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Illusions of Russian Modernization

Yes, so, as always Lilia Shevtsova is basically awesome, and her latest piece in the Moscow Times makes quite a lot of sense of the games being playing within the “reset.”

Meanwhile, the ruling elite have decided to discuss democratic standards with the West, an initiative that was met warmly by the West. Kremlin spin doctors recently met with leading Western pundits and intellectuals, including gurus Immanuel Wallerstein, Alvin Toffler and Fareed Zakaria, to discuss democracy. But this dialog can help bring the two sides together only if the Western participants actually entered into debate with the Russian officials and were able to convince them that the Kremlin’s vision of democracy and modernization differs from the commonly accepted understanding in the West. But there are no signs of such discussion, thus allowing the Kremlin to consider the West’s silence a mark of agreement. Attempts to criticize Russia for violating the basic tenets of democracy would be clearly out of place now. How can you criticize a country seemingly working so hard to build democracy?

But attempts to freshen up Russia’s facade — in particular by getting the West to help with the painting — will only worsen the country’s stagnation and perhaps make it irreversible. The attempt to reset relations with the West will end in more disappointment for both sides because they both have a fundamentally different understanding of what reset means. Attempts by Western politicians and intellectuals to discuss democratic standards with the Kremlin without standing up for their own views will only end up tarnishing their reputations.