Still archrivals, the USA and Russia have not only the different perception of the political world making for their incompatibility, but also quite different political cultures. Liberty-wise, the USA is an oasis of human rights and liberties while, in Russia, people are sometimes not even at liberty to leave the country for a holiday. The USA scores much higher on the index of equal money-earning and political opportunities. Russia tops the USA with regard to corruption and the lack of the rule of law, the latter being important in the west. Beyond that, the USA is a resident’ centric, as opposed to the collectivism-minded Russia. The lack of political competition, genuine democracy, electoral opportunities, and anti-human capitalism are characteristic of the Russian political culture. Often used in the political context, nationalism is prevalent in both states, yet, in the USA, it seems healthier. Overall, the political culture of the USA appears more human-oriented and less power-centric, as opposed to that of Russia.
The American political culture rests heavily upon equality in the sense of the equality of opportunities rather than the absolute parity (UShistory.org n.d.). Fairness in the USA means the equality of opportunities, not that of income (Brooks 2010). In the post-Soviet era, the lack of equal moneymaking opportunities has been characteristic of Russia (Medvedev 2012, p.179). Russia has become the most unequal of emerging and developing economies where 110 billionaires own 35% of national wealth (Dawisha 2014, p.9). Even in terms of political opportunities, the lack of opportunities in Russia is the case, with profitable dividend-promising power position in Russia being purchasable. Until paid for, government seats will not become accessible to Russians (Dawisha 2015). It is anything but surprisingly since Russian shadow or corruption budget estimates reach a high of 300 billion yearly (Dawisha 2014, p.9). Thus, corruption is also a signature trait of the Russian political culture keeping it far away from the USA in this respect. Corruption and political position selling alone question such dogma of Russian political culture as the rule of law. By contrast, in the USA based on the just and equal application of law, there is no room for rulers’ vagaries (UShistory.org n.d.).
Individualism is also a part of the US political culture, with individual responsibility and initiatives stimulated and individual rights valued above those of the state or government (UShistory.org n.d.). In military conflicts, the political culture of individualism makes itself seen best of all. The US army has spared no effort to reduce military casualties by improving the accuracy and precision of its weaponry in recent decades (Blaker 2007, p.64). By contrast, Russia has a historically shaped collectivist mentality and value system, in which group interests take precedence over the individual (Vlachoutsicos 1997, p.1). Collectivism-centric Russia seems to be fine with throwing numbers at a problem. Whether it be to satisfy the massive ego of the political establishment or rebuild the once possessed imperial might that set the country warring with other nations for the past three decades, it treats soldiers as a means, not as individuals to value and keep alive. Causing soldiers to commit suicides in Afghanistan in the concluding years of the USSR, soldiers’ performing the order, throwing an 8000-soldier brigade into the furnace of war in Grozny during the 1990s Chechen War show soldiers are none other than sacrificial lambs for Russia (Norris 2012, p.129).
Democracy, an important part of the American political culture, implies the responsibility that lies with citizens to choose officials wisely and thoughtfully and the accountability of elected politicians to the people (UShistory.org n.d.). In the USA, a network of monitors collects information that can call public dignitaries to account if need be, whereas Russia lacks such web of watchdogs, which greatly complicates the procedure of making officials answerable for their actions at some point in their term (Wheeler 2011). In Russia, there are said to be periodic protests contesting the lack of governmental accountability and the abolition of political rights (Ross 2015, p.52).
In the USA, voters can vote for whomever they please unrestrained, nay, thoughtfully, without being pressurized. There is practically no electoral fraud at this point (Wasik 2012). What it means is that American are free to go and vote for a politician of their liking. Wisely and thoughtfully can they do so, unlike Russians. State-influenced or owned media outlets favor the presidential party ahead of the elections doing the brainwashing (CNN 2007). In this country, state workers were reported as having been coerced to vote in a way that would ensure victory for Putin’s party in the parliamentary elections in 2007. Thousands of local administration employees had themselves called in on their day off for them to stage the inflated landslide victory for the United Russia party of the president who tops the list of party members. Voters like students, public sector employees, such as university deans, teachers, doctors, psychiatric clinic workers, and average citizens are cowed into voting the ruling party, or else they would run the risk of forfeiting bonuses, accommodation, or jobs and failing at exams. The much-coveted electoral triumph is synonymous with power absolutism for Putin despite him not being able to retain presidential position for the third tenure for constitutional reasons (Harding and Parfitt 2007).
The political culture in Russia is such that politicians cling to power positions like there is no tomorrow. If they do so, it must be because politicians use budget as their own in Russia, and power, is an avenue to budgetary abuse. National corruption is estimated at 300 billion dollars on a yearly basis. They profit greatly from illicit payments associated with the decision-making linked to the allocation of benefits and kickbacks related to government contracts (Stanovaya 2013). As opposed to Russia, American politicians do not seize power by the throat. They are easy to relinquish power when the time comes or admit the supremacy of a political opponent in elections. George Bush amiably greeted Barack Obama on his election as the next US president (The Guardian 2008), so did his principal political rival, John McCain congratulating Obama on the historic victory (Montgomery 2008).
The lack of political competition and genuine democracy in Russia are well documented and known to the top-echelon officials (Stanovaya 2013). Far from standing a good chance of gaining an important political position, plenty of politicians risk losing their life in pursuit of reforms and power changes. Assassinated in 2006, journalist Anna Politkovskaya was an outspoken critic of Russia’s war in Chechnya. Former intelligence agent Alexander Litvinenko received a dose of polonium than proved lethal after him pointing to the connection between Putin’s intelligence service and a string of bombings in Russia in the run-up to the pre-1999 elections. Found hanged was another critic of Putin, London-residing oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Boris Nemtsov shot dead earlier this year was about to go public with Russia’s direct role in the Ukraine crisis (Dougherty 2015).
If not killed, opposition members can end up behind the bars, as has business magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky gaining political momentum and bringing corruption accusation against Putin before detainment. (Dougherty 2015). The US and Russian political cultures are poles apart in the respect of democracy and political liberties that entail lethal repercussions. To quote a proof, Obama garnered criticism from Republicans for having talked to the notorious Russian president (Martinez 2015). Even so, no high-profile arrest, still less assassination of an important Republican mouthpiece has been heard conducted or committed since. Rappeport (2015) reported Donald Trump to have released radio ads criticizing Obama with regard to the Paris terror acts. No backlash followed. Trump has been obstructed on his way to presidency no more than he has been arrested, let alone killed.
Liberty in the USA is a fundamental principle of the political culture. Zero worship limitations, the right to criticize any government policy, join trade unions at will, or travel (Flowers n.d.). As widely reported, same-sex marriages have become legal nationwide since the summer of 2015. Harsh is the situation around gender identity and sexual orientation in Russia, with LGBT promotion strictly banned by the parliament that made it punishable by severe fines, detention, or even deportation. The freedom of expression is not working, as prison terms may follow debating delicate political issues. Government opponents, critics of all kinds, and human right defenders are subject to maltreatment and apprehension. The rights of migrants and disability rights leave much to be desired due to the scope of discrimination (Human Rights Watch 2014). The Russian authorities have even come to ban Russians to holiday abroad restricting the freedom of movement (The Economist, 2015).
At the heart of the American dream stands capitalism or the belief in the right to private property ownership and freedom in the open markets with as little governmental intervention as possible (UShistory.org n.d.). The laissez-faire principle has dominated the governmental policies for well over 200 years enabling private interests and the operation of business at discretion (Dubenko 2007, p.197). Conversely, the Russian government has a different philosophy exerting great control over the production decisions, pricing, and the distribution of resources like labor or natural gas to the major enterprises, which also stalls the creation of enterprises anew. The intrusion of the central bank in the activities of commercial banks leads to credit allocation being distorted (International Trade Administration, n.d., p.1). The owners of small businesses and large companies alike need to acquire protection from the higher powers. Who are the beneficiaries of large contracts are the companies run by public officials who often monopolize market segments driving competitors out of business (Filippov 2011).
One of the important bricks in the foundation of the American political culture is nationalism. Despite there being some ill will towards the government, American seem proud of the past airbrushing issues like military setbacks and intolerance believing themselves more virtuous and stronger than any other nations are (UShistory.org n.d.). The USA may be said to have been using its nationalism-related belief in national pride and supremacy to facilitate the pursuance of the international political agenda, as it has intervened in the Middle East under the guise of instructing the less progressive “others” bringing civilization and progress to the world dominated by barbaric male chauvinists (Duncanson 2013, p.35). Such nationalism-based doctrine finds an echo in the ancient Roman conquest rhetoric. Apart from also serving the leadership in more ways than it does in America, nationalism in Russia has assumed violent forms not seen in the USA. Nationalist movements in Russia prove useful to the political regime, as they produce an outlet for a controllable dissent and promote values favorable to the political elite (Laine 2015, p.38). Unsurprisingly, the neo-Nazi Russian National Unity Group, brutal at its core, has embraced extreme nationalism, anti-liberalism, anti-Americanism, Euro integration rejection, and infatuation with authoritarianism (Jensen 2015). Violent and extreme at most times, Russian nationalism does much to rally support behind governmental policies (Siegert 2014).
The USA and Russia stand in sharp contrast to each other with respect to the political culture except for nationalism. Russia is the country of nepotic capitalism best fit for those related to officials. Its human right scope is shrinking by the month, with expression, travel, and LGBT freedom banned or restricted. Money-earning and political equalities are ephemeral. Electoral democracy looks nearly nonexistent in Russia whose electorate is under the strong influence of media and the pressure of officials. Russia is serious collectivist-oriented, as the interests of the majority prevail. All of these negative aspects are absent in the American political culture making it more citizen-based. It means that Americans do not refrain from criticizing politicians as Russian do for fear of incurring a punishment. The political culture of the USA is such that accountable politicians serve people’s best interests, without turning the political scene into their personal playground, as is the case in Russia; hence, the USA is a genuine democracy that does not slip into authoritarianism.
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