Demarcation versus cooperation : pecularities of Western democracy promotion in Russia

Spranger, Hans-Joachim


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Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: HSFK-Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
Schriftenreihe: PRIF reports
Bandnummer: 61
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 2002
Publikationsdatum: 26.01.2008
SWD-Schlagwörter: Westliche Welt , Demokratie , Russland
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 89.90 (Außenpolitik, Internationale Politik), 89.35 (Demokratie), 71.41 (Sozialer Wandel), 15.74 (Russland)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

The failure of the West to bring democracy to Russia has become a daily lament. This lament has also grown to be the main justification for policies keeping Russia at a distance. Democratisation, as an aim of interference and conditionality, have been joined in way that can, at best, be characterised as tense, and at worst, appears to be counterproductive. The introduction of democratic systems and their promotion is a relatively new international endeavour. In Germany, it is only since the early nineties that these objectives have given rise to programmes and projects in official development assistance and in the support of transformation processes in Eastern Europe. Moreover, such experience is of little relevance to Russia, the “evil empire” that for seventy years fought off democracy with military strength. Thus the experimental nature of current practise might explain the mistakes that have been made. On the other hand, when considering foreign policy, which makes democratisation a condition of cooperation, this excuse cannot be made – Russia has been a leading European power for more than two hundred years. It is obvious, however, that such policy must adapt to the changed international rules that have emerged following the end of the Cold War, as characterised by the partial substitution of the logic of the Cold War by the logic of the concert of power. A coherent policy of democratic conditionality, which has the aim of democratising Russia and, therefore, of creating internal conditions that could be the basis of a lasting and stable cooperation, does not exist in the West. The example of Germany illustrates how values and interests, idealism and realism fail to complement one another, as is called for in the politics of Western democracy promotion. Rather, they get in each other’s way. German foreign policy towards Russia oscillates between arrogance and respect: Arrogance arising from their sense of cultural supremacy, fed by the potential for chaos within Russia as by either its domestic instability or its authoritarianism; and a less clearly defined respect for its still impressive political and military might. This indecisiveness results from the dual asymmetry created by German superiority, in terms of culture, and Russian superiority, in terms of military might, that has coloured the relationship between the two countries for more than two centuries. While Russia’s power base has been weakened to a point where it no longer dominates Germany’s foreign policy agenda, the message that is so being sent remains clear: If Russia wants to be accepted as serious partner, then it has to clean up its internal mess and complete the transformation process. It is sometimes openly stated that Russia should “civilise” itself. Compliance would not, however, automatically give access to those exclusive associations that are the political manifestations of the Western community and its values. Yet such access in itself, in particular membership of NATO, could be crucial, on a symbolic as well as practical level, in creating an international environment that would support the required internal democratisation process. The direct promotion of democracy, through technical assistance, is as half-hearted as democratic conditionality of foreign policy has proved questionable. That this is the case has been justified by the idea that the introduction of democracy and of a market economy must coincide, as one reinforces the other. Therefore, Western donors have II needed no excuses for concentrating their material and intellectual support in a field where direct economic gain can be expected – the promotion of market economy. These contributions increased the contradiction between democratic inclusion and economic exclusion, between formally demanded equality and growing material inequality. There is no doubt that economic and social welfare is a basic precondition of stable political systems. Therefore, cushioning the drastic consequences of the transformation process on such welfare should have been an essential component of democracy promotion in Russia. This did not happen. It turned out to be even more disastrous that in conditions of lacking democratic control and appropriate institutions the forced economic transformation lead to a redistribution of wealth such that new centres of power were formed, which were unfavourable both for democratic participation and for the development of the economy. Western advisers to the new Russian leadership bear considerable responsibility for this situation. In the ten years since the foundation of the Russian Federation, on 1st January 1992, direct democracy promotion, by the US, Germany, and the European Union, amounted to between 200 million and 1 billion US dollars, depending on the definition used. This entails classical objectives of democracy promotion such as the formation of democratic institutions, either through political advice or by organising and monitoring elections. An additional aim is to strengthen civil society, by promoting independent media, political parties and non-governmental organisations, and to strengthen the rule of law by consolidating and modernising the judiciary. These are the fields in which Western democratisers have been active in Russia. Apart from isolated external and internal evaluations, a comprehensive analysis of these activities has not yet been presented. As might be expected, the evaluations that have been undertaken have reached varied conclusions regarding the record of the last ten years: In terms of individual projects, the verdict is predominantly positive. This does not, however, indicate that the major objective of a consolidation of democracy in Russia has been advanced in any significant way. One explanation is that the funds available are insufficient to have more than a token effect. Also, it is commonly complained that efforts are met with a cool reception from the domestic audience. Besides which, some have fundamental doubts. Democracy promotion can be characterised by a direct intervention in established political systems that contrasts with classic technical assistance. Evidently, Russia has increasingly narrowed down the room of manoeuvre, so producing a variety of reactions in the West. In particular American democracy promotion is being advised to move towards supporting civil society, in order to win back ground from the new political elites. This, however, reinforces the attempt at replacing the legitimate aim of establishing widely accepted democratic procedures with the very problematic aim of trying to reach a certain political goal, defined by one’s own criteria. In any case, the question arises as to whether such an interventionist concept of democracy promotion is still appropriate in today’s Russia. It should, rather, be replaced by broader financial support for exchange programmes, including town twinnings and partnerships between organisations, and encouragement of mutual study visits.

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