Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Medvedev and Biden

Back in July, Joe Biden was excoriated by the media and others for a "gaffe." Richard Pipes and others have kept up the complaint. Let's see what Biden said.
Russia has to make some very difficult, calculated decisions. They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they're in a situation where the world is changing before them and they're clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable.
I've been maintaining that making an observation like this can bring the relationship back to something like reality.

Let's see what President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia had to say last week.
The country faced vast social challenges, he said, including corruption, a feeble civil society, terrorism, alcoholism, and smoking. Russia was also in the grip of a poverty-fuelled insurgency across its North Caucasus, he added.

"An ineffective economy, a semi-Soviet social sphere, a weak democracy, negative demographic trends and an unstable Caucasus. These are very big problems even for a state like Russia," Medvedev wrote in his official blog.
Tsk, tsk. Even more criticism than Vice-President Joe Biden of the United States provided.

It's encouraging that Medvedev didn't blame the United States. In fact, "resentment, arrogance, various complexes, mistrust and especially hostility should be excluded from relations between Russia and the leading democratic countries."

Of course, there is no simple causal relationship between the two men's statements. But it's important to bring the discussion around to reality wherever possible. Although Russia can be quite sensitive to what it perceives as criticisms, it must face up to the genuine problems it faces if it is to be the country it would like to be. The critics would have left or pushed things toward a more grandiose picture of Russia. This one is better.

Further comments from Forbes and Paul Goble.

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