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The Centre for Political Technologies

Alexey Makarkin, Vice President of the Center for Political Technologies

The Center for Political Technologies (CPT), founded in 1991, is one of the oldest think tanks in Russia. The Center specialises in political and business consulting and works on promoting Russia's image in the world. CPT has organized a number of events and provided commentary on how to improve Russia's image after the August 2008 war with Georgia.

The Center has a permanent staff of 70 people working in 13 departments; in addition, it regularly hires experienced professionals on a part-time basis in order to support the implementation of different projects. Since 2002 CPT has been running Politcom.ru, an award-winning analytical commentary-focused website. The site is updated daily and receives an average of 6,000 visits per day. The CPT's Department of CIS Countries, headed by political analyst Sergey Mikheyev, tracks developments in the post-Soviet space. It has also been involved in election campaigns in former Soviet republics.

CPT experts regularly publish in leading Russian newspapers and journals such as Kommersant, Profile, Vedomosti, and others, and appear on TV and the radio. While rarely going against mainstream political thinking, CPT analysts tend to embrace a more moderate, pragmatic position on Russian policy toward post-Soviet countries – steering clear of the usual diet of spy stories, mutual accusations, diplomatic scandals, and ideological declarations.

Commenting on the war in Georgia in August 2008 in Vedomosti, CPT Expert Alexey Makarkin refrained from inflammatory rhetoric, interpreting the events as the result of a two-layered conflict:

"The conflict in South Ossetia (as well as in Abkhazia) has two layers. The first layer is the most evident one and is related to the protracted confrontation between two peoples, a confrontation that became much sharper after Zviad Gamsakhurdia's attempt to turn Georgia into a unitary state. The second layer became discernible several years ago, when competition between Russia and the US in the post-Soviet space transformed from 'potential' into 'real'. While Russia has patronized the Ossetians from the very beginning (which is unsurprising, given that Russia contains the Republic of North Ossetia), the US has patronized Georgia, actively supporting its political regime, also in the military sphere. This patronage fuelled the ambitions of both parties in the conflict, providing each with an opportunity of turning to their 'big brother' in times of a crisis situation.

The difference lay in the fact that the irresponsibility of the South Ossetian authorities could not lead to a large-scale military action against Georgia (because of the small size of South Ossetian armed units), whereas the irresponsibility on the part of Tbilisi was able to provoke much graver consequences – which is exactly what happened. In this situation, the US at the very minimum did not carry out its containing function vis-ΰ-vis a regime capable of engaging in such adventures. Preoccupied with the geopolitical confrontation with Russia, the Americans viewed their client in the Caucasus as a completely sensible potential NATO member – and this perception had not been seriously undermined even by last year's [2007] crackdown on the opposition's demonstrations in the centre of Tbilisi."[21]

Boris Makarenko, another CPT expert, writes a column on a variety of issues, from the global economic crisis to the elections in Ukraine to NATO, for Kommersant. Commenting on the NATO Anniversary Summit in April 2009, Makarenko advocated a less confrontational stance vis-ΰ-vis the Alliance, even on issues as controversial for Russia as Georgia and Ukraine's future membership in NATO:

"As we 'reset' the relationship [between Russia and the West], we come to an agreement – both with America and NATO – to treat our disagreements in a constructive way. After all, the [NATO] Summit declaration contains, alongside the correct words about the common strategic interests shared with Russia, the same positions as earlier: the inadmissibility of our recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; the necessity to develop a system of anti-missile defence. These positions – just like the desire (which never disappeared, but has been only postponed) to see Ukraine and Georgia in NATO – were not forced on Europeans by the bad former president of the US but reflect their real vision of the future of their continent. The good news here is the readiness to 'tolerate' disagreements in order to develop cooperation in those areas where our interests obviously coincide."[22]

Makarenko maintained the same pragmatic position when commenting on the budding rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey in April 2009:

"Armenia, having gone through many tests, has come to an understanding that the state of 'frozen war' is blocking the opportunity for economic and political development. And Turkey is one more 'bridge' to Europe, as well as a quite respectable partner of Azerbaijan. On the Karabakh issue, Turkey can function both as an intermediary and a guarantor – it has already practiced this role in several areas. …

How important is this for Russia? One has to understand, again, that there is no such thing as a monopoly on the post-Soviet space, even if we consider an ally 'with no alternatives' like Armenia. Armenia was an ally with no other alternatives …until it began to destroy its own ideological stereotypes. Therefore, now one has to look for a way to complement the mediation efforts. Let us repeat once again: if you don't have good relations with your neighbours, you won't have a strong foreign policy in the rest of the world."[23]

Analyzing President Saakashvili, Makarenko did not engage in the lengthy invective so common in the Russian press, but instead addressed the issue of "charismatic politics":

"[Saakashvili's] ascent to power is the result of the dead end in which Georgian politics and Georgian state-building found themselves … Georgia put its trust in Saakashvili, who stood for the hope of finding a way out from that dead end. Saakashvili, on the other hand, keeps repeating both the achievements of his predecessors (and not only the Georgian predecessors) and their mistakes. One thing working in Saakashvili's favour is the nation's unity, which only grew stronger after the lost war. But he himself undermines this unity by his recklessness and his 'scorched earth' policy, not only toward the opposition but also toward his own allies. In such a situation, any kind of charisma becomes a drawback. It is not by accident that Saakashvili's behaviour irritates not only his sworn opponents but even his allies and friends. And this is despite the fact that the Georgian political class has maintained consensus on a number of crucial issues including territorial integrity and the country's pro-Western orientation."[24]

 


[21] Alexey Makarkin, "The War: The Drama of South Ossetia" (in Russian), Vedomosti, no. 148 (2170), 11 August 2008.

[22] Boris Makarenko, "The Importance of the Question" (in Russian), Kommersant, no. 60 (4115), 6 April 2009.

[23] Boris Makarenko, "The Importance of the Question" (in Russian), Kommersant, no. 74 (4129), 24 April 2009.

[24] Boris Makarenko, "The Importance of the Question" (in Russian), Kommersant, no. 234 (4051), 23 December 2008.

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