US unwilling, unable to comprehend situation in Ukraine, Russia - expert
Alexander Lukin: The former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, who had a sacred belief in the true value of "democracy," is considered to be the leading American expert on Russia. But most of his forecasts regarding Russia and the world proved to be wrong. For example, in 2012 while speaking at the Moscow Carnegie Center McFaul insisted that democratization and the destruction of the secular authoritarian regimes in the Arab countries would not lead to the victory of Islamists or chaos, as it happened in Algeria. That mistake is a consequence of not knowing the difference between Islam in the Arab countries and the moderate Islam in Southeast Asia, which was influenced by such tolerant religions as Buddhism and Hinduism. That is also a consequence of the desire to see what you want and not the reality, which is based on ideology.
Today, once again failing to understand the essence of what is going on, McFaul is calling for the isolation of the "improper" Russia in the framework of the ideological battle between "democracy" and "autocracy," for continuing the pressure on Russia on all fronts: in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. Such an approach has already led to the split of such countries as Moldova and Georgia, while right now Ukraine is falling apart in front of our eyes. Those countries could have stayed joint only if their leaders had taken into account the interests of the residents of the regions that lean towards Europe as well as of those who wanted to preserve the traditional ties with Russia. The unilateral bet on the pro-Western nationalists in the post-Soviet states has caused acute internal conflicts and the infringement upon the interests of the Russian speaking population, which could not leave Russia indifferent. When it came to the "brotherly" Ukraine and there appeared a threat of the NATO coming to the Crimea, which Russia has special feelings for, and the residents of which in their majority considered themselves to be Russian, Russia that has become stronger decided not to step back.
Possibly, Moscow’s sharp reaction took the West by surprise?
Alexander Lukin: Absolutely correct. At the end of March 2014 General Phillip Breedlove, the NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, stated with surprise that Russia "was acting much more like an adversary than a partner." But should one be surprised by that? After the Cold War ended the NATO block never changed its approach to Russia as an adversary. Thus, the change in the policy of Russia, which honestly tried to become a partner for the West and the NATO, was only a matter of time.
What can this change lead to?
Alexander Lukin: I would like to believe that the rational will win in the West and Russia’s concern with the rights of pro-Russian population in the former USSR republics will be taken seriously by the West. Today Russia is making reasonable proposals, which if accepted would lead to the resolution of the situation in Ukraine: setting up a coalition government to take into account the interests of the Eastern and Southern regions, federalization, neutrality, giving the official status to the Russian language and so forth. Unfortunately, Western ideologists are taking those proposals not as a way of resolving the problem, but as stalling by the "bad guys" of Ukraine’s movement towards progress. In the eyes of the West to accept Russia’s proposals is to admit that somebody besides it has the right to determine what social progress is, what is good and bad for other societies and states. That is why the West most likely will choose a different approach – to support pro-Western radicals all over the post-Soviet territory, which will cause new conflicts. In such circumstances Russia will have to seriously reorient its policy towards the South and the East. On the one hand, it can help in the strategic task of its development, the rise of its own Asian regions. On the other hand, it can bring it under the dependence of the strong Asian partners, primarily China. But Russia does not have a choice – the hostility and misunderstanding of the West do not leave any options.