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Russia's Soviet Past Still Haunts Relations with West

Council on Foreign Relations

Author: Lionel Beehner, Staff Writer

In a recent speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russians “shouldn’t feel guilty” about Stalin’s purges, while accusing Western academics of downplaying Moscow’s role in ending World War II and exaggerating the atrocities committed by Stalin. A few years back, Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century” and reinstated the Soviet national anthem. The Kremlin, some experts say, is trying to polish up its Soviet past in an effort to reassert itself on the world stage and restore national pride among Russians. Unlike post-apartheid South Africa or post-Nazi Germany, Russia has never fully come to terms with its past or established a truth commission to investigate Soviet-era atrocities. Some Western experts say such neo-Stalinist attitudes have had a damaging effect on Russia’s current international relations, from its capricious energy policies to its strong language over the staging of a U.S. missile shield in Eastern Europe.

Stalin’s Ghost and Russian-Western Relations

The recent glossing over of Soviet history comes at a time of rising anti-Western attitudes among Russians. “There is a steady drip, drip, drip coming from the Kremlin and on Russian television that is intensely anti-American,” says Sarah E. Mendelson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). “[Russians] increasingly view the United States as more of a threat than China or Iran. Plus, there is this rejection of seeing Russia as part of the Euro-Atlantic community.”

(STORY CONTINUES: http://www.cfr.org/publication/13697/).

Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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