Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

In International Politics, Everyone Is for Himself

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

In International Politics, Everyone Is for Himself

Article excerpt

Interview with Alexei Mitrofanov

Demokratizatsiya: You are the chairman of the Committee on Geopolitics of the State Duma of the Russian Federation. It seems to me that a lot of people don't understand the purpose of your committee and its major goals.

Mitrofanov: Our committee is involved in political questions which have strategic character. For example, the ratification of main international agreements such as START II, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and so forth. In this area, we are working together with the committees on Defense and International Affairs. We control all of the questions connected with continental shelves and exclusive economic zones, criminal and civic responsibilities for violations in these areas. Now, for example, the committee just finished preparing the law on foreigners and their legal status in Russia. The law was adopted by the Duma in a third hearing, and its contents partly resemble their American counterpart. All of this presents problems on a big political scale.

Demokratizatsiya: Isn't this problem connected mainly with foreign policy?

Mitrofanov: Not necessarily. There are a lot of things that you cannot divide between internal and external policies. For example, foreign debts, which is an issue for our committee. First of all, it's a very complicated internal political and economic mechanism of decisionmaking. The legal status of foreigners in Russia is also a Russian internal question. Ratification of routine agreements, the appointment of ambassadors, and interparliamentary contacts are going through the Committee on International Affairs.

Demokratizatsiya: You occupy a big political post in the State Duma, which you received as a member of the LDPR fraction. Why do you think that in Russia and outside of Russia there is an extremely negative image of the LDPR and its leader, Zhirinovsky?

Mitrofanov: You know, I think that there is a very specific decisionmaking procedure in the West, which reminds me of the old Soviet style. As we used to say, "There's a certain opinion." Vice President Al Gore in December 1993, when Zhirinovsky won the election, called him a fascist. And from this moment everything started. The Russian democrats began to call Zhirinovsky the same thing, and all of the West as well. And now, public opinion has already labeled Zhirinovsky in this stereotype.

Demokratizatsiya: But Zhirinovsky himself has many times given credibility to this stereotype, You cannot deny this. Do you think his, lightly speaking, abnormal political behavior and mentality are coming from his personality and mind, or is it part of his propaganda campaign to catch public interest?

Mitrofanov: The fact that the LDPR won one election completely and on the second one, notwithstanding the terrible campaign against the LDPR, received second place, can tell you a lot. This means that Zhirinovsky sharply sees reality appealing to the sensitivity of many people and touching the feelings that really exist in Russian society. This is what the West neither values nor understands in Zhirinovsky.

In 1993, maybe even earlier, Russia became an object for much propaganda of Russia's inferiority complex. Russia's propaganda has promulgated for several years this complex in our minds. Propaganda has convinced us that the last seventy years of our history has been a mistake, and that the guilt for Stalin's repressions lies on all of us. The propaganda worked with us like it did with Germans after World War II. But Russia did not lose a war. Everybody understands very clearly that we did not have a romantic Gorbachev; everybody could be different. I don't think that he was an evil man, but he was a romantic of the generation of the 1960s, which spent all of its life dreaming of how to get a bit of freedom. It was a very romantic generation, not like the previous one, which went through World War II. And Gorbachev did lots of things correctly. …

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