The West Should Heed Russian-Ukrainian Relations

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 30, 2008 | Go to article overview

The West Should Heed Russian-Ukrainian Relations


Byline: Victor Basiuk, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

After visiting Russia recently, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recommended that Ukraine's membership in NATO be postponed so as not to impede the evolution of Russian democracy. However, Mr. Kissinger's analysis overlooks certain fundamentals of Russia's evolutionary process and Russian-Ukrainian relations.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia has developed a successor to communism as its ideology in the form of culturology. In effect, it is a revival of Slavophile teachings, dating to the early 19th century.

Like the Slavophiles, culturology rejects Western universalism, believes in the superiority of Russian culture, insists on Russia's messianic destiny and views Russia as a world apart. Taught in the former departments of Marxism-Leninism, it is compulsory in primary and secondary schools and nearly always a required course in the first year of the university.

Culturology is an instrument of power of the Russian authoritarian regime to help control its population, but the principal instrument of its power at this point is oil. Besides using oil as an instrument of political power with regard to the near abroad and Western Europe, Russia is converting its oil power into military power. Russia is significantly expanding its navy, which expects to build five to six nuclear carriers.

The evolutionary process is not bypassing Russia, but it must come from society itself. Moreover, in a world characterized by interdependence, societal evolution in Russia has to come from both internal and external forces.

Craving for freedom is a powerful internal societal mover in the evolution toward democracy; it produced peaceful color revolutions in three former Soviet republics - Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan.

However, in Russia it is laced with a historical baggage: hundred of years of autocracy. Many Russians feel more comfortable when decisions are made for them, when there is a batyushka (father) to give them order and security. Autocracy almost has become a part of the value system of many Russians, just as historical expansionism has become a part of mentality of many in the Russian elite. Russian society, thus, needs more external help than others.

The West must develop policies to unleash the craving for freedom among the Russians. Such policies might include greater efforts to increase personal contacts of the Russians with Westerners. Travel and educational exchanges could be increased. Activities that would, directly and indirectly, stimulate the development of civil society in Russia need to be supported since such a society creates a fertile ground for freedom. …

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