Author`s name Lyuba Lulko

How Biden should work to take Russia to revival: Putinologists advise

"Putinologists" in the US ponder on how Joe Biden can achieve "Russia's revival."

Navalny and the "new era" in Russia

Michael Kimmage, a professor of history at the American Catholic University, published an article in The New Republic under the headline "How Biden Can Achieve a Russian Restoration."

The author deals with "Putinology", as it appears from his portfolio.

The article begins with a description of the protests in support of Alexey Navalny in Russia. According to Kimmage, they "symbolize the beginning of a new era, in which the Biden administration is poised between 2021's brave new world and the hoped-for restoration of relationships, international configurations, and values that the Trump administration abandoned in its four years of mayhem."

Further, the author gives US President Joe Biden pieces of advice on how to start a new life in a new era.

"Halcyon optimism" is excluded

He recalls the "halcyon optimism" of Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, which was based on the thesis that "Russia's people surely preferred the blessings of democracy to the confinements of tyranny, and that greater American engagement would encourage Russia's democratisation." This, in turn, would "would resolve diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Russia that had flared under Vladimir Putin."

That optimism did not materialize, concludes Kimmage. On the contrary, Russia is not the only country in the world where democracies retreat at the onset of authoritarian regimes, he wrote.

Without bothering to analyze the reasons for the trend, the author states that "the Biden administration will have to contend with a world that is not Americanising."

"This calls not just for assertiveness vis-à-vis Russia and China. It calls for considered diplomacy, an acceptance of these governments for what they are (while they are what they are), and a certain amount of give and take with them-in order to avoid war," he wrote.

One should give Kimmage credit for his idea of the need to avoid the war  - it permeates his article.

What is the "problem of Russia"

Further, the author claims that the problem of Russia can be solved only by defining this problem.

In his opinion, Russian authoritarianism is an original sin of Russia, its objective historical reality, and Putin's foreign policy reflects the country he controls. We will not argue whether Russia is an authoritarian regime or a democracy, this is not the topic of this article.

Three interests of Russia

Kimmage describes Russia's "cardinal interest" as "the desire not to dependent on external powers, especially the United States."

  • The second interest is to dictate conditions in areas close to Russia, and, in particular, on Russia's long western border, where Russia's main obstacles are the United States and the NATO alliance.
  • The third interest is the Russian economy and access to sales markets for Russian energy resources and weapons.

"The government's skill at satisfying a foreign appetite for oil and gas sets the parameters for Russian prosperity and military might. Since coming to power, Putin has adeptly pursued these three interests," Kimmage wrote.

Well, Michael Kimmage defines the interests of Russia correctly. He does not imply that Biden should consider Russia a "gas station country", but speaks of technological progress that "continues to help the Kremlin to exploit the vulnerabilities of open societies, as well as to monitor and control dissent at home." Technological progress helps the White House in exactly the same way.

What if one tries authoritarianism?

Kimmage suggests switching from "democratic optimism" to authoritarianism in relation to Russia. Confusion and doubt can be clearly seen here, even in the terms used.

To do this, the author suggests answering three questions.

  1. What threat does Russia pose to the democratic integrity of the US?
  2. What impact does Russian authoritarianism have on the international system and on US interests within this system?
  3. And what is to be done about authoritarianism inside Russia?

America loses "domestic resilience"

The answer to the first question is as follows: Russia poses a real threat to American democracy through alleged interference in elections and cyberattacks (the author does not indicate that they (it does not mean that they came from Russia) reveal USA's unsightly policies).

Kimmage sees the answer in ensuring domestic resilience in the United States - "the fostering of a political culture that is less maximalist and less divisive than it has been for the past several years."

Tellingly, the author does not even bother to analyse objective reasons for the emergence of Trumpism in the United States.

Ukraine and Belarus need to be helped "cautiously"

Answering the second question, Kimmage concludes that Putin's authoritarianism is detrimental to US international efforts to maintain "open societies."

According to him, Biden needs to support nationalism of the countries "on the western border" of Russia - in Ukraine and Belarus in the first place. He warns, however, that this will escalate the confrontation.

"In 2021, democracy and its enemies do not divide up into neat categories. (A bitter lesson of the Trump era is that some of the wiliest enemies of American democracy are American citizens.) A number of NATO allies are illiberal, and the U.S. has a long history of doing business with undemocratic countries. This pragmatism, born of necessity, will always be in fashion," he wrote.

The author substitutes the cause-and-effect link: it is not Putin who destabilises - the United States does the work instead through coups. Secondly, one needs to understand that cautious assistance  means saying one thing and doing another. In other words, the Americans will work to say that Belarus does not want to break up with Russia, but they will do their best to make this happen.

As per the third question, Kimmage believes that the Biden administration should work for the Russian authoritarian regime to decline gradually and then replace it with a more democratic form of governance.

"The alluring prospect is that in a liberated Russia the perils of an authoritarian Russian foreign policy would vanish overnight," the author wrote.

The most effective way for this transition is to achieve a higher standard of living in Ukraine and Belarus, Kimmage points out. If it happens, the Russians will want to follow their path.

For some reason, the author does not understand (or does not want to understand) that there will be no "rise" of those economies that have been crushed under the heavy truck of American democratisation. All this assistance is not based on the desire to raise the living standard in Ukraine and Belarus. The goal is to solve the Russia problem and redistribute property to the benefit of transnational companies.

A Catholic Christian who talks about original sin should instead try to understand why the world does not want to Americanise. The professor ought to try to understand whether it is a sin to coerce other nations to good living the American way, but the professor is fulfilling the order.

Navalny as the founding father of a new Russia

The second piece of advice "to weaken Putin" is to support Navalny not only financially, but also "with information on the dirty dealing of Putin and his friends."

"Sufficiently emboldened, Navalny could be the founding father of a new Russia," the author wrote.

He doesn't notice even how he encourages Russian authoritarianism. In addition, it is completely incomprehensible why he is so optimistic about Navalny's importance for the Russian society. Kimmage did not bother to look at the polls that show only three percent of support that Navalny has in Russia. In addition, this support is based on his "anti-corruption investigations", which are fabricated in the West. He is not seen here as a national leader, not at all.

The author then begins to doubt himself.

"As for the third question-what is to be done about authoritarianism within Russia?-the proper answer for the U.S. government is nothing," he wrote.

According to Kimmage, "there is little evidence to suggest that Russians themselves are waiting for an American helping hand after almost a decade of American economic sanctions and given the turbulence of American-style democracy."

"In Ukraine, American assistance was welcomed not just by aspiring democrats but by political forces that wanted to move Ukraine away from Russia for reasons of nationalism or of personal opportunism. By contrast, there is no "other" from which the US can save Russia. The historic "other" for Russia is, in fact, the US," concludes Kimmage ...

Putin's regime will collapse on its own

The author believes that Putin's regime can certainly collapse in the next four years under the pressure of its own problems, similarly to how the Soviet regime collapsed. In this case, "everyone will benefit from an already interconnected US and Russian diplomacy-the more contact, the more talk, the more familiarity."

"President Biden should not seek a transformed world or a transformed Russia. Nor should he reject a reset in the name of the status quo. He should take the incremental steps needed to shore up American democracy, to protect the U.S. and its allies from outside meddling, and to normalize sustained and regular diplomatic engagement between the U.S. and the Russian Federation, while affirming free elections and related rights as the aspirational melody of American foreign policy,"
Kimmage summed up.

The "Putin regime" will not collapse - it will be transformed based on what the people want: progression towards an independent and just state. When Russia becomes economically independent, the United States will have to sit down with Russia at the table of negotiations of the new Yalta conference.