Do Russia and West Drift Apart?

It is often stated that "Russia rejects liberal values"
It has become evident over the past half a year that much is spoken about rather tense relations between Russia and the West. It is even said that they are on the verge of another "cold war" that today may be called "cold peace". A couple of years ago it seemed that both parties entered a new phase of cooperation based on mutual trust. Now it is clear that we should wait for a little to make conclusions concerning long-term cooperation.

Vodka, mafia and Chechnya are the issues that are basically covered in the western press. The recent scandal about Yukos has made Mikhail Khodorkovsky another issue of concern for foreign journalists. The results of the parliamentary election in Russia also drew attention of the press, but enjoyed only traditional statements saying that "Russia rejects liberal values." Nowadays, the western press focuses on the forthcoming presidential election in March 2004. At the same time, western experts try to predict the outcome of the election and say that Russia will go back to its Soviet past. However, they do not specify what the Soviet past means and why Russia is to get back to this very period.

A great number of recipes have been already developed to prevent Moscow's deviation from the democratic way of development. It is declared that political and economic relations with Russia must be kept on the minimal possible level without any additional stimulation until Russia proves its adherence to democracy. This measure is claimed to be important for Russians themselves. By making appeals of this kind the West wants to make Russia a free and democratic country delivered from the arbitrariness of powers-that-be.

Meanwhile, there is hardly an example proving the effectiveness and the good of recipes developed by Washington, London, Brussels and so on for any other country. The examples of post-war Germany and Japan are often cited in this case, however these particular examples do not agree with present-day conditions at all.

We should keep in mind that Russia’s political regime has been always criticized in the West, during the epoch of the empire or in the Soviet epoch. Russia has been traditionally charged with the same faults - human rights violation and lack of freedom. Mafia is the only innovation of the present-day epoch among the charges of the West. In any case, the criticism in Russia's address was always very strong with the exception of those moments when the West wanted Russia to do some favor. Criticism faded away only during some global military conflicts when Russia inevitably took the side of its most ardent critics.

Governments of western countries pursue their own interests by anti-Russian campaigns in the press. This has become a tradition that criticism gains force when some country wants Moscow to make concessions. Accordingly, criticism fades away when Moscow finally makes the concessions or when the issue becomes no longer urgent. Remember the 1920s when Moscow and Weimar had really warm relations. However, from time to time the German press all the same strongly criticized Moscow. That fact made Soviet diplomats ask to bring German journalists to reason, but Berlin in its turn responded the press was free in the country and could not be influenced. Moscow understood that free press could not be exerted pressure upon, but at the same time it disliked that strong criticism in the address of the Soviet Union usually came when both countries were working on some document and Germany wanted to exert more pressure on Moscow. For some political reasons foreign countries resorted to the same tactics during pre-election campaigns. Has the situation changed nowadays? It has become different in some respects. For instance, the western press no longer reports that polygamy is legal in Russia.

It is not clear in what roles Russia and the West need each other, which poses the key problem in the relations between both parties. Do they need to be allies or adversaries? An alliance supposes that all participants should enjoy equal rights, which at the same time is the key problem in the relations between Russia and the West. It is often taken for granted that Washington or Brussels may speak high and mighty with Russia. Does this mean the countries enjoy equal rights in this alliance?

If so, do Russia, the EU and the US need each other to be adversaries? To tell the truth, this scenario would have been the most stupid and ineffective. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems that the whole of the situation may end this way.

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Author`s name Andrey Mikhailov