2011-07-12

The reaction of the Russian scientific and political circles on the uprisings in the Arab countries 2011

The analysis of the news delivered by the main Russian news agencies during the events called now “the Arab Spring” may demonstrate the specific perception of the developments in the Arab world by the scientific and political circles in Russia. The revolts and uprisings in the different corners of the so called Arab world not only stimulated rethinking the approaches in the foreign policy in the Middle East and Northern Africa but uppermost made observers to project the scenario of the revolution onto the domestic political landscape. Due to similarities in the social conditions between Russia and countries undergone the political instability and the resembling political regimes there was the quite appeal to implement more democratic principles in the country.

However, the brief look onto the earliest reaction of the news agencies suggests that although among the reasons for the revolts in Tunis were named social and economic conditions in the society and the corruption of the president’s clan, the revolts and the fall of the long ruling regime of Ben Ali were seen as being masterminded by the USA and its western allies conducting neocolonial politics in the region. Even though it took quite a long time for the news observers, especially after the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, the faithful ally of the USA, to accept the natural and internally conditioned character of the risings. The more serious political observers saw in the large-scale political changes in the region and the late reaction of the USA concerning the support of pro-democratic (or at least anti governmental political movements) the failed Middle East foreign policy of the United States.

One the main discussions in the political circles in the country caused by the Arab spring and fall of the several regimes, that had long been reliable economic partners of Russia (arms trade, building, oil-gas-cooperation) was focused on the current approach of the new post-Soviet Russia not only towards the Middle East and Northern Africa, but also more globally on the role of the country in the emerging multipolar world. The first camp within the Russia political establishment was presented by the current president Dmitry Medvedev that enjoys a reputation of the liberally-minded politician in the western countries. The presidents unites the people who consider Russia as a tightly linked to the western democracies country. It explains why president didn’t put a veto on the resolution 1973 in the UN Security Council.

Medvedev has indicated his support for the concept of humanitarian interventions but that conducted in the frames of the clearly defined and sanctioned by the UN resolution. The observers see reasons for Medvedev’s backing of the Resolution #1973 in the fact that the same concept was used during the conflict with Georgia in August 2008. The humanitarian intervention belongs to the arsenal of Russian foreign policy, especially in towards its sphere of influence in the former USSR republics.

Another camp is constituted by the former president and the current prime-minister Vladimir Putin and his supporters impelled by a feeling of nationalism and nostalgia for the Soviet times. Having much from the Soviet mentality this part of the political establishment sees Russia as a not only regional but effective global player in the world politics. The membership in the Security Council is regarded as one of the few mechanisms that could be used for continuation of the rivalry with the west. The sharp criticism of the prime-minister over the military operation in Libya (Putin has described actions of the NATO in this country as “a new crusade”) has demonstrated that there aspirations for Russia to be more engaged in the world affairs.

The more moderate circles, especially in the ministry of foreign affairs, have defined the necessity for making non-confrontational politics in the world and for the use the experience of the past generations of the Soviet diplomats in the Middle East but without its ideological component.

The events in the Middle East have also caused discussions among the political observers over question where scenario happened in Egypt or Tunis may be repeated in Russia. Many commentators were emphasized the striking resemblances not only in economic sphere but also in relation to the political regimes, the state of democracy and democratic procedures in the country. Although it is clear that possibility of uprisings in Russia is extremely small approaching to zero, the fact that there were discussions made clear that political regimes in the oil-rich countries later or sooner face the problem of legitimacy. Event though these discussions were just a part of the more broad process of the rethinking of the Russian political future.

Another interesting point made during the analysis of the news reports was that in the light of the events in the Middle East significant portion of the attention in the press was devoted to the Central Asia – region seen as a sphere of the Russian influence. The developments in the former Soviet republics have long been crucially important for Russia, mainly because its historical relationships with this region. After the emerging more or less clearer image of the events in the Middle East and the reasons for uprisings many researchers familiar to the central Asian region started examining whether the same revolts are possible in the republics, where people also suffer from poverty under the authoritarian rule. The majority of the observers agreed that it is unlikely.

After the beginning  of the upheavals in Tunis the leitmotiv of the first reviews and analytical papers was the same as it was during so called “orange revolution” in Ukraine in 2004 when after contested elections and the victory of the pro-russian candidate Mr.V.Yanukovich oppositional parties stroke a deal and started campaign for the recount that finally resulted in the re-elections that let another candidate Mr.V.Yushenko (that is regarded in Russia as a pro-western politician) to beat the almost president. In Russia events in the Arab world and especially the operation of the NATO in Libya have been associated with the NATO’s humanitarian intervention in the former Yugoslavia in 1999.

To sum up, the most distinguishing feature during the delivering of the news about the developments in the Arab world was that formulated in analytical papers reasons for the revolutions and the social-economic conditions in these countries were compared with those in Russia that demonstrates the concentrated attention of the circles not on the foreign issues but mainly on the domestic politics. 

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