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    Thursday, May 8, 2008

    Dima and Volodya look East


    Amidst all the commentary about the inauguration of President Dmitriy Medvedev and his boss/subordinate Prime Minister (as of a few minutes ago) Vladimir Putin, the bit that struck me as most interesting was President Dima's announcement that he would head east on his first foreign trip, to Kazakhstan and China.

    It makes sense. Arguably no country has closer ties with the Kremlin than Nursultan Nazarbayev's Kazakhstan, something that was plain to all of us who took part in the Eurasian Media Forum in Almaty last month - where the few Westerners in the room were repeatedly scolded by a crowd that clearly shared the Kremlin's worldview. Meanwhile, Russia and China have rapidly expanding trade, and last year conducted a large-scale joint military operation. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization looks increasingly like it could be the authoritarian east's military answer to NATO.

    There are few places where President Dima would get a warmer reception than Astana and Beijing.

    Still, it's worth recalling here that eight years ago, the newly inaugurated and "westward-looking" President Putin chose the United Kingdom for his first trip (after a brief and telling stop in Belarus). Back then, he was accorded the red-carpet treatment by someone named Tony Blair, and was famously received by Queen Elizabeth II.

    Eight years on, the dream of Russia joining the West appears dead - buried by Chechnya, NATO expansion, Kosovo, colour revolutions, missile defense and the Alexander Litvinenko saga.

    So Dima and Volodya are looking the other way for friends.

    1 comment:

    Michael Averko said...

    "Scolded"?

    Well, I've seen my share of DC and other US based former Communist bloc panels where Russia friendly views are either underrepresented and-or disrespected.

    Seems like the overall panel in Kazakhstan was reasonably balanced. In some ways skewed to reflect Western neocon and neolib views. Like having a representative of Kosovo Albanian separatist media, while apparently having no representatives from the disputed former Soviet territories (Pridnestrovie, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno Karabakh). Ditto Western NGO funded Serb media outlet B92 having a presence without any apparent Serb media views different from the slant of B92.

    Western polices are largely to blame. I know my share of people who several years ago voted for Tadic. They aren't going to do so in the upcoming Serb election.

    As I've noted before, there was a time when joining NATO had a noticerable degree of support in Russia. The change in that sentiment can be attributed to some faulty Western policies. Stances which don't benefit Western interests.

    I remain optimistic that in the long run things will change for the better. BTW, it's not as if the West isn't seeking to get more involved in countries like Kazakhstan and China. We're living in a global economy. China, Kazakhstan, Russia and the West benefit from positive trade among themselves.