Staunton, June 19 – Since the Geneva summit, some Russian liberals and some Ukrainian patriots have insisted Joe Biden betrayed their causes, forgetting that the US president swore “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” and not in any case promising to defend democracy in Russia or Ukrainian independence, Vladislav Inozemtsev says.
By meeting with Vladimir Putin, Biden “didn’t betray anyone: he above all fulfilled his responsibilities before Americans by looking in the eyes of one of the main opponents of the free world, laying out the American position on basic foreign policy questions, and seeing where things stand,” the Russian commentator says (echo.msk.ru/blog/v_inozemcev/2857342-echo/).
In Russia today, Inozemtsev continues, there are two competing myths about the nature of the world. On the one hand, the Kremlin insists that Russia is surrounded by enemies and that the government must fight them. And on the other, the Russian opposition is waiting for the West to help them defeat Putin.
Both positions are fundamentally and even fatally flawed, he suggests. They ignore the fact that “violations of human rights in Russia are taking place because over the last 20 years, citizens have consistently avoided defending them and have allowed the powers to take ever greater control” and that foreign interference isn’t going to change that by itself.
“It is time for both Russian liberals and Ukrainian patriots to stop hoping for help from the outside” and accept its absence to the extent they want as a reflection of the national interests of other countries and “not as evidence of betrayal” of their own interests by Western countries,” Inozemtsev says.
“It seems to me,” he says, “that Russian and Ukrainian experts should more carefully study all the spectrum of US policy regarding human rights and assistance to allies, including sanctions on Russia … and support for Kyiv.” And they should also recognize two important aspects of the situation that they tend to ignore.
First, outside pressure has never led to the liberalization of Russia. “On the contrary.” When relations improve and thaw, then is the time when there is a chance for liberalization. And second, and this is especially important for Ukraine but not only it, many countries have been able to transform themselves into free market economies and democracies without much help.
If Russia and Ukraine were working in that direction rather than otherwise, they would have better relations with the West and have a better chance for support. Time, however, is working against both, as bad Russian behavior and inadequate Ukrainian behavior reduces the chance for improvements.
Both Russians and Ukrainians need to recognize that they are responsible for their futures rather than waiting for some magic assistance from abroad. Until they do so, neither will make the kind of progress they say they hope for. Instead, they will remain locked in a vicious circle which their rulers will exploit against them.