Saturday, 15 November 2014
IS RUSSIA A GLOBAL SECURITY THREAT?
If one reads, watches on TV, or listens on radio what the Western media produces the impression is that Russia poses a threat to regional and global security owing to its intervention in the Ukraine and Syria, but also because it is a nuclear power with a strong deterrent even after the downfall of the Warsaw Pact. Many analysts in the West and its allies from Australia to Saudi Arabia and Israel argue that Russia poses a threat because it possesses nuclear weapons and it has a large conventional force, although it is but a tiny fraction of what the US and NATO possess and it spends a tiny fraction of its GDP of what the US and its NATO partners spend on defense.
Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko has gone so far as to argue that Russia is not just a threat to global security but a terrorist state. After all, Russia annexed the Crimea, continues to support the separatist rebels inside the eastern provinces of Ukraine, and refuses to accept Ukraine’s economic, political, and military integration into the Western zone of influence. Moreover, Russia refuses to renounce its historic role of backing Syria, in cooperation with Iran, making it seem much more menacing militarily than Israel and Saudi Arabia working with the US and NATO to secure Syria as a Western satellite.
According to Russians living in London, there has been a cultural backlash because the majority population has reverted to Cold War days when Westerners loved to hate Russians. In other words, it is not merely the government of President Putin on target for Western hatred but the entire nation. If one observes what comes out of right wing media in English-speaking countries, things are not very different than in London. Russia is the nation to hate because it poses a global security threat, no questions asked.There are of course those who argue that much of the world ridicules US-Western propaganda against Russia because the military interventionist actions of the West and their devastating consequences speak for themselves as to which side is destabilizing the world.
Needless to point out, Russia sees the US and NATO as global security threats. As the only nation on earth ever to use nuclear weapons, and the only nation on earth perpetually involved in militaristic interventions around the world, the US defense budget and ceaseless efforts for military solutions in crises instead of political ones are a source of concern to skeptics about US and the West labeling Russia a global security threat. A concerted US-led effort to weaken Russia which uses energy as a political leverage combined with sanctions so that the US would then fill the trade gap Russia leaves is indicative of soft-power pressure as part of a larger containment policy. Furthermore, the close relationship Moscow has had with Iran, Syria and China is something that bothers the US and many of its allies because it means that the effort to weaken it and reduce to a regional power without much influence has not worked. Hardly anyone who follows the money, weapons, logistical and diplomatic trail behind the jihadists in Syria and Iraq as well as in Yemen is not aware that the West and the Gulf States with Saudi Arabia in charge have been the source of instability.
Of all the hype about Vladimir Putin and his cult of personality, he is hardly stronger than the capabilities of Russia and her allies can carry him. Over-reaching for the sake of fomenting instability is not a Putin characteristic, while defensive moves are. However, the US and EU governments and Western media have created a mass hysteria directed toward Russia in order to build up the “monstrous threat” that the Russian bear of the Soviet era represents once again after a period of hibernation during the 1990s and early 2000s when Russia was too weak to assert its national sovereignty and regional spheres of influence.
With the chaos in the Middle East where the US became involved only to create much bigger problems than it proclaimed it wished to solve, the Ukrainian and Syrian crisis looks even worse than it really is for the US and EU, only because of deliberate policy to create more instability. When Obama had no choice but to work with Iran at some level in order to reach a deal on the nuclear development program, and to water down his commitment to remove Assad from power, it was only out of a realization that a military solution would have been a disaster for all parties concerned. Considering that historically Turkey has been playing all sides, including the US and Saudi Arabia that had been providing financing for the rebels in Syria, but also looking to Irn and Russia as leverage, the best outcome that the West can achieve is more instability, while blaming Russia as a global security threat.
Russia has indeed displayed its predisposition toward military resolution to the crises over Ukraine and Syria, which in the view of Moscow are crises between Russia and the West, the latter which wishes to impose a strict containment policy on Russia. Moscow has made it clear that the West refuses to permit Russia a sphere of influence that the Kremlin regards historically rightfully theirs just as the US views the Western Hemisphere its domain.While there are constant reports of Russian military exercises everywhere from the Mediterranean and Baltic to the border of the Ukraine, exactly what do these military exercises mean, other than to send a symbolic message? Moreover, it is just as true that NATO holds countless military exercises all around the Russian territories, but invoke a "right" to do so, while denying the right of Russians to conduct such exercises.
It is true that Russia has no qualms moving militarily when it comes to its own borders, but only if it faces a threat to what it defines as “national security” zone. Let us keep in mind that Russia from Czar Peter the Great until the present has always had a policy of “continental imperialism” (expansion within Eurasia) in comparison with European imperialism that was always “extra-continental” involving territories in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Moscow is acting largely out of a defensive posture because Putin feels that the US and EU have been ganging up on Russia, encircling it to contain it and not permitting a zone of influence that Moscow regards as its historical right. In the Kremlin's estimation, the Western attempt to integrate Ukraine in the Western zone of influence would be comparable to Russia trying to integrate Mexico into the Russian zone of influence.
Having the experienced of 20th century wars, Germany and France are not interested in a conflict with Russia, especially since they realize that sanctions have backfired and Russia’s decision to float its currency and strengthen ties with China, while the US has been using sanctions to capture market share in Western and Eastern Europe. Having spent billions defending the rubble, Russia opted for a floating currency, thus ending the euro-dollar pegged currency. This move forced all currencies on a downward path, but placed special burdens on Europe and especially on Germany that relies heavily on Russia for energy and as an export-import market. Considering that EU is faced with a slow-growth economy, and considering that major businesses including European defense industry, refuse the take the fall because the US wants sanctions on Russia partly to capture market share, EU governments feel the squeeze from their own business community.
Russia will have a competitive advantage because of the floating currency decision which comes at a time that EU economy is undergoing enormous global competition. Putin has in effect neutralized Germany and France forcing them to re-examine their pro-US aggressive policies. The risk/benefit ratio for France and Germany is to determine how far they can go along with US policy before striking out on their own and proposing some kind of solution over Ukraine and Syria that both Moscow and Washington can live with. It is true that there are Russian nationalists with dreams of a large Russian empire, but even the most delusional nationalists have the sense to realize EU means NATO. Russia is only interested in recovering a part of its lost glory from the past, but within reason and that means within Eurasia, and not far beyond it. After all, there is economic expansionist China to consider. It is interesting that Western politicians and analysts in the media play up this card of making Russia a much more aggressive power than it really is simply because they are interested in strengthening their own defense budgets, but also because the other real global power, namely China, is too strong to confront.
What a better way to convince public opinion to accept more military spending, as the US insists must take place, than to present Russia as an aggressor whose long term goals are threatening global security. The scenarios are simply absurd and serve only the Western defense industry, as well as governments shifting the public’s attention away from domestic issues like unemployment and low living standards for workers and the middle class, and massive cuts in social welfare as neoliberal policies strengthen the corporate welfare state. For now, there seems to be no easy answer and the stalemate will continue. Nothing so far seems to satisfy Moscow, Kiev and Washington as far as a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, but things can change in a few weeks or a few months. As a result of the lingering cat-and-mouse games between Moscow and Washington, Western militarist propagandists want escalation toward conventional war that would then invite NATO intervention on a limited basis. This would in turn invite China to side with Russia and then we are faced with a very serious scenario for WWIII. I do not want to dismiss this absurd scenario because defense industries and billionaire militarists support it; after all, anything is possible when no government is willing to make concessions at the negotiating table and the West seems to need, indeed crave an enemy as a catalyst of unifying their people behind the status quo.
However, even the most hard-headed Western ideologues, militarist enthusiasts and defense industry profiteers are driven at least in part by how they define a greater sense of national responsibility and continue to retain some modicum of their rational faculties; one must assume they do not want nuclear holocaust. Cold War diplomacy meant massive profits for the defense-related industries and it is not about to change. However, as the US and the West want the world to focus on Moscow as a global security threat, China may play a larger role in the world balance of power than people are willing to acknowledge. China wants a tamed Russia but strong enough to keep the West out of Eurasia. China also wants a less adventurist US trying to destabilize various regions around the world where China needs to expand its trade and investments. Improvement between Russia and EU are inevitable because of geography and common economic interests, but also because the reality of the Chinese superpower will eventually sink in.