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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Kremlin Must Stop Tightening Screws and Begin Dialogue Lest Russia Follow USSR into Oblivion, Tsipko Says


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 27 – “The greatest danger for present-day Russia,” Aleksandr Tsipko says, comes not from abroad but from within as a result of state policies that undermine democracy and thus destroy the basis for economic development in a globalized and interdependent world.

            Put another way, the senior Russian commentator says, “the most terrible threat for Russia and its future is the process of the withering away of the economy, the degradation of spiritual and political life, and together with this, the loss of the moral health of the nation” and “the loss of the nation’s instinct for self-preservation” (mk.ru/politics/2020/12/27/rossiya-okazalas-v-usloviyakh-osazhdennoy-kreposti-kak-vyzhit.html).

            Some in the Russian leadership today believe they can defend themselves and the country the way the Soviet leaders did, by making the country “a besieged fortress.” But in doing so, they forget that the Soviets failed and the country fell apart and also and even more important, that “the situation of ‘a besieged fortress’” is incompatible with today’s global civilization.”

            Tsipko says that he thinks that the Kremlin understands that there is a limit to how far it can go; but there are people in the Duma who now represent “a real threat of understanding the security of Russia” because “they do not see” that creating a situation in which almost anyone can be denounced as a foreign agent could bring down the entire system.

            If these politicians succeed in their plans, they will create a situation in which the economy will not survive and the political system and even the territorial integrity of the country will be at risk, the commentator says. Fortunately, what they are saying and doing has not yet affected the entire economy or society.

            But there is a risk that it will because those in power will always be ready to listen to those who urge repression as a means of retaining power. Those at the top understand this danger but there is the risk that “the powers do not see the extremely negative consequences of the current campaign for tightening the screws.”

            Many of the smartest people in Russia, more than a million of the most educated and qualified, have already departed for the West and more will, if current polls are to be believed. In this situation, they are not “the enemies of Russia.” Instead, Russia’s enemies are those who have provoked them into leaving by their war of hatred and against good sense.

            The conflicts that have always existed between those on top and everyone else are rapidly becoming a conflict between those who are capable of useful action and those who are not, with the loss of the latter inevitably leading to the collapse of the former, Tsipko suggests. Fortunately, there is a way out.

            The spiritual health of the Russian nation can avoid being destroyed as it was in Soviet times by active discussions and a return to the dialogue which began under Mikhail Gorbachev. This process must be carefully managed so that “a new perestroika” if it occurs “will not lead to the destruction of Russian statehood.”

            “Today, when it is still not too late, it is necessary to stop the tightening of the screws and the persecution of ‘foreign agents.’ Much depends on dialogue and cooperation of the current powers with that part of the intelligentsia which does not see its future apart from Russia, which does not want a revolution, and wants serious and business-like dialogue with the powers.”

            “I think,” the Moscow commentator concludes, “that the unity of the people and the powers must be achieved not by the persecution of dissidents but through a confidential and honest conversation about the fates of Russia today. I am not a romantic but I know for sure: without the language of truth, without respect for good sense, Russia will not be able to survive.”

Window on Eurasia — New Series