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Sanctions Show What Independence will Cost Russians (Gazeta, Russia)


"The sanctions show clearly to all that the rules favor the West. If that's how it is, then so be it. If you want to use them - then learn them. If you don't want to use them - that's your choice, but just know what you will be deprived of. ÖPerhaps Russian citizens will decide that they don't need the West, and that it's better to stay as a closed, self-reliant country. Maybe they'll decide it is time to part with this democratic constitution and put in place a fully-fledged Russian monarchy. But the sanctions imposed by the West, and the ones we've imposed in return, will prompt people in advance to what this would cost them personally."


Translated By Rosamund Musgrave


August 22, 2014


Gazeta - Russia - Original Article (Russian)

Andrei Desnitsky believes sanctions will help Russia find her way


I'm not an economist, so won't speculate about things I do not understand, such as whether sanctions imposed on Russia by the West (and now we have to add the voluntary refusal to accept Western goods that Russia has imposed on itself) will help our domestic producers. I won't add my voice to the choir of people who see sanctions as a way of imposing a long-awaited self-restraint leading to a spiritual renaissance, recalling the old adage, "You can lead a man to God - but you can't make him pray."


However, like Professor Preobrazhenskiy (character from the book from Heart of a Dog), I believe that ruin begins in the mind, and economic prosperity also comes from a certain mindset. I am convinced that these sanctions really will help our country become more self reliant and find its place in the world, simply because as time goes by, many bright young minds will be set in place.


I remember the early 1990s and the farewell to socialism. Then, many people wanted to work as if they were in the USSR, but earn as if they were in the United States. It seemed that all the president had to do was issue the right decree, and it would immediately become possible: obsolete equipment that no one needed would be sold for three kopecks, and people would earn $10 in an hour. But it turned out that no one would pay for the products that were produced. You wanted capitalism? You've got it.


Yet the president and his ardent supporters made it seem as if democracy could be declared in the country, as it was in the United States, but that he could remain like a czar, as it was in the Soviet Union.


That, too, failed to work: in the democratic elections, the people didn't vote for the democrats, but on their own volition chose anyone else available. Meanwhile, the Duma [parliament] didn't want to submit or be dissolved. Here, adjustments had to be made.


As a result, both the market and democracy had been compromised in the eyes of that same democratic and market-driven population, who then only wanted a return to the USSR. Yet again, they wanted a kind of miracle: as if by magic, it seemed, they thought it desirable for policy to be set like it was in the USSR, but with the economy and standard of living like it is in the United States. There would be 100 types of beer and sausage in the shops, you could still go online and go on holiday all over the world, but at the same time, our country could play entirely by its own rules, and without anyone else's consent, assert, "The USSR will support whomever it chooses."


That wasn't going to happen either. One could spend quite a lot of time explaining the reasons why: in today's world, everything is interconnected, economic development depends directly on the political situation, nothing comes for free, etc., etc. But in such cases, few people are persuaded by argument.


It's no secret that our people don't just want to take taxis to the bakery. They want to fly there atop an intercontinental rocket, whatever the cost!


A favorite theme of our people is geopolitics and the fate of Russia and the world. We don't want to talk about why puddles aren't evaporating in the yard, why there are lines at the clinic, or why prices have rose again. What are these trivialities compared to the fate of the universe?


Sanctions bring us back down to earth to what we can obtain at the bakery, the dairy, or the supermarket meat section. Over the past decade, we got used to having everything available. It seemed like snow in winter and heat in summer: it always was and would always would be. Empty shelves in Soviet times? That's something from the age of the dinosaurs - a relic of a prior age that will never return.


It's still too early to judge how empty the shelves will become, but the mass bankruptcy of tour operators in the midst of vacation season and the instant collapse of Dobrolet Airlines already demonstrate one simple thing. We all argue about whether Russian citizens share responsibility for the mistakes of our leaders: some don't think any mistakes have been made, others donít consider themselves personally responsible, and still others rush to apologize for the rest of the country. However, tourists trapped on holiday without a return ticket have already been held accountable for the policies of Russia, regardless of whether or not they admit to error.


That is the natural way of things and nothing more.


One of the characteristics of children, in particular teenagers, is an inability to understand how they look through the eyes of others. A young boy plays in the yard with a ball, hitting it against the wall. He is asked to stop but carries on anyway. Then - the sound of broken glass. Boy: "You can't prove it was me!" It can't be proven of course, although everyone there thinks it was him. After all, he was kicking the ball against the wall, he was asked to stop, and he refused.

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The neighbors then engage in a showdown with the boy's parents, then the parents with the young footballer, and the best he can do is say "Prove it!" - Or blame drunk Uncle Vasya or Auntie Masha's walk in the yard. Supposing he's telling the truth, the damage has already been done, and alongside the physical damage, the boy has brought about damage to his reputation for a long time to come. The next time a window is broken he'll be blamed again.


I agree it's not fair, but that's how the world is arranged. We have to live in that reality and not in the geopolitical dreams of ideal entities.


Our people all insist on the historical guilt of the United States, about the lack of proof of Russian intervention in Ukraine, and all the rest. We can endlessly "seek justice," that is, endlessly impose our views on others and wait for them to take them into account. Or we can negotiate with others on mutually acceptable rules.


It so happens that in recent years, relations between Russia and the West have become extremely one-sided. To put it crudely, it seemed to the West that Russia had taken Western rules of the game seriously and was prepared to follow them. Russian leaders, though, seem to have considered these rules unfair, coerced and temporary, all the while insisting on their own exceptionality. These rules are understood as in the old joke, "Here we play, here we don't play, and here we have the oil and gas without which you cannot manage."


Freedom of choice, neither gastronomic nor political, is necessary to a majority of Russians. The response of Russian citizens to all the new bans, which literally limit their daily capacity to choose politicians, foods, places to travel, is to hold on to what they have. Ö It has now become clear that Russia is presenting its own rules. From the beginning, Russian citizens have been offered many concrete examples: in order for the world to start playing by these rules, we must first persuade our other partners to accept them, and be prepared to stop playing by the old rules with you.



These sanctions, of course, will open many people's eyes to the West. It seemed to us all of these years that we knew them well: boundaries to people, goods and ideas were relatively transparent. Everyone drank Coca-Cola, and watched Hollywood blockbusters. We all wanted to travel to Hurghada (Egypt), Antalya (Turkey) and even Paris. But what percentage of the population saw life on the West from the inside out, and spoke to someone other than a tour guide? An insignificant number, and of those, many remained in the West as a result.


Seeing that on the streets of London and New York people drive the same cars, wear approximately the same clothes, eat the same hamburgers and drink the same beer, our people were sure that their lives were arranged exactly like ours. We assumed that in the West, there was also pervasive corruption, an authoritarian regime wearing the mask of democracy, cynicism and disorder. And on our TVs we are told, "They are even worse over there."


So our people say disdainfully: "What are so special about 300 passengers being accidentally shot down? It's nothing new, and during anti-terrorist operations more people died and continue to die. What are they so offended about?"


One could spend a long time explaining what I've tried to outline here in this column. We could add that the lives of people in Donbass were impaired primarily by those who began their "People's Republic" with extrajudicial arrests, torture and executions, while political stability in Ukraine was achieved by those who ousted the president with the help of Molotov cocktails.


Nobody will respect what we do not ourselves respect.


Talking all that through would be long, dull and obscure, but the sanctions show clearly to all that, "the rules favor the West." If that's how it is, then so be it. If you want to use them - then learn them. If you don't want to use them - that's your choice, but just know what you will be deprived of.


\Perhaps Russian citizens will in fact decide that they don't need the West, and that it's better to stay as a closed, self-reliant country, like the Hermit Kingdom [North Korea]. Maybe they'll decide it's time to part with this democratic constitution and put in place a fully-fledged Russian monarchy. But the sanctions imposed by the West, and the ones we've imposed in return, will prompt people in advance to what this would cost them personally.


Perhaps they'll say that it is time to stop hoping for wise decrees from above, and to take responsibility ourselves for the fate of our country. Not responsibility for to international community, but to our children and grandchildren.



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Posted By Worldmeets.US August 22, 2014, 10:19am