Sunday, October 08, 2006

Convenient Anti-Americanism

During my stay in Russia, the media was focusing on the situation around the conflict between Russia and Georgia, triggered by the arrest of four Russian officials accused of being spies. Just over a week ago, a remarkable document entitled “On a likely scenario of action of the United States toward Russia in 2006-2008” was circulated in the State Duma. It is undoubtedly the largest-scale and most comprehensive anti-US program that post-Soviet Russia has seen. Yes, of course, a lot has been written over the past 15 years. But the fundamental difference between this and other similar exercises is that it appears to have been approved from on high – probably in the section of the Kremlin administration responsible for drafting ideological doctrines. Also curious is the way in which the 35-page typewritten “scenario” appeared. First, a small leak appeared in last Thursday’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The newspaper named the report’s authors as Valentin Falin – a former member of the Communist Party Central Committee and sometime adviser to Mikhail Gorbachev – who served as ambassador to Germany before turning on an pillorying his former boss at every available opportunity, and former foreign intelligence chief Gennady Yevstafyev. The following day, Friday, Moskovskiye Novosti editor Vitaly Tretyakov devoted more than two pages of the newspaper to a copy of the report “accidentally” distributed in the Duma. He promised to publish the full text in the Politichesky Klass weekly, which he also edits. Tretyakov is a former democrat who is now a fervent, almost paranoid, anti-Western patriot who does nothing without consulting the Kremlin first, so it is unlikely that he would publish such a document without receiving direct orders. It is impossible to recount the whole scenario here. Suffice it to say that it brings together almost all of the anti-US myths. For example, it says that the United States cannot “come to terms with Russia’s growing strength”, and that Washington is preparing to “bring down” the Putin regime from within, specifically around the time of the 2008 presidential elections. The United States will, the report says, work to isolate the Russian political elite, and look for a stalking horse among liberal groups – currently former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov – and, inevitably, the CIA is drafting an “Orange project” for Russia. “For the United States, it is unacceptable in principle to have sovereign democracy in Russia… that is not built into the construction of global American leadership”. The United States will also work to undermine “Russia’s energy sovereignty”, and simultaneously push for Georgia to be accepted into NATO… The whole document is filled with a spirit of confrontation, a paranoid search for enemies and all sorts of US conspiracies. Yet in a strange way the doctrine is rather convenient, because anyone who criticizes Russian political practice can now safely be written off as an agent of US influence. Consider the war on corruption, for example. This will also become a US conspiracy because the Americans are committed to the “international legal isolation of Russia’s top leadership” and will attempt to create a “tense atmosphere around the key business representatives” and “accumulate court decisions in the West” against top Russian officials. Any anticorruption campaign in the media can simply be explained as “incitement” by the United States. And if, during elections in 2007 and 2008, you hear anyone talking about the authorities breaking the rules, you can rest safe in the knowledge that this is also the result of a US conspiracy. The United States is provoking various Russian Kasyanovs so that they, in turn, will provoke the Russian authorities, so that the authorities will persecute them during elections. Brilliant! Mass protests – by drivers, cheated investors or disgruntled tenants such as those in the Moscow suburb of Butovo who were stripped of their houses and apartments with insufficient compensation – are also, rest assured, out on the streets only at US instigation. The United States will also be behind almost all of Russia’s opposition, including any media reports about “deceitful propaganda on Russian television”, corruption among senior officials, the interests of Gazprom-esque monopolists running counter to the interests of the people, and so on. Compared to Russia, the US really looks like the champion of democracy…


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