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17 Feb, 2009 04:32

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review

Tuesday we review op-ed pieces and columns from today’s Russian daily newspapers.

The focus is on Russia – U.S. relations, the role of China as a great power, the North Korean nuclear program and the search for Russia’s national idea and Russia’s specific way out of the global crisis.

Evgeny Bazhanov, Deputy Rector of the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, writes in NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA that relations between Russia and the U.S. are going to remain complex and controversial despite new U.S. president Barack Obama’s clear rejection of the most notorious policies of his predecessor.

Bazhanov writes that on the one hand the new U.S. president is all for serious changes in U.S. foreign policy, while on the other hand, the new administration is as likely to pursue American supremacy in the world as was the previous one, if only by a different method. What has indeed changed in the U.S., says the writer, is that the illusion about America’s role as the leader of the whole of mankind along a path leading to universal liberal democracy was shattered by the global financial crisis.

However, writes Bazhanov, in world history there hasn’t yet been a case in which the richest, most developed and strongest country, recognized as the world leader, voluntarily curtailed its leadership ambitions. Under such conditions, says the author, the range of cooperation between Moscow and Washington may become much wider, but that would not prevent clashes in the post-Soviet space. The U.S., propelled by its leadership ambition and geopolitical calculations, ‘will not reject the love calls of anti-Russian elites in Georgia and Ukraine or any other post-Soviet states,’ while Russia will never accept any encroaching on its vital space on the part of the U.S. That means, says Bazhanov, that the line of confrontation which, during the Cold War divided Europe, now is touching on the borders of Russia.

The same newspaper has an article by Vladimir Skosyrev who writes about the first foreign trip by the new U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Prior to her trip, the high point of which is going to be the visit to China, Beijing announced that military cooperation between the U.S. Department of Defense and China’s Defense ministry is going to be reestablished. The author writes that this is not the first time when military ties between the U.S. and China were restored after a period of inaction. Such periods, he says, are usually caused by America’s delivery of weapons to Taiwan, which is bound to happen once in a while as the U.S. maintains its alliance with ‘the other China.’

The author says relations with China are most important for the new U.S. administration, important to such an extent that Hillary Clinton is quoted by the media as saying that these relations ‘will be the most important set of bilateral relations in the world in the present Century.’ The writer quotes Russian experts on China saying that despite the fact that Taiwan is going to remain a thorn in the side of U.S. – China relations, the meaning of China for the U.S. is going to continue growing, and growing fast.

The Russian market for Chinese goods is much smaller and Russia is mostly important for China as a supplier of energy, not a trade partner, the experts say. On top of that, Russia limits Chinese imports to protect its own industry. All that, say the experts, leads to confrontation between Beijing and Moscow, but we are still going to call each other strategic partners – at least formally.

Pavel Leshakov, Director of Moscow State University’s Center for Korean Studies, writes in today’s edition of KOMMERSANT: as Pyongyang has at least 6 to 8 nuclear warheads at its disposal, and that fact is now accepted by every party in the six-party talks, even by the U.S., the new U.S. administration’s policy towards the North Korean nuclear program is going to shift accordingly. The academic says that no pressure, no economic sanctions or economic incentives can persuade North Korea to forsake its so far unofficial, but real, nuclear status.

Leshakov writes that Washington understands it now and so instead of ‘complete, controlled and irreversible’ discontinuation of the nuclear program, the emphasis will be put on preventing the non-proliferation of North Korean nuclear technology, especially in such regions as the Middle East. Leshakov illustrates his viewpoint by a quote from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, who said that Pyongyang most probably views its nuclear capability more as a means to contain and force the U.S. to maintain dialogue rather then as a tool to achieve military supremacy on the Korean peninsula.

Political scientist Leonid Radzikhovskiy writes in his column in ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA that the ideas of a ‘post-industrial leap forward,’ presented recently by several academics and commentators in newspaper and magazine columns, have no meaning for today’s Russia. He describes these ideas as attempts to suggest that the Socialist industrialization of the 1930s can be repeated in current Russia, and that now, during the global economic crisis, it is the right time to do this. Radzikhovskiy says that the difference between our time and the early 1930s is so vast that such repetition is totally impossible.

He further writes that the USSR used the Great Depression to buy entire industrial plants, along with their engineers, inexpensively and re-assemble them, under the control of the same engineers, here in Russia. Simultaneously, to raise money for the purchase of more industrial equipment, the Soviet government of the day was selling wheat, thus creating the Great Famine, which became the price for the industrialization.

The author says that now it is hard to find enough volunteers to starve and deny themselves the simplest comforts of life and, partly, the essentials, just so the state could launch another industrialization attempt that may mean years of hardships and a post-industrial society for the children of their children. Besides, the huge repression apparatus was taken apart in 1991 and it is impossible to bring it together again, he says, and without that it would be a difficult task to persuade those who refuse to make voluntary sacrifices.

The writer says that there is a definite task before the nation: to shift the Russian national economy from gas and oil exports back to industrial development, because the crisis has shown Russia’s complete dependence on energy exports. However, there is no idea, so far, how to achieve that. And ‘in the absence of ideas the ideological barrel is rolling freely, driven by the wind, loose bolts and nuts inside, rattling away…’

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT.