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Newsweek.

The 10 big myths of Russia

The 10 Big Myths of


Russia, Its Leader,
And Its New Power

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("Newsweek", )
(Denis MacShane), 07
2008

Denis MacShane
NEWSWEEK
Updated: 11:59 AM ET Sep 6, 2008

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Far from being a mystery and an enigma , ,
. to use Churchill's languagetoday's
,
Russia now stands revealed as a bully,

wrapped in nationalism and cloaked with
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its leader's arrogance. Prime Minister
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Vladimir Putin's adventure in Georgia has
' ', :
produced shock and awe at the sight of

tanks, planes and warships mobilized
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against a small neighbor. But Russia has

always been a great mythmakerfrom
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setting up Potemkin villages in the 18th

18-
century to fomenting great fear that

Sovietism would conquer the world after

1945 .
1945. Here are 10 of the biggest myths

about today's Russia:
.

MYTH 1. Putin is the big winner of the


incursion into Georgia. Yes, Putin has
shown who runs Russia, and Russian
President Dmitry Medvedev has been
sidelined. And yes, Putin won the
unanimous support of both houses of the
Russian Parliament for the invasion and
annexation of parts of Georgia. But he has
united Europe after the years of division
created by George W. Bush. In 2003, an
emergency European Council split down
the middle on Iraq. In 2008, European
leaders came in behind French President
Nicolas Sarkozy and the cautiously strong
line advocated from the early days of the
crisis by British Foreign Secretary David
Miliband. Putin could not even get the
support of his erstwhile ally, China, as
Beijing looked with horror at Russia's
endorsement of busting up frontiers
agreed upon by the United Nations.

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2003
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(Nicolas Sarkozy)
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(David Miliband).

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Newsweek. The 10 big myths of Russia

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MYTH 2. The cold war has re-emerged.
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After 1945, there was a worldwide
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confrontation between two ideological
systems. By contrast, the Georgian conflict ,

was a war without an ideological basis,
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and within a capitalist system. While

Georgia has opted to try to become a
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small branch subsidiary of transatlantic
capitalism, and South Ossetia has become
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a festering sore of corrupt mafia-military
;
capitalism, Russia has adopted a form of
nationalist, state-controlled capitalism that
,
suits the Putin generation of ex-KGB

functionaries.
.

MYTH 3. Russia has been humiliated


since 1989. In fact, no other former foe of
Western democracy has been so
welcomed. Russia has been brought into
the G7. The Council of Europe has opened
its doors to Russia even if the Duma
refuses to recognize the European Court
of Human Rights. Every European city has
welcomed Russians. Investment has
poured into Russia. Bush, Tony Blair and
Gerhard Schrder all gushed withpraise
for Putin when he became president in
2000. For years, Western leaders were
largely willing to overlook the deaths of
journalists under Putin or the war crimes
committed in Chechnya.

MYTH 4. The West refuses to deal with


Russia as an equal. Rather it is Russia
that cannot treat other European countries
as equals. Under Putin there have been
endless verbal, diplomatic, cyber or trade
disputes with its neighbors, demonstrating
that

N3. 1989
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, (Tony Blair)
(Gerhard Schroeder) -
2000 ,
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Newsweek. The 10 big myths of Russia

Russia, with an economy smaller than


Mexico or South Korea, has not learned
the key lesson of the European Union: that
all states, no matter how irritating, have to
be treated with respect. Russia refuses to
afford Poland or Georgia or Estonia the
equality it demands for itself.

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MYTH 5. The West has sought to encircle


Russia. Can a nation that stretches from
Europe to Japan and China be encircled?
Russia is the only nation allowed to station
antiballistic-missile rockets around its
capital city. Poland and the Baltic states
may not like Russia but are not going to
invade. Russian M.P.s sit on the NATO
Parliamentary Assembly and Russian
generals have observer status at NATO
headquarters in Brussels. Ukraine and
Georgia have a long way to go before they
can join NATO or the EU, but by what right
are sovereign states not allowed to decide
what organizations they can or cannot
join?

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MYTH 6. South Ossetia is the same as


Kosovo. The Kosovars sought the same
rights as other nations and peoples in the
former Yugoslavia. Despite Slobodan
Milosevic's Islamaphobe repression they
peacefully created a parallel civil society
that won freedom from Belgrade after Serb
genocidal brutality obliged NATO to
intervene in 1999. While Russia pushed
hard to get independence for Montenegro,
which now pullulates with Russian money
and oligarchs, Russia refused to support
the EU-backed Ahtisaari plan for the much
bigger population of Kosovo to join other
ex-Yugoslavian regions as an independent
state.

N6. - ,
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(Slobodan
Milosevic),
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1999 ,
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Newsweek. The 10 big myths of Russia

The idea that Russia would have stayed


its hand in Georgia if Kosovo's
independence had been further delayed is
not taken seriously by any observer in the
region.

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MYTH 7. The next U.S. president will be


kinder to Russia. The Republican
candidate, Sen. John McCain, has said
that when he looks into Putin's eyes he
sees three letters: "KGB." Democratic
candidate Barack Obama's running mate,
Sen. Joe Biden, is a close friend of Mikheil
Saakashvili and is a foreign-policy hawk.
Of the policy of appeasing Milosevic by
British foreign ministers in the 1990s, he
said that he could hear the "tap, tap, tap of
Chamberlain's umbrella at Munich."
Whether McCain or Obama sits in the
White House, U.S. policy on Russia will
not change.

N7.
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(John McCain) ,
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(Barack Obama) (Joe
Biden) -
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90-

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MYTH 8. Europe is divided. The surprising


outcome of the EU Council was its unity in
suspending talks with Russia on a new
partnership agreement. From the leftist
Libration to the right-wing Figaro, the
tone of editorials has been very firm and
hostile to Russian aggression. Italian
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, once the
darling of the American right, has emerged
as the unlikely champion of Putin, but
Berlusconi does not carry great weight in
EU affairs. Nor has it been the new EU
member states in the driving seat. Stable,
neutral Sweden and Finland have been
loud in expressing concern over Russian
aggression and Labour's Miliband has
emerged as the voice of EU unity in
standing up to Russia.

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Libration Figaro,
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MYTH 9. There is nothing Europe can do.


Oh, yes, there is. Already parliamentarians
on the Council of Europe have called for
Russian membership to be suspended.

N9.
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Newsweek. The 10 big myths of Russia

The Council of Europe and NATO's


Parliamentary Assembly are controlled by
M.P. delegates, not governments, and
there will be calls for Russian Duma
members to be suspended as long as the
Duma stands by its unanimous vote to
dismember Georgiaalso a member of
the Council of Europe and the NATO
Parliamentary Assembly. If Putin refuses
to withdraw troops and end the de facto
annexation of part of Georgia, Europe's G7
members could suspend Russia's
membership and put WTO membership on
hold. The EU should increase its presence
in Georgia. Building Turkey into the EU
and offering a start on membership
consultation to Ukraine can turn the Black
Sea into a democratic European sea.

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MYTH 10. Russia controls Europe's

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energy. True, up to a point. The cutting of
oil or gas supplies is a nuclear weapon not - ,

even Arab states have dared to use
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despite their hatred of Israel. Russia has
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sent panic waves through policymakers

about Europe's energy networks. Britain
has failed to provide for energy security by ;

building liquid-natural-gas storage
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facilities, but this is now happening at
Milford Haven. Germany is rethinking its
hostility to nuclear power as it considers its -.
dependency on Russian gas and oil, while
France provides 85 percent of its electricity ,

from nuclear power. Russia may have
been the spur to get increased EU unity on ,
85
foreign policy and on energy.
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Indeed, if Europe can stay calm and


united, much of the damage can be
undone.

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Newsweek. The 10 big myths of Russia

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Russia would like to split the EU from the
- ' ',
United States and separate EU member
states into competing nations. It has on its ,
side a gang of useful idiots, who are willing .
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to justify its policies out of dislike for the

United States. But this is a struggle over
Europe's future, and by understanding the , ,
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key facts of the situationand avoiding
being misled about who is to blame for it -
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European policymakers will have gone a
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long way in figuring out what to do next.

Putin is leading Russia into a dead end. If
Europe sees through his bluster, he will be ,
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revealed as a bully and a would-be
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emperor who is more naked than he
realizes.