July 9th, 2015
By: Joaquin Flores
It was bound to happen eventually, with both US presidential candidates locked in a contest to prove who can be ‘tougher’ on Russia. Remember it was quite recently that Hillary Clinton referred to Putin as an “adversary” and referred to Russia as a “threat”. We already know that Jeb Bush will bring John ‘Bomb Iran’ McCain in to … do exactly as he’s done under Obama.
From the July 3rd public publication of the notes of Putin’s Russian Security Council meeting, it is clear in the transcript – reprinted below – that Putin has changed the use of language.
But at any rate, for a long time after it was clear that the US was going to want to destroy Russia whatever its incarnation – socialist, monarchist, capitalist, or whatever – but Russia kept on referring to the US as its ”partner”. The problem is as much geostrategic as it was ideological; one can reasonably say that the two are intrinsically linked.
In the context of this war in Ukraine, many sympathetic to both Russia’s aim of building a multi-polar world with BRICS nations, and to the revolution in Novorossiya, have at the very least been scratching their heads whenever Putin would continue to refer to these obvious opponents as “partners”.
But it happened, Putin now calls the west ‘geopolitical opponents’. It will remain to be seen if the term ‘partners’ will still be used, as in ‘trade partners’ – certainly one can be a trade partner and a geopolitical opponent at the same time. The history of international relations informs us of as much.
We have to keep in mind a few things. The first is that the Russians use their words very carefully. They never engage in saber rattling, and they do not make threats. They have policies, and they make promises. Russia, strangely – at least for those of us in the west – makes use of its double-speak in a highly consistent way. They aren’t all over the place with it, and they are almost never reactive.
The other is that the words match their policy. Again, that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of double-speak – referring to clear “opponents” as “partners” is one giant and obvious example. But so long as they consistently referred to these powers in the west as “partners” it was clear what kind of relationship they wanted to build, or maintain.
This “taking the high road” and keeping to their commitments, and within the context of international law, precedent, and established norms, has earned them a high level of respect and trust all around the world.
Yes, Russia isn’t trying to save the world, and they have their own national interests. Confusing the world for national interests is the US’s neurosis, not Russia’s. It just so happens that Russia realizes a few things. Sometimes friends of Russia who are overly critical of a perceived ‘lack’ of Russian engagement, forget this point.
The first is that in this historical epoch, given the distribution of resources, the present technologies as well as the foreseeable ones, there isn’t going to be a single global hegemon. The ‘auto-destruct’ mode of the US in its attempts to build and maintain unipolar domination is a very good piece of corroborating evidence to that point.
The second is that it needs to maintain and rebuild its historic sphere of influence. This works against the way the US understands the world in the way they’ve come to define and understand it. Folks like Mackinder were big in shaping this view. He said that Eurasia was the heartland that had to be contained and kept weak. Whole bureaucracies were built around this, including the military industrial complex.
Bureaucracies and their policies seem to have their own inertia and survival instinct. They take on a life of their own. They will shape the world so that they can continue to exist in it.
Against this, the other corners of the world will build, rebuild, and maintain their own respective spheres. This multipolar balancing act is going to be critical moving forward. An east Asian bloc, a Eurasian bloc, a sub-Saharan African bloc, an Oceania bloc, a North American bloc, and a Latin-American bloc are all reasonable. Not only that, they are emerging.
What’s missing here is a Middle-Eastern bloc, because the US has succeeded most here in keeping that from cohering. Pan-Arabism as a coherent movement was probably dying in slow motion ever since the Arab-Israel war in 1967.
Still, that defeat is not the trend everywhere. In fact, the trend is opposite. It’s important to be able to recognize trends and position oneself within that scheme.
What we’ve described here also happens to be the operating paradigm of the Russian Security Council.
All of that said, this change in the discourse – from partners to opponents – tells us a lot.
Russia doesn’t shift its words around on a daily basis like the US, and they do not suffer from a bi-polar condition in expressing their foreign policy.
Russia wants the West to know that its days of working towards collaboration in general terms, have officially come to an end.
Transcript of Putin’s address, from Kremlin.ru, to the Russian Security Council:
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: “Good afternoon, colleagues,
Our agenda today includes a range of issues concerning protection of our national interests in the face of the restrictive measures that some countries have imposed on Russia.
We know the reasons for the pressure being put on Russia. We follow an independent domestic and foreign policy and our sovereignty is not up for sale. This does not go down well in some quarters, but this is inevitable.
It is clear today that attempts to split and divide our society, play on our problems, and seek out our vulnerable spots and weak links have not produced the results hoped for by those who imposed these restrictive measures on our country and continue to support them.
Our people, our key political forces, and our business community understand what is happening and know what to do. The timely measures we took have stabilised the economic and financial situation and the labour market and ensured the stable functioning of all strategically important economic sectors. We continue implementing our most important state programmes, including in the social sector.
Furthermore, our companies, Russia’s producers, have proven that they are capable of developing in tough conditions, finding new partners, and entering new markets at home and abroad. This can be seen in the rapid growth of our agriculture sector.
Colleagues, recent events show that we cannot hope that some of our geopolitical opponents will change their hostile course anytime in the foreseeable future. The EU countries recently extended the sanctions they have imposed on us, and discussions continue in the United States on toughening sanctions against us.
Amidst all of this, no one is even trying to analyse the reasons for what is now happening in southeast Ukraine, which was what started all of this fuss in the first place. What I mean here is that those who are imposing these restrictive measures and so-called sanctions on Russia are in fact responsible for the events that we are now witnessing in southeast Ukraine.
We must respond accordingly to this situation, of course, and take additional systemic measures in all key areas.
Firstly, we must make a rapid analysis of all the potential challenges and risks we face – political, economic, information risks and others. Based on this analysis, we then need to make adjustments to our National Security Strategy.
Once the National Security Strategy is updated, we will also need to update strategic planning documents currently in force or in the process of drafting. Furthermore, if needed, we will need to make clarifications to the Foreign Policy Concept and the Foundations of Russia’s Comprehensive Policy in the CIS Area.
At the same time, our strategic course in the foreign policy area remains unchanged. We are open for equal cooperation and collective work on key issues on the international agenda. We will continue to build relations with our partners based on the principles of respect and mutual consideration of each other’s interests, so long as this does not harm our own sovereignty and national security of course.
As before, we support active development of economic integration in the CIS area. We support expanding political, business and humanitarian ties with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the BRICS group.
Economic security issues are a crucial matter. Our strategic planning documents must define the main threats in each area in clearer and more detailed fashion. These documents must define the criteria and set the threshold indicators for the economic situation at which national security risks would start to emerge. They must also put into concrete terms the measures and mechanisms that would enable us to reduce our economy’s dependence on negative external factors.
At the practical level, the Government and the Central Bank must pay particular attention to ensuring the financial system’s stable operation. They must also put in place measures to achieve more balanced budgets and reduce the debt burden on regional budgets.
Overall, we must ensure very close coordination between everyone taking part in this work.
We must develop and present new proposals for the conceptual basis of strategic planning and forecasting of our country’s sustainable socioeconomic development and for risk management. We need to analyse the socioeconomic situation in the regions and conduct on-going monitoring using the regional situation centres. This is especially important for the border regions.
As I said, the restrictive measures we will discuss today have created problems for our economy, but they have also opened new opportunities. Above all, our producers have been able to significantly bolster their positions on the domestic market.
We continue our support for import replacement projects, especially in the agriculture sector, defence sector, engineering, pharmaceuticals, and the chemicals industry. If need be, our companies will receive additional support in these areas.
But let me draw one very important matter to your attention. The Prosecutor General’s Office, Rospotrebnadzor (national consumer protection service), the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service and other agencies must protect our people and companies from fake and poor quality goods. No matter whether goods are produced in Russia or abroad, they must meet modern requirements and standards and their origin and price setting must be transparent and clear.
In conclusion, our direct responsibility is to ensure reliable protection of Russia’s security in all areas and preserve our country’s social, political and economic stability.
Much here will depend on consolidating the efforts of our state institutions and civil society and on concentrating our resources on the priority areas. I am sure that you all understand this well and will do everything possible to resolve the tasks before us effectively.
Thank you very much for your attention.”