WASHINGTON, September 9—The “reset” in U.S.–Russian relations has come with closer cooperation on arms control, Afghanistan, and Iran. But as long as Russia’s system of personalized power rests on anti-Western principles, a true reset is unattainable, writes Lilia Shevtsova.
In her new book Lonely Power, Shevtsova analyzes how Russia’s political system resists change and how the West hinders Russia’s transition to a democracy by accommodating its current leaders. Only political transformation in Russia can bring about the true shift in relations the West desires.
- The U.S. “reset” is failing. The United States has secured only limited and temporary cooperation from Russia on key U.S. priorities.
- Europe is unable to act as one. Moscow prefers to ignore the European Union and instead uses bilateral relations to gain tactical advantages.
- Russia’s leaders try to use the West to reinvigorate the old system. President Medvedev’s modernization mantra bears no relation to reality and a veneer of democracy is used to protect an autocratic rule that is becoming more repressive.
- Russians want change. While there are no insurmountable barriers for Russia’s path toward freedom, the West is hindering the reform process desired by many Russians by ignoring undemocratic practices.
Key recommendations for the West:
- Hold Russia’s elite accountable. While only Russians can truly reform their country, incentives from the West can help encourage democratic behavior at home.
- Think of Russia as a challenge. Developing a comprehensive long-term strategy toward Russia will not only help Russia integrate into the West, but also reinvigorate the West’s moral standing.
- Encourage democratic transformation in the area. By promoting democracy and prosperity in the newly independent states neighboring Russia, the West can help establish an environment that fosters Russian reform.
- Click here to order the book online.
- Lilia Shevtsova is a senior associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center, where she chairs the Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions Program. She is also associate fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House). Her previous books include Yeltsin’s Russia: Myths and Reality, Putin’s Russia, and Russia: Lost in Transition.
- The Carnegie Moscow Center was established in 1993 and accommodates foreign and Russian researchers collaborating with Carnegie’s global network of scholars on a broad range of contemporary policy issues relevant to Russia—military, political, and economic.
- The Carnegie Russia and Eurasia Program has, since the end of the Cold War, led the field on Eurasian security, including strategic nuclear weapons and nonproliferation, development, economic and social issues, governance, and the rule of law.
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