maandag, juli 31, 2006

Israeli-Lebanese conflict as seen by Russian people door Andrei KOLESNIKOV in RIA Novosti, 31 juli 2006.

The Israeli-Lebanese conflict has been in the headlines of the Russian mass media for almost three weeks.

Polls show that the way ordinary Russians perceive this conflict is almost entirely free of the former Soviet image of "aggressive Israeli militarists," "the long-suffering people of Palestine" and other propagandist cliches and ideological stereotypes. Moreover, Russians' opinions on the Middle East confrontation are largely non-ideological. The major media, both electronic publications and quality newspapers, offer fairly objective coverage, providing information from each party and leaving it up to readers to assess the news and form their opinions.

Now, as the conflict has escalated into a more active phase, Russians' stand is largely determined by their attitudes towards Israel, which, despite an increase in xenophobia, have been increasingly neutral in recent years. At least, a February survey by the Public Opinion Foundation showed that 61% of respondents were indifferent to Israel, and 49% were not interested in the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation. At the same time, however, the number of people who have a positive view of Israel has fallen, from 30% to 24% in the last five years. Still, the change is not too dramatic, although it should perhaps be viewed in the context of stronger anti-American and anti-Western sentiments in Russian society.

July polls by the Public Opinion Foundation and the Levada Center yielded similar results. As many as 13% of respondents supported Israel and 8% sided with its opponents, according to the Foundation. In the Levada poll, 5% said Russia should support Israel, and 4% - Palestine and Lebanon. Many more respondents opted for a neutral stand: 63% in the Foundation's poll said they did not side with any party and 41% said they disapproved of Israel's actions and that the conflict should be settled peacefully. This opinion was shared by 48% of the Levada poll's respondents. Those who approved of Israel pointed out that it was trying to rescue its kidnapped soldiers. Still, most Russians are certain that escalation of the conflict will only encourage terrorism.

Perhaps, it would be wrong to say that the neutral position prevails only because the time when Russians had clear political and emotional preferences in Palestinian-Israeli wars is long gone. It is now more difficult for Russians to determine their attitudes towards those who fight against Israel.

In the February survey, respondents were asked to define these people as either terrorists or freedom fighters, and as many as 63% of respondents could not answer. Remarkably, the share of Russians who adopt a neutral position is similar. Now 17% of respondents (versus 20% two years ago) think that Palestinians engaged in fighting are terrorists. This, however, does not mean that the latter enjoy more sympathy: the share of people who view them as freedom fighters also dropped, from 26% to 20%. This is another proof of a growing uncertainty in assessments.

To sum up, neither the old Soviet stereotypes, nor stronger xenophobic sentiments influence Russian public opinion of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Moreover, not all Russians follow the developments even when they make international headlines: only 13% of respondents knew what had caused the recent escalation, while 24% had no idea.

Bron: RIA Novosti

TURKEY, RUSSIA AND MODERN NATIONALISM door Charles GRANT in CER Bulletin nr.49, Aug/Sept. 2006.

The EU faces few challenges greater than working out a modus vivendi with two large and difficult neighbours. The way the Union chooses to deal with this duo will do much to determine its future character. If it cannot develop a coherent and effective common policy towards Russia, its efforts to build a 'common foreign and security policy' will lack credibility. If it rules out Turkish membership, its voice and influence will diminish - and not only in Muslim countries. And if the EU mishandles both Russia and Turkey, it may unwittingly push them into an anti-European alliance.

Superficially, Russia and Turkey have much in common. Both straddle Europe and Asia and emerged out of multi-ethnic empires. In both, rapid economic modernisation is creating super-wealthy elites and widening inequalities. The western-leaning cultural capital (St Petersburg and Istanbul) vies for influence and status with the more inward-looking seat of government (Moscow and Ankara).

More fundamentally, both countries are uncertain of their European identity. Their pro-Europeans compete with traditionalists who argue that looking east is an option. Recently, for example, Russian leaders warned that if the EU was unco-operative they would turn to Asia for gas deliveries and political alliances. In Turkey those who argue for closer links with Russia, the Middle East and Central Asia have been relatively quiet in recent years, but will reassert themselves if Turkey's bid for EU membership falters.

In both, a prickly, defensive and sometimes paranoid nationalism is never far beneath the surface. Most Russians view the loss of empire in the Gorbachev period as a national humiliation. They lament Boris Yeltsin's cow-towing on foreign policy to a patronising West during the 1990s. Most are glad that high oil prices and Vladimir Putin's more disciplined regime have restored Russia's strength and international standing. Senior figures in the Russian security establishment see NATO as a hostile organisation with an anti-Russian rationale that is intent on surrounding the country and encouraging parts of it to break off.

Turkey lost its empire much longer ago, but the anguish of the early 1920s - when several European powers invaded Turkey - has not been forgotten or forgiven. When a West European reminds a Turk of his country's failure to apologise for the massacres of Armenians in 1915, or suggests autonomy for Turkey's Kurds, he may be told that the West Europeans are reviving ancient schemes to break up Turkey. Stung by the opposition of several EU countries to their bid for membership, some Turks accuse them of racial or religious prejudice. Of course, the paranoia of Russians and Turks is partly justified: there are people in the West (though more in Washington than Europe) who have spent recent years trying to weaken Russia, while a minority of West Europeans (including the Pope) wants the EU to be a Christian club.

National unity is a powerful doctrine in both states, championed by the security services and military establishments. 'Foreign forces' are accused of aiding Kurdish and Chechen separatists. In Turkey, many people believe that if separatist Kurds were granted more rights, their state would fall apart. In Russia, anyone who argues for a negotiated solution to the Chechen problem is soon branded unpatriotic.

Both countries lack natural allies among their neighbours and have a poor record of making friends. The Russians will not win over hearts and minds in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova or the Baltic states so long as they treat those places as part of their sphere of influence rather than independent countries. Russia's current boycott of Georgian and Moldovan wine, and of Ukrainian food, has damaged its soft power in its neighbourhood. Turkey has improved ties with Iran and Greece in recent years but still closes its border with Armenia.

Russia and Turkey are probably the most 'modern' states in Europe, in the sense defined by EU diplomat Robert Cooper: they are centralised and nationalist, resisting significant transfers of authority to autonomous regions within them or supranational institutions outside. By contrast the 'post-modern' EU states have shifted powers downwards to regions and upwards to Brussels. The modernism of Russia and Turkey makes it hard for them to integrate with the EU.

The big difference, of course, is that Turkey has begun membership talks while Russia has not applied to join (and would be rebuffed if it did, being much less democratic than Turkey). Turkey's secular elite sees accession as a fulfilment of the westernising vision of Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey; a way of fixing the country's secular orientation against Islamist threats; and a matter of national pride (if Greece is in, Turkey has to be). Meanwhile the Islamists in the AKP government look to accession as a way of ensuring that the military cannot intervene in politics. Russia's leaders, believing their country a great power, see little virtue in integrating with the EU.

However, this difference could diminish quite soon. The Cyprus problem seems likely to scupper Turkey's accession talks by the end of the year. Turkey will not ratify the extension of its customs union with the EU to the ten new members (including Cyprus) unless the EU delivers on its promised restoration of trade links with Northern Cyprus. The EU cannot because of Cyprus's veto. The collapse of the accession talks would strengthen nationalist forces within Turkey. In the long run Turkey may - like Russia - need to consider forms of association with the EU that are less than membership.

Russia is preparing to offer a sympathetic shoulder to a Turkey spurned by the EU. Over the past five years ties between this once hostile pair have burgeoned. Russia is Turkey's second biggest trading partner (after Germany), with two-way trade amounting to about $20 billion a year. Two million Russian tourists a year visit Turkey. Both countries are suspicious of US efforts to promote democracy in their region. Each has clamped down on the terrorist groups that threaten the other (Kurds in Russia, Chechens in Turkey). Each likes the fact that the other does not lecture it on human rights. President Putin and Prime Minister Erdogan met four times last year. Russian diplomats wax lyrical about Turkey and Russia becoming leading and allied Eurasian powers.

Nationalist and anti-EU sentiment is growing in both countries. If this trend continues, Russia and Turkey will create major problems for the EU. The Union therefore needs to renew its efforts to engage with both, looking for new ways of drawing them into its policies - even if, as is to be hoped, Turkey finds the stamina to continue its quest for membership.

Charles Grant is director of the CER.

Bron: Centre for European Reform

Russian WTO Entry Unlikely Before 2008 door Maxim MEDVEDKOV in Mosnews, 31 juli 2006.

Russia will not join the World Trade Organization this year and it might not happen in 2007 either, head of the Russian delegation at the WTO talks said Monday.

“Russia will not join WTO this year and, probably, it might not happen next year either,” the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted Maxim Medvedkov as saying.

“We will have time to prepare for WTO accession and analyze the pluses and minuses that we will receive,” Medvedkov said at a business conference in western Siberia.

He said Russia was close to the completion of the WTO talks, but 10-15 problems still remained on the agenda that had to be discussed more thoroughly.

Russia’s Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said on July 15 that Russia and the United States should sign the protocol on the completion of bilateral negotiations by the end of October, and multilateral negotiations should be completed by the end of March, 2007.

The U.S. remains the only country out of the 58-member Working Party on Russia’s accession with which Moscow has yet to sign a bilateral protocol.

The issue of access to Russia’s financial services market has been the main stumbling block in Russia’s bilateral negotiations with the U.S. Other issues include intellectual property rights, import duties and agricultural subsidies.

The U.S. had been pushing for permission for its banks to open branches in Russia, but a compromise appeared to have been reached in the run-up to the G8 summit, when Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said branches of insurance companies — though not banks — would be allowed to do so.


vrijdag, juli 28, 2006

Grote Mogendheid door Bart TROMP in Elsevier, 28 juli 2006.

De top van de zogenoemde G8 eerder deze maand in Sint-Petersburg was weinig meer dan een partijtje om de Russische president Vladimir Poetin te laten gloriëren. Besluiten van enig belang kwamen niet tot stand en over de kwestie die plotseling de agenda aanvoerde, de nieuwe oorlog in het Midden-Oosten, kwamen de leiders niet tot een gemeenschappelijk standpunt, behalve een slappe verklaring dat het allemaal erg was en moest ophouden.

De G7 is een gezelschap van democratieën. De G8, met Rusland erbij, is dat niet. Poetin hoefde op deze top echter geen kritiek te verwachten op zijn autoritaire politiek. Van de Amerikaanse president George W. Bush kreeg hij te horen dat democratie in Rusland er best heel anders kan uitzien dan een gewone democratie, waarop Poetin repliceerde dat hij zeker geen democratie als in Irak voor zijn land wenst. Daarop had geen Bush geen antwoord.

Zo markeerde de top ogenschijnlijk de terugkeer van Rusland als Grote Mogendheid, en dat was precies wat Poetin voor ogen stond. De stabiliteit van zijn bewind heeft haar vruchten opgebracht. De Russische economie groeit en bloeit, de buitenlandse schuld slinkt, de nog steeds immense armoede loopt geleidelijk terug. Vlak voor de top werd de boosaardigste en bekwaamste Tsjetsjeense rebellenleider uitgeschakeld, alsof het zo was besteld. Anders dan in de laatste jaren van president Boris Jeltsin is er geen twijfel over het centrum van de politieke macht. De 'oligarchen’ zijn politiek uitgeschakeld, zitten in het gevang (Michail Chodorkovski) of zijn gevlucht (Boris Berezovski). De nieuwe machtspositie van het Kremlin vertaalt zich ook in de groeiende invloed die het uitoefent in de voormalige Sovjet-republieken in Centraal-Azië, in de steun voor zo’n zelfde dictatuur in Wit-Rusland, en de slinkse pogingen tot destabilisatie in landen die een andere richting zijn ingeslagen: Oekraïne, Georgië, Moldavië.

Maar de macht van Poetins Rusland is vooral gebaseerd op gas en olie. De gestegen wereldprijzen verklaren de Russische rijkdom, niet nieuwe producten met hoge toegevoegde waarde voor de wereldmarkt. De sterke staat van Poetin berust op een fragiele basis met ingebouwde corruptie. Echte economische ontwikkeling wordt geremd door een gebrekkig rechtssysteem, zowel waar het wetten als waar het rechters betreft. Wie naar de samenstelling van de Russische export kijkt, ontwaart naast olie en gas vooral andere grondstoffen – het exportpakket van een ontwikkelingsland, hoeveel winst het ook mag opbrengen. De Russische infrastructuur is verwaarloosd; zelfs bij het vervoer van het zwarte goud gaat een zeer groot deel van de olie verloren door lekkages van het pijpleidingsysteem.

Potentieel is Rusland een rijk land. Het beschikt over de meeste natuurlijke hulpbronnen ter wereld en een goed opgeleide bevolking. Maar de huidige Russische economie stimuleert te weinig ondernemingszin en ondernemers, ze is in veel opzichten wat marxisten vroeger 'compradorkapitalisme’ noemden. Een economie waarin grondstoffen worden geëxporteerd zonder dat daar innovatie en productieve investeringen tegenover staan.

Maar zelfs als Rusland erin slaagt een andere weg in te slaan, dan nog zal het niet in staat zijn een zelfstandige positie als wereldmogendheid te herwinnen. (Je zou de geschiedenis van Rusland vanaf Peter de Grote kunnen interpreteren als een lange reeks pogingen de plaats van grote mogendheid in het statenstelsel te verkrijgen en te handhaven, pogingen die keer op keer uiteindelijk zijn mislukt, met het communistisch experiment als laatste voorbeeld.) De voornaamste factor hier is dat het geografische Rusland te groot is voor een te kleine bevolking, die al lang met zo’n 750.000 mensen per jaar slinkt, vooral als gevolg van de abominabele gezondheidstoestand van Russische mannen. Hun levensverwachting ligt nu beneden de 60 jaar.

Reeds zijn de contouren van een toekomstige wereldorde zichtbaar, waarin drie grote economische en op den duur ook politieke blokken ontstaan: Noord-Amerika, Europa en Oost-Azië. Er is geen sprake van dat Rusland in de toekomst ten opzichte van deze blokken een zelfstandige positie kan handhaven.

Het dunbevolkte Siberië kent nu al jarenlang een illegale immigratie van vele honderdduizenden Chinezen per jaar. Een mogelijkheid is dan ook dat Rusland op den duur zal bestaan uit een Europees en een Aziatisch deel. De vraag die in de komende vijftig jaar voor ligt, is of Rusland deel gaat uitmaken van Europa, dan wel van het Oost-Aziatische blok.

Bron: Elsevier

dinsdag, juli 25, 2006

Eurasia: Cultural Construct and Geopolitical Vision, 27-28 June 2007 - Lancaster University

Eurasia: Cultural Construct and Geopolitical Vision, 27-28 June 2007

This interantional colloquium will be held 27-28 June 2007. It is co-organised by Professor Galin Tihanov (Lancaster University) and Professor Vera Tolz (University of Manchester) as part of the 2006/7 Annual Research Programme on regions and regionalism in Europe, hosted by the Institute for Advanced Studies at Lancaster University and directed by Dr Robert Crawshaw.

The colloquim will feature papers and discussion presentations by internationally renowned experts on the history, culture, politics, and economic life of Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. By looking at these two parts of the world and their relationships, we wish to examine the idea of regions and regionalism beyond the borders of the European Union.

The colloquium will subject to a careful analysis, and from an interdisciplinary perspective, essential aspects of Eurasia as a cultural construct and a geopolitical vision: its philosophy of space, its historical foundations, its impact on politics, business and international development in the 21st century.

The three sessions of the colloquium will focus on the history and the cultural doctrine of the Eurasian Movement and will present case-studies of present-day Ukraine and Georgia. It is our intention to provide ample time for discussion and to enable participants to follow all sessions of the colloquium.

Conference organisers
Professor Galin Tihanov (Lancaster University):
Professor Vera Tolz (University of Manchester):

maandag, juli 24, 2006

Vitrenko`s Fascist Friend door Andreas UMLAND in Unian News Agency, mei 2006.

The Strange Alliance between Ukrainian "Progressive Socialism" and Russian "Neo-Eurasianism" (on Aleksandr Dugin`s ideology)

One of the worrying results of the March 2006 elections to the Ukrainian parliament, Verkhovna Rada, was that the so-called "Popular Opposition" bloc led by the head of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, Natal`ya Mikhailovna Vitrenko (b. 1951), managed to come, with 2.93% of the official turnout, close to passing the 3%-barrier and thus almost entered the Rada.

Vitrenko is the premier representative of radical anti-Westernism in Ukraine; she has also made herself known with her frequent invectives against Ukrainian politicians whom she does not hesitate to call "natsisty" (Nazis). Both of these circumstances are ironic in as far as Vitrenko has been for some time officially allied to a well-known Russian propagator of the West`s worst invention: fascism.

Vitrenko, along with former UNA-UNSO and current "Bratstvo" leader Dmitro Korchinski, entered in 2004, and is now listed in the directory of members of, the Highest Council of the International Eurasian Movement There was also an announcement in 2005 that Vitrenko and Korchinski were going to enter the Highest Council of the Eurasian Youth Movement, the International Eurasian Movement`s youth section with branches in, among other countries, Ukraine. Both of these organizations, the International Eurasian Movement and Eurasian Youth Movement, have been created by, and are entirely devoted to the ideas of, a certain Aleksandr Gel`evich Dugin (b. 1962). Dugin has become famous in Russia during the last years and is more and more present in Russian mass media, but has not (yet) been broadly noted in Ukraine. He has, in Putin`s Russia, made himself known as a "neo-Eurasianist" and fanatic anti-American. Dugin also occasionally describes himself as a "national bolshevist," "traditionalist," "conservative revolutionary" or "Guenonist" (with reference to the founder of West European "Traditionalism," Rene Guenon). As the latter terms indicate, Dugin`s world-view is not only determined by indigenous Eastern Slavic ideas. Rather his ideology is, to a large degree, a variation of a number of ideas that had their origins in pre-war Western Europe. While Dugin poses as a radical anti-Westerner, his major concepts, in fact, are derived from Western theories.

That Vitrenko has entered the ruling body of an organization fundamentally inspired by non-Slavic (and, sometimes, even anti-Slavic) Western sources might make Slavic anti-Westerners think.

There is more. In spite of his dubious sources, Dugin finds himself today in the company of a whole number of highly placed Russian political and social figures such as Minister of Culture Sokolov, Federation Council Deputy Speaker Torshin or Presidential Aide Aslakhanov who, like Vitrenko, Korchinskii and other post-Soviet figures, have entered the International Eurasian Movement`s Highest Council. This circumstance makes it even more intriguing that, in the past, Dugin has made many, to say the least, unorthodox statements n world history. In particular, Dugin gave some unusual assessments of West European fascism. To be sure, Dugin has harshly criticized German, Italian and other fascisms, for instance, in his article "Fascism - red and borderless" which is a chapter of his book "Tampliery Proletariata" (The Knight Templars of the Proletariat, Moscow: Arktogeya, 1997; an English translation of this article is appended below). Yet, what Dugin blamed the fascist regimes and parties of inter-war Europe for was that they were too moderate, too incoherent, too soft, and not truly revolutionary. Fascism, such seems Dugin`s view, is, in principle, an excellent idea. Unfortunately, in Dugin`s opinion, it has, however, never been consistently implemented. That shall be different after the break-up of the Soviet Union. In Russia today, finally, there will emerge a truly "fascist fascism." (For further amplification of this thesis, see the appendix below.) In previous books published in the early 1990s, Dugin had already elaborated why exactly he thinks fascism is a good idea, the SS was an organization with positive characteristics, the break-up of the 1939 alliance between Hitler and Stalin constituted an unfortunate event, etc. See for instance his essay collections "Konspirologiya" (Conspirology, Moscow: Arktogeya, 1992) and "Konservativnaya revolyutsiya" (The Conservative Revolution, Moscow: Arktogeya, 1994).

That Vitrenko has used terms like "Nazi" or "fascist" with a seemingly negative connotation is only to be welcomed. However, Vitrenko might, perhaps, before using liberally these for labeling her political opponents, first check whether her own close political allies fall under these categories. As far as Dugin is concerned, Vitrenko has, by entering the International Eurasian Movement`s Highest Council, it appears, officially accepted intellectual leadership from somebody who has not hesitated to formulate repeatedly and explicitly a deep attraction to fascism.

A final note on Dugin might be worth adding in view of Vitrenko`s recent frequent posing as a Ukrainian patriot. Dugin is not only notorious for his debt to Western radical anti-democratic ideas. He has, furthermore, made himself known by statements on the future of Ukraine not less extravagant than his statements on fascism. In his major book "Osnovy geopolitiki" (Foundations of Geopolitics, 4th edn. Moscow: Arktogeya, 2000), Dugin, for instance, writes that "[t]he sovereignty of Ukraine represents such a negative phenomenon for Russian geopolitics that it can, in principle, easily provoke a military conflict." (p. 348). Apart from a other similar statements about Ukraine as a whole ("Malorossiya" and "Okraina," p. 799), he, in "Osnovy geopolitiki," noted, with reference to Southern Ukraine, that "[a]n absolute imperative of Russian geopolitics on the Black Sea shores is the total and unlimited control by Moscow of [these shores] over their whole stretch - from the Ukrainian to the Abkhaz territory" (p. 349).

Similar sentences can be found in "Osnovy geopolitiki" and other publications by Dugin. In view of the above and many comparable statements, it is bizarre that Dugin has managed to link himself institutionally to a whole number of top actors of the government, parliament, mass media, and civil society of Russia - a country that defines itself, even more than Ukraine, by its victory over fascism, is proud of its anti-fascist credentials, and claims to have brotherly feelings for Ukraine. What is equally ironic is that, while Vitrenko has not been successful in her plan to force herself into the Verkhovna Rada through a re-count, her "Popular Opposition" bloc has had

considerable success in the elections to Ukraine`s Eastern and Southern oblast, city and discrict

councils that took also place on 26th March 2006.

Thus, a Russian imperialist grouping, the International Eurasian Movement, led by a sworn enemy of Ukrainian independence and fanatic apologist of fascism can, via Vitrenko`s membership in this movement`s Highest Council, claim to have acquired about 1,000 official representatives in Ukraine`s regional and local parliaments.

Andreas Umland, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Lecturer National Taras Shevchenko University of Kyïv

Bron: Unian News Agency

Russia: WTO Becomes Long-Term Issue For Relations With U.S. door Victor YASMANN op RFE/RL, 24 juli 2006.

PRAGUE, July 24, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Observers for the most part considered Russia's hosting of the G8 summit in St. Petersburg on July 15-17 to be a success for Vladimir Putin. For the first time in modern history, a Russian president had chaired the annual summit of the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations. Tasked with formulating and overseeing the summit's agenda, Putin also invited and made time to meet with the leaders of rapidly developing China, Mexico, India, Brazil, South Africa, and Kazakhstan.

Putin was also able to sidestep criticism of his country's retreat from democratic norms, an issue that had gained momentum among U.S. and European politicians, media, and the public ahead of the summit.

But there were also notable shortcomings, particularly Russia's failure to overcome the biggest hurdle to its efforts to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) by signing a bilateral trade agreement with the United States.

Significant Blow

During Putin's talks with U.S. President George W. Bush the day before the summit, the two leaders discussed the full spectrum of bilateral and international relations, including nuclear and energy security, nonproliferation, international terrorism, and developments in the Middle East.

While not the most important issue on the agenda, Russia's effort to join the WTO was seen as a matter of prestige for the Kremlin. Joining the global trade bloc would be seen as a landmarks in Putin's efforts to restore Russia's status as a great power, while also signaling that the recent trend of deteriorating U.S.-Russian relations had come to an end.

On the eve of the summit, Russian media took great pains to present the deal as a fait accompli. The country's major newspapers claimed that Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, who heads Russia's WTO talks, had reached a compromise with the United States under which it agreed to open its insurance market while maintaining its defiance of U.S. demands regarding banking reforms.

But when Bush and Putin appeared together during their joint press conference on July 17, they announced that no deal had been reached.

Putin tried to downplay the development, saying that his good personal relations with President Bush allows the two leaders to look out for their nations' interests and to have occasional differences, while still maintaining a constructive dialogue.

The reason for failure to reach an agreement on the WTO, according to sources from both sides, was discord over Russia's scrutiny of U.S. inspections of pork and beef exported to Russia. The United States argued that its stringent inspection methods are proven, and thus Russia's questioning of them is excessive.

The failure to reach an agreement was more of a defeat for Gref, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, and other liberals in the Russian government than for Putin himself. After 13 years of talks, the number of politicians who back Russia's WTO efforts and those who are in no hurry to join the global trade bloc is about equal.

Weighing The Benefits

It is widely believed that WTO membership will mostly benefit Russian consumers, as they stand to gain access to foreign goods and services currently unavailable on the local market. Potential losses to Russian producers in the industrial, agricultural, and financial sectors would be offset by gains by Russian energy and metal exporters.

In recent months, Putin had effectively sided with WTO opponents, saying that "Russia should not join the WTO at any price." He objected to U.S. calls for Russia to open its banking sector, saying in June that such demands cannot be tolerated.

On July 17, the pro-Kremlin daily "Komsomolskaya pravda" deciphered Putin's statement as meaning that "they want us to let their banks in [so that later on they] can control our finances." And at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Shanghai on June 18, Putin directly challenged the U.S. position on Russia's WTO entry. He accused Washington of "trying to link Russia joining the WTO to U.S. internal legislation." "We are joining the WTO, not the United States," he commented.

Finally, speaking during a meeting with Markus Wallenberg, chairman of the International Trade Chamber-World Business Organization, in Moscow on July 4, Putin said that in the event Russia is not given the green light to join the WTO it would no longer abide by WTO regulations it had agreed to during its accession efforts.

Meanwhile, the WTO issue took on a clear political dimension after Georgia, the CIS ally of the United States, announced on July 16 that it was backing out of its own bilateral agreement pertaining to Russia's WTO bid.

Georgia's decision provoked serious concern in Moscow because of the far-reaching consequences it could have. Russian diplomats feared that Tbilisi's move could lead other countries with which Russia had inked bilateral agreements necessary for its WTO accession to renegotiate their deals.

On Edge

One country of concern is Moldova, which like Georgia and Ukraine has been subjected to a Russian ban on its agricultural goods, and has endured a gas-export embargo. But of even greater concern to Russia is the possibility of Ukraine joining the WTO before it does. Russia has accused the United States of intentionally holding back its WTO entry in order to make its fears of Ukrainian accession a reality.

Russia is wary of Ukrainian accession because it would add another potential hurdle to its own accession effort, although it is worth noting that Ukraine has the same concerns about Russia regarding its own WTO bid.

Following the WTO fiasco ahead of the G8 summit, Moscow's worst-case scenario is nearer to materialization, considering that the United States signed a bilateral agreement with Ukraine on its WTO effort. Ukraine now has only to sign deals with Taiwan and Kyrgyzstan before its bid is ready for a vote among WTO members.

However, Kyrgyzstan -- whose relations with Russia has grown stronger of late -- is now upping the ante by refusing to sign a deal with Ukraine. According to Ukrainian Economy Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Kyrgyzstan is demanding that Ukraine reduce tariffs on its agricultural production by 40 percent, a condition that is unacceptable to Kyiv.

Despite such setbacks, Ukraine is closer to joining the WTO than ever. Ironically, even a future Ukrainian government headed by pro-Russia Viktor Yanukovych would work against Russia's WTO interests.

If Yanukovych were to become prime minister and form a new government, it could adopt economic legislation that is needed to facilitate Ukraine's WTO bid. A package of such laws is currently at a standstill due to the political turmoil in Ukraine. Moscow also cannot expect too much of a change in Kyiv's attitude toward Moscow, because foreign policy will remain the prerogative of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

Trouble Ahead

At any rate, the issue of Russian WTO accession is sure to continue to be a hot topic in U.S.-Russian relations. According to Vladimir Batyuk, the director of the North Atlantic Security Center at the USA and Canada Institute, Russia's WTO membership is the only real leverage the United States has in its relations with Russia and it will thus likely use the issue to its advantage as long as it can, kreml.orgreported on July 18.

Andrei Nechayev, a former Russian finance minister who now serves as president of Russian Financial Corporation, agreed with this assessment, telling TV Tsentr on July 19 that he is sure Russia will not join the WTO in 2006, "and likely not until the end of 2007." He said he, like Putin, supports Russia joining the WTO -- "but not at any price."

Victor J. Yasmann is a senior regional analyst with RFE/RL Online and specializes in Russian and Central Eurasian affairs, foreign policy, and international security. He holds an M.A in Economics from the Kharkiv Engineering Economic Institute and joined RFE/RL as a Soviet Affairs Analyst in 1984.

Bron: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

U.S.-Russia Relations Through the Prism of Ideology door Leon ARON in Russia In Global Affairs, Juli/Sept. 2006.

Charles de Gaulle once remarked that countries have no friends, only interests. He failed to specify, however, that those are interests interpreted by the elites (in authoritarian regimes) or, if we speak of democracies, by the elites and public opinion.

In turn, the interpretation of national interests stems from the ruling ideology, that is, the nations’ leaders’ view about how their country should live and what it should aspire to. This is why relations between countries, as a rule, reflect the very essence and internal political priorities of the regime and the place of other countries within these coordinates.

The present ties between the United States and Russia are no exception. The current deterioration of their mutual relations, which stems from their policies and which is likely to persist at least for the next three years, is not a result of a conspiracy or someone’s ill will. The roots and dynamics of this process lie in the way the regimes in Moscow and Washington implement their strategic agendas, based on their ideologies, and in how they view – again through the prism of ideology – their partner’s responses to their actions.


Washington’s present ideology is based on two premises, two overlapping leitmotifs. First is the 9/11 tragedy. Since that fateful day, the White House has been gripped by anxiety about the threat of Islamic extremism, the likelihood of a new terrorist act, and the possible transfer of weapons of mass destruction (above all, nuclear weapons) to terrorists by unstable, fundamentalist, or Anti-American states.

Another “birthmark” of this administration is its neo-conservatism. There is much nonsense in the present talk about the almost conspiratorial, Bolshevik-like unanimity of the neocons, and their “puppeteering” control over the White House. The institute where the author of this article works is often called the “brain trust of neo-conservatism,” and from the inside these conjectures look very far from the reality, to put it mildly.

Yet if there are any postulates of “neo-conservative ideology” in foreign policy, two are central. First, the interests and security of the United States are much easier to defend in a world of political freedom. Hence, the adoption, at least as an ideal, of President John Kennedy’s inaugural address of 1961, long forgotten by his own party, the Democrats: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” From this follows the second principle: for neo-conservatives, the link between the domestic and the foreign policies of states is of fundamental importance.

The evolution of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is very indicative in this respect. Her doctoral thesis was on the Soviet Army’s suppression of the “Prague Spring” in 1968. Since then, military aspects of the U.S.-Soviet relations and arms control were among her main scholarly interests. Rice became a protÎgÎ of General Brent Scowcroft, a leading Washington “realist” and National Security Adviser to George Bush Sr., who eventually appointed Rice as his assistant on Soviet affairs. In August 1991, in response to Russia’s national-liberation movements and the democratic revolution, Bush solemnly cautioned the Ukrainian people against “suicidal nationalism.” Neo-conservative critics have since used his speech, which became known in political circles as “Chicken Kiev,” as an example of the narrow-mindedness of the “realists” and their political and historical deafness.

Scowcroft personified the idea of stability as a basic value and an objective of American foreign policy. And when in 1998, Rice began to advise the then governor of Texas, George W. Bush, on foreign policy, judging by Bush’s speeches during the presidential campaign and signals from the White House in the first nine months of the new administration, a realist policy clearly prevailed. It did not really matter what kind of state Russia was: Soviet totalitarian, new democratic, authoritarian China-style, or even “failed,” to use Rice’s term. Sorting it all out would take too long and was unnecessary. The important thing was how many nuclear-tipped strategic missiles the Russians had. This seemed to be the only subject on the bilateral agenda. (Shortly after George W. Bush came to power, one of the architects of U.S.-Russian relations in the Bill Clinton administration complained with unconcealed irritation in a narrow circle of people that in the course of the transfer of power from Clinton to Bush, Rice demonstrated a pronounced disregard for Russia’s domestic problems.)

September 11, 2001 blew up the axioms of realism. The maintenance of the status quo suddenly turned out to be an unacceptable risk. What happened was a change of paradigms. President Bush and his National Security Advisor became, rather unexpectedly, neo-conservatives.

America, the strongest and most self-sufficient power, which a year, a month or even a week before that terrible day had rested on the laurels of victory in the Cold War, fell from Olympus onto hard cold earth – injured, frightened, alone and searching for friends. Yes, friends, as opposed to mere business partners, like Saudi Arabia, which had nurtured 15 out of the 19 terrorists that attacked the U.S.

It was then that Russia burst upon the stage, crisply and competently, as if it had been waiting for that moment, and had done all the “homework.” Vladimir Putin called George Bush minutes after the attack. Moscow consented to the use of Russian airspace by U.S. and NATO aircraft and the deployment of their bases in Central Asia; cooperation between Russian and Western special services; the sharing of Russian intelligence on Afghanistan and Russia’s extensive ties to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Moscow offered all of this without any preconditions, bargaining or demanding anything in return. (On top of this, Russia closed its naval base in Vietnam’s Cam Ranh and shut down an eavesdropping station in Lourdes, Cuba.)

When the essence of particular regimes and their ideology suddenly became important for the newly fledged neo-conservatives from the White House (hence the slogan “If necessary, we will change regimes”), the situation in Russia also acquired new significance. The number of its missiles became a third-rate issue. It turned out that the Russia of the autumn of 2001 was not at all a China; Russia enjoyed political freedoms, the freedom of conscience, a multi-party system, a real (at that time) opposition, free press, and uncensored culture. Also, liberal reforms in the economy were conducted in earnest, competently and on a large scale.

It was this concurrence of basic values and many vital national interests (although far from all) that laid the grounds for a long-term, strategic alliance between Russia and the United States.

However, following a paradox, so liked by History (and Friedrich Engels), this triumph already contained the seeds of defeat. The same neo-conservative approach to defining U.S. national interests that earlier had brought about the closest rapprochement between Moscow and Washington since the end of WWII and President Putin’s visit to the Bush’s family ranch in Crawford, Texas, became the cause of strain in the relations between the two powers, when the Kremlin changed its domestic and, as a result, foreign policy priorities.


In the second half of 2003, it became more and more obvious that Putin was not set upon mending the “mistakes” of the 1990s, while continuing with Boris Yeltsin’s strategic line, albeit in a more consistent, “cleaner” and “more civilized” way. On the contrary, one had the impression that the dominant ideology was informed by the shame for the “chaos” of the 1990s, above all, in the weakening of the state. The simple wisdom that chaos and weakened statehood accompany all great revolutions was either unknown to or dismissed by the authorities.

In this perspective, domestic and foreign policy was viewed as a result of a conspiracy, as a product of refined political technologies paid for by the oligarchs, as opposed to being the result of conscious and free choice by the majority of the Russians. The choice, although not perhaps implemented in the best way, was confirmed by the election of Yeltsin as president of the then Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) in June 1991; by the April 25, 1993 referendum; by the crucial presidential election of 1996; and by the still free election campaign of 1999, when the leftist “popular-patriotic” majority in the State Duma was buried for good. Returning in force were the traditional maxims of the Russian statehood: the state equals society; everything that is good for the state is a priori good for the country; the strengthening of the state is the strengthening of society. Only two leaders in Russian history, Alexander II and Boris Yeltsin, realized that a weaker state could – in certain circumstances and only in the long term – strengthen society. Peter the Great and Joseph Stalin brought the opposite tendency to the extreme.

Ergo, the bureaucracy (naturally, educated, intelligent hard-working and, of course, incorruptible) is a much more effective and reliable agent of progress than the free press (corruptible, focused on sensations and caring only for profits, instead of state interests), the average voter (so naÕve, uneducated and unpredictable), independent judges (such bribe-takers) or, God forbid, private businessmen.

If so, the Kremlin must have concluded, the decentralization of state policy and economy, carried out in the 1990s, was inadequate in principle and in many respects even harmful. Thus, the state must reanimate its role, seize the “commanding heights” in the economy, and return the “diamonds” of the country’s economic crown to the rightful owner: the state. Most importantly, it was deemed necessary to establish the executive’s control over the other branches of government and reassert the Kremlin’s dominant role in politics.

Changes in foreign policy followed logically. The Kremlin no longer viewed the generally pro-Western policy of the previous regime as the consequence of a commonality of interests, as a search for ways toward “universal values” and the “European home” or for a place in the union of “civilized” states.

These ideals, designed by Mikhail Gorbachev, Alexander Yakovlev, Eduard Shevardnadze and Boris Yeltsin and rooted in the era of glasnost, were now subject to an ideological revision. The breakup of the Soviet Union was described as the biggest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century. Hence, the new imperatives in Russia’s foreign policy: not to speed up the pace of the integration into “the West” and make no sacrifices for its sake (for instance, with regard to political freedoms inside the country, or relations with pro-Russian dictatorships in the Commonwealth of Independent States). Wherever possible, Russia will seek to restore and strengthen its former ties on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Those new states that assist this process will be rewarded, while those standing in the way will be punished.

Of course, this is not a return to the policy of the Soviet Union. After all, stability of borders and friendly, or better yet, vassal regimes along the perimeter was an imperative of national security of all great continental powers, from ancient Babylon, Persia, China and Rome to the U.S., at least through the 1970s. This objective naturally fits into the meta-goal of restoring the unity of the post-Soviet space (and Russia’s superpower hegemony in the region). Hence the Russian equivalent of support for “our sons of a bitch” – a phrase taken from the pages of U.S. foreign-policy vocabulary [former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when speaking of Nicaragua’s dictator Anastasio Somoza, said, “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.” – Ed.]. The Kremlin’s support for the “last dictator in Europe,” Alexander Lukashenko, evokes irritation and incomprehension in the White House. Moscow knows much better than Washington the odious nature of the Belarusian regime, let alone the personal qualities of its leader; yet apparently it considers the worsening of its relations with the West an acceptable price to pay for the advancement toward the goal.

Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia’s foreign policy shows obvious signs of pragmatism, that is, the wish to have its hands free and be above the fight, as well as a striving for classical Realpolitik. In other words, it does not want to bind itself by abstract principles (e.g., “Western civilization,” “freedom” and “human rights”) but to have the freedom to maneuver; not to enter ideological alliances but to work with countries mainly on a bilateral basis. Long-term results are less important than the nation’s role today and the dividends it yields now. As Leon Trotsky used to say, “The end is nothing; the movement is everything.”

Russia resorts to tactics known in business as ‘asset leveraging,’ that is, the most effective placement of assets. The emphasis is made on areas of “comparative advantages,” be it nuclear technologies, advanced conventional arms systems or, most importantly, energy. Another integral part of the new Russian foreign policy is the diplomatic equivalent of arbitrage, i.e. attempts to earn a profit from structural defects of the pricing mechanism responsible for the difference in prices on the same products on different markets. In other words, maneuvering on the knife blade (and the sharper, the better).

The use of comparative advantage is behind, for example, the arms supplies to China, which represents the largest market for Russian military technologies: new aircraft (including the giant IL-76 cargo plane and the IL-78 refueling aircraft), ships and submarines. In August 2005, Russia and China held their first-ever joint military exercise, which involved over 10,000 troops. There is irritation in Washington, which has de-facto pledged to defend Taiwan from an attack by Beijing. There is also the danger of selling weapons to Russia’s geopolitical rival (which has never recognized the “unequal treaties” of 1858 and 1860, under which Russia acquired huge areas in Siberia); and the possibility that China will achieve nuclear parity with Russia within the next decade. Yet Russia seems to believe the risk is outweighed by her eliminating the mistakes of the 1990s: acquiring “independence” on the global scene, prestige and billions of dollars.

Another example can be found in Russia’s deal with Syria, a totalitarian regime supporting terrorism, to supply it with SA-18 tactical air defense systems. To Russia, this agreement is a way to restore its former positions in the Middle East, which it lost after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The invitation of Hamas leaders to Moscow was, among other things, an attempt at arbitrage in the hope of achieving important concessions (for example, renunciation of the permanent war against Israel) and, as a consequence, establishing Russia’s reputation as an indispensable mediator in conflicts between the East and the West. As Napoleon (and later Lenin) used to say, “On s’engage et puis on voit!” (First engage in a serious battle and then see what happens).

Perhaps the best example of the “New Line” in Moscow’s foreign policy is its relations with Iran, which have caused the most serious Moscow-Washington conflict to date. Since the resumption last December of conventional arms supplies to Teheran, suspended by the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission at Washington’s insistence in the summer of 1995 (over five years before that, Russia had sold to Iran aircraft, battle tanks and submarines worth about $2 billion), Moscow has supplied Iran with the Tor-1 mobile air defense missile systems, MIG-29 fighter aircraft, and coast guard ships; in total, these purchases cost about one billion dollars. As Russia’s gold and hard currency reserves now stand at about 300 billion dollars, profits are certainly not its main objective here. Rather, it is using the situation with Iran as a way for achieving the same meta-goal. According to Moscow expert Radzhab Safarov (and as the Kremlin architects of this policy seem to see it), Iran offers Moscow a “unique and historic chance to return to the world scene as a key actor and as a superpower reborn. If Russia firmly upholds Iran’s interests in this conflict, it will immediately regain prestige in the Moslem world and globally. And no financial offers by the United States will be able to change its strategy.”

Hence the tactics used by Russia in the negotiations between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (Britain, Russia, China, the U.S. and France) plus Germany and Iran: postponing “the moment of truth” as long as possible, while defending the status quo and delaying the sale of the “goods” (Russia’s support) in order to raise their price. As for public statements by Iran’s leader that he believes the 12th imam will appear after a global catastrophe (that is, nuclear war), and that Israel must be wiped off the face of the Earth, these statements seem to be interpreted in the Kremlin as daydreams, out of sync with the reality of our times.


In a different time, Moscow’s present policy would probably not cause serious problems in its relations with Washington. After all, the U.S. has become accustomed (although, not without irritation, of course) to the diplomacy of France, which, after the loss of its status as a great power after WWII, also practiced pragmatism and diplomatic arbitrage in its relations with the main blocs in the Cold War. But times – and values – have changed. Even with America bogged down in the Iraqi quagmire, such an approach is anathema to the American foreign-policy establishment (except for the fringe isolationists on both flanks of the political field). The U.S. “post-September 11” activism – with the emphasis made on freedom and democracy as central elements of national security and on the “proliferation of democracy” as a major way to ensure it – has bumped up hard against the post-Soviet and post-imperial restoration of Russia, whose essence is economic and political re-centralization and Realpolitik abroad.

Due to their difference in values, Russia and America have started to drift in opposite directions; the great ships have begun moving away from each other. But they have not yet lost visual contact. This is due to special “anchors” – the main assets of one side that meet the strategic interests of the other.Russia’s assets are of major importance for the fulfillment of four long-term and strategic tasks facing Washington: achieving victory in the global war against terrorism; preventing nuclear proliferation; ensuring energy security; and developing commonality of interests vis-È-vis China, a future conflict with which seems inevitable to many among the U.S. foreign-policy elites.

Incidentally, it is the conflicting estimations of the importance of these Russian assets as compared to the “liabilities” of the Kremlin’s domestic policy that cause frictions inside the U.S. administration, as well as Washington’s inconsistency concerning its Russia policy, which so often irritates Moscow, – not the personalities: for example, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Eric Edelman, on the one hand, and George Bush and Thomas Graham, on the other. In this inevitable ambivalence of Russia’s image in Washington, one of the two positions prevail: the geopolitical, which is centered around interests (“anchors”), or the neo-conservative, which attaches particular importance to etatist tendencies inside Russia. In Moscow’s first-priority strategic interests, America is primarily viewed as an ally in the struggle against Moslem terrorism, including Chechen militants. Second, Moscow expected from the United States understanding of its “special role” (and hence special interests) in the post-Soviet space, which is populated by 25 million ethnic Russians and supplied (until recently essentially on credit) with Russian gas, oil and electricity. Third, Russia hoped for support for its integration into the global economic system, starting with the WTO.

But perhaps the most important American asset, the most valuable thing that the United States can give Russia, is respect and equality. However much semi-official propagandists may denounce America in pro-Kremlin newspapers and TV channels, and however much they may speak of a “change of guidelines” – Europe, Asia or Eurasia – to ordinary Russian people and the elites alike parity with America (no matter in what area: in armies, continental missiles, satellites, meat, corn, democracy or economic growth rates) and its respect for Russia has always been one of the main legitimizing factors in its domestic policy. This was equally applicable during the rule of Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and Yeltsin. No other country or region – Europe, Asia, Germany, China, France or Japan – come ever close to America.

This list of vital mutual interests is nothing new, of course. What is new is that in the last few years, these assets have no longer been sustained or burnished by ideological commonalities and, as a result, have begun to rapidly depreciate. The anchors’ chains are beginning to rust. What formerly would be an easily solvable technical problem is becoming a source for deep and persisting resentment and serious conflict. The number of such problems is growing with every new round of this vicious circle.

In particular, from Washington’s point of view (together with American public opinion, which is much more important in the long term), Russia’s image as an ally in the counterterrorist struggle has been seriously compromised over the last year by Moscow’s efforts to establish special relations with the Hamas movement, as well as by the shipments of missiles to Syria and MIG-29 fighters and Mi-24 helicopters to Sudan, a nation which uses terror and even genocide (in the Darfur region) against its citizens.

As regards the non-proliferation of nuclear weapon, the hopes that Russia would be able to assist the settlement of the North Korean crisis by influencing its former client, Pyongyang, have not materialized. This disappointment, however, pales in comparison with the consequences of Moscow’s position on the Iranian issue. One gets the impression that Moscow underestimates the risks involved in its relations with the U.S. (and, by now, with Europe as well) as it plays the role of a diplomatic advocate and supplier of advanced conventional armaments and civil nuclear technologies to a regime that openly calls for attacks against the United States. Furthermore, this is a government that finances, arms and trains terrorists, and one that publicly declared its plans to start enriching uranium, the primary component for nuclear arms production.

Perhaps Russia has already passed the “no-return point” and, to borrow language from the world of business, no amount of hedging can save it from serious losses from the liquidation of the market positions it staked out. In the long run, in order not to jeopardize the Group of Eight summit, Russia is likely to vote in the UN Security Council for sanctions against Iran (or at least to abstain). The latter will almost certainly respond by a withdrawal from the non-proliferation regime, thus provoking further sanctions against it. These sanctions may include a ban on cooperation with Teheran not only in civil nuclear engineering but also in spheres related to conventional armaments, finance, and investment in non-nuclear engineering (gas). Russia has invested in all these areas more than any other country, including in the construction of a nuclear reactor in Bushehr, at a price tag of over one billion dollars. Whatever actions Moscow decides to take in this crisis, it will hardly avoid long-term losses of prestige (not to mention material losses).

Next is the issue of America’s energy security. When the Kremlin vetoed the construction of a private pipeline from Western Siberia to Murmansk, even despite heavy lobbying at the Cabinet level, Washington’s hopes for a partial substitute of oil imports from the Persian Gulf with direct supplies from Russia vanished. Anxiety over the reliability and, most importantly, stability, of the growth of Russian oil exports increased after the YUKOS and Sibneft oil companies fell under state control. The move resulted in a decrease in output growth rates from eight percent on average in the previous seven years to two percent in 2005. For the first time since 1999, the volume of Russian oil supplies to the world market decreased in absolute figures.

No sooner had the West “digested” the short-term suspension of gas supplies to Ukraine, accompanied by a drop in pressure (due to gas siphoning by Ukraine) in pipelines transporting gas to the European Union, than in April 2006 Moscow made a series of menacing statements that reverberated in the West like machine gun volleys from the strategic heights of Russia’s energy and political sectors. Thus, Moscow said it might cut oil and gas supplies to Western Europe in favor of Asian customers if the EU barred Gazprom and Russian oil companies from entering the European retail market. Statements to this effect were made in Moscow by the CEOs of Gazprom and Transneft, Alexei Miller and Simon Vainshtock respectively, and two days later by Vladimir Putin in Tomsk. (Vainshtock even mentioned the amount of oil – 30 million tons a year – which could be exported to the East instead of the West.)

In response, Condoleezza Rice, during a visit to Turkey, expressed fears over Russia’s gas monopoly and called for the construction of a gas pipeline bypassing Russia and running parallel to the Baku-Supsa-Ceyhan oil pipeline. Setting aside the neo-conservative principles, the White House received Ilham Aliyev, who has inherited the “throne” in Azerbaijan, while Vice President Dick Cheney, on a visit to Kazakhstan’s capital Astana, extolled the bilateral “strategic partnership,” while addressing the country’s seemingly president for life, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who received 91 percent of the votes in the latest elections. (After the elections, agents of the Kazakh special services killed one of Nazarbayev’s main political rivals, and another was arrested.) Yet, despite Washington’s advances, Astana still does not transport oil by the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline and, like Ashgabat, has displayed no interest in a gas pipeline that would serve as an alternative to Gazprom’s.

Finally, as Russian policy toward China continues to emphasize arms sales and priority energy supplies, American-Russian cooperation in restraining the ‘Celestial Empire’ looks illusory, even if one takes with a big grain of salt Moscow’s and Bejing’s declarations of eternal friendship and joint opposition to a unipolar world.

The erosion of American assets in Russia has been just as obvious. Moscow has the impression that Russia’s special interests in the post-Soviet space are deliberately ignored, instead of being met with a degree of understanding. The Kremlin perceives anti-authoritarian “colored revolutions” in the Commonwealth of Independent States as being directed against Russia, and blames Washington for these activities. Following the rapid granting of NATO membership to the Baltic States, plans to speed up NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia are viewed by Moscow as a frontal attack on its interests. It is as if the Kremlin has completely forgotten the recent history of its country and is unable to imagine true popular protest, not one that is conspired and paid for from abroad. Such political cynicism is characteristic of all restorations, be it the epoch of Charles II of England or Napoleon III of France.
Moscow’s hopes for at least moral support from the U.S. in the counterterrorist struggle on Russian territory have been disappointed as well. Instead of providing assistance or at least keeping silent on the issue, the Department of State, nongovernmental organizations and the mass media continue to criticize human rights violations in Chechnya and refuse (like the majority of Russians) to view the policy of “Chechenization” (“Kadyrovization”) of the conflict as a reliable way out of the impasse. Besides, following the example of Great Britain, the United States has clearly shown its unwillingness to cooperate with Moscow in extradition of people accused by Russia of aiding and abetting the Chechen terrorists.

The third strategic asset of the U.S. – providing assistance to Russia with integrating into the global economy – has proven to be an even less reliable factor in Moscow’s eyes. Moreover, America has turned out to be, perhaps, the largest roadblock on Russia’s way to WTO membership. Moscow blames Washington for this predicament, although the Bush administration does not set the tone here but obviously follows in the footsteps of powerful business interests. American companies demand effective measures to be taken to combat the large-scale theft of intellectual property, especially music, films and computer programs. In 2005 alone, this piracy cost U.S. copyright owners about two billion dollars. Furthermore, banks want to be given the right to open not only affiliate offices but also branch offices.

The ongoing problems with admission to the WTO have reopened Moscow’s old wound inflicted by the Jackson-Vanik amendment which has been aggravating relations between post-Soviet Russia and the United States for almost 14 years now. The amendment forbids the granting of “most favored nation” treatment to countries with a non-market economy which restrict the right of their citizens to emigrate. Although post-Soviet Russia has lifted all restrictions on trips abroad and emigration and has for at least ten years produced most of its gross domestic product in the non-governmental sector (unlike China, which was granted this status in 2000 despite obvious violations of both conditions), this affront to Russia’s national dignity continues, in essence in violation of America’s own laws.

All of these unfulfilled expectations are undermining an asset that is the most important for Moscow: the realization of parity with America and respect on its part. And now even Russian liberals are calling for the accelerated development and deployment of Topol-M (SS-25) strategic nuclear missiles with multiple re-entry vehicles – mainly in order to make America resume negotiations for mutual reductions of nuclear potentials! Commenting on this position, one of its main advocates, expert Alexei Arbatov, said frankly: “Of course, no one is planning to attack Russia, yet no one wants to negotiate with it, either.” After the Russian president delivered his address to the Federal Assembly two months later, this approach seemed to have become part of official state policy.


The alienation between Washington and Moscow will most likely continue to increase until at least 2009 when new administrations will come to power in both countries. But even then the dynamics is not likely to change in less than a year or two.

This flare-up of tensions is connected to the political calendar: both the United States and Russia will almost simultaneously launch presidential campaigns in which foreign policy, as a rule, ceases to be an esoteric area dominated by the highbrows and breaks out into a political fist fight.

In America, which “loses” Russia every four years since 1996 (later, after the presidential elections, it is “found” again), the attack on the incumbent White House will start earlier than usual: the United States will scrutinize the elections to Russia’s State Duma in December 2007 under the microscope. It is difficult to imagine a situation where there will not emerge numerous unpleasant instances from the point of view of democratic procedures.

Besides, Moscow is very unlucky as far as the personalities are concerned. The most popular Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency today is Senator John McCain, who made the issue of the “lost Russia” a catchphrase of his election campaign in 1999-2000 and whose critical ardor has since been only growing. McCain (like all the other candidates) needs Russia in order to demonstrate his knowledge of foreign-policy matters, as well as the attachment to the moral component of the U.S. behavior in the world. The latter factor has been an indispensable condition of all successful presidential campaigns over the last 25 years, from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton to George Bush Jr. (The underestimation of this factor in 1992 was one of the main reasons for the defeat of George Bush Sr, who was accused by Clinton of “coddling the butchers of Tiananmen Square.”) In this context, Cheney’s provocative comments on May 4, 2005 in Vilnius can be interpreted, at least partially, as internal political tactics: a preventive attack intended to let off steam as well as serve as a lightning rod. In other words: Better we attack two months before the G8 summit in St. Petersburg than let John McCain do it two days before it.

But criticism by McCain, who will have to “hold his horses” because of party loyalty, will hardly compare with the storm that will be brought down on the “pro-Russian” White House by the Democrats (most likely by ex-Virginia governor Mark Warner and certainly Hillary Clinton). This will be done in the same way the Republicans did it in 1998-2000, when the subject of Russia was used as a cudgel against Clinton. The refrain of the future Democratic attack is easy to predict: in the 1990s, under Bill and Boris, Russia followed the right path and we were friends, but then along came the neo-conservative Republicans and spoiled everything; now Russia is “lost” as it has come off the democratic rails and instead of warm friendship we now have, at best, “Cold Peace.”

For his part, the Kremlin’s official nominee for the presidency (as well as other candidates) will have to return fire by adding to the dose of anti-Americanism that will be initially prescribed by political consultants for his campaign.

Yet, a head-on confrontation and a new Cold War are highly unlikely, at least for four reasons.

First, despite their erosion, the aforementioned geo-strategic “assets” are far from being depleted and continue to serve as a kind of frame outlining the basic relations between the two countries.

Second, the objectives of Russia’s foreign and defense policies, set in 1992-1993, remain unchanged. They are: Russia as a regional superpower; Russia as a global nuclear superpower; and, most importantly for America, Russia as one of great powers (but not a superpower that would politically compete with the United States worldwide). Although these objectives may irritate Washington now and again, they will hardly evoke its deep anxiety about America’s vital interests.

Third, despite the Kremlin’s inclination to flex its muscles, Russia, unlike the Soviet Union and contemporary China, is not a “revisionist” power that constantly seeks to change the global balance of forces in its own favor. Such efforts require an ideology and, as a result, a system of priorities, which Moscow does not have today and will hardly have in the future. What ideology can we speak of when Russia, while passionately defending Iran’s right to the “peaceful development of nuclear energy” and a resistance to “pressure through force,” simultaneously launches a rocket from its Far Eastern space launch site Svobodny that is carrying an Israeli spy satellite intended to monitor Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear bomb!

The share of the GDP spent by Russia, now rolling in petrodollars, on defense (3 percent) is even less than it did in 1992-1997, after the Russian Federation had inherited an absolutely empty treasury from the Soviet Union, and at least ten times less than the Soviet Union did in 1985. On the basis of its purchasing power parity (in absolute figures estimated for 2005), Russia’s defense spending ($47.77 billion) is more than eleven times less than the outlays on defense in the U.S. ($522 billion).

Yet, the most important factor of counteraction to a new Cold War is the one that the Kremlin strategists have long dismissed with contempt – namely, public opinion. Neither Americans nor Russians will support any confrontation plans of their elites, as they will not view them as necessary.

What did Americans know about the Soviet Union? They knew that it was not allowed (or dangerous) to believe in God and go to church there; that a person making “seditious” speeches or reading banned books could be imprisoned; that this country was a dictatorship in which people could not vote the way they wanted, could not organize a political party, stage public protests, go on strike or go abroad; that Moscow occupied Eastern Europe and was preparing for war against the West. This knowledge was enough for the elites to receive a mandate to wage the Cold War and sacrifice billions of dollars and even the lives of Americans and their allies. Ordinary people did not go to the root of the matter, content to leave that for the elites.

In the late 1980s-early 1990s, ordinary Americans learned that the situation in the Soviet Union had changed. Today, contrary to Russia’s inexplicable qualification in various kinds of “freedom indices” (for example, in frequently quoted annual reports by Freedom House, Russia, since 1994, has been assigned the same category as North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Libya), Americans know that it is still a long way before Russia would turn into an enemy. They know that Russians can go to church or synagogue; travel abroad; write, publish, read and say anything they like. They can participate in demonstrations, go on strike, and vote for anyone they like; no one threatens Eastern Europe, while former members of the Warsaw Pact and even former Soviet republics have entered or are about to enter NATO. The remaining issues are for the elites and have not yet formed a critical mass necessary to change the post-Soviet stereotypes that shaped public attitudes toward Russia almost 15 years ago. According to a February 2006 public opinion poll in the U.S., Russia ranks tenth among 22 most popular countries: 54 percent of Americans had a positive attitude toward the country (France received as many votes), while China received 10 percent less votes. Last year’s poll conducted by the Harris firm showed that only 8 percent of Americans considered Russia an “enemy.”

In Russia, the situation is actually the same, despite recurrent upsurges of anti-Americanism brought about by the developments in Iraq, the Olympic Games, or various colored revolutions. While Russians continue to be very critical of U.S. foreign policy, according to a March 2006 poll by the Levada Center, 66 percent of Russians expressed a good or very good attitude toward the U.S. (against 17 percent whose opinion was bad or very bad). This proportion has not changed since December 2001. (In America, the number of people who have a very good perception of Russia has been exceeding 80 percent since February 2000.)

So the ship will not sink. Yet be prepared for some heavy rolling, pitching, rocking and seasickness. Put on your life jackets and try to stay calm.

Leon Aron is Director of Russia studies at the American Enterprise Institute

Bron: Russia in Global Affairs

maandag, juli 17, 2006

G8 and sovereign democracy door Pyotr ROMANOV in RIA Novosti, 17 juli 2006.

The G8 summit in St. Petersburg is over, and everyone seems to be writing the same thing about it. I'll do my best to buck the trend.

In my view, one of the summit's priorities was the issue of independence and sovereignty in relations between democratic countries, although it was not on the agenda and none of the leaders spoke about it explicitly.

In a unipolar world dominated by the United States and its desire to be "generous" to humankind by forcing the North American worldview on it, this issue was bound to surface at bilateral talks within the G8 and during joint discussions.

This issue is also interesting because some members of the Russian political elite have coined a new phrase, "sovereign democracy," as a reaction to two opposing phenomena.

One of them is the unquestionable and rapid (in historical terms) strengthening of Russia, which is buttressing its independence and reinforcing its prestige on the international scene and in the global economy (although mostly in the energy sector so far).

The other is the equally unquestionable and rapidly growing concern and discontent in influential American quarters over the strengthening of Russia.

In an ideal world, it would be logical and correct to develop partner relations with a strengthening Russia, not seek confrontation with it. But life, especially in the political world, has never been ideal, and Cold War stereotypes are resurfacing increasingly fast.

Paradoxically, the U.S. democracy is becoming increasingly jealous of the rising Russian democracy, which it criticizes for not being its carbon copy. This is absurd, because all successful democracies, although they use the same democratic instruments, proceed in their own way, with due regard for national traditions and specifics.

France is not like Sweden, Spain is different from Japan, and the United States is not Switzerland. However, despite their successes, an objective observer will also see their weak sides, small sins and oddities.

This is also true of the U.S. The G8 summit in St. Petersburg began with President George W. Bush meeting with a dozen NGO representatives. President Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, had met and talked with hundreds of representatives of Russian and foreign NGOs ahead of the summit and later conveyed their requests to the G8 leaders, just as he had promised.

But it is not arithmetic that matters in this case. The odd thing is that Russian NGOs brought to President Bush a request from American NGOs, who want their president to meet with members of U.S. civil society. Isn't it shocking that the American president, who tries to teach Russians democracy, does not deem it necessary to hear the opinion of his own NGOs?

Another oddity: During a news conference on the results of bilateral talks with his Russian counterpart, the Chief Executive - even though he had promised not to interfere in Russia's internal affairs before the summit - said he had told the Russian president about his hopes for "institutional change" in the world, citing Iraq as an example of a new democracy.

The Russian leader, who did his best to act as a polite host, nevertheless retorted to the applause and laughter of journalists: "Frankly speaking, we would not want to have a democracy like the one in Iraq."

It is difficult to say if Bush's recommendation was an unsuccessful impromptu, or the U.S. elite is so far removed from reality as to think that the tottering Iraqi democracy, which is kept alive by the occupation forces, is what Russians want.

Do the Americans like the Iraqi semblance of democracy because it is a puppet government at Washington's beck and call? Is this the main gauge of a successful and correct policy?

Iraq should not be the only example in this case. President Bush could cite Ukraine or Georgia, which also do Washington's bidding. When Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko decided to sack Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, she ran to complain to the American ambassador. Why is it that Ukraine's leading politicians seem unable to act without advice from the U.S. embassy?

During the summit, all of the G8 leaders worked on their relations with Washington in one way or another. London did not need to do this, as it has long been traveling in the wake of U.S. policy, but France is fighting for the right to an independent opinion.

The joint news conference of Jacques Chirac and George Bush showed that the two leaders differ considerably over the situation in the Middle East. This is why France, just like Russia, is not one of Washington's favorite countries. Maybe the French should also learn democracy in Iraq?

So, the reasons for the appearance of the phrase "sovereign democracy" in the Russian political dictionary are clear. However, this term does not seem to be quite correct, because genuine democracy that respects the interests of all countries can only be sovereign, or else it would not be a democracy. So, "sovereign democracy" is "much of a muchness."

Spain is a good example of sovereignty in a democratic state. Acting at the request of its citizens, the Spanish government pulled out troops from Iraq without stopping to think whether this would displease the United States.

Russia will proceed into the future in its own way. Its apparent objective is to become a full and effective democracy, but ways towards that goal can differ. Russia can move in a Russian way, whereas France and Spain may be moving towards the same objective in their own manner. And the United States should respect their choice.

Bron: RIA Novosti

Europeans See Russia as Partner, U.S. as Threat in Mosnews, 17 juli 2006.

According to a Harris poll conducted for the Financial Times in five leading countries of western Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin is not trusted by most Europeans, although more than half see Russia as partner, not a threat.

44 percent of respondents say they are not sure if Putin can be trusted, and the next largest group, 36 percent, is convinced that he cannot. Only one in five is prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The same sort of misgivings are shown about Europe’s reliance on Russia for its energy security — the top item on the official agenda of the G8 meeting. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) are worried that western Europe is too heavily dependent on Russia for its oil and particularly for its natural gas supplies.

The Harris poll reveals that nearly 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the end of Communist rule in Moscow, 59 percent of those questioned in Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Italy would not describe Russia as a democracy, against 16 percent who would. The least skeptical are the Italians, where 24 percent think Russia is now democratic, against 57 percent who do not.

Yet Russia is not seen as a threat by most west Europeans. Across the five countries in the Harris poll, 53 percent see Russia as a partner. The most doubtful are the British, where only 41 percent see Moscow as a partner, not a threat.

Indeed, when it comes to choosing which country is the greatest threat to world stability, the largest number (30 percent) chose the U.S., and the smallest (only 1 percent) say Russia. The Spanish are most likely to be worried by American actions (46 per cent). In the U.K., North Korea is seen as a slightly greater threat, and in Italy, Iran is feared more than the U.S., and China just as much.

When asked if Russia or Ukraine should be supported for future membership of the EU, Ukraine narrowly wins the popularity contest: 51 percent say Ukraine, against 45 percent for Russia. In Germany and France, however, there are clear majorities against supporting Russian membership. In Britain, Italy and Spain there are majorities in favour.

On the question of who was the best leader of Russia or the Soviet Union over the past 20 years, there is a very clear vote for Mikhail Gorbachev across the board: 59 percent name him, against just 12 percent for Putin, and 4 percent for Boris Yeltsin. Putin may be the most popular politician in Russia, but he has a long way to go in western Europe.

Bron: Mosnews

zondag, juli 16, 2006

Why Russia is leaving the West door Dmitri TRENIN in Foreign Affairs, Juli/Augustus 2006.

After the Cold War, the West saw Russia as a special case, says Trenin. With nuclear weapons and a ‘great-power mentality shaken but not broken’, it was too big to be treated like other ex-communist states. The hope was that, with Western help, it would gradually transform itself into a free-market democracy. In the meantime, what mattered was that it should pursue a pro-Western foreign policy.

But Russia rejected this. Its leaders were unwilling to accept the same rules that its former satellites were following. For all the talk about its integration into Western institutions, the project was stillborn from the start.

Bringing Russia into the G-7, making it the G-8, was meant to tie it to the West politically. The NATO-Russia Council was supposed to harmonise security agendas. The EU-Russia ‘common spaces’ were designed to Europeanise Russia economically and socially and associate it with Europe politically. Admission to the Council of Europe was supposed to promote Western values and norms in Russia.

These arrangements did not so much fail as grossly under perform, says Trenin. ‘The G-8 is still the G-7 plus Russia; the NATO-Russia Council is merely a low-key technical co-operation workshop; the EU-Russia road maps for the creation of common spaces offer only a set of general objectives with no hard commitments; and the Council of Europe, especially its Parliamentary Assembly, has become a wordy battleground between Russian deputies and their European counterparts.

Putin’s offer
After 9/11 President Putin offered the White House a deal. Russia would accept US global leadership if the US recognised Russia as a major ally, with special responsibility for former Soviet space. But Washington rejected this proposal, ‘which was made from a position of weakness’, and would go no further than discuss ‘rules of the road’ in the post-Soviet CIS.

According to Trenin, Russia gave Westpolitik another try by joining the major European powers – France and Germany – in the opposition to the US invasion of Iraq. But a new anti-American entente did not materialise. ‘Instead, transatlantic and European institutions continued to enlarge to the East, taking in former Warsaw Pact and Comecon countries and the Baltic states.’

At the same time both the US and Europe began supporting regime change from within, most notably in Ukraine and Georgia. ‘From 2003 to 2005, for the first time since 2001, Moscow’s relations with both parts of the West – the US and Europe – soured at the same time.’

Towards the end of Putin’s first term, Western governments finally realised that Russia was not going to turn democratic in the foreseeable future. ‘Reluctantly they put it into the same slot as China, still hoping, improbably perhaps, to make the most of the partnership established in a happier era.’

Bounce back
Astoundingly, says Trenin, the Kremlin bounced back. With China, it called for the withdrawal of the US military from Central Asia. Then, toward the end of 2005, it boldly embraced Uzbekistan as an ally. Then came the Ukrainian gas price dispute. Finally, it took on the so-called ‘beacon of democracy’ raised by Georgia and others

Having left the Western orbit, Russia is also working to create its own solar system, including by promoting Russian economic expansion in the CIS. At the same time, ‘beyond former Soviet space, it sees US influence waning and the EU as an economic, but not political or military, unit that will remain self-absorbed for a while.’

Moscow’s confidence has been helped by its greatly improved financial situation, based on high energy prices, enabling it to build the third largest currency reserves in the world.

‘With the standard of living in Russia rising, the political opposition marginalized, and government authority recentralised, the Kremlin has grown assertive, and occasionally arrogant. The humility of the post-Soviet generation has passed: Russians have made it clear that their domestic politics is no one else’s business.’

Half approval
Trenin gives a half-approval to the way that Russia has decided to exploit its oil and gas resources. Energy is a political weapon, but one to be handled with care. ‘So far Moscow has done the right thing - ending energy subsidies to the former Soviet republics – but in the wrong way. ‘Rather than transforming the energy relationship with Ukraine in a steady and open manner … Russia’s state-controlled energy company, Gazprom, resorted to eleventh-hour pressure, which seemed like blackmail and made Russia look like a threat to global energy security.’

So far as the Russian ruling elite cares about the West, it is mainly about economics. But ‘by and large’ Russians leaders care even less about their image in the West than Soviet leaders did…. Officials in Moscow privately enjoy Senator John McCain’s thunderous statement about kicking Russia out of the G-8 because they know it is not going to happen, and they take pleasure in the supposed impotence of serious adversaries.

Russia today is not, and is not likely to become, a second Soviet Union, says Trenin. It is not a ravanchist and imperialist aggressor bent on absorbing former provinces. It is not a rogue state, nor a natural ally of those states that may be called rogues. As for a Sino-Russian alliance against the US, this could only occur as a result of extremely short-sighted and foolish policies on Washington’s part.

‘Calm down’
Trenin is sharply aware that the present state of Russia-Western relations can lead to tension, ‘and even conflict.’ But nothing is gained by phobia, or self-delusion. On the contrary:

‘The West needs to calm down and take Russia for what it is: a major outside player that is neither an eternal foe nor an automatic friend. Western leaders must disabuse themselves of the notion that by preaching values one can actually plant them.

‘With US-Russian relations at their lowest point – and the Kremlin at its most confident – since 1991, Washington must recognise that frustrated Russia-bashing is futile, says Trenin. It must understand that positive change in Russia can only come from within and that economic realities, rather than democratic ideals, will be the vehicle for the change.’

Dmitri Trenin

woensdag, juli 12, 2006

Russia and WTO: Independent member of international community in Pravda, 12 juli 2006.

Russia ’s completely fading hope of entering the World Trade Organization in the near future was yesterday once again raised. Several high profile individuals on both sides of the ocean discussed the future entry as an agreed action.

Unofficially, the Big 8 summit, which will take place in St Petersburg this weekend, was named repeatedly as the date for the finalizing of a process that has lasted over a decade. However, although Russia awaits only the agreement of the USA to enter the international trade club, hopes of concluding negotiations by the allotted date quickly disappeared. There are several reasons for this: Russia ’s reluctance to allow the opening of branches of foreign banks and insurance companies, the level and means of state support for agriculture in Russia , and the lack of activity in the battle against the violation of laws on intellectual property.

Yesterday, President George Bush informed journalists that he had sent a letter to Vladimir Putin, very clearly stating the position of the USA on this matter. Now, according to his words, there are no ambiguities as to what needs to happen where admission into the market is concerned. Following the letter, the US Deputy Trade Representative Susan Schwab is arriving in Moscow today. Negotiations will last two days and in theory, they could be drawn to a close just in time for the summit, by the 13th or 14th July. Deputy Prime-Minister Alexandr Zhukov declared to reporters last night that he hopes for a successful conclusion to negotiations before the start of the summit.

Andrew Summers, president of the representation of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia , is even more optimistic. ‘We are confident that Russia and the USA will sign an agreement during the time of the summit or a day before it begins, during a two-way meeting between the presidents of both countries,” he said at a press conference in Moscow . He admits that the American side still has unresolved issues to discuss with Russia , such as copyright protection and limitations on foreign bank business. But he assumes that it will be possible to resolve them after Russia joins the WTO. Furthermore, the concluding of negotiations, in his opinion, will facilitate this.

On the one hand, as a source from the Russian Delegation of Negotiations recalls, a similar situation arose during negotiations with the European Union. The negotiations came to a dead end several times and both sides threatened to back out, but then all the apparently insurmountable problems were solved in two hours. On the other hand, Russia has declared several times that under no circumstance will it agree to the demand of the USA to allow direct bank and insurance company branches to open. And as is well-known, not one country that Washington has negotiated with has managed to maintain its own financial system.

But it is obvious that without its acceptance into the WTO, we cannot talk of Russia ’s complete integration into world economy, without which a fast pace of economic growth is unlikely to occur in the current conditions. Yesterday, social organization Delovaya Rossiya presented its idea of economic growth. The realization of the propositions of the in-depth report entitled Economic Model of a Sovereign Democracy promises a yearly GDP growth of 10%, and furthermore, a tripling of the real incomes of citizens over the course of seven years. When presenting the report at a national business forum, Anton Danilov Danilyan, responsible for Delovaya Rossiya’s expert advice, drew attention to tax novations. According to his calculations, the tax burden on business currently exceeds 50% compared to the general level of tax collection which remains below 60%. The novations should reduce the tax burden to 35% which will lead tax collection to increase to 85%. “Delovaya Rossiya proposes to reduce VAT from 24 to 12%, but replace it in tax from sales with a rate of 10%. In addition, it proposes to reduce CST from 26 to 12%, thereby reversing the regressive scale.

However, the tax burden for citizens will have to increase. So, a return to the progressive scale of income-tax and an increase in tax on real estate is planned to be implemented by 2010. In addition, it has been proposed to restore investment tax privileges for a profit and bring in tax holidays for new enterprises. The National Organization for Economic Development will be in charge of managing the new system. In fact, the creation of this parallel government itself gave rise to considerable resentment amongst members of the cabinet of ministers who attended the forum. “Desperate courage should be accompanied by sober calculation”, declared Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Zhukov. A radical tax reduction, in his opinion, would lead to a need to finance the growing budget expenditures using income from the oil industry, which in the case of a drop in prices, would lead to the sequestration of social expenditures. In the words of Andrei Belousov, representative of the Ministry of Economic Development, “What we are seeing is a set of reforms that is very much comparable to the shock therapy of the early 90s”.

Only the president’s head of expert management Arkadii Dvorkovich approved entirely of the section of the report concerning tax, with the exception of the increase in tax on physical persons. But as is well-known, he is an active supporter of the replacement of VAT from sales and the support of this initiative from a business can only please him. The discussion on the possibilities of tax holidays, assured Mr Dvorkovich, will begin in the next months, although not in the form presented to the business. “Tax holidays will not be set up for companies, in order to avoid stimulating tax evasion by continuous re-registration, but under concrete plans”, clarified the official.


woensdag, juli 05, 2006

Aleksandr Zinovjev (1922-2006) door Koenraad ELST op The Brussels Journal, 4 juli 2006.

Op 10 mei 2006 overleed op 83-jarige leeftijd Aleksandr Zinoviev. Hij was een dissident van de Sovjet-Unie zowel als van de Nieuwe Wereldorde, en waarschuwde voor de gelijkenissen tussen beide.

Aleksandr Zinovjev werd geboren op 29 oktober 1922 in ergens een dorpje genaamd Pachtina, als zesde van elf. Hij was de zoon van een timmerman, wat wel vaker een voorteken is van een grootse roeping. Zijn ouders verhuisden spoedig naar Moskou, waar hij school liep en de aandacht trok als briljant leerling. Hij mocht voortijdig gaan studeren aan het Instituut voor Filosofie, Letterkunde en Geschiedenis, maar werd er buiten gezet wegens kritiek op Jozef Stalins beleid van gedwongen collectivisering. Hij werd aangehouden maar ontsnapte naar Siberië waar hij onderdook tot hij zich in 1940 bij het Rode Leger kon aanmelden. Onder WO2 diende hij in een tankregiment en vervolgens als piloot. Omdat hij zich militair onderscheidde mocht hij nadien naar Moskou terugkeren en zijn studies hervatten. Hij promoveerde op een proefschrift over de logische structuur van Karl Marx’ Das Kapital.

Een van zijn twintigtal boeken over logica, Wijsgerige Problemen van Meerdere-Waarden-Logica (1960), maakte hem international bekend. Hij werd in 1962 hoogleraar en later voorzitter van het departement Wiskundige Logica in de universiteit van Moskou. Hij laadde opnieuw verdenkingen op zich toen hij geen gevolg gaf aan druk van hogerhand om dissidente docenten te ontslaan. In 1970 nam hij ontslag uit de redactie van het leidinggevende sovjettijdschrift voor wijsbegeerte uit protest tegen de personencultus rond Leonid Brezjnev.

Voor de Sovjetregering ging hij een stap te ver met zijn boek De Gapende Hoogten, waarvan het Russisch origineel in 1976 in Lausanne gepubliceerd werd. Daarin beeldde hij de USSR onder Stalin en Nikita Chroestsjov uit als de stad Ibansk (een schuttingwoord) waar De Chef alleen de middelmatigheid laat gedijen, waar elke uitstekende nagel plat geklopt wordt en moreel waardebesef vervolgd. Er is geen werkloosheid omdat iedereen doet alsof hij werkt terwijl de overheid doet alsof ze betaalt. Niemand protesteert omdat iedereen op een of andere manier mede de grote leugen in stand houdt. Met die evocatie schetste Zinovjev de contouren van een begrip dat hij later theoretisch zou uitwerken: Homo Sovieticus.

In Rusland verscheen het boek alleen in samizdat-uitgave, maar het veroorzaakte er enige opschudding. De regering wilde de schrijver van deze bittere satire niet openbaar vervolgen om het boek geen extra publiciteit te bezorgen, maar ze wilde hem ook niet ongemoeid laten. Daarom ontnam ze prof. dr. Zinovjev zijn leerstoel en lidmaatschap van de Sovjet-Academie voor Wetenschappen, zijn eretekens uit de oorlog en zijn academische titels. Na zijn volgende boek, Stralende Toekomst, een satire op Brezjnev die in 1979 in het Westen uitkwam, werd hij verbannen wegens “gedrag schadelijk voor het Sovjetprestige”.

Zinovjev kreeg een leerstoel in München en kon nu rustig zijn ontleding van het reëel bestaande socialisme nader ontwikkelen. In 1985 publiceerde hij dan Homo Sovieticus, een droefgeestige studie van de “maatschappelijke entropie”, volgens hem het geheim van de toch merkwaardige stabiliteit van het anders weinig geliefde Sovjetsysteem. In ruil voor onvrijheid en een lage levensstandaard kregen de sovjetburgers zekerheid en vrijheid van verantwoordelijkheid. Hij meende dat een meerderheid hiermee uiteindelijk tevreden was en het systeem zou steunen. Inmiddels had hij in het Westen ook geen hoge dunk gekregen van de liberale consumentendemocratie die de mensen zwak en dom maakt. Hij verwachtte dat de perestrojka zou slagen en het Sovjetsysteem een tweede adem zou krijgen en het hedonistische Westen zou overleven.

Zoals velen vandaag over Arabieren zeggen, zo zei Zinovjev over de Slaven dat zij geen boodschap hadden aan democratie. De meeste dissidenten zagen dat anders, en Zinovjev vervreemdde nog meer van hen toen het Sovjetsysteem inderdaad instortte. Of de Russen vrijheid zouden krijgen, en wat voor een, was nog niet duidelijk, maar dat zij hun bestaanszekerheid zouden verliezen, was het maar al te zeer. Hij bekritiseerde de uitverkoop van de staatsbedrijven aan roofbaronnen door Boris Jeltsin en de resulterende ontwaarding van lonen en pensioenen. In de presidentsverkiezingen van 1996 steunde hij zelfs de communistische kandidaat Gennadi Zioeganov, de kandidaat van de volksbelangen en tegenstander van de Westerse overname van Rusland. Want voor hem was de ontbinding van de USSR minder de nederlaag van een ideologie als de nederlaag van het Russische volk tegen zijn Westerse belagers.


De ontbinding van het Sovjetsysteem viel samen met de uitroeping van een “Nieuwe Wereldorde” door George Bush senior. Naarmate de VS-hegemonie zich verder ontplooide, ging Zinovjev waarschuwen voor het “democratisch totalitarisme” (democratisch naar de vorm, totalitair in reële machtstermen) dat aan de wereld opgelegd werd.

In ondermeer zijn boek La Grande Rupture: Où Va le Nouvel Ordre Mondial? (L’Age d’Homme, Lausanne 1999) roeit hij tegen de stroom in door de verdediging van de Staat op zich te nemen. Dat is namelijk een belangrijk instrument van volkssoevereiniteit, en het is geen toeval dat ambitieuze agenten van de globalisering de staat langs boven en onder uitkleden. Je kan de staat van allerlei lelijks beschuldigen, maar je kan op hem tenminste een zekere institutionele controle uitoefenen. Zelfs de Sovjetstaat had tenminste de verdienste dat hij het volk beschermde tegen de internationale uitbuitingsmechanismen die onder Jeltsin vrij spel kregen. Vandaag verschuift de macht steeds meer naar allerlei supranationale organen die niet aan democratisch gestemde wetten gehoorzamen noch aan enig kiespubliek verantwoording moeten afleggen. Voor Rusland putte Zinovjev enige hoop uit het herstel van het staatsgezag tegen de oligarchen door Vladimir Poetin.

Een cruciale nieuwigheid in de huidige maatschappij is de oppermacht van de media, die de staat naar hun pijpen kunnen doen dansen. “Formeel bestaat er geen centrum van waar uit de media gedirigeerd worden. Maar in de feiten functioneren zij precies alsof zij instructies ontvangen vanwege een bestuurscentrale zoals de Centraal Comité van de USSR. Er is daar een soort van ‘onzichtbare hand’ die nog praktisch nooit rationeel bestudeerd is” (p.64), zo beschreef hij een situatie die vandaag nog onverminderd in voege is.

Hij rechtvaardigde ook zijn schijnbare ommezwaai die erin bestond om postuum voor het Sovjetstandpunt tijdens de Koude Oorlog op te komen: de Amerikaanse aanwezigheid in Europa was “in feite een onderwerping van West-Europa door een vreemde mogendheid. De VS hebben bereikt wat Hitler-Duitsland geprobeerd had, maar met andere middelen (…) De ‘Koude Oorlog’ van de VS tegen de USSR was terzelfdertijd een ‘koude kolonisatie’ van de alle Westerse staten door de VS.” (p.74)

In 1999 keerde Zinovjev terug naar Rusland. Tijdens een vraaggesprek vlak voor zijn vertrek uit München verklaarde hij: “De catastrofe in Rusland is hier in het Westen gewild en geprogrammeerd. Ik kan het zeggen omdat ik in een zekere periode zelf een ingewijde was. Ik heb deelgenomen aan studiezittingen waar men onder voorwendsel van strijd tegen een ideologie de dood van Rusland voorbereidde. (…) Ik kan niet langer leven in het kamp van diegenen die mijn land en mijn volk vernietigen.” (Grande Rupture, p.90)

In datzelfde jaar gaven de volkomen wederrechtelijke VS-bombardementen op rest-Joegoslavië ter ondersteuning van het moslim-Albanese expansionisme in Kosovo en ter bestraffing van de Servische weerstand hem gelijk. Na de evenzeer wederrechtelijke uitlevering van Slobodan Milosevic aan het Joeslavië-tribunaal werd hij medevoorzitter van het internationaal comité ter verdediging van Milosevic.

Zelf heb ik de eer gehad om Zinovjev een paar keer te ontmoeten en om samen met hem de petitie “Les Européens veulent la paix” tegen de anti-Servische en au fond anti-Europese agressie van Bill Clinton te ondertekenen. Een andere ondertekenaar was Aleksandr Solzjenitsyn. Het is geen toeval dat de pleitbezorgers van de menselijke vrijheid tegen de Sovjetdictatuur vervolgens gingen waarschuwen tegen de soms subtiel en soms minder subtiel opgedrongen “consensus” van de multiculturalistische en moreel relativistische Nieuwe Wereldorde.


Een van Zinovjevs laatste publicaties was een artikel over het bedreigde hindoeïsme en de precaire toekomst van India. Dit liet hij in Indiase media verschijnen onder de titel “For India’s survival, Hinduism has to prevail”. Vooral de opname in Organiser (23 en 30 oktober 2005), het engelstalige orgaan van de hindoe-nationalistische massabeweging Raasjtrija Swajamsewak Sangh (Nationaal Vrijwilligersverbond”), was een scherp gebaar van non-conformisme. De wereldpers heeft natuurlijk geen sympathie voor dissidenten die zich met zulke verfoeilijke groeperingen inlaten, reden allicht waarom Zinovjevs dood in de Vlaamse pers praktisch onvermeld bleef. Maar mannen van formaat die het Sovjetmonster in de muil gekeken hebben, laten zich niet afschrikken door de heilig verontwaardigde foei-kreetjes van amateur-inquisiteurs uit Lilliput.

In dat stuk vraagt Zinovjev zich af welke kansen India, een aloude bondgenoot van Rusland (graaf Hermann Keyserling schreef een eeuw geleden dat geen twee volkeren zo op elkaar geleken als het Russische en het Indiase, allebei diepreligieus en zo), heeft om te overleven nu de bindende kracht van het hindoeïsme verzwakt: ”De waarheid is dat de situatie van het hedendaagse hindoeïsme, en van heel India, verre van volmaakt is. In feite is ze alarmerend, om niet te zeggen catastrofaal. Zelfs als sommige Indiërs, de zogenaamde ‘secularisten’, dit niet beseffen, is het overduidelijk dat het hindoeïsme wegzinkt in de obscuriteit, dat zijn nvloed in Azië maand na maand en dag na dag vermindert. Wellicht beleven wij de laatste eeuwen van de Indiase beschaving en is de situatie van de hindoes van vandaag zoals die van Iran op het eind van zijn zoroastrische periode of van Egypte onder de Ptolemeeën. Er zijn dringend drastische stappen nodig of de hindoes zullen hetzelfde lot delen van die grote naties uit het verleden.”

En dan beschrijft hij de invasie van de moslim-horden en hun vermenigvuldiging binnen India: “In 1400 waren ze al 3,5%, in 1700 al 10%, in 1890 ongeveer 20%, in 1945 al 45%, en vandaag meer dan 31% [in ongedeeld India, dus Pakistan en Bangladesj inbegrepen], of één derde van de bevolking. Dit gestadige islamiseringsproces van India is langzaam maar meedogenloos. (…) In India heeft de islam nooit een eenmaal veroverd gebied weer opgegeven (…) in wat wel eens de meest langdurige en meedogenloze expansie in de religieuze geschiedenis zou kunnen zijn. Het ziet ernaar uit dat India en het hindoeïsme gedoemd zijn en dat er niets gedaan kan worden tegen dit onvermoeibare offensief om de trend te keren. (..) Misschien was de verdwijning van de grote religies van Egypte, Babylon en Perzië geen toerval. Maar ik wens te geloven dat het hindoeïsme te waardevol is voor de mensheid, dat gewijde Indiase boeken teveel kostbare en unieke kennis bevatten om in de vergetelheid te laten wegzinken. ”

De oplossing is duidelijk. Nee, niet de moslims vergassen of de oceaan in drijven, maar wel: “Er is maar één manier, en dat is de massale bekering van moslims tot het hindoeïsme.” Maar daarbij rijst de vraag of het wel mogelijk is om moslims te bekeren: “Er is een theorie dat moslims nooit hun godsdienst zullen opgeven, dat dit volstrekt onmogelijk is. Maar dat is een mythe. Er is een goed en recent tegenvoorbeeld.” En dan doet hij het verhaal van de Bulgaarse moslims uit de streek van de Rhodopa-berg, oorspronkelijke orthodoxe christenen die in de 15de eeuw onder dwang tot de islam bekeerd waren. Midden jaren 1990 keerden zij echter terug tot het christendom onder invloed van de charismatische priester Bojan Saroejev. Jaarlijks gingen twee- tot drieduizend moslims, meestal jong en ontwikkeld, tot hun voorouderlijke godsdienst over.

Het is bewezen dat moslims onder bepaalde omstandigheden wel tot bekering kunnen bewogen worden: “Weldra zullen die voorwaarden ook in India bestaan, want met het toenemende opleidingsniveau zullen moslims beseffen dat het hindoeïsme de inheemse religie van hun land is en dat de islam een van buitenaf met geweld opgelegd geloof is.” Dit zal weliswaar niet vanzelf gaan, het vereist dat “genoeg begaafde hindoe-predikanten, mannen van uitzonderlijk karakter en voldoende moedig, deze moeilijke en belangrijke taak op zich nemen”. Overigens moet deze campagne niet van de staat uitgaan, maar van de hindoe-samenleving zelf, want als zij er niet toe gemotiveerd is, zal er niet veel van in huis komen. Vrijheid krijg je niet gratis, en evenmin de bevrijding van je moslimmedemensen uit hun dwaalgeloof.

Tenslotte roept hij de hindoes op om het niet te ver te drijven met hun geboortenbeperking: “De hindoe-middenklasse moet een vruchtbaarder gedrag ontwikkelen naar het voorbeeld van de joden in Israël, d.w.z. opnieuw kiezen voor gezinnen met meer kinderen. De demografische situatie in Israël en in India is immers erg gelijkaardig en de vijand is dezelfde.” Dat geldt niet alleen voor die twee landen, natuurlijk, maar over Europa is dit punt al voldoende geargumenteerd.

Zodus, bekeer de moslims en keer terug naar normale gezinsvorming, dan zal u en uw land allerhande ellende bespaard worden. Ziedaar het testament van een gestaalde vrijheidsstrijder (als jongeling tegen het nazisme, in de kracht van zijn jaren tegen het communisme, op zijn oude dag tegen het multiculglobalisme annex de islam), tevens hoogleraar in de logica.

Bron: The Brussels Journal