Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Russia and the West

In recent days there has been much said, and written, about the “need” for Russia to embrace democracy, especially in the rhetoric coming out of Washington. It is also backed up in the media by papers like the Financial Times and The Economist. There is also frequent criticism of President Putin’s “authoritarian” stance. I wonder how much all these commentators really understand about Russia and what it might be like without Putin’s guiding hand ....

Here are two articles that criticise:

Russia and the West – The Economist

The long shadow of the second World War

Here are two that are constructively critical, and advise against trying to force the issue of democratic reform.

Freedom, not democracy, for Russia

The essential Vladimir Putin - A semi-authoritarian present is Russia’s best hope for a liberal future

I tend towards the latter two.

Whilst on the subject of Russia I see that Edward over at a Fistful of Euros has been addressing the subject of the need for Russia / Putin to “apologise”. See - When sorry is the hardest word

One might answer "let him without sin cast the first stone". I think today's younger generations of Germans must be heartily sick of always having to apologise, and feel guilty for the actions of past generations in respect of the two world wars, and the concentration camps. The time for apologies is long past, and those that perhaps ought to have made them are nearly all dead. The FT at least got something correct in its’ recent editorial when it wrote that;

History must not dominate contemporary relations. Politicians must know when to move on, like the men who brought post-war reconciliation between France and Germany. However, nations also need time to come to terms with their past. Western Europeans have had 60 years to contemplate the second world war. East Europeans have been allowed to consider it freely only since 1989.
It is time we all moved on in Europe. Trying to brow beat an apology out of Russia is not a good idea. An apology is about as worthless as Chamberlin’s piece of paper declaring “peace in our time” back in 1938. One can’t bring back the dead, the wrongs of war and misguided ideologies cannot be righted, time cannot be turned back. The best that can be done is to work together to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Yesterday the Russian President acknowledged that fact when he called for all nations to work together to ensure there are no more “hot” or “cold” wars - I think this is the best we can hope for, and it contains an implicit admisssion of responsibility that ought to be shared by all.