By Andrei Skvarsky.
The president of state-controlled VTB Group, Russia’s second-largest bank, has accused the West of a “patronising”, arrogant and standoffish attitude to Russia, which he argues is not the way to behave in these times of globalisation.
“It sometimes seems that politicians of countries that ought to have much in common are at risk of drifting further and further apart,” Andrey Kostin says in an article written for CNN as a contribution to the World Economic Forum’s current annual meeting in Davos.
“It has long been a Russian complaint that relations with the West – particularly the United States and the European Union – more often resemble a teacher lecturing a disobedient pupil than a serious dialogue, especially when the talk turns to topics of mutual sensitivity,” Kostin says.
“Many Russians still feel at best patronized by a West which, as they see it, does not take their views into account, does not understand the specifics of the Russian situation or how the country has changed in the past quarter century, and fails to see how they have been affected by these changes.”
He accuses the West of missing a “historic” confidence-building opportunity in the 1990s.
That decade’s “disastrous ‘shock therapy’” in the Russian economy produced effects the then Russian government “was effectively powerless to resist”, but, “from a Russian point of view, this was a historic opportunity for the West to build strategic levels of trust with Russia”, he says. “That opportunity was not seized.”
“As much as anything, the gathering at Davos this week underscores a theme that the West should keep in mind when dealing with Russia – cooperation and respect are key to progress in an interconnected world. And it is partly because I see signs of this cooperation that I remain optimistic,” Kostin says.