A voice of Russia

By Megan Toon

                  On Wednesday evening Dr Andranik Migranyan addressed the Yale community regarding Russia’s perspective on current topical issues and controversies between Eastern and Western Societies. Dr Andranik Migranyan is the director of the non-governmental think – tank, ‘Institute for Democracy and Cooperation’, promoting American and Russian cooperation on global policies, a professor at the Institute of International Relations in Moscow, and a former member of both the Public Chamber and the Russian Presidential Advisory Council under Boris Yeltsin. More recently, he acted as lead defence attorney for Edward Snowden.

Dr Andranik defended Russia’s ‘broadly conservative’ national policies by introducing his address with what he perceives as the historical oppression of Russia by Western superpowers. In Dr Andranik’s view, Western superpowers considered pre 1991 USSR – Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – a minor contributor to collaborative international relations. In 2007, Russia publically challenged the US intention to build an anti-ballistic missile defence installation in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. Putin perceived the US initiative as a potential threat to Eastern stability and an attempt by the West to assert political dominance. The Western media capitalised on Russia’s interference with American authority, and their broadcasts focused mainly on the negative aspects of the Russian government, which have concrete underpinnings in the minds of Western people today. The West’s alienation of Russia in 2007 has engrained a deep distrust between the two nations, and prompts the necessity for President Obama to recognise the global economic shift from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and pacify US-Russian relations without angering Eastern Europe. Dr Andranik believes US-Russian cooperation today is restricted by the American people’s anachronistic perception of Russia as ‘the communist Soviet society before the revolution’.

Map of Russian Federation (Courtesy of Creative Commons)
Map of Russian Federation (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

Dr Andranik adamantly defended Russia’s position in the Syria/Libya/Ukraine controversies. He described Russia as a nation ‘unwilling to meddle in foreign policy and implement regime change’. Russia’s reaction to the Ukrainian upheaval, in contrast to their abstention from the Syrian crisis, was due to ‘a necessity to protect ethnic Russians living in Ukraine and the Crimea’. He claims that Russia abstained from interfering with Syria and Libya, because there was no clear solution in place to replace the Libyan government once they had been ousted. Dr Andranik asserts the view that the West’s ‘support’ for the opposition forces in Libya has left the country is greater turmoil, and that President Obama should focus more attention on America’s internal issues before interfering abroad.  Dr Andranik declined to comment on the West’s help with the numerous human rights issues in the country and prevention of horrific violence brought upon the Libyan people by its government.

Unlike the situation in Syria or Libya, the Ukrainian president actively involved Russia in internal affairs and therefore, forced Russia to intervene in order to protect ‘the life and security’ of ‘Russian citizens and Russian speakers in Ukraine’. Dr Andranik claims that Russia had no issue with Ukraine seeking trade unions with the EU. As a low economic export country, it was logical for Ukraine to produce an efficient economic model by engaging in EU trading relations. However as a high economic export country, Russia did not want their internal market tarnished by EU trade. If Ukraine was to participate in the EU, Russia wanted to discontinue Russian-Ukrainian trading relations. When the EU did not offer a sufficient sum to cover Ukraine’s debt crisis, the Ukrainian President sought to terminate any agreement with the EU and re-establish relations with Russia. However, this sparked controversy in an already divided nation; the Russian language was outlawed and 12 million ethnic Russians living in Ukraine came under threat. Russia believes it now has an obligation to protect its citizens and re-establish a legitimate authority.

Finally, Dr Andranik addressed Russia’s decrees on LGBT rights, after the global outcry at Sochi. He furiously defended his own liberal views on sexual expression, and reminded his audience that Russia is not the only nation to curtail homosexuality; many American allies and 8 American States also have decrees condemning homosexual expression. The West has no grounds on which to criticise a society with alternative cultural values. America took a long time to accomplish the liberal freedom of speech it possesses today, and it is hypocritical for the American people to critique another culture which is still on its journey to liberality. Dr Andranik believes the American psyche has ‘grossly’ exaggerated the LGBT laws; the decree does not prohibit homosexuality itself, but simply forbids ‘the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors’.

Dr Andranik’s ‘Voice of Russia’ stirred a heated debate and much controversy in St Anthony’s Hall amongst the Yale Community on Wednesday evening.  His talk provided a valuable insight into the Russian perspective on the political and social issues, which adorn our news bulletins.

Megan Toon is a sophomore in Trumbull College. Contact her at megan.toon@yale.edu