The Foreign Service Journal, April 2007

Meanwhile, Putin will bequeath his successor a diffi- cult legacy, which includes suspended reforms in the areas of military, banking, pension, health care, local self- government and economic deregulation; a non-diversi- fied economy; and an addiction to the oil and gas. Finally, he leaves a centralized state that has become the key impediment to further Russian transformation, a state that needs a hostile environment and a constant search for the enemy in order to survive. There is no doubt that if this system remains in place, Russia will face a crisis that could result in a far more brutal regime or dramatically accelerate the slow process of rot now setting in. Will the elite consider reforming the system before it is too late? This would require political will and a transforma- tional leadership, neither of which seems likely at pre- sent. Those in power are unlikely to dispel the illusion that all is well as long as the price of oil remains high. In fact, the political class is unlikely to begin looking for a way out until the oil actually starts to dry up. It is the business community that will no doubt be the first to realize that the current model leads to a dead end — but only if societal discontent threatens to spin out of con- trol. Advice for the West: Do No Harm Under current conditions, the West cannot do much to aid Russia’s continuing transformation; but it can exert a limited influence on the members of the elite interest- ed in personal integration with the West. • Practice what you preach. The success of a liberal alternative in Russia depends on the extent to which the West is prepared to reject double standards, abide by its own principles, and find the balance between freedom and justice. • Pay attention. If the West wants to avoid being sur- prised by every twist and turn of events in Russia, it will have to invest in preparing a new generation of analysts who can understand the complexities of the postcom- munist reality. • Consolidate the stakeholders. There has long been a need to move from a state-to-state dialogue to society- to-society dialogue, as well as the need to include in the conversation the parties on both sides who have a stake in Russia’s integration into Western civilization. • Integrate Russia. The West must avoid isolating Russia at all costs, despite the inherent difficulty in engaging Moscow without legitimizing bureaucratic authoritarianism. This task will require a great deal of diplomatic finesse and political will. And while Western politicians are figuring out how to proceed, the Kremlin will no doubt attempt to further co-opt its representa- tives, as it has done in the case of former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. • Don’t let Russian leaders portray personal friend- ship as tacit approval. Western leaders have ample opportunities to remind their counterparts about the standards Russia committed to uphold when it joined various international organizations, and to do so pri- vately without humiliating the Kremlin. • Make Ukraine a success story. The integration of Ukraine (and, if possible, Belarus) into Europe would draw the ire of the Russian elite, but in the end such a success would help Russians discard the belief that they are genetically unsuited to democracy. The time is coming when Russian authorities will pay even less heed to Western counsel. Once the self-per- petuation of power has begun, no one in the Kremlin will be terribly concerned about how this process is regarded outside of Russia. The West will also have a difficult time finding the right approach to dealing with Russia during this period. Continued appeasement of the Kremlin would only strengthen bureaucratic authoritarianism, but a hard line would most likely con- tribute to the rise of anti-Western feelings among the Russian people. The temptation to demand free and fair elections in Russia in 2007 and 2008 could prove to be another trap. Western leaders must take into account the fact that the Russian leadership has perfected the art of “managing” elections. No amount of Western monitoring will alter the result. It is also worth considering that, in the absence of a powerful liberal-democratic opposition, truly free elections in Russia could bring a new group of nationalist, populist leaders to power. If the West can avoid these pitfalls, it could make a genuine contribution to Russia’s benevolent transforma- tion by working to convince the elite that it should be interested in establishing the rule of law for the sake of its own survival. True, it is far more likely that Moscow will have to reach the end of its rope before it can accept the need to rethink its course. The only real question that remains, then, is what price Russia and the world will have to pay for this epiphany. F O C U S A P R I L 2 0 0 7 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 31