President Trump would be well advised to remember Gorbachov’s and Bush Sr.’s post-Cold War political testament left in Malta when he gets into office in Washington
It is now fair to say that the case of Syria and Ukraine clearly exposed fallacy of thinking that US, and in broader sense the West, relations with Russia have improved in any shape or form since the end of the Cold War era, as we are currently witnessing significant moment in the human history when these very ties have plunged to levels unseen since the end of the East-West division ended in the late ‘80s.
This persistent inability to finally overcome the past rhetoric of conflict is unfortunately still being fuelled with misunderstanding regarding quite opposite worldviews of two countries and suspicion on the Russian side about America’s motives regarding their country, where Mikhail Gorbachev’s statement given during the interview for Interfax ahead of the 25th anniversary of the aborted 1991 coup that brought about the end of the Soviet Union, which took place this year in August, may serve as a perfect confirmation of this argument.
“At the time, I told the Americans: you are trying to impose your democracy on the people of different countries, spreading it around like coffee in bags, but we must give the people a chance to make their own choice. But they continued and continue to pursue this foreign policy. Even President Obama, democratically elected and enjoying in this regard a significant authority in the country, could not change this course – the course on imposing one-legged solutions. However, I doubt that he wanted to,” said Gorbachev.
“They did not want the Soviet Union to become a powerful democratic state. It would guarantee that neither the policy of unilateral measures, nor the policy of US domination in global affairs would work,” the former Soviet president further explained, also adding that when “they [the West] made a bid for Boris Yeltsin, their goal was the same – to prevent the emergence of Russia as a powerful democratic state. Remember, when the [Soviet] Union collapsed, what was the West’s reaction to this tragic event? They said, ‘this is a gift from God.’ And when Russia was on its back, the US president openly applauded the Russian leadership of the time.”
Blasphemy! How this ex-Communist, this Russian, dares to make such bold statements? – many neoconservatives and liberal hawks, who dedicated their entire political careers to break the back of any Russian government being in power, would argue, at the same time outdoing each other in their zeal in discovering “what would Reagan do?”, or simply follow Arkady Ostrovsky’s pattern of thinking expressed in the recent The Economist magazine attack, I mean report, on Russia, where the ultimate blame for the country’s failure to become “a free market democracy” in the Western understanding was assigned to whom? Yes, to Putin.
The very same people however, many of whom have very limited idea of what communism really was or as mentioned above author deliberately play their Pavlik Morozov part, would then tend to forget that not many of them, and I dare to say that almost none, can lay claim to a remarkable series of achievements which contributed to German reunification and ultimately brought about the end of the Cold War, for which the mentioned above figure was awarded the Otto Hahn Peace Medal in Gold in 1989 and the Nobel Peace Prize on 15 October 1990, or actually knew President Ronald Reagan in person like “Gorbi,” who in fact was the very first recipient of Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, handed over to him on May 4, 1992 by Reagan at his presidential library in California.
Having said that, there is no doubt that the former leader of the Soviet era was aware of George Kennan’s formulation of purpose, who noted in 1948 that America at that time owned “about 50 percent of the world’s wealth but only 6.3 percent of its population.” In his view, the challenge facing future U.S. policymakers was “to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us [Americans] to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.” In other words, the main task for the next generations of foreign policymakers in the U.S. was to secure the uniquely privileged position of America after the end of World War II, which in the course of time equipped followers of Kennan’s foreign policy doctrine with the myth of American exceptionalism, which has flourished after the collapse of the Soviet empire, as it is when the very doctrine marked its first great triumph.
Nevertheless, as it is well explained by Professor Andrew J. Bacevich, whom I had the privilege and pleasure to interview this March due to publication of his latest book titled America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, “the passing of the Cold War period left our massive national security apparatus underemployed while rendering obsolete the policy underlying postwar U.S. military policy—energetically preparing for global war in order to prevent it. The armed services and their various clients came face to face with a crisis of the first order.” Bearing in mind mentioned information, Bacevich asks further a significant question: “With the likelihood of World War III subsiding to somewhere between remote and infinitesimal—with the overarching purpose for which the postwar U.S. military establishment had been created thereby fulfilled—what exactly did that establishment and all of its ancillary agencies, institutes, collaborators, and profit-making auxiliaries exist to do?” It is astonishing, as the answer provided by this undoubtedly one of the best international relations scholars somehow resonates with what was expressed by Gorbachov. “The Pentagon wasted no time in providing an answer to that question. Rather than keeping the peace, it declared, the new key to perpetuating Kennan’s position of disparity was to “shape” the global order,” confirmed Bacevich, adding that “shaping now became the military’s primary job.”
In order to still justify Kennan’s doctrine, as Bacevich says, “the Greater Middle East was to serve—indeed, was even then already serving—as the chosen arena for honing military power into a utensil that would maintain America’s privileged position and, not so incidentally, provide a continuing rationale for the entire apparatus of national security.” Yet, this great American plan, which began in 1980, to reshape Muslim world appeared to be much more difficult task than the US foreign policy makers advising both Republicans and Democrats have thought. Why? Because, as Bacevich noticed, “in stark contrast to the Cold War, American purposes and U.S. military policy in the Islamic world have never aligned. Rather than keeping threats to U.S. interests at bay, a penchant for military activism, initially circumspect but becoming increasingly uninhibited over time, has helped to foster new threats. Time and again, from the 1980s to the present, U.S. military power, unleashed rather than held in abeyance (as it was for most of the Cold War), has met outright failure, produced results other than those intended, or proved to be largely irrelevant.”
Furthermore, the great campaign of the American failure, during which we “have seen U.S. forces invade, occupy, bomb, raid, garrison and otherwise make their presence felt in places ranging from northern Nigeria all the way to the southern Philippines… constitute a War for the Greater Middle East that today finds the United States engaged in an inchoate campaign against ISIL, only the latest in what has become a very long line of bad actors, rogue states, and militant groups on which the United States has set its sights,” as Bacevich already wrote in his opinion piece for Politico magazine last year.
In fact, the famous professor who happens to be a retired Colonel who served in Vietnam, Germany, El Salvador, and the Persian Gulf, wasn’t mistaken, as it is clear now, American-backed nationalist rebels in Syria are cooperating with jihadi terrorists, who pose a direct threat to Europe.
As it is reported by Reuters, “the West’s failure in Syria has left them with no choice but to coordinate more closely with jihadist groups - the opposite of what U.S. policy has sought to achieve.”
We can also read further that “in Aleppo, rebels fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner are sharing operational planning with Jaish al-Fatah, an alliance of Islamist groups including Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the Syrian wing of al Qaeda until it broke off relations in July,” and “meanwhile, in nearby Hama province, FSA groups armed with U.S.-made anti-tank missiles are taking part in a major offensive with the al Qaeda-inspired Jund al-Aqsa group that has diverted some of the army’s firepower from Aleppo.”
The explanation given by a senior official in one of the Aleppo-based rebel factions is allegedly the fact that “at a time when we are dying, it is not logical to first check if a group is classified as terrorist or not before cooperating with it,” as “the only option you have is to go in this direction.” Obviously, as we got used to this kind of explanation of every American foreign policy miscalculation nowadays, also this time the blame is on Russia, against which US-backed rebels are waging a “liberation war.”
It shouldn’t then come as a surprise that Russia was outraged by the diplomatic threat from the U.S State Department spokesman John Kirby, who said that “extremist groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which could include attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities. Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and will continue to lose resources, perhaps even aircraft.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov responded to this by saying that “Russia cannot interpret this as anything else apart from the current U.S. administration’s de facto support for terrorism,” as well as adding that “these thinly disguised invitations to use terrorism as a weapon against Russia show the political depths the current U.S. administration has stooped to in its approach to the Middle East and specifically to Syria.”
The U.S. ongoing failure to separate the rebels from terrorist groups, which are constantly receiving American weapons to bring down Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, as Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told the BBC, is a well-known fact confirmed by many sources, including terrorist themselves.
“Yes, the US supports the opposition [in Syria], but not directly. They support the countries that support us. But we are not yet satisfied with this support,” said Jabhat al-Nusra unit commander, Abu Al Ezz, in an interview for German Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper.
The very statement seems to go hand in hand with SOFREP.com editor in chief’s opinion presented in an article dated September 14, 2016, where Jack Murphy actually wrote that “distinguishing between the FSA and al-Nusra is impossible, because they are virtually the same organization. As early as 2013, FSA commanders were defecting with their entire units to join al-Nusra. There, they still retain the FSA monicker, but it is merely for show, to give the appearance of secularism so they can maintain access to weaponry provided by the CIA and Saudi intelligence services. The reality is that the FSA is little more than a cover for the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra.”
Murphy, who happens to be an 8-year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group, also explains that “many [U.S. military trainers] are actively sabotaging the programs by stalling and doing nothing, knowing that the supposedly secular rebels they are expected to train are actually al-Nusra terrorists.”
To justify such behaviour, Murphy explains that “among the rebels that U.S. Special Forces and Turkish Special Forces were training, ‘A good 95 percent of them were either working in terrorist organizations or were sympathetic to them,’ a Green Beret associated with the program said, adding, ‘A good majority of them admitted that they had no issues with ISIS and that their issue was with the Kurds and the Syrian regime.’”
Going back to the interview with Abu Al Ezz, we further discover that Jabhat Al-Nusra “won battles thanks to TOW rockets,” as according to the terrorist group leader, “due to these rockets, we reached a balance with the regime. Our tanks came from Libya via Turkey, joined by the [BM-21] multiple rocket launchers.”
Despite the fact that the Syrian government forces have military advantage over the terrorists, the group have “the American-made TOW missiles, and the situation in some areas is under control,” added Al Ezz, who also confirmed that “the missiles were given to them directly,” not through the moderate Free Syrian Army.
On that note, it is worthwhile remembering that Reuters have already reported that “Western powers and Assad’s regional foes including Turkey and Saudi Arabia have built much of their Syria policy around supporting the FSA rebels, and have given them weapons via coordination centers run by Assad’s foreign enemies.”
It is however astonishing to here that when Jabhat Al-Nusra was “besieged, they had officers from Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel and America here… Experts in the use of satellites, rockets, reconnaissance and thermal security cameras.” And when Jurgen Todenhofer, who conducted the interview, couldn’t believe his own ears and asked if American military professionals are indeed assisting the jihadists’, Al Ezz replied in the following words: “The Americans are on our side.”
Al Ezz also said that Jabhat Al-Nusra “are part of Al Qaeda,” and apparently they “were inside one group together with the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).”
“But the Islamic State has been used in accordance with the interests and political purposes of the big powers like America, and the group has drifted away from our principles. Most of the IS leaders are working with intelligence services, and it’s now clear for us. We, the Jabhat Al-Nusra, have our own way,” Al Ezz added.
The jihadist leader further informed that his group has been paid for achieving specific military goals during the ongoing Syrian conflict.
“We got 500 million Syrian pounds (around $2.3 million) from Saudi Arabia. To capture the Infantry School in Al Muslimiya years ago we received 1.5 million Kuwaiti dinars (around $500,000) and Saudi Arabia’s $5 million,” said Al Ezz.
Interestingly enough, the very statement has been recently confirmed by the WikiLeaks website, which lately made available a lengthy email exchange between Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, dated September 27, 2014, where, among other things, we can read the following:
“We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region… The Qataris and Saudis will be put in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious U.S. pressure.”
Unfortunately, the US government and mainstream public opinion circles, as usual, twisted everything around, and instead of focusing on the very content of the leaked material, as well as moral and legal burden attached to it, they’ve done what they know the best – they’ve accused “Putin’s Russia” of meddling in American presidential election, which by the way were already named as ‘rigged’ by former GOP nominee Donald Trump.
The thing is that the editor in chief of the WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, who is perceived as a true hero by my generation who has proved several times that “the Emperor has no clothes,” is the public enemy no.1 to the actors, which abuses of power he is exposing.
Nevertheless, the very fact doesn’t justify Washington and Western governments spin doctors’ ignorance towards Saudi Arabia, which was only recently described by The New York Times magazine as “the arsonists and firefighters” in the Middle East, though still having, as Peter Hitchens expressed during our interview, “the special relationship with the USA.”
But still, is an ‘oil for security’ arrangement enough explanation for close cooperation with the country, which wants to see the repetition of the Soviet-Afghan War scenario by “giving MANPADS to the mujahideen,” and is the main exporter of the most violent and extreme version of radical Islam known as Wahhabism? I don’t think so, as who is exactly America, in the hawkish liberal interventionist understanding, to arbitrarily impose on other countries the answer to a question on who/what is their greatest enemy, or on what ethical and legal basis they decry the one country, when at the same time absolving their radical Islamic allies, who are not only posing a real threat to the American citizens, but to the whole Judeo-Christian world? Are these actions indeed driven, as former managing editor at The National Interest John Allan Gay wrote in his article for The American Conservative, by the “White Messiah Complex”? Or is it simply the side effect of a psychopathic nature of this part of the American political elite, which made them to forget Samuel P. Huntington’s warning that “in the emerging world of ethnic conflict and civilizational clash, Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems: it is false; it is immoral; and it is dangerous…”? It’s really hard to tell.
What is however obvious on the contrary, is the fact that America and Russia have very different objectives when it comes to Syria.
While the main goal for the US and its inglorious allies in the Middle East is to “thwart Russia” and “get rid of Assad,” something which has been also confirmed by Michael Brenner, who has attended a public conference at the University of Texas in Austin organised by the combined security/intelligence communities, Moscow made it clear at the very beginning of its cooperation with Washington in Syria that “the real enemy of Russia is international terrorism. It’s ISIL, but not limited to ISIL. Jabhat al-Nusra [sometimes called the al-Qaeda in Syria], which is an offspring of al-Qaeda, is as lethal as ISIL,” as explained Russia’s Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov during an interview for EurActiv last year.
“If we are there to fight our common enemy, actually an enemy of the whole civilised world, we should concentrate on that, and not engage in double games,” added Chizov.
On October 3, 2016 came the price for taking Russia for a fool, which took its form in a very symbolic suspension by the country of the agreement with the US on the disposal of surplus weapons-grade plutonium, which is a protocol to a 2000 pact calling on each side to dispose of 34 tons of its plutonium stockpiles.
Along the Vladimir Putin’s decree, where he expressed that Russia had to take “urgent measures to defend the security of the Russian Federation,” the Russian President submitted a bill to parliament setting a series of pre-conditions for the US government in order to get back to discussions over plutonium reductions, including reduction of US military infrastructure and troops in countries that joined Nato after 1 September 2000, and lifting of all US sanctions against Russia and compensation for the damage they have caused.
On the other hand, America informed on the same day that is “suspending its participation in bilateral channels with Russia that were established to sustain the Cessation of Hostilities,” as according to Washington, Kremlin “had failed to live up to its commitments under a ceasefire agreement.”
The immediate response came from Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergiei Lavrov, who said in a statement addressing the treaty’s suspension that “the Obama administration has done everything in its power to destroy the atmosphere of trust which could have encouraged cooperation.”
“The step Russia has been forced to take is not intended to worsen relations with the United States. We want Washington to understand that you cannot, with one hand, introduce sanctions against us where it can be done fairly painlessly for the Americans, and with the other hand continue selective cooperation in areas where it suits them,” Lavrov added.
Nonetheless, even the so called cooperation in areas convenient for the US seems to be a bad foreign policy joke, as it is really hard to imagine how America and the Western leaders plan to bring “lasting peace in territories where there is no functioning state”? Are they planning to achieve this goal with the help of more of the US-backed “moderate” groups like Ahrar al-Sham militia, which is “known for taking hostages, for suicide acts, the execution of a prisoner and attacks on villages of Alawis,” and was recently called a terrorist organisation by a German court, by increasing weapons supply for the rebels to overthrow legally elected President Assad, or learning from the past mistakes and finally being serious about the situation in Syria by stopping this Alice in Wonderland “off with his head” madness?
Those who are keen to find the answer to this question may find Professor John N. Gray’s essay titled The Truth about Evil to be a very useful guide.
The Emeritus Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics argues there that “ungoverned space in which Isis operates has been created by the west’s exercises in regime change,” which root cause he sees in the fact that western leaders are being trapped in a ‘melioristic’ cliché which, like in the Greek tragedy, contributes to their inability to draw constructive conclusions from the past experience in the region.
“They cannot accept that by removing one ‘tyrant’ they may succeed only in bringing about another. They need a narrative of continuing advance if they are to preserve their sense of being able to act meaningfully in the world, so they are driven repeatedly to re-make their failures,” explains Gray.
This one of the greatest political thinkers of the 21st century couldn’t be more right, as we didn’t have to wait long for a response towards Russia, which is supporting Syrian government and therefore status quo in the war-torn country, as following John Kerry’s call to start war crimes investigation against Russia and Assad Government, other Western powers, almost like in the case of Pavlov’s dogs, also have accused Russia and Syria of committing atrocities by bombing hospitals, killing civilians and preventing medical evacuations, during the meaningless ceasefire. Meaningless, as it was Jabhat al-Nusra unit commander Abu Al Ezz who explicitly said during the mentioned above interview that his group “do not recognize the ceasefire.” So in whose interest exactly was to prevent Putin and Assad from bombing these villains?
Basing his highly destructive remarks on plain assumptions, the American diplomat has again proved his incompetence and serious shortages in legal understanding, as as a Boston College Law School graduate he should be aware of the legal fact, which says that “facta non praesumuntur, sed probantur,” as “qui accusare volunt, probationes habere debent.”
Despite the fact that Russia denied the accusation and said a US drone was monitoring the convoy, and thus Washington should know the truth about the attack, with Vladimir Putin saying during an economic forum in Moscow this month that “it was one of the terrorist groups. And we know that, say, the Americans know it too, but prefer to take a different position, to falsely accuse Russia. This is not helping,” the milk has been spilled, and it only started a domino effect, which have only added more fuel to already huge tensions between the West and Russia.
In retaliation for Russia’s veto on a Franco-Spanish UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the bombing of Allepo, which in Moscow’s opinion would “protect terrorists,” President Francois Holland has suggested that Syrian forces had committed a “war crime” in Aleppo with the support of Russian air strikes, resulting in cancelation of Vladimir Putin’s visit planned for October 19, 2016.
Fyodor Lukyanov, who is Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, as well as Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and Research Director of the Valdai International Discussion Club, described this step as a “reminiscent of the Cold War,” further explaining that “this is part of the broader escalation in the tensions between Russia and the West, and Russia and NATO.”
As if the current state of affairs wasn’t bad enough, the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs on October 10 proved they can hit even deeper intellectual low by equating ISIS with Russia.
They passed the resolution on the “EU strategic communication,” which was approved by 31 votes to 8, with 14 abstentions, and was voted by the full House during the plenary sessions in Strasbourg on November 22, 2016, which suggests that the EU is under growing pressure to counter disinformation campaigns and propaganda from countries, such as Russia, and non-state actors like ISIS/Daesh, Al-Qaeda or other violent jihadi terrorist groups. What is also interesting is the fact that London-based Henry Jackson Society, which is the main neoconservative think tank in Britain, published ahead of the November session a report titled Putin’s Useful Idiots: Britain’s Left, Right and Russia, according to which individuals and entities who appear on Russian media should be singled out and exposed – in other words, those who tend to have realistic approach towards global peace understanding, which can only be maintained if great world powers like America and Russia are in dialogue, not in argument.
As we can read in European Parliament’s press release, the MEPs are specifically concerned about the rapid expansion of Kremlin-inspired propaganda, as in their view “the Russian government is aggressively employing a wide range of tools and instruments, such as think tanks […], multilingual TV stations (e.g. Russia Today), pseudo-news agencies […], social media and internet trolls, to challenge democratic values, and divide Europe.”
“Kremlin propaganda directly targets specific journalists, politicians and individuals in the EU,” the text also notes.
On that note, I must admit that I’m experiencing cognitive dissonance, as the mentioned litany of accusation could be well assigned to the West, where finding any unbiased and not incendiary assessment of Russia and its President in the mainstream media coverage is like finding a needle in a haystack.
It is however very well apparent with regard to the recent report titled Winning the Information War: Techniques and Counter-Strategies to Russian Propaganda in Central and Eastern Europe (published in August 2016 by the Center for European Policy Analysis, a think tank based in Washington and Warsaw) that Edward Lucas and Mrs Anne Applebaum, who is best known in Poland for her cookbook titled From a Polish Country House Kitchen or husband - the former Foreign Minister of Poland Radek Sikorski - who in a fraction of a second became political persona non grata for being caught on tapes saying that “the Polish-American alliance is not worth anything, as it is pushing us toward conflict with the Germans and Russians,” are doing exactly what the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs describing, including among other things propaganda attacks on the website that I co-edit and its one of the most interesting columnists, Konrad Rękas.
It is worth mentioning that, apparently in the wake of propaganda extinction process, the NatWest (owned by Royal Bank of Scotland) bank accounts of the Russia Today channel (RT) were recently closed without any reason given for the decision, which is “final” and not open to any discussion.
Farewell freedom of speech? Apparently the Brussels foreign affairs elite haven’t heard of Ignacy Krasicki, known as “the Prince of Polish Poets”, whose motto was “real virtue is not afraid of criticism and laughter, as it can frequently have an educational value.” Hence, in my opinion, we may find highly reviling an article published by the Guardian newspaper provocatively titled Russian news may be biased–but so is much western media, authored by Piers Robinson, who researches and writes on media and conflict as well as propaganda and organized persuasive communication at the University of Sheffield, where among other things the author recalls the Chilcot report, and reminds us how after 9/11 “regime-change hawks” in Washington argued that “a coalition put together for one purpose (against international terrorism) could be used to clear up other problems in the region”. The very report also provides us with the evidence that Tony Blair had discussed there a “dedicated tightly knit propaganda unit,” which would serve the “war on terror” purposes.
Furthermore, I can’t recall when exactly Kremlin was organizing ‘educational picnics’ abroad, like the ones organised this summer in Poland by NATO, where children were thought about the threat from the “aggressive Russian bear,” which made this Christmas a real horror for those of conscious parents, who will find very hard to explain to their kids that currently the “old bear is still sleeping deeply.”
On top of this, as if all that weren’t enough, there is a case of Washington-led campaign which imposed Western economic sanctions on Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis, achieved through narcistic perversion expressed in “twisting the arms of European countries that wouldn’t do what the US need them to do,” and having its roots in President Barack Obama’s foreign policy philosophy.
The fact is that the policy of sanctions is not only at odds with the political goals of such European countries like Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia, a will of the Dutch citizens, who in a referendum held April 2016 said “No” to the EU-Ukraine agreement, but also an interest of European farmers, who learnt the outcome of the reckless policy the hard way, and are repeatedly protesting against it.
As my report on the matter of sanctions on Russia published last year proves, the policy is economically disastrous both for America and Europe and, as a series of Reuters investigations recently proved, to some degree ineffective due to fact that some of the European companies know how to find their way around the punitive economic regime in order to do business in Crimea.
It is worth mentioning that this sanctions policy of failure towards Russia is deeply rooted in a denial of the results of a legitimate Crimean referendum held on 16 March 2014, where majority of voters decided to reunite with Russia after First Secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, Nikita Khrushchev, symbolically “transferred” it to Ukraine as a gift commemorating 300 years of Ukrainian-Russian union, and remained its part after the collapse of the USSR.
“While Crimea had previously been joined to Ukraine [in 1954] based on the Soviet laws, which means [Communist] party laws, without asking the people, now the people themselves have decided to correct that mistake,” commented born into a mixed Russian-Ukrainian family Gorbachev, who seems to be the archetypal version of a Russian leader tolerable in the West, with whom even Baroness Margaret Thatcher (God rest her soul!) could “do business together.”
Unfortunately, despite the fact that the majority of Crimean people are happy with their choice, as Kenneth Rapoza proves on the ground of two Western-based studies in his article in Forbes titled One Year After Russia Annexed Crimea, Locals Prefer Moscow To Kiev, and Ukraine is being “at risk of becoming a failed state” without recognising “that economic survival depends on Moscow not the west,” as Professor Nicolai N. Petro explains in his article for the Guardian titled Why Ukraine needs Russia more than ever, some of the EU hawkish Don Quixotes still believe that the best way to move forward about Russia is to add more sanctions, neglecting the fact that it is the reason of a serious EU foreign policy division between its member states, which increasingly often tend to oppose this kind of foreign policy rhetoric.
Moreover, the very same hawks also believe that the best way to “keep dialogue with Moscow” and to “prevent” a possible conflict with the Russians is to put “NATO’s biggest military build-up since the Cold War” right next to their borders – the very attempt, which German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier described in June as “warmongering” against Russia.
It is therefore astonishing that the same hawks are surprised when in response to being brought to bay, Russians reject their country being treated as an international piñata and decided to move nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles into a Russian region on the Baltic Sea known as Kaliningrad, as well as cooperate with China on minimizing a threat posed by U.S. missile defense based in Europe and Asia.
Bearing in mind the fact that Moscow is not going to return Crimea to Kyiv or change its policy in Syria, I find extremely difficult to not pay a keen attention when Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is warning that “the world has reached a dangerous point,” and blaming “the collapse of trust in relations between major powers” for this alarming state of affairs.
Adding the fact that the current Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has a realistic chance to become the next German president, has called the current escalation of tensions created by increasingly worsening dynamic between America and Russia “more dangerous” than the Cold War, it makes absolute sense to me that the current situation is desperately calling for a deeper reflection on our civilizational future, which should be based on Eleanor Roosevelt’s timeless statement that only “great minds discuss ideas.”
As for me, a millennial born in Poland during the Communist occupation, who above all believes in Christian realism in foreign policy approach, this very reflection came to me during my stay in Malta, which I went to visit after Patriarch Kirill’s recent call in London for a joint “holy war” against Islamic terrorism, as I do believe that we have to finally admit Huntington was right in his prediction that “the fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.”
The country, which Maltese historian Giovanni Francesco Abela described as a divinely ordained “bulwark of Christian, European civilization against the spread of Mediterranean Islam” due to its geographical location at the heart of Mediterranean and the crossroads of Africa, Europe and the Middle East, dates back its great strategic importance to The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem’s settlement there in 16th century, which was a military religious elite of the Christian Europe defending its gates against the Islamic threat posed at that time by the Ottoman Empire.
Malta’s relevance is also very evident during and after the Second World War, as the country was not only awarded with the George Cross by King George VI in 1942 for its bravery during the war, or served in 1943 as the pre-Yalta place of meeting between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill, but most importantly served between 2nd and 3rd December 1989 as a first face-to-face meeting place between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachov and US President George Bush Sr., where the leaders provided very important statements.“Many things that were characteristic of the cold war should now be abandoned. The threat of force, mistrust, psychological and ideological struggle… All these should be things of the past. The world is leaving one epoch and entering another. This is just the beginning. We’re at the start of a long road to a lasting, peaceful era,” said Gorbachov, where his American counterpart added: “I am optimistic we can realise a lasting peace and transform the East -West relationship to one of enduring cooperation… That’s the future that Chairman Gorbachov and I began right here in Malta.”
On that note, I very much hope that the next commander in chief in America will keep in mind this powerful messages when he gets into office in Washington, as I very much doubt that exercising further the current ‘history deficit’ in America’s foreign policy can bring America, Russia, or Europe, anything good.