Russia’s Choice: Putinism or Progress

Here are several things Western policymakers can do to help Russia reject the former and choose the latter.

Published on: September 1, 2014
Janusz Bugajski is senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington, DC, and author of 19 books on Europe, Russia, and Transatlantic relations.
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  • Jojo Jobxyzone

    You are ignoring the moral dimension. If the west wants to be involved in “aiding democratic initiatives and supporting sovereignty movements among numerous nationalities” then it should recognize that a majority of the population in eastern Ukraine REALLY wants to cede from Ukraine and join Russia. It should have allowed and supported a cession plebiscite resulting in a resolution similar to the peaceful split-up of Czechoslovakia.

    • wigwag

      The United States (and its NATO allies) were happy to bomb Serbia for weeks to facilitate the secession of Kosovo from Serbia but it has the audacity to become apoplectic when the Russians offer military support to those in Ukraine’s east who harbor secessionist aspirations that are virtually identical to those which were harbored by the Kosovars.

      Barack Obama’s hypocrisy is stunning, even by the relatively lax standards of U.S. Presidents. The White House recently appointed Charles Kupchan as its Senior Director for European Affairs. This is the same Charles Kupchan who, as a Professor at Georgetown University, was amongst the most prominent members of the foreign policy glitterati to favor independence for Kosovo. In the middle part of the last decade, he published two articles in “Foreign Affairs” explaining why independence for Kosovo was a must. Here’s one example,


      Now that Kupchan works for the White House, he’s hell bent on insuring that citizens in Ukraine’s east are denied the same right that he insisted be granted to the Kosovars.

      “Part of the message that the president will be sending is, we stand with you,” Charles Kupchan recently said referring to the Ukrainian Government. Of course he didn’t bother to explain why standing with the Serbian Government in the face of treason by the Muslim majority in the former Serbian Province was something that he ruled out.
      More on the cluelessness of Kupchan and his fellow imbeciles working in the American foreign policy establishment can be found here,


    • Loader2000

      My impression was that Eastern Ukraine wanted to stay separate from Russia as a country, but tied to Russia economically and politically. I’m sure the press in Russia are telling people what they want to hear (“Yeah, they really want to be Russian”) and the press in the West is telling us what we want to hear (“Only a minority of violent separatists want to be part of Russia”). After all, the press gets paid by the number of viewers, not for telling the truth. The reality is probably somewhere in between.

      • serge

        The population of Eastern Ukraine was marching under the russian flags. Is this not an indication of what they would like? Therefore, they are called pro-Russian. The Moscow’s official position wasn’t to take the Donbas in Russia (like Crimea), so that the rebels become to restrain their statements.

        • Loader2000

          Did ALL the population of Eastern Ukraine march under the Russian flag or just some of them. Also, do they want to be part of Russia, or just tied economically and culturally to Russia. Immigrants from Mexico that live in the US march under the Mexican flag all the time, but it doesn’t mean they want Arizona to be part of Mexico. The flag for them, represents pride in the culture they came from. These are very important questions that should be answered with certainty before something as dramatic as annexation. Also, if the East Ukrainians deserve to be part of Russia simply because they want to, does that mean the Chechen’s deserve their own country too simply because they want it? Should every minority ethnic group in Russia have the right to succeed, or is there a double standard, one in which Ukrainians follow and another one that Russia follows.

          • serge

            Novorossiya doesn’t have some only to its inherent identity. Of course, many people want to be in Russia from there (and after the bombing of their houses by the ukrainian troops and already the most of their I think). Mexicans in Arizona wasn’t bombed. Kosovo gained independence on the basis of the fact that the local population was under the threat of genocide. That is, the standard is established for this case. But Putin doesn’t need the Eastern Ukraine in Russia. Moscow insists on the plan of the federalization but not the separation. In Donetsk, Lugansk, protestants understood it. Chechnya is another question. There arose the Wahhabi sub-state that was going to create the Caucasian caliphate, despite the opinion of other caucasian nations of Russia. After the end of the 1st Chechen war there was concluded the peace and russian troops were withdrawn, but after it, the chechens attacked Dagestan and began to carry out terrorist attacks outside the Chechnya. The Chechnya then is the same as the IS in Iraq now.

          • Giuseppe

            There are double standards, of course, but Russia, unlike America, does not claim to be the policeman of the earth. It just protects its interests, although the way it does so may be disputable.
            Furthermore, you cannot make any reasonable comparison between Donbass and Russia on the one hand and Arizona and Mexico on the other. People from Donbass are natives, and many separatists are ethnic Ukrainians. In Slavyansk, for instance, ethnic Ukrainians make up the 70% of the population, but still they withstand a Ukrainian siege for three months (just as a comparison, please remember that Constantinople withstand only seven weeks before being conquered by the Ottoman Turks).
            If you wish to know how it may be possible, please study some history of Russia and the concept of Русский Мир (Russian World).

  • czarg

    Well Russia could join up with China…Supply nuclear weapons to Iran..Bring back the nuclear missiles in Cuba.
    And moreover the center of population and trade is shifting to the East. Russia does not need anything from the West.
    Russia does not need to do anything to Weaken US…It did it by itself by engaging in imperial overreach in Iraq and Afghanistan and making enemies out of billion Muslims.
    If you push Russia too far..remember Russians will have a lot less to lose than the west..the thousands of nuclear weapons are enough to destroy the world many times over.
    Just because they were not used up in the cold war does not guarantee them not being used now as Russia is weak conventionally. And nobody will win in that war.

    So best is to compromise,stop imposing values on others and live to die another day!

  • Pete

    The hidden message here is “Protect Poland” at all cost

    • serge

      Can someone reply to my question here: Why should Russia want to attack Poland?

      • Alexey Strelkov

        I am afraid not even Poland can answer that question. Russia and Poland went to war many times in the past, but every time there was a legitimate geopolitical reason for that – lands between them.
        Since Poland is not a major nation anymore, its weird belief that Russia is their enemy that dreams of invading Poland is nothing more than alarmist delusion, used by demagogues to gain popular support.

      • Pete

        Poles are a bit paranoid due to the invasion of 1940 and being smothered behind the Iron Curtain for 40-years.

        Today, Poland want to be linked to the West and the EU, not to Russia … and personally I can’t blame them for that.

  • Of course, if Putin and other neo-imperialists in Russia can effectively assign the negative consequences of their own actions (“a shrinking economy,… social unrest and compound ethnic, religious, and regional conflicts”) to the West’s response, it is ultimately pointless.

    While it is likely that a large number of ordinary Russians faced with a deteriorating country will grow tired of Putin’s “domestic dictatorship and imperial ambition,” there’s no guarantee they won’t be out-matched by those who imagine it to be a meddling West that’s most to blame.


  • vrichards

    More bullshit from american interest. The people of Russia chose progress in 1989. The so called “west” did not support post soviet russia in its path to progress, but instead tried to interfere in the countrys internal affairs and tried to influence Russian policy. This is very disrespectful and the Russians have realized it. Russians have lived through the collapse of the soviet union. How is the current situation worse than that?

    If the so called “west” was interested in Russias progress, how come investment dollars did not flow to Russia post soviet union, like it did to china?

    • Brian O’Brien

      If the so called “west” was interested in Russia’s progress, how come
      investment dollars did not flow to Russia post soviet union, like it did
      to china, you ask ? Well the answer to that is very simple, especially on a micro level. Ask any Western investor about how they got on with their Russian business or investment and they will tell you about lies, deceit, protection money, bureaucracy, looting of bank accounts and ultimate takeover by government or Mafia (usually one and the same) mobsters. That’s the reason. And don’t be fooled into thinking China is some friend of the Russian people. They are not and history teaches us that. People have long memories and will not easily forget Stalin’s pact with Hitler and his fascist Nazi genocidal policies that were imposed on the peoples of Eastern Europe. Interestingly, he was a homosexual – strange isn’t it that he is lauded throughout Russian political circles and he is all those things and more that the Kremlin is accusing the “Kiev Junta” of being…….

      • vrichards

        Thanks for your reply. I still think Russia should not be needlessly provoked. The whole mess in ukraine was avoidable.

        • serge

          no, it wasn’t

      • Giuseppe

        China may be no friend of Russia, but it is clearly on Russia’s side in this conflicts, for both economic (an isolated Russia would be more acquiescent towards its conditions) and geopolitical reasons: China, after all, is surrounded by many areas of potential conflicts, from the Senkaku Islands to the status of the Republic of China or Taiwan. The US have a stake in all of them (Obama, for instance, has recently pledged to protect Japan from any attack, also to the disputed Senkaku Island, and anyway does not desire to see a rebirth of the Sky Empire), and this, of course, pushes China towards Russia.

        Russia will likely become a vassal of China rather than its strategic partner, but:
        1) Peking will be greatly strengthened by an acquiescent Russia which supply it with low-cost raw materials and supports – or, at least, does not oppose – its initiatives in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia;
        2) Putin – or any Russian leader – may behave like the Prince Aleksandr Nevskij, who defeated the Teutonic Knights on the shores of the Lake Peipus while still remaining a loyal vassal of Genghis Khan.

        • serge

          You probably have too much interested the history of the Middle Ages ))

          • Giuseppe

            Please, speak clearer…

          • serge

            Why can’t it be a normal partnership, but only some vassal dependence?

          • Giuseppe

            It can be a normal partnership, but,
            if becomes an alliance, it will be a foedera
            iniqua for two reasons:

            1) Chinese culture does not contemplate
            alliances, but rather submissions, and Chinese people think that their culture
            is superior to all the other ones in the world (even the Westerners who, in the
            late 19-th century, pretended to rule China were despised as

            2) Any relation is characterized by
            a strong party and a weak party. And, in this case, the strong party is
            undoubtedly China:
            it did not experience sth like the fall of communism, and its influence over
            the rest of the world is greater. Chinese may admire Putin for his bravery (he
            is still fighting – and winning! – against a far stronger enemy), but the
            trillions of dollars of American treasuries held by China make the latter more
            impermeable to pressures, and this is a clear element of strength.

            This, nevertheless, does not mean
            that it will be a bad deal for Russia.
            It can make much money thanks to increased exportations and trade ties with the
            Empire of the Sky. And Russia
            will not be required to Sinicize itself, or to allow Ukraine
            to join the EU and NATO: China,
            after all, has no less problems than Russia with the West. All that Russia is required to do is to protect Chinese
            interests in its country, support the Chinese territorial integrity (including
            the Republic of China/Taiwan
            and the islands claimed by China),
            promote the study of Mandarin Chinese as a second language and refrain from
            joining alliances against China. Russia, furthermore, can still play its card between China and the West in order to keep fairly good relations with the latter (read Huntington).
            The great loser will rather be America,
            whose future loss of the status of first superpower (which is all but unlikely to happen in the next decades) will entail also great economic losses.

          • serge

            Everything is so. But Russia is currently the only country that can compete with the U.S.A. in strategic offensive weapons.

      • serge

        In China, the labor is cheaper in any way. In the 90s y. it was a mess. Now investments were going in, but the western propaganda and sanctions do their work.

        Of course, you don’t know about the Hitler-Pilsudski’s Pact, the divide of Chechoslovakia between Poland and Hitler, the Soviet-Polish war, the Curzon Line …..

  • vrichards

    DISBAND NATO NOW!!!!! No more trouble making military alliances anymore. The world will be a better place without NATO.

    Not disbanding NATO is one of the reasons we have crises in europe today.

  • Corlyss

    Russians are nostalgists; they’ll take Putin, thank you.

  • Giuseppe

    “Economic sanctions will be more effective if they impact on Russia’s citizens as well as on leading oligarchs and Putin cronies. Falling government revenues, a downturn in living standards, shortages of consumer goods, difficulties in travelling abroad, and rising unemployment can help fuel revolt against a regime that will become increasingly isolated and seen to be stumbling economically.”

    There is hardly any evidence that this will happen. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, for instance, endured similar pressions, but the Rais was re-elected with 100% of the votes some weeks before the US invasion. Cuba’s communist regime has been withstanding a 50-year long embargo. The same for North Korea. Iran? Maybe Rohani is not Ahmadinejad, but there have been few progresses on the nuclear issue. Such actions will only be a favour to Putin, which can still strengthen its power while the empoverished and embittered Russian turns against those who see as their aggressors (US and EU). This is a road to nowhere but poverty and human sufferences. And, maybe, war.

  • vbm

    The new world order will be built against Russia, at the expense of Russia and the ruins of Russia. This quote by Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Advisor to the U.S. President for national security. Well, thank you very much for politicians from the US and the EU because they are his undisguised already does aggression opened my eyes to the citizens of Russia. Russian citizens no longer believe in the ideals of the so-called liberal democracy, whose sole purpose is the destruction of Russia as a state and the transformation of the peoples of Russia in slaves multinational corporations with offices in new York, London and Berlin. And Putin personality cult has nothing to do with. Not in Russia of Putin personality cult and never was. Western liberal Democrats themselves create monsters that will destroy them. Someone will argue that the United States has not established the Islamic terrorists who invaded Iraq and part of Syria? But that’s it. The al Qaeda, which for so long struggles of Western liberal democracy created by the secret services of NATO to fight the USSR, and then used against Russia. In Ukraine, a military coup was carried out by the hands of the Ukrainian Nazis, which since 1956 so lovingly took care of the secret services of NATO. History will repeat itself, Ukrainian Nazis will attack their former masters… as in “free and democratic” West will understand that it is impossible to build a perfect world on blood, chaos, death, robbery and genocide of peoples?… The wheel of history turns. USA and their faithful satellites of NATO is waiting for the carnage of war and the stone age for surviving in it. Think about all of this until it was too late, there’s still time to change everything! You have succeeded, I hate and despise you, Americans, Europeans and their obedient . And Putin has nothing to do with.

  • Владимир Путин

    The gallows that bastard journalist … warmonger …

  • skope

    Лишь полный развал Запада даст Востоку стабильность…

    • Max Frolov

      Запад будет уничтожен. Россия все сметет на своем пути.

  • Siberian

    If the “West” will destroy Russia – that China will help Russia! Why? – Because if Russia will destroy it will be the turn destroy China and Chinese leaders know about it! But if it is! But first, Russia will try to destroy the United States and its allies!

  • Dmitry Belov

    Thank you for this article, now i see clear what “West” is it. It is a monster mashine that destroy every country which poses threat for you, so called international community!

  • Felix Keverich

    The idiot doesn’t even know what he is talking about. Russian GDP is growing and so is the industrial production. The same can’t be said for most of the EU…

    Advocating the use of NGOs to destabilise Russia from within – clearly the author lived under a rock for the last 10 years! Putin has got that flank covered.

  • Alexey Strelkov

    I read this article several times and could not find A SINGLE LINK to any hard data in it. I believe the author received higher education, ergo, he is aware that every argument has to be substantiated. But let’s be generous and help him:
    1) “The Western powers therefore have a direct security interest in minimizing future regional instabilities” – is it what said powers did in Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria?
    2) “GDP is contracting, industrial production is declining, capital outflow has reached alarming proportions, consumer demand is shrinking, and the country will soon enter a prolonged recession.”
    GDP is growing http://www.tradingeconomics.com/russia/gdp-growth-annual
    Industrial production is growing http://www.tradingeconomics.com/russia/industrial-production
    After a peak in I quarter capital outflow actually went down in II http://www.cbr.ru/statistics/print.aspx?file=credit_statistics/bal_of_payments_est_new.htm&pid=svs&sid=itm_45297 (Russian Central Bank, you can use Google Translate)
    And so on, and so forth. And while the situation with Russia’s economy is far from rosy, it is growing, not contracting like EU’s http://www.cnbc.com/id/101918825#.
    3) “Russia’s statist companies should be pushed out of Europe’s energy market” – in 2013 Russia exported more than 161 billion cubic meters of gas to EU http://www.gazpromexport.ru/en/statistics/ . It’s more than Qatar produces in a year. So unless the EU has one and a half Qatars stashed somewhere, Europe is pretty much stuck with Russia.
    4) ” elementary right to promote their indigenous languages, cultures, and identities.” – Russian Federation is called a federation for a reason. For example, every ethnic republic (yep, different ethnicities have their own republics inside the Federation) has its own official language and some have several (like Crimea – Ukrainian, Russian and Crimean Tatar. Note that before the annexation of Crimea it had only one – Ukrainian, despite Ukrainians being a minority there). Can you say the same for, let’s say, Baltic states? And Native American republics in the US? Some of those republics are bigger than, for example, France – Sakha Sireh equals more than 5 Frances.
    5) “campaigns for democracy and human rights in which both the U.S. and EU excel” – I can’t believe the author wrote this without laughing hysterically. We can see the result of those campaigns in regions mentioned in 1) and now we more proof of how successful they were http://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/02/world/meast/isis-american-journalist-sotloff/index.html So either US and EU completely fail at promoting human rights and democracy, or democracy and human rights were never the goal of these gampaigns (and, thus, EU and US do excel in them).

    I think this is enough. I also believe that my analysis was a waste of time – after reading passages like “Western influence throughout Europe’s east”, “regime replacement”, “Ukraine, guided by Western specialists,” “moving its military infrastructure into the “front line” states ” it becomes evident that everything in this article apart from that is just useless ideological chaff.

  • Alex Spiridonova

    Absolutely stupid and racist policies. See, Janusz Bugajski this does not hide that he wants to bloody war.He dangerous for the world!
    incredible dissimulation: “Let’s do everything to people of Russia live worse, hungry and happy, then blamed Putin, and cherry cake do Maidan and a new terror.
    The Russians, “of course”, want ыуу their country destroyed and looted by piece. Stupid politicians constantly represent Russia as if there is no one but Putin. And while Russia not be treated in a friendly and open (but showed friendly and open – is Russia politic in the last 20 years), Putin’s rating will grow – Russian tired of the fact that their are hated for no reason.
    And what will happen after “this policy” thinking?
    Who protects them from Islamic aggression, which constrains only by Russia?
    All this – the political games of aggressive American idiots politic, who do not do anything for their people inside country, who wants to be the main on the planet and who don’t stop at nothing any sacrifice – the destruction of Russia and Europe.

  • Guest

    My comment be deleted for try. American politic censored indeed.

  • Brett Champion

    Does Putin’s Russia cause problems for the world? Yes. Are those problems so great that they can’t simply be managed through normal diplomatic channels? No. Attempting to reorient Russian government policy away from the path Putin has it led down would only be justified if the answer to the latter question was “yes.”

    Russia is not a long-term problem for the world because Russia’s ability to make trouble isn’t built on a solid foundation; it’s based almost exclusively on high oil and gas prices. And with each passing year, the price for those commodities that Putin must get in order to be able to make trouble goes higher and higher because as governmental repression increases, he needs to be able to provide ever more consumption for the public. In other words, he needs to provide more bread and better circuses for the people to compensate for his beating down on their innate sense of dignity and self-worth.

    At this point, Russia’s only foreign policy tools are force and anti-Westernism. Other than to the Russophone population that lives on Russia’s borders, Russia has next to no soft power beyond its anti-Western rhetoric. Unfortunately for Russia, as the West’s relative power ebbs, the power of anti-Westernism in world politics ebbs along with it. That is to say that Russia’s one attractive quality, it’s self-proclaimed leadership of anti-Western sentiment in the world, is a withering asset.

    In other words, just like with communism, time is not on the side of Putinism. Eventually the Russian people will realize that they’ve traveled down a dead end street (just like they did with absolutism under the tsars and communist totalitarianism under the Bolsheviks) and they will attempt to return to the highways of progress and development. Hopefully, though, they get it right next time. But hopefully we get it right, too, and don’t push them away and treat them like vanquished foes, like we did in the 90s.

  • madday

    The most funny thing is that majority of you writing all of this pro Russian posts live comfortably in USA, enjoy all of the condition US provides you and would never move back to your beloved “Mother Russia”:-)

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