So twenty years ago the Berlin Wall came down and communism began its retreat out of Eastern Europe. As people around the world took time yesterday to reflect on the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism in Eastern Europe there was at least one person who was feeling a bit left out in the celebration. Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, who arrived in Berlin yesterday, used the occasion to bemoan his nation’s outsider position in the schema of contemporary Europe.
At times sounding a bit bitter, he expressed disappointment at Europe’s ostracism of Russia during an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel. “We believed that, as a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a somewhat different place would be set for Russia in Europe,” he said.. “We hoped that the termination of the Warsaw Treaty will be followed by a different level of integration of Russia into the pan-European area.”
Instead of being included into the newly unified Europe, however, Russia got singled out as an enemy. The position of NATO “as a military alliance that possesses missiles aimed at Russia” and 2008’s war with Georgia stand as testaments, according to Medvedev, to Europe’s unsympathetic attitude toward Russia.
He went on to claim that the levels of democracy and human rights in Russia were commensurate with those in European countries. This, coming in the midst of criticism by the international human rights community of the Russian government’s nonchalant handling of multiple criminal cases involving the murder of prominent journalists and human rights activists as well as accusations of violations during regional elections this October.
“The only difference between us and them is that Russia is a big, very big country with its own nuclear potential”, he said, in this way articulating Russia’s exclusion as unfair treatment at the hands of a Europe intimidated by the nation’s military might, rather than a result Russia’s own shortcomings.
“We share the same values which are recognized in the West,” he said. “It would, therefore, be utterly wrong to state that there is some monolithic Europe with fully accomplished democracy versus a primeval, ignorant Russia which is not yet ready to be invited to join Europe.”