Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Russia's Sovereign Democracy


The above article was written by Ivan Krastev and entitled “Unite and rule”

Krastev is chairman of the Centre for Liberal Stategies in Sofia, Bulgaria, and a founding member of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Krastev strikes me as a very strong and very intellectual advocate of the EU. Bulgaria, according to the CIA Factbook is 82.6% Bulgarian Orthodox; which according to Samuel P. Huntington would place it securely in the “Orthodox Civilization,” but Krastev gives no indication of that. He begins his article by urging, “The EU must engage Russia as a single institution if it is to avoid withering into insignificance.”

He views the Putin’s Russia with what seems to be mild distaste: “The post-Cold War order in Europe is finished, with Vladimir Putin its executioner. Russia's invasion of Georgia only marked its passing. Russia has emerged out of the war as a born-again 19th-century power determined to challenge the intellectual, moral, and institutional foundations of the Post-Cold War European order.”

He seems to wish that the EU were capable of Realpolitik as he writes, “Today, Russia and the European Union have sharply opposing views on the sources of instability in Eurasia. If the west persists in ignoring Russia's concerns and continues to expand Nato in the post-Soviet space, it will merely reintroduce sphere-of-influence politics in Eurasia. But breaking with the policies of the 1990s also presents grave risks, because the EU is not, and cannot be, a traditional great power, and because the west's weakness may end up rewarding – and encouraging – Russian revanchism. . . .”

“Any rethinking of EU policy toward Russia should recognise that, while Russia will remain a regional power and global player during the next decade, it is unlikely to become a liberal democracy. The EU should also recognize that Russia has legitimate concerns about the asymmetrical impact of the Cold War's end on its security. Russia felt betrayed in its expectations that the Cold War's end would mean the demilitarisation of central and eastern Europe. While Nato enlargement did not imply any real security threats for Russia, it changed the military balance between Russia and the west, fuelling the Kremlin's revisionism.”

Krastev advises, “The EU's main objective should be to preserve the distinctive character of the European order – ie, the centrality of human rights and the rule of law. It should seek to prevent the return of spheres-of-influence politics in Eurasia, rather than consolidating or expanding its own sphere of influence. Russia's neighbors – democratic and non-democratic – are Europe's natural allies in this endeavour.

The dual nature of Russia's regime – capitalist and non-democratic, European and anti-EU – demands such a strategy. The EU should focus on the ambiguity at the heart of Russia's official doctrine of "sovereign democracy" and use the fact that the current Russian regime's domestic legitimacy is based, to a large extent, on the perception that it is striving to bring Russia back into European civilisation.

“True, Putin's Russia does not dream of joining the EU, but Russia's stability depends on preserving the European nature of its regime. Putin promises Russians not only restoration of the country's Great Power status, but also European living standards. Russia is ready and willing to confront Europe and the West, but it cannot afford and does not want to turn its back on Europe.

“If Russia's strategy is to erode the EU by focusing on bilateral relations with member states, the EU's priority should be to institutionalise itself as Russia's only negotiating partner. Creating institutional incentives for EU unity would help Europe overcome the asymmetrical interdependence in its relations with Russia. For example, the transformation of the OSCE into a political forum in which the EU represents its member states could be the type of institutional innovation that blocks Russia's effort to split the union.

The EU and the United States must stop pretending that they can transform Russia, or that they can simply ignore it. But nor should the EU allow Russia to reduce it to benevolent irrelevance.”

In an article in Nov/Dec 2008 issue of The American Interest entitled “Russia and the European Order, Sovereign Democracy explained (unavailable on the internet), Krastev argues that the philosophical underpinning of the current Russian political thinking is “Sovereign Democracy,” a political philosophy that can be traced to Ivan Ilin, or Ilyan, but also to Carl Schmitt and Francois Guizot. Krastev writes, “Following Schmitt, the theorists of sovereign democracy prefer to define democracy as ‘identity of the governors and the governed. Following Guizot, the sovereign for them is not the people or the voters, but the reason embodied in the consensus of the responsible national elites. In the Kremlin-brewed mixture of Guizot’s anti-populism and Schmitt’s anti-liberalism, elections serve not as an instrument for enabling conflicting interests to engage and reconcile; they exist to show the people who has the power.”

Krastev goes on to argue that in taking on the essentially 19th century political philosophy, Sovereign Democracy, they are denying the legitimacy of the decidedly post-modern political construct, the EU. Thus it is in Russia’s Sovereign Democratic interest to pretend that the EU doesn’t exist as a separate entity and try dealing with the individual nations as the only entities that have validity.

Lawrence Helm


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