Mutual Lack of Introspection and the ‘Russia Factor’ in the Liberal West


Minda Holm makes three claims in this article: one about the representation of Russia as an external enemy and the reflex to blame Russia for unwanted domestic developments; one about the liberal Western Self’s continuous violation of the principles it judges others by; and one about the seemingly deliberate lack of critical introspection amongst Russian and Western elites. The Western Self is largely viewed as liberal by default, irrespective of the extensive illiberal actions – seen in, for example, the post-9/11 era. Whereas politics is messy and full of contradictions, Western liberal morality is often presented as somehow standing monolithically above those contradictory actions: despite torture, a secret extraordinary rendition and detention program and wide-ranging breaches of international law, the US Self under Bush Jr. remained decidedly ‘good’. Whilst the Self’s identity as liberal persists despite violating those liberal principles, states such as Russia are stigmatized for the same types of violations. That this creates frustration with those defined as standing on the outside or, better, denied access to the true inside, should not come as a surprise. But, Russia’s continuous denialism and whataboutism, and the role of academics in this negative cycle, doesn’t bode well for the future of Russia-West relations.