Category Archives: ideology

The Code of the Muscovite Idea

Paul Goble reports:

After a Moscow city duma deputy proposed preparing a “Code of the Muscovite” to tell new arrivals what behavior is appropriate and what is not in the Russian capital, politicians in St. Petersburg have proposed coming up with an analogous document for the Northern Capital, a step that highlights the absurdities and dangers of such actions. On the one hand, Ilya Raskin writes in Vestnik Civitas, there is a very real chance that other cities and even small towns and villages will do the same, something that will make this an “all-Russian” phenomenon without the powers that be in the central government having to take responsibility. (In St. Petersburg, Elena Babich, an LDPR deputy in the city Duma, has called for the development of “a dress code” for gastarbeiters so that they will better fit in with the city’s longtime residents, something she said would be a supplement to the “ABCs for the Beginning Petersburger” developed last year.)

And on the other, Raskin notes, the timing of the Moscow proposal is suspicious: It appeared just as the FSB called for giving its officers the power to issue warnings to citizens without reference to the courts, a coincidence that represents in Raskin’s words, “a standard method of districting attention and [producing] disorientation.”

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EDITORIAL: Russia’s Dutch Politics Disease

EDITORIAL

Russia’s Dutch Politics Disease

Some economists argue that having a large amount of natural resources is a bad thing for a country.  This infamous “Dutch disease” infects the national will, drying up incentives for innovation and encouraging the citizenry to become like the fat couch potatoes in the movie “Wall-E.”  Eventually, unless rescued by a heroic robot, such “rich” societies end up destroying themselves.

Can the same be said of politics?  Is Russia worse off with a little bit of freedom under Vladimir Putin than it was with none at all under Brezhnev, because there is less chance of fomenting real social change?

We think so, and so does Russian economist Yevgeny Gontmakher in his latest Moscow Times column. 

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Putin: Racist, Aggressive, Deluded, Scary

Writing on USA Today‘s blog Ralph Peters of the newspaper’s Board of Contributors argues that we should be scared by the racist evil that is Vladimir Putin:

Why Putin should scare us

He’s an ethnic nationalist with a mystical sense of Russian destiny.
Cold and pragmatic, he won’t play by the world’s rules.

Possessing a clear vision of where he wants to go and the ruthlessness to get there, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the world’s most effective national leader in power. He also might be the most misunderstood.

Grasping what Putin’s about means recognizing what he isn’t about: Despite his KGB past and his remark that the Soviet Union’s dissolution was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, Putin isn’t nostalgic for communism. By the time he joined the KGB in the mid-1970s, the organization was purely about preserving the power structure — not upholding abstract philosophies.

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The Sunday Tract: On Neo-Soviet Ideology

Some people (idiots, mostly) claim that the Russia is different from the USSR in that it lacks ideology. Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writing in the Washington Post, shows that they couldn’t be more wrong.

Ideology matters again. The big development of recent years is the rise not only of great powers but also of the great-power autocracies of Russia and China. True realism about the international scene begins with understanding how this unanticipated shift will shape our world.

Many believe that when Chinese and Russian leaders stopped believing in communism, they stopped believing in anything. They had become pragmatists, pursuing their own and their nation’s interests. But Chinese and Russian rulers, like past rulers of autocracies, do have a set of beliefs that guide their domestic and foreign policies. They believe in the virtues of strong central government and disdain the weaknesses of the democratic system. They believe strong rule at home is necessary if their nations are to be respected in the world. Chinese and Russian leaders are not just autocrats. They believe in autocracy.

And why shouldn’t they? In Russia and China, growing national wealth and autocracy have proved compatible, contrary to predictions in the liberal West. Moscow and Beijing have figured out how to permit open economic activity while suppressing political activity. People making money will keep their noses out of politics, especially if they know their noses will be cut off if they don’t. New wealth gives autocracies a greater ability to control information — to monopolize television stations and control Internet traffic, for instance — often with the assistance of foreign corporations eager to do business with them.

In the long run, rising prosperity may produce political liberalism, but how long is the long run? It may be too long to have strategic or geopolitical relevance.

In the meantime, the power and durability of these autocracies will shape the international system. The world is not about to embark on a new ideological struggle of the sort that dominated the Cold War. But the new era, rather than being a time of common values and shared interests, will be one of growing tensions and sometimes confrontation between the forces of democracy and those of autocracy.

If autocracies have their own set of beliefs, they also have their own set of interests. China’s and Russia’s rulers are pragmatic chiefly in protecting their continued rule. Their interest in self-preservation shapes their approach to foreign policy.

Russia is a good example of how a nation’s governance affects its relations with the world. A democratizing Russia, and even Mikhail Gorbachev’s democratizing Soviet Union, took a fairly benign view of NATO and tended to have good relations with neighbors that were treading the same path toward democracy. But Vladimir Putin regards NATO as a hostile entity, calls its enlargement “a serious provocation” and asks “against whom is this expansion intended?” Yet NATO is less provocative and threatening toward Moscow today than it was in Gorbachev’s time.

So what is it that Putin fears about NATO? It is not the military power. It is the democracy.

The post-Cold War world looks different from autocratic Beijing and Moscow than it does from democratic Washington, London, Paris, Berlin or Brussels. The “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine, so celebrated in the West, worried Putin because they checked his regional ambitions and because he feared their examples could be repeated in Russia. Even today he warns against “jackals” in Russia who “got a crash course from foreign experts, got trained in neighboring republics and will try here now.”

American and European policymakers say they want Russia and China to integrate into the international liberal order, but it is not surprising if Russian and Chinese leaders are wary. Can autocrats enter the liberal international order without succumbing to the forces of liberalism?

Afraid of the answer, the autocracies are understandably pushing back, with some effect. Autocracy is making a comeback. The modern liberal mind at “the end of history” has trouble understanding the enduring appeal of autocracy in this globalized world. But changes in the ideological complexion of the most influential world powers have always had some effect on the choices made by leaders of smaller nations. Fascism was in vogue in Latin America in the 1930s and ’40s partly because it seemed successful in Italy, Germany and Spain. The rising power of democracies in the last years of the Cold War, culminating in communism’s collapse after 1989, contributed to the global wave of democratization. The rise of two powerful autocracies may shift the balance back again.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, welcomes the return of ideological competition. “For the first time in many years,” he boasts, “a real competitive environment has emerged on the market of ideas” between different “value systems and development models.” And the good news, from the Kremlin’s perspective, is that “the West is losing its monopoly on the globalization process.”

All this comes as an unwelcome surprise to a democratic world that believed such competition ended when the Berlin Wall fell. It’s time to wake up from the dream.

The Sunday Stalin

Paul Goble reports on the new, improved, younger, prettier Stalinism:

Today, on the 55th anniversary of the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, young Russians “who know nothing about the repressions” he carried out are increasingly displacing pensioners as the most important component of his backers in the Russian Federation, according to a Moscow journalist. In an essay in Novyye izvestiya today entitled “The Glamorous Tyrant: The Cult of Stalin Experiences a Rebirth,” Mikhail Pozdnyaev notes that half of all Russians now view Stalin positively and that many are seeking to restore his name to streets and squares and to put back up monuments to him that Nikita Khrushchev took down. But what is more disturbing, Pozdnyaev says, is that “if at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, the typical Stalinists were pensioners who came to meetings with pictures of the leader, today a significant portion of young people, who know nothing about the repressions of the Stalinist period, have joined them.” And that in turn suggests that the cult of Stalin will continue well into the future rather that gradually die out and that the authoritarianism of many Russians, a proclivity Vladimir Putin has played to, will continue to shape Russian politics rather than giving way to more democratic ones.

In his article, Pozdnyaev reviews polling data showing support for the dictator, reports about the efforts of Stalinists young and old to honor him, and quotes rights activists and others who are horrified by the willingness of some to venerate him for his role in World War II while ignoring his enormous crimes against the population. All too often, the literary and political figures with whom Novyye izvestiya talked and whose comments the paper appended to Pozdnyaev’s article noted, those who are the most positive about Stalin are precisely the young who did not live under him and know about the tyrant only from movies and television. On this anniversary, some citizens of the Russian Federation are trying to change that: Novaya gazeta published Khrushchev’s 1956 secret speech which outlined some of Stalin’s crimes, as well as excerpts from a later Khrushchev speech that revealed some additional ones. Meanwhile, non-Russian leaders in the North Caucasus whose nations Stalin violently deported at the end of World War II recalled the anniversary of Stalin’s passing and recounted for young people there what the Moscow tyrant had done to them and their lands.

But few young Russians are likely to read Pozdnyaev’s commentary or Khrushchev’s secret speech. Instead, they are more likely to go to movies portraying Stalin as the great leader of a great power or turn to sites like www.za-nauku.ru/ which argue that Stalin’s reputation has been besmirched by the enemies of Russia.

Annals of the Neo-Soviet Restoration

Paul Goble reports:

References to some kind of Soviet restoration are becoming ever more frequent in both Moscow and Western capitals, a dangerous trend that threatens to “disorient” elites in both places and lead to decisions that are disconnected with reality, according to a leading Moscow specialist on nationalism in the post-Soviet world.

In an essay posted online December 19th with the significant title, “The Neo-Soviet Myth,” Sergei Markedonov says that both those in Moscow who hope for a return of the Soviet Union as well as those in the West who fear it are deluding themselves in potentially dangerous ways. The reasons the current Russian leadership employs such language, the Moscow analyst says, are not hard to specify. The Putin regime sees the Soviet past as “a powerful legitimating resource” because it hopes to present itself as “the continuer of the policy of ‘a great power’” rather than as the inheritor of the weakness of the 1990s. But the reasons Western elites are using this language are more complicated, if not more justified. First of all, many in the West see the growing income of the Russian Federation as the basis for a restoration of Moscow’s role across the former Soviet space., a view Russian analysts have typically been all too willing to invoke as well. Second, Markedonov says, many in Western capitals apparently believe that the restoration of Russian power over this region in some way could result in greater stability and predictability in international affairs, again a view that many in Moscow express and are only too willing to take from their Western interlocutors. Indeed, on this the 90th anniversary of the formation of the Cheka, many Russian commentators are celebrating Time magazine’s decision to name Vladimir Putin its man of the year because of his role, however authoritarian and undemocratic, in ending “the time of troubles” ushered in by the end of the Soviet Union.

One Moscow article on the American magazine’s decision, in fact, was entitled Stabil’nost’ uber Alles, an elegant and highly symbolic combination of a Russian term with a German one. And third, Markedonov suggests, at least some in the West have concluded that the invocation of a possible Soviet restoration as an all-purpose excuse to explain to domestic audiences their own failures in promoting democratization not only in Eastern Europe but also in the Middle East. But if this rhetoric has its uses to political elites in both Moscow and Western capitals, he continues, it is extremely dangerous because it is being used by people who either do not recognize or will not admit in public that there is no possibility for its realization any time soon.

On the one hand, these political elites forget, the Soviet Union was a state based on an ideology. Despite the essentially esthetic arguments of the original Eurasians, Markedonov points out, “the imperial idea did not win out on the territory of the former USSR.” It died along with the White Movement Wrangel and Denikin by 1922. The way in which the Soviet regime implemented its “proletarian internationalism,” building up “national-territorial” units like the union republics, promoting Soviet-defined national identities, and even contributing to the notion of ethnic property meant that the regime was in Marxist terms, its own grave digger, Markedonov argues. But none of those things meant, he insists, that the USSR was in any way simply an updated version of the Russian Empire that had existed before. However much some may want or others fear, there is absolutely no support for a new supra-national ideology in the post-Soviet states. “Nostalgia for the USSR” is found “only in Russia: Even Belarus uses [such emotions] instrumentally” rather than as an expression of its core values. And on the other hand, Markedonov points out, the idea that a restored Soviet Union could be some “soft form” of the USSR is nonsense. That country “was possible only under the harshest dictatorship with the preservation of a definite level of ethno-administrative freedom for regional dictators and a planned-distribution economy.”

Once the Soviet state under Mikhail Gorbachev loosened up in order to try to get the economy moving in the 1980s, the entire edifice came down around him because “a liberal USSR’ cannot be — [because] at the very least this would not be the USSR.” At present, Markedonov notes, “there is not a single force in Russia or in the other countries of the CIS prepared to propose to the population a program based on state plans and the dictatorship of a single party.” Such planning does not exist even in Belarus, and “’forced modernization’” does not correspond to the needs of an information society. Indeed, any effort to move in that direction, one possibly fueled by Russia’s income from the sale of oil and gas and a belief that some Western leaders might support it would guarantee not only the isolation of this region but its continued backwardness, something neither Russian nor non-Russian elites are at all interested in seeing. Indeed, even those Russians who talk about restoring the USSR use their VISA cards and travel abroad, Markedonov notes, something that an ideologically based and totalitarian regime would almost certainly not allow them the opportunities to do so that they have today. None of this means, of course, that there are not some Russians who want to restore the Soviet Union, but rather it suggests that any effort by them to do so will fail, a process and an outcome elites in Moscow and the West now employing neo-Soviet rhetoric for their own and very different purposes need to recognize in order to avoid some terrible errors.

Documenting the Horror of the Rise of the Neo-Soviet State

The mighty Moscow Times delivers a fearsome one-two punch at the solar plexus of the neo-Soviet Union, a perfect compliment addressing neo-Sovietism at the most mundane level of bureaucracy and the most abstract level of philosophy. We’ve reproduced it below in a special two-part post.

First, MT documents how the Soviet bureaucracy has been fully revived:

From inside the Kremlin’s walls to everyday lives with endless paperwork, bureaucracy rules. Like the nation’s economy, bureaucracy seems to be booming. Determining its exact size is difficult, much like navigating the mire of it. But by all accounts, the number of public servants today likely exceeds Soviet levels. And they are making substantially more money than their average compatriots. Sociologists have detected a growing inclination among young people toward jobs like customs officers or tax inspectors, despite widespread allegations of corruption and inefficiency.

While attempts to remedy the sprawling and sluggish state sector have yet to bear fruit, experts are baffled by how much bureaucracy Russians are prepared to tolerate. The official figure has grown by almost 40 percent in the last five years. While in 2001 there were 1.14 million employees in federal and local government, the figure for 2006 is 1.57 million, according to the State Statistics Service. In the last years of the Soviet Union, those numbers declined from almost 2 million in 1987 to 1.57 million in 1989, and the country then was much more populous than today.

Experts warn that Soviet and contemporary statistics are not necessarily comparable, for instance because functions today performed by the public service were in the past provided by functionaries in the then-sprawling Communist Party organization. Many are convinced that bureaucracy has ballooned, however. “The number of public servants has increased dramatically,” said Yelena Panfilova, head of the Russian branch of Transparency International, a global corruption watchdog. The official figures, she added, probably understate the problem because they did not include employees at the municipal level. “I think that there are up to 3.5 million public servants in Russia today,” she said.

The main reason for the expansion, Panfilova said, is the creation of seven federal districts in 2000, with which President Vladimir Putin brought in a “huge army of bureaucrats” working in a new middle tier of administration, sandwiched between the federal and regional level. Also the creation of new federal agencies boosted numbers, such as the Federal Drug Control Service, the Federal Agency for Registering Real Estate, the Federal Financial Monitoring Service and Federal Service for Financial Markets, Panfilova said.

Vladimir Rimsky of the Indem Foundation, a Russian nongovernmental organization devoted to fighting corruption, said many more salaries depended directly or indirectly on the state. “If you include staff at companies owned or controlled by the government, you get a figure around 10 million,” Rimsky said. And pay is on the rise, too. On average, federal bureaucrats earned 21,300 rubles ($824) per month in the first quarter of 2007, well above the national average of roughly 12,000 rubles ($460) per month. In Moscow, federal employees are even making a monthly average of 27,700 rubles ($1,070), according to official statistics. With this in mind, it might not come as a total surprise that a survey of the Sociology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences released in May found that the prestige of government jobs is climbing. Seventeen percent of 1,796 men and women between the ages of 17 and 26 said they rated a position in state service as prestigious — much more than the 10 percent rating in a similar survey in 1997.

The state sector won much of the esteem lost by the legal and financial professions — whose ratings dropped from overall 89 percent in 1997 to 60 percent 10 years later. “Prestige is no longer associated exclusively with high salary potential, but more and more with notions of professionalism and power,” the survey’s authors said. Rimsky, who has conducted a nationwide survey, said careers in customs, tax and financial authorities came up most frequently when he questioned students about their future plans. “There are big regional differences, but most young people seem to be driven by economic insecurity,” Rimsky said.

On the other hand, many Russians still associate their public servants with the hallmarks of inefficiency — corruption, inertia and negligence. In another poll by the Sociology Institute in 2005, 38 percent voted that bureaucracy in the present epoch is stronger than in any other in history. Twenty-two percent thought it was stronger under Yeltsin, 17 percent under Breshnev, 12 percent during perestroika, 6 percent under Stalin and 2 percent during tsarist times. The rest could not decide. And 57 percent of those 1,800 polled said the bureaucracy exerted a negative influence on politics.

A recent World Bank research paper on government effectiveness bolsters the claim of poor administration. The survey, released in July, showed that Russia’s performance in key areas like rule of law and control of corruption was in the lowest quartile of the 212 countries and territories surveyed. It also recorded significant setbacks in voice and accountability — a measure of citizens’ ability to participate in government — and political stability. And in a recent Levada Center poll, 29 percent blamed bureaucrats for economic stagnation, 28 percent said poor law enforcement was to blame, while 25 percent said the government was too weak.

The growth of bureaucracy has worried political analysts and independent experts both inside and outside the country. In November, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that the trend of expanding the state into the private sector was slowing down the economy. Increasing state control over sectors like oil and aviation was “disturbing” and made the economy more prone to corruption, the OECD said in its sixth biennial report.

Some scholars have accepted big bureaucracy as a basic part of life. “It is not just a post-Soviet phenomenon but has been typical of the Soviet and tsarist eras as well,” said Marvin Kalb, a lecturer of public policy at Harvard University. He said big government administration would help offset insecurity in a country stretching from Europe to the Pacific, while at the same time there had always been “enormous amounts of corruption” in Russian bureaucracy. Kalb also said staff numbers in public administration had risen substantially under George W. Bush’s presidency in the United States, too. “Both presidents are increasing the number of government servants to increase their own power base,” he said.

Yet experts on administrative reform said some things in Russia have been moving in the right direction. “The bureaucracy is not very service-oriented, but it is undoubtedly more efficient than in Soviet times,” said David Fawkes, a British economist who leads an European Union-funded project aimed at reforming public service in Russia. “I think there is a strong understanding of the need to improve efficiency and to improve the quality of services to the public,” he said. Among the biggest obstacles is not so much bureaucrats’ complacency but the people’s apathy, he said. “It is difficult to convince the public to demand better service,” Fawkes said. “It is actually difficult to get people to complain.” Fawkes also said Russia had a comparative disadvantage versus other East European states with regard to administrative reforms. “They were forced to adapt in order to qualify for EU membership — Russia never had to do that,” he said.

Real changes will not be achieved quickly, Fawkes said. “What you need is a mentality change and that is very difficult and takes a very long time,” he said. The impetus, he stressed, had to come from the citizens and civil society.

Then, columnist Lilia Shevtsova (pictured), a senior associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center, exposing the “new” Russian national idea, seething hatred of all things Western. That’s about as new an idea in Russia as fur hats.

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!”

The closer we come to the end of Putin’s second term, the more the Kremlin needs to find an idea that would preserve everything it has achieved during the past eight years. Searching for enemies and casting the West in the role of the principal foe has turned out to be the most successful method for rallying the people. Russia has adopted an aggressive foreign policy rhetoric; Putin’s fiery Munich speech is a classic example. Anti-Western sentiment has become the new national idea, and national revival has taken the form of revisionism.

The arguments supporting the new national idea are plain and simple: “The West is interfering in our domestic affairs and attempting to weaken Russia. By promoting democracy, the West is really advancing its own interests.”

It seems that even pro-Western analysts are trying to convince themselves and the world that Russia should play by its own rules, and that the responsibility for the crisis in Russian-Western relations lies with Western capitals. Some of them even believe that NATO expansion, U.S. President George W. Bush’s export of democracy and Washington’s plan to install elements of anti-missile batteries in Europe is the main — and perhaps even only — reason for the failure of Russian democracy. Yesterday’s moderates and pragmatists today have joined with professional anti-Western political analysts — such as Vyacheslav Nikonov and Alexei Pushkov, the host of a popular analytical television program — in singing the same song. Being pro-Western in Russia today is not only unpopular, but also dangerous because it necessarily means being anti-Russian.

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.

But the crisis in Russian-Western relations is not purely based on a fundamental lack of shared values and principles. After all, communist China has much less in common with the West than Russia does, but U.S.-Chinese relations are quite friendly, and, in the economic sphere, they resemble a strong mutually beneficial partnership (notwithstanding the numerous difficulties). China, in seeking out its own prosperity, has chosen to pursue a policy of rapprochement, successfully making use of the West for its own modernization. Russia’s ruling elite has taken a different path, trying to establish its global role by distancing itself from the West.

Russia’s elite uses the anti-Western national idea because it believes it is giving the people an attractive ideology. But, at the same time, Moscow wants to pursue a partnership with the West for the sake of its own development and global integration.

The attitude toward the West has become a litmus test of loyalty to the authorities and the system. Verbal attacks have become synonymous with patriotism. As a result, the numerous so-called “liberal Westernizers” of the 1990s dwindled down to a tiny group. Only the most desperate, such as Garry Kasparov, still attempt to voice their liberal sympathies. Everyone else understands that it is not advisable to show too much reverence for the West. That would be considered as unpatriotic behavior.

Let’s consider the most popular cliches of the new national idea:

• “Russia has recovered from the humiliation of the 1990s.”

But why must this be achieved by spoiling relations with the West? Germany and Japan overcame their postwar humiliation by transforming themselves into great economic powers and by integrating into the global economy and adopting liberal-democratic values.

• “Russia has the right to pursue an independent policy.”

If Russia takes this desire to its extreme, it would have to withdraw its membership in and application for all Western clubs and international organizations that place limits on its sovereignty, such as the Group of Eight, the Council of Europe and the World Trade Organization.

• “Russia is an energy superpower and Europe’s dependence on its energy will increase.”

This dependence cuts both ways. One of the most humiliating forms of dependence is an exporter’s dependence on the importer, and the Kremlin has yet to fully understand this.

• “Russia wants to be integrated into the West on its own terms.”

This is music to the patriots’ ears, but they don’t explain how they can be equal partners when Russia is building its society on anti-Western principles.

It must be admitted that the proponents of the anti-Western ideology succeeded at their goal of preserving the interests of the ruling class. This is a case when the West, which does not entirely understand events in Russia and does not have a strategy for dealing with a “revisionist” Kremlin, has allowed itself to be used as a “negative” factor in Moscow’s drive to mobilize the people behind an aggressive national ideology.

The anti-Western ideologues are joined by the pragmatists — the pundits who until recently had independent political positions but today support the new national idea. They advise the West by saying: “Accept Russia as it is and base your policy on mutual interests, not on values.” Perhaps they sincerely believe that realpolitik will lead to future rapprochement between Russia and the West and will help build Russian democracy.

But then why has Western realpolitik resulted only in a crisis in its relations with Russia? Don’t these “realists” understand that they are encouraging the West to build relations with Russia according to the same model that the West pursues with China?! If this is indeed the case, then Russia must leave the G-8 and the Council of Europe, whose membership is conditioned upon adherence to democratic principles and institutions.

Russia’s ruling elite has let the genie out of the bottle and it will be very difficult to put it back again, especially because there is no resistance to anti-Westernism even in intellectual circles.

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 true — Russia is back. But it has only returned to the past.