Democratist

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Revolution, democracy and the West.

Posted by democratist on July 28, 2011

28th July 2011,

Perhaps the strongest intellectual case made for the domestic benefits of democratic governance over authoritarianism was set out by the philosopher Karl Popper (1902-1994). Popper believed (see Popper by Bryan Magee, Fontana, 1973) that democracy was the best form of government because it allowed for the critical examination and correction of governments and their policies, and that it was therefore most able to correct previous policy mistakes, and more effectively address the social, political and economic problems a given society encounters than any other form of governance.

In order for this essential criticism to be assured, democracy must consist, not just of regular genuinely competitive elections, but critically also of the establishment and maintenance of “free institutions” (especially the rule of law), which enable the ruled to continue to criticize their rulers regardless of the government of the day.

Even in established democratic states, the threat from anti-democratic elements may remain considerable. Paradoxically therefore the free institutions which facilitate criticism must be protected from those who would use the very freedom they provide to destroy them. This is the responsibility of civil society, the media, an independent legal system, the police and security services. Many countries which formally claim to be democracies because they hold regular elections have weak institutions and therefore do not constitute democratic polities within the definition we are using here.

However, once institutional democracy has been established over a period of time, as noted by democratic peace theorists such as Michael Doyle, the democratization of formerly authoritarian states has proved beneficial for pre-existing democratic countries because democracies have very rarely (if ever) gone to war with one another. Entrenched internal democratization leads to increased international stability, and democratic countries therefore have an interest in the promotion of democratic governance.

Given the advantages outlined above, and the growing number of examples of relatively politically and economically successful democratic states over the past 70 years, as well as the current weakness of ideological alternatives, the democratic model has become an increasingly desirable one for many individuals and social movements in developing authoritarian states.

Recent examples of the trend towards democratization include the fall of communist regimes in 1989 and 1991, and revolutions in Serbia (2000), Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004), Lebanon (2005), Kyrgyzstan (2005), Moldova (2009), as well as the “great Arab Spring” of 2011.  However, it is important to remember that revolutions by themselves by no means signal an automatic shift to democratization without an entrenchment of free institutions over a lengthy period, and indeed very many of the cases cited above have been witness to subsequent setbacks.

From a historical sociological perspective Democratist would suggest that this process of revolution and democratization has been partly one of attraction towards an ideal manifested externally (the relative political and economic success of a growing “core” of democratic states), and partly of internal economic, technological and social developments, and the inevitable social tensions capitalist modernity provokes.

But since specifically internal political and economic developments play a critical role in the spread of democracy, it is foolish for western states to believe that it is possible to export democracy at the barrel of a gun (as the US has attempted in Afghanistan and Iraq), or that they can have any overall control of the democratization process in developing countries. Instead, the West should try to carefully balance the gradualist facilitation of democratic development (through diplomatic, trade, media and other initiatives) with necessary realist policies so that when revolutions (almost inevitably) occur in developing authoritarian states, they can retain at least some influence with the social movements and political parties constituting the new regime, and can press for the introduction and development of the critical democratic institutions.

Posted in Democratization, Historical Materialism, Historical Sociology of International Relations (HSIR), Historical Sociology of IR, Karl Popper, Liberalism, Revolutions, Revolutions in IR Theory, Western Foreign Policy | 5 Comments »

Whispers of change in Tiraspol.

Posted by democratist on May 31, 2011

May 31st 2011,

Rumours are circulating in Tirsapol, capital of the unrecognized breakaway Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) of a change in political leadership at the next Presidential elections, due in December.

The PMR has been run by former Communist appartchik, Igor Smirnov, since the conflict which led to its succession from the rest of Moldova in 1992, and, since that time, has developed an international reputation as a hotbed of smuggling, corruption and authoritarianism.

But while any meaningful attempt to address these problems is unlikely in a place where a handful of people own almost the entire economy, and there is no real history of free or fair elections, at least some superficial alteration among the current leadership may be in the offing.

The reason behind this trend is a newly heightened pressure from Russia, which retains 1200 peacekeepers in the PMR, and (so it is said) wants the intransigent Smirnov out of the way so they can move forward with a plan to bring the frozen Transnistria conflict closer to resolution.

This, in turn, is seen as a first step as part of a controversial broader proposed deal with the German government, contained in the “Meseberg Memorandum” (signed by Chancellor Merkel and President Medvedev last June) which could potentially give Russia an enhanced voice in the EU’s security decision-making bodies.

A possible liberalization of visa restrictions for Russians entering the Schengen zone may be an additional incentive.

Apart from the rumours, another, more concrete indication of Russian intentions is that formal internationally brokered negotiations on a settlement of the PMR’s status are expected to reconvene at a meeting in Moscow on 21st June, after a break of some five years.

But while the formal resumption of negotiations would certainly be a step in the right direction,  Smirnov’s ouster, if and when it comes, is likely to be a more significant indicator of Russian seriousness in relation to moving the process forward, and it will be interesting to see how things progress following the selection and announcement of Presidential candidates in September.

Democratist remains sceptical about the extent to which other EU members will be willing to accept any Russian influence over their foreign policies in the coming years. But we hope that some tentative peaceful move towards a resolution of the current stalemate, combined with a change at the top (even a stage-managed one) will nudge the long-suffering Transnistrian people (unemployment is 49%, and 80% in the villages) a little closer towards considering the possibility of eventually taking their destiny into their own hands.

Posted in European Union, Moldova, Russia and the EU, Russia Foreign Policy, Transnistria, Western Foreign Policy | Leave a Comment »

Ukraine may be turning back towards the EU, but integration remains a distant prospect.

Posted by democratist on May 18, 2011

18th May 2011,

Democratist has spent the past couple of days in Odessa, where he met a new contact who seems to know everyone worth knowing there, and certainly talks a good game.

Our new friend informs us that the next 18 months are about to witness a significant and decisive shift in Ukrainian foreign policy.

Apparently, the intensified wave of high-level corruption since Yanukovich came to power last year is essentially a final fight over the spoils as part of a prelude to a new period of Ukraine making a concerted effort to deepen its relationship with the EU. This in turn will lead to enhanced domestic reform, a clampdown on corruption, and an unequivocal return to the path of democratization.

In this regard, the PoR’s key aims over the coming months are the completion of an EU Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) by the end of he year, and the agreement of a much simplified visa regime for Ukrainian Citizens visiting the EU next summer (perhaps to coincide with Ukraine’s joint hosting of Euro 2012 with Poland in June/July). The PoR believes that the successful conclusion of these agreements would give it a considerable (and badly needed) boost in the October 2012 parliamentary elections.

This renewed concentration on EU integration comes after Ukraine ignored Russia’s invitation to join its Customs Union in late April, despite Putin’s promises that Ukraine would earn an additional $6.5 billion to $9 billion per annum from the deal. It has been rumoured for some time that the oligarchy that funds the PoR has come to see the Russian “virtual mafia state” as a key threat to its own independence (although this does not automatically make them keen Europeans, or mean that they will easily accept restrictions on their own activities). Additionally, according to almost everyone Democratist has spoken to, there is considerable popular sentiment throughout the country that Ukraine will be far better off as an independent state than it would be as a glorified southern province of Russia. More specifically, the pro-European policy is being driven to a considerable extent by the First Deputy Head of the presidential administration, the economist Irina Akimova.

From Democratist’s perspective, Ukraine’s timely completion of the Association Agreement and DCFTA would be most welcome, as it would prove beneficial to both the European and Ukrainian economies and set the stage for further integration. If these negotiations are indeed successfully completed by the end of the year then it certainly would make a great deal of sense to reward the government with a relaxation of the EU’s visa requirements next summer (provided all required criteria are met) with a view to scrapping visa requirements entirely for Ukrainians over the medium term. The current tight restrictions are very unpopular in Ukraine, with many people feeling that they are being treated more like potential criminals, than potential “Europeans”.

However, further progression towards full integration beyond that point is clearly going to take some time, and the current situation is not very promising. A critical indication of whether Yanukovich is really serious about Ukraine’s eventual European orientation will come during the conduct of the parliamentary elections next October: If domestic and international observers conclude that these are run in a free and fair manner (with none of the problems witnessed in the municipal polls last year), if the media and judicial situations show sharp improvements, if there is no abuse of “administrative resources”, if the rumours that the PoR is secretly funding the nationalist Svoboda Party in Western Ukraine suddenly cease, and if Tymoshenko does not discover that she is unable to contest the poll because she is in prison on politically-motivated charges, then even the more reluctant EU member-states will have to concede that Yanukovich is someone who means to transform Ukraine, and with whom they should do business.

Posted in EU Enlargment, European Union, Russia-Ukraine Relations, Ukraine, Ukrainian Corruption, Western Foreign Policy | 3 Comments »

The Great “Arab Spring” of 2011: Causes and Consequences.

Posted by democratist on March 28, 2011

28th March 2011,

As the “Arab Spring” rolls onwards through Libya, and towards Yemen and Syria, Democratist – like many others (not least a number of red-faced foreign policy professionals), has been looking to get some sort of an explanatory purchase on recent events in the middle East. Why there? And why now?

For Democratist,  the key factor lies in the interrelationship between globalization (Al Jazeera, Twitter, Facebook, Wikileaks and the rest), and a number of other historical-sociological factors that have been perhaps slightly less eagerly grasped upon by (especially the US) media.

These include the rupturing of corrupt political, economic and social systems dominated by authoritarian cliques (and supported by the West) for decades; tremendous social upheavals provoked by poverty, the evident injustice of crony capitalism (abject poverty cheek by jowl with decadent wealth), the rising expectations of the (literate and tech-savvy) young; and the delayed flowering of civil society.

Looking at the broader, global context, a superbly insightful, if so far largely ignored framework for understanding these events is to be found in Revolutions and World Politics: The Rise and Fall of the Sixth Great Power. (Palgrave, 1999) by the late Professor Fred Halliday of the LSE (1945-2010).

One of the main conclusions of this 300-page comparative study of revolutions and their international aspects is that over the last three centuries, the focus of revolutionary upheavals has been, not (as Marx had hoped) on the most developed states, but rather in the contrary direction; that revolutions have historically tended to occur in less developed countries, and during periods in which the “conflicts of modernity” were at their sharpest, with these states only subsequently settling down into democratic reformism.

In other words, the historical pattern has been one in which revolutions take place in societies that have embarked on, but are at a comparatively early stage of economic and political development: One of Halliday’s key insights is the idea that, in the contemporary world, revolutions express the pressures placed on traditional societies by international structural factors, in addition to the tensions that occur within societies in transition, and the drive for accelerated development.

All three elements have been present in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. They are also present to a very considerable degree in a large number other less developed countries – including Yemen, Syria and Iran, and throughout much of the former Soviet Union.

What the revolutions in the middle East represent therefore, are the increasingly inevitable consequences for states which refuse to meet their citizens expectations, after a certain level of development has been attained, in an increasingly integrated world.

While not linear, or liable to easy prediction, this trend has become all the more evident since 1989; in the collapse of the USSR itself, in Serbia (2000), Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004), Lebanon (2005), Kyrgyzstan (2005). Moldova (2009), and now with the great Arab Spring of 2011, whereby the democratic agenda has been firmly set for much of the rest of the developing world.

As Halliday notes;

“Revolutions are moments of transition which, once passed, may not need replication. Instead, they lay down an agenda for political and social change that through reform, struggles and democracy may take decades or centuries to be achieved. This is at once evident from the programmes on rights of the American and French revolutions, the radical egalitarianism and the international programme associated with each; the point is not whether America or France always, or ever, lived up to these ideas, any more than Russia was to do after 1917, but rather how ideas and aspirations that emerged from these revolutions retain their validity in subsequent epochs.”

2011 may then therefore eventually come to mark the decisive point at which among the populations of developing states, democractic reformism ceased to be seen as essentially a restrictedly “Western” phenomenon, and became recognized as a potentially universal one.

See also my pieces:

Russian Autocracy and the Future of the Arab Spring

Revolution, Democracy and the West.

The Arab Spring and Structural Power

The Egyptian revolution and the precariousness of autocracy.

Posted in Democratization, Domestic NGOs, Egyptian Revolution, Fred Halliday, Historical Materialism, Historical Sociology of International Relations (HSIR), Jasmine Revolution, Libyan Revolution, Moldova, Russian Corruption, Soviet Union, Ukraine, Western Foreign Policy, wikileaks | 12 Comments »

Wikileaks and the broader foreign policy context.

Posted by democratist on February 22, 2011

22nd February 2011,

Democratist has been thinking a bit more about the implications of last year’s various Wikileaks disclosures, and Western information integrity more broadly.

What Assange has helped create is basically a form of journalistic sourcing, albeit enabled by the internet and therefore on the grand scale. He himself comes across as eccentric, but this is far bigger than one man; the technology exists, and Wikileaks seems fairly uncontrollable under existing media laws in most democratic countries. 
 
Freedom of the press is a critical check on government and a sine qua non of an open society. But leaked documents can be used to betray human sources, or techniques which provide information that may be used by governments to bolster the cause of democracy and their national interests. Once the information is out, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle; journalists may edit it to remove names, but sophisticated hostile governments can (presumably) eventually hack into the journalists’ computers to discover the information they did not make publicly available.

Democratist believes that in reacting to Wikileaks (and similar future imitators), Western governments have to put the principle of freedom of the press above that of their own information integrity. It is the job of governments to safeguard their information, but if they are unable to do this they will have to live with the consequences. Once the information is released into the public domain, there are clearly legal limitations to the actions governments can take, and the imposition of additional restraints on the press are unlikely to serve the cause of liberty. It is better to concentrate on protecting those who may have been exposed, and the introduction of additional safety measures for the most sensitive information, rather than going off on legally questionable witch-hunts (although in clear-cut cases where it can be proved that existing laws have been broken, prosecutions should follow). 

Democratist does not consider the Wikileaks cables to have been a major cause of the recent uprisings in MENA (although they may have been a contributory factor), but the Wikileaks saga does appear to be symptomatic of a broader international technologically driven shift in power in terms of availability of information and organization away from the state towards the press and people. Democracies have less power in relation to their populations than autocrats, so autocrats have far more to lose from this trend (and probably have a higher proportion of disgruntled potential “leakers”); and since no one can afford to shut off the internet for too long if they wish to run a successful modern economy, their room for manoeuvre may be limited (they are unlikely to be able to block information as effectively, or for as long as they wish).

While much of the leaked information has so far come from the US, Democratist suspects there will be plenty more from countries that lack democratic legitimacy, and are therefore less stable, so the impact of future leaks will be much larger for these countries than the West. Ensuring and respecting freedom of the press at home will therefore also have positive foreign policy implications, because hostile autocracies will not be able to accuse the West of hypocrisy when the focus falls on them, and their attempts at media and internet crackdowns will further delegitimize them in the eyes of their people.

Posted in Autocracy and Innovation, Democratization, Egyptian Revolution, International Political Economy, Jasmine Revolution, Western Foreign Policy, wikileaks | 1 Comment »

Decision time for Moldova’s Constitutional Court.

Posted by democratist on February 8, 2011

8th February 2010,

An interesting day for those of us who concern ourselves with the (rather convoluted) domestic politics of Moldova;

Itar-Tass reports that the constitution court is due to hold a session to decide the time limits by which the president should be elected by parliamentary vote.

This was brought about through an appeal from the Moldovan Communist party (PCRM). They believe Moldovan Constitutional law requires a vote be held within two months of the resignation of the last holder of the post (in this case Mihai Ghimpu, who resigned on December 28, 2010).

But figures from the governing Alliance for European Integration (AIE) claim that this provision does not apply in the case of an interim President being in place, and that therefore there need not be any deadline in the situation as it exists at the moment, with the AEI’s Marian Lupu filling the interim role.

If the court decides that a vote does indeed need to take place within two months (i.e. by February 28th), it seems unlikely that the Communists will provide the two additional votes the AIE require to reach the sixty-one vote threshold. Instead of Lupu being officially appointed President, the most likely outcome is that he would continue in the interim role, and the country will return to the polls for the fourth time in three years, in early 2012.

However if they accept the AEI’s position, it looks as if Moldova might be able to muddle along under the current arrangement for the full length of a presidential term (i.e. until 2014).

Either way, Moldova looks likely to remain the object of ongoing geopolitical jockeying from both Russia and the EU. The Russians are currently touting cheap gas (possibly in return for basing rights), whereas the Europeans have offered a comprehensive trade deal as part of an Association Agreement.

Posted in Democratization, Elections, European Union, Moldova, Russian Foreign Policy, Western Foreign Policy | 1 Comment »

Tunisia: A New Opportunity for Democracy and Western Policy in the Maghreb.

Posted by democratist on January 18, 2011

18th January 2010,

Democratist has been taking a semi-break from the CIS for the last couple of days to watch the unfolding events in Tunisia, where the authoritarian President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali has been deposed. A national unity government has been installed and is to prepare the country for new elections, which must take place within two months, according to the constitution.

The current situation is unstable, and it remains to be seen when those elections will indeed take place, or the extent to which elements of the old regime within the new government will attempt to interfere with them (or indeed if the new government will hold). Nonetheless, with moderate Islamists and secular leftists in the ascendant, the possibility of the long-term emergence of a reasonably stable democratic country in the Maghreb appears on the horizon, in a region where the US and EU have been all too happy to follow a realist policy of propping up local autocrats for many decades.

This is a potentially historic opportunity that needs to be grabbed with both hands while the going is good: Whereas American neo-conservatives may have been disastrously mistaken in their belief that the 2003 invasion of Iraq would lead to the rapid emergence of a democratic exemplar for the rest of the Middle East to copy, the Tunisian “Jasmine” revolution presents mainstream Western foreign policy liberals with a potential opportunity to put policy on a surer footing, and encourage the US and EU to work with the well-educated, westernized and democratically minded Tunisian population towards a similar goal in relation to North Africa; and one that has a considerably greater chance of success.

In the coming months then, the emphasis needs to placed on diplomatic engagement with the new government, economic assistance and preliminary discussions in relation to free trade and FDI. With regard to the first of these, Democratist believes Tunisia presents an important new opportunity for international election observation to make a real difference in helping to ensure the legitimacy of any forthcoming vote, as well as providing feedback on the process for future improvements.

While tellingly Russia Today has been arguing that the revolution in Tunisia took place due to a lack of jobs and economic growth rather than political rights, Democratist is of the opinion that, just as was the case in Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004) and Moldova (2009) free and fair elections (and an associated end to corruption) have been at the heart of the protestors’ demands.

The West may well now have an opportunity to start to rebuild its reputation with the people of the Maghreb (and not just in Tunisia), but if it is to do so effectively, a commitment to free elections and human rights, and to hold any new government accountable in this regard, must play a central role.

Posted in Elections, Jasmine Revolution, Moldova, Orange Revolution, Revolutions, UK Foreign Policy, Western Foreign Policy | 1 Comment »

BP and Rosneft: Beware Russians bearing gifts.

Posted by democratist on January 15, 2011

15th January 2010,

On New Year’s Eve Democratist wrote that it would be very interesting to see how many foreigners were willing to put their cash into Russia in 2011.

We have just received at least one early affirmative answer, from BP, who have signed a joint venture with the energy firm Rosneft to exploit oil and gas deposits in Russia’s Arctic shelf. The firms are to exchange expertise in exploring the region, and Rosneft will take 5% of BP’s shares in exchange for 9.5% of their own.

The deal is unlikely to actually produce any oil or gas for at least three years, but there are already a couple of potential implications that deserve a preliminary mention;

The first is that the deal again underscores the centrality of raw materials to Russia’s development strategy over the coming decades. While Medvedev talks up liberalization and democracy, it is Putin’s ex-KGB chums in the nomenklatura who control the energy companies and the money they produce. As long as the resource rents keep coming in, and BP provides its know-how to ensure the oil flows freely, the pressure for political or economic reform will remain limited. Depending on price levels, Russia can muddle along with the current mixture of autocracy, corruption and a crumbling Soviet-era industrial sector for many years.

The second is the threat that increased involvement with the Russians poses for the UK over the medium term. As our business relationship with companies such as Rosneft deepens, so Russian political influence through multinationals such as BP will increase. Most of the oligarchs are awash with cash, and have already proved themselves effective as lobbyists. Recent spy scandals also highlight the Russians’ interest in political decision-making in the UK and a desire to influence these processes. While companies like BP are free to do deals with Russia and other petro-states, the vigilance of the serious press, civil society, judiciary and others will be become more important to safeguard our political system and (for example) ensure the rule of law continues to be applied in an independent manner, or prevent the watering-down of UK foreign policy in the CIS.

Democratist supports the promotion of political freedom in the FSU. We know that (for the time being) the deck is stacked against us, but we do not share the views of those  in this country who would be all too willing to voluntarily put on the golden handcuffs of the Russian state for short-term gain: Corruption, initially during the Soviet period, but more significantly since 1991, has been a disaster for the Russian people, and the City of London (among others) has been implicated in its facilitation. However the UK has also become home to more than 300,000 Russian citizens over the last 20 years, many of whom are by no means mega-wealthy, and who have been attracted to our country in part as a refuge from lawlessness at home (“voting with their feet,” as Lenin might have put it). Over the coming years, a deepening business relationship with Russia in the raw-materials sector will mean it becomes ever more important for the UK to protect and retain the freedoms that have made our country so attractive to outsiders, and prevent the import of corrosive business. political and legal practices along with the financial interests British companies have acquired in Russia.

Posted in Energy Politics, Russian Economy, UK Foreign Policy, Western Foreign Policy | 2 Comments »

Needed: An alternative to the “Anna Chapman show.”

Posted by democratist on January 13, 2011

13th January 2011,

Tomorrow will mark an interesting, although generally overlooked anniversary; it has been two years since the BBC’s Farsi-language television news service took to the airwaves, on 14th January 2009.

The channel is run by the BBC World Service from London. It broadcasts for eight hours a day, seven days per week, and is aimed at the 100 million Farsi speakers in Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It costs about £15 million per year to run, which is paid for by the FCO, but the BBC retains editorial independence.

It is illegal to watch in Iran, so there are no official viewing figures, but when it was set up the BBC said it hoped that the television service would reach the same number of people as listened to its radio broadcasts per week (10 million) within three years. The service proved a useful source of information and news for demonstrators in Iran following the rigged elections there in 2009 (so much so that the authorities unsuccessfully attempted to jam it), and US President Barak Obama gave it a lengthy interview in September 2010, again suggesting that the US government considers the channel an effective tool for direct communication with the Iranian people.

The evident success, cheap running costs, and inability of hostile governments to interfere with the service suggest both a strong case for continuation of the channel, and (from Democratist’s own perspective) for creation of a new similar Russian-language TV service for broadcasts to the former Soviet space.

The last twelve months have been witness to a number of significant setbacks for democratic development and the rule of law in the CIS (not least in Ukraine and Belarus - right on the EU’s doorstep). Russia itself has undergone some mild liberalization of the print media over the past few years, but TV channels continue to function as conduits of state propaganda (for example, ex-spook and aspirant regime politician Anna Chapman is about to start hosting her own show on REN-TV).

The BBC’s Russian radio service does a good job, but recent history (e.g. the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine in 2004) suggests it is television which has the critical impact, especially during a crisis. Since many people possess satellite dishes in the region, and the BBC already has a good reputation theere, it seems that a significant audience already exists for such a channel, given the opportunity.

Compared with other forms of foreign aid, the creation of such a service would be very cheap, and provide reliable news in the face of state censorship to a region where democratic development is by no means assured.

Posted in Russia Propaganda, Western Foreign Policy | 6 Comments »

Russia: Counter Espionage as Foreign Policy

Posted by democratist on December 29, 2010

December 29th 2010,

Some of our readers may remember that back in September Democratist suggested the strong likelihood that Russia would need to place an increasing emphasis on military and industrial espionage over the coming years in order to compensate for a lack of domestic innovation and FDI.

We argued that such a trend is more or less inevitable, given the country’s extraordinary corruption, very little foreign investment, and historical precedence.

Democratist readers may not therefore be too surprised to hear that, in an Itar-Tass article published on 28th December, SVR Chief Mikhail Fradkov is reported as having stated,

“In the foreseeable future, the SVR’s workload will not be diminishing…the SVR provides active assistance to the task to modernize our country…the intelligence service is making a palpable contribution to the development of the national science, technological and defence potential.”

Evidently Fradkov is doing his best to pander to the expectations of both Putin and Medvedev (who is, despite his “liberal” image a keen advocate and supporter of Vorsprung durch Spionage).

Since the US-Russia spy exchange in July, Democratist has become more sceptical about the SVR’s abilities. It appears a mere shadow of the KGB’s “First Directorate” (Первое Главное Управление), has evidently been penetrated by the CIA several times in recent years, suffers from seriously lax personnel security (stemming from corruption), and is likely to face similar problems in the future.

Nonetheless, we feel that the West should do everything in its power to exploit Russia’s evident weakness in the sphere of innovation; while the opportunities to reverse-engineer Western military gadgets may be limited given Russia’s industrial backwardness, the more apparent national military-industrial weakness becomes to the nomenklatura over the next decade, the more likely we are to see calls for genuine political and economic reform (as opposed to the current sham). Additionally, a militarily weak Russia is preferable for the West, given the potential for the current regime to take on a more nationalistic and revanchist hue.

In this regard counter-espionage in relation to Russia needs to be seen not just as a function of Western national security, but also of foreign policy, and deserves a commensurate increase in attention and resources.

Posted in Russian Espionage, Russian Liberalization, Western Foreign Policy | 3 Comments »

 
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