The West has found angel and demon in the Kremlin


MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev) - The December parliamentary elections in Russia have made predictable the outcome of the presidential election.

Since then it has also been possible to predict the Western reaction to the March 2 voting. (The West in this case refers to a group of 20 to 30 countries united by a common political platform; some countries, like Australia may actually be located in the East, but this does not matter).

Last week, journalists from major newspapers wrote articles that were published on March 3. They are unanimous in setting forth the main idea - now there are two leaders in Moscow - one is a good cop, and the other is a bad cop; one is on our side and the other is not; don't mess with the good cop, or else... Russia-West contacts, if not all international relations, will be squeezed into the rigid framework of this rather artificial formula. At any rate, the media are bound to follow it as a prayer, even if facts point to the contrary.

"The youthful lawyer has suggested he will ease some of the repressive measures used to roll back democracy under his predecessor, and seems likely to present a friendlier face to the West," the Associated Press wrote.

"Voters put Medvedev in presidency, but experts wonder what is down the road with Putin at his side," Chicago Tribune believes.

"Even if Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Putin get along, as they have promised, the very fact that there will be two centers of power could stoke conflicts in a Kremlin that under Mr. Putin has often been the scene of internecine feuding," the New York Times predicts.

But the most interesting opinion is expressed by the Wall Street Journal: "A key test will be the July Group of Eight meeting in Japan, an event that is traditionally attended by the Russian president. In an indication of the uncertainty around who will be in control, President Bush last week said who attends the summit for Russia will be an important indicator."

Analysts say if Mr. Medvedev comes alone, it will signal he is genuinely wielding the powers of the Russian presidency. But if Mr. Putin attends instead of him, "that says everything," said a senior U.S. diplomat. "That will be an event that we will watch closely."

The West can only view the situation in Russia and other countries as the fight between an angel and a demon. The events in the 1990s in Russia were portrayed as the struggle of democrats and reformers, on the one hand, and die-hard Communists on the other.

This is not the reaction of the media alone. This is also politics. Early on Monday it transpired that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had been deliberating for days over his call to Medvedev with a view to putting an end to the diplomatic row between Moscow and London. The idea is that it is possible to start from scratch with Medvedev.

This is the right attitude.

To sum up, the introduction to a textbook on Medvedology (a current version of Kremlinology) has been written, and all of us will have to study it for a long time.

Western political philosophy has it that success is never blamed. The BBC world service conducted a poll in 31 countries in November 2007-January 2008 to find out what people thought about Russia's influence on the world under Putin. It appeared that 45% of Americans are positive about Russia's influence on the world under Putin, and 36% are negative. Similar results were received in Britain.

One more feature of Western political philosophy is its stubborn reluctance to face reality. It cannot accept the fact that in many countries the American and European political systems are not likely to ever fit in. Americans are probably horrified by the unanimous voting for the obvious leader, be it in Russia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Singapore, or Egypt. But likewise, the majority of countries would consider tragic the competition of equals, like the one currently witnessed in America - say, Barrack Obama versus John McCain. U.S. society is not afraid of this situation, but in many countries it would be considered a disaster and would result in a military junta.

The conduct of international observers at the Russian elections deserves special mention. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) did not send anyone at all, while the Western representatives made a statement about the elections' undemocratic character. Most important, nobody took their opinion seriously. The time has passed when one group of countries posed as the only connoisseur of election standards.

And the last point. Public opinion formed in the West at the junction of policy and the media is typically collective and slow in response. Sometimes one gets the impression that it is blind to outside influence regardless of facts. Thus, Boris Yeltsin remained a "democrat opposing die-hard politicians" even after he shelled the Russian parliament in 1993.

To sum up, the foreign public may preserve its first impression of Medvedev for a long time almost regardless of what he says or does in the future.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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