Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What does the West need in Russia?

President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin at the United Russia party conference, Sep. 2011.

Picture from www.kremlin.ru

Western media has been continuously reporting on the protests in Russia against the United Russia party victory at the recent general elections. One TV channel, FOX News, went so far that they showed footage of 2011 Athens Riots when reporting the Moscow protests. Western media has been relatively quiet about protests in countries like Bahrain. In Russia however, it has been reported that the current protests are the largest after the Soviet Union collapsed.

But, what really does the West need by reporting the protests? In Russia, whether they like it or not, United Russia is the best alternative for the West to have. The West will never want a Communist government in Moscow especially during a financial crisis eating into their own economies. The party ‘Just Russia’ is also a center left group which cannot be expected to tow the Western line. That leaves only the Liberal Democrats as a party with at least some mass support which the West will prefer at the event of the fall of the United Russia regime.

But what if the West does not want any government in Russia? It should be noted that Russia did not have a stable government for a decade after the collapse of the USSR. She went through an economic crisis, a constitutional crisis, a war in Chechnya, unstable Dumas in which at times the Communists were the party with the largest number of seats, all under an alcoholic president with increasingly deteriorating health. In 2001, when Yeltsin stepped down, many Russians must have observed that the only good thing he did for Russia after 1991 was bringing in Vladimir Putin, a virtually unknown figure, to the limelight.

For the next decade, Putin and his United Russia party have dominated the political scene of Russia. Even during the four year presidency of Medvedev, Putin held a leading role as the Prime Minister and may have been the real puppet master behind the scene. Meanwhile he built a personal cult around himself which captivated millions of his fellow citizens.

Ultimately however, this personality cult was being resented by many of the opposition and it was portrayed in the elections held recently, where United Russia barely held on to a parliamentary majority. Since all allegations to the election fraud may not be fabrications, it is not wrong to assume that a totally fair election would have not given any party a majority in the Duma.

Russia under Putin moved from a former power licking its wounds to a major power in international arena. Russia’s opponents hope that a Russia minus Putin will have a weak government which will have much lesser say in international politics. With none of the major political parties being pro-Western, it is the best thing the West can hope in Russia.

The only question is that whether it will be beneficial for the West in the long run. With their economies in dire straits, the West is seeing Russia as a bastion of stability. It is doubtful if the West would benefit if that bastion falls.

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