Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Don't Treat Russia like a Third World Country
By Bashir Goth
Answering this question led me to consider several other questions: "Why does the West treat Russia like a Third World country? Why, whenever Russia cooperates in one area, does the West demand an arm and a leg in others?" Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has tried to ingratiate itself with the West, sometimes at the expense of its own pride, sovereignty and national interests. It went along with the West in dismantling former Yugoslavia and allowed the U.S. to deploy forces to its borders to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, although the real objective was to gain access to the Central Asian countries' oil. It was not easy for Russia to lose its traditional friends and arms markets in North Korea, Iran and Iraq, but with a bit of pragmatism and statesmanship, it let the West have its way. It has only used its UN Security Council veto power two times since 1997, against 12 times by the U.S.

Russia also didn't show more than a whimper when the West began converting countries like Ukraine, Georgia and others against Russia under the pretext of spreading democracy, without giving much thought to the long-term impact that the instability in these countries could have on the security of Russia and the whole region. Not amused by Russia's patience and cool diplomacy, the America went for the jugular by announcing their much-hyped missile defense system, with the intelligence-insulting justification of protecting the U.S. and Europe from missiles coming from the technologically handicapped countries of the Middle East. As if all these provocations were not enough, the UK now presents its outrageous request for Russia to change its constitution so that a Russian suspect can be extradited to Britain.

In the light of these developments and looking at the issue from a Third World perspective, it is not difficult to agree with Putin's accusation of Britain behaving with a colonial mentality.

"It's their mindset, not our constitution, which needs to be changed. What they are offering to us is a clear remnant of colonial thinking," Putin said.

A more precise and more convincing statement also came from Alexander Solzhenitsyn who said: "The West was celebrating its victory after the exhausting Cold War. While observing the 15-year-long anarchy under Gorbachev and Yeltsin and surrendering of all positions abroad, the West quickly got accustomed to the idea that Russia had become almost a Third World country and would remain that forever. When Russia began to strengthen its economy and statehood, the West perceived that, perhaps on a subconscious level, with panic."

Common sense says that Britain could have received more cooperation from Russia on the Alexander Litvinenko case if they had opted for soft diplomacy, friendly persuasion and mutual respect instead of resorting to media hype, diplomatic spectacles and unnecessary provocation.

It is time for the West to realize that the Russia of today is not the Russia of Boris Yeltsin's scarecrow, but a real military power with a vast economic wealth at its behest. Treating Russia, therefore, with a bit of respect and equality will not only be good for West-Russia relations but for the security and prosperity of the whole world. Read more in Washington Post.

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