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Peace Talks – North Korea is Ready for negotiations, but only with Russia

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North Korea will enter negotiation talks with its rhetorical foe, the United States, over its nuclear weapons program and on the so-called “security guarantees” – only if Russia will come to the table. 

During an international conference in the Austrian capital (Vienna), Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, delivered a message to his US counterpart, Rex Tillerson, that the reclusive communist regime wants a peace talk with America over its nuclear ambitions.

 “We know that North Korea wants above all to talk to the United States about guarantees for its security. We are ready to support that, we are ready to take part in facilitating such negotiations. Our American colleagues, including Rex Tillerson, have heard this.”, said, Lavrov, as reported by the Interfax news agency.

However, there was no immediate response from the state department which has long insisted that the US will only consider direct talks unless North Korea stops testing ballistic missiles and agrees to denuclearize – an expectation that was defied by North Korea. 

In an interview with Russia’s state-run Russian Information Agency (RIA) news agency, Lavrov added that his country is ready to step in because Russia and North Korea have diplomatic relations. 

“We call on partners to focus on solving specific problems of the Korean Peninsula on the basis of negotiations. And for this, it is necessary not to rupture contacts with Pyongyang, but, on the contrary, develop it.” 

However, it seems very unlikely that Lavrov’s offer will convince the US, as Trump has long indicated that he has no plans on negotiating with Kim Jong-un.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.”, said Trump on his tweet in October after dismissing a reported effort by Tillerson to pursue back-channel negotiations.

Moreover, aside from deriding the North Korean leader as the “Little Rocket Man”, the US President Donald J. Trump, called him a “sick puppy” and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and that the country “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”.

The amid heightened tension between the US and North Korea reached its peak after the hermit kingdom tested its new and “most powerful” intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the “Hwasong-15” missile, November 29 of last year; claiming that it was capable of striking the US mainland – a missile launch that followed the test of what was apparently a hydrogen bomb last September.

This was followed by Trump’s furious tweets, saying that “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

The said “Hwasong-15”, as estimated by South Korea’s military, flew ten times as high as the International Space Station and twice as high as any satellite in low orbit after finally landing in the Sea of Japan – 210 kilometres west of Aomori prefecture, in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

It can be remembered that North Korea has also issued an explicit threat to Japan after the country, together with the US, spearheaded the United Nations security council sanctions in response to the regime’s recent nuclear test – saying that, “The four islands of the Japanese archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche.” and “Japan is no longer needed to exist near us.”

A cue for the allied countries, Japan and the US, to call on China, North Korea’s sole major ally which accounts for more than 90 percent of trade; to fully implement the UN security council sanctions against the isolated country and other steps to pressure it.

However, although China has agreed to do so and has also been angered by Pyongyang’s repeated nuclear and missile tests; it also sees that the US, along with South Korea, share responsibility for the rising tensions. Also, speculations are – China won’t pressure North Korea as much as Japan and the US want, primarily because while Xi Jinping does not trust Kim Jong-un, it trusts Trump less. In addition, Japan is China’s major rival – which history can be traced back to the ancient wars up to the recent issues such as the Nanking massacre and territorial disputes.

As of the moment, the US and North Korean positions are currently very far apart – with Washington wanting Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament to be on the table while Pyongyang wants Washington to recognize it as a nuclear weapons power.

“I think the US would be best served by putting aside the focus on denuclearization and instead look at ways to prevent accidents, reduce risks and de-escalate.”, suggested Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the New America think tank who has played a leading role in peace talks between Iran and North Korea.

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Opinion

Briefly about the Russian Political Discourse

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As you may have noticed, the recent international discourse has been rotating around Russia and its relations to other countries for a long time. Needless to say that after the events in Georgia/Ukraine, this discourse is far from friendly. Some even say that rhetoric of the Cold War has returned. What makes people abroad wonder is why Russia chooses to respond to its foreign partners in this particular way? Why is it the way it is?

To begin with, there are several reasons that shape Russian rhetoric. First of all, they are historical and cultural values. Russia sees itself as a defender of its rights and identity and someone who is not going to follow someone else’s rules. Back to the 13th century, the grand prince (rus. knyaz) Aleksander Nevsky only accepted submission  to the Golden Horde to protect the Russian culture and belief, therefore depriving the West of the opportunity to take over its territories.  This mentality still governs the minds of people. Today, current political rhetoric is doing the same by refusing the Western pressure and external interference into its business.

After the Golden Horde, Russia has managed to maintain its unity. Back then, the East saw the country to be an heir to the great Byzantine Empire. Meanwhile, the enormous size of the country was rather intimidating; and even more, when it started acquiring new territories (remember reaction to the situation with Crimea).

On the one hand, Moscow tries to present itself strong when it communicates with the Europe; on the other hand, the Western neighbours seem to use the same old-fashioned strategy to isolate the big neighbour. Since the time of Ivan the Terrible, no one really has wanted strong and stable Russia and there were steps before to prevent the unity of Eurasia.

The long history of Russia plays a big role in forming the modern mind of the citizen and current political rhetoric. Russian people and the government would not admit defeat and would do anything possible to prevail, even if it means to live in humble circumstances for some time (think of the continuous sanctions).

The tough policy of Peter the Great, the emperor of Russia, has brought the country to a new level in comparison to others. At that time already, all the international questions were only resolved with the help of Russia. In the following years, the power of the country kept growing only to solidify during the rule of Catherine the Great. The famous grand chancellor of Russia and the chief of foreign policy Bezborodko used to say, “I don’t know how it will be at your time, but at this time not a single gun is allowed to fire without our permission”[1]. Now, Russia tries to achieve similar influence.

The period after the World War II proved to be fruitful for the development of the European countries. While the US and USSR were competing, Europe was free from deciding on serious issues, so it could absorb and enjoy the time of quiet development.

Nonetheless, there has been a clear confrontation between the two ideologies, Nazism and Communism. Even though the USSR did not try to exterminate the nations, the scary ghost of the USSR keeps frightening the rest of the world. The impression of “evil USSR” flying over the international relations is still there and penetrates the minds of the people.

After the collapse of the USSR, there was a chance to promote peace and peaceful coexistence.  Russia has repeatedly expressed its interest in it, yet the Western partners have chosen another way:  NATO enlargement to the East (which is believed to be a broken promise).  Interestingly enough, George Kennan, the so-called creator of containment policy of Soviet expansion, considered the NATO expansion a tragic mistake.

All in all, abovementioned factors play a significant role in shaping the Russian political discourse. Cultural and historical values, national pride (and therefore negative feeling towards the Western sanctions) as well as the use of state symbols to unite the country are the most important rhetoric tools in the Russian language arsenal. Its constant and regular transmission through the media and other communication channels make this rhetoric influential and persuasive.

[1] [URL: http://www.istmira.com/istoriya-rossii-s-drevnejshix-vremen-do-nashix/290-kakovy-itogi-i-posledstviya-vneshnej-politiki.html] [дата обращения: 20.05.2016]

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Opinion

What’s Really Going On With Russia?

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Moscow Russia Putin

For the mere mortals among us, it’s hard to determine exactly what’s going on with Trump and Russia. To get the bottom of things, it may help to look at the backstory. There’s no denying that Russia and America have had a rocky road in the past. While things have always been a little strained, we did manage to find some level of calm. But, a NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 put a chilly slant on things. Add in one Vladimir Putin (elected in 2000), and you have an ice age on your hands.

But, what have the main issues been? Well, let’s be honest, the cold war got a little…cold. That did nothing to strengthen the relationship. Aside from that, the arguments between our countries come from a direct split in ideologies. Capitalism and communism don’t get on for obvious reasons. Add in the fact that the U.S. and Russia are some of the largest nuclear countries in the world, and you have a real conflict. Perhaps, for world peace, it would be best if we all ‘got along’, but our differing approaches only fuels the fire more.

But then, along came Trump. Despite other negative connotations to his presidency, he did at least seem willing to solve the Russia/U.S. split. In fact, during his election campaign, Trump heralded Putin as ‘very smart’, and gave every indication that he would treat Russia as an ally. He even tried to turn attention from Russia during the election hacking scandal.

Of course, the good times didn’t last long. We now find ourselves in a position where relations are more strained than ever. Given where we’ve been in the past, that’s hard to believe. But, the relationship has spiralled, perhaps in part due to the possibility that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. So, where did things go wrong? To get to the root of the rift, we need to revisit April 4th, when Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was allegedly responsible for dropping chemical weapons on his people. Chemical weapons which Russia had removed.

In an arguably rash counter attack, Trump ordered the dropping of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles. It’s not hard to see, then, why things deteriorated so fast. Overnight, Trump and Putin went from the perfect pair to bitter enemies. And, for some, the change was too subtle to keep on top of. But, rest assured, the old order has been restored when it comes to our relationship with Russia.

So, where are we now? Recently, political figures such as Idaho’s senator, Mike Crapo, have been pushing hard for new Russian sanctions. The new bill, signed by a grudging Trump on the 2nd of this month, makes it harder for him to lift the sanctions if he wishes.

Trump’s reluctance seemed to come about due to remaining hopes of reestablishing relations with Russia. While that seems unlikely, the bill will ensure we can at least hold some level of control over what Russia does overseas.

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Europe

Media Rhetoric: Era of Corrupting Public Opinion for Clicks

Alexandra Goman

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Putin sketch western and russian media rhetoric

In the age of mass media and information society, political rhetoric is thriving. Back in the days, political power could not possibly reach all the corners of one country (especially in case of an immense territory), whereas it is easily done across the borders. The only possible obstacle is another man’s rhetoric.

So, what do we see now? More and more headlines willing to go as catchy as possible. How is a person being swallowed into this? The purpose of this article is not to dwell upon freedom of speech. However, it tries to put into perspective the influence that the current media has on a person (using the example of today’s media rhetoric).

In the 90s, when Soviet Union, one of the most powerful countries collapsed, media all around the world immediately changed its attitude towards  it.  This change of attitude was noticeable even among the public, watching it.  Yet, this rather indulgent political discourse was transforming along with the development of Russia. During that time, Russia was not viewed as a threat, but rather as one among many.  Today, after more than twenty years, the situation is different. Portrayed as an expanding empire, this image makes a lot of money on the front pages.

If you had a chance to go through the Western media, for sure you would find yourself thinking about it. To begin with, after reading you will probably think that Russia is indeed quite bad. Surprisingly, this has nothing to do whether you agree or not.  Rather, this has to do with your sub consciousness. Strong negative language first addresses emotions, only later it is processed by our mind. Afterwards, you may use other sources, but surprisingly other sources sound rather the same. So here is a question: Would you consider turning to a Russian source when everyone else is saying differently? Or better question, would you even consider another opinion in the situation?

On the one hand, the negative image is being constructed for a long time. “Bad boy Putin won’t find friends at G20 summit” (torontosun.com),  “How Vladimir Putin became evil” (theguardian.com), “West faces up to Putin aggression” (bbc.com) etc. Along with these headlines, there are high officials who insist on further sanctions against Russia; there are decisions taken to suspend the country from G8, limit its abilities at the PACE and so on. On the other hand, economic relations are actually getting stronger (forbes) . Many European producers, exporters, businessmen are actually against sanctions. Simply, they are no good for the business (the Guardian).

This kind of blaming rhetoric is similar in Russia itself. Of course, it targets the West in return.

As a result, we see rhetoric of finger-pointing. The countries are demonizing each other according to the principle “we are good – they are bad”. This kind of strategy aims to form certain opinion of another country and stirs up enmity. This strategy is another form of geopolitical influence that is used by the governments.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qSrprBYdxA

It should be noticed that when referring to Russian sources (not just media, but also politicians and government officials), it is widely accepted that these sources are not reliable or trustable. They are corrupted; hence they should not be taken into account. So, does it mean that another point of view is not taken into account as well? I would draw your attention to the question why European rhetoric is believed to be more trustable than any other’s.

During twentieth century, the West had become the main documenter of historical events, from the World War I to the Cold War. Of course, it did represent the events that actually happened, yet we should stress what kinds of things were highlighted in this narration. The West pays attention to what it is important for the West. There is nothing wrong in this; this is simply the way how humans express their opinions. But other countries tell their stories too.  Rejecting their point of view means staying in the nutshell. Just because it is not delivered by stronger power does not necessarily mean that it is a wrong opinion.

For example, the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (Nazi-Soviet neutrality pact) is usually condemned nowadays. In contrast, Europe does not bring up the Munich Agreement of 1938, which permits Germany to annex portions of Czechoslovakia, which was signed by France, Italy and the United Kingdom, the major powers of Europe.

Other notions are also created and moved forward by the West. The term of “cold war”, first appeared in Orwell’s Animal Farm, was later picked up by Walter Lippmann in 1947. Now the period of US-Soviet tension is referred in this way.

This rhetoric has power to reach out anyone in the world that makes it a little bit frightening. It became dominant rhetoric too, developed and imposed by strong counsttries. This discourse easily leads to false stereotypes about international relations.

In this sense, everything that happens outside of Europe, e.g. the conflicts in the Middle East, remain in the periphery and do not influence the main course of events. But for those countries who are actually involved into the conflict, the conflict occupies the central place. In humanities, this is called textualization of reality, which means interpretation of events. So far, textual ethnocentrism of the West is very strong because of its power. As Winston Churchill once said, “History is written by the victors”. It will never get old.

One of the examples of this Western dominance would be terrorist attacks in Belgium and France. Similar and even worse attacks in the Middle East did not draw as much attention as it did with European ones [1]. In the previous century, the description of events was more spontaneous (the wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945). Today it is more well-directed and oriented by power interests.

This leads to certain public opinion all around the world. As a result, powerful countries are getting political and economic benefits, making international agreements that are more beneficial for the West (See Artic Sunrise Case).

Yet, democratic demagogy is vulnerable and easily shaken.  For example, it has been years but Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan are still not democratic, regardless of US attempts. Europe is being weak in the light of the “Eastern Front”, meaning that Eastern countries are turning out to be not particularly democratic. If Serbia and especially Turkey enter the European Union, what is left of democracy and euro-identity?

Every power pursues its interest. Every power has its own agenda. By using electronic or paper means, available to them, they strive to achieve what’s best for their country.  An ordinarily person has to be aware of this and restrain himself/herself from immediate joining to the finger-pointing discourse. Two heads are better than one. Even if another head is believed to be evil.

Author’s note: This article does not aim to finger-point any party, rather it questions trust in media. The West/Russia are taken as an example because there are more sources available (and because I haven’t learnt exotic language yet 😀 ).

I would appreciate people from countries other than Europe expressing their opinions (below in the comments) about their media/officials, interpreting different events.

[1]  If you are interested how the events are interpreted and talked about, read more about Rwandan Genocide. Particularly, the way media and officials addressed the events of 1994.

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