In 1939, Winston Churchill said, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”
And yet, since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the demise of communism in 1991, we in the West have generally considered Russia a “normal” country – with elections, (relatively) free markets, a (relatively) free press, and rule of law. Russian Jews – once the litmus test for Russian accountability to Western norms – come and go, doing business in Moscow while living in Israel, Germany or New York. But Russia evolved from a different place to a different place. Without a merchant class, protected property rights, and the habit of law protecting the people from the government – not protecting government assets from the people – the idea of Russia creating a 21st century Western-style capitalist state in a matter of decades is as odd as imagining creating one in Iraq. Or Afghanistan.
This issue of inFOCUS will bring you Russia well grounded in its own roots, its own history and its own peculiar view of the world. Perhaps then Russian national interest may emerge.
Stephen Blank, Anders Åslund, and Christopher Caldwell put Russian politics, economics, and Vladimir Putin himself, into their historic context. Ilya Levkov brings us up to date on domestic divisions following anti-corruption demonstrations in the spring. Paul Joyal discusses the effectiveness of Russia’s cyber warfare capabilities. Nikolay Khozunov considers Russian interests in the Middle East; Ariel Cohen addresses NATO’s concerns. Shoshana Bryen reviews The Invention of Russia by Arkady Ostrovsky.
And don’t miss our interview with Brigadier General Kevin Ryan, USA (Ret.), former U.S. Defense Attaché in Moscow.
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