...Implications of the "war of civilizations" for Russia's well-being are fundamental. For a country with 20 million to 25 million Muslims, an involvement in such a war would mean inviting fire to its own home. Russia's domestic intercultural ties are far from balanced. A growing influence of radical Islamist ideologies, rising immigration from Muslim ex-Soviet republics, and poorly conceived actions of some of Russia's local authorities in failing to build ties with Muslims create politically an explosive environment. Although the situation in Chechnya is much more stable today, Islamic radicals are succeeding in spreading violence and extremist ideology across the larger North Caucasus.
It is in this context that one should try to make sense of Russia's Eastern initiatives. They are not anti-Western and do not signal the Kremlin's return to the rhetoric of Eurasianist multipolarity and containment of the West. However, these initiatives do indicate appreciation that the "war of civilizations" between Western nations and Islam is intensifying, as well as understanding that Russia has no business participating in that war. Just as it was a tragic mistake to get involved in World War I in 1914, it would be a tragedy to have a fully hardened Western-Islamic front today and to see Russia joining it.
Russia's willingness to engage Iran and Hamas seeks to compensate for blunders of Western policies in the region, such as calls to boycott elections in Iran or clumsy attempts to pressure Palestinian voters, and to find a way out of a developing inter-civilizational confrontation. Implicitly, the new Kremlin initiatives also fully recognize that the threat of Islamic radicalism in Russia cannot be successfully confronted without reaching out to the Muslim world. Whether or not reports of Hamas' financial support for Chechen radicals are true, it is overdue for Russia to issue a clear statement that it has no plans to be a part of a new world war, but that it is willing to do everything in its power to negotiate the war's end....
Thursday, February 23, 2006
An interesting discussion by Andrei Tsyganov at Asia Times about Russia taking its piece of the "clash of civilizations" pie.