Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Two Capitalisms

Igor Torbakov, on the growing rift between Moscow and Washington:
Most Russian pundits believe the true reason behind Washington's irritation over Moscow's policies is its inability to adjust to Russia's growing weight in global affairs -- particularly after more than a decade of indisputable U.S. dominance. They also see the U.S. democratic proselytism as a policy tool used to further Washington's strategic interests in various parts of world. Furthermore, the U.S. administration's response to the recent election victories of Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Islamists in Iraq, some Russian analysts say, suggests a view of democracy less principled than it sounds.

At the same time, some liberal-minded Russian pundits point to the emerging contradiction between America's security strategy and its economic policies. While Washington seeks to "spread democracy," its global economic strategy leads to the growing economic might of a group of countries that cannot be considered paragons of democratic governance. The policy of "cheap money" that helps sustain economic growth under conditions of huge trade and budget deficits coupled with dramatic price hikes for raw materials have boosted economic development in a number of undemocratic countries including the energy-rich nations of the Middle East and Russia. The latter's drift toward authoritarianism based on state control over extractive industries is directly connected with the sky-high energy revenues it is currently receiving, some independent experts argue.

Naturally, as they become more powerful economically, the undemocratic countries blessed with hydrocarbons seek to enhance their geopolitical clout as well. In fact, the present situation is marked not by just one global conflict -- that between the Western world and militant Islam -- but also by acute competition between two capitalisms: a democratic capitalist system and undemocratic one, according to one recent commentary. This confrontation, the commentary warns, might lead to the return to the full-blown bi-polar global architecture that existed during the Cold War.
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