Russians In Deep Denial About Their Country And the World

March 31, 2015
US president Barack Obama, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in Beijing, November 2014 | Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo

Staunton, March 30 — “The longing for ‘former greatness’” that many Russians feel is “playing a bad joke” on them, Olga Idrisova writes in Moskovsky Komsomolets today, because it has led them to don “thick rose-colored glasses” and engage in deep denial about reality, “subconsciously blocking out” anything which doesn’t fit with their preferred imagery.

As a result, the Moscow commentator says, “the majority of Russians cannot accept the fact that with their support the leadership has committed a mistake which has cost the country its economic well-being and solid international status” but thinks it is now the leader of an alliance with China.

Most of them, Idrisova continues, cannot cope with the notion that “in the world at large, Russia is viewed not as a superpower and guarantor of security but more often as an unpredictable player.” They think that Vladimir Putin gained stature when he threatened to use nuclear weapons, forgetting that his role model was a North Korean leader no one respects.

Indeed, none of the ideas about effectively challenging the US and the unipolar world or standing on its own or allying with China to oppose the West stand up to even the most cursory examination, she says.

Russia is in no position to dictate to China no matter how much many Russians would like to believe otherwise.

“No one in Beijing intends to make a fateful bet on a Russia-China union,” the Moscow commentator says. China isn’t even willing to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Instead, China has given Kyiv 3.6 billion US dollars in loans so that the Ukrainian government can end its dependence on natural gas from Russia.

Moscow TV’s “talking heads” for the last year have been telling Russians how fortunate they are to have turned from the West to the East. “We don’t need the West,” they claim. “We have a wonderful partner in the form of China.” But in fact, China views Russia not even as playing the “elder sister” role Andrey Kortunov has suggested.

Beijing does not even see Moscow as a sister at all. Instead, its interest in Russia is indistinguishable from its interest in African or Latin American countries which have natural resources China can use, Idrisova says. But Russians cannot see this through “the rose-colored glasses” they use to look at the world.

China is an economic giant, as is the West. The Russian economy is only one-fifth the size of either. And in high technology areas, the gap between China and the West, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other, is only getting larger.

Russians should be able to see this economic situation, but they don’t. But they also are failing to see that China is playing a much larger role in international security affairs, a role it is assuming not by entering into a confrontation with the US and driving itself into a corner as Russia has but by showing itself capable of playing a cooperative role.

China is hardly likely to scrap what has been an effective approach in favor of Russia’s which has failed, but Russians who remain in deep denial about this as well as about almost everything having to do with the power and status of their country can’t see it. That of course points to more troubles ahead.