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Is Russia Country of the Year?

This question was posed by Russia Profile to Ethan S. Burger, Eric Kraus, Ira Straus, Andrei Tsygankov, and Stephen Blank. The latter is the only one to really question some of the fundamental assumptions about Russia’s resurgence: “The deliberate stoking of nationalist, chauvinistic rhetoric warning of enemies at the gates, generated for domestic purposes, is now exacting its cost.

From Russia Profile:

Professor Stephen Blank, the U.S. Army War College, Carlyle Barracks, Penn.Mr. Frolov’s characterization of Russian policy achievements is far too rosy a scenario. The sad fact is that while Russia has undoubtedly been more assertive on the world stage, it has also been more obstructionist in its policies. The country ends 2007 perhaps richer, but more self-isolated than before. The deliberate stoking of nationalist, chauvinistic rhetoric warning of enemies at the gates, generated for domestic purposes, is now exacting its cost.It would be safe to say that while Russia has again demonstrated it has the capacity to obstruct many programs that it deems harmful to its interests, it has not the slightest interest in or idea how to play a responsible role in world politics. In this regard its conduct is very distinct from China, which is largely responsible for the six-party accords in Korea.Indeed, in Mr. Frolov’s account, Asia does not fit in anywhere, signifying the Russian foreign policy elites’ disinterest in the most dynamic sector of the world economy. Instead, Russia is chasing phantasms like the missile defense issue and doing nothing to stop Iran’s nuclear program which would obviate the whole problem.Russia’s reputation has also suffered greatly from its succession charade. The choreography reveals its state to be medieval in structure and hence, a risk factor to European, if not world, security. So while Russia is more assertive, more truculent, etc., its standing has probably suffered and it enters 2008 without any genuine allies on whom it can count. Putin’s purely utilitarian approach to Asia (He sees it as an adjunct to Russia’s European, American and CIS policies.) will not win any great admiration in China. At the same time, Moscow cannot count on either the new South Korean regime or Japan as friends.Moreover, Russia’s political structure shows itself to be grossly dysfunctional, while its economy is already beginning to feel the pinch of inflation. A global recession would hit Moscow particularly hard despite its previous successes and excellent fiscal policy under Putin. For discerning observers, such unfounded optimism is a costly luxury.