How national is Russian interest?

Posted in Russia | 27-Dec-07 | Author: Maria Botchkova

A fresh look on the national interest structure suggests that in modern Russia the concept consists of two dimensions: of theoretical basis -- sovereign democracy and of the established practice -- the real sovereign political course.

National interest turned out to be rather popular subject for discussion in modern Russia, especially at the edge of the elections. Politicians, exerts, journalists, businessmen and other prominent leaders seem to use this notion as a trump card in order to defend their positions. Some economic experts persuade the public that membership in the World Trade Organization is the prior national interest for today’s Russia; liberal scientists argue that there is no other interest to pursuit, but the one dealt with the support of human rights and universal democratic principles.

The explanation of such an approach towards the crucial notion of the political science is quite simple. In post-soviet Russia there is still a misunderstanding as far as the notion of “national interest” is concerned. In English language the adjective «national» being a derivative of the word «nation» has double meaning. It is related to a state as well as to a large group of people of the same race and language.

On the contrary Russian dictionaries consider nation only as a group of people. It may be rooted back to the times when European states were bordered as a monoethnic nation states while Russian nation consisted of incredible number of ethnoses living peacefully in one state.

Hence appeared a tendency in Russia to omit one of the “national interest” meanings, especially the one related to the state. Such an approach was determined by historic development. In the USSR it was common to use the expression “state interest” emphasizing the role of state without any attention towards the individual necessities. During the time the USSR was collapsing it became rather popular to use the notion “national interest” that belonged from the one hand to the political vocabulary of the West Russia was shifting towards. On the other hand it was a matter of extremely importance to show the role of national self-determination at that period. Nevertheless as soon as the new independent states emerged, their state policy was still based on the national interest that could be easily mixed with the interest of one particular national or ethnic group.

In the modern world without any doubt there are numerous basic principles of the international law securing democratic freedoms and liberties of the individual. In case the national interest presupposes only guarding the interest of person it will be at once transformed to the social interest.

So far the “national interest” in Russia should be considered as a wide notion, having two dimensions. Eventually comes the cunning question: what should be done to find an equilibrium between state and public aspects of the national interest in modern Russia?

The answer could be found through a fresh look on the national interest structure-- on the theoretical basis and on the established practice. Theoretical basis is the set of ideas aimed at the support of united Russian people who form Russian nation in its entirety. In practice national interest consists in choosing the state policy of achieving and maintaining the independence and territorial integrity in Russia.

As a result it is essential to discuss the concept of “sovereign democracy” as theoretical basis and the real sovereign political course. Each decision of the legislative power and the actions taken by the executive powers should strengthen real sovereignty at a time when Russia is inspired to build a sovereign democracy. Sovereignty for modern Russia is the highly desirable target from both strategic and tactic points of view. It is the exact issue connected with the governmental independence and supremacy while enhancing freedom of people who the ultimate power belongs to.

The Real Sovereignty theory was elaborated by Andrey Kokoshin, an Academician of the Russian Academy of Science. According to the original description Real Sovereignty “is an ability of the state to conduct its housing, foreign and defence policy independently presupposing the ability to conclude treaties, to decide whether to enter into relations of strategic partnership or not etc”.

The independence of political course is based on three major elements: military force, territorial integrity and constitutional system stability. All these crucial elements are the foundations of security that should be viewed as the state dimension of national interest in Russia.

Progressive development of Russia formulated as “sovereign democracy” and is described by the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Vladislav Surkov as “the political way of life in society when the authorities, their institutions and their acts are elected, formed and directed only by the Russian nation throughout its diversity and integrity in order to provide material prosperity, freedom and justice for citizens, social groups and for people the nation consists of”. The ideal of freedom, fair and prosperity can be achieved in educated and cultured society. Moreover social unity within the multiethnic Russian nation makes democracy function successfully. Therefore the education should be nationally oriented to raise sincere patriotism and to form the united society consequently. This is the nation dimension of national interest in Russia.

Having two components Russian national interest should be regarded from the society and state points of view simultaneously, taking into consideration that its materialization influences international relations greatly.