trifle with the Russian bear
The West is needlessly trying to get a foothold in Russia's
backyard, writes Andrei Vavra
The 9/11 tragedy, when two planes hijacked by terrorists hit
the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, encouraged
Russia and the United States, the world's two most powerful
nuclear states, to join hands in the fight against the common
We thought it would also open the door to a new era
in international cooperation, with the global powers standing
up as one to build a fair and safe world order, contrary to
the end of history predicted by Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama,
an American philosopher, political economist and author.
Alas, it turned out that joining forces against someone
is much easier than working together for a noble goal. It
turned out that there are more things keeping us apart than
can bring us together. We cannot "stand up as one and
fight" because now is the time of mutual complaints and
accusations, mistrust and irritation.
In short, all our expectations, dreams and forecasts
have been proved wrong. Memorial ceremonies for the victims
of the September 11, 2001 tragedy are a chance to stop and
think why our dreams, which seemed within reach seven years
ago, have not materialised.
In the seven years since then, the world has not become
a safer, more stable and comfortable place to live. The counter-terrorist
alliance has split, first over Iraq and later because of Iran.
Disregarding Russia's arguments, the West recognised Kosovo's
New lines of division have appeared in the world, and
the US is preparing to deploy anti-missile systems in Europe
close to Russia's border. Russia's closest neighbours, Georgia
and Ukraine, have been invited into NATO. We have not found
a common language for dealing with partners, or agreed a common
Taken together, this amounts to failure to promote
Russia is suspected of nurturing poisonous plans and
is pictured as a country hostile to the West and its values.
When Georgia attacked South Ossetia, the world entered
what seems like a long period of very cool relations between
Russia and the West. The inviolability of borders and territorial
integrity are very painful issues, which is why the West has
not supported Russia's decision to recognise the independence
of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The international community is not moulding its policy
to suit Russia. In fact, they have decided to treat Russia
as an outcast, despite the apparent fact that it did right
in the conflict with Georgia.
The trouble is that separatism (or the right of nations
to self-determination) is too big a threat to encourage an
adequate reaction to Russia's decision. It is not surprising
then that Spain, Belgium, Britain, Cyprus, Turkey, China,
Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia and many other countries have not
Russia has again been branded an aggressive bully ready
to act contrary to the opinion of the majority of the international
community. It is being pushed into isolation.
This is unlikely to affect the quality of life in Russia,
and energetic explanations of its stance will eventually put
everything right. However, they did not try to understand
the people of Russia even before South Ossetia, and understanding
is crucial for cooperation.
Irrespective of someone's stand on "sovereign
democracy," one must recognise Russia's right to a stance
and to pursue a foreign policy in its own interests. Nobody
has yet cancelled national interests, have they?
Attempts to use measures usually applied to small countries
in relations with Russia are counter-productive. Russia is
a huge country straddling two continents.
- The writer is a senior political analyst based in
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