Russia is weakened to the extreme. Its survival as a nation is in question. This was acknowledged by president Vladimir Putin himself.
Nowadays, in the Kremlin's corridors of power, especially after disaster with "Kursk" submarine, that demonstrated the degree of disintegration of Russian military, people are deeply concerned about potential dangers ahead of Russia. There is a broad consensus that international and internal threats are to be understood in advance and averted before it is too late.
While on a visit to India Putin strongly condemned terrorism and called upon international community to unite against the forces of destabilization and destruction. The roots of terrorism are visible and recognizable. Often it is led by such people as Ben Ladden from Afghanistan, Hattab from Jordan or leaders of separatist movements in Northern Spain, Northern Ireland, Corsica and other places. In Russia the main danger is not foreign but domestic factors.
One does not notice these threats while being in Moscow. The Russian capital looks more or less vibrant and relatively safe. In the city centre it ceased to be drab and gray. Modern Moscow seems to tell us: "Everything is under control; we are safe; live in modern buildings; do shopping in supermarkets, drive expensive cars and wear trendy clothes. There is nothing to worry about. Relax and be happy!"
Does that mental state reflects reality? Moscow, remember, is a state within a state. It is truer now than in the past.
In out previous Letter we turned to economic and social difficulties in Russia. The name of the third "bomb", which is the major cause of other misfortunes, is BAD GOVERNANCE. It leads to many ominous results. They should be considered in advance.
It is an axiom that BAD GOVERNANCE threatens the unity of federal states. USSR disintegrated, Yugoslavia collapsed. Nigeria, Spain, Italy, France, Shri Lanka, even China and Britain are under constant stress of separatism. Is separatism a wave of the future? Probably not, but the problem exists. Russian territory is huge; its population is almost 150 mln. It consists of more than 100 nationalities and 89 federal entities. It is a federation infected with hidden and open separatism though everybody verbally speaks out against it.
We should be very careful while appraising the phenomenon of separatism. It is a very strange creature. Its appearance leads to open hostility on local and international levels. It feeds civil wars, terrorism, gives birth to situations like in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo, etc.
Why do minorities often strive for partition not unity? Mostly because of BAD GOVERNANCE. Federal governments never acknowledge their faults. On the contrary, central authorities are inclined to blame regional politicians and try hard to get them under total control. Usually it is done in imperious way, without a desire to heal the true roots of separatism. It refers to Russia as well.
What makes minorities aspire for independence? A simple desire to have a better life. It is especially true for big and complex societies. Complacency and overconfidence of the Centre leads to separatism. To overcome the problem we need to establish good governance and high standards of life.
But there is another part of the story.
Judging from our conversations and discussions with Russian politicians, most of them are aware of a new concept emerging in the West. It says that in the XXI century this or that people will be increasingly unwilling to support their governments and in case of minorities to live within old borders, which were "arbitrary imposed on them by history".
The logic is clear - the world community does not have to support international law, which is "old-fashioned and unfair". If incompetent leaders exercise bad governance, goes the argument, they lose the right to uphold national sovereignty and to defend national borders. Such an approach condemns "unacceptable status quo", defends the right of "the international community" to promote the use of force, to redraw borders.
These ideas most conspicuously have been put into practice in Yugoslavia. It may be applied against any other country, which "goes astray", including Russia. Bad governance may be used as a pretext. If situation in Russia stays as it is today for a long time enough, some foreign strategists may proclaim "a crusade against Russian bad rulers", who, of course, will be blamed for "violation of basic tenets of civilized societies" or something similar.
Demonization of foreign leaders on the basis of double standards to the point when they become "criminals" is a clear threat to the World Order, be it old or new. Such a trend in theory and practice of international relations is a challenge not only to Russia, but also to China, India and many other countries. At the time of Vietnam War such set of ideas could be used to meddle into internal affairs of USA. It sounds theoretical only because America was and is too strong to be pushed around.
The Soviet Union in the past was also too mighty for such interference from outside. At the same time in 1960's and 70's Moscow used similar strategy and tactics the "Atlantic community" uses today. It supported wars of national liberation, revolution movements of every kind. Since then the world has changed drastically. But the game of bad governance in the context of "interference theory" is played all over again. It is a regrettable but true observation that political elites of strongest states often end up exercising mental profligacy, over-stringency and ignorance of history.
The aim, no matter how noble it is, cannot justify the means. Human rights must prevail all over the earth but it should be achieved by lawful, fair, political means. Bad governance must be dealt by people at home not from abroad. The main international institution that has a moral right and law on its side to deal with bad governance, plunder, poverty and injustice is the United Nations.
Russians start to understand that real reforms should promote not only freedom of political expression and freedom to earn money but equality of opportunities, social solidarity, support for poor and elderly, unrestricted access to modern health, education and employment, remedy to negative effects of globalization. Russia must keep its defenses at the reliable level. Without a strong army Russia is doomed. If in the near future these aims are not achieved, Russia at a certain crossing of History would be labeled as a country of Bad Governance with all negative consequences.
Putin and his team will have the fate of many previous Russian leaders if Russian citizens once again come to a conclusion that they were cheated. Russians have had enough promises from tsars and commissars. Now they demand concrete actions. The demise of the Soviet Union was a tragedy for most Soviet citizens, first of all for Russians. Now they insist on a different fate.
The future of Russia depends not only on symbolic gestures but also on GOOD GOVERNANCE, when not a few but an overwhelming majority of population gains, not lose, from reforms. The time of political circus riders in Russia has come to an end. After a long period of waiting Russian people clings to better future.
With best regards,
Anatoli and Alexey Gromyko