Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Russian's New "Anti-Westernism"

An interesting read in the Moscow Times on Russia's growing anti-Western stance. Some excerpts:

The Russian political elite has long dreamed of finding a national idea capable of rallying the people. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tried to consolidate the country with his idea of socialism "with a human face." Former President Boris Yeltsin roused the people around anti-communism.

And President Vladimir Putin came to power under the unofficial slogan: "Let's put an end to the Yeltsin-era chaos." Now the elite is pushing a new national idea to rally the nation. It can be stated as follows: "We will protect the country from external enemies and establish a new global order to replace the one that so humiliated Russia in the 1990s." To put it more simply, Putin's motto is: "Russia is back!"

And then:

What is behind the new national idea? Anti-Western ideology has become an important factor that legitimizes the highly centralized state. The Kremlin has to offer some kind of explanation for the concentration of authority in so few hands, the elimination of political pluralism, the expansion of the state's role in the economy and the redistribution of property. The search for enemies and the cultivation of a "siege mentality" have always been used to justify "iron-hand" regimes in Russia. To be sure, the Kremlin also has created smaller enemies, such as Georgia, Ukraine, and the Baltic states. In addition, liberals and certain unpopular oligarchs serve as convenient adversaries. But a great power should not be shooting at sparrows with a cannon or focusing so much attention on "small fries," as one Russian analyst said. The West, and especially the United States, has proven to be the most convincing enemy.

And yet, interestingly:

Fortunately, the majority of people have managed to avoid getting caught up in the anti-Western hysteria. Polls show that 70 percent of Russians still consider Europe to be a partner. But there are definite consequences to the Kremlin's heavy anti-Western propaganda. The elite, which has built a political and foreign policy program based on anti-Western ideas, cannot easily switch back to the opposite position. That is the legacy Putin leaves behind -- a legacy built by everyone who today shouts with such enthusiasm, "Russia is back!"

It's an interesting read that explains quite a bit.

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