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Russia as the Besieged Fortess

stalin070909.pngLeon Aron at the American Enterprise Institute has a new brief out on Russia following the Summit.  Here’s just one section from the report on the use of anti-American propaganda by the Kremlin.

The Kremlin’s valiant defense of Russia against alleged plots from the outside evolved into one of the key legitimizing tools of the regime, and deafening and primitive anti-American propaganda became the staple of the state-owned or state-controlled national media. In the words of a Russian observer, the United States is “used as a bogeyman for domestic political purposes.”[16] Presiding over the May 2007 military parade to mark the sixty-second anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War (World War II), Putin likened the unnamed perpetrators of “new threats” to Russia to the Third Reich because of “the same desire to impose diktat on the world.”[17] Everyone in Moscow that day understood the evildoer to be the United States.

Sincethen, the United States has been alleged by Kremlin-directed propagandato be behind virtually all of Russia’s political, diplomatic, military,and economic setbacks: from the demise of the Soviet Union and theChechen struggle for independence in the 1990s to the Georgian andUkrainian “color” revolutions of 2003 and 2004, and Russia’s currenteconomic crisis, which Medvedev declared in June 2008 to be the faultof America’s “aggressive financial policies.”[18] The Russo-Georgianwar in August of last year, too, was blamed on the United States. InPutin’s words, the United States “deliberately created this conflict tocreate a competitive advantage for one of the candidates for the U.S.presidency” (i.e., Senator John McCain) and to help solve “the problemsin the [U.S.] economy,” including “financial problems” and the”mortgage crisis.”[19] Every one of these canards was buttressed byprime time “documentaries” on national television channels, includingone about the U.S. government engineering the 9/11 attacks to promoteits domestic and foreign policy objectives and one about the CIA’s plotto dislodge the present Russian regime through an “Orange-stylerevolution.”[20]

It is a foreign policy arising from thisdomestic context that the “reset button” pressed by the White Houseseeks to mesh successfully with the U.S. strategic agenda. Of course,nothing in the evolutions of postrevolutionary states like Russia isautomatic. For instance, to take the most obvious case ofdiscontinuity, Russia’s deepening economic crisis may bring aboutabrupt domestic policy shifts, which, in turn, are almost certain toprompt adjustments in foreign policy, making it more accommodating–orstill more confrontational and unyielding.[21] At the moment, however,this evolution and this context are our best guide to gauging Russia’sresponse to the “button agenda.”