Mon Mar 13th, 2006 at 10:47:09 AM EST
from the diaries
The following is an attempt to provide the Russian point of view of the prevailing western bias against Russia. I highly recommend the intelligent.ru site I link to below. It has English-language analysis of current events from Russia (and Russian) commentators. I think the quality of the discussion is much higher than Johnson's Russia List.
Not long ago, John Edwards (yes, the supposedly progressive Democrat who ran for VP) chaired a Council on Foreign Relations committee with Jack Kemp to look at US-Russia relations. The title of the report - "Russia's Wrong Direction" - sets the Russia bashing tone from the outset.
Following is a link to an article by Russia scholars discussing the report: Untimely Thoughts' Weekly Russia Experts' Panel: Defining the US-Russia relationship.
The bolding and emphasis are mine.
Sergei Roy, editor of intelligent.ru
Russia's Direction: What the United States Cannot and Should Not Do
The Council for Foreign Relations, USA calls itself a "nonpartisan center for scholars." As one reads its latest report, "Russia's Wrong Direction: What the United States Can and Should Do," one shudders to think what it would have been like if the Council's task force had really let itself go and went "partisan."
As it is, it's as biased and bigoted as you please. One gets a distinct sense of déjà vu -- as if one was reading a Pravda editorial, only instead of bromides about world imperialism and a picture of the US as a country where folks did little except oppress the working class and lynch Negroes (sorry, Afro-Americans, only this word never figured in those editorials), the task force members rattle the clichés, worn thin by now, about the "rollback of pluralism" in Russia, "de-democratization," Putin's authoritarianism, "recentralization," "intimidation of nongovernmental organizations," etc. etc.
One of the more unpleasant aspects of the report is its resort to obvious, easily disproved lies. Take this passage about Russia using energy exports as a policy weapon and in the process curtailing its supplies of gas to Europe -- though it is not clear from the report what vile purpose (except losing millions) might be served by this "curtailing." Russia has been complaining for years that Ukraine has been stealing Russian gas from its pipelines ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This past harsh winter, far from curtailing its supplies to Europe, Russia increased them -- the increased volumes being promptly siphoned off by Ukraine, in addition to all the other stolen gas. Ukraine's prime minister admitted the fact, very publicly -- yet the CFR report unashamedly repeats the lie.
But the centerpiece of the report is "de-democratization" of Russia under Putin, the stale nonsense about this country going through a period of efflorescence of democracy under Yeltsin and suppression of the same under Putin. That is why Russia's direction is "wrong," according to the CFR task force.
This talk makes one wonder whether the authors themselves have any notion of what democracy is. It is something to do with the people, is it not? Something done by and for the people, among other things? So why not ask the people of Russia what they think of that period of efflorescence of democracy?
The answer would come loud and clear: the people remember that period with feelings that are nothing short of horror. For them, it was a time of endless highway robbery perpetrated by the cohorts of "democrats" surrounding Yeltsin: Gaidar's shock therapy and the loss of all of the people's savings in the ensuing hyperinflation; Chubais' privatization -- another version of robbery that produced a whole class of parasites known as the New Russians; endless Mavrodi-type financial pyramids that fleeced the people as soon as they had some savings they wanted to invest and save from inflation; Berezovsky's mammoth frauds at AvtoVAZ and elsewhere; the state-run financial pyramid called GKO that ended in the August 1998 meltdown and the loss of people's remaining savings; TV channels shamelessly used as instruments of fraud and financial clan wars; piles of corpses left in the wars of redistribution of property among Bykov-type Mafiosi; wage and pension arrears that left tens of millions on starvation rations; and a great deal else that would take (actually has taken) volumes to describe.
The report does not question these facts of Russian life in the 1990s and even mentions some -- but it still insists that it was a time of flourishing democracy, while "taken as a whole the political balance-sheet of the past five years is extremely negative." So what do we do to make it positive, dear CFR? Tell Yeltsin to come back to the Kremlin and give us yet another dose of his type of democracy? Plead with Berezovsky, Gusinsky, Nevzlin and others who have escaped the clutches of the Russian legal system to come back and fleece us some more? Give them back the TV channels, to help them install Khodorkovsky in the Kremlin, instead of doing time for tax evasion, fraud, and other peccadilloes?
Come to think of it, the report is not concerned with what we, the Russian people, could do about the various ills afflicting Russian society -- like pervasive bureaucratic corruption. The authors obviously have no hopes at all for Russian society in this respect. Their formula for ridding Russia of this ill is different: using the WTO as an instrument for penetrating the Russian economy, or rather the one promising sector of the economy -- oil and gas production. This would lead to the liberalization of trade -- and of society, and consequently -- hey presto! -- to cleaning up corruption. Some might call this recommendation a plan for the colonization of Russia in an attempt to force it to increase world "energy security" by producing more oil and gas -- especially oil. This at a time when renowned Russian economists insist that Russia would do well to husband its oil resources, save them for future generations, and save the economy now from the Dutch disease -- too much windfall money that the Russian economy cannot digest.
But what does the CFR care about Russia's future generations? Energy security (in plain US, the price of gas) is paramount, and if talk of Russia's "de-democratization" and the continued application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, WTO accession notwithstanding, can be instrumental in kicking Russia into line and ceding its oil resources to multinationals, then we are sure to expect more reports about the rollback on democracy in Russia. The "nonpartisan" CFR is by far not the only source of such talk -- it is just a part of an ongoing, orchestrated campaign. The only thing for Russia to do is to ignore this snapping at its heels and follow its own direction, whether it appears right or wrong to whomsoever.
If John Edwards, who styles himself a progressive friend of the working man, releases such an outright piece of propaganda, it is easy to see how mainstream and accepted the progaganda has become. When this report was released, there was nothing but unanimous agreement with its conclusion in American and European political circles.
This is the uphill battle a modern-day Sisyphus would face in trying to "enlighten the EU" about Russia. America and the EU are only too happy to place Russia in the USSR's previous role of boogy-man. It gives them a convenient foil when their own questionable democratic policies are debated. After all, they can always say, "things may be bad, but they're better than they are in Russia/USSR", regardless of whether the situation in Russia is actually as dire as they claim.