“The West should employ differing strategies in dealing with each of the two Russias, recognizing that ‘patriotic’ forces are in power for now, but that they are increasingly alienating the urbanized and educated,” according to Denis Corboy, a former European Commission ambassador to Armenia and Georgia, William Courtney, a former special assistant to the president for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and Kenneth Yalowitz, who served as U.S. envoy to Belarus and Georgia:
The first Russia is modernizing. In 2011 it had the world’s sixth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. Gross national income per capita was approximately $20,000, akin to European Union members Poland and Hungary. Wealthier people often own foreign property or send children abroad for study….
The second Russia is retrograde. It is returning to a more statist and authoritarian past, away from ideals of civil liberties and the rule of law. The Soviet Union is not about to reappear, but democracy-building groups are under assault, dissidents are thrown into psychiatric hospitals and justice is politically rigged. Russia ranks 142 out of 179 countries in the Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
“The West should revive tenets of human rights diplomacy from the Soviet era, such as speaking out publicly against repression and raising individual cases of injustice at high levels,” they write in The New York Times, noting that “courageous foreign-funded groups such as Golos, which monitors elections, face harassment or closure.”
“Dual track diplomacy, embodying pragmatic but principled approaches, would foster cooperation with Russia on common interests while lifting the spirits of those who seek democracy and respect for human rights,” they conclude.