Monday, April 18, 2005

Pundita had an excellent post on Russia that I encourage you to look at that continues to elaborate on her DSSK theme. This post led me to read through her file cabinet on Russia and Ukraine – more specifically, on American foreign policy toward those states. Pundita’s observations have a good deal of congruency with my views and with those of Soviet specialists like Tom Nichols who has excoriated the last decade of State department bumbling in the states of the former Soviet Union. For those hoping for a reprise of the Orange Revolution in Moscow, Pundita offered this caveat:

"America is now out there on the cutting edge, advocating democracy as a cure for the world's most deeply entrenched social ills. So the Democracy Stage Show Kit should be deployed with great caution and only when all other avenues have been exhausted. Whatever we gain at the moment from slapdash use of the kit is lost when disillusionment with faux democracy sets in.."

I am admittedly, an enthusiastic advocate of exporting democracy. And I have looked with dismay at the creeping authoritarianism in Russia under Vladmir Putin but before we contemplate giving his illiberal but semi- democratic regime a bump into modernity, we need to consider that right now Russia is teetering on the edge of an abyss. We need to pull them back to the Western camp, not shove them toward the precipice

That Russia stands peering over the edge is mostly the fault of the Russians themselves but if they topple in we cannot avoid having to deal with the resultant, very dangerous, mess. America needs Russia in the New Core and not as a member of the Gap. Russia as an embittered, revanchist, hypernationalist, rogue state or a disintegrating, strife-torn, " Yugo-Eurasia" would be a first class disaster for American national security. We need to put Putin and Russia in a a larger historical and cultural context if we are to understand how to help the Russians move in the direction of liberty and prosperity. First some hard truths:

I mention these things not because a democratic, free market, Westernized, Russia as a solid member of the Core is impossible but that we are confined to work within these realities to achieve it.
Great post!

The one thing I would change is that Russia's disintegration does not have to be against our interest. So far it has been very positive.

Since at least the early 1980s Moscow has been trading geopolitical power for working capital. Every step of this journey has freed nations from Moscow's grip and increased liberalization and connectivity with the "global" econony.

From Eastern European countries having to raise international capital, to the fall of the Soviet Outer Empire in 1989, to the fall of the Soviet Inner Empire in 1991, to Georgia's, Moldvoa's. and Ukraine's recent realignments, we are winning. Even now, a free Ukraine is better than a Moscow-dominated Ukraine. As Russia falls the concern should be to connect the succssor states to us, not to save their connection with Moscow.

The center of power that, more than other other, fought globalization is being destroyed forever. It is being replaced by a number of smaller states that are much more friendly. Good.
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The problem is, Dan, that there is one gigantic lump of state that isn't going away. Let Chechnya and a few others of what the Soviet Union called autonomous republics go, and you'll still have an enormous state with enormous natural resources and strategic placement. And some of those will never be let go, because they're surrounded by...Russia.

Whether Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will turn out "free" is still open. But I suspect that you don't care, as long as they are aligned with "the West." And geography is destiny there, too. That "West" is more likely to be Europe than the US. They can't pick up and move to Kansas.

The US had the foresight in the late 1940s to rebuild Europe through the Marshall Plan. A similar initiative in the 1990s for the former Soviet Union was what was needed, but the US lacked the statesman who would champion it. That option is no longer open.

So yeah Mark, we've got a mess in the making. I don't see any easy answers. It will largely be a matter of working at the margins, encouraging Russia toward the West. Unfortunately, the regime-change gang in Washington doesn't seem to understand that. Or maybe they're distracted by all those other easier-to-change regimes.

Apologies for the double-comment. Blogspot sometimes get the better of me.

I'm not sure how big "rump Russia" is, if it would even exist. Stratfor has written on how militarily unfeasible Russia without Ukraine -- is it nationally unfeasiable as well?

Real alignment with the rest requires progress towards democratic liberalism. Ukraine was already aligned with the West and America (it had troops in Iraq), while Georgia was run by a friend from the fall of the Soviet Union. But it is more important to connect the countries to the global system and increase everybody's wellbeing.

The proximity of the former Soviet republics to Europe is a great thing. The economic integration and political stability from joining the EU has clearly helped Hungary, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, and others. It's not a zero-sum game, where what helps Europe hurts America.

A "Marshall Plan" for the old Soviet sphere would have been historically unprecedented. Unlike post-War Europe, where an archipeligo of liberated governments stretched from Paris to Athens, the ex-Soviet republics were often still run by the same people. For example, the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic under Speaker of the Supreme Soviet Boris Yeltsin became... the Russian Federation under President Boris Yeltsin. A better analogy would have been Occupied Japan, which also experienced the same community running the during the war as after.

Except peacefully, I don't see any push for regime revolution in Russia.
Hey Dan and CKR,

The issues you have each raised require a post in themselves and not merely a comment. Bear with me a little while and I'll have something up.
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I am also for democracy. But...America has been exporting democracy for several decades and there are quite a few success stories. but there are also way too many fruitless attemps. Why are such countries as Japan, South Korea, etc booming but not much has changed in formoer Yugoslavian territories? I think, most of it has simply to do with mentality and political tradition. Russians have been living in an authoritatian state pretty much the whole time of the existance of the state. And I'm not sure how much time will be needed to change the mentality.
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