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Russia Pulled East And West

MOSCOW: Interrelations between Russia and Asia; Russia's partial Asian heritage and geography: both incite longstanding debates within and without the country. These have been renewed, not only due to the looming expansion of NATO which partly excludes Russia from Europe's security order, but also because of the swift, brutal development of Russian capitalism, which makes Russia unique in Europe and Asia.

Traditional Russofobes (and some Europeans) try to prove that Russia is not and cannot be a European country. In Russia these voices are seconded by backward and leftist elements who cry that Russia should abandon Western democracy and capitalism and take the "Chinese Road", meaning an authoritarian way to economic growth.

Following a legacy initiated by Peter the Great, Russian westernizers promote Russia as a European power, albeit backward, but on the road to normalcy. Feeling rejected by Europe, however, many Russians are turning eastward toward a strategic alliance with China. But this impulse is superfluous as friendly relations with China are a must for Russia, both strategically and economically, irrespective of relations with the West.

Incapable (so far) of forging a cohesive cordial strategy, with China, the West is becoming visibly afraid of Russo-Chinese rapprochement -- despite the obvious limits of it. For China does not need allies because it is becom ing so mighty, and Russia is uninterested in appearing threatening, a posture that it would assume with too close an alliance with China.