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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora