Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Response to U.S. Grand Strategy in Eurasia

It's interesting that you bring up differences between the New Russia and post-Nazi Germany, namely in how each society viewed itself following the disintegration of its state. Actually one could, and many do, draw comparisons between the New Russia and Weimar Germany.

Russia in the 1990s, like the Weimar Republic, experienced severe economic instability. The country also experienced incredible levels of corruption, crime and social tension. Both had, in the eyes of the public, a negative and unwanted experience with democracy. It was not until Putin became president and oil prices rose that the country's economy and political environment became more stable. Thanks to continually high oil prices and Putin's ability to manipulate the Russian political system in order to stay in power, Russia's economic and political conditions over the past decade have largely gone unchanged.

But it is more than just the incumbent regime preventing the country from developing a more liberal-democratic form of governance. The Russian people, by and large, are still skeptical of Western-style government structures and would much prefer to be led by a more autocratic leader. In the latest edition of the Economist, a survey shows that nearly 60% of the population would prefer a "strong leader" and only around 30% would prefer a democratic government.[1] What's more, the survey shows that half the population regret the collapse of the Soviet Union.

You bring up a good point many Russian nationalists view their country as a successor state of the USSR, and there are certainly those who hope to recreate their "empire," albeit in a slightly different form. The ideology of these Russian Eurasianists, who can be found both within Russian politics and outside of it, seemed to be somewhat marginalized until Putin announced his plans to economically unite Russia with its former territories. Even if Putin's intentions are only economic integration- nothing more- there is an inherent desire within the government for Russia to lead this sort of union, and not just be an equal member in it.

This is an alarming sign for a region whose countries' political and economic independence were already being infringed upon by Russia. The U.S. needs to pay careful attention to developments in this region and should consider a more aggressive strategy to balance Russia's neo-imperial intentions.

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