Sunday, April 22, 2007

Analyze This!

The saddest part of the story that happened during the two “Other Russia” demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg is the realization that Russia has, is, and most likely will have an image problem in foreign press. The Economist has been comparing Russia’s OMON-style demonstration dispersement to Robert Mugabe’s efforts in Zimbabwe.

It is clearly no longer a case of misunderstanding on the part of the foreign press. One can blame the disdain for Russia’s external policies on the aspect of a “resurging empire” syndrome. However, such logic fails when Russian internal events are being hammered in influential newspapers.

Russia’s internal policies have not brought much positive adjustments to Russia’s image abroad. There is no real need felt in the Kremlin that the image should be improved; investments are flying at a high pace, key European leaders are listening in to Russia’s opinion on key global issues, so is the US. However, Russia is exploiting its current “buzz” status. It may exploit it to a point when the West develops a solid unifying position on Russia, and the Kremlin would be pushed in a corner; from there on history will continue to repeat itself.

Russia has a very clear duty of ensuring that its internal actions be monitored with a positive attitude in the foreign press. This must be done not for the sake of “reporting to a vassal”, but for the sake of promoting a “goodwill” image, the image that will serve Russia well in the future. Goodwill garners respect on the international arena; so do commodities and other “fixed” assets of a country some might say. True, but when these resources are used to resolve conflicting situations, they usually result in a “win-lose” scenario. Creating a “win-win” scenario in the press requires a country’s solid reputation based on its goodwill intentions.

It is perfectly fine for Russia’s MPs to complain and demand that the US not interfere into Russia’s internal affairs, by attempting to sponsor NGOs and support some sort of a liberal rag-tag opposition group. However, this will not mean that Russia’s efforts internally will not be analyzed and highly scrutinized externally. If not the US government, a publication in the Economist, or the New York Times does just as much damage. Damage to the flow of investments, damage to the multi-billion dollar corporations that are tied to Kremlin Inc, damage to the way millions of Russians are viewed when they visit foreign countries, damage to the effectiveness of Russia’s attempts to regain a prominent position in future global decision-making processes.

There is no getting away from the fact that before making the decision the Russian administration made on its actions against “Other Russia” it should have scrutinized how those actions will impact Russia’s future.

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