I went to a talk on US-Russia relations given by a MGIMO professor. Thinking of MGIMO as a top Russian institute preparing diplomats for the country’s foreign service, I expected to hear a well structured message at the very least. Instead the professor with rather poor command of English (!) told the audience number of funny things. I only wonder whether she really thought somebody would believe what she was saying or just perceived her talk as a burden and therefore didn’t care.
She said, there is no anti-Americanism in Russia, it is only “criticism” of the US policies in Iraq and elsewhere. I thought rewording Russian anti-Americanism into criticism did not really reflected the reality. President Putin has been very critical of the US, going as far as comparing it to the Third Reich and so has been the Russian media which is largely governed by the Kremlin. Anti-Americanism in Russia is a state-promoted propaganda and the modern cliches are strikingly similar to those used during soviet times. In regard to Iraq it is especially funny, because nobody cares about Iraq or Iraqi people in Russia. What Russia cares about is the US’s failure in Iraq, seeing it as Russia’s gain.
Another funny thing she said was that Russia needs to develop its regions and she expects the West, the US foremost to provide assistance to do that. This idea is always on Russian lips: “give us the money, but do not try to teach us all this stuff about democracy, because it’s all lie, we trust only in hard currency”.
The professor did not find last elections in Russia any different from the previous ones – “young people did not go to vote”, that is all she could say about the elections in which several presidential candidates were openly harassed by the state authorities and Putin’s handpicked successor Medvedev had practically no contenders.
She said a lot of not very meaningful words about Russia and the US having to cooperate and responsibilities and need to overcome disagreements, etc. She said, there would be no Russian military reaction to possible NATO’s enlargement into Ukraine and Georgia on Russian side (Putin said, however, that Russia strongly objected against it and could consider targeting military objects in Ukraine). At this point I felt she imagined herself to be on a “mission” that did not allow her to speak more openly, she apparently could not afford to say even as much as the president of Russia and numerous Russian experts have stated. Well, this is what I call a very strange perception of political expertise.