Monday, May 26, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s Choice of a Future More Limited than Most Think, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 26 – Russia faces a relatively limited choice about the direction it will follow, Vladimir Pastukhov argues.  A liberal democratic scenario at this stage need not be considered. Instead, the country will choose among a national theocracy, a civil police state or “the imitation of statehood” altogether.

            In an essay on yesterday, the St. Antony’s historian argues that “while Ukraine is voting for a virtual future, Russia is choosing that reality in which it will have to live over the course of the next three years and describes the three choices he says are the most likely (

            Pastukhov describes the first scenario as “permanent counter-revolution or a Theocratic black hundreds state.”  It would involve “a quite brutal variant of development” in which what the Kremlin has done in Ukraine would be the starting point for similar policies elsewhere in the neighboring countries and in Russia itself.

            The goal of such an approach, he suggests, would be “neither more nor less than a world revolution and the establishment of a new world order,” one in which Russia would be a dominant player.  “In place of ‘the red’ international would come a ‘black’ one” involving “the unhealthy union of all ‘healthy’ national forces of the planet.”

            The consequences for Ukraine if Russia chooses this scenario would be dire, the St. Antony’s historian says. They would not necessarily involve “direct military intervention” but they would “guarantee” that such an option would remain on the table, given that Moscow would do everything it could to make Ukraine’s future development more difficult.

            But the impact of this scenario on Russia itself would not involve “anything good” either. It would require that the country be prepared for “constant mobilization,” which in turn would require “emotional exaltation” which could not be achieved “without daily ideological pressure” from the state.

            That in turn would likely lead to “the formation of a firm ideological group, a kind of ‘collective Russian ayatollah,’ which would begin to impose on society a new matrix of behavior,” and “it is not excluded” that at some point this “’ayatollah’” would effectively take control of the Kremlin in order to do so.

            “Sooner or later,” Pastukhov says, “this will lead Russia ( and possibly the entire world) to a catastrophe but where and when this would happen is impossible to foresee today.”

            The Oxford historian’s second scenario, which he calls “Détente” combined with “a Civil police state,” would allow the Kremlin to “maintain control over the situation” and not permit the black hundreds elements to set the agenda.  It would involve the Kremlin’s revival of some of the principles of “’regular’” politics as exemplified during détente.

            Among these would be a joint “recognition de facto” by Russia and the West “of the existence in the world of two (or more) social-political systems based on different ideological foundations” and the acceptance of “the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of one another” and thus “the localization or marginalization of the ‘human rights’ theme.”

            This scenario would also require that economic cooperation be segregated from other issues, that Russia voluntarily limit itself “from the more brutal manifestations of nationalism and the suppression of the opposition,” and the preservation of some “open” channels for cooperation in the humanitarian sphere and a number of other “global problems.”

            The West would under the terms of this scenario “boost the rating of Russia in its geopolitical game by returning it for a time to a level close to what which the USSR had. This would mean an agreement to take into account Russia’s geopolitical concerns,” even if that means sacrificing liberal values.

            Such a scenario, of course, is “far from the liberal and democratic ideals” of the Russian intelligentsia of the 1990s and the West, but at least some of them and many in the West will see this outcome as a lesser evil “in comparison with the scenario of the ‘Iranization of Russia,’” Pastukhov argues.

            But such a scenario won’t be easy for Moscow to achieve.  Indeed, with each passing day, this becomes less likely, given the ideological climate the Kremlin has created.

            The third scenario Pastukhov discusses is one he calls “Neither war nor peace or No State at all.”  He suggests that this one appears “the most probable.” Under its terms, “the Kremlin will continue” its current zigzag approach, “now turning to one and then to another scenario” in the hopes of keeping its opponents off balance and winning short-term gains.

            But this will lead to both “chaos and amateurism” and thus to mistakes.  “Neither the black hundreds people nor the pragmatists will be in a position to conduct their respect courses in a consistent manner.” And thus Russia “will risk finding itself in the position of present-day Ukraine.”

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