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Putin’s Russia: This Stupid Country

Mark N. Katz, a professor of government and politics at George Mason University, writing in the Moscow Times:

I have recently returned from a two-week visit to Moscow where I gave lectures to university students studying international relations at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow State University and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. While their views are not representative of all Russians —the students themselves readily acknowledged this — they were nonetheless extremely interesting and a very hopeful sign.

While critical of U.S. foreign policy, the young Russians I spoke to very much want Russia to have good relations with the United States and the West. They see this as being in Russia’s national interest and in their own personal interest as well.

This is because they highly value their ability to travel to the West, something that neither their parents nor grandparents could do in the Soviet Union. Indeed, most of the students I met had traveled abroad. They all fear that deteriorating Russian relations with the West could someday result in their becoming unable to travel there. Many expressed a fear that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s belligerence was going to lead to this.

I was especially surprised at how often I heard students use the expression “this stupid country” to describe Russia. I took this, however, not as an indication of disrespect for their motherland but of disappointment in it not being the modern democratic country that they want it to be.

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