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Russia and Globalization

Fifteen years after the fall of communism, how is Russia interacting with the rest of the world?

January 17, 2006

Fifteen years after the fall of communism, how is Russia interacting with the rest of the world?

While 18th century Czar Peter the Great succeeded in opening up Russia to the world and turning it into a European power, later generations struggled to keep up with the process. Then, the October Revolution in 1917 put Russia’s integration with the rest of the world on hold for nearly 70 years. Our Read My Lips explores where Russia stands today.

What is Russia’s current mindset?

“In its present inward-looking and bitter mood, verging on nationalism of the more dangerous kind, Russia sees itself as isolated — the neglected land mass between an unsympathetic West and booming Asia.”
(David Howell, Conservative foreign affairs spokesman in the British House of Lords, March 2005)

What are the challenges facing Russia in its relations with the West?

“We have centuries of mistrust between us — and they cannot be overcome in 10 or 20 years.”
(Nina L. Khrushchev, international affairs professor at the New School University and granddaughter of former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, May 2002)

Does Russia want to be part of the West?

“The top priority for Russia — our strategic priority — is integration into the Western community.”
(Sergei Rogov, director of the USA-Canada Studies Institute, March 2003)

Why is that?

"Putin realizes he must not side with history’s losers.”
(White House official, February 2003)

What part of the West does Russia feel closest to?

“Our mentality is European.”
(Russian President Vladimir Putin, March 2000)

How European is Russia from the vantage point of the White House?

“To the Bush Administration, Mr. Putin still appears to represent more the new Europe it likes — rather than the old and backward-looking Europe it finds so recalcitrant.”
(Gerald F. Seib, Wall Street Journal columnist, April 2003)

What worries Russians when they look at the eastern parts of their own country?

“If the Russians fail in the Far East and there is further de-population, de-industrialization and degradation, the chances are we will lose de facto control of what is happening in the territory.”
(Dmitry Trenin, author of The End of Eurasia, December 2002)

Could Russia act as an interlocutor between continental Europe and the United States?

“Russia is in an excellent position. England tried to play the role of a go-between, but it has failed lately. This has created a vacuum.”
(Vladimir Lukin, deputy speaker of the lower house of Russia’s legislature, February 2003)

What domestic reputation is Vladimir Putin building for himself?

“He will be regarded as the champion of the Russian cause, as the man who had the guts to withstand the pressure of the superpower — and found a solution to relations with Europe.”
(Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director of the U.S.A.-Canada Institute at the Russian Science Academy, March 2003)

Are others less happy about the new shift to the West?

“Russia has a big Eurasian land mass and can’t orient itself in only one direction. The result has been to weaken relations with Europe, China and the Arab and Islamic world.”
(Leonid Ivashov, former Russian defense ministry official, February 2003)

Does Russia’s government care how its people view it?

“The Kremlin is very sensitive to accusations that Putin is like Michael Gorbachev — naïvely pursuing pro-Western policy without gaining anything for Russia.”
(Alexander Pikayev, foreign policy expert at Carnegie’s Moscow Center, March 2003)

What are Russia's chances of joining the EU?

“A nation’s history moves down a very complex route. Each country gets into Europe in its own way.”
(Dmitri Trenin, Russian Foreign Policy expert, October 2001)

What about eventual membership in the World Trade Organization?

“The WTO acts a bit like the European accession — as a kind of carrot.”
(Brigitte Granville, professor of international economics at Queen Mary College, University of London, March 2005)

Why is Russia’s leadership nervous about Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution?”

“With real democracy in Ukraine, more and more Russians would view the Putin regime as an anachronism.”
(Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. national security advisor, December 2004)

Why do Russian elites feel ambivalent toward the West?

"For 30 years, we were a superpower equal to the United States. Now our political elite compensates at least by standing up to the United States on minor issues."
(Russian analyst, November 1997)

Are Russian businesses hesitant to open up the country to foreign companies?

“There is often a resistance to getting big foreign oil companies into Russia, because it would show the weakness of Russian oil companies.”
(Simon Kukes, president of Russia’s fourth-largest oil producer Tyumen Oil company, November 2002)

Are Russian citizens wary of their country’s economic reforms?

“There should be something positive about capitalism. One would have hoped it would be better than this.”
(Russian citizen, September 1998)

And finally, why is the U.S. economy still puzzling for some Russians?

"I don’t understand this country — it seems very prosperous, but I don’t ever see anybody making anything."
(Russian émigrè to the United States, March 1998)