Putin in the attempt to resuscitate the Cold War. Cartoon source: Sergey Elkin.
On June 23rd, China hosted the 14th BRICS summit. The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, inaugurated the event and welcomed its participants with a powerful speech. I couldn’t help noticing and reflecting on two specific statements. The first one:
“First, we must uphold solidarity and safeguard world peace and tranquility. Our world today is overshadowed by the dark clouds of Cold War mentality and power politics and beset by constantly emerging traditional and non-traditional security threats. Some countries attempt to expand military alliances to seek absolute security, stoke bloc-based confrontation by coercing other countries into picking sides and pursue unilateral dominance at the expense of other's rights and interests. If such dangerous trends continue, the world will witness even more turbulence and insecurity”.
For a careful and up-to-date reader of ongoing events, it is easy to read behind the lines. This statement refers to the current Western attitude with its longstanding tendency to impose a US-centric, and by extension, EU-centric, point of view in world affairs. The Ukrainian war is a telling example of these well-rooted dynamics and modus operandi.
Since the beginning of the conflict, what the Chinese President defined as a "cold-war mentality" and "power politics" have re-emerged. An international competition theoretically confined to two states has taken on the features of a proxy war, a well-known pattern in international politics.
It is easy when reading the daily dose of news commenting on the war to get lost and wonder whether the subject of this or that piece of information is the war itself, a particular attack, or the benefits that specific Western countries would obtain by encapsulating Ukraine in the Western orbit under the several banners of democracy and human rights (which sometimes I doubt are fully implemented in the so-called Western civilized world).
However, when it comes to Russia and its relationships with its neighbors, Western meddling is unavoidable, particularly for the omnipresent US. And it is confusing because, if one opens a map, it is easy to see the lack of territorial continuity between the former and Russia (with the exclusion of Alaska). Sometimes it is legitimate to ask: what are US and UK ships doing in the Black Sea? This is at least what I wondered about when I was in Odessa last year. Someone may object that they represent NATO, of course. Many people in the West believe the same thing I do when we are put in front of such images and situations. Few, though, speak their minds openly. It seems that the West is fossilized into the following black and white mentality: Russia is evil, and the West is benevolent.
This is not to say that Russia should be justified. The war in Ukraine, like all wars and subsequent humanitarian crises, should be condemned and banned altogether. But this is a mere utopia when realpolitik is involved. And the US knows it very well, too, as interventions (or maybe we should call them invasions?) in countries like Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq, promoted under the banner of "supporting and spreading democratic values," produced all sorts of effects except the ones intended. Let alone the shameful colonial past of several European countries.
But sometimes, the other side of the coin must be considered because quite often, a thought comes to mind: is Russia really that evil, or maybe its actions result from endless, subtle, and perhaps hypocritical moves coming from the west? People seem (deliberately) to forget that the West, under the NATO banner, made an oral promise to Russia in the 1990s: no expansion eastwards. Promise unattended. Since the Clinton administration, there has been a crescendo of more or less straightforward interventionism passing through Bush and Trump until Biden, with the visible results we are currently put in front of.
If this is not clear enough, a good simile can simplify the overall thinking. Imagine if Russia decided to transfer ships, tanks, and what not to Mexico and station them on the US border or the Caribbean. Imagine if Russia, maybe allied with China and other BRICS countries, started to distribute its passports to Central and South American states and send weapons to support the local struggle against US imperialism. I believe the US would not tolerate this Russian initiative and would reject all sorts of diplomatic ways altogether. In this regard, let's not forget the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
If everything happens in the name of democracy, someone should explain to the people living in Europe, Russians or not, why Russian channels are not accessible. Isn't the right to information one of the fundamental pillars of democracy? Is the European Union formally at war with Russia and, therefore, access to the enemy’s media is blocked? When I briefly traveled outside the EU recently, I could see why. Russian channels and TV programs air the same images, reports, and interviewees saying the exact opposite.
In exceptional cases, when a country is at war, all sorts of that country’s media are banned. This happened when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, and the Allied powers that declared open war on Germany refused its media. In a state of war, this can be a normal phenomenon. But now, the Western world, at least officially, has not declared war on Russia, at least in the traditional Clausewitzian way. Today, in Europe, the media has been banned without any apparent reason.
Many will say that this will save the continent from poisonous Russian propaganda. But how to be sure that this is just propaganda? It has become tough nowadays to understand what is true and what is false. For instance, on a daily basis, the media tells us that Russia does not make any significant gains in its military presence in Ukraine. But the map constantly shown on the same Western programs is talking for itself. Russia has indeed made considerable gains in the east and south of Ukraine, and if the war continues with the same tempo, Russia could reach Kyiv in six months. And here comes Xi's second statement:
"BRICS countries must support each other on issues concerning core interests, practice true multilateralism, safeguard justice, fairness and solidarity and reject hegemony, bullying, and division."
The interpretation is relatively straightforward. Since the west is busy with its cold-war-based power politics, the emerging countries now must show the right way. The traditional values vehemently supported by the West are right now fading away in the West itself, and the so-called developing world will now ensure their survival.
And how to go against this statement? Facts show this.
We are living in a world where the EU has started drifting away and often seems to be lost and lacking coordination (if this ever existed). The Union seems stuck in a "first act and then think" logic. When sanctions are imposed, the consequences must be considered carefully, especially when the country you are punishing is your major gas supplier. Is the EU the subsequent collapsing union after the Soviet one?
And now Europe is running with scissors. The EU urges a 15% cut in gas demand on its member states, dividing the already divided union (let’s not forget the presence of anti-EU left and right parties). Several EU countries are trying to find alternatives, either together or separately. So, while the President of the EU Commission signs a Memorandum of Understanding with Azerbaijan and deals with Egypt and Israel, other countries are taking solo initiatives: Italy with Algeria and Qatar, Greece with Saudi Arabia, France with Qatar and the UAE, to mention some.
Germany, the most heavily Russian-gas-reliant country, has been left trembling for ten days, from July 11th to July 21st, in the hope that Russia will reopen the pipeline North Stream 1, closed due to its annual maintenance work. Russia opened it in the end, but with the same flow as in June, namely reduced by 40%. And no one will guarantee that the Kremlin will not cut the flow altogether, using its gas power as solid political leverage.
And then, Africa. After decades of inhuman policies (to use a euphemism) being applied to this continent, Europe suddenly realized that several African countries, the same countries that: had been used and re-used; exploited and re-exploited; where borders have been drowned utilizing a ruler as a sword regardless of who was living there; the same place used as a waste dump by the developed world; where people were and are still used as disposable items; a battlefield to fuel civil wars and have easier access to untapped resources and so on, are maybe the godsend solution.
And while Europe is struggling and planning the new scramble for Africa and the Middle East, the US can enjoy its gas and oil and devote itself to its political games. Because if Europe is struggling, this is to serve the US interests. Let’s be honest. Because if Russia decides to invade someone, that someone will be someplace in Europe (remember the territorial continuation principle). So, yes, let’s shut down the railway from Russia to Kaliningrad because, whatever the consequences may be, the whole Atlantic Ocean is separating us from them.
But it is not only Europe; the whole world must be influenced and persuaded to take the Western side in the war in Ukraine. The current situation demonstrates that the problems of the West should be the world's problems and not the other way round. Subsequently, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Palestine, and several other countries can be ignored. Because this world is essentially based on the principle of worthy and unworthy victims, as elucidated by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky point out in "Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,"
And these victims acquire even more critical if they are white, blonde, and Christians to fit into the US-EU family properly. But when the US imposed a blockade in the early 1990s during the Gulf War, it blocked the way to humanitarian, resulting in the deaths of millions of local people. This was not covered by the media to the same extent as the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, as the victims were just Iraqi Muslims. And in the end, why should Europe renew its perfect race by mixing with colored, non-Christian people when they have the descendants of the Rurik dynasty at their disposal?
So, once again, double standards. Suddenly, Western Europe is packed with Ukrainian flags, so much so that sometimes it’s hard to understand if you are in Kyiv or, for instance, Copenhagen. But the issue is taking on more significant dimensions. Some people are quarreling over the famous Russian salad, as the name is quite controversial for the good Westerners. Simultaneously, UNESCO is trying to save the Ukrainian borsch should Russia claim it as its own. This is nothing but “banal nationalism,” a clever concept elaborated by Michael Billig.
And then come the non-aligned countries like India and many African states. Then we are currently pressuring India to take a side. India imports fossil fuels from Russia, and this is not good. Russia must be isolated. But if India stops buying from Russia, who will help? The US? Or, even better, the UK? Here again, comes the Western-centric point of view. The world must bow and serve the West, the only provider of genuine models and democratic institutions.
But now, the Eastern world is revolting, and BRICS is an example. Not by chance, the organization is attracting new members who are increasingly isolated by the West, such as Iran and Argentina (affected by the old-age issue of the Falkland Islands or Malvinas). Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey are also considering this opportunity.
If NATO expands, so can the BRICS, with the difference that this is an economic expansion. The point is that, while the Western world is becoming increasingly obsessed with its Eastern policies, the East is moving forward.
If the West fears the comeback of the bipolar world, its plans seem to be going awry. That weaker Russia, which we designed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, has been raising its head since the 2000s when the iron-fist man, Vladimir Putin, took the place of Yeltsin, the US-designated leader addicted more to alcohol than politics.
John Mearsheimer, the famous American political scientist and international relations scholar from the school of realism, has been apparent in saying that the war in Ukraine is an obvious Western fault.
In his recent "The Causes and Consequences of the Ukraine War," he reports one crucial fact during the 2008 Bucharest NATO summit. The then US ambassador to Moscow, William Burns, warned Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by clearly saying that: "Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all red lines for the Russian elite (not just Putin)."
Notwithstanding the strong misgivings put forward by Macron and Merkel back then concerning NATO expansion in Ukraine and the dangers involved, the Bush administration cared little about them and the red line. The US pressured the EU to accept Ukraine and Georgia as future NATO candidates. In the same year, the Russo-Georgian war took place. I think the reason is self-explanatory.
Some years later, the Trump administration went on with this project by starting to sell lethal weapons to Ukraine.
If NATO was conceived as a defensive alliance against a threat that no longer exists, the Soviet Union, these US-led impositions directly contradict the nature of the partnership.
It should therefore be inferred that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the alliance changed silently and imperceptibly its nature, becoming an offensive and expansionist coalition. What happened in the 1990s and the 2000s showed this clearly.
But the Ukrainian war’s consequences are not a problem for the powerful elite in power. This will thrive anyway. Normal people, the ordinary mortals in the war-ravaged East, will pay the price of all this. But Westerners will face difficulties as well, not only those caused by excessive propaganda and brainwashing but also practical ones such as rising prices for gas, energy, food, and other necessities.
Will the Western sanctions hit Mr. Putin and the Russian state? Still unknown, as unknown is why the Western world is acting as if it’s in a state of a war that has not been officially declared.
The only conclusion that can be drawn at the moment is that, once again, these Western inconsistencies can be explained by one and only one thing: Western hypocrisy.
Edited by: Whitney Edna Ibe
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