Staunton, January 1 – To combat the pandemic, almost every government around the world took measures to shut itself off from infections coming in from abroad but assured its citizens that these measures were temporary and would be lifted as soon as public health permitted.
Only one country, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, has gone beyond that, imposing restrictions on movement into and out of Russia greater and on contacts with foreigners more than the pandemic required and not issuing any promises that these restrictions will be completely eliminated after the pandemic passes, Aleksandr Golts says (ej.ru/?a=note&id=35720).
And the Kremlin leader has adopted another policy, isolating itself from the West by suggesting that the divisions between Russia and the West are now so deep that Moscow must work to contain its opponents and have diplomatic exchanges with them only in a highly selective manner that increasingly is reduced to the issue of how to avoid mutual destruction.
The newly passed laws extending the legal status of “foreign agents” to ordinary Russians is clearly intended to “completely hermetically seal” the Russian people from people abroad and “to break any communication with people abroad” other than that arranged by the Russian government.
“The last year has shown,” the Russian security analyst says, “that degradation is a process which doesn’t have any limit.” Golts acknowledges that he was wrong to think that Putin and his regime “are living in the world of RealPolitik of the 19th century.” In fact, they have returned things to the Middle Ages, to the time of the Borgias and the Medicis.
The leaders of major powers may be prepared to accept as “a partner” someone living according to the rules of Bismarck and Metternich, but it is unlikely that anyone will risk having anything to do with a leader who is taking his country back to pre-modern times as Putin has been doing.
And as a result and because of Moscow’s own actions, diplomacy between Moscow and the West is increasingly impossible because no compromises are obvious and because no one in the West is going to make significant concessions to achieve an accord which Putin may tear up when it suits him.
“In these circumstances,” Golts continues, “diplomacy is becoming simply redundant,” except of course in the Soviet manner of seeking agreement on how to avoid blowing up each other with nuclear weapons. Such talks are not unimportant, but they become far more difficult and the risks greater if conversations aren’t taking place on other subjects as well.