Friday, March 16, 2018

West Must Fundamentally Revise Its Understanding of the Russian Problem, Pavlova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 16 – In 1951, Irina Pavlova writes, George Kennan published in Foreign Affairs an article on “America and the Russian Future” in which he warned that it would be in vain to expect any future Russia to be “a capitalist, liberal-democratic state similar to the system in our republic.”

            Nearing the end of his life and under the impact of Gorbachev’s perestroika and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the American diplomat somewhat changed his ideas and suggested that “today it is practically impossible to return [Russia] to Brezhnev’s times” let alone to “the era of Stalin” (

            “Echoes of this euphoria,” the US-based Russian historian says, were to be heard in the declaration of British Prime Minister Teresa May in response to the attempted murder of Sergey Skripal when she said “Many of us looked at post-Soviet Russia with hoe. We wanted better relations and it is tragic that President Putin has decided to act as he has.”

            “We have no disagreements with the people of Russia,” the British leader said, a people “which over the course of its history has been able to achieve many great things.”  But the most important feature of the current moment, Pavlova says, is that “today, the Western community is confronted by the vital necessity of changing” that understanding of Russia.

            According to the Russian historian, this revision must involve eight things:

·         First, the West must “recognize the mistaken quality of expert assessments which politicians of the West have been led by the last 30 years.”

·         Second, it must “recognize that the West did not win ‘Cold War,’ and Russia did not lose it. It only tactically pulled back in order to ‘regroup’ and reappear in a new modernized capacity.”

·         Third, the West needs to recognize that “the political science discipline known as ‘transitology’ regarding Russia has failed,” and that its current efforts to project this possibility after Putin’s supposed last term as president are only the latest indication of that failure.

·         Fourth, Western leaders must recognize “that present-day Russia represents not ‘a sovereign/administered/electoral democracy’ but a modernized regime of the Stalinist type in the person of Vladimir Putin and his entourage.”

·         Fifth, the West must understand that it is confronted not simply by “Putin and his kleptocratic/mafia state’ but by Russia as a special civilization which has shown itself to the world as ‘a Brave Re-Stalinized World.’”

·         Sixth, it must face up to the fact that its conflict is not just with Putin but with something far larger, “a conflict of civilizations” between “’modernized Stalinism’” and “’Western civilization.’”

·         Seventh, the West must recognize that “the problem of Russia has become significantly more complicated as a result of its openness to the world after 1991, an open and globalized world where there are no obstacles including for agents of the Kremlin.”

·         And eighth, “the variant of armed overthrow of those who ‘rule the Russian people’ which Kennan considered in 1951 is impossible today because Russia in its current form will not tolerate any armed interference in its domestic affairs and is capable of responding with nuclear weapons.”

            Only after the West comes to terms with these eight things, Pavlova suggests, will it finally be in a position to reach an agreement on how to respond to Russia.

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