Staunton, April 24 “Russia looks in a mirror and sees the USSR and thinks that all those around it see it that way, tries to conduct itself as the USSR did and considers the threats which the Soviet Union did,” Pavel Kazarin says. “But the West looks at Russia as Russia, wants a return to the pre-Crimea model and is trying to understand where Moscow’s red line is.”
“But the most surprising thing happens when the Kremlin achieves what it wants, when the West” starts viewing Russia as the USSR, even though that is a danger to the world and a misfortune for Russia which does not have anything like the power the Soviet Union did.
One of the biggest mistakes any analyst can make is to impute his own way of thinking to an opponent because he doesn’t think as the analyst assumes, the Slon.ru commentator and ICTV host says. Then, the analyst gets mad, and claims the opponent has gone insane. But he hasn’t: he is simply in another reality which “you haven’t taken the trouble to understand.”
According to Kazarin, “the Russian elite is sincerely convinced that the preservation of its influence on the former Soviet republics is its natural right, given by history. The misfortune is that this view overwhelms very many of those who seek to speak about the future.”
He gives as an example the argument of Aleksandr Baunov who says that many in the Russian elite do not believe that Moscow lost the cold war and instead think that “the division of the Union took place not so much as a result of the collapse of the Soviet model…but rather because the Kremlin voluntarily agreed to join the club of western players.”
The Russia elite feels it was betrayed by the West by not being offered the status of “equals at the common table with the world players” and having “the former Soviet republics recognized as within its ‘zone of influence.’” And that picture of the world not the one the West sees is what “explains the entire logic of their current behavior.”
Obviously, it is a very different thing to be in “the club of the winners” as compared to being in “the club of the losers.” Those who have lost lose their starting positions and have to work up from nothing; “the winner preserves his position and even strengthens it, Kazarin argues.
“The Russian elite is sincerely convinced that the preservation of influence on the former Soviet republics surrounding it is the status quo and a natural right given by history,” even though “for the entire rest of the world such an approach is incomprehensible and unnatural.” What this means is that Moscow acts “as if the Soviet Union had not fallen apart, as if it had only been reformatted, but relations between sovereign and basal have remained as before.”
For the West, all this seems strange because the Soviet Union after all did fall apart. The Kremlin is no longer a real political alternative to Washington on a world scale but rather a regional player that exports raw materials to the more developed world. When anyone points this out, as US President Barack Obama has, Russians are furious.
But because Russian elites start from the assumptions they do, “the pro-Kremlin political analysts are certain that the West is seeking to destroy and divide up Russia, because in their own imagination, the Kremlin is an alternative global player” and has a civilization “capable of competing with the Western model.”
No one in the West wants to do what the Russian elites assume because no one in the West needs “chaos at its borders” or “the Somali-ization of one seventh of the earth’s surface.” Unfortunately, Russians can’t believe that about the West because of what they believe about themselves.