Or should we say, rather, “low-intensity conflict” when speaking about the West and Russia? Entitled “Darkest Just Before Dawn?”, the 2017 Lennart Meri Conference tries to address the questions facing the West. One of the top challenges for the West is certainly Russia which, of course, as the historical neighbour of Estonia always evokes great interest here.
This special edition of Diplomaatia is therefore dedicated to the issue of how the West relates to Russia, what are the major developments inside Russia, and what are the potential consequences of and solutions to the Russian question.
Kadri Liik, the ECFR fellow and former Editor of Diplomaatia, looks at the relations between the West and Russia. According to Liik Russia has always wanted new rules of the international game, not just a geopolitical deal.
Russia analyst Brian Whitmore of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty writes about the different perceptions of the world held by Russia and the West.
“Watch Russian television, listen to the pundits and the politicians, read the pro-Kremlin media, and the message is clear—the West is in decline; Europe is decadent and rotting; multiculturalism and sexual licence have run amok,” Whitmore writes. “Russia, by contrast, is a tranquil bastion of traditional Christian values where so-called ‘gay propaganda’ is illegal, domestic violence is decriminalised, and the Orthodox Church plays a central role in shaping public policy.”
According to Anders Åslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, the Kremlin is more interested in retaining power than in economic growth. “The ultimate goal of the Putin regime is its maintenance of power, while economic growth is not seen as essential. Crony capitalism helps the Kremlin to maintain political power. As domestic politics dwindle and the economy stagnates, foreign policy is becoming ever more important as a means of legitimacy,” says Åslund.
Vladimir Milov, a Russian politician, is convinced that the dynamics of Russian politics are changing. “Large numbers of people confirm that they want the Russian system to be more open and competitive, and that they are unhappy with corruption, growing inequality and the fact that the same old faces hold power for many years at the federal, regional and local level without rotation,” Milov writes.
Jill Dougherty of CNN writes about the need to talk to Russia. “Not talking with Putin is not an option. While he has interfered in a US presidential election and is suspected of doing so in several European elections, invaded Ukraine, illegally annexed Crimea and propped up Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad for far too long, giving him the silent treatment would be bad strategy.”
US-Russian relations are weighed up by Edward Lucas, an analyst at the Center for European Policy Analysis and a senior editor at The Economist.
This article was published in ICDS Diplomaatia magazine.