‘Democracy vs authoritarian’ narrative exploited by West to cover up geopolitical considerations over Ukraine crisis: Russian scholars
Published: Mar 31, 2022 02:07 PM
Unmasking the superpower: Where the Ukraine crisis started Cartoon: Xu Zihe/GT

Unmasking the superpower: Where the Ukraine crisis started Cartoon: Xu Zihe/GT

Editor's Note:
As the Ukraine conflict evolves, the US-led West has ratcheted up attacks on Russia from various domains, notably the ideology. It uses the "democracy vs autocracy" narrative to attack Russia. How should this narrative be viewed in the context of the Ukraine crisis? The Global Times (GT) interviewed two Russian experts - Timofei Bordachev (Bordachev), Moscow-based Valdai Club programme director, and Yury Tavrovsky (Tavrovsky), head of "Russian Dream-Chinese Dream" analytic center of the Izborsk Club - on this issue.

GT: The West is using "democracy" to attack Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia's political system. Some Western media claims that the Russia-Ukraine war may eventually prove how an authoritarian regime sows the seeds of its own demise. What's your take on this?
Bordachev: This is not surprising since the West is doing it always - the same has been said by London against Russia in the 19th century. We are well used to it. Though thinking about this question means admitting that there are good and bad political regimes, and I don't believe that this is the case. Any country has a political regime that suits its tradition and culture and thus any correlation between foreign policy action and internal organization of the society is groundless. 
Tavrovsky: A political system of "democracy with Russian specifics" has been built in Russia. We have almost recovered after injecting a lethal dose of the virus of "liberalism" in the 90s. The system of reliance on traditional conservative values that developed under Russian President Vladimir Putin reflects the views of the overwhelming majority of Russians as fully as possible, even if it is a silent majority. 
The results of the operation in Ukraine may lead to tectonic shifts in Russian economic and political life. We can expect the end of dependence on foreign capital and technology, the strengthening of national capital and industry, getting rid of the influence of oligarchs, pro-Western parties and the media. The Ukrainian operation will show both the strengths and weaknesses of Putin's system. He has the mandate to strengthen the former and eradicate the latter.

GT: In Western narrative, Russia is authoritarian while Ukraine is fighting for democracy. How do you comment on the West's "democracy vs authoritarian" narrative? Is it a means adopted by the West to dodge responsibility for the current Ukraine crisis?
Bordachev: I believe that it's a usual narrative that is exploited by the Western governments in order to 1) mobilize the society 2) comfort the people by supporting their own feeling of superiority 3) cover their political action as something done not because of geopolitical considerations, but "in the name of democracy". 
Tavrovsky: After 30 years of indoctrination, many Ukrainians believed in the hostility of the Russians and for eight years they have been waging war against those compatriots who still considered Russians as brothers and sisters. Russian soldiers' willingness to die in the name of saving their relatives by blood and faith, people who decided to remain Russian, is a democratic expression of will in the traditions of the Spartans. The proclamation of Russia, China and other independent countries as "autocratic" at the "Summit for Democracy" last December in Washington and in President Biden's last speech in Poland, shows the long-term targets of the Cold War.

GT: The West claims it is supporting Ukraine to fight for "democracy", but what will it bring to Ukraine?
Bordachev: The West has never been reluctant to support radical nationalism in Ukraine and all undemocratic actions of the Ukrainian government including heavy bombing of Donbass in 2014 - 2022. I think that it works for the Western audience because it helps to cultivate the racist feeling of Western superiority.  
Tavrovsky: The impotence of "democracy with American specifics" in its domestic political and global dimensions predetermines a sad future for its "offsprings." As payback for aggression and hatred of Russia, Ukraine is waiting for an economic crisis, military uprisings, the emergence of semi-independent Nazi enclaves in the West of the country, and the redistribution of the political landscape and remaining property.

GT: The West has been unreasonably fanning anti-Putin and anti-Russian flames in the name of democracy. Would you take it as a practice of tyranny? 
Bordachev: I see it purely from the geopolitical perspective since, for the Anglo-Saxon political tradition, it is typical to attack the geopolitical adversary on every front. The international order established by the US after the Cold War was authoritarian by nature, though for a couple of decades able to provide wealth for the others, including China and Russia. Now all carrots are gone and using only sticks, the US has nothing left to offer but threats, tyranny and repression framed as "sanctions". 
Tavrovsky: American democracy was created by people from different countries and carriers of different religious and political traditions. Together, a system with high efficiency was created. However, recently the foundations of this system have been self-destructing: the history of the nation has been reset, the abolition of a normal lifestyle, the destruction of family foundations, norms of morality and behavior are encouraged. The split of the nation on political principles is becoming a reality and talk of a civil war no longer seems like nonsense. 

GT: The US politicians use the word authoritarian to describe China and Russia. However, the word is increasingly used by US media and scholars to describe the US itself. What do you think of this trend?
Bordachev: The US political system is basically oligarchy and manipulation, but for a long time it was compensated by the relatively fair distribution of extra revenues. The fewer resources they have at their disposal, the more direct oppression they need to use in order to sustain the wealth of the super-rich. This is how the US and West, in general, become authoritarian. 
Tavrovsky: To characterize the current state of America, you can select different terms ending in "ism." The country is rapidly acquiring features of authoritarianism. Inside the country, this manifested itself in the BLM campaign, the seizure of the Capitol, the violence against Asians, and the bullying of Mexicans at the border. No wonder Trump's slogan "America First" was as delusional as Hitler's slogan "Germany above all!" 
Trump with his ideas, and after the defeat in the elections, is supported by about half of Americans and they will still have their say in the next election.