Monday, 3 November 2008

Less talking and more demonising - the Lucas doctrine

A colleague of Edward Lucas at ‘The Economist’ is reputed to have commented, “Ed is known at the paper, as even he would admit, as a bit of a loon.”. His paranoid fantasies about Russia, his fevered calls for a new Cold War and his imprecations, called down on any country or politician daring to treat Russians with any degree of civility, would be amusing, if they did not find echoes within the American administration and amongst the more febrile breed of British politician.

In the Daily Telegraph Lucas rages against the evils of normalising relations between Europe and Russia. French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, attracts his ire because he favours diplomacy rather than cranking up hostility to fever pitch. The UK is impugned because it has acquiesced, rather than lining up alongside a coterie of dangerously right wing, ethno-nationalist former communist states, which Lucas presents as a repository of clear eyed good sense as regards Russia.

The man is barking mad. He believes that Russian money has allowed it to establish a fifth column within the EU, comprising just about every influential western European state. He wishes the UK to align itself with hot-headed Russophobes in the Baltic and Poland and ignore more cautionary voices in Germany, France, Holland, Italy and so on. The countries he cites as a bulwark against Russian aggression have pasts which explain their Russophobia and paranoia. Britain does not, and it should be on the side of a more balanced EU policy toward Russia.

Vladimir Putin and his successor Dmitry Medvedev have not been building a dictatorial, expansionist regime which must be faced down in the manner which Lucas is so eager to propound. Certainly they have tried to shape the market economy and democracy in ways peculiar to Russia's culture and history in order to tackle problems which that culture and history have bequeathed. At times the statist elment (which from Putin’s first stint as Prime Minister remained a central plank of his politics, transparently so) has gone too far and has wavered into authoritarianism. Neither has Putinism been shy in outlining its vision of a world in which a strong and powerful Russia plays an active and influential role.

Whatever the occasional excesses of Putin’s Russia, as inherited by Medvedev, there is no justification for treating it as a pariah state. Russia acts rationally and within the remit of normal geo-politics, it has been developing freedoms and democracy by its own model and at its own speed. It must be allowed to continue to do so.


Sean Guillory said...

One wonders why if the Economist recognizes Lucas is a loon, they risk their reputation as a (formerly, imho) well respected journal. I would think they would put someone on the Russia beat that had half a brain rather than repeating the same tried diatribe. That is unless the Economist is happy with the loss of credibility that comes with it.

Chekov said...

Formerly is the operative word Sean. O'Neill has some good stuff on declining standards at the Economist here. I enjoy your blog by the way.

Safiya Outlines said...

Yes, because treating countries as pariah states, especially powerful ones is a really effective tactic.