From Activity to Effectiveness

7 october 2012

When Foreign Policy Is Rid of Soviet Legacy

Boris Kozlovsky, Doctor of Science (History), is a political analyst.

Pavel Lukin, Doctor of Science (History), is а senior researcher at the Institute of Russian History, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Resume: The gravitation towards the Soviet past has not only psychological but also social causes, linked with the interests of a considerable part of the ruling elite. In actual fact, there is the same Soviet elite of the Brezhnev time, which has rid itself of the party and ideological control that restrained their desire for unbridled wealth.

Some four years ago, an author wrote in this journal that the conflict with Georgia would be a watershed that would put an end to Moscow’s post-Soviet approach to the world. He believed Russia would finally formulate “a program of realistic and pragmatic foreign policy matching its genuine strategic interests and the goals of economic and social development” (Alexander Lukin, “From a Post-Soviet to a Russian Foreign Policy.” Russia in Global Affairs, No. 4, October-December 2008).

The author erred: Russia’s foreign policy has remained post-Soviet and now it is even more pro-Soviet than it was ten or 15 years ago.

CRAVING FOR SUPERPOWER STATUS

Immediately after the Soviet Union broke up and “democrats” came to power, the Russian Foreign Ministry headed by Andrei Kozyrev proclaimed de-ideologization of the country’s foreign policy. However, the Communist ideology was replaced by an ideology of primitive Westernism. What used to be regarded as bad is now seen as good; former enemies turned into friends, and visa versa. The renouncement of Kozyrev’s line did not lead to pragmatism. Under the slogan of ensuring national interests, initially proposed by some experts as a reasonable alternative, Russia partially backtracked to Soviet objectives and approaches – without Soviet rhetoric but under the motto that “the USSR is Russia” and that in Soviet times much was done in Russia’s interests.

Russia is sliding back to the superpower ideology under this pretext. Whereas the ultimate objective of the Soviet Union was changing the world according to the Communist model, Russia increasingly stands up for its incorrectly understood national interests all over the world, mostly in the struggle against the former geopolitical opponent. Russia has lost a sizable portion of the Soviet territory and resources and half of the Soviet population, and the remaining part is not keen to enter any geopolitical rivalry. In global hierarchy, the country has descended from the second place to the tenth (or even lower by certain indicators). Yet the state and the ruling elite stubbornly continue to speak of some world mission and “the Russian idea,” which traditionally can only be implemented in the struggle or competition with another superpower – the United States (or the West in general).

Although the wording of official statements is different, Russia actually views relations with the West as “a zero sum game,” as did the Soviet Union. At the same time, the present elite is well aware that Russia has no strength, resources or any special wish of the population to attain the real status of superpower in order to press the U.S. all over the planet. In effect, impulses towards the superpower status surge precisely when Moscow wishes to demonstrate its discontent with the policy of the West, which refuses to recognize it as an equal and worthy partner.

Since Yeltsin’s time, the Russian elite has had the sincere conviction that Russia must become part of the “civilized world”, i.e. part of the West in a broad sense, perhaps not politically but at least economically and culturally. This conviction is primarily prompted by private commercial interests, mostly related not to Moscow, but to Cyprus, London, southern France or Spain where money is invested and where property is purchased. However, the money is earned thanks to the country’s political system which differs dramatically from those in the countries of the “civilized world.” Here emerges a contradiction: a replacement of this system would undermine the basis of the Russian elite’s power and welfare. On the other hand, Russian officials and oligarchs, proud of their money and influence, want to be treated as equals, as representatives of a large and modern state.

As a result, the Russian foreign policy keeps making unexpected turns. Every new Russian leader begins with an extremely pro-Western course, assuming that the West can be bribed with concessions. Moscow would declare common values, close troublesome (and quite expensive) facilities abroad, lend a hand in a difficult moment, etc. But then it turns out that the present time is not the 19th or even 20th century and that the West cannot, at least for domestic political reasons, open its institutions to representatives of an entirely different political system, which has no real separation of powers, nor transparent election procedures.

Moscow views any moves by the U.S. or its allies, such as building a missile defense system in Europe, setting up NATO bases in Central Asia, the operation in Afghanistan, or the Western position on the nuclear problems of Iran and the Korean Peninsula and Arab revolutions, as deliberately inspired, well-planned actions by enemies against Russian interests. Naturally, Moscow reacts with resolute counteraction. High-placed officials often say that the U.S. deliberately encourages the production of narcotics in Afghanistan to ruin Russia by hooking its population on drugs. Or they insist that the Arab revolutions were conceived to oust Russia from the region or depose Central Asian regimes that are friendly to Moscow.

Of course, the zero sum game instruments have to be shelved now and then. Sometimes, Russia has to cooperate. The USSR, too, cooperated with the West – during the New Economic Policy (NEP), World War II, and later when it exported oil and gas to the West. Yet the impression is that, as in Soviet times, the present-day interaction is due not to growing confidence or the awareness of common interests, but to the dire need to boost the coffers and have access to property abroad. This brings about zigzags in Russia’s foreign policy, from unjustified concessions to equally unjustified strong opposition.

Psychologists say the idea that everything in the world – good or bad – happens only for your sake, because of you or somehow affecting you is characteristic of a child’s mentality. In foreign policy, it is peculiar to a global ideology, totalitarian as a rule, which views its own values as the apex of civilization. Such ideology manifests itself either in attempts to impose one’s values upon the whole world, or in a conviction that one is surrounded by enemies encroaching upon these values. In the contemporary world, there have remained only two such aggressive ideologies: American (or, broadly, western) liberal “democratism” and radical Islamism. Of the two, it is only the first one that has powerful states behind it.

Local totalitarian ideologies of the second type determine foreign policies of smaller states, such as Iran, North Korea, Libya under Gaddafi, and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. After the breakup of the USSR, Russia gave up the ideology of global totalitarianism and no longer tries to shape the world according to its image. Yet it continues to look at the outside world apprehensively, gradually moving towards local totalitarianism – with some global ambitions.

Recently, a muddy flow of obviously biased television programs, interviews and articles, reminiscent of KGB-style propaganda, has poured on Russian audiences. The programs promote the idea that all problems of Russian society have been brought about by external and internal enemies funded from abroad. These allegations are made despite the present-day unique conditions where Russia has neither direct geopolitical opponents nor global domination plans. Nikolay Spasskiy has called this approach “the superpower myth” (see “The Island of Russia. Can Russia Become a Superpower Again – and Does It Really Need It?” Russia in Global Affairs, No. 2, April-June 2011). He proves that such a myth stems from Cold War inertia, as Russia has never been a superpower seeking global domination, either before or after 1917.

The Soviet idea of active foreign policy is part of the superpower ideology. Moscow persistently seeks to join all international organizations and groups and takes its absence there as a blow to its prestige. It knocked on the door of the G8 for a long time and was finally granted entry half-heartedly, without the right to have its say in the discussion of economic issues. It sought admission to the Council of Europe, which is now wary of Russia because of its human rights record. Instead of increasing its presence in the economy of the Asia-Pacific region, which is infinitesimal compared with that of China, the U.S. or Japan, Moscow seeks to attend all forums and join all organizations in the region, including ineffective ones, such as the East Asia Summit and the Asia-Europe Meeting, and holds pompous and expensive events to make itself noticed.

The post-Soviet pride does not let Russia acknowledge itself as a developing country; meanwhile, this status brings real dividends to such economic giants as China, India and Brazil. Although these countries develop much faster than Russia, they receive aid from international organizations and rich states. They do not hurry to receive a developed country status which would give them nothing and would only place extra obligations on them. They do not seek membership of prestigious associations or clubs but persistently build up trade and economic ties in their regions.

Writing off debts has become an element of Russia’s policy, which is done to keep up with the developed West or help “socially close” regimes. In the first decade of the new century, Moscow wrote off Iraqi, Mongolian, Afghan, Syrian, Vietnamese, Algerian and Libyan debts totaling more than U.S. $70 billion. This sum would have been enough for Russia to double the funding of education within seven years.

“No serious discussions about Russia’s future are possible without a decisive and irreversible renunciation of the superpower myth,” Spasskiy writes. “We must aim at achieving Russia’s real, not rhetorical, positioning as an independent center of power […] having power not for its expansionist projection in the world but for guaranteeing a better material and spiritual life for its people.”

Regrettably, this is not happening. The idea that Russia can only be the first or, at least, second world power in terms of geopolitical and power influence, is not only proclaimed but is thrust upon the population, whose younger generations have no memories of the Cold War.

CRAVING FOR THE SOVIET PAST

One of the reasons behind the popularity of the superpower myth is the search for legitimacy in the past. Russia became the de jure successor to the Soviet Union; the authorities claimed it was necessary for the country’s smooth and painless departure from the Soviet past. In our view, this decision was a big mistake, which Boris Yeltsin later acknowledged. Succession should have been proclaimed not with respect to the totalitarian USSR, but to pre-Soviet Russia. Not only tsarist Russia, as Andrei Zubov suggests (this would have implied a return to autocracy, class privileges, etc.), but also with respect to the Provisional Government of 1917. Despite all its shortcomings, high ineffectiveness and a lack of real capability to govern, it was nevertheless legitimate.

Such succession would have resolved problems of both private and state ownership. It would have opened prospects for a new political system to embrace the most diverse forces of pre-Soviet Russia – from left-wing socialists to monarchists, except for supporters of totalitarian ideologies that had fully discredited themselves: Bolshevism and Nazism. This new democratic system would have signified firm renunciation of the totalitarian past. A new Russia should not have been the successor to the Soviet Union or assumed responsibility for it, especially in foreign policy. This is what the majority of East European countries did as they became part of the democratic world.

Indeed, Russia has changed much, but is it a qualitative change? The point is not about a play of symbols or having to stand up to the national anthem with the music written for the Soviet anthem (whose lyrics “The great Lenin lit the way forward,” which made people sick from their school years, is persistently coming to mind). Academician Yuri Pivovarov has described the current Russian regime as a “Soviet post-Communist” one. He aptly notes that the rather modest proposals by the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights for restoring historical memory (the press dubbed them “de-Stalinization”), put forward two decades after the Soviet Union’s breakup and actually ignored by the authorities, may be compared to a proposal by a commission of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) in 1937 to partially “overcome the consequences of the Romanov regime and outrages by the bourgeoisie and landowners.” However, the Bolsheviks, who had proclaimed a new world, did destroy the tsarist legacy – unlike the present-day Russian authorities who have been unable to break with Bolshevism; on the contrary, they have been using its legacy on an increasingly larger scale.

In foreign policy, this trend can be seen in the Kremlin’s behavior, which continuously tries to defend many of Soviet foreign-policy moves as if they were Russia’s and which takes criticism of the USSR as attacks against today’s Russia. For example, it denies that Moscow had expansionist goals when it annexed the Baltic States in 1940. Not only historians and propagandists but also diplomats in Russia insist that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the USSR of their own accord, and that the decisions their parliaments passed at the gunpoint of Soviet tanks were legitimate. Why deny the obvious – the illegal occupation of the independent states which were recognized even by the Lenin government? The formal reason for the denial is the possibility that these countries may demand compensation. But compensation can be demanded if Russia is regarded responsible for Soviet crimes.

It would be far more reasonable to admit that the Communist regime seized the Baltic countries and committed terrible crimes there. But before that, the Communists, aided by some Balts, had seized Russia. Russia was a victim, too, and Latvians are as responsible for the crimes committed by the Cheka as Russians. This position would rob Russophobes of their trump cards; it would be hailed by the Baltic States and would facilitate mutual confidence. It would be more convenient to defend the rights of ethnic Russians from this position, without arousing fears that the Russian-speaking population might be used for implementing “imperial ambitions.” The senseless denial of the obvious annexation and subsequent repression against hundreds of thousands of innocent people only gives rise to natural apprehensions regarding the true intentions of present Russia.

The same situation is with the Soviet-Finnish War and the Soviet occupation of part of Poland under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. And again, instead of admitting territorial aggression, we increasingly often hear the arguments familiar from Soviet history text-books, such as “We asked the Finns to cede the Karelian Isthmus because Leningrad was too close to the border” and “The USSR sought to liberate Ukrainian and Belarusian brothers.” As a result, the insolent demand that a sovereign country cede part of its territory and the treacherous opening of the Second Eastern Front against Poland after it was attacked by Russia’s ally Germany are presented as justified and even commendable actions.

Specially trained international lawyers are assigned their habitual task of finding arguments to justify what cannot be justified. Should we then be surprised that Finland and Poland are apprehensive about modern Russia and view NATO as a guarantor of their security? So, why does Russia whitewash Stalin’s foreign policy? Why not agree with the obvious and break with the Soviet past?

Meanwhile, the idea to seize Finland cost dearly to the Soviet Union and the whole world. The unexpected stiff resistance by the Finnish army saved the country from occupation and a totalitarian regime (the puppet “workers’ and peasants’ government” of the “Finnish Democratic Republic” led by Comrade Otto Kuusinen, an ideological father of Comrade Yuri Andropov, had already been formed). Many believe that the poor military campaign and the obvious weaknesses of Soviet troops were an important factor in Hitler’s decision to attack the USSR.

Russia’s dissociation from Soviet crimes would create far better conditions for talks not only with the Baltic and East European states but also with countries in Central Asia, where the Soviet authorities committed mass reprisals too, even though they contributed to the growth of education and industry. Such an acknowledgement would create a more favorable climate to implement Russia’s strategic objective: the establishment of a Eurasian Union.

The Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany and the occupation of Eastern Europe is a more complex problem. The modern official position anathemizes any comparison between the Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany. True, the Soviet Union made the decisive contribution to defeating Nazism and saved the world from the horrors of the racist theory. But the victory was preferable not because the Stalin regime was better or more humane that Hitlerism. Simply it posed a lesser threat to humanity and its victory did not imply immediate death to the civilization. The leaders of other states in the anti-Hitler coalition realized it and agreed to a union with Stalin.

The victory was achieved at the cost of tremendous casualties and heroism of millions of Soviet soldiers; future generations must and will honor this feat. However, while acknowledging it, Russia should not deny the fact that the Soviet victory brought slavery to East European countries, which sometimes was even worse than Nazism. Today, denying or glossing over Stalinist crimes against peoples of East European countries results in their estrangement from Russia which persists in defending the butchers. An honest acknowledgement of Stalinist crimes in Eastern Europe and resolute dissociation from them by a new democratic Russia would help build mutual confidence and enhance Russia’s international prestige, and “New Europe” would not have to seek rapprochement with the U.S. which it views as a defender against a possible revival of Russian expansionism.

SOCIAL CAUSES

Of course, the gravitation towards the Soviet past has not only psychological but also social causes, linked with the interests of a considerable part of the ruling elite. Unlike postwar Germany and a majority of post-Communist countries, the Soviet officialdom was not stripped of power; it simply changed slogans, and that only temporarily. The key institutions of the Communist regime – the Communist Party, the State Security Committee (KGB) and the Young Communist League (Komsomol) – were not denounced as criminal; they just changed their names. Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, later regretted the incompleteness of the Russian democratic revolution, but as the head of state, he did nothing to institutionally change the foundations of power. Perhaps, this did not happen because he himself had been part of the Soviet nomenklatura.

Unlike postwar Germany, Russia did not carry out the four-D program: de-communization, democratization, de-militarization and de-monopolization. Attempts to ban the Communist Party failed: the authorities took its property but allowed it to glorify the Soviet past. The key institutions of the totalitarian regime were not declared criminal, and their leaders and activists still had the right to occupy government posts. Democratization only affected elections but did not create a system of genuine separation of powers. It is more convenient to govern this way: voting results cannot be challenged in court, while the parliament lost real power under the 1993 Constitution. Instead of de-militarization, the Russian army collapsed, while its Soviet structure and essence survived. De-monopolization was reduced to the transfer of state monopolies to private hands with close connections to the state.

As a result, people who had been the pillars of the Communist regime, after a brief period of confusion and remaining in the background in the 1990s, returned to the forefront and even took an aggressive stance. In actual fact, they are the same Soviet elite of the Brezhnev time, which has rid itself of the collective Suslov, i.e. the party and ideological control that restrained their desire for unbridled wealth. Hence the well-known metaphor about “security agencies’ hook” that allegedly pulled Russia out of the abyss in the 1990s. This part of the elite recovered from a temporary shock and now it assertively imposes its Soviet corporate ideology on the whole society. Communists-turned-“democrats” insist that Stalin was not a bloodthirsty murderer but an effective manager. Secret services continue to honor the Soviet-era butcher Felix Dzerzhinsky and tell tales about “feats” of international terrorists and killers, such as Pavel Sudoplatov and Nahum Eitingon, who were given prison terms they certainly deserved under the Soviet regime. Positive traits are found even in Lavrentiy Beria who, it is claimed, was not only a killer and sexual predator but also a talented manager who organized the Soviet nuclear project.

It has become fashionable among Russian diplomats to exalt Andrei Gromyko, who won fame as “Mr. Nyet” and who supported everything done by the Soviet leadership, from bringing troops into Hungary and Czechoslovakia to invading Afghanistan. At the end of his career, this “sagacious diplomat” nominated for leadership Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who would ruin the empire Gromyko cherished so much. “Stalin’s falcon” Vyacheslav Molotov, who signed the pact with Nazi Germany and who described Poland as an “ugly offspring of the Treaty of Versailles,” which he said could not exist contrary to the interests of major European states, also has his admirers nowadays.

The business elite is not anxious to renounce the Soviet past, either, because a large portion of its property is Soviet legacy, and the basis of its business is not competition in the market but monopoly supported by the government bureaucracy. Dissociating from the Soviet legacy would dismantle the institutional and ideological foundation of the post-Soviet bureaucracy’s power and the related state capitalism business.

The structural and ideological similarity between the incumbent Russian authorities and authoritarian regimes is manifested in Moscow’s hardly justified policy of protecting the interests of dictators and extravagant figures all over the world. Hence clumsy attempts to rebut the West with tu quoque rhetoric, draw lists of persons unwelcome in Russia (although these persons do not intend to visit it), protect Russian citizens prosecuted abroad (these somehow include largely arms and drugs dealers), or write “white books” on human rights violations in the U.S. and Europe (but not in China, Turkmenistan or North Korea where the situation apparently is not so oppressive). This policy is ridiculous – not because everything is OK in the West (bad things happen there, too) but because it is pursued by the country where policemen torture detainees, conscripts are beaten to death in the army, and parents have to bribe school officials to have their children admitted. Would it not be better for Russia to re-direct the energy of its revelatory efforts to solve its own problems?

Concealing the truth about Soviet history is another element of the Russian authorities’ self-defense. Opening all Soviet secret files would not only mean that everyone will know about the crimes and links to secret services of certain persons, possibly members of incumbent hereditary bureaucrats’ families, from government to church bureaucrats. Most importantly, the myth about the noble activities of security officers and party leaders for the good of Russia would be dispelled. Therefore the archives, which were opened a crack in the 1990s, have been largely closed again, and historians coming up with new documents on reprisals may face criminal proceedings.

This situation applies to foreign policy, too. For example, Russia has long acknowledged the Soviet Union’s guilt for the Katyn tragedy, but not all the documents have been passed over to Poland. The reason is that the names of murderers might be revealed. But what is so bad about it? Should a country only know the names of its heroes? The Russian Foreign Ministry’s archives are being closed ever more tightly not only to foreign but also Russian researchers. Russia has no law under which archives open automatically after a certain period (20 to 50 years). If you want to work with archives, a special officer will select the documents you are permitted to study. Why this secrecy? They say the truth about the Soviet Union’s foreign policy, even in the first half of the 20th century, may damage Russia’s prestige. But in what way? Only if today’s Russia is considered responsible for what the Soviet Union did.

THE FUTURE

So, is a Russian, not post-Soviet, foreign policy possible? It is not about returning to the situation when Russia was the West’s “younger brother” in Kozyrev’s time. This time has passed, and its inferiority has been repeatedly discussed. A new policy should be neither pro-Western nor anti-Western, neither pro-Chinese nor anti-Chinese. Russia should cooperate with any partner wherever it is advantageous to it, and act tough where it concerns its vital interests (not the interests of the bureaucratic elite, but the nation in general). To avoid overstrain, the interests should not be interpreted broadly; they should include issues pertaining to Russia’s and its allies’ (members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization) sovereignty, border security and integration in the post-Soviet space. Of course, it does not mean that Moscow cannot have interests beyond its border territories. As its economic and other potentials grow, the sphere of its vital interests may expand. But so far, it has neither opportunities nor resources for that.

Russia has a unique external environment at present. There are no countries in the world that seek to destroy or seize it, and real security threats are incomparably lower than ever before. It has enough financial resources due to high fuel prices. In these conditions, Russia does not need to conduct an active foreign policy characteristic of a superpower. Domestic modernization should be accompanied by modernization of the foreign policy to enhance its effectiveness. If domestic modernization is intended to result in Russia’s not feeling ashamed before the developed world for its political system, level of corruption, economic growth rates and the population’s welfare, a new foreign policy should be aimed solely at assisting this focus on domestic affairs and creating favorable conditions for it.

Moscow should not waste means and resources on prestigious events and pinpricks against foreigners that show disrespect for Russia, but economize on resources in order to use them for economic growth. It needs not expensive international forums but real development of its Far East. The Russian Navy has no business sailing foreign seas; it must be capable of defending Russia’s maritime borders, no more than that. There is no need to compete with the U.S. in nuclear weapons; Russia should just have a nuclear arsenal that would be enough to retaliate and deter those wishing to attack it with conventional forces. Meanwhile, a staggering four trillion rubles is planned to be allocated for the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces under a state armament program for the period until 2020.

In the first place, Russia has to take events in remote regions calmly. Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East are all too far away from Russia’s immediate interests to waste time and resources on them. Perhaps, in several decades, Russia, as China today, will begin to expand the sphere of its interests after experiencing an economic boom. But it will be a consequence of decades of successful economic development and social modernization, not of growing ambitions of the inefficient elite which parasitizes on the country’s natural resources.

At present, things are unfolding differently. The Soviet past and the bureaucracy’s interests drag Russia into a confrontation with the West in areas where the parties could cooperate. And vice versa, in situations where Russia could have shown more firmness, the interests of its bureaucracy, unwilling to enter into a serious conflict with the West, make the country yield to obvious pressure.

Here are a few examples. The problem of deploying elements of a U.S. missile defense system in Eastern Europe has become the main irritant in Russian-U.S. relations nowadays. Does this problem affect Russia’s security to an extent that it should go the whole way, risking serious consequences, and refuse cooperation patterns proposed by the U.S. (and not quite meeting Moscow’s expectations)? Most importantly, should Russia launch a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile program, which would kill any opportunity to reach an accord with the U.S. on missile defense and, possibly, would bury the Russian economy? In the opinion of a majority of noted experts (Alexei Arbatov, Yuri Solomonov, Victor Yesin, Vladimir Dvorkin and Pavel Zolotaryov), the U.S. program does not pose a serious threat to Russia’s security. Also, Barack Obama’s administration has introduced some amendments to the initial plan to take into account Russia’s wishes. So it is necessary to look for a compromise in this matter.

Another irritant in relations with the West is Moscow’s inconsistency towards Arab revolutions. Obviously, the United States did not inspire those events but has been pursuing a reactive policy. Yet Washington’s actions are pragmatic: if it is unable to keep an allied dictator in power, it has to support the people’s uprising and establish ties with the new leadership. Unlike the U.S., Russia hesitated between supporting socially close regimes and denouncing them under Western pressure. As a result, its position proved vague. On Libya, it was neither for nor against interference. Naturally, after Gaddafi’s inevitable end, Russia has lost its political and economic positions in Libya. A similar situation is developing in Syria now. Obviously, Bashar al-Assad will be deposed, sooner or later. Russia, hated by new authorities (no matter who they are) and the country’s population for its support for the dictator, will lose strategic and economic advantages. Meanwhile, more active support for international efforts in both cases could have resulted in Russia’s partially retaining its positions in both countries.

Border security is yet another vital interest. It can be ensured if the authorities of neighboring countries are at least reasonable, if not friendly, and certainly not hostile. No large state would tolerate an openly hostile regime on its borders. It does not mean that friendly regimes should be enforced. There are many other instruments of influence in the modern world: diplomatic, economic and cultural. However, an extraordinary situation in South Ossetia in 2008 forced Moscow to make a fully justified decision to carry out a military operation to protect its peacekeepers. But after bringing troops into Georgia and destroying Mikheil Saakashvili’s war machine, Moscow stopped short of changing the government in Tbilisi under pressure from the West. As a result, Russia’s actions became a good precedent of resolve to protect its vital interests. But the effect might have been more spectacular had Moscow shown consistency and not yielded to pressure.

The above picture can hardly inspire optimism. But changes are possible and even inevitable; it is only a matter of time. In the period of stability in the first decade of the new century, a new generation grew up. They are successful, educated and young people. They do not regard the Soviet Union as their motherland, and Dzerzhinsky and Gromyko are not their heroes. In fact, many have not even heard about them. They do not wish to answer for their crimes or pay the Bolsheviks’ debts; they dream of having a decent life and cooperating with the whole world without threatening nuclear retaliation at a “potential enemy.” These young people are already beginning to influence the domestic political situation. If the country’s foreign policy does not meet their interests, they will find a way to change it and make it truly Russian, not post-Soviet.

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