Russia: poor partner for a ‘grand bargain’


The west looks fragile but Putin’s Russia may be unable to step up to a leading global role, The Financial Times suggests:

Putin has “staked out a position that thrives on asserting Russian interests in the world at the expense of the US,” says Eugene Rumer, director of the Russia and Eurasia programme at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington. Moscow has “positioned itself as the challenger to the global liberal international order that the US has upheld and promoted the world over since the end of the second world war”, he adds….

[S]ome Russian ideologues are triumphant, believing that an irreversible decline of the west is lifting their country’s status and global weight. “The golden age of the liberal international order is over,” says Natalia Narochnitskaya, a conservative nationalist former lawmaker and diplomat, who claims that many European citizens are disillusioned about the EU’s ability to serve the continent.

“Putin, for them, is the only leader who dares raise the banner and openly, without excuses, declare that he will defend traditional values,” she says. A postmodernist Europe would fail to survive the challenge by other civilisations, Ms Narochnitskaya says: “Only together can Russia and Europe become one side of the global power triangle — Eurasia, US, and China.”

Putin’s authoritarianism and his apologists inside the West are a true peril in the face of a growing weakness of liberal democracy, analyst Richard Herzinger writes for Die Welt:

Although it is true that Putin does not have a monolithic ideology to offer comparable to Marxism-Leninism, his authoritarian societal model has…a stronger ideological and practical gravitational pull in the West than the Soviet regime ever did. This is because it is attractive to the classes who have means and who, under communism, would have been dispossessed.

And yet Russia faces constraints in its push for a return to the global stage, the FT adds.

“Although we have seen several straight years of big increases in military expenditure, this has mostly gone into rebuilding capacities that had fallen into disrepair after the collapse of the Soviet Union,” says Ivan Timofeev, an assistant professor at MGIMO, the Moscow university where the foreign ministry trains diplomats. “In the long term, a superpower-style foreign policy is therefore absolutely unsustainable for Russia.”

For all the talk of a resurgent country, Russian experts are mindful that without strengthening its sluggish economy, Moscow’s push will be severely limited in the longer term, says the FT.

“There are examples in history of economically challenged nations making a big expansionist push and you could imagine that for Russia as well,” says Mr Timofeev. “But the economic and social fundamentals for a long-running, sustainable rise of the nation are not in place. We are not like China or India, for whom bigger global influence comes naturally with their growing economic clout.”

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