Spectacolul ideilor pe hartă

26/mai/2010 Rusia şi NATO: să ne aşteptăm la o schimbare de paradigmă? (aici, răspunsul revistei „The Economist”)

Russia, NATO and Europe

Marching through Red Square

A pragmatic new foreign policy may be a plus, but it does not mean that Russia is ready to make any changes at home

May 20th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

ON MAY 9th soldiers from NATO countries, including America, Britain and Poland, marched across Red Square in Russia’s Victory Day parade. Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, the anthem of the European Union, was played along with the Soviet-era national anthem. Military parades are symbolic and the Kremlin has long put Russia’s wartime victory at the centre of its post-Soviet identity. But this parade was meant to project the image of a self-confident, powerful country seeking better relations with the West. (foto: The Economist – Getty Images)

A year ago it symbolised Russia’s victory over Georgia and its American backers. These days Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, talks of common values and the trustworthiness of America. And Radek Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister, praises the openness of the Kremlin in investigating the Smolensk air crash and says Poland is an ally.

Russia’s foreign policy has changed—and the change goes beyond rhetoric. After 40 years of tedious talks, Russia has signed a maritime border agreement with Norway. It is using soft power in Ukraine. Perhaps most significant is the improvement in relations with Poland, a centuries-old irritant. After years of exploiting differences between old and new members of the European Union, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister, has realised that EU solidarity is more than mere rhetoric.

Germany’s Angela Merkel made clear two years ago that, if Russia wanted better relations with the EU, it had to mend fences with
Poland. That required a shift in the Kremlin’s historical discourse and its taste for Stalin. Mr Putin has been remarkably flexible. Last year he went to Gdansk to mark the start of the war; this year he knelt to commemorate victims of the Katyn massacre ordered by Stalin in 1940. The importance of Poland in the Kremlin’s eyes has grown along with the prospects of shale gas in the country. Gazprom is now said to be sweet-talking the Poles into a long-term gas contract. In the contest between gas interests and Stalin, Stalin loses.

There is no point sulking or being belligerent with the West, the Kremlin seems to have decided. As Mr Putin has said, Russia should present a smiling face to the world. A smile, however, does not alter nature; the Russian shift has occurred without significant change inside the country. Russia has not become less corrupt or more democratic. Russian troops remain in part of Georgia; Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos boss, is still in jail. Russia has not abandoned its claim to a privileged interest in the neighbourhood.

Dmitry Trenin, head of the Moscow Carnegie Centre, argues that Russian foreign policy under Mr Putin has always been more defensive than offensive. It is shaped more by vested financial and political interests than by ideology or geopolitics. Russia’s return to business as usual was made easier by Barack Obama’s reset policy (seen in Moscow as an admission of past mistakes) and the shelving of NATO expansion. The financial crisis has also shown up Russia’s vulnerability.

After a decade of rising oil prices and budget surpluses, Russia is running a deficit and looking to borrow money. The crisis has exploded a model of economic growth that relied on rising oil and gas prices. To keep its grip on power, the Kremlin has now come up with a different idea: modernisation to renew the Russian economy without changing its political system.

Russia’s new pragmatism is set out in a leaked foreign-ministry paper. The document is not an example of liberalism and openness, but it argues that Russia must form modernisation alliances with leading countries and attract Western technologies while advancing the interests of Russian companies abroad. In a sign of desperation, even Armenia is seen as a channel for the transfer of technology to Russia. Russia’s wish list includes visa-free travel, the adoption of EU standards and membership of the World Trade Organisation and the OECD rich-country club.

The EU’s attitude has been cautious and more realistic than many suppose. Progress in EU-Russia relations has been painfully slow. Barring a few appeasers, most governments in Europe, including Germany’s, have no illusions left about Mr Putin’s Russia: its weak property rights, high corruption and the symbiosis of state power with private financial interests. Yet most EU governments also embrace the idea of modernisation. A large emerging market with a huge demand for technological catch-up serves the interests of European companies. Adopting EU standards would also curb Russia’s ability to impose arbitrary trade sanctions. And many see Russia’s slogan of modernisation as a chance, however feeble, to push for its political transformation.

Talk of modernisation has not removed basic disagreements. Mr Medvedev’s November proposal for a new European security treaty focuses on hard power and implies a veto on NATO expansion which is unpalatable to the West. It is being discussed as part of the so-called Corfu process, but one European politician likens it to a perpetuum mobile that will go on forever without reaching a conclusion.

From Russia’s viewpoint, Mr Medvedev’s scheme has helped to divert attention from Georgia. “[They] stopped discussing Georgia and started discussing this proposal,” Mr Rogozin says. Russia has kept its military presence not just in Georgia but in other former Soviet republics. It has just agreed an extension of the Black Sea fleet’s lease in Sebastopol, in Ukraine.

As the foreign-ministry document asserts, Russia needs to consolidate the former Soviet space by, for example, pushing the customs union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Brussels has warned Ukraine that, were it to join this customs union, it would jeopardise its partnership with the EU. Russia itself sees the EU as a source of innovation, but not a model for democracy. Talk of common values and the rule of law causes heartburn among such Russian officials as Vladimir Chizhov, a smiling and impenetrable ambassador to the EU. Asked what Russia wants from the EU, he starts with what it does not want: to have it as a bossy patron come to modernise Russia. “We see it as a purely utilitarian initiative,” he says.

The main problem is not that Russia defends its own values (it has few) but that its leaders think the values gap does not exist and the West is hypocritical to talk of it. Unlike Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of openness, which was inseparable from domestic liberalisation, Russia’s new détente implies no political change at home. The foreign-ministry document talks of the need to project the image of Russia as a democratic state with a socially oriented market economy—but says nothing about the need actually to become one. Russia’s rapprochement is fragile since it hinges on an idea of modernisation that is unlikely to succeed without liberalisation. The risk is that when modernisation fails, Russia will blame the West for sabotaging it.


26 mai 2010 - Posted by | Geopolitica, Intelo | , ,

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