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The promise of Russia’s urban middle class
The Washington Post ^ | March 10, 2012 | Condoleezza Rice

Posted on 03/10/2012 3:02:15 AM PST by cunning_fish

Much depends on who capitalizes on the thirst for change. As daily protests wane, the hard work of political organizing must begin. In this regard, the liberal, or “right,” forces (as they are known) need to address the Russian people’s concrete economic and social concerns. Too often movements have rallied around a strong personality with minimal connection to the population’s aspirations. This time the liberals have a ready-made constituency in the rising middle class and its youthful vanguard. They cannot waste this opportunity. Otherwise, the standard-bearers of change could be radical nationalists, even warmed-over communists who might well tap into the growing dissatisfaction but replace it with xenophobia and, ultimately, a rejection of democratic principles.

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TOPICS: Government; Politics; Religion; Weird Stuff
KEYWORDS: democracy; freedom; freerepublic; islam; liberty; neocons; obama; russia
Do we have any influence in the outcome? Some, though not much. Certainly, we should speak even louder for respect for human rights and the rule of law. Undoubtedly, lower oil prices would rob the Kremlin of the easy money that fuels corruption, personal fortunes and authoritarianism. This is yet another compelling argument for developing North America’s significant sources of energy.

A Russia that fully develops its human capital, not just its resources in the ground, has the potential to make a real contribution to a more prosperous world. Medvedev once told me, “Russia has more excellent software engineers and mathematicians than any place in the world.” I held my tongue and didn’t answer, “Yes, but they are working in Palo Alto and Tel Aviv.” If they find work in Moscow and commit to its future, these Russians can make a difference. We can cultivate ties in the public and private sectors with these people. Diversification of the economy can also be assisted by Russian accession to the World Trade Organization, which should be supported.

For centuries Russia’s great-power status has largely rested on military might, natural resources, intimidation of its neighbors and suspicion of the outside world. U.S. foreign policy — “reset” or not — has not changed that reality because its foundation has been the character of Russia’s internal politics. How refreshing it would be if the Kremlin’s power were based on the creativity of its people — a not-so-farfetched idea for a nation that has produced extraordinary achievements in the arts and basic sciences throughout its troubled history.

A new generation of Russians has loudly voiced its insistence on respect from those who would govern — perhaps even demanding that they consent to be governed. We have a stake in their success and an obligation to help them achieve it.

1 posted on 03/10/2012 3:02:19 AM PST by cunning_fish
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To: cunning_fish

In the past few years, on our trips out west, my wife and I have discovered something missing from our earlier trips..Russian tourists. If the Russian middle class has enough rubles to visit foreign countries, that has to be a positive thing. When they return to Russia, they can tell their friends and neighbors about what’s going on in other countries. I cannot believe that the average Russian wants to return to the awful days of communism and no money. Obviously, many average Russians believe Putin is the man who can continue their economic progress. But will it be at the expense of the rest of their freedoms is the big question.

2 posted on 03/10/2012 6:26:53 AM PST by driftless2
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To: driftless2

Surprisingly many would — communism assured jobs and food. you didn’t have to think, just follow orders. No need to even work hard...

3 posted on 03/10/2012 8:47:50 AM PST by Cronos (Party like it's 12 20, 2012)
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To: Cronos

We’ll have a clearer answer in twenty years when many of the older Russians who existed and “prospered” under communism and regretted its demise will be gone. Will the middle-aged Russians of twenty years hence together with the now-preteen Russians, both who came of age after the fall of communism, still want the corrupt, strongman/Putin type leaders, or will they opt for the western Europe-type ones? I’ve a feeling the strongman type model will not be as popular in the future as more and more young Russians tour the world and see more open systems closer up. We’ll find out.

4 posted on 03/10/2012 10:00:35 AM PST by driftless2
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To: AdmSmith; AnonymousConservative; Berosus; bigheadfred; Bockscar; ColdOne; Convert from ECUSA; ...

Yeah, right.

thanks cunning_fish. Have a great weekend, all.

5 posted on 03/10/2012 12:18:20 PM PST by SunkenCiv (I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him)
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