News

    Impact of Berlin Wall Collapse Still Rippling Through Russia

    Impact of Berlin Wall Collapse Still Rippling Through Russia
    Impact of Berlin Wall Collapse Still Rippling Through Russia
    <!-- IMAGE -->

    Since the collapse of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago, many former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe have distanced themselves from Russia with a series of military, political and economic reforms.  But Russia itself is still struggling to lead an effective military alliance, to modernize its resource-driven economy, and to liberalize its authoritarian political system. 

    The collapse of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 signaled not only the end of communism in Europe, but also of Moscow's control of the former Eastern Bloc.  Several nations in the region have since entered the European Union and traded their membership in the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact for NATO.  Independent Russian military analyst Alexander Konovalov says new NATO members sought protection against Moscow.

    Konovalov says the Soviet Union imposed its political will many times, and although they would never openly admit it, the main reason those countries joined NATO is historic fear of Russia and the Soviet Union as powers that could impose something they do not want.

    Russia has sought to organize a new defense alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which includes five other former Soviet republics.  But in moves widely seen as snubs against Moscow, Belarus boycotted an alliance summit in June and Uzbekistan has refused to sign a key agreement on a rapid reaction force.  Konovalov says Russia has also lost the initiative in another security group, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO.

    Konovalov says many countries are seeking to join the SCO and they are currently being granted observer status, but the organization is not successful because it was organized by Russia, but because China is a member.  He notes that SCO is an Asian, not Soviet organization.

    Konovalov says the collapse of the Berlin Wall exposed Russia to market forces and revealed that its Soviet-era command economy was not competitive.  Today, Russian leaders frequently talk about economic diversification, but the country continues to import the majority of its finished products and to export mostly oil, gas and other natural resources.  This makes Russia heavily dependent on global price fluctuations.  The RIA Novosti News Agency quotes Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin as saying the value of Russian exports would drop by $190 billion this year due to reduced worldwide demand.

    The President of Moscow's New Eurasia Foundation, Andrei Kortunov, says the abundance of natural resources in Russia means there is little incentive for economic reforms.  He says Russia also lacks another incentive that provided a big boost to former Soviet satellite countries.

    "They wanted to join the European Union, and that was the key factor that defined their economic transformation policies," said Kortunov. "Russia doesn't have such incentive.  Russia is not likely to join the European Union anytime soon.  Therefore, there is no supergoal that Russia might pursue."

    Kortunov says the Soviet-era social contract between ordinary Russians and the state continues by inertia.  That contract, he says, presumes many ordinary Russians still expect the state to be responsible for their well-being.

    "Under Mr. Putin, we had a restoration of the old social contract," he said. "On the one hand, the state provides citizens with growing real incomes, and at the same time, citizens - the population - are ready to provide their political loyalty to the state."

    This inertia, says Kortunov, prevents many Russians from seeing the connection between their economic interests and the liberty to pursue them on their own.

    Masha Lipman at the Moscow Carnegie Center agrees, but notes Russia has made considerable progress since the demise of the Soviet Union.

    "The freedom of travel, there is a freedom to engage in entrepreneurship - if we compare this to the USSR, where private property and drawing profits were a crime," said Lipman.  "This is a huge, huge difference, and for many people this opens new avenues to fulfill themselves.  Not without limitations, not without reservations, but still a huge difference."

    Lipman says some older Russians have nostalgia for the superpower status they enjoyed under the Soviet Union.  As for the young, she says they have difficulty imagining the constraints of life in the totalitarian Soviet police state.

    "It is indeed very hard to imagine, unless you lived in those days, how your very natural things were denied to you, like playing the music that you like, dress the way you like, enjoy yourself the way you like as a young person," she said.

    Lipman says Russia today is a country in search of an identity; an identity that collapsed along with the Berlin Wall.  She adds that many Russians have mixed feelings about that historic day, which Eastern Europeans used to revive their status as independent nations.  Russians, however, appear torn between their Soviet and Czarist past; between communism and capitalism, and also between authoritarian and democratic rule.  

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora