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Two birds with one hit
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-03-06 08:04:29
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Today’s Russia has nothing to do with the Russia of Leonid Brezhnev or even with the Russia of Mikkail Gorbachev and this is a fact. However, at the same time, today’s Russia is not quite there yet… and by 'there' I mean democracy and there is still some way to go, with some rather difficult parts of this journey to navigate. The solution and the problem uniquely in Russia have the same name and this is Vladimir Putin, the man who can be both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There is another fact: Russia’s steps towards democracy have happened only with the assistance of the European and cross Atlantic allies because there are allies, they are destined to be allies.

What I said before is a historic truth, the biggest steps Russia did over the last century towards democracy happened during the period of Ronald Reagan when he made the big step to reach Mikkail Gorbachev’s hand and amazingly the old cowboy and the man who represented the peak of the Cold War was the very same man who actually imposed the equal ally attitude to the suspicious west. Even George Bush the senior followed the wave and he extended his hand to continue building upon Reagan’s efforts and Bill Clinton took it one step further, of course these two had to deal with an easier – that’s the best way I can put it even though other words to describe him come in mind – Russian leader, Yeltsin.

But Yeltsin was not the one who successfully led Russia into the 21st century, it was Vladimir Putin and he did it successfully carefully using all the natural resources of the country and of course the people who for long were looking for a cause. Vladimir Putin is far away from a democratic leader and the same time he is the closest to a democratic leader Russia could have at the moment, you see one thing with his case that works for him and his imperial plans is the lack of opposition. But then again you compare him with whom? Italy’s Berlusconi created laws while Prime Minister that would help him avoid accusations for corruption and his only assistance in his political survival is exactly what helps Putin with a lack opposition! And at least Putin is more serious and doesn’t mock politics and the people the same way Berlusconi does.

I’m one of those who have often written how dangerous Putin is but, at the same time, I have admitted often that the man has given back to the Russian people their dignity and yes corruption still exists in Russia but it is not the same as it was during the Yeltsin era when the Russian mafia nearly governed the country. And yes I’m worrying for Putin’s plans that have a very nationalistic and suspiciously motivated colour but I have to admit that the man fixed the Russian economy to a very good point, so much so that the hard hit that the European economies are taking nowadays has barely hits the Russian economy.

But then during Putin’s era there was a man on the other side of the Atlantic who was dreaming of the rebirth of the Cold War motivated mainly from his economic partners in the weapon’s lobbies. When it comes to foreign policy probably the George W. Bush era will be consider as the darkest times shadowed often from mysterious aims and driven from personal agendas. With a very peculiar way this attitude from the other side helped Putin to push more his nationalistic issues and perhaps united the Russians under his populist charm and then came the issue of the missiles in Poland that had the smell of a betrayal. Suddenly all the words for peace and forgetting the past looked empty and action brought reaction and suspicion. The days of the cowboy hats in the Texan ranch were forgotten and replaced with threats and warnings.

Barack Obama’s change of foreign policy towards Russia is critical as much critical was Ronald Reagan’s turn and somehow you never know this turn might even stop the return of Emperor Putin strengthening Dmitri Medvenev and giving the chance to an opposition to rebuild and reappear in Russian politics. Very cleverly Barack Obama asked Russia’s help with Iran’s nuclear issues in exchange of stopping the missiles program changing the game from a war game into diplomacy and talk. Actually exchanging weapons to conversation and Russia naturally will glad to help since it is a good chance to show their part in the international scene and demonstrate their influence.

As a first step the new State Secretary Hillary Clinton emphasized how critical it will be the Russian help in Afghanistan including the need to include Iran in this solution. Two birds with one hit! Actually this was too many birds with one hit and I would say that this was the first major success of the new American administration.

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Emanuel Paparella2009-03-06 14:53:02
What remains unclear is the role of NATO in all of this. Is NATO what it was intended to be, an alliance of democratic states for the purpose of collectively defend democracy in a dangerous world, or will the present EU leaders (midgets in comparison to the visionary founding fathers of the EU) continue to see the alliance as a mere instrument of American political and economic hegemony while at the same time tolerate (for economic reasons) that America and America alone be the world’s policeman? What I am suggesting is that the recent American diplomatic success needs a complementary diplomatic success from the other side of the Atlantic. Helping out as trusted allies with the unraveling of the mess that Afghanistan seems to have become would be a good first step. At the more theoretical and intellectual level, heeding the reflection of Jurgen Habermas, a quintessentially European philosopher, on a post-secular Europe could also prove to be most helpful and productive for the old post-war alliance (see today’s article on him). For after all we are all in the same sinking boat, badly in need of repair and good sailors, and that boat is called Western Civilization.

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