For once, either as a sign of things to come or in one of its infrequent gestures of tokenism to sanity, The Guardian carries a sober-minded analysis of the current fallout from the Empire’s debacle in Ukraine. As Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, rightly states here, “Ukraine and the global crisis over it point to the start of a new period in world politics.”
While Trenin is surely correct in that estimate, he still tends to hew too closely to the State Department narrative line, over-emphasizing the isolation Russia faces in Europe as well as the support the rest of Europe is prepared to give to Ukraine. Whether the Minsk agreement holds or not – a moot point as Kiev has already violated the ceasefire and, emboldened by the 17.5 billion dollar loan the IMF has just extended to it, it may be tempted to use the US largess in a wrong-headed attempt to prolong the war in the South East – Trenin is surely right to refer to the EU as “a newly divided Europe.”
The division he adverts to is not so new, either: already almost a year ago, both the Czech Republic and Slovakia, for example, reading the signs of the times correctly, publicly announced that they would not allow any NATO missiles or (additional?) troops on their territories. Greece, now led by Syriza, may be expected to follow suit, especially as Russia’s decision to abandon the South Stream in favour of a pipeline it’s negotiated with Turkey must also, and logically, mean added security for Greece from its time-old enemy and former colonial master, Turkey, whom it may very soon begin to look upon as an economic partner since the new pipeline will have to pass through Greece, too.
France, also, and in the person of Nicolas Sarkozy, has indicated its growing distance from Germany’s and Poland’s willingness to bend over backwards to accommodate North American political and economic interests at the expense of EU members. On February 8, in an interview he gave to RT, Sarkozy not only rejected the official NATO narrative line on Crimea but explicitly stated that Ukraine “is not destined to join the EU.”
Although he is not currently in power, Sarkozy’s intervention may well signal a shift in the EU position vis a vis both Ukraine and Russia and should send a strong message to Washington, too, as he was the political figure the EU had chosen to send to Georgia to manage the fallout from Mikheil Saakashvili’s attempt to push NATO into a military confrontation with Russia by the attack he’d ordered on South Ossetia in 2008. It was Sarkozy who negotiated the peace agreement between Russia and its Georgian neighbour, expressly naming Georgia as the culprit in that bit of military adventurism on Russia’s borders. The reminder and the warning Sarkozy subsequently addressed to the European Parliament on 21 October 2008 still hold: “Europe has seen the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Europe must not be an accessory to a new cold war, entered solely because people lost their cool.”
Trenin also seems to overestimate Russia’s isolation and Europe’s alienation from it in other respects, too. We know by now that several EU countries are opposed to the economic sanctions Washington has demanded and arm-wrestled them into imposing on Russia, as they are opposed to the rift the Empire has been doing its worst to create between Europe and the rest of its home continent. Let us not forget that, geographically, Europe is the westernmost peninsula of Asia, a subcontinent on par with the Indian one. Logically, its economic future, therefore, lies with the rest of the countries on its own home continent. Even before Syriza took power in Greece and promptly indicated its new government’s willingness to challenge the currently established EU policy against Russia, several other EU countries had expressed their reservations about their Washington-induced alienation from its Russian neighbour. Thus, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary and Bulgaria – while none of them dared openly question the Empire’s will in public – all expressed strong support for the construction of the South Stream pipeline, which they would have stood to benefit from.
Wisely enough, as befits the statesman he’s showing himself to be, Putin has left the question of the South Stream pipeline open. While Russia will not itself finance its construction and is going ahead with the plans it’s now negotiated with Turkey, Putin has invited the EU to put up the funds for the construction of a pipeline that will enable it to definitively by-pass the ever-untrustworthy Ukrainians and thus ensure for itself a steady, reliable supply of good quality, relatively inexpensive oil and gas from its neighbour to the east.
Finally, Russia’s continued insistence that it considers the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics a part of Ukraine – something Trenin notes but doesn’t go far enough in articulating the implications thereof — leaves the door open to a solution of the Ukrainian crisis which would benefit all of the key parties, i.e. the Ukrainians themselves, the EU, and Russia, too. A federal Ukraine, free to pursue its own economic and cultural as well as its own foreign policy interests, free to seek an eventual economic association with the EU (obviously, the current one must be re-negotiated) as well as an eventual participation in the Eurasian Economic Union, would be a keystone guarantee of peace and security in Europe. Such a solution would also be in the interests of the USA itself, whose proxy war in Ukraine threatens world peace. Russia has long been upfront and publicly on record about its major defense doctrine, which reserves to it the right to first-strike use of nuclear weapons in the event it finds itself threatened by an overwhelming conventional army — something it has experienced no less than three times in the past 200 years. The West’s most recent attempt to “contain”, i.e. to invade and conquer, Russia came at the cost of some 20 million Russian lives, as the Red Army drove Western invaders back to their rightful borders. As Nikolai N. Sokov, a senior fellow at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, wrote almost a year ago, faced with an ever-expanding and militarily adventurous, one might say even exorbitantly greedy NATO, by 2000
“Russia had issued a new military doctrine whose main innovation was the concept of de-escalation—the idea that, if Russia were faced with a large-scale conventional attack that exceeded its capacity for defense, it might respond with a limited nuclear strike. To date, Russia has never publicly invoked the possibility of de-escalation in relation to any specific conflict. But Russia’s policy probably limited the West’s options for responding to the 2008 war in Georgia. And it is probably in the back of Western leaders’ minds today, dictating restraint as they formulate their responses to events in Ukraine.”
It is becoming increasingly clear to some in the United Sates, too, that America’s imperial adventure in Ukraine makes sense only to the likes of Monsanto and a few of the frack-happy US oil companies hoping to make a fortune in the South East oblasts, as well as to a handful of now criminally reckless neocons in the State Department and in the shadowy circles that advise Barack Obama, circles who seem to be exerting undue influence on what’s turning out to be one of the most irresponsible and erratic foreign-policy presidencies the US has ever had.
It will take no more than some courage and some political integrity as well as a genuine sense of patriotism on the part of the European political elite to grasp this situation clearly enough and to act on the increasingly real conditions of possibility for a new security and economic arrangement on the European subcontinent, an arrangement that must now (and for the first time ever) take fully into consideration Russia’s own legitimate economic and security interests.
This essay was occasioned by Dmitri Trenin’s “Ukraine points towards the start of a tumultuous new era in world politics”.
See also Nikolai Sokov, Why Russia calls a limited nuclear strike “de-escalation”.