In Lilia Shevtsova’s intriguing opinion piece in the Financial Times (28 December, 2016) she writes of an interesting element of Russian strategy to counter the West. It is called the fake charm offensive.
With a particular type of cunning charm by Moscow, she implicitly argues Moscow especially in the recent decades has “conned” much western capital and know-how from the West. All while Russia was pretending it would remain kind of like a bedazzled suitor but planning all the time to emerge powerful and on top again at the West’s expense.
These cunning Russians she further implies at times have taken us in the West to the cleaners and now we see the result of it, Putin empowered – by us. It is a nice fairytale or borrowing another analogy, maybe it is just a half full glass of what a sensible reader can conclude for themselves. And it ain’t vodka.
After all, if one extends this thinking, Russia entered major contracts from energy to trade with the West that helped to build up a huge portion of its financial reserves and prosperity which it used to modernize its military would so go a corollorary to Ms Shevtsova’s thinking?
The West got so bedazzled, in fact it gave Moscow, at least at one time, an inside seat to a degree in the western economic and other power structures. Just look at the G8 as one, though not the most significant example of letting terrible, but charming “Ivan” in for tea. They even got a seat at certain NATO tables to get a look at the big board, well some kind of board. Of course the West is returned back to a kind of “Cold War” future by expelling Moscow from the G8 and becoming the G7 after that charm was exposed to be false by little green men running around taking over European space such as Crimea and parts of Ukraine. The whys don’t count that one side of the romance first cheated.
This forced exit of Russia, by the way has reinforced making the G20 into a more relevant organization at the expense of the leading developed countries’ club of 7.
And further implied from Ms Shevtsova is that Russia learned so much earlier from working with the West so closely that the West has had a hard time even isolating Russia making it easier for Putin not to lose in this “battle for the world”.
The related thinking along these lines is that the cat remains among the pigeons permanently even if primarily psychologically. So it is poor little us in the West with a serious majority of economic and military power intact and ensuring Russia gets serious brunt effects of western sanctions. Poor us and what a bunch of losers we are to the maestro on the Moscow River But I am spoiling a good fairy tales which makes me mean to the brothers grim neo-cons who see potentially a Putin in every fox hole -well, computer, maybe.
But what if the West, itself started a new charm offensive towards Russia, instead for praising Russia’s great civilization through the ages (which is true), getting more westerners on cultural and language exchange with Russian universities. That would work only so far as Russia needs positive economic results with its western “dance” partner not only hot red lips and beautiful mascara in nice step. Sorry, I am getting confused as who is the lady and man in this duo but I digress.
And most importantly it would work better than charm if instead of sanctions from the West, it started developing a new Golden Economic Age with Moscow with a huge new investment master plan to get more western oil and resource support industries, retail and space and even soft core defence partnerships there.
Exxon has done its own charm offensive to this US based company’s great tangible benefit in the end. This new plan we could call it an “Exxon plus plus” like strategy at the commercial level. Maybe this is what Trump is thinking of but who knows.
In other words a plan with Moscow that gets us results than trying to characterize the West a so-called victim of a gold digger romancing us but then pickpocketing us and dumping us in the alley as some Anerican senators could equate to their own fairy tale narrative. It would be fit for a start with the opening chapter of “Once upon a time there was a big monster in Moscow called Vladimir. Now let me tell you children…”. Well you know how it goes but this one might not have the desired ending if the West is not careful. A real alternative story could end rather in a test of another Big Bang theory – nuclear winter.
Believe me, as someone who has lived in Moscow in recent years and compared life there to what a friend saw who visited the Soviet Union in the 1980s, our first capitalist charm offensive must have had a significantly positive impact in completely finishing off the first Cold War, especially in urban centres. (Maybe we outcharmed them about all the benefits full western capitalism would bring them.)
We would be therefore fools and poor economic and geopolitical strategists to start a new Cold War with a Russia that is still open for business with us. And a a country that could shut more fully down to inviting us into their parlour if we are not too careful to have honourable designs. Not to forget this is a potential fast growing market of about 130 million people.
Such a new investment and trade plan with proper arbitration mechanisms and safeguards would reshift Moscow West again which is more its normal overall natural inclination. That does not mean a number of important initiatives it has withChina, would be eliminated but so be it.
Shevtsova has emphasized the impact of the charm has been to Russia’s advantage and explains or implied why the West cannot fight Russia because Russia is now too integrated into the capital and commercial structures of the West, while the West is rudderless on what to do to counter big bad monster Putin.
That is way too much of a one sided perspective (of defeat) as large Western companies and chains have made a fortune in Russia while at the same time popularizing western culture.
That is and has been a good way to get people to have an affinity with you when they see the excellent convenient products that make their lives more comfortable (and stylish) being from the West. It is hard to believe the West is a losing idea completely when its innovation and technology are evermore used and in some cases heavily relied on.
Of course Russia had its own very useful technologies for us in rocketry and space which have not escaped NASA or even US military needs. And if we could use their brilliant Russian computer experts on the Internet on our side, the CIA would be able get anyone elected even in the Kremlin. (I am joking like Trump, sorry regarding the last point.)
In fact, western companies until more recent years have been too successful and need to take a more partnership approach in the second wave of large capital western investment in Russia.
But it takes two to tango. And the sanction card instead of being an albatross crashing back hopelessly on the West if used rawly like a mallet could be used as a big positive bargaining chip to get Moscow back on the “dance floor”.
It is also up to the US suitor to come prepared with his best dance steps so as to get back on the good side with a former partner. Russians do their research regarding their “adversaries” looking to be born again partners. They are great strategists as one can see from their remarkable skills at chess and essentially killing off the Nazi and Napokeon empires. Putin well reflects this heritage.
The Russians are hard nosed negotiators, also and have little tolerance for klutzes especially to the less informed and prepared who act arrogantly and brashly.
They will not even let these types into the dance house, maybe not even into their outhouses.
Wouldn’t it be nice, instead if both the West and Russia could return to more of mutual charm but with more effort on generating tangible mutual results of more jobs and prosperity than economic and geopolitical harm. That they would try to avoid one-up-person-ship over the other.
It would be just better that they appreciate the fact that no serious partner who can dance properly will be left by the other alone on the dance floor, high and dry irrespective of how charming they may or may not be.