Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The West's New Cold Warriors are the biggest handicap to Russian democracy


At Burke’s Corner Brian Crowe has written lucidly on avoiding unreasonably provoking Russia. Brian explicates the real differences which inform western and Russian outlooks and implicitly acknowledges Russia’s right to follow a different course. In the view of Burke’s Corner what is required is respect for Russia’s history, interests and geography. This respect would necessarily entail a less aggressive and expansionist agenda within NATO.

Writing at Comment is Free, former Danish foreign minister Uffe Elleman-Jensen is less inclined to accord Russia respect. Rather he has chosen to interpret Russia’s scepticism about eastward NATO expansion as ‘bullying’ and clearly regrets the end of a period during which the Kremlin could safely be ignored on the world stage. When Uffe-Elleman laments that, “1989 was not the end of history. History threatens to return”, the substance of his grievance is actually that 1989 did not signal the end of Russian influence and did not herald a unipolar world.

His comments illustrate very graphically post Cold War confusion as to the role of NATO. Another blogger with an interest in Eastern Europe and occasional Three Thousand Versts commenter CW raises this confusion in the comment zone of a previous thread.

“NATO has outlived its original cold war era purpose of providing a defence mechanism against ground attack for the west European states against the Soviet bloc. Now it seems to have taken the role of an international police force come aid agency concerned mostly with protecting the geo-strategic-economic interests of Uncle Sam.”

In his article Uffe-Elleman conflates the military alliance NATO, with the political institutions of the EU and indeed with the more nebulous terms “Europe” and “the West” barely attempting to distinguish between any of these different concepts, geographical descriptions and international organisations. NATO is simply another aspect of an indivisible block comprising ‘the West’, built around the United States and the EU, self-evidently promoting the universal values of “democracy and freedom”.

This mentality echoes Edward Lucas’ book ‘The New Cold War’ which advocates a more confrontational and united approach to relations with Russia from the US and EU. As Robert Service argued in an article in Sunday’s Observer, such an attitude merely cements the authority of more authoritarian leaders in Russia and discredits the credentials of liberal democracy in the eyes of ordinary Russians.

3 comments:

CW said...

Harry C. Blaney III of the Center for International Policy makes a salient point in a letter published in the latest edition of the journal Foreign Affairs:

"It is clear that the integration of Russia as a cooperative strategic partner of the West would do more for stability in eastern Europe than simple membership in NATO would for many of the region's still problematic states-especially if the end result of granting such membership is an increased sense of isolation in Russia and exacerbated tensions between Russia and the West.

CW said...

PS - I've just found out, the full text is available here:

http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20080301faletter87270/harry-c-blaney-iii/russian-handshake.html

Damn! If I'd known, I could have just copied and pasted it instead of typing out the whole sentence!

Chekov said...

Thanks CW. I'll give it a read.