Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev. Photograph: Dmitry Astakhov/AP
Sunday, September 18, 2011
By Walid M. Sadi
It is no coincidence that Russia has been behind the curve on Libya and Syria, and before that on Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.
Russia is traditionally conservative in its foreign policy, particularly when it comes to its strategic allies in various regions of the world.
The policy on domestic and external fronts tends to be slow and restrained. In this sense, Russia has not changed over the years despite repeated changes of regime in the country.
There is consistency in the Russian mode of seeing things, despite the periodic changes of political and economic order in the country; the Russian strategic interests remain almost constant and static. So is its view of the world, and of its foes and friends. Historically, Russia went through repeated upheavals which, one would have though, would bring fresh perspectives on regional and international issues.
When it comes to the human rights dimension in any given conflict, Moscow tends to grant the issue secondary importance. That is why Moscow refrains from calling for more effective measures against those who commit grave human rights violations in different parts of the world, including Libya and Syria.
In other words, Moscow does not like to rock the boat and prefers slow, transitional measures to deal with crises.
Russia has repeatedly declared that it stands behind reforms in flashpoints in the Middle East, and not regime change.
This comes as a surprise, given the bloody history of ancient and modern Russia.
On July 16, 1918, the Bolsheviks killed in cold blood the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, their four daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia and their only son, Alexei. The communists wanted to change the ruling regime in the country rather than reform it.
The same thing happened when former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev’s communist political and economic order was violently overthrown in 1991, rather than reformed. Gorbachev wanted to reform the Soviet Union rather than destroy it by slowly introducing glasnost into the ruling system, with a view to making it more viable.
The former Russian leader’s efforts came too late and were not enough, thus triggering a revolt and a successful coup against the ruling regime.
Perhaps Russia’s experiences with revolutions were unhappy and that is why it shuns any call for such action to change established orders.
And that is why Moscow fears regime change in the Middle East, looking at it as destablising, despite the fact that itself went through regime changes throughout its history.
This commentary was published in The Jordan Times on 18/09/2011