Staunton, July 25 – Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin are making a unique contribution to the development of the nations in the countries of the former Soviet space: By their actions, the two are causing these peoples to define themselves not with but against Russia and the Russian people, according to one of Moscow’s most thoughtful political commentators.
In an essay on Grani.ru, Dmitry Shusharin suggests that the current “information war” between Putin and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka “recalls” Stalin’s campaign against Tito, an effort that reflected the Soviet dictator’s anger that he did not control the Yugoslav leader the way he did the rest of Eastern Europe whose governments he had imposed.
At the height of that campaign, the Grani commentator continues, Yugoslavs if not Tito expected that the Soviet Union might invade to impose its will, an assumption that appeared justified given Moscow’s involvement in Greece, Turkey and Iran at that time, something all but specialists have forgotten (grani.ru/opinion/shusharin/m.180039.html).
Those long-ago events, Shusharin says, help explain “the coming together of Belarus, Azerbaijan and Georgia” over the last months, the meetings of their leaders and their discussions about pipelines and “even about confederation.” Indeed, the latest developments point to “the beginning of the formation of a principally different political map of the post-Soviet space.”
“What is interesting” about these events of the past month, he continues, is that there are “no ideological bases for the rapprochement of the countries which were at one point in the Soviet Union.” These three states have “extremely different” political systems and cultures, but one thing is pushing them together: opposition to what Moscow is doing.
(That makes these discussions different, one should note, than those which led to GUAM, the grouping of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. While that organization too reflected opposition to Moscow, it positioned itself ideologically as a grouping of more democratically inclined countries to the authoritarian regimes of most CIS countries.)
Indeed, Shusharin says, “the new rallying together now taking place is only negative, not via rapprochement with Russia but through being pushed away from it, as a result of [Moscow’s] ugly and quarrelsome policies” toward its neighbors.
Of course, he acknowledges, it is possible to identify many reasons why “such unions” won’t be “real and long-lasting. However, in the present case, one is speaking not so much about politicians as about nations, not so much about negotiations, agreements and alliances as about historical perspective and about common historical memory.”
And that in turn means that “the genesis of nations which is taking place in the countries of the former USSR will take place under the influence of that alienating image of Russia and the Russians which the tandemocratic regime is creating and which has and this must be admitted rather than ignored a mandate from the Russian nation.”
“The Russian nation itself has an opportunity to form itself – and with time this is becoming ever clearer – only in an adequate reaction to a national catastrophe, to which the current ruling elite is assuredly leading it,” Shusharin says, by the “comic” notion offered by Vladislav Surkov that Russia must “seek to occupy the place” of a nation that governs others.
The presidential aide “has not noticed,” Shusharin points out, how perverse his idea is given that according to it “the ‘governing nation’ tries tearfully to ask foreign scholars to come to Russia in order to assist in the enslavement of their own countries and peoples by arming a country from which emanates a threat not only to its nearby neighbors but to the entire world.”
Because “enslavement” is the only way “Russians understand the governing of other peoples. Not the ruling elite but the Russian nation which gave birth to this elite.” That explains Russia’s attack on Georgia in August 2008 and its television battles with Lukashenka over the last few weeks.
Shusharin produces other examples of the counterproductive absurdities of Putin’s approach, such as the Russian prime minister’s efforts to drive out GPS technology from Russia in order to push the GLONASS system, yet another “symptom of a national catastrophe” reflecting “a striving to rule the world.”
“When it becomes clear that the current powers that be are in no way capable of making Russians into a governing nation,” the Grani commentator argues, “the culmination of the catastrophe will occur,” with the possibility that Moscow will try to save itself by lashing out at others or that Russians will turn on the current regime in anger.
There is of course “a third variant” possible, Shusharin says: a recognition by the Russian people of the catastrophe that has “already taken place” and especially a recognition of this reality “by those who in recent years have not lost anything but rather acquired something” and who “understand that adaptation to the current regime has its limits.”
Such people, he concludes, “could form the nucleus of a future Russian nation, a new national elite which unlike the current one would merit the right to leadership” and not play to the worst features of the Russian people but rather by playing to the best and thus making Russia an attractive rather than a repulsing center for others.