Oleg Kozlovsky’s English Weblog

Politics, Democracy and Human Rights in Russia

Is There Alternative to Engaging with Dictatorships?

with 5 comments

Wall Street Journal published a piece called Obama’s Foreign Policy Paradox describing numerous challenges and problems the new American administration faces in its new approach to foreign relations that is, engaging with instead of teaching authoritarian countries. Matthew Kaminski quotes my skeptical comment to the (unintended) outcome of this policy:

How does the new image of America look from abroad? Not always the way Mr. Obama presumably intended. Human-rights activist Oleg Kozlovsky runs Oborona (Defense) in Moscow. “The political culture in authoritarian countries, at least in Russia, is such that if Obama looks for compromise, they won’t answer with good will,” he says. “They see you as weak and push for more. They see it as a carte blanche to repress their own people.” This applies as well to Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. Perhaps not coincidentally, human rights are deteriorating most glaringly in countries currently deemed “strategic partners” of the U.S. such as China and Russia.

What do you think about Washington’s policy towards Russia? Is it going to work or fail? What should the West do with authoritarian countries?

Written by Oleg Kozlovsky

March 15, 2010 at 11:59

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

5 Responses

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  1. It’s hard to say that Obama even has a policy towards Russia. He clearly knows next to nothing about it, and his previous comment to you indicates he is not serious about standing up for democratic values. From all appearances, Obama’s policy is a complete failure since he has neither moved close enough to the Kremlin to get any benefits nor been confrontational enough to win any concessions.

    The West should stand up for its values and should encourage Russians like you to do likewise. This is the policy we followed in the Reagan years and we saw the USSR crumble as a result. It seems that now it’s necessary to repeat the process until the forces of authoritarianism are vanquished. A world free of such forces is, of course, very much in American interests.

    Oleg, what do you have to say about the recent confrontational statements of rocker Yuri Shevchuk?


    Is he a sign of growing confidence in the opposition?


    March 15, 2010 at 16:12

  2. The West should first and foremost mind its own business!

    And if you think the West cares about Human Rights, you might as well wake up and smell the coffee. For instance look at Kyrgyzstan, a lovely country where a group of clowns like you made a Western financed revolution, and brought into power a cutthroat worse than the cutthroat before him. ;-)

    The West only cares about projecting its power. And power is what the game is about, values come secondary.

    Leos Tomicek

    March 17, 2010 at 02:42

  3. Some thoughts:

    Engagement and “teaching” are not mutually exclusive; in fact one may be the means and the other the end.

    Secondly, while I have some serious issues with Obama’s foreign policy, it is hard to argue he continue to take the kind of disengaged or even confrontational stance (I’m not sure you are arguing for this, but some are) of his predecessors, simply because it was constructive for neither the United States nor countries like Russia. How does either party benefit from the deterioration of relations?

    Also, to be blunt, Obama’s primary responsibility, as U.S. President, is to the United States. He must prioritize the interests of our country (I’m American…). If that requires having a working relationship with Russia which is productive, well this is the nature of politics.

    And a reminder: real social reforms, dramatics increases in freedoms took place in Russia once Reagan switched his tactic from vilifying the USSR to seeking serious engagement, pursuing mutual understanding. Reagan didn’t see this as an endorsement of the Soviet system, but a necessity if the decision-making process in either country to be sane, sound and responsible.

    Personally, I think that not engaging with authoritarian countries usually confirms their paranoia, exacerbates their insecurities and makes them dig in their heels. It feeds whatever fear of the enemy that keeps them in power. It doesn’t really help much.


    March 18, 2010 at 19:47

  4. Despite being something of an introvert, Barack Obama has an exquisite history in human relations. He understands fully that friendly engagement, the pursuit of common goals, and the effort to find common ground pay big dividends in both personal and international relations, and in no way do any of those things indicate weakness or acquiescence. Though he is a champion of human rights and individual dignity and expression, and has acknowledged his disappointment with Russia’s creeping authoritarianism, he believes the world has tired of America’s bombastic preaching and pulpit pounding. Real change must come from within anyway. The United States did not become the land of the free and the home of the brave overnight, and the cost of freedom was quite high. The Russian people are talented, highly literate, extremely resilent, resourceful, and determined. I look forward to the renewed growth of Russia and a growing, solid and mutually beneficial friendship with the its proud people in the years to come.

    Sam Ogilvie

    March 20, 2010 at 03:44

  5. Thank you Oleg for your brave activities and actions. What’s about the U.S. – Russia relations, I find them too “pragmatic” in the way of compromising American strategic interests for very idealistic expectations about help with Afghanistan and Iran. In fact, Russian mighty are interested to mislead the U.S. as much as possible to draw them into one dirty adventure after another. See more insightfully U.S.-Russia cat-mouse games around Iraq and we can predict something similar around Iran. Hoping to engage Russia into “mutual agenda” such as “fight against international terrorism,” the White House only appeases Russian genocidal policies in the Caucasus and, in addition, risks to be lisled again about such issues as Iran and Venezuela.

    Nadezhda Banchik

    May 3, 2010 at 11:09

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