- Students’ Column
- War and Military
“People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.”
-Bill Clinton, August 2008
Most likely, while the Russian President Vladimir Putin had not even finished his nationalist-motivational speech in front of the Duma representatives and Government ministers, from the Western governments – followed feverishly by the news agencies employees – huge cohorts of harsh words are obediently lined up in the cyberspace of the media war. The arrogance and triumphalism of Kremlin’s leader (somewhat contrasting with the cringed and pensive-thought faces of Ministers Lavrov and Shoigu) injected pure adrenaline in the whole of Western propaganda, which has spared no drop of proletarian-capitalism to blame Russia and its imperialist policies.
The West (with its heritage of elegance, diplomacy and democracy in a visible decline) lost a great opportunity to be quiet and ruminate. As a matter of fact, Putin’s speechwriters had a very easy mission, only having to put together all the objectives listed by him in each of his election campaign and just adding here and there some nuances adequate to the moment. A moment more or less historical, but nevertheless one of global importance and a conclusive scan for international relations.
Why I dare saying this? Because, if we leave aside the functional hypocrisy, we can see that for two decades the U.S. and its European allies have successfully used double standard and have treated the principles of international relations as optional. UN has become a highly politicized and bureaucratized institution and its resolutions, just an excuse for the incriminating and warning press releases. In the name of democracy and human rights, conflicts were inflicted that ultimately did not improve the political and social climate of those countries, but they did generate profits for Western corporations, as it opened up new markets and new resources to be exploited in different areas around the world.
For over two decades, Russia just stood and watched the events in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Arab Spring. At the same time it integrated in its foreign policy strategy, all the elements that it has seen used by its western partners. It grafted on its recent frustrations and its old ambitions of imperial power every western strategy policy which could prove useful.
For the past 20 years Russia has “westernized” its foreign policy to match the image and likeness of “rule makers” alongside whom Moscow wanted to return to the table of world decisions. The Eastern giant has even checked point by point if this approach works – the intervention in Georgia, bringing the unofficial protectorate of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the support of some dictatorships in its sphere of influence, implementing “divide et impera” principle with the EU relations, convincing the international community against military intervention in Syria, mediating negotiations with Iran – each of these events has its counterpart in the U.S. policy of the last 20 years.
Moreover, Russia has observed that the projection of hard-power using F-16 squadrons with a little glitter of democracy and soft-power is tolerated by the international public opinion and the achievement of economic interests (oil, gas, distribution networks, markets, expensive purchases by preferential contracts) are more easily achieved covered under a humanitarian slogan. For who has not noticed yet, the “polite” military forces (“вежливый люди”) from Crimea are an “upgraded version” of the allied troops in the theaters of operations of NATO. Therefore, the West is somewhat groundlessly grumpy. The Russian sorcerer’s apprentice did all that was necessary to be a good disciple.
If Russia has exceeded its Master and even has the audacity to confront him it should be a sign … not of joy, indeed, but for deep reflection on the “power of example”. Or rather of “the example of power”? The West can’t just invocate endlessly concepts like “sovereignty”, “international agreements”, “principles of law”, “freedom”, “right to self-determination” and it can’t claim compliance with them without itself following them scrupulously. And if the West does not follow them, then it cannot pretend this to the East, in which case maybe we need to include arbitrary and double standards as the basis of ethics in international relations. I can guarantee that we will get accustomed to them as we are accustomed to hearing / seeing daily about terrorist attacks in which dozens of people die or about violent suppression of those who ask for their rights all over the planet (from the Wall Street in New York to the Bolotnaya Square in Moscow) but at least we will know, without false hypocrisy, at which level of civilization (or lack of it!) we are.
If you read my article because you wish to know what Russia will do in the future, I advise you to carefully watch the West. The answer is primarily at the White House (with some help from London 10 Downing Street). Also at Bundeskanzleramt. Only afterwards will there be a reaction from the sumptuous offices of Kremlin. Is Russia right? Of course not! But Russia has mitigating circumstances. On the streets with gangs, it is not a good idea to go dressed wearing a tuxedo.
Finally, one more question: would the leaders of Western governments use a strategy equally hysterical also in the case of the “Dragon Apprentice”? What will do they if/when China (in its good tradition to assimilate and copy everything!) will show how it has understood to include in its foreign policy strategy the approaches seen in the last 20 years at global level and will start “to worry about the welfare and morality“ of the nations of the planet?! – For as much beginning with Russia is not exactly reassuring… just saying!