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Errors of Attribution

The reactions to the Davos hostilities are still rolling in.  Compared to ideologies and values, we still don’t think that the simple sharing of mutual enemies is a cohesive force in global relations.  From John Thornhill at the Financial Times:

Yet during his eight-year presidency Mr Putin deliberately stoked anti-western sentiments for his own advantage. Rejecting western democratic values meant the Russian leadership could ignore any transparency or account-ability. Instead, the Kremlin has tried to define a separate Russian identity largely in opposition to the west. Ideologues have invented an autocratic version of “sovereign democracy” even if – the Kremlin’s critics claim – sovereign democracy is to democracy what electric chair is to chair.

But the third reason for Russia’s anti-westernism is perhaps more accidental, the indirect political consequences of the high oil price and fast economic growth. Sergei Guriev, head of the New Economic School in Moscow and co-author of a paper on Russia’s attitudes to the west, suggests that cause and correlation have been confused. “There is a sense that Gorbachev and Yeltsin integrated with the west and failed. Putin was anti-western and worked well. By being anti-western, it seems, you live better,” he says. “But this is an attribution error.”