Some people are sick, sick in the head with Russophobia. Oksana Bashuk Hepburn is one of them. Here we will have a look at this piece.
Despite losing the cold war some 20 years ago, Russia is determined to regain superpower status without concessions to a new world order. The policy issue for Canada and others is this: how far to tolerate Russia’s aggression in the name of good relations? And: will it change, if criminal behavior is accommodated?
Straight to the point, I like that!
Cold War was not a war in the real sense of the word, this is why it bears the epithet 'cold.' If it was a war of anything, it was a war of ideas. The loser in this exchange was Communism deservedly, because it was a rotten, unrealistic, and dysfunctional ideology. Russia did not really lose, it is a new subject of international relations which emerged from the collapse of Communism and its main supporting state, the Soviet Union. As the largest state in the world, and a nuclear superpower, Russia is well justified in pursuing its own interests in what it rightfully deems its own backyard, the so called 'near abroad.' States in this area can either comply with Russian interests or suffer the consequences of their insolent behaviour. Sounds harsh? Well, international relations is not for those 'easily offended' types.
What are the challenges to Russia reasserting itself in its backyard? Oksana dropped the term, 'new world order.' One must understand that certain form of international order existed for a long time among humanity. From the Egyptian-Hittite treaty to the Pax Romana, to the Treaty of Westphalia, humanity has seen attempts to have the rule of law and not the rule of the jungle govern the conduct of nations. (1) What we are witnessing today is an attempt to establish a liberal democratic, US dominated order, a Pax Americana if you will.
The nineties saw several works of literature debating the position of Western liberal democratic and capitalist order, and the future dominance of the US. Notably Francis Fukuyama's book with an eschatological title End of History, and the Last Man. According to Fukuyama, the end of the Cold War and the triumph of liberal democracy and capitalism, will ultimately lead to a world where liberal democracy and capitalism become universal, and moreover the final forms of human organisation. Fukuyama later joined the Project for New American Century, a neoconservative think-tank, whose aim was and probably still is:
...to make the case and rally support for American global leadership.
Discussing American global leadership is Zbigniew Brzezinski's Grand Chessboard, which provides the reader with possible strategies on how to achieve the desired outcome, an American dominated, unipolar world. In opposition to such an arrangement stands the idea of a multipolar world. Huntington for instance imagines a world of multiple civilisations which are in constant conflict and competition with each other. There of course can be arrangements other than Huntington's civilisations, Eurasianism transcends religious boundaries for instance. Whatever the concessions Russia needs to make are, it needs to make them to the idea of a universalist world order. In short, relinquish its own ambitions, and become another vassal state of the American Empire.
Russia’s lawlessness is evident. It invades sovereign territory, issues passports to citizens of other states and fails to honor agreements to withdraw troops. It ranks in the top 10 percent of the world’s most corrupt states; the only G-20 country with such a distinction. There’s mischief-making in Transdnistria, cyber attack on Estonia, interference in Kyrgyz Republic's internal affairs. Relations with neighbors are consistently confrontational. It even uses orthodoxy to spread 19-century pan-Russianism worldwide.
And one must add that Russia is still playing nice, and not running at its full capacity. I mean, you take a look at the US. The Americans have a gained much more experience in invading and/or bombing countries without UN mandate, in the last twenty years. Same goes for meddling in affairs of sovereign states worldwide. But guess what, that is all good, because it helps forge a 'new world order.' (2)
I have to object to the accusation levelled against Russian Orthodoxy. Russian Orthodoxy abroad is a multinational, multilingual, and multiracial entity, or more precisely a set of entities. These entities includes such close to Russians ethnic designations as 'Ukrainian,' or very distant ones like 'Japanese.' It is too diverse to be a vehicle of pan-Russianism. However this statement sounds ridiculous, it is no stranger to the arsenal of Russophobes.
The state, under President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, controls virtually all aspects of domestic affairs: Political opposition in the Duma; parliament is stifled. Much of the Russian media serve its oligarch -- read government --owners. Insubordinate journalists are murdered; the leading independent paper Novaya Gazeta lost five, including Anna Politkovskaya; three others have been killed in the last few weeks.
Business shenanigans are legion, best exemplified by the lengthy incarceration of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s former energy czar. Most of Russia’s wealth is controlled by oligarchs favoring the state. Those who do not, like Boris Berezovsky, must flee.
And matters are getting worse. Liberties at home are declining and aggression towards neighbours is rising as Russia, once again, pursues its 19th century imperialist doctrine of Czar Nicholas I 'autocracy, orthodoxy and nationalism.'
Yet, Russia is accommodated by Western powers.
The West happily trades and consults on matters of international politics with China. This entire above piece of Oksana's drivel concerns Russia's domestic affairs, and is of little relevance to international relations which form the main focus of her article.
Following the West’s Cold War victory which liberated some 500 million people and 15 states plus the satellites, from the concentration camp that was the Soviet Union, Russia was in no better position to negotiate terms than post-war Germany. Yet, some--Stalin’s moniker for Western apologists of the USSR had been 'useful idiots' -- lobbied hard to stop the 'humiliation' of Russia and blessing its unilateral claim to a new 'near abroad' empire. To this end, Ukraine and Kazakhstan were threatened with aid withdrawal if exclusive control of the Soviet nuclear arsenal were denied Russia. And when NATO membership support was nearing 70 percent in Ukraine, Western democracies sided with Russia’s nyet rather than admit the largest European country-- a fledgling democracy aiming to embrace the West--into its fold. The pattern persists: there was tepid consternation rather than outrage as Putin threatened Ukraine and Georgia with nuclear annihilation were NATO membership to be granted.
When the First World War ended, it was called the Great War, it was the worse military conflict the world had witnessed to date. On contrary, as I already stated, the Cold War was not a real war, and therefore there was no state entity which was in position to dictate terms to Russia. That said, Oksana does not even realise in her pathological Russophobia where 'humiliation' of inter-war Germany lead eventually.
I would very much like to see the source of such a staggering '70% for NATO in Ukraine' figure. Also Putin threatening Georgia and Ukraine with nuclear annihilation is highly suspicious. Furthermore, even if such a time existed in the recent history of Ukraine, a country does not enter into NATO because the people wish it. The process is a little harder than that. The question of Russia's Black Sea Fleet would have to be resolved for instance. Speaking of resolving issues, Georgia's position looked even worse with regions not under its control. As things stand, Georgia can forget about entering NATO for the foreseeable future, not that it was ever eligible.
Russia appeasement is alive and well as short-term interests get in the way of principles and strategic goals. This gets France technology transfer contracts for Russia’s naval fleet enlargement. Germany’s Angela Merkel--with roots in East Germany where Mr. Putin served as a KGB operative, speaks Russian at official bilateral meetings and works hard to be on the right side of Russia’s energy policies. The United States may have a new START agreement, open bases in Kyrgystan and cooperation in dealing with Iran’s nuclear threat but at what price?
The price is whatever Russia says it is, what is so hard to understand here? Germans, French, Italians understand it, even Americans do get it. Who does not appear to still get it are the East Europeans and their diaspora representatives like Oksana. Russians build the Nord Stream pipeline and the Baltics scream about herrings in danger, or something of the kind. Herrings are probably the only thing their wretched economies have left. Germans and Russians want to do business, Germans have industry and Russians have energy to power it with. Both countries are divided by a strip of land filled with unreliable, loudmouthed states. Unfortunate situation indeed, makes things unnecessarily more difficult for all, except those pushing 'new world order' as defined above.
Meanwhile, Russia’s strategic goals are gaining ground. It is expanding its hegemony in the neighborhood; participating in Europe’s security deliberations; increasing control of global waters; seeking trade access via WTO membership; and demanding respect while expanding its criminal empire. Cold War victors applaud-- da, da kharasho--and throw in the Winter Olympics and the World Cup into the bargain.
With US in decline, it can be argued that somebody needs to take control of global waters. If Russia is willing to step up to the plate, why not? They certainly know how to deal with piracy. I heard comments which were not welcoming to Russia's WTO membership, therefore Russia might not gain much by entry into the organisation. Besides that, what exactly have sporting events to do with international relations? Is Russia not even entitled to host sporting events?
Historian Eerik-Niiles Kross reminds how George Smiley (John le Carre’s fictional character in his Cold War novels) was fond of saying that 'bargaining with the Russians tends to result in giving away the crown jewels in return for chicken feed.'
Bargaining with Russians is probably the only thing Americans have left in their arsenal when it comes to short term policy on Iran. Chicken feed is better than nothing.
Ukraine is a particularly fine gem. The largest country in Europe, with outstanding assets--agriculture, metallurgy, aerospace, with considerable Europe reach via river networks and into the Mediterranean and the Atlantic through the Black Sea, it is key to yedynyj ruskyj mir, the one Russian world, as its current rhetoric has it.
Now she likens Ukraine to a crown jewel, of the West presumably. The 'Russian world' idea is certainly popular among certain segments of the current Russian elite, but is it that popular in Ukraine? I doubt it is, but according to Oksana the answer is 'yes it is!':
Pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych leads the charge in Ukraine, while the West, in deference to Russia, throws the proverbial pearl to the pigs. From an impressive near 90 percent support for independence from Russia- dominated USSR in 1991, Ukraine reverted to a narrow pro-Russia presidential victory in 2010. Unquestionably Russia was guiding developments there; buying Western hearts and minds, by besmirching its state politics, claiming 'Ukraine fatigue' and 'political instability' to ensure the results it wanted. Instead of mounting robust fights, the West caved and Ukraine is, for the time being, sliding back into Russia’s sphere of influence.
The West’s Russo-centric optic is historic and due, in part, to ignorance of the Slavic world. Canada’s historian Margaret MacDonald underscores this in her '1919: The Versailles Treaty' as Woodrow Wilson and Lloyd George split Ukraine between Poland and Russia.
And, nearly a century later, as the U.S.S.R. collapses President George H.W. Bush admonishes Ukraine for breaking with Russia! Current opinion leaders chatter about 'Russia’s Crimea.' Similarly, centuries of Ukraine’s incessant struggles for independence are dismissed as '300 years of Russian rule,' thus legitimizing the hope of the czarist doctrine: Ukraine never was, is not now and never shall be and playing into Putin’s hand.
Yanukovych being pro-Russian is such a worn out line these days, and in my opinion is a result of intellectual laziness. Let me once again repeat myself, Yanukovych is certainly not anti-Russian, he does not appear particularly eager to play into Russia's hands completely either. One would require more evidence of Yanukovych playing into Russian hands to claim that he is pro-Russian. So far his steps are very ambiguous to make such a straight forward assertions.
But this is a necessary assertion that one needs to be convinced of to swallow the thought that after centuries of striving for independence, Ukrainians elected a Russophile. This was apparently a result of Russian meddling, as if Ukrainians are incapable of thinking and making choices on their own apparently. One should be reminded, that during the 'Orange Revolution' which could also be accused of being a result of this time Western meddling, Southern and Eastern Ukraine voted for Yanukovych too. This time around, Yanukovych added some Western Ukrainian districts of Transcarpathia, and percentages here and there in other Western and Central regions. This had little to do with Russian meddling, but more with disillusionment of Ukrainians following broken promises of the Orange camp. 'Political instability' and 'fatigue' were a reality that had no need for Russian propaganda.
Speaking of realities, Oksana has very interesting views. Note that she says that following the First World War, Ukraine was split between Poland and Russia. In fact territories of contemporary Ukraine were split between Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and most importantly Soviet Ukraine. Was Soviet Ukraine to go to that Russia with a doctrine of suppressing the development of Ukrainian identity, we would most likely not even talk about Ukrainians today. The Soviet input into the development of Ukrainian nation and unification of Ukrainian territories is so easily overlooked by pundits today. One should also not forget that Crimea was part of Soviet Russia until the fifties, and is still in ethnic sense, predominantly Russian.
Pro-Russia thinking is evident globally. Despite its lawlessness, it is a bona fide member of the G-8 and G-20; it is courted by NATO. And, if Christopher Westdal’s writings are indicative, more Russia accommodation is in the works. 'Make no mistake' he says '…new boundaries of Europe and Russia will be drawn. … the Caucasus is not European…neither is Ukraine European--enough.' And, if history is a measure, the West just may allow Russia to prevail.
It is chilling that the West may bargain away yet another crown jewel-- NATO’s Western self-determination-- in return for cooperation in Afghanistan and Iran. Mere chicken feed? Delusionary trust? Or both?
A good predictor of future behavior is past performance. The United States and Canada, for instance, should continue to have good relations, given some 200 years of peace and prosperity. The future in Russia’s neighborhood and the rest of the world will be turbulent unless pressured to change. In the last century, Russia invaded the Baltic states, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Georgia. There is mischief making in Armenia and Transdnistria, cyber attacks on Estonia and interference in the Kyrgyz Republic. Gratuitous butchery in Chechnya contrasts sharply to the way Canada, for example, handled Quebec’s independence aspirations.
Has anyone just compared the Québécois to the Chechens? One should note that decades ago, the French speaking population of Canada was not treated as it is now. Liberal democratic accommodation of ethnic minorities is a relatively new concept. In my recent post I alluded to the fact that Russia has compensated Chechnya for past ills. Not to mention, making a contrast between Russia and Canada is completely out of touch.
I am wondering why the list of invaded countries does not include Ukraine? After all, did not the Red Army invade the independent Ukrainian National Republic? Maybe it was not Russia invading Ukraine? Maybe Russia did not invade Czechoslovakia and Hungary either? I might inquire into how many Ukrainians participated in quelling Prague Spring in 1968. Not to mention, that the great leader at the time, Leonid Brezhnev was Ukrainian. A prominent Czechoslovak Communist from the 'conservative' faction of the party, and supporter of Soviet invasion Vasil Bil'ak was a Rusyn by ethnicity, but I am sure Ukrainian nationalists would not mind saying that he was a Ukrainian. Did Ukraine invade Czechoslovakia? Obviously not, but Soviet Union certainly did. From the list, only Georgia fits the bill properly, and Georgia deserved it.
Christopher Westdal, former ambassador of Canada in Moscow, speaks a lot of sense. Caucasus is off limits and Ukraine is not European enough. This goes for for the Ukrainian region, Galicia as well.
Russia’s aggression calls for deterrents rather than rewards. Yet in April, Obama and Medvedev signed the New START Treaty to reduce nuclear power of both countries. Some fear it will ensure the U.S. nuclear arsenal cannot overwhelm Russia’s and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia reserves the right to drop out of the pact if it believes U.S. missile defense plans for Europe threaten its security.
In this uncertain world, Canada is doing its part.
Let's see what Canada is doing:
During the recent visit to Ukraine, Prime Minister Stephen Harper drew heavily on Canada’s foreign policy pillars: security within a stable global framework and projection of Canadian values.
Harper spoke in Kyiv, but his words were heard in Moscow and around the world. He called for the rule of law, respect for human rights and the importance of free media. He paid homage to victims of both Nazi and Communist regimes in this blood-soaked land with the message that admission of past atrocities is a deterrent to future genocides. His performance was statesman like, in the best Canadian tradition and one which virtually all Canadians are proud to support.
It surprises that some would have him -- Canada-- silenced because such positions are 'tailored to suit…Russia-phobe diaspora voting blocks in Canada.' Moreover, dismissing Canada’s concerns regarding Russia’s territorial claims in the Arctic as being '…equivalent to bald men arguing over a comb' is perplexing given the suspected massive oil and gas reserves in the Arctic and Russia’s enhancement of its navy capacity by some 50 vessels and the new military budget by 650 billion dollars.
Harper is a neocon freak, as far as I have heard. If he did not do it to please Russophobic Ukrainian diaspora in Canada, Oksana for instance, he might as well be emulating some folks in Washington. Harper is also a supporter of Ukrainian and Georgian NATO membership. Those 'some' is the aforementioned Christopher Westdal, let us read other Westdal's comments:
The world has moved on, but neo-con thought is alive and well in Ottawa. We need to lift our sights and our game.
In Moscow . . . we’ve just been hard to take seriously these last five years, what with the open antipathy in our Last Cold Warrior Standing posture. Such nonsense gets notices — and does us no good.
I have to admit that I never heard the name Christopher Westdal before writing this article, now I have respect for the man. I am also getting the impression that his comments caused Oksana's Russophobic outrage.
Notes: 1/2) I borrowed from George H.W. Bush's famous speech.