For all those who say Russia is no threat

The Telegraph reports that three BBC staff were badly beaten by thugs whilst 35,000 of Putin's Brown shirts, NASHI, the youth wing of his political party met in Moscow. Similarly, NASHI has resumed its intimidation of the British Ambassador whilst British firms and interests in Russia have reported an upsurge of intimidation.

The goings on in Russia are really disturbing at the moment and are not at all dissimilar to those in German in the very early 1930's with fanatical youth movements, a judiciary who are corrupt or weak, corporate bodies working hand in hand with a political party and jingoistic xenophobia, in Russia's case against "the West". All in all, not a good time to be dependent on Russian Energy.


Iain said...

Isn't it funny.

There was no concern over civil liberties in Russia, over political youth movements, or corruption, or the lack of an independent judiciary, or rigged elections, when Russia was weak and subservient, when Western companies were being given sweetheart contracts by corrupt officials to exploit Russia's resources, when the IMF and the World Bank were steering Russia's economy into not one but two total collapses that impoverished 95% of the population and sent life expectancy and infant mortality rates crashing to third-world levels, when western governments were doing everything they could to keep probably the most fundamentally corrupt government in human history, at least in pure dollar terms, in power. There was no outrage or smear campaigns back then.

And yet now that Russia is back on her feet, now that Russia is strong and her economy is working, now that the Russians have kicked out the IMF and World Bank and torn up the dodgy contracts our oil firms thought they had in the bag, now that Russia has ceased to roll over for NATO, now that all these things are happening, suddenly the Western press cares deeply about civil liberties in Russia, about political youth movements, and corruption, and lack of an independent judiciary, and rigged elections, even though these issues were actually far worse back when our governments were doing everything they could, forgiving every infraction, to help Yeltsin stay in power.

I wonder why that would be.

The thing is, large swathes of Russian people, especially the young who are far more politically switched-on to international politics than most people on this island, also wonder. They wonder why, it seems to them, the better their own lives become, the more their country is dragged out of the hole dug by Yelstin and his pro-Western cohorts, the more hysterically anti-Russian the western media and western governments become. They ask themselves what the real agenda is, and they ask themselves who their friends are.

And then we're surprised when we see evidence of anti-western sentiment. Well, how can they not like us, right? We're the good guys!

(sorry, can't sign this, can't remember my google password at the moment)

Ron Murphy said...

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Is the line from totalitarian communism to facsism shoter than the one to demcracy?

Norfolk Blogger said...

Iain, your premise is wrong. Sorry.

You make the point that the West cared little for civil liberties in Russia in the past because Russia was weak. Absolute rubbish. The difference before was not the the West did not care or speak out, it did, but that Russia was moving away from totalitarianism and dictatorship, slowly building a civic and civil society, and this would be a gradual process of rolling out democracy and human rights.

The difference now is not only that this rolling out is being rolled back, but its justification is a xenophobic party that needs to make enemies in order to justify itself.

It's easy to paint the West always as the bad guys.

Iain said...

Sorry Nich, but I think you are missing my point. I am not painting the West as any bad guy, or claiming that there are no problems in Russia, what I am saying is that Russia is not now worse than it was in the past. In fact, life there for the average joe is in every way immeasurably better than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

So when you say "The goings on in Russia are really disturbing at the moment...", I am saying that "at the moment" is superfluous, because they have always been thus, in most cases to a far greater degree than at present, it just wasn't being reported previously.

Before Nashi, there was Idushii Vmeste (Moving Together), and before them there was Russia's Free Future. All of the political parties in post-Soviet Russia have had and currently have youth wings. Even the pro-western parties Yabloko and Union of Right Forces have their own youth divisions, and Kasparov's mob, Another Russia, is made up mostly of skinheads from the National Bolshevik Party. The only things that makes Nashi different is that there are more of them, as you would expect given Putin's overwhelming popularity, and the fact that the hacks at the BBC have decided to turn them into the Hitler Youth so that the chattering classes who have never been near Russia in their lives have another 'proof' that Russia is dangerous.

And the same goes for all the other proofs you listed, of a weak judiciary, of corruption, and so on. Not one of these examples is in any way shape or form worse than they were in Putin's first term, or in either of Yeltsin's two terms. It's certainly true that not enough has improved under Putin, not nearly as much as he could have achieved had he wished to, but nothing has been "rolled back". Nothing.

OK, so you can argue that things were different back in the early 90s, that it was more important to support nascent Russian democracy than it was to be pernickity about the rule of law and suchlike, and that may make sense from our western point of view, but that is not the lesson Russians have learned. The lesson Russians have learned is that the West will support any leader who makes Russia weak, and oppose any leader who makes Russia strong. They have learned that the OSCE will willingly whitewash hideously corrupt elections when it suits their agenda, as they did in Yeltsin's '96 campaign and even in Putin's campaign in 2000, but will then crow about any irregularity when they don't like the result, as they are doing now.

And that is my other point. If you want to know why anti-Western sentiment is such a crowd-pleaser in Russia today, try taking an [i]objective[/i] look at post-Soviet Russian history with specific reference to their relations with the western powers.