Thursday, May 20, 2021

Putin’s Aggressiveness Uniting West against Russia and Powering Its Search for Modus Vivendi with China, Shevtsova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 18 – Vladimir Putin’s aggressively anti-Western posture is helping the West to recover its lost self-discipline and unity by making Russia an enemy the West must oppose while allowing for Western governments to seek a modus vivendi with the rising power of China, Liliya Shevtsova says.

            And consequently, any short-term gains the Kremlin leader gets from his stance are almost certainly going to be lost in the longer term which for him and for Russia may very well end in a way resembling what occurred the last time the West had such unity against Moscow and result in the demise of the Russian Federation (

            “We consider it axiomatic that 1991 and the collapse of the USSR was a victory for the West,” Shevtsova says. But “that is true only in part.” Those events “gave rise to processes which led to a crisis in liberal democracy because the USSR as an Alternative forced the West to strengthen not only its military potential but its principles and its unity.”

            Until it collapsed, therefore, “the USSR for the West was a challenge” not that led to the destruction of Moscow’s opponents but rather led to “the strengthening of its vitality.” With the end of the USSR, the West lost that impulse, American hegemony and Trans-Atlantic unity all ceased to be “vital necessities.”

            “Values retreated into the background and Interest came to the fore!” Shevtsova continues. “The West opened its borders for foreign elites,” and the death of the USSR thus had the effect of issuing from the grave as it were a response.

            “Today,” the Russian political analyst continues, “a fork in the road has appeared before the liberal community.” Should it devote its primary attention to “geopolitical and economic interest” or should it follow its “Principles, human rights, freedom and the supremacy of law?”

            “Old Europe” had trended in the first direction; the United States under President Joe Biden has chosen the other, viewing values as the basis of its leading position and seeing Russia which challenges those values as the enemy that must be opposed even as it tries to find a modus vivendi with China.

            Had Russia behaved as it did until 2008, the US might have focused on China as the enemy, Shevtsova says. But Russian aggressiveness at a time when it is economically a declining power have not only helped the West to reunite around values but to make Russia rather than China the West’s primary enemy.

            The irony in this, Shevtsova continues, is that earlier Putin and Medvedev “by cooperating with the West weakened its readiness to engage in self-defense,” while “the later Putin and his anti-Western strategy has forced the West to stir itself and begin to restore its atrophied muscles.”

            In the short term, Putin may gain something from this at home; but in the longer term, he and his country are far more likely than not to suffer something like a recapitulation of the events of 1991.

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