Friday, December 31, 2010

Window on Eurasia: West Failing to Defend Its Values in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, Moscow Commentator Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, December 31 – Even as some in Europe and the United States are taking pride in their criticism of Moscow’s persecution of Khodorkovsky, a Moscow commentator is warning that the West is failing to defend its values in the face of the rise of neo-totalitarian regimes in the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Belarus.
In an essay on, Dmitry Shusharin says that at present “as in earlier years,” Western elites are viewing “the social-political processes which are leading to the formation of regimes hostile to Europe’s Judeo-Christian civilization” as manifestations of “temporary difficulties” rather than of “an all-European crisis … of identity and values.”
What is going on, he suggests, is “the collusion of elites” and the willingness of “those who hold power in the free world” of hostile and for civilization fatal values and strivings as equal alternatives” rather than as a challenge that they must take up and win for themselves as well as for those suffering under these regimes (
“Soviet totalitarianism,” Shusharin continues, “was destroyed because Western elites from the outset did not accept the principles, habits and morals of the totalitarian elite” and because these elites both were “firm” in maintaining this position even as they showed “sympathy to the population of the totalitarian states.”
These values were manifested most clearly in Winston Churchill’s Fulton speech in which he talked about “the iron curtain” and Ronald Reagan’s Guildhall speech in which he identified the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” And they were largely maintained by Western leaders until the end of the USSR.
But, Shusharin argues, “over the last 20 years, precisely what Ronald Reagan warned about has taken place: Western elites have accepted the elites of the post-Soviet states just as they are.” And this is especially evident in the reaction of these elites to the rise of the “neo-totalitarianism” in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
Lukashenka’s moves against his opponents in Belarus, the persecution of Khodorkovsky “and much else” in Russia, and Yanukovich’s efforts to put Yulia Timoshenka behind bars are things that “you cannot call anything but the liquidation of political competition.” And the fact that the three don’t get alone is “completely unimportant.”
“The elites of the three Eastern Slavic states, despite the political declarations and economic integration,” the Grani commentator continues, “are distancing themselves from Europe, by stopping the process of national genesis on their territories and throwing challenges to European identity and the European system of values.”
“That is the result of the two post-Soviet decades,” Shusharin says, “and it is one of the main problems of Europe and of Judeo-Christian civilization.” But tragically, he notes, “European elites do not recognize it,” in large part because “they are occupied with something else.”
The Moscow commentator cites the recent declaration of the Synod of the Greek Church in which the authors call for choosing happiness over freedom, just as Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor warned that people would do. That is how things stand “in one of the countries of the European Union” and why its elites are the way they are.
In this environment, Shusharin says, “there is nothing suprising” in the fact that “Putin’s spies” are able to buy off or corrupt “American parliamentarians and bureaucrats,” just as there is “nothing especially surprising in the career of former German Chancellor Schroeder” and others less well known.
“The corrupt integration of elites of the democratic and neo-totalitarian countries is what we have been observing in the last decade,” the Grani writer argues. And consequently it is time to say: “’Farewell, Fukuyama [who failed to recognize what totalitarianism had done, and] hello, Arendt [who did].’”
“Francis Fukuyama,” Shusharin notes, “was pleased like a child by the collapse of communist ideology because ‘the elite … which arose in the epoch of Brezhnev and Mao turned out to be more like the elite of Western countries with the same le vel of economic development than anyone could have predicted.’”
Such views, Shusharin continues, are an example of how far the current political elites of the West “are from Reagan’s clarity and firmness. But in a consumerist culture,” he says, “the pupil clearly went further than the teacher.”
In her classic “Origins of Totalitarianism,” Hannah Arendt made several observations that are even more relevant. She argued that in assessing totalitarian societies, it is a mistake to separate “domestic” and “foreign” as Western governments are inclined to do because such a system is “a disease of both the nation and the civilization as a whole.”
“Now,” Shusharin says, “to speak about this division is still more difficult and therefore neo-totalitarianism is more dangerous than its predecessor: it strives not toward isolation but toward integration” in order to gain “for its own needs the achievements of that civilization whose fundamental values and principles it both denies and destroys.”

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