Pyramid Country in the View of Global Stability

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In recent weeks, a variety of comparisons have been made between the unrest in Egypt and the political situation in Russia. During a January 31 rally in Moscow, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov declared that Hosni Mubarak was really no different than Vladimir Putin: “Please, someone tell me how our leadership differs from his.” TIME magazine did a piece proposing that, despite the fact that the two countries share many of the same social ills, Russia is unlikely to follow suit with its own massive uprising.

According to United Civil Front leader and Solidarity co-leader Garry Kasparov, there is a set of more subtle factors underlying all of the obvious parallels and differences between the situations in Egypt and Russia that make consideration of Egypt’s uprising important to understanding Russia’s reality.

Pyramid Country in the View of Global Stability
By Garry Kasparov
February 2, 2011

Egypt has implemented a pure, contemporary form of “soft” dictatorship – oriented towards the West, where the ruling elite does not use mass repressions as its main instrument. It was therefore necessary for the government to eliminate any visible democratic alternatives, making it so that forces the West would consider to be absolutely unacceptable presented a real threat to the stable, established regime. It’s no surprise that the Muslim Brotherhood always remained the one organization that preserved its influence despite an official ban on its activities.

As a result, the problem of Egypt’s Islamization became a key topic in commentators’ remarks all over the world from the very beginning of the unrest, which has already grown into a nationwide insurrection. In the United States, we see a rare case in which, despite serious opposition in domestic politics and disputes over the new START treaty, the Republicans did not harshly criticize the White House position, which was to do everything possible so that Mubarak stayed power – at least for a little while – to implement a controlled transition. Interestingly, nearly everyone in our country – independent of ideological bias – is predicting Egypt’s inevitable Islamization and an eventual domino effect that will lead to the transition of the entire Arab world to Islamist influence.

For now, we’ll put aside Libya, Iran, North Korea, and Belarus – these dictatorships were created differently. But for dictatorships and monarchies in the Arab world and African countries, the presence of any al-Qaeda cells on their territory allows them to write off all lawlessness, corruption and repression as part of the war on terrorism. It’s obvious enough that the Muslim Brotherhood is not playing any kind of leading role, at least for now, in the events in Egypt. More than anything, it is a protest by the middle class and unemployed young people, outraged at the lack of social mobility or life prospects in general. It’s important to note – for our own domestic situation as well – that this outburst occurred in the absence of any clear economic change. There was no drastic economic collapse. The abruptness is also borne out by the fact that, in a January 25 interview on American television, US Vice President Joe Biden rather awkwardly defended Mubarak, insisting that he was not a dictator and that “our ally” and the situation are both under control. Obviously, he had to rely on information from intelligence agencies that had not yet then predicted such rapid change. It is also telling that the events unfolded spontaneously without any particularly visible central leadership.

In the end, the Islamists might come into power, but this would be most of all because of propaganda from liberal well-wishers. A graphic demonstration that people have the right to protest only when it doesn’t contradict geopolitical interests or global stability could conclusively push young Egyptians, like the young people of other Arab countries, into the welcoming arms of fundamentalists. The people are forming a logical connection that is ideal for any radical forces. America gives massive financial aid to a regime that has not formally cancelled its state of martial law in 30 years and has a leader who has never changed. At the critical moment, when the Egyptian people(especially the young ones), inspired by events like Obama’s speech at Cairo University, rose up and demanded Mubarak’s resignation, the entire Western world began to shamelessly discuss the negative consequences of his departure and how this will effect Israel’s security, oil supplies, and other things that are very important for Western politicians. It is impossible to think of a simpler example to demonstrate the attitude of the West – that is to say, the Christian world’s attitude towards the Arab street. In this kind of situation, Islamic radicals have no need to invent anything like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The emergence in recent days of anti-American slogans among demonstrators is the logical result of the fact that US foreign policy contradicts the principals of observing human rights that the administration publically proclaims. The Western world is grasping desperately onto an attempt to preserve the status quo, which is based on the general understanding that any changes will not be limited to the region in a globalized world and will affect everyone. Regardless of the rising degree of dissatisfaction on the streets of Egypt and Mubarak’s total discredit, commentators continue to only discuss possibilities for a gradual transition. Meanwhile, the people out in the streets are obviously not prepared to talk about anything while the president remains in power. Aside from his personal calculations, Mubarak’s stubbornness is based on a reading of the global situation. The people applauding the ostentatious courage of Mubarak, who vows to die on Egyptian soil, are careful not to notice that it was only the police and security forces who used violence on Cairo’s streets. And the bloody clashes that began today came only because supporters of Mubarak suddenly materialized on Tahrir Square, armed with bats and knives.

We need to understand that this same kind of algorithm of action is going to spread to Russia – but to a much greater extent. Russia is a nuclear power, and the financial interests of the Putin clan intersected with the interests of Western politicians and businessmen long ago. Therefore, any attempt to abandon the basic principles of liberalism would be suicide. People have a right to free expression and free elections. Consent to rude procedural violations and “soft” forms of dictatorship, justified by the idea that things would be worse otherwise, not only discredits the idea of liberal democracy and its advocates, but also inevitably leads to the reverse result – the strengthening of radical elements. The dissatisfied protesters will, at some point, realize that their opportunities to influence the situation in a peaceful way have been exhausted. In fact, as we’ve seen from the situation in Tunisia, which has much in common with the one in Egypt given the undoubtedly less severe problems and the level of influence of Islamists on domestic politics, all the horrors and nightmares that were being predicted turned out to have been concocted out of thin air. The situation in the country is gradually going back to normal and it is beginning to prepare for free elections.

The downfall of authoritarian regimes is linked to their complete discredit, which leaves them with no defenders. This happened in Russia in February 1917, when, over the years of Rasputin’s influence over the imperial court, the tsarist government became associated with degradation, depravity and corruption. We are now being taught the Putin version of this history lesson. And homegrown liberals that serve Russia’s “soft” dictatorship not only enable the legitimization of the regime but also significantly reduce the chances for a peaceful transition to a normally-functioning democracy.

Photograph by Irina Kalinka.
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