Waiting for Russia 2.0

Mark Medish has a thoughtful column in the International Herald Tribune which gets right at the central question being debated during this week’s visit by President Medvedev to Washington:  Is Russia’s current pro-Western rhetoric real or fake?  As though those were two mutually exclusive qualities in Kremlin policy…

The abiding trouble with Mr. Putin is that while he wants modern results, he does not limit himself to modern methods at home. Instead, faith in autocracy — which doomed czars and commissars alike — still haunts Russia.

Mr. Medvedev talks about promoting nanotechnology in Russia. This is a perfectly rational economic objective, but Russia’s deeper challenge is that it needs a new operating system, preferably a European-oriented one based on representative government, civil liberties, property rights and true federalism.

The great Russian historian Vasily Klyuchevsky wrote of the 18th-century czar Peter the Great: “He did not want to borrow the results of Western technique, but wanted to appropriate the skill and knowledge, and build industries on the Western European model.” Peter himself said: “We need Europe for a few decades; later on we must turn our back on it.”