The New York Times published on November 9 an article under the headline “Who Controls Russia?”, where the authors claim that there is a fight between President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin about the actual control over the country.
With all the respect, I tend to disagree with the concept, that “One thing is certain: Neither Barack Obama’s charm nor appeals to common interests will persuade Russia’s unsentimental leaders. Only the combination of real leverage and real inducements can move the uneasy Putin-Medvedev partnership to accommodate American and broader Western priorities”, which is the essence of the article.
The partnership between Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev is actually functioning quite well. It is only through the lenses of the western experts, who see problems in the Russian model of governance. Perhaps that is driven by the fact that the US and the West want Russia to accommodate their priorities? However, when dealing with Russia one needs not to forget that there are substantial cultural differences, and often people in the West just forget, or ignore them. One of this big differences is how the two cultures solve problems. In the US, people say, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”. In Rursia, the proverb is “If it is working, don’t touch it”. Now, while the reader may not see a big difference, this explains probably why the experts are not (good) enough to explain the way Russia works. If the US treats Russia as a country that has to accommodate the US priorities, then no wonder there is no response to the different initiatives by the US administration. And it is not a question about Barack Obama’s charm or appeals to common interests that have to persuade “Russia’s unsentimental leaders” to do something. It is time for the US experts to accept what the Obama administration seems to have understood – that the time of the unilateral actions by the USA is over. The Russians are smart people – and they could be persuaded into good causes. If the current negotiators can’t do it, perhaps the problem is not in Russia, in Mr. Putin, or in Mr. Medvedev, but in the negotiators themselves.
To conclude – in the small newspaper space – if the experts are asking themselves who controls Russia, then they need to work with Russia, in order to find out. Trying to impose the Western values on the Russians, has not worked in the last few hundred years, and I don’t believe it will happen with combination of real leverage and real inducements. The Russian leaders are not kids, who can be lured into doing something in return for candies. As for the leverage… Archimedes said, “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.” But, seriously, who today can claim that he is Archimedes, and, by the way, scientifically is proven that he could have move the Earth, but he would have need some 30 mln. years to do so. Is the US foreign policy ready to wait that long, or should it try something different, and more workable?
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