes. Asked, "Does Russia have enemies?" in one poll, two-thirds responded affirmatively, citing (in decreasing order of perceived magnitude of the threat) "industrial-financial circles in the West," the United States, NATO, Russian "oligarchs" and bankers, democrats, and Islamic extremists. Russian observers explain that people need enemies because they provide the only source of national unity; the ideal of freedom, they argue, has proven unable to serve as psychological "cement" (2/103; 12).

To frustrate the designs of these imaginary enemies, 78 percent of Russians insist that Russia must be a great power (2/8). This desire manifests itself in a variety of ways. Asked in 1999 to list the ten greatest men of all times and nations, respondents named nine Russians. (The only foreigner was Napoleon, presumably because he was defeated on Russian soil.) The first five people on the list were Peter the Great, Lenin, Pushkin, Stalin, and the astronaut Iurii Gagarin (1/19). Apart from Pushkin, these historical figures have in common their success in making Russia a power to be reckoned with on land and in space. When asked why they admired Stalin, people answered, "He raised the country" (10).

Much of the nostalgia for the Soviet Union derives from the belief that it made Russia a great power on the world stage, a status it has since lost. When asked how they would like their country to be perceived by other nations, 48 percent of Russians said "mighty, unbeatable, indestructible, a great world power." Only 22 percent wanted Russia to be seen as "affluent and thriving"; 6 percent as "educated, civilized, and cultured"; 3 percent as "peace-loving and friendly"; and a mere 1 percent as "law-abiding and democratic" (13). These findings help explain why so many Russians -- 74 percent in one poll -- regret the Soviet Union's passing (1/9). Another survey, conducted toward the end of 2000, asked Russian citizens whether they considered the present regime or the one that had preceded it to be "legitimate, popular, and their own." Fully one-third applied these adjectives to the Soviet Union, a regime that had ceased to exist nine years earlier. Only 12 percent regarded the postcommunist regime as "legitimate," and only 2 percent called it "their own" (7). Hence it is not surprising that when asked in an October 2003 survey how they would react if the Communists staged a coup, 23 percent of respondents said they would actively support it, 19 would collaborate with the insurgents, 27 percent would try to survive, 16 percent would emigrate, and only 10 percent would actively resist (11).

Hostility toward the West, which is still seen by many as an enemy and a bearer of alien values, is widespread in Russia. The question "Do you feel European?" elicited the response "Yes, always" from only 12 percent, whereas 56 percent replied, "Practically never" (4/98). The United States is especially disliked, largely because it is seen to have usurped the global hegemony that Russia once shared with it. Every move the United States makes on the international scene, or in space exploration, is interpreted by the Russian media as yet another attempt to solidify Washington's dominance. The performance of American troops in Iraq was at first ridiculed ("Such fear and such hysterical shooting in all directions has so far not been seen in military history" was how one journalist put it in "Izvestiia") (8). When the war ended in a quick and decisive victory, the press once again dismissed the United States: the achievement was the result of bribes to the Iraqi army rather than the product of courage and sound military strategy.

PEOPLE'S MAN

In aggregate, the conclusions from surveys of Russian opinion are far from encouraging. Western commentators watch with dismay as Putin slowly and deliberately transforms Russia into a one-party state. But they fail to recognize, even more ominously, that Russians by sizable majorities actually approve of his actions. Putin's victory in the 2004 presidential elections is certainly due in part to his stifling of the opposition. But he is popular precisely because he has re-instated Russia's traditional model of government: an autocratic state in which citizens are relieved of responsibility for politics and in which imaginary foreign enemies are invoked to forge an artificial unity. The only desire that Putin has not yet satisfied is restoring Russia's status as a great military power. But if his response to other public demands offers a model, then this wish, too, is likely to be provided in good time.

ENDNOTES

1 Numbers in parentheses refer to the following sources (for books and journals, the page number follows the slash): (1) "Chelovek i vlast'" (Moscow, 1999); (2) Ibid., Appendix; (3) Validata, "Nations as Brands" (Moscow, 2003); (4) Vestnik Moskovskoi Shkoly Politicheskikh Issledovanii, no. 10 (1998); (5) Ibid., no. 13 (1999); (6) "Financial Times," Dec. 30, 2003; (7) "Izvestiia," Nov. 21, 2000; (8) "Izvestiia," April 10, 2003; (9) "Izvestiia," July 29, 2003; (10) "Izvestiia," Aug. 21, 2003; (11) "Izvestiia," Nov. 8, 2003; (12) "Izvestiia," Nov. 12, 2003; (13) "Izvestiia," Nov. 14, 2003; (14) "Izvestiia," Dec. 22, 2003; (15) "Izvestiia," Jan. 14, 2004; (16) "Izvestiia," Jan. 22, 2004.
Corlyss
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Corlyss_D
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Aug 29, 2006 3:17 pm

Flight From Freedom: What Russians Think and Want
By Richard Pipes

From Foreign Affairs, May/June 2004
Summary: Critics decry Vladimir Putin for turning Russia into a one-party state. But polls suggest that Russians actually approve of his actions by sizable majorities, caring little for core Western principles such as democratic liberties and civil rights.

Richard Pipes is Professor of History, Emeritus, at Harvard University. He was Director of Eastern European and Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council in 1981-82.

When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, expectations were high that Russia, rid of communism, would take a firm pro-Western course: democratizing its political system, granting its citizens unassailable civil rights, and rejoining the international community. Such were the promises made by President Boris Yeltsin when he took charge. But after more than a decade, these expectations have not been realized. Since ex-KGB colonel Vladimir Putin took over as president in 2000, Russia's democratic institutions have been muzzled, its civil rights restricted, and its cooperation with the international community far from assured.

What accounts for these unwelcome trends? Polling data from a variety of sources suggest that the answer is more complex than meets the eye. Although actions undertaken by Putin and his associates play a large part, there is a good deal of evidence that the antidemocratic, antilibertarian actions of the current administration are not being inflicted on the Russian people but are actually supported by them. This evidence also indicates that no more than one Russian in ten cares about democratic liberties and civil rights.

DEJÀ VU

Before examining what Russians say and think today, it is necessary to look back at Russia's past. Despite its reputation for unpredictability, Russia is a remarkably conservative nation whose mentality and behavior change slowly, if at all, over time, regardless of the regime in power.

As recently as 75 years ago, 80 percent of Russia's population engaged in agriculture and lived in scattered, largely self-sufficient villages. (The country had only two major cities -- Moscow and St. Petersburg -- themselves made up of sizable migrant peasant populations.) In a predominantly rural society, the kind of social cohesion that Westerners took for granted in their own countries was very weakly developed: Russia was not so much a society as an agglomeration of tens of thousands of separate rural settlements.

National feelings, therefore, were also poorly developed, except at times of foreign invasions. Until recently, Russian peasants were more likely to identify themselves as Orthodox Christians than as Russians. The pre-1917 tsarist government, which punished any attempt by its subjects to interfere with politics, was a remote force: it collected taxes and drafted soldiers but gave its citizens virtually nothing in return. Until 1861, the vast majority of Russia's population were serfs, beholden to the state or to private landlords. As such, peasants could legally be beaten by their masters, be exiled, and be inducted into the army, but they were forbidden to protest to the authorities about mistreatment. Human rights was an alien notion to them.

Private property and public justice were similarly underdeveloped, arriving in the country relatively late and in an imperfect form. Whereas in England land was treated as a commodity in the thirteenth century, in tsarist Russia all land belonged to the crown until the mid-eighteenth century, when ownership was granted to the nobility. The great majority of peasants lived in communes, which held title to village land and redistributed it periodically to households to account for changes in family size. Only a small minority owned their land outright. An effective Russian judiciary did not emerge until 1864. Even then, the broad range of activities classified as political crimes were dealt with by arbitrary administrative procedures rather than by the courts.

These factors -- the absence of social and national cohesion, the ignorance of civil rights, the lack of any real notion of private property, and an ineffective judiciary -- prompted Russians to desire strong tsarist rule. With few lateral social ties, they relied on the state to protect them from each other. They wanted their rulers to be both strong and harsh, qualities designated by the Russian word groznyi, meaning "awesome" (incorrectly translated as "terrible"), the epithet applied to Tsar Ivan IV. Experience has taught Russians to associate weak government -- and democracy is seen as weak -- with anarchy and lawlessness.

Such is Russia's cultural inheritance, the net effect of which is to make Russians, even in modern times, the least socialized or politicized people on the European continent. Twice in one century -- 1917 and 1991 -- their governments collapsed almost overnight, with people seemingly indifferent to their fate. In both cases, governments forfeited their right to exist in the eyes of Russians because they had ceased to be "awesome."

REJECTING RIGHTS

The current mood of the Russian population can be determined from opinion surveys. The leading polling organization is the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, which is based in Moscow and directed by Iurii Levada (VTSIOM and VTSIOM-A). Its in-depth analyses of attitudes on a variety of subjects provide invaluable insight into the Russian mind. Polling is also conducted by the Institute of Complex Social Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IKSI), and Validata, a center for market and opinion research headed by Maria Volkenstein. Results of these surveys frequently appear in the Russian daily newspaper "Izvestiia."

These sources suggest that modern Russians, like their ancestors, feel estranged from both the state and society at large. Their allegiance is to family and friends, those they address familiarly as ty (as opposed to the more formal vy), and they feel little affinity with any larger community. Trust of outsiders, the basis of civilization in the West, is still largely absent in the country.

Russians openly identify with a "small fatherland." When asked, "What do you connect most directly with the idea of our nation?" in a 1999 poll, 35 percent replied, "Where I was born and grew up," whereas only 19 percent opted for the "state in which I live" (1/17).**(see endnotes)** Russians are far more asocial and apolitical than their Western counterparts, tending to withdraw into private worlds where they feel in control. They are said to live "in trenches," surrounded by enemies (10). Comparing citizens' attitudes toward their government in Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Sweden, Validata surveys concluded that Americans and Swedes display the highest trust in the state, whereas Russians "don't trust the state at all" (3/20).

Democracy is widely viewed as a fraud. There is a prevalent perception that Russia's politics have been "privatized" and are controlled by powerful clans. Seventy-eight percent of respondents in a 2003 survey said that democracy is a facade for a government controlled by rich and powerful cliques. Only 22 percent expressed a preference for democracy, whereas 53 percent positively disliked it (9). Asked in another poll whether multiparty elections do more harm than good, 52 percent of respondents answered "more harm" and a mere 15 percent said "more good" (5/91). Political parties are also unpopular, and most Russians are quite amenable to living in a one-party state. According to a recent survey by the Center of Sociological Studies of the University of Moscow, 82 percent of Russians feel they have no influence over the national government; 78 percent say they even have no influence over local government (13).

Enhancing personal freedoms and improving civil rights do not attract much support. When asked to choose between "freedom" and "order," 88 percent of respondents in Voronezh Province expressed preference for order, seemingly unaware that the two outcomes are not mutually exclusive and that in Western democracies they reinforce each other. Only 11 percent said they would be unwilling to surrender their freedoms of speech, press, or movement in exchange for stability. Twenty-nine percent, meanwhile, were quite prepared to give up their freedoms for nothing in return, because they attached no value to them (14). A survey conducted in the winter of 2003-4 by ROMIR Monitoring, a sociological research unit, found that 76 percent of Russians favor restoring censorship over the mass media (15).

Such opinions led Alexander Yakovlev, a principal architect of Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika, to bemoan his compatriots' penchant for authoritarian rule. In an interview with the "Financial Times," he observed that none of the winning parties in the December 2003 Duma elections "had even once mentioned the word 'freedom' [;] all the slogans were about banning, locking up and punishing" (6).

The judicial system is held in contempt as both corrupt and subservient to the state, especially since Putin took over the presidency. In August 2003, the "Financial Times" reported that Russia's leading businesses had set up an arbitration system to bypass courts that they accused of lacking independence. Court rulings, a businessman claimed, were "swayed by local authorities, government, or businesses 'just paying' for their decisions. We have a new phrase in Russia: 'court auctions.' ... 'Whoever pays more, wins.'"

Russian attitudes toward private enterprise and property rights are hardly more positive. Here, too, the prevailing mood ranges from indifference to cynicism to outright hostility. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed in a poll published in January 2004, for example, said that wealth in Russia can be acquired only through connections. Four out of five respondents stated that the inequalities in wealth in modern Russia are excessive and illegitimate, and most blamed the country's widespread poverty on an unjust economic system (16).

Only a quarter or so of Russians regard private property as an important human right (1/10). One Russian analyst attributes this outlook to the uneven distribution of property in the country. By his estimate, a mere 3.6 million Russian citizens own assets worth preserving: "In Russia, there are too few people who have something to protect. And for this reason, there are too many who want to appropriate the belongings of others" (12). In accordance with this explanation, polling data indicate that slightly more than half the population considers the nonpayment of debts and shoplifting to be "fully acceptable" behavior (1/31).

The spirit of entrepreneurship in Russia also is weak, because the quest for security overrides ambition. In response to the question "Would you accept an executive post?" for example, only 9 percent responded affirmatively, whereas 63 percent said, "No, under no conditions" (5/119). Some 60 percent of Russians would opt for a small but assured income, with a mere 6 percent prepared to accept the risks attendant on private enterprise (1/14). With each passing year, an increasing number of Russians want the government to be more involved in the country's economic life (16). In 1999, 72 percent said they wanted to restrict private economic initiative (1/4). The only bright spot is that the younger generation is more favorably disposed to private enterprise and to fortunes accumulated by capitalist means than are older Russians (1/5).

OF TWO MINDS

Russia's self-image is contradictory. When asked, without reference to other nations, how they feel about themselves and their country, Russians brim with pride. They mention their "dramatic history, rich culture, friendships, honesty, openness, emotions, calm." They especially like to boast of their victory in World War II and of their leadership in space exploration. And they consider themselves to possess the greatest capacity for friendship of any nation in the world (10; 3/64 & 67).

But the picture changes radically when they are asked to think of themselves in relation to other nations. According to Validata surveys, Russians suffer from an acute sense of inferiority: they have the lowest level of self-esteem of the five nations studied (the United States has the highest). This observation leads to a convincing explanation for recent trends in Russian politics: having lost its sense of national identity after 1991, Russia is struggling to create a new one based on a blend of tsarism, communism, and Stalinism (3/14). People's identification with strong government -- at home and abroad -- is a central part of this effort. And a "strong government" means military prowess that foreigners will respect or just fear.

Many Russians still see themselves as surrounded by foes. Asked, "Does Russia have enemies?" in one poll, two-thirds responded affirmatively, citing (in decreasing order of perceived magnitude of the threat) "industrial-financial circles in the West," the United States, NATO, Russian "oligarchs" and bankers, democrats, and Islamic extremists. Russian observers explain that people need enemies because they provide the only source of national unity; the ideal of freedom, they argue, has proven unable to serve as psychological "cement" (2/103; 12).

To frustrate the designs of these imaginary enemies, 78 percent of Russians insist that Russia must be a great power (2/8 ). This desire manifests itself in a variety of ways. Asked in 1999 to list the ten greatest men of all times and nations, respondents named nine Russians. (The only foreigner was Napoleon, presumably because he was defeated on Russian soil.) The first five people on the list were Peter the Great, Lenin, Pushkin, Stalin, and the astronaut Iurii Gagarin (1/19). Apart from Pushkin, these historical figures have in common their success in making Russia a power to be reckoned with on land and in space. When asked why they admired Stalin, people answered, "He raised the country" (10).

Much of the nostalgia for the Soviet Union derives from the belief that it made Russia a great power on the world stage, a status it has since lost. When asked how they would like their country to be perceived by other nations, 48 percent of Russians said "mighty, unbeatable, indestructible, a great world power." Only 22 percent wanted Russia to be seen as "affluent and thriving"; 6 percent as "educated, civilized, and cultured"; 3 percent as "peace-loving and friendly"; and a mere 1 percent as "law-abiding and democratic" (13). These findings help explain why so many Russians -- 74 percent in one poll -- regret the Soviet Union's passing (1/9). Another survey, conducted toward the end of 2000, asked Russian citizens whether they considered the present regime or the one that had preceded it to be "legitimate, popular, and their own." Fully one-third applied these adjectives to the Soviet Union, a regime that had ceased to exist nine years earlier. Only 12 percent regarded the postcommunist regime as "legitimate," and only 2 percent called it "their own" (7). Hence it is not surprising that when asked in an October 2003 survey how they would react if the Communists staged a coup, 23 percent of respondents said they would actively support it, 19 would collaborate with the insurgents, 27 percent would try to survive, 16 percent would emigrate, and only 10 percent would actively resist (11).

Hostility toward the West, which is still seen by many as an enemy and a bearer of alien values, is widespread in Russia. The question "Do you feel European?" elicited the response "Yes, always" from only 12 percent, whereas 56 percent replied, "Practically never" (4/98 ). The United States is especially disliked, largely because it is seen to have usurped the global hegemony that Russia once shared with it. Every move the United States makes on the international scene, or in space exploration, is interpreted by the Russian media as yet another attempt to solidify Washington's dominance. The performance of American troops in Iraq was at first ridiculed ("Such fear and such hysterical shooting in all directions has so far not been seen in military history" was how one journalist put it in "Izvestiia") (8 ). When the war ended in a quick and decisive victory, the press once again dismissed the United States: the achievement was the result of bribes to the Iraqi army rather than the product of courage and sound military strategy.

PEOPLE'S MAN

In aggregate, the conclusions from surveys of Russian opinion are far from encouraging. Western commentators watch with dismay as Putin slowly and deliberately transforms Russia into a one-party state. But they fail to recognize, even more ominously, that Russians by sizable majorities actually approve of his actions. Putin's victory in the 2004 presidential elections is certainly due in part to his stifling of the opposition. But he is popular precisely because he has re-instated Russia's traditional model of government: an autocratic state in which citizens are relieved of responsibility for politics and in which imaginary foreign enemies are invoked to forge an artificial unity. The only desire that Putin has not yet satisfied is restoring Russia's status as a great military power. But if his response to other public demands offers a model, then this wish, too, is likely to be provided in good time.

ENDNOTES

1 Numbers in parentheses refer to the following sources (for books and journals, the page number follows the slash): (1) "Chelovek i vlast'" (Moscow, 1999); (2) Ibid., Appendix; (3) Validata, "Nations as Brands" (Moscow, 2003); (4) Vestnik Moskovskoi Shkoly Politicheskikh Issledovanii, no. 10 (1998); (5) Ibid., no. 13 (1999); (6) "Financial Times," Dec. 30, 2003; (7) "Izvestiia," Nov. 21, 2000; (8 ) "Izvestiia," April 10, 2003; (9) "Izvestiia," July 29, 2003; (10) "Izvestiia," Aug. 21, 2003; (11) "Izvestiia," Nov. 8, 2003; (12) "Izvestiia," Nov. 12, 2003; (13) "Izvestiia," Nov. 14, 2003; (14) "Izvestiia," Dec. 22, 2003; (15) "Izvestiia," Jan. 14, 2004; (16) "Izvestiia," Jan. 22, 2004.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Aug 29, 2006 3:22 pm

Crisis in the Caucasus: A New Look at Russia's Chechen Impasse
By Charles King

From Foreign Affairs, March/April 2003

The Chechen Wars: Will Russia Go the Way of the Soviet Union?. Matthew Evangelista. Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2003, 352 pp. $49.95.

It is hard to think of a more likely pair of candidates for historical enmity than the Russian government and the Chechens. In the nineteenth century, Russia's expansion into the Caucasus was slowed by the opposition of local mountain peoples, of whom the Chechens were among the most fierce. Vicious frontier wars raged for much of the century and ended with the death or forced migration of hundreds of thousands of highlanders. The Chechens were targeted again in 1944, when the Soviet government packed off the entire nation, as many as half a million people, to Central Asia for allegedly collaborating with the Nazis. They were "rehabilitated" only in 1957, when they were allowed to return in diminished numbers to their autonomous republic in the northeastern Caucasus.

It is no surprise, then, that the loosening of Soviet control allowed this history to come to the fore yet again, fueling two new rounds of warfare: from 1994 to 1996 and from 1999 to the present. But as Matthew Evangelista shows in his impressive new book, predicting violence in Chechnya was easy. Explaining why it erupted when it did, and why the conflict now appears intractable, is far trickier.

WHY HERE? WHY NOW?

There are at least three broad ways of thinking about the origins of the Chechen conflict. The first focuses on history and culture. Altitude, as the saying goes, determines attitude, and one cannot observe the history of Chechen resistance to Russian rule without acknowledging the power of highland cultural norms -- codes of honor, a martial tradition that blurs the line between political rebellion and ordinary brigandage, the organization of society around rival clans -- in inspiring and sustaining violence. Political Islam has also played a role, in either its indigenous Sufi varieties or the militant Wahhabi form imported from the Arab world in the 1990s.

A second explanation attributes current problems to the legacy of the Soviet system itself. A standardized Chechen language was developed by Soviet linguists, just as many of the cultural symbols praised as timeless markers of Chechen identity were codified -- and in some cases manufactured -- during the Soviet period. Even Djokhar Dudaev, the trilby-wearing first president of Chechnya who was killed by a Russian rocket in 1996, learned what he knew of military tactics from the Soviet air force academy.

The problem with these two views is that there are plenty of conflict-prone regions in Eurasia that have inherited the same Soviet legacies but have still made the transition to postcommunism in relative peace. Consider Dagestan, a case that features prominently in Evangelista's book. Unlike any of the neighboring republics in the north Caucasus, the very name "Dagestan" -- the mountainous place -- is ethnically neutral, and for good reason: the republic is home to a bewildering mix of ethnic and linguistic groups. And many of these groups have histories of opposition to Russia at least as bloody as the Chechens'. Shamil, the great highland warlord and leader of the anti-Russian struggle in the nineteenth century, was a member of the Avar ethnic group, now the largest component of Dagestan's population. One could also name the Cherkess and Ingush in the Caucasus or the Crimean Tatars in Ukraine, all of whom were the victims of mass deportation from the 1860s to the 1940s, as evidence that suffering alone rarely motivates rebellion. In most of Russia's regions, the legacies of the past -- whether Soviet or pre-Soviet -- produced a preference for accommodation with Moscow after 1991. Only in Chechnya did they lead to war.

A third explanation for the violence of the 1990s thus concerns the idiosyncrasies of individual personalities and collective decision-making, and this is where Evangelista centers his analysis. Chechnya was not fated to end in violence. War came about because elites in Moscow thought it would serve as a deterrent to separatism elsewhere. Boris Yeltsin and his advisers were convinced that the growing militancy of the Chechen leadership in the early 1990s would produce a domino effect, a cascade of independence movements that would end in the disintegration of Russia itself. Similar concerns pushed Vladimir Putin in the direction of war, but calculations about his own political career may also have been at work. The rise of criminality and terrorism during the uneasy armistice from 1996 to 1999 turned Russian public opinion in favor of "doing something" about the Chechen menace, and Putin was able to ride the wave of popular support for a renewed war all the way to the presidency. There is little doubt that the resumption of violence in the fall of 1999 helped cement Putin's hold on power; since then, it has provided a convenient excuse for backtracking on some of the genuine reforms that came out of the otherwise disastrous Yeltsin era.

PAYING THE PRICE

If Yeltsin's war was purportedly about preserving the union, Putin's has now become about defending it -- against bandits, terrorists, and radical Islam. Both rhetorical devices have played well in Washington. There was Bill Clinton's shameful comparison of Chechnya with the American Civil War, as if international norms on the use of force -- especially against one's own citizens -- had not evolved in a century and a half. Since September 11, Putin has cast Chechnya as simply another theater in the global war on terrorism. That claim is less easy to dismiss than the portrayal of Yeltsin as a latter-day Lincoln. There are, no doubt, some Chechens who are fighting for national liberation, but their numbers are diminishing. The dogs of war -- people such as Salman Raduev, who recently succumbed to "internal bleeding" while in Russian custody, and Shamil Basaev, the mastermind of multiple hostage-taking episodes -- have now taken the helm. And their ties to the shadowy world of violent Islamist movements are manifold.

The human and material costs of the two Chechen wars are impossible to gauge with precision. Especially in the second war, the Russian government has restricted press access, and the profitable industry of kidnapping, a favored practice on all sides, has ensured that even the most intrepid observers have generally stayed away. But the broad outlines of the wars' devastating effects are clear. Tens of thousands of people have been killed -- many, perhaps most, of them civilians. The level of Russian military casualties is approaching that sustained by the Soviet Union during its ten-year quagmire in Afghanistan. Cities have been leveled by Russian bombs, and hundreds of thousands of citizens have been made refugees in neighboring republics and countries. The conflicts have had a negative effect on Russia's international standing and have helped push the country toward illiberal quasi-democracy, if not outright authoritarianism. They have brought terrorism to the heart of Moscow -- most recently in October 2002, when Chechen fighters seized an auditorium full of theater-goers, setting off a crisis that ended in the deaths of nearly 130 hostages during a gas attack by Russian security services. The war has thus had a doubly deleterious consequence for the Russian state: keeping it at arm's length from Western institutions while making it the West's partner in the minds of radical Islamists.

What might once have been a usable war now looks like an unwinnable one, and Evangelista's book is a detailed account of how things came to be this way. It is based on an exhaustive survey of the emerging memoir literature as well as on the work of prominent Russian analysts and journalists whose writings are not generally available to foreign readers. What the book lacks in the from-the-battlefield perspectives of Carlotta Gall, Thomas de Waal, and Anatol Lieven (all of whom covered the 1994-96 conflict), it more than makes up for with a compelling synthesis of new insights from Russian soldiers, scholars, and policymakers.

NOTHING PERSONAL

It is jarring, therefore, to read Evangelista's chapter on war crimes and international policy, a chapter that should have been the centerpiece of a broad indictment of U.S. and European responses to the war. It is instead a curiously emotional attack on Lieven, Jack Matlock, Robert Bruce Ware, and other leading Western experts. Evangelista's main charge is that these analysts have "sought to rationalize" -- by which he seems to mean "justify" -- Russian brutality, especially since 1999. He says that these writers' "poor understanding in general of international law" has led to their "ready acceptance" of indiscriminate bombing, civilian deaths, and numerous violations of basic human rights, all in the name of foiling separatism and fighting terrorists.

These are sweeping and serious accusations. They are also highly inaccurate, if not libelous, and Evangelista needs far more than a series of selective quotes to buttress them. It is simply ridiculous to imply that Ware, arguably America's leading authority on Dagestan and a writer intimately familiar with the suffering of civilians in the north Caucasus, or Lieven -- who, as a former war reporter, knows what it is like to be on the receiving end of Russian bombs -- have somehow given Moscow a pass on wartime atrocities. There is nothing in the work of these writers that even hints at a "rationalization" of the war. They have simply made the important observation that the United States and other countries often find themselves wagging a finger at Russia for acts that are uncomfortably close to ones that they themselves have committed -- and, in the murky environment of the war on terrorism, may commit again. The enforcers of international law are also often its violators, and to note this paradox is not to endorse the policies that might follow from it. It is odd that Evangelista is unable to tell the difference.

Evangelista means to offer a critical analysis of Western, especially American, policy on Chechnya, and the intention is laudable. The substance, however, is sometimes sophomoric. "How has Russia managed to avoid the status of international pariah," he asks, "that Slobodan Milosevic earned for Serbia by his prosecution of wars in the former Yugoslavia?" The answer is that Russia is not Serbia. Russia's prosecution of the war has obviously been reprehensible. Mop-up operations have regularly led to civilian "disappearances" and deaths, and Moscow has been generally unwilling to prosecute its own officers and soldiers for known atrocities. As a matter of ethics, there is little doubt that the level of human suffering produced by the Russian government is at least as great as in conflicts in which the international community has intervened with force. But merely pointing out the inconsistency here is a lame critique. America's stance on Russia's conduct in Chechnya is simply in a different category from its policies on other egregious human rights violations -- say, those in the Balkans or Iraq. Inconsistency, after all, is the indispensable prerogative of great powers.

FEDERAL FEUD

Evangelista is right to challenge the Yeltsin government's claim, now muted under Putin, that the war was necessary to preserve the union -- that a failure to stand tough in Chechnya would give a green light to other would-be separatists. Evangelista argues convincingly that the Russian government's reactions to the problems of state weakness, particularly its resort to extreme violence, have actually made the problem worse. But the "flexible, negotiated federalism" advocated by Evangelista, the kind of arrangement worked out with many other Russian republics and regions after 1991, has not come without a price. This new-fangled federalism is in reality as far from good governance as the centralism of the Soviet era.

This point deserves further elaboration: Russia is still something close to an empire -- an electoral one, perhaps, but a political system whose essential attributes are simply not those of a modern state. Central power, where it exists, is exercised through subalterns who function as effective tax- and ballot-farmers: they surrender up a portion of local revenue and deliver the votes for the center's designated candidates in national elections in exchange for the center's letting them run their own fiefdoms. Viceroys sent from the capital keep tabs on local potentates but generally leave them to their own devices. State monopolies or privileged private companies secure strategic resources and keep open the conduits that provide money to the metropole. The conscript military, weak and in crisis, is given the task of policing the restless frontier -- fighting a hot war in Chechnya and patrolling the ceasefire lines of cold ones in the borderland emirates of Moldova, Georgia, and Tajikistan. Such arrangements do make for federalism of a sort, but in an older sense of the word. The concept comes, after all, from Rome's practice of accommodating threatening peoples by settling them inside the empire and paying them to be foederati, or self-governing border guards. It is federalism as an imperial survival strategy, not as a way of bringing government closer to the governed.

The problem with this system is not its fragility; as a form of political and economic organization, especially over vast stretches of territory, it has a track record far longer than that of the nation-state. It is, however, incompatible with the basic norms of liberal democracy and the free market. And that points to one of the chief criticisms that can be leveled against Western policy on the Chechen crisis: the insistence on interpreting the violence in the Caucasus as an embarrassing deviation from what is otherwise a path toward democracy. There may be plenty of reasons for the United States to tread lightly in its handling of the Chechen question. But treating Russia differently because it is a modern, democratizing state with an unfortunate terrorism problem is not one of them.



Putin's Putsch
By Charles King

From foreignaffairs.org, September 22, 2004
Summary: Charles King's postscript to his March/April 2003 essay "Crisis in the Caucasus: A New Look at Russia's Chechen Impasse."

The school siege in Beslan, in Russia's republic of North Ossetia, has escalated the conflict in the north Caucasus to a new level. Nearly 340 people, many of them children, died during the standoff between secessionist guerrillas and Russian security forces. A message recently posted on a pro-Chechen website seems to confirm what many believed: that the architect of the violence was Shamil Basaev, the most notorious of the dogs of war produced by the interminable Chechen conflict.

The school siege came in the aftermath of a suicide bombing outside a Moscow subway station and the downing of two Russian airliners, apparently by female terrorists. President Vladimir Putin has used these events to push through a fundamental reworking of Russia's constitutional structure: replacing the elected heads of the country's eighty-nine administrative regions with Kremlin appointees and changing the electoral system in a way that will virtually eliminate the dwindling democratic opposition. He is also considering an extension of his presidential term once it expires in 2008.

All of these events demonstrate the corrosive effect of Russia's unwinnable war against Chechen secessionism. Not only has the war brought terror to the heart of Moscow, but fighting it has now taken its toll on Russia's political system as well. Respected opposition commentators have even begun to use the f-word -- fascism -- to describe the blend of centralized control, personality cult, and Russian nationalism now being consolidated by the Putin leadership.

As never before, the Chechen conflict also threatens to spread to other parts of the north Caucasus. There has been serious violence outside Chechnya before, but the scale and audacity of the Beslan siege rocked an already volatile region, where interethnic tensions have always been high. In North Ossetia, ethnic Ossetians and ethnic Ingush, who already came to blows in the early 1990s, are now once again at odds. There are also signs of rising tension in neighboring republics: places such as Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachaevo-Cherkessia, and Dagestan. In a context of economic stagnation, widespread corruption, and communal discontent, a few armed men (or women) is all it takes to turn dissatisfaction into open discord. And with unresolved territorial disputes in the south Caucasus as well, the expansion of violence in the north could be the beginning of the real nightmare scenario: the eruption of multiple armed conflicts involving not only the region's many ethnic groups but also its four sovereign states -- Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.

Western governments are in a particularly weak position in their attempts to influence events. As Putin has pointed out, the power of the United States federal government expanded considerably in the face of terrorist attacks on American soil, and US-led coalitions arrogated to themselves the right to invade foreign countries in order to deal with terrorist threats. To American politicians, these parallels might seem shaky, but they are increasingly clear to Russia's own citizens and to their still very popular president. Russia's neighbors -- especially Georgia, which Moscow has previously accused of harboring terrorists, including Basaev -- should have something to fear from this logic.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

Gregory Kleyn

Post by Gregory Kleyn » Tue Aug 29, 2006 7:59 pm

Keep those original thoughts comin, Corlyss baby.

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Post by Madame » Tue Aug 29, 2006 8:51 pm

I better get some credits for taking this class, Lyss :)

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Post by paulb » Sun Sep 24, 2006 4:49 pm

Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

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Post by paulb » Sun Sep 24, 2006 4:53 pm

Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

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Post by paulb » Sun Sep 24, 2006 5:01 pm

Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

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Post by paulb » Sun Sep 24, 2006 5:10 pm

At least raed this link, its the latest and 'the best'.
Poor little Miss russia. When when she ever learn. When will she wake up....from her nightmare.....

:roll:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/articl ... e_continue
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Sep 25, 2006 12:59 am

Thanks for the links, Paul.

I seem to recall the Moscow editor of the Financial Times was assassinated several years ago for reporting on the corruption in the banking system too.
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