TMCnet News

[September 09, 2006]


(Federal News Service (Russia) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)


Andrei Illarionov, formerly adviser to the Russian President,
thinks that, like in 1946, Moscow is initiating a downturn in the
relations with the West. Stinging criticism of the speech delivered
by Vice President Dick Cheney is just a convenient trick designed to
create a new social atmosphere in Russia, an atmosphere of fear and
mobilization which the Kremlin needs to achieve its political goals,
as Andrei Illarionov argues in the article below.

Much has changed in our country in the last three years.
Economic policy, the political regime, the very essence of the
Russian state, the ideology and philosophy of power have been
radically revised. Now it is the turn of Russia's relations with the
external world.

Attack on Good Neighborhood

The formal pretext for selling the U-turn in Russia's
international policy to the public was the speech by the US Vice
President Richard Cheney at the conference "Common Vision for a
Common Neighborhood" in Vilnius. "Harsh statements", "ultimatum",
"enemy at our gate", "declaration of a Cold War," "a new Fulton",
"blasphemy" -- these are just some of the epithets the Russian
politicians and media used to describe the speech by the No. 2 man
in the US Administration. What did Cheney actually say about Russia?
What prompted such comments? The major speech devoted to the
promotion of democracy and freedom in the modern world devotes three
paragraphs to Russia: some description and a few wishes and hopes.

What does the descriptive part contain that distorts Russian
reality and that is unknown to Russian citizens themselves? That "in
Russia today opponents of reform are seeking to reverse the gains of
the last decade?" Everybody knows that. That "in many areas of civil
society -- from religion and the news media, to advocacy groups and
political parties -- the government has unfairly and improperly
restricted the rights of her people?" This is not news. That "oil
and gas become tools of intimidation and blackmail, either by supply
manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation?" We can
watch live coverage of energy wars on television. That "no one can
justify actions that undermine the territorial integrity of a
neighbor?" But this is the official position of the Russian

So, did Cheney say anything new? He said what he was not
expected to say. He extended to Russia an offer of friendship and
strategic partnership, free trade and a century of peace, respect of
national culture and a living down of past conflicts, of interaction
of "sovereign (make a note of that) democracies" and cooperation
within the G8. And the most horrible thing that Cheney said was
this: "None of us believes that Russia is fated to become an enemy."
The so-called knight of the Cold War extended a hand of friendship
and an olive branch. What Cheney did not say, but should have said
(according to notions and expectations) was said for him by the
Russian propaganda.

And yet, come to think of it, Cheney could have opted for an
aggravation. For example, he could have reacted to the words of the
Russian Foreign Minister about "radical differences between the
foreign policy philosophy of Moscow and the approaches of some
Western capitals." He could have responded to the words from the
Russian President's article about redistribution of energy in the
world in line with the "priorities of a small group of states." But
Cheney chose not to say anything like that. He spoke about other
things and this turned out to be his main "crime": "The spread of
democracy is an unfolding of history; it is a benefit to all and a
threat to none. The best neighbor a country can have is a democracy
-- stable, peaceful and open to relations of commerce and
cooperation instead of suspicion and fear." The reply came five days
later in the President's Address to the Federal Assembly. Its main
thrust is mobilization -- economic, demographic, scientific and

Historical Parallels

It would serve a useful purpose to put the relations between
Russia, on the one hand, and the US and the West as a whole in a
historical perspective.

In the morning of December 7, 1941 the US was suddenly attacked
by a formidable enemy as a result of which several thousand people
died. Almost 60 years later, in the morning of September 11, 2001,
the US was again attacked, as a result of which thousands of people
died. In 1941 the US got an important ally in the USSR, cooperation
with which in that war produced major victories. Sixty years later
the US also got an important ally in the war that broke out. The
ally was Russia, in cooperation with which serious victories were
scored in a new war.

Some time after the beginning of that war the allies discovered
that they have radical differences on a growing list of issues.
Sixty years on, history is repeating itself: the positions of
yesterday's strategic partners are beginning to diverge in a
fundamental way on a growing range of issues.

In 1945-1946 the most serious differences between the US and
the USSR came to the surface in Eastern Europe, the Black Sea basin,
the Middle East, Greece, Turkey and Iran. Sixty years on, the most
serious contradictions are in Eastern Europe, the Black Sea basin,
in Moldavia, Ukraine, Georgia and Iran. In 1946 one of the sharpest
international crises was caused by the occupation of northern Iran
by the Soviet troops. Sixty years on one of the sharpest
international crises is again unfolding around Iran.

In 1946 the USSR proposed to the Iranian government to create a
joint venture in the field of energy, at that time hydrocarbon
energy. Sixty years on, Russia has proposed to the Iranian
government creating a joint venture in the field of energy, this
time nuclear energy. In 1946 the Iranians brilliantly hoodwinked
Soviet diplomacy. Sixty years on, the same story repeated itself.

In February 1946, Stalin delivered a speech at a meeting with
voters at the Bolshoi Theater. Summing up the lessons of the
recently ended war he formulated a key lesson of success: the
country had been preparing for war over three five-year periods. And
he went on to formulate a new goal: three five-year plan
periods were needed. There was no doubt among observers about the
message of Stalin's speech: instead of peace and cooperation with
the allies, the USSR was preparing for a new war. Soon afterwards
Winston Churchill made one of the most celebrated attempts to
prevent a confrontation. Describing what was happening on the other
side of the iron curtain that had fallen over Europe in a speech in
Fulton, Churchill called not for war -- a shooting or a cold one. He
called for peaceful cooperation with the USSR and a prevention of a
military catastrophe. Stalin's reply was not long in coming. Nine
days later Churchill was described as a "warmonger", and needless to
say, Stalin's propaganda did not ascribe the start of the Cold War
to the speech at the Bolshoi Theater.

Sixty years on, history in some ways is repeating itself. The
fundamental decision to break the relations of alliance and
partnership with the US and the West was published in a series of
public statements by Russian leaders in January-March 2006 that
passed largely unnoticed. Richard Cheney a week ago made an attempt
to ward off the mounting crisis and restore cooperation. The
reaction from Moscow demonstrated convincingly that it was anything
but what the Russian authorities wanted. Today they need
confrontation. Today they need an enemy, preferably an external one.

A New Mobilization

To fight the West in earnest? Present-day Russia has no
resources for a full-scale showdown. So, it needs a virtual
confrontation intended for domestic than foreign consumption.

There are two reasons for that. The first is the need to
promptly make use of the windfall profits due to an unprecedented
situation in the international markets. And to this end it is
necessary to generate a sense of danger, a sense of fear. The
arsenal of former threats -- from terrorists to fascists -- turns
out not to be impressive enough to justify the spending of tens of
billions of dollars. External threats are needed ("Comrade Wolf is
choosing his victims himself.") It doesn't matter who the victim is
and where. What matters is a sense of danger.

The other reason has to do with domestic politics. It is
awkward to lose out to the intellectual opposition on every count.
And yet only the use of brute force can prevent it happening. Now
everything should change. Just yesterday the adherence of this or
that citizen, party, organization or newspaper to the principles of
freedom, democracy, human rights, openness and tolerance had to be
tolerated (well, it takes all sorts to make Russian politics).
Tomorrow there will be no need for toleration. Tomorrow these people
will no longer be regarded as mere oddballs. Tomorrow it will be
seen as national treachery, high treason, activities of enemies of
the people. And there is no doubt as to what to do about those who
are not with us. The country is turning into a single camp, a war
camp for starters.

Of course, historical parallels are never complete. And, as is
known, history sometimes repeats itself as a farce. Be that as it
may, it is obvious that the path chosen by the present-day Russian
authorities leads into a historical dead end. We have been there
before. We have already paid a high price for it. It is because of
this that the place of Russia in today's world is incomparably
modest than the place of the post-war USSR. And if Russia reverts to
that path, it will be still modest.

Andrei Illarionov is President of the Economic Analysis Institute.

Copyright 2006 Federal News Service, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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