Russia had better stop trying to play a world gendarme and concentrate on its own problems.

“I keep saying that Russia aspires to be a predictable, strong, and comfortable partner for its neighbors,” President Dmitry Medvedev said in his message to the Ukrainian opposite number Victor Yuschenko, just prior to advising official Kiev not to hold its collective breath waiting for the new Russian ambassador. As matters stand, however, Russia is definitely a weak, uncomfortable, and unpredictable partner with countless complexes, a partner whose ambitions outdistance its actual capacities.

“Enough is enough. That’s a blind alley. The crisis demands from us to make the decision concerning rearrangement of the structure of economy. Our economy can have no future otherwise,” Medvedev had told leaders of the Duma factions the day before. The president informed lawmakers that he wanted the law “On Defense” amended in connection with deployment of the Russian Armed Forces abroad. Medvedev attributed it to the last year war with Georgia. Once the amendments are adopted as they inevitably will, “repulsion or prevention of aggression against a foreign states” will warrant the use of the Russian Armed Forces beyond the territory of the Russian Federation itself. Wording such as this will enable Moscow to wage wars wherever, whenever, and with whoever it chooses.

Speaking of blind alleys, Medvedev meant economy even though his words might be readily applied to Russia’s foreign policy. Quarrels and deterioration of relations with practically all post-Soviet republics including Belarus, war with Georgia, permanent “Cold War” with Ukraine resulting in the decision not to send the ambassador to Kiev… As a matter of fact, the excuse invented for Ukraine is so lame that its non-selective application will leave Moscow without ambassadors in the United States and throughout West Europe. After all, these countries took “anti-Russian” positions in the war over South Ossetia too. Steady worsening of the relations with the formally closest ally (Belarus) and the fears Moscow breeds in practically all post-Soviet capitals – all of that are accomplishments of the Russian foreign policy.

With the war on Georgia fought and won, with South Ossetia and Abkhazia transformed into a military bridgehead in the Caucasus, the Kremlin is now resolved to legitimize the power to wage wars all over the world. At the same time, it makes a step to suspension of diplomatic relations with Ukraine, a country with some regions being viciously pro-Russian and one where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is stationed. With Georgia, it was peace enforcement. With Ukraine, Russia is trying to force friendship on it.

The problem is, Russia is really a blow-up of Ukraine trying to emulate the United States. Russia is not a world power. It is merely a large country lacking society, consolidated nation, adequate roads, hospitals, and schools. A country lacking the capacity to develop its own territory, the one left it by the late USSR. The United States has a powerful economy and superb infrastructure and it lacks separatism. Even so, not even America can be a world gendarme. As for Russia, it lacks both the moral justification (after everything the Soviet Union did in the 20th century) and objective ability to play the part a world gendarme… but Russia does not care. Its ambitions steadily increase even despite the economic inadequacy (blind alley) recognized by the president and despite its thoroughly negative image in the eyes if the international community.

All states mistaking the ability to generate fear in neighbors for strength inevitably disintegrate. The same lot might await Russia, a country that accumulates international commitments while remaining plainly unable to tackle domestic problems. The federal center’s control over the Caucasus is slipping. Demographic trends are such that the Far East will become Chinese soon enough even remaining nominally a part of Russia. Also importantly, no country can expect to have reliable allies when it constantly criticizes them and subjects them to economic sanctions.

Moscow should stop accusing everyone within reach of “wrong policies” and “anti-Russian positions”. Russia should master the art of perceiving and recognizing its own mistakes. Russia (both the authorities and society) should finally learn to put up with the idea that Ukraine, Belarus, and Georgia are sovereign states with as much rights to foreign policies of their own as Russia itself retains.

Last but not the least, Russia should stop bothering with what it regards as a correct world order and concentrate on itself. It must do away with corruption, develop domestic conditions that will facilitate realization of human potential, reestablish normal political life, and build a modern economy immune to fluctuation of prices in the global oil and gas markets.

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