Viacheslav Morozov is Professor of EU-Russia Studies with the Institute of Government and Politics at the University of Tartu.
The very idea of “the national” takes a peculiar form in Russia. The nation’s intellectual and political elites obstinately look away from grassroots concerns and demands, and focus instead on a set of “eternal Russian questions”.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea and subsequent support for separatists in eastern Ukraine gave rise to fears that this scenario could be repeated elsewhere. Especially worrisome is the fact that the intervention was justified by the alleged need to protect ethnic Russians.
As long as the fundamental restructuring of the global system is not reflected in people’s outlook (and this will take decades), the vacuum in the inner sanctum of Russian national consciousness will continue to be filled by the West.
The bankruptcy of transitology does not rule out the fact that modern liberal democracy is a product of European civilization and, consequently, that it is based on the historical and intellectual experience of the Enlightenment and subsequent eras. This concrete and essential component of the notion of democracy remains the last line in democracy’s defense against relativism – it allows us to distinguish genuine democracy from all kinds of fakes.
Like any social and cultural form, the era of Russia’s exclusion from Europe is not endless and will be over one day; this issue may even lose its pressing character (for instance, if the center of the global world shifts to Asia). Still, the current situation shows an amazing stability and we Europeans just do not have enough political imagination to eradicate this standoff.
The conflict between Russia and the European Union is much more profound than a mere collision of pragmatic, rationally formulated interests. The disagreement relates to the self-identification of both political subjects in time and space, which in turn has an inseparable link to ethic problems, to the understanding of good and evil, and to the perception of threats to security.
At a roundtable event in Moscow, top experts debated the “hypocritical” and “insincere” foreign policies of both Russia and the West in the post-Cold War era.
Vladimir Putin has mentioned several times that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical mistake. Although these words were often interpreted as his desire to constitute that country, there is little reason to believe this.
The April 16 referendum will focus on power distribution rather than institution building. In other words, the organizers saw it as an opportunity to expand the President’s powers and allow him to rule longer. In their turn, Turks perceived it as an institutional choice to contribute to the development of the state.
If the larger picture defies prediction, the immediate future is scarcely more transparent. In the U.S. case, the known unknowns are numerous. They begin with the question of how much deck furniture Trump is willing to overturn in order to pursue an “America First” strategy.
In the wake of the For Fair Elections protest movement in Russia in 2011-2012, the Kremlin initiated a new strategy of state-society relations that was aimed at diminishing the propensity for protest in the next election cycle.
Belarus’ traditional structural dependence on Russia is increasing, and Minsk’s freedom of maneuver continues to shrink.