Friday, June 6, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Kremlin’s Policies Cutting Size of Russian World Not Expanding It, Latynina Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 6 – Despite its claims to the contrary, the Kremlin is rapidly reducing the size of the “Russian world” rather than increasing it because it is alienating its neighbors by the use of force rather than attracting them by the strength of its economy and of its universities, according to Yuliya Latynina.

            In short, the “Novaya gazeta” commentator says, Moscow has misunderstood the nature of international politics at the present time – its leaders constantly say they are doing nothing the West hasn’t done – and the possibilities it would have if it were to adopt a different approach abroad and at home (

            The Kremlin has failed to see that there are certain important “differences” between how other countries conduct their geopolitical activity and how Russia does, she continues.  On the one hand, she points out, Western countries “support in foreign lands exactly the same values which they have at home.”

            It is legitimate to how realistic that approach is, she continues, but “one cannot say, for example, that the West supports democracy in the third word while seeking to root it out at home” or that it “demands the observation of human rights somewhere in Somalia but at home does not observe them.” 

            Russia’s approach is different: it “supports in Ukraine what is forbidden in Russia itself.” Moscow “recognizes ‘peoples mayors’ and ‘peoples governors’ abroad, but in Russia itself, Putin has just finally eliminated mayoral elections.” It annexes Crimea with a revolution but doesn’t allow resolutions in Russia. And itcalls for the dismemberment of Ukraine, but it has just made any call for a violation of the territorial integrity of Russia “a criminal offense.”
            One can easily imagine how the Kremlin would react if Navalny’s supporters took arms and seized a city administration, Latynina writes, but in Ukraine, the Kremlin supports exactly that and demands that Kyiv simply accept the results of such actions.

            Another problem with the Kremlin’s approach “completely grows out of the first,” she says. When the US gets involved abroad, it does so with the goal of “solving a problem.” Sometimes it can and sometimes not, but that is its goal. It is not in Iraq or Afghanistan to “create bloody chaos.”

            Russia’s policy is just the opposite. It seeks to create chaos, and that by its nature alienates those Moscow should be seeking to attract. “After the Russian-Georgian war, Russia lost Georgia, a country which had been part of the Russian world ... Now, Russia is losing Ukraine.

            “Putin isn’t increasing the size of the Russian world,” Latynina says. “He is reducing it.”

            In the past, military conquest might have been enough to expand influence, but the only means of doing so now, she suggests “is the development of economics and culture.”  One cannot be a “strong geopolitical player without being a strong economy.” China has understood that, but Russia under Putin has not.

            Moreover, Russia could have become not only the economic center of a Russian world but also “an intellectual, educational, and innovation” one as well. Students from Ukraine and Georgia would have wanted to study in Russia, people from neighboring countries would have wanted to go to Russian hospitals, and entrepreneurs would have flocked there.

            Had Russia adopted that course instead of the one it has, Latynina argues, “there would not have been any need to convert the Russian speaking population of the former republics into something like an angry Hamas organization which hates the countries in which they live” and which makes those around them hate their community and Russia itself.

            Pursuing policies like the ones Russia has chosen not do would constitute genuine geopolitics, the commentator concludes. What is going on is something else.  “It is simply geo-psychiatry.”

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