Russia's road to democracy
By Pyotr Romanov, RIA Novosti political commentator. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have recently been lecturing Russia on how to run its affairs.
Moreover, Cheney's chilly tones have prompted many political scientists to talk about the prospects of a new Cold War. I don't think they are right. Cheney is not Churchill, and cannot change the course of history. Besides, power in Russia belongs to Putin, not Stalin. Putin's Russia is not going to build a new Berlin Wall. To the contrary, it is increasingly opening its doors to the West, both economically and politically. It is enough to recall its energy projects, and its readiness to discuss any subject despite many differences of opinion with the West. The latter cannot start fighting without an opponent - it takes two to tango.
But there are more important points than that. I have repeatedly read Western comments about the importance of exerting pressure on Russia on the eve of the G8 summit in St. Petersburg on many issues, starting with the Iranian nuclear file and ending with its domestic problems. Such statements show that the U.S. political elite has missed a crucial point - after staying in the U.S. orbit for almost two decades, Russia has restored itself as a planet, and eventually regained its own trajectory. Therefore, the West, and the U.S. in particular, should stop talking to Russia in condescending tones. The manner of talking should be changed, too. This became particularly obvious after the recent lectures of Rice and Cheney, who tried, for the umpteenth time now, to teach what they call true democracy to the Russians. Both looked somewhat comical, like a man yelling something to the train, which has long left the station.
If Washington had analyzed the situation in time, it would have come to a natural conclusion. Russia was not going to be committed to bed forever. It has recovered from the upheaval of the Soviet collapse, and chosen its own road. Moscow is beset with problems but it is ready (psychologically, above all) to resolve its problems on its own. It is grateful for friendly advice and sincere help, but it is emphatically against the preachy tone and importunate advice, all the more so if it contradicts the very nature of Russia and its people. Russia will not change whether the West curses it, complains about it being slow on the uptake, or tries to analyze why the Russians have a peculiar view of the world. Russia did not adopt a Western pattern of democracy in the short period of bourgeois development after the democratic interlude in February of 1917. Today, its political system is not going to be a replica of Western democracy, either.
Some analysts may attribute this fact to Russia's inability to develop the market in earnest, or to value freedom, but this is not the smartest conclusion. It should not be forgotten that pre-revolutionary Russia was moving ahead by leaps and bounds, as many Western experts acknowledge. The German government commission led by Professor Auhagen, which visited Russia in 1914, on the eve of World War I, made a worrisome conclusion for Wilhelm II - once Russia finished its land reform, there would be no country capable of fighting against it. Russia was among the world's leaders in economic growth rates. I recall this fact because a number of experts predict that by 2027-2030 Russia will regain its position among the world's top economies.
It is a myth that the Russians are allergic to a market economy.
The problem of Russian democracy is not simple, either. In order to succeed, a democracy has to absorb the national features and traditions of the Russians. Russian democracy will never be a perfect clone of the Western political system. Russia has another history, and its view of the good and evil, and human rights and freedoms largely differs from that of the West. The recent Council of the Russian People, held recently in Moscow at the initiative of the Russian Orthodox Church, was strongly critical of the West for neglecting moral standards. Speakers emphasized that without respect for morality, freedoms of the individual and of speech lead to social degradation. The Catholic Church is of the same opinion. Moreover, I'm sure that the deeply religious founding fathers of the American democracy would not have liked many features of Western life today. Why insist on the Russians following the Western road?
Russia has opted for democracy. There are no serious indications that it will deviate from this strategic direction. But the purely Russian nuances, such as stronger statehood or tougher morality will manifest themselves with time. Finally, as any sovereign state, Russia will be defending its interests in the world arena - the stronger the country, the tougher its policy. There is nothing to be scared of. But it would be logical to expect Russia after some time to have strategic interests near U.S. borders. After all, doesn't Ms. Rice talk today about U.S. strategic interests at the Russian borders? The U.S. is certainly right about globalization.