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ukraine-cease-fire_inyt“Events in Ukraine have brought a process that began 15 years ago to its logical conclusion. … Back then you will recall, Russia insisted that its role on the international stage was to represent the ‘civilized world’ when dealing with the so-called ‘rogue states’ of Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan – states whose actions threatened to destroy the existing world order. … As the years have passed, Russia has come less to represent civilized states than rogue ones, and to defend rogue states and their interests before the civilized states. … The West has forgotten how it co-existed with the Soviet Union through the use of deterrence. Now it will have to remember.” Alexander Golts

The shelling of residential areas in Mariupol which killed several dozen residents in January ended hopes that Russia would be able to return to the community of civilized nations any time in the foreseeable future. Before our very eyes, our country is turning into a global pariah.

Against the backdrop of renewed hostilities in south and east Ukraine, the Russian public paid little attention to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s recent visit to Iran. In practical terms there was nothing sensational about it. Moscow only hinted at the possibility of renewing a contract for the sale of S-300 air defense systems to Tehran, although officially the question was never discussed. Officials signed a vague agreement providing for military cooperation involving for the most part symbolic gestures such as exchanges of delegations, port visits of naval vessels and the like.

However in some cases, words are more important than specifics. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan announced after the talks with Shoigu: “Emphasis was placed on the need for cooperation between Russia and Iran in their joint struggle against interference by non-regional forces,” he said. Dehghan made no secret of who the “non-regional forces” he referred to are. According to him, all the trouble is due to the “destructive U.S. policy of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.”

Like it or not, Shoigu’s visit allowed the Iranians to actually declare Russia an ally in countering the United States. This was the first time in my memory that a rogue state openly referred to Russia as an ally – and that Moscow didn’t seem to mind. Thus, the events in Ukraine have brought a process that began 15 years ago to its logical conclusion.

Back then you will recall, Russia insisted that its role on the international stage was to represent the “civilized world” when dealing with the so-called “rogue states” of Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan – states whose actions threatened to destroy the existing world order.

Before that, the Soviet Union was willing to support any state – from communists to cannibals – willing to declare its intentions to follow the socialist path, so Moscow had inherited extensive contacts with such countries. The new approach failed almost immediately.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il promised President Vladimir Putin he would cease missile testing, but no sooner had Putin announced his great diplomatic victory than the North Korean dictator announced he had been joking. Leaders of rogue states may be many things, but they aren’t fools. They understand that when the time comes to surrender their position, it should certainly not be to Moscow. It should be to a power that can immediately reward them for their actions. That is, Washington or Brussels.

As the years have passed, Russia has come less to represent civilized states than rogue ones, and to defend rogue states and their interests before the civilized states. The final step in that metamorphosis occurred during Shoigu’s recent visit to Tehran. Now Russia has irrevocably moved into the rogue camp.

I would suggest that now, after the annexation of Crimea and outbreak of war in southern and eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin now meets all the criteria of a rogue state. First of all this is due the presence of a nationalist dogma for the sake of which leaders will deliberately sacrifice the interests of the citizens they represent.

Iran follows the dogma of radical and fundamentalist Islam, in North Korea the dogma centers on “Juche,” which is in fact a cult of Oriental despotism. In today’s Russia it is imperialism tied to Orthodox Christianity, which considers that the military annexation of part of a neighboring state is justified by the fact that at the Crimean Chersonesos, Prince Vladimir [958-1015 AD] was baptized when he brought Orthodoxy to that part of the world.

The main thing is that Vladimir Putin, like the Iranian Ayatollahs and North Korean dictators, is all-too prepared to sacrifice the welfare of the population for the sake of vaguely defined “national interests,” which are in fact a mixture of hypertrophic national pride and the inferiority complexes of the nation’s leader. Today, for the sake of this combustible mixture, people in the Donbass are being killed.

Apparently Putin felt stung when French and German leaders refused to meet him in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana last December. Until recently, however, the Kremlin seems to have thought: if we allow the separatist to just a few more people, those weak-kneed Europe will lift the sanctions.

Moreover, even the relative success of a recent meeting of German, French, Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers wasn’t enough to prevent the advance of separatists equipped with arms and ammunition from Russia. After all, the Kremlin has finally realized that its goal of “federalizing Ukraine” (under which Moscow would exercise complete control over Donbass and Kiev) is practically unattainable. If so, one must utilize the dominant resource: the lives of citizens in Donetsk and Mariupol. The Kremlin is well aware that the “weak” leaders of the U.S. and Western Europe find seeing women and children dying under fire from Grad rockets unbearable. The only way to stop it? … Agree to Russia’s proposal. Again there is the key issue that makes Russia a pariah: the Kremlin’s willingness to pay for its ambitions and prejudices with people’s lives.

Then there’s what makes Russia different from other rogue states: it is a former superpower which maintains the world’s second-largest nuclear arsenal. Today, Putin exploits the fact that no one knows what to do when a major nuclear power violates all international agreements. The West has forgotten how it co-existed with the Soviet Union through the use of deterrence. Now it will have to remember …

 

 

 

 

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