[Stuff, New Zealand]



O Globo, Brazil

'To Explain the Kremlin's Behavior is Not to Support It'


"It isn't because of the communist era - or Stalinist paranoia - that Russians think they are being surrounded by the West or dismissed by Western capitals - or both. The way they see the world, there is no shortage of examples. … but to explain a behavior is not to support it."


By William Waack



Translated By Brandi Miller


August 11, 2008


Brazil - O Globo - Original Article (Portuguese)

British Foreign Secretary and possible candidate for the Prime Ministership, David Miliband, called for solidarity with Georgia.


BBC NEWS VIDEO: Foreign Secretary David Miliband in Tblisi, after NATO's summit on the Georgia Crisis, Aug. 19, 00:04:19 RealVideo

The return of the Russian bear is a melancholic film. In Moscow, two political factors of great magnitude combine regarding Ossetia-Abkhazia-Georgia: wounded pride for a lost empire and the wish to reorganize nearby regions (the “near abroad,” as the Russians say). Is it possible that these two elements, which one would consider “psychological” and “emotional,” explain the behavior of sovereign states? Yes, they do.


To those who weren't in Moscow in the moments that followed the implosion of the Soviet Empire, it's difficult to convey the depth of humiliation that Russians felt. A good part of the public reaction to the political reordering of the country is tied to the fact that the expansion of the Empire wasn't just a victory for the Bolsheviks [seized power in the 1917 Revolution ] - and here I directly address the tendency toward strong-arm politicians like Vladimir Putin. Historians generally agree that this was a continuation.


But it isn't because of the communist era - or Stalinist paranoia - that Russians think they're being surrounded by the West or dismissed by Western capitals or both. The way they see the world, there is no shortage of examples. The way NATO expanded its boundaries to the edge of Russia, for example, perfectly served the security needs of the States that are today part of the new Central Europe.



But in the eyes of Moscow, this was nothing but the West taking advantage of an opportunity - the disintegration of the Soviet Union and its dire internal upheaval - to further limit Russia's range of action. Putin is anything but a poker player. And in several public speeches in which he addressed the issue of relations with the West (seen here primarily as the United States and the core countries of the European Union) he made it quite clear that one of his objectives was to restore lost pride.




I'm taking care here not to fall into the rather simplistic argument that Russia's stance on the separatist provinces and Georgia itself is a “justified” reaction by Moscow to the way the West has treated it … And the way the United States went to war in the Middle East; or the way that the major Western countries have recognized the independence of Kosovo from Serbia, a former client of Moscow. After all, to explain a behavior (in this case, of the Russians) is not to support it.


Nor for the moment am I interested in making a moral judgment. Powers act according to their interests, especially with regard to their neighbors, and the use of force has never been ruled out of international relations. You can characterize it as cynicism and amoral behavior - I prefer the old German expression “Realpolitik .” 



The problem here is to establish whether the paths of “Realpolitik” chosen by Putin in Georgia to restore Russia, makes it an even stronger global power - or simply strong, but unreliable. And if Putin’s conduct in relation to foreign investment increases Russia's global economic bargaining power, or just makes it an undesirable partner. And if the belief that countries like Georgia or Ukraine are now enemies for having gone through more extensive political reforms than Russia, helps Moscow forge a strategic partnership with Europe, or rather, whether it pushes it farther away from an important long-term objective.


Living with Russia just became more difficult. And that may be just what Putin wants.






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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US August 20, 5:45am]