Each week, WW writer John Minervini brings you the latest in book reviews, author Q&A's and Portland literary gossip. Click here to join the Tome Raider mailing list.
Memo to the President (Harper Perennial, 313 pages, $14.95)
Vadim Nikitin
Russia scholar Vadim Nikitin. Photo courtesy of the Harvard University Department of Slavic Studies.
Moscow Times
Harvard Political Review
New York Moon
Tome Raider: So what did you think of Madeleine Albright's primer on Russia policy?
Do you think the notion of a “superpower” is outdated?
According to Albright, “The idea that we could, with sufficient help and hugs,” turn Russia into an oversize but otherwise typical European country has never been realistic.” I'd like to focus in on that word, never. Perhaps that's an unrealistic goal today, but was there a historical window—say, after the collapse of the Soviet Union—when Russia might have made a smooth transition to Western democracy?
Peter the Great changed the watchword of Russia from “Guard well the treasure of yesterday” to “Fear not change; strive that tomorrow be better than today.” If there were a new watchword under Putin, what would it be?
Why do you think the US, with its checkered record of foreign intervention, was so interested in butting heads with Russia over Chechnya and Yugoslavia?
Do you think the US has any strategic interests in promoting democracy in countries like Georgia and Azerbaijan?
What about promoting democracy within Russia itself? Do Russians even want democracy?
Albright asserts that most Russians have “little understanding of what a democracy actually entails,” and that this proved to be a central obstacle to democracy in the 1990's. To what extent do you think these statements are accurate?
New Statesman
Albright lists global security—i.e. nuclear nonproliferation, the fight against terrorism—as practically the only common interest shared by the US and Russia. Can you name any others?
Comment on the following statement by George Kennan—cited by Madeleine Albright—regarding democracy promotion in Russia:
“Give them time; let them be Russians; let them work out their internal problems in their own manner. The ways by which peoples advance toward dignity and inlightenment in government are things that constitute the deepest and most intimate processes of national life. There is nothing less understandable to foreigners, nothing in which foreign interference can do less good.”
“Impervious to logic of reason, [Russia] is highly sensitive to logic of force”.
The US “must continue to regard the Soviet Union as a rival, not a partner, in the political arena. It must continue to expect that Soviet policies will reflect no abstract love of peace and stability, no real faith in the possibility of a permanent happy coexistence of the Socialist and capitalist worlds, but rather a cautious, persistent pressure toward the disruption and, weakening of all rival influence and rival power”.
Madeleine Albright will speak about her new book,
at 7 pm today (Oct. 23) at the Bagdad Theater (3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 236-9234).