Russia's road to democracy

10.05.06

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.-0-