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Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2007
From: Vladimir Shlapentokh <shlapent@msu.edu>
Subject: Perceptions of a Threat to the Regime as a Major Factor of Russian Foreign Policy: From Lenin to Putin

Perceptions of a Threat to the Regime as a Major Factor of Russian Foreign Policy: From Lenin to Putin
Vladimir Shlapentokh


During his second term, Putin's foreign policy was strongly influenced by his belief that the West's hostility toward Russia could help the opposition change the regime, as seen in Ukraine and Georgia. A regime change would deprive the ruling elite (mostly people from the security police and army) of their power and illegally acquired wealth. As a way to legitimize the regime, Moscow restored its ideology of the 1920s, which described the country as being "encircled" by its enemies. As in the past, Moscow tried to punish the Western governments for their disrespect by pursuing an aggressive and uncooperative foreign policy. Soaring oil prices have clearly helped Putin take a harsher stance toward the West. The importance of the xenophobic ideology has been increasing as the transition (or no transition) of power in the Kremlin approaches.

Introduction: A foreign threat to the regime

The interaction between domestic and foreign policy has been examined by historians going back to ancient Greece and Rome. For instance, Thucydides, in /History of the Peloponnesian War <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Peloponnesian_War> /(fifth century BC), wrote about the strategy of a famous Athenian politician in his war against Sparta. The politician took into account Athens' domestic developments, as well as the relations between numerous cities. In a famous speech before the Athenians, he suggested that the people's well being was completely dependent on the success of his campaign against Sparta. Since that time, the debate over the relative role of domestic versus international developments in shaping foreign policy has been quite visible in the historical and political literature. Some contemporary authors tend to identify domestic developments as the leading factor in a country's foreign policy, while others insist that foreign policy is mostly influenced by international relations. I will concentrate on a case that demonstrates the interaction of both factors (foreign and domestic) in the most obvious ways. This case emerges when the ruling elite sees a threat to its regime from other nations.

The foreign threat to a regime usually rises when the political order in a country changes and generates negative reactions among foreign nations. These reactions push the leaders of the regime to take various (mostly repressive) steps to strengthen their domestic power. These steps, in turn, exacerbate the foreign critique of the regime. A good example of the mutual reinforcement of hostility between a regime and foreign countries in the contemporary world is the case of Putin's regime. The same is true about the interaction between the international community and the regimes of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Alexander Lukashenko in Belorussia, Mahmoud* *Ahmadinejad in Iran and Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan.

The foreign threat to a regime takes various forms, including military intervention, ideological offensives and efforts to de-legitimate the regime in the eyes of the domestic population and international public opinion, as well as material aid to the domestic opposition.

A regime's attitude toward foreign threats is usually quite complicated. It always tries to equate its fate with the fate of the country. A regime may hold sober perceptions of the threat, strongly exaggerate the threat, or even concoct the danger, since the foreign threat is a well-known way to justify the existence and actions of the regime.* *Even contemporaries are not always able to separate the perceptions of foreign threats that are based on real facts versus imaginary facts and intentional lies, which are necessary for domestic politics.

A major source of information about the views of leaders on foreign affairs is their public statements. In rare cases, the materials of secret meetings, such as Stalin's speech at the meeting of the Politburo and the leadership of the Communist International on August 19, 1939, are also available. Unlike official documents on domestic issues, the speeches and articles of leaders should be, as a rule, treated as relatively authentic reflections on the position of the government. This is particularly true if we talk about hostile declarations. All anti-Western statements of the Soviet leaders from Lenin to Putin indeed conveyed their antagonism to the Western governments. The notorious book, /The History of the All-Union Communist Party, /written under the direct supervision of Stalin in 1938, is considered one of the most falsified texts in history. However, it conveys true information about Stalin's deep hostility toward the West and his real fear of military intervention and the destruction of his regime. For this reason, in many cases, the declarations of the current Russian leaders on foreign issues (as well as the leaders of other countries) should be taken mostly at face value as a source of information about their attitudes, positive or negative. In fact, it is impossible to pursue an aggressive policy toward a foreign country while hiding it from the population and ruling elite. Even a stable totalitarian regime wants the support of the masses when it is at odds with foreign countries. This is all the more true for regimes such as Putin's that are not completely confident in the future.

Only in rare cases, when a country is preparing to attack a foreign nation, the government hides its true intentions from the public. Between August 1939 (when Germany and the USSR signed the non-aggression pact) and June 22, 1941 (when the Nazis unexpectedly started the war against the Soviet Union), Berlin did not make inimical public statements about Moscow.

The role of the threat from abroad in shaping domestic and foreign policies (the subject of this paper) varies enormously from society to society and from one period to another. As an example I will address Soviet history. **

The threat from abroad in Soviet history

In the 1920s and to some degree in the early 1930s, the threat to the regime definitely played an important role in shaping Moscow's relations with several foreign countries, including Poland, France, England and other countries.

In these years, the Soviet regime was not completely confident in its survival. The Kremlin did not overestimate the loyalty of the population and did not exclude the possibility of riots and insurrections. Antonov's famous insurrection in 1920-1921 produced an immense impression on the Soviet leaders. Under the impact of this insurrection, Lenin and his comrades radically changed their domestic policy in favor of private economic activities and lessened repressions (the famous /NEP,/ New Economic Policy). Still, despite the softening of the Soviet regime, the threat of domestic resistance stayed on the minds of the Kremlin leaders.

Collectivization only increased concerns about mass unrest against the Soviet order. In 1931, local riots of exiled peasants ignited in Siberia. Workers also participated in some protest actions. In the 1920s and particularly in 1925-1929, strikes spread throughout almost all branches of industry (notably, the mining, metal and textile industries).

/The threat from emigrants/

Another threat to the Soviet regime came from Russian emigrants in the West. These emigrants, among whom there were many generals and officers, watched the developments in Russia closely. They believed in the coming end of the Bolshevik dictatorship and were ready to return to the country and fight the regime. Moscow carefully monitored what was going on at emigrant organizations and how ready they were to come back to Russia. The Kremlin took the emigrants very seriously and undertook a series of secret operations, which are now well-known, to kidnap and kill active members of emigrant groups (the most famous operation was called "Trust").

/The hostility of foreign countries: The de-legitimization of the regime in Moscow/

Only Pilsudski's Poland was relatively active in anti-Soviet activities, even though Warsaw hardly considered any plan for the intervention. However, the Western countries did not recognize the legitimacy of the Soviet system and saw Moscow, which stuck to the idea of the world revolution, as a source of great trouble. The mutual hostility of the West and Soviet Russia clearly emerged at the economic conference in Genoa in 1922 where the two sides could not achieve agreement on Russian debts. Only one Western country, the defeated Germany, entertained good relations with Soviet Russia. London and Paris did not establish full diplomatic relations with Moscow until 1924; Washington did not do this until 1934. Several European countries, among them neighbors of Soviet Russia such as Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, did so in the mid 1930s. Reflecting the view of the Soviet leadership in the early 1920s, Lenin wrote, "Soviet Russia is encircled by people, classes and governments that openly* *hate us and we have to remember that we are close to various invasions."* *A few years after Lenin's death, the Central Committee stated that "the danger of a counterrevolutionary war against the USSR is the most important issue of the current period." The comparison of Soviet Russia with the revolutionary regime in France in 1789-1993, which fought fiercely with the foreign interventions, was a fixture in Lenin's speeches and publications.

/The specter of foreign enemies under Stalin/

Concerned about a possible invasion from abroad and internal insurrections, Moscow did nothing to alleviate the hostility of the Western governments. These governments, on the other hand, were afraid of the subversive activities of the Third International in their countries, while the Soviet leaders perceived them as a way to weaken their enemies. Western countries saw Bolshevik Russia, with its official policy in favor of the World Revolution, in the same way as they saw Al-Qaeda, Khomeini Iran and the Taliban's Afghanistan many years later. From time to time, Western countries accused Moscow of interfering in their internal political life (for instance, in 1927, when England broke off diplomatic relations with Moscow and accused it of interfering in British domestic affairs during the general miners strike). Similarly, Putin sees the support (direct or indirect) of countries with anti-American policies as a means to deflect the danger to his regime and increase his influence in the world.

Since Stalin entrenched his power in the country in the late 1920s, he continued following Lenin by raising the issue of possible Western interventions. In his speeches and written texts of the late 1920s, Stalin talked practically as much as Putin about the sinister plans of the West to influence the political processes in Russia. Insisting on the existence of external dangers, Stalin continued (after Lenin's death) to support the view that victorious socialist revolutions in a few developed countries were needed to fight off a European intervention.* *At the same time, it is important to separate Stalin's perceptions of real domestic and foreign dangers in the 1920s (the existence of such threats is debatable) from his willingness to overestimate these dangers in order to fight the opposition and strengthen his regime.

However, whatever the weights of the two components (the perception of real danger and its intentional exaggeration), Stalin talked about the "capitalist encirclement" regularly before 1941 as a major argument in favor of a repressive domestic policy. In the summer of 1927, with Stalin at the helm, the leadership organized a noisy campaign against the threat of a foreign military intervention. In his speech in 1931, Stalin asserted that "to diminish the rate of growth means to lag behind. But those who lag behind are beaten (by their enemies). The history of old Russia shows that it was incessantly beaten." Stalin went on in his speech to enumerate all the country's enemies. At the 17^th Party Congress in 1934, Stalin again talked about the foreign danger to the Soviet order. In 1938, when the "real component" of intervention increased (because of the Nazi regime and the aggressive Japanese policy in the Far East), Stalin said that "it would be ridiculous to deny that, in the case of even the smallest success of a military intervention, the invaders will try to destroy the Soviet order in the occupied territory and restore bourgeois order." Following the Kremlin's directives, the Soviet media in the second half of the 1920s was similar to the media in Putin's Russia. It published a lot of material about the foreign danger to Soviet Russia. In 1927, /Pravda,/ the leading newspaper, dedicated one fifth of its space to articles about the aggressive behaviors of foreign powers against Soviet Russia.

*The foreign threat to the Soviet regime after 1945 totally disappeared*

After 1945, Stalin stopped worrying about the foreign threat to his regime. As Vasilii Grossman suggested in his immortal book /Life and Fate,/ the first conclusion that Stalin made after the Stalingrad battle was that his regime was no longer vulnerable to any foreign or domestic threat. The grandiose victory over Nazi Germany, the installation of the Soviet regimes in Eastern Europe and the emergence of "the Socialist World System" made the slogan "capitalist encirclement" look ridiculous. Between 1945 and 2004 foreign threats to Moscow almost completely disappeared from the lexicon of the Russian leaders.**

In his last speech on October 14, 1952, at the 19^th Party Congress, Stalin did not even mention the danger to the Soviet system. Instead, suggesting that the times had changed radically in favor of the Soviet Union, he said that this time it was the duty of the Soviet Communist Party to support the "fraternal parties" in their fight for liberation from the capitalist yoke and for international peace.

After the victorious war, the USSR began to struggle against the USA to change the regimes in various countries in its favor. For this purpose, Moscow used Communist Parties as an instrument in its foreign policy and intelligence activity. Denouncing the imperialist policy of the USA and its allies, none of the post-Stalin leaders talked about the foreign danger to the Soviet regime. Given the major thesis of Soviet propaganda about the "political and moral unity of the Soviet people with the party," it would be rather humiliating and counterproductive for the masters of the Kremlin even to mention the existence of such a threat as evidence of their weakness. The official and highly authoritative book /History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union/ described international relations on the eve of Perestroika without mentioning any threat to the Soviet system. Indeed, the idea of a threat was deeply alien to Nikita Khrushchev. In fact, he was the one who scared the Americans with his promise to "bury them" and did not complain about the danger to the Soviet system. The same was true about Leonid Brezhnev whose reports to the party congresses were always full of elation about the foreign successes of the Soviet Union. The West was blamed for plotting against the regimes in Soviet satellites, such as Cuba, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, but never the USSR. Even in the 1970s, when the USSR was at odds with the West, Japan and China simultaneously, Moscow did not return to the ideology of encirclement.

It is evident that, with Perestroika, the foreign threat to the Soviet regime was sent to "the dustbin of history." With the West enthusiastically praising the policy of the new Soviet leader, even the most ardent haters of the West did not talk about military actions against the USSR. The idea of the foreign danger to the regime, as we can see from his publications and speeches, was far from the mind of* *the first Russian President Boris Yeltsin.**

Putin's first term: Good relations with the USA

In his first term, Putin maintained the position of his predecessors and did not mention the threat to his regime from abroad. Coming to power in 2000, he enhanced a form of anti-American propaganda (already strong by the end of Yeltsin's rule) that described the USA as rather hostile toward the Russian Federation and guilty for the failure of the country's economic reforms. Anti-Americanism became an important part of Putin's official ideology. It was enthusiastically greeted by political and military elites, given their nostalgia for the Soviet empire and their envy of American economic and military power. Capturing the spirit of the period, Moscow political scientist Andrei Piontkovskii published an article at the end of Putin's first year in office that described the "pathological anti-Americanism of our elite."

However, this anti-Americanism was not radically different from the anti-Americanism of the postwar period and focused only on the geopolitical conflict between Moscow and Washington. What is more, the ideological hostility toward the USA was combined with a rather conciliatory foreign policy. Indeed, Putin tolerated several American actions in the international arena. In the first half of 2001, some of President George Bush's actions were received by the Russian military establishment with anger (for instance, the exit of the USA from the ABM treaty and its declaration to build up the National Missile Defense program). Putin's reaction, however, was quite mild and his meeting with President Bush in Slovenia in June 2001 was friendly.

Putin's positive public attitudes toward the USA were demonstrated by his policy after September 11, 2001. Overnight, he became an almost cordial ally of the USA (at least publicly) and charmed the American president with his friendliness. His reaction to the September events, much like his response to NMD, surprised most Moscow politicians, because one third of the population had openly gloated over the tragedy in America. Putin declared a moment of silence in the country in the aftermath of the tragic events and showed a great deal of sympathy toward America in his speech to the country on September 24, 2001. Ignoring the fury of the military establishment, Putin practically welcomed the creation of American military bases in the former Soviet Central Asia, long regarded as a zone of Moscow's influence. Citing financial considerations, Putin liquidated the former Soviet military bases in Cuba and Vietnam, which brought a very positive reaction in the USA. Moscow only mildly protested against the inclusion of the former Soviet Baltic republics in NATO, a reaction that would have been regarded as unbelievable to the Russians only a few years ago.

The threat to the regime and Putin's foreign policy

The significant deterioration of the Kremlin's attitudes toward the West in 2005-2006 can be explained by various factors. It was not primarily motivated by conflicts over issues such as Iraq, Iran, North Korea, American activities in the post-Soviet space, the plan to build military bases in Eastern Europe and the American resistance to Russia's admission to the World Trade Organization. By all accounts, these factors contributed to the new tensions between Russia and the West in 2005-2006, but they cannot explain why the European Union became the target of Russian hostility. The foreign policy of European countries has not been criticized by Moscow over the last decade. The roots of tension between Russia and Europe lie in the Kremlin's perceptions of the European Union as being even more critical of the regime than the USA.**

Indeed, judging by the facts, Putin's anger against the West and the USA has been caused, according to Moscow analysts, by the growing Western critique of his regime. In a remarkable statement to a group of journalists in Sochi on May 13, 2006, Putin said, hinting at the recent critiques of his regime by Western officials, that he is displeased by some foreign countries that stick their "nose into other people's affairs and declare the whole world as their sphere of influence." In 2007, Putin continued to stress the idea about the subversive Western plans to use the critique of democracy in Russia to support "pro-Western forces" and impose its will "over issues unrelated to democracy and human rights, say, the missile defense system issue, the situation with Kosovo and so on." The State Duma assessed the report of the State Department about the observation of human rights in the world in spring 2007 as "the pretext for the intervention in the internal affairs of our county in order to change its constitutional order and stimulate pressure on Russia from outside as well as from inside." The claim that the West was intent on changing the regime in Moscow was ubiquitous in pro-Putin media in 2006-2007. The declaration of Boris Berezovsky about his plan to "change the regime" in Russia was a real gift to Putin's propaganda, which used it in various ways as evidence of the West's hostile intentions toward Russia.

Rem Shakirov, the editor of a Russian journal /The New Times,/ was confident that Russian foreign policy in 2007 was determined by the conflict with the West over the political regime in Moscow, which pushed Putin to make friends with people such as Chavez and Akhmadajean.

The Kremlin is deeply concerned about the powerful Western critique. Putin is particularly upset by the fact that officials and ordinary people in the USA and the European Union tend to see the political processes in Russia as deeply antidemocratic. Putin's regime is not as confident as the regimes of Khrushchev or Brezhnev. It is even less assertive than Stalin's regime before the war. Putin's Kremlin considers the West's ideological attack as a danger because it could embolden not only active liberals, but a considerable number of people who secretly hate the regime. Pointing to the public's growing fear of the authorities, politicians have been expressing their distrust in public opinion polls, which show a high level of presidential approval.

With the utmost displeasure, Moscow has watched the West intensify its efforts to spread* *the view that* *Russia is in the process of "de-democratization," a term used in a prestigious report by the National Council on Foreign Affairs entitled "Russia's Wrong Direction" (2006). In 2007, the Freedom House organization categorized Russia among 45 countries that it ranked as "not free"; its election processes were ranked as 3, as in the cases of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan (France received a ranking of 12). The Kremlin has been even more irritated by the public criticism offered by high American officials, including Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney.

The case of Litvinenko's death in November 2006 only increased the critique of Putin's regime. This time the West accused the Kremlin not only of destroying democracy, but protecting the perpetrator of this heinous criminal act or even of organizing it. When the Kremlin refused to extradite London's prime suspect Andrei Lugovoi and even turned Lugovoi into something of a national hero, the nature of Putin's regime was revealed to the West with particular force. The leading political scientist Dmitry Furman suggested in the aftermath of Litvinenko's death, in his article "The mystery of immunity," that the truth about Litvinenko's murder will never be known, because an authoritarian regime never permits a serious investigation of political murders. Furman cited the murders of two opponents of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. In both cases, the formal investigations ended with preposterous conclusions that exonerated the leaders.

The Kremlin reacted to the accusations from London with particular fury and rudeness when the British government applied several sanctions to Russia. Putin used criminal slang in his riposte to the detractors of his regime in London.

The threat to the regime from the West explains the outburst of hatred against NGOs in Russia, all of which have "Western sponsors," according to Surkov, the deputy chief of the presidential administration and the Kremlin's main ideologue. In 2006, the Kremlin declared a war against NGOs by asserting that many of these organizations are fronts for the West to undermine political stability in the country under the pretext of promoting democracy. As a prominent Moscow journalist noted, "the new law against NGOs is a reaction to the series of 'color' revolutions." The highly publicized case of British diplomats who were supposedly caught in Moscow for spying on January 24, 2006, represented another example of xenophobic propaganda. The spy scandal was arranged in the style of the Cold War. It was used to denounce Russian NGOs for cooperating with the enemies and to scold those who were still trying to defend democratic values. The attack on "the stream of foreign money that is used for intervention in our internal affairs" continued in 2007. Putin devoted a special passage in his presidential address in 2007 to this issue. He also talked about it in his speech in Munich in February 2007 and at a press conference in Luxemburg in May 2007. The Duma and the federal council, along with the Kremlin, continued in 2007 to lambaste the West for helping groups that were perceived as hostile to Russia.

Color revolution and Putin

The reemergence of the foreign threat to the regime as a major political and ideological issue in Moscow was deeply influenced by the developments in Ukraine in 2004. These developments persuaded the Kremlin that the Western critique could bring a real political transformation in Russia.

A crucial event in Putin's presidential life was the Orange Revolution in Kiev. It seemingly influenced him more than any other event, including the major terrorist acts in the country. The developments in Kiev had only one meaning for Putin. They showed how the "street" (or the square), when supported by funding and organizational skills from outside, could remove a seemingly strong political power. Putin's bitterness about the victory of "the anti-system" forces in Kiev was compounded by his belief, prior to the Ukrainian election, that in a country with a leader like Leonid Kuchma, who fully controlled the power agencies, including the political police, there is no room for serious mass movements instigated by a "non-systemic" (or non-establishment) political opposition.

For two years, the Kremlin was obsessed with the developments in Kiev. Russian media spent more time and space covering the Orange Revolution than many other news topics. In the months between March 23 and April 23, 2006, the events in Kiev, which took place in late 2004,* *were mentioned in 43* *national newspapers* *463 times, while the tragic terrorist attacks in Beslan, which took the lives of 331 people, including 186 children, and occurred at roughly the same time as the revolution in Kiev, received only 37 mentions. Even the country's most important social issues drew almost the same amount of attention, if not less (terrorism, 497; corruption, 471; and crime, 303). Between July 2006 and July 2007, the subject of color revolutions and the subversive activities of "the Washington obkom" (the Washington regional party committee, as nationalists refer to the American administration) in fomenting them continued to preoccupy Russian media outlets, from the military newspaper /Krasnaia Zvezda /(Red Star) to the most liberal newspaper /Novaia Gazeta./

As a matter of fact, Putin and his strategists may have seen the danger coming one year earlier during the Rose Revolution in Tbilisi in November 2003. At that time, however, the ousting of the Georgian president was regarded as an anomaly. The events in Kiev and later in Bishkek (the Kirgiz capital), with its Tulip Revolution in the Spring of 2005, seemed to show a pattern of behavior that could be repeated in Moscow by the liberal opposition, regardless of how weak it looked on the surface. The Orange Revolution forced the Kremlin to examine with new eyes the fate of Milosevic and even to consider the dire prognoses of its political opponents who would like to see Putin sent to The Hague for his various criminal actions. Even the harangues of Andre Glucksman, a famous French philosopher, who compared Putin's predicament to Milosevic's,* *were not regarded by Moscow as frivolous.

The Orange Revolution was a leading theme in the long speech of Vladislav Surkov at the meeting of the ruling party, "The Unity of Russia," in February 2006. The speech represented the first ideological manifesto of Putin's administration over its entire six-year period. It revealed more about the Kremlin's Weltanschauung than Putin's presidential addresses to the nation. Not surprisingly, the document has been widely cited by media organizations and journalists.

Vitalii Tretiakov, the editor of /Moskovskie Novosti /and now a fiery defendant of Putin's policy, published a big article devoted to analyzing Surkov's text, which he referred to as "the single source of our knowledge of the official ideology." Another mouthpiece of the ruling elite, the Director of the Agency of Political and Economic Communication Dmitry Orlov, entitled his article in /Izvestiia, /"Vladislav Surkov's four threats." Mikhail Yuriev, the former deputy speaker of the Duma, passionately defended Surkov's speech against its critics on the right and left in a one and a half page article in /Izvestiia/. The Kremlin is concerned, according to Surkov, that the liberals may be supported by "the party of oligarchic revenge,"* *which is ready to put their gigantic wealth toward the overthrow of Putin and surrender the country to the West. Surkov talked about "one of the leaders of the oligarchic opposition, Boris Berezovsky, who called for a violent seizure of power." While most people in Russia and abroad did not pay any attention to the exiled oligarch's declaration, the Kremlin, according to Surkov, was in a hurry to show that it took the magnate's appeal seriously.

Behind the color revolutions: The West

There are two beliefs behind the Kremlin's interpretation of the events on Independence Square. The first one supposes that the insurrection against Kuchma's regime had been initiated by the West. The Kremlin propaganda denies that the cause was the people's discontent with their lives, the problems of corruption or the dishonest election. It was the West that funded the Ukrainian youth's stay on Independence Square for several weeks in the frosty weather and provided the Ukrainian opposition with agents who knew how to organize a peaceful uprising against the government. The denigration of the Orange Revolution, its leaders and the developments in Ukraine as well as in Georgia after their color revolutions was a leading topic in official media in 2005-2007.

The Kremlin's second belief is even more important. As indicated in several public statements, Putin thinks that the West wants to apply the same technology against Russia and push him out of power. What is more, Putin now sees a united front between the European Union, which had also supported the opposition in Kiev, and the USA against his regime. As demonstrated in Surkov's February 2006 speech, the official propaganda, reflecting the Soviet past, now often operates with a single common enemy, "the West," even if the USA remains the major villain.

One of the main themes of Surkov's speech was the West's responsibility for the events in Kiev. Putin's emissary did not mince words when he declared that the West and the USA in particular are deeply hostile toward the current regime. He contended that "the street in Moscow and other big cities" is being instigated and supported by the West and pro-Western Russian oligarchs and that these forces represent a real threat to the regime. Surkov insisted that "the soft conquering of Russia" by "our foreign friends" with their "orange technology" is on "their agenda." According to Surkov, since the orange technology "was quite successful in four countries" (he listed Ukraine, Georgia, Kirgizia and Moldova), the West is confident in its victory in Russia as well. Surkov, in a supposedly mild tone, talked about the "State Department that works close by us" (a reference to its subversive activity in Russia) and "much faster than we do." Suggesting to his listeners (and readers) that these activities should be taken seriously, he reminded them of the American dictum about two types of cowboys: "the fast and the dead." In April 2007, the pro-governmental newspaper /Izvestiia /published an article with the title, "The crisis in Ukraine was arranged by orangists and the USA." /Nezavisimaia Gazeta,/ an influential newspaper in Moscow, continued to insist that the USA was planning "new color revolutions in Belorussia as well as in Russia." Kremlin-connected political analyst Sergei Markov contended at the meeting of the pro-Putin youth organization "Ours" (Nashi) in July 2007 that "the threat of lawless revolutions, such as those in Georgia and Ukraine, hangs over Russia." In 2007, Putin himself showed that the developments in Tbilisi in 2003 and in Kiev in 2004 continued to irk him. During his talk in Munich, he told the OSCE not to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and not to impose on these countries a new regime that the West prefers.

The Kremlin's reaction to the Western critique: An aggressive foreign policy

The new oil wealth in Russia allowed the Kremlin to take an aggressive foreign policy stance toward the West and its neighbors. The Kremlin sees the best way to legitimize its regime and avert the danger from the opposition as resorting to xenophobia. In no way do I deny that a real conflict of interests exists between Russia and the USA, particularly on issues related to the former Soviet space, but I still suppose, along with many Russian liberal authors, that it is the domestic needs of the regime that are behind Moscow's new aggressiveness. Indeed, in the last three years Russia turned into an enemy of America, the European Union, Poland, the Baltic States, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia and Moldova. The Russian expedition to the North Pole in August placed Canada on Russia's roster of potential enemies. Canada had reacted quite negatively to the declarations of the participants of the expedition who, along with the official Russian media, declared that the whole Artic was a Russian zone. The American plans to build up the antimissile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic provided the Kremlin with another tool of propaganda. Fomenting the "threats to Russia" on an almost everyday basis in 2006-2007, the Kremlin returned to the propaganda of "encirclement," to use Stalin's term, which Russians had not heard for almost 60 years. **

The ideological warfare of the current regime against Western democracy

Along with responding to the Western critique, Moscow launched a powerful ideological offensive against the West in 2006. The offensive was based on three propagandistic alternatives: one proposed the idea that Russian democracy was fully in order; the second insisted that Russian democracy, even if it differed from Western democracy, was no worse than it; and the third declared that Russian democracy was superior to Western democracy. In some cases, politicians or journalists used all three alternatives at once.

/Russian democracy: fully in order/

Those propagandists who used this ideological line usually resorted to two explanations of the West's refusal to recognize that Russian democracy was in almost perfect shape. First, the critique of the political order was used to pressure Moscow and force it to yield to the West's various geopolitical demands. Putin made this assertion in his press conference in Luxemburg in May 2007. Second, the pro-Kremlin media insisted that this unfair critique was motivated by pure hatred of Russia, or so called Russophobia. The statements of Senator McCain, who dared to condemn the political developments in Russia and proposed the idea of excluding the country from participating in the G-8, are used as an example of such a critique. In a typical article of this sort, the authors talked about Russophobia as "a special discipline in the West."

Gleb Pavlovsky, a political analyst notorious for his fealty to the Kremlin, represents those ideologues who saw no difference between Russian and Western democracy. In order to substantiate this thesis, he equated Putin to Roosevelt and suggested that both leaders saved their countries from calamities. In this way, the Kremlin propagandist tried to embellish the authoritarianism of Putin and use this American president, who served four terms in the White House, to justify Putin's moral right to do the same. "Putin is Roosevelt today," read the title of an article in /Izvestiia/. The Kremlin organized a conference called, "The Lessons of the New Deal for Contemporary Russia and the World" in February 2007. At the conference, the people from the Kremlin described Putin as a leader who, like Roosevelt, "had to strengthen the administrative management and exploit the potential of presidential power to overcome a crisis." The Kremlin, despite the fiery anti-Americanism, even ordered the making of a special movie, /FDRan historical ally, /which was shown in June 2007 on a leading Russian TV channel.

/Russian democracy: better than Western democracy**/

In 2007, the Russian ideological counteroffensive against the West went so far as to insist on the superiority of Russian democracy over the Western brand of democracy. Putin returned to the strategy used by Stalin, who talked about the superiority of Soviet democracy over the Western one.

In 1936, in his report on the draft of the new constitution, Stalin declared that the constitution reflected Soviet practices, unlike the case of Western bourgeois society. He said that the constitution "not only formally proclaimed democratic freedoms" and the political equality of the people, as seen in the bourgeois constitutions, but also guaranteed their implementation. In 1952, in his last speech at the 19^th Party Congress, Stalin was even more confident in the superiority of Soviet democracy. He asserted that "the banner of bourgeois-democratic freedoms was thrown away" and only Communists support it now, along with the "freedom of personality." In 2007, Putin almost literally repeated Stalin's suggestion about the superiority of Russian democracy over Western-style democracy.

In February 2007, in Munich, Putin asked the West to stop teaching Russia about democracy and suggested that it should "learn about it themselves." He discussed "the double standard of Western policy," the "CIA secret prisons in Europe," the "illegal violence in Iraq," the "weakness of American democracy" and the immoral mass media. At his press conference on June 4, 2007, rejecting any critique of his regime, Putin described Western society in the most gloomy terms, as Stalin had a half century ago: "Just look at what's happening in North America. It's simply awful: torture, homeless people, Guantanamo, people detained without trial and investigation. Just look at what's happening in Europe: harsh treatment of demonstrators, rubber bullets and tear gas used first in one capital then in another, demonstrators killed on the streets. There is no one to talk to since Mahatma Gandhi died."

A volley of aspersions against Western democracy and civilization was delivered by Archbishop Cyril, a possible heir to the current head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who, in his speech at the World Russian People's Convention (sobor) in April 2006, denigrated "the Western concept of human rights" as "a cover for lies and insulting religious and national values." The officials who attended the Congress, including Lubov Sliska, the Duma's deputy speaker, and even Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were eager to support Cyril's attacks on the West. One of the Kremlin's propagandists, Alexander Zipko, praised the wisdom of the ecclesiastic authority, particularly when he used the idea of human dignity for discrediting human rights and freedoms as the basis of society. Alexander Solzhenitsyn's April interview with/ Moskovskii Novosti,/ which contained the same diatribes against Western democracy and supported Cyril, only helped the Kremlin's ideological policy. Several other materials from the Russian media in 2007 denigrated American democracy on full scale.* *The idea that the democracy of Putin's regime was superior to the Western one inspired various Kremlin supporters. Some of them praised Russian democracy for "its idealism, romanticism and political farsightedness." An author from /Izvestiia /was sure that "the Russian intellectual community is much better than their American counterparts at understanding the complexity of political processes and the nature of democracy.

/Russian democracy: as good as the Western one, but different/

Those who tried to give a soberer assessment of Russian democracy focused on its specific features. The concept of "sovereign democracy" was invented in the Kremlin in 2006 by those wanted to defend the political order under Putin. Vladislav Surkov introduced this concept in June 2006 and then systematically popularized and developed it, even if he also, at times, talks about the superiority of Russian democracy over the Western one. The basic idea of Surkov's concept was that democracy in Russia, even with its specific features, was no worse than democracy in the West. According to Surkov, political order in the country was "chosen, shaped and directed exclusively by the Russian nation." Surkov rejected as "stupid" the idea that the foreign critique of the political order in Russia was based on the flaws of Russian democracy. This critique, according to Surkov, was dictated by the desire of the West to "take control of the natural resources of Russia through the weakening of its state institutions, its defense and independence." The "sovereign democracy" concept was openly directed at "the open U.S. intervention in our domestic policy," to use the words of Alexander Zipko, a Kremlin troubadour. All the differences between Russian and Western democracy were caused by the specific cultural and historical heritage of Russian political culture. Traditions, Surkov insisted, explained why centralism and the personification of state institutions were organic parts of the political system, which could still, nevertheless, be considered a democracy.


The Soviet regime stopped being afraid of the West after 1945, because of several major developments, including the victory in the war with Germany, the creation of "the World socialist system," the acquisition of the nuclear weapon and later the radical democratization of the regime in the late 1980s and 1990s. There will be no similar developments in the next decades that will make Russia as powerful as it was after the war and radically change its status in the world. As the prominent Russian economist Stanislav Menshikov asserted, the economy, even with the continuation of high oil prices, could reach only fifth place by 2030 among the world biggest economies. If the regime in Moscow continues to be authoritarian, it will remain fearful of its enemies inside and outside the country and will not change the political order. As Putin declared on Russian TV, the objective of the military exercises in the Cheliabinsk region in August 2007 was to improve the coordination between the armies of the six countries in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and prepare them to fight against terrorists who want to "change the regime in the given country."

At the same time, there are no serious hopes for a reversal of the political processes in Russia or the arrival of a new liberal Perestroika in the next years. The determination of the new elite to preserve their wealth, most of which has an illegal origin, makes the chances for democracy very slim.

There is also no chance for a "color revolution" from "below," according to many Russian analysts. Listing the conditions necessary for a successful "Orange Revolution" ("a charismatic leader, student agitations, hundreds of NGOs and authorities who are fearful of spilling blood"), a Moscow journalist noted that all of these conditions are absent in the case of Russia. Given the increase in the country's well-being and the high price of oil, there is no sign of mass discontent. The public supports the Kremlin's anti-democratic actions and anti-Western propaganda. At the same time, the ruling elites are not deluded by the data that show strong public support for the regime. As in the past, the Kremlin assumes that oppositional forces will exploit even a weak relaxation of the regime. The attention and resources that the presidential administration devotes to youth organizations, such as "Ours" (Nashi), which it sees as an instrument to quash riots and other political disturbances, shows that the stability of the regime is always on the minds of the current regime. Even the weakest protests have been curbed with brutal force, as seen in the suppression of the small "marches of discontents" in spring 2007. The law has been cynically manipulated to stop the opposition from participating in elections. The hope of some intellectuals that conflicts among ruling elites and between various clans may lead to the collapse of the regime is unfounded.

Refusing to make even weak concessions to the liberals, the regime's logic of self-preservation will continue to make new strides toward a new type of totalitarian society, which will combine repressions against any critic of the regime with gigantic wealth for the ruling elite. A journalist from /Moskovskie Novosti,/ a weekly newspaper that is very loyal to the Kremlin, wrote about her recent contacts with several experts who had been seen as liberals in the past. These people, who had clearly articulated their liberal ideals in the past, as the journalist noted, were now "afraid to talk" with her. They "started stammering during the conversation, fearing to say too much, or pretended that telephone connection broke."

Observing the developments in Russia in the last years and remembering Soviet history, a Moscow author noted, "The mechanism of repressions, once started, is very difficult to stop." By the same logic, the regime will continue to fear the West and will sustain and enhance the deep anti-Western mood in the country, making its propaganda more and more nationalistic and xenophobic.

We watch today as one area of social life after another falls under the strict control of the militant nationalists.* *It is difficult to avoid thinking that there is some sort of master plan in the presidential administration to gradually oust all pro-democratic and pro-Western elements from society and get rid of any forces that dream about changing the regime.

The steady expansion of the role of the official Russian Orthodox Church, with its arrant xenophobia, in the life of the country is seemingly an important part of this plan. During a July 2007 meeting with "Ours" (Nashi), the pro-Putin youth organization, both of Putin's official heirs openly proclaimed the Orthodox Church as an ally of the state. One of them, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, declared that "the resurgence of the Orthodox Church to a great degree helped us overcome the difficult problems that emerged in the 1990s." The other one, Sergei Ivanov, also a deputy prime minister, said that "the church's function is to ennoble society."

This is not the first time in Russian history that the authorities undertook a long-term plan to "freeze" society. Stalin did this in the second half of the 1920s and Andropov in the 1970s. Both successfully destroyed all the oppositional forces in society.

Given the growing ideological differences between Moscow and the West, the mutual hostility in foreign relations is likely to increase. However, some factors will probably mitigate the hostility between the West and Russia. These factors include the common interest in fighting international terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the strong interest of the ruling elite in maintaining their access to banks and real estate in the West, educational institutions for their children, medical facilities, resorts, and, of course, the Kremlin's fear that the xenophobic forces inside the country may get loose and replace the current regime.

In any case, the growing differences between the values dominant in Western capitals and in Moscow and the Kremlin's permanent concerns about the Western plans to change the regime will hover over international relations for many years.

Acknowledgment: The author wishes to thank Joshua Woods for his editorial contribution to this article.