Jean Christophe Nothias: "Rusia no es un país democrático"
Is there an alternative policy to falling back on the authoritarian tradition in Russia?
Jean Christophe Nothias: Russia is an extremely violent and lively country, where a thousand opportunities flirt with a thousand dangers. It is not a democratic country, and it is difficult to develop even the idea of democracy there. The whole administration, not only Putin, was formed under the Soviet system and has no other standards to refer to. Nothing prevents the Russians from having a true democracy. But someone does not want an alternative. Someone who pits himself by force against the expression of new ideas. But who is also quite relaxed because, at the moment, he is not faced with a generation capable of challenging him and his approach. They all have more or less the same form.
In your opinion, the West has not done its job. What should the attitude of the EU be towards this managed democracy of Putin?
Jean Christophe Nothias: Paradoxically, the foremost alternative to Putin lies abroad: that means the West. For the moment the EU is lying down: instead of moving forward with the Russians, demanding practical improvements in their political mechanisms from them, the EU says nothing and tolerates as much as possible… We see things but refuse to draw conclusions from them, simply because political and economic stakes are high. The alternative to Putin is to take responsibility. If EU Heads of State do not have the courage to say anything to the Russians other than «We are in favour of a political solution» when talking about Chechnya, alternative politics will not emerge in Russia. Our silence feeds the fears of the Russians, who have lived through a century of terror and among whom self-censorship is extremely pronounced.
Is civil society prepared for change? To offer a true alternative?
Jean Christophe Nothias: Russian citizens today are predominantly poor; they are afraid; and if they have aspirations, they have learned over the years to keep quiet about them. I would not say that Russians are not cut out for democracy. That is the view of the Quai d’Orsay (Ministry of Affairs): it’s either Putin or chaos. I disagree. There may be hundreds of alternatives to Putin. But our position in the West means that whoever decided to fight it out on a democratic level would not feel supported.
The Soviet dissidents, like Solzhenitsin, were supported. In Russia, the Gulag is not talked about anymore; it’s over and done with. At the moment the fashionable thing is to celebrate Chekist Day (the Cheka being the Soviet secret police). That is Russia today. An alternative form of politics will only exist — for it will exist — with the advent of a new generation, with a new education, and once those who inherited Yeltsin’s regime have turned in their badges. But without the West taking a strong stance there is no point.
Jean Christophe Nothias es el fundador de la ONG Estudios Sin Fronteras. También ha sido responsable de las publicaciones francesas Le Jour, La Page y Europ Bazar.
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