IN THE RADICAL PRESS / MEMOIRE DES LUTTES
by Pierre Charasse*
The Ukrainian crisis has highlighted the magnitude of the manipulation of Western opinion by the mass media, television channels like CNN, Foxnews, Euronews and many others, as well as print, fed by the north American and European news agencies. The degree to which the public has been misinformed is striking. yet it is easy to have access to a wealth of information from all sides. It is very disturbing to see how many people around the world are being lured into an unprecedented russophobia, not seen even in the worst moments of the Cold War .
The image produced by this powerful media machine, and which enters the collective unconscious, is the contrast between Russians that are backward barbarians and a civilized West. Thus, the very important speech that Putin gave on March 18, following the referendum in the Crimea, was literally boycotted by the mainstream media, which focussed on the European and North American responses, all negative naturally. However, in his speech, Putin said that the crisis in Ukraine was not triggered by Russia, and presented with great rationality the position of his country and its legitimate strategic interests in the era post
ideological conflict era.
Humiliated by the treatment reserved for it by the West since 1989, Russia woke up with Putin. It has sought to rebuild the traditional lines of force of the historic tsarist empire, and subsequently, the Soviet Union. Geography often dictates strategy. Having lost much of her”historical territories” – in the words of Putin – and its Russian and non-Russian population, it is made it a great national and patriotic project to recover its superpower status to become once again a “global” actor, securing first its land and sea borders.
This is exactly what the West wants to prevent in its unipolar worldview. But like a good chess player, Putin is several moves ahead, with a thorough knowledge of history and reality of the world, and the aspirations of a large part of the population of the territories previously controlled by the Soviet Union. He knows well the divisions and weaknesses of the European Union ( EU), as well as the real military capability of NATO and the state of Western public opinion, reluctant to see an increase in military budgets during a recession. Unlike the European Commission – whose project coincides with that of the United States to strengthen Euro-Atlantic political, economic and military bloc – the citizens of the Old Continent, in their majority, do not want the enlargement of the EU to the East, with
Ukraine, with Georgia or any other country of the former Soviet Union.
With posturing and threats of sanctions, the EU, slavishly aligned to Washington, shows that it is powerless to seriously “punish” Russia. Its weight does not match its ambitions to shape the world in its image. The Russian government, reactive and malicious, applies “graduated responses”, mocking Western sanctions. Putin, haughty, even permits himself the luxury of announcing that it will open an account at the Rossyia Bank of New York to deposit his salary! He has not mentioned limits on the supply of gas to Ukraine and Western Europe, but everyone knows he has this card up his sleeve. One which has already forced the Europeans to consider a complete overhaul of their energy supply. But it will take years to materialize.
Western errors and divisions put Russia in a position of strength. Putin enjoys exceptional popularity in his country and among the Russian communities in neighbouring countries, and we can be sure that his intelligence services have penetrated deeply into countries formerly controlled by the Soviet Union, giving him first hand information on the internal balance of forces. Russia’s diplomatic apparatus provides him with a strong case for removing the West’s monopoly of interpretation of international law, particularly on the thorny issue of self-determination. As might be expected, Putin has not hesitated to cite the precedent of Kosovo to vilify the double standards of the West, its inconsistencies, and the destabilizing role it played in the Balkans.
While the anti-Russian media propaganda was in full swing after the referendum of 16 March Crimea, the West has since suddenly quietened down. The G7, at its summit in The Hague, held in conjunction with the conference on nuclear safety, has not threatened to exclude Russia from the G8 as was trumpeted only a few days earlier. It simply announced that “it would not participate in the Sochi summit.” Which gives it the ability to reactivate at any time the principal forum for dialogue with Russia, established in 1994 at its express request. The first retreat of the G7.
For his part, Barack Obama was quick to announce that there would be no military intervention by NATO to help Ukraine, but only a promise of cooperation to rebuild its military capabilities which largely comprise obsolete Soviet equipment. The second retreat. It will take years to build a Ukrainian army worthy of its name, and one wonders who will pay, considering the plight of the country’s finances. In addition, we do not know exactly what the status is of the Ukrainian Armed Forces after Moscow invited – with some success, it seems – the Ukrainian military heirs of the Red Army to join the Russian army, conserving their rank.
The Ukrainian fleet has already fully passed under Russian control. Finally, in another spectacular reverse for the United States, secret talks are very advanced between Moscow and Washington over adopting a new Constitution in Ukraine, to install in Kiev following the elections of May 2, a coalition government whose extremist neo-Nazis would be excluded, and in particular to impose a neutral status to Ukraine, its ” Finlandisation”, recommended by Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. This formula would prohibit its entry into NATO, but allow economic agreements with both the EU and with the Eurasian Customs Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan).
If such an agreement were to be concluded, the EU would be faced with a fait accompli and would be forced to pay the bill for the Russian-American tête-à- tête. With such guarantees, Moscow could consider that it has met its security needs, regained a foothold in its former sphere of influence, and could refrain from fomenting separatism in other Ukrainian provinces of Transnistria (province of Moldova populated by Russians ) reaffirming its strong respect for European borders. The Kremlin would at the same time offer an honorable exit to Obama. A coup for Putin.
The G7 had not calculated that by taking steps to isolate Russia – besides the fact that in so doing it applied to itself a ‘sado -masochistic’ punishment in the words of Hubert Vedrine, former Minister for Foreign Affairs in France – that in spite of itself it would accelerate a process already well under way of a deep reordering of the world for the benefit of a non-Western group, led by China and Russia, within the BRICS [also including Brazil, India and South Africa]. In response to the G7 communiqué of 24 March, the Foreign Ministers of the BRICS expressed their rejection of any measure aimed at isolating Russia. They took the opportunity to denounce the practices of U.S. spying against their leaders. For good measure, they demanded the United States ratify the new distribution of voting rights at the IMF and the World Bank as a first step towards a “more equitable world order.”
The G7 did not expect such a quick and robust reply from the BRICS. This episode may suggest that the G20 – of which the G7 and BRICS are the two main pillars – could face a serious crisis before its next summit in Brisbane (Australia) on 15 and 16 November, especially if the G7 persists in marginalising and punishing Moscow. It is almost certain that there would be a majority in the G20 to condemn sanctions against Russia, which, in fact, would act to isolate the G7. In their statement the ministers of BRICS felt that to decide who is a member of the group and what its purpose is was up to all its members, “on an equal footing”, and no single member “can unilaterally determine its nature and his character.”
The BRIC ministers called for the current crisis to be resolved in the context of the United Nations ‘in a calm and level- headed manner’ not ‘ the escalation of hostile language, sanctions and counter-sanctions’. A real slap in the face of the G7 and the EU! The G7, which can blame only itself for its current bind, has been warned that it will have to make significant concessions if it wants to continue to have some influence in the G20. In addition, two important events are set to take place for the coming weeks. On the one hand, Vladimir Putin will pay an official visit to China in May. The two giants are about to sign a major energy deal that will substantially affect the global energy market, both strategically and financially. The transactions would not be in dollars, but in the national currencies of the two countries.
Turning to China, Russia will have no problem in selling its gas production should Western Europe decide to switch supplier. And in another indication of closer ties between China and Russia, the two countries could sign a highly symbolic industrial partnership agreement for the production of 25 Sukhoi fighter. On the other hand, at the BRICS summit in Brazil in July, the Development Bank of the group, which was announced in 2012, could take shape. It would provide an alternative to IMF and World Bank – which remain reluctant to change the way they operate – to give more weight to emerging economies and their currencies, alongside the dollar.
NATO and Russia
Finally there is an important aspect of the relationship between Russia and NATO that was little commented on in the media, but which is very revealing of the state of dependence in which the West fnds itself as it withdraws troops from Afghanistan. Since 2002, Russia agreed to cooperate with Western countries to facilitate the logistics of their troops in the Afghan theatre. At the request of NATO, Moscow has authorized the transit of non-lethal equipment for the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) by air or land between Dushanbe (Tajikistan), Uzbekistan and Estonia, via a multimodal platform in Oulianovk, Siberia. This serves thousands of men operating in Afghanistan, with, among other things, tonnes of beer, wine, cheese, burgers, fresh salad, all transported by Russian civilian aircraft, since Western forces do not have sufficient air assets to support military deployment of this magnitude.
The Russia-NATO agreement in October 2012 extends cooperation to the installation of a Russian airbase in Afghanistan with 40 helicopters and where Afghan personnel are trained in the anti-drug fight which Westerners have abandoned. Russia has always refused to allow transit through its territory of heavy equipment, which poses a serious problem for NATO at the time of withdrawal of his troops. Troops, indeed, cannot take the Kabul-Karachi land route because of attacks on convoys by the Taliban. The northern route (Russia) being impossible, heavy equipment is flown from Kabul to the United Arab Emirates, then shipped to European ports, which quadruples the cost of withdrawal.
For the Russian government, the NATO intervention in Afghanistan was a failure, but its hasty withdrawal before the end of 2014 will increase the chaos and affect the security of Russia. It may cause a resurgence of terrorism. Russia has also signed agreements with the West in the field of armaments. The most important is probably the one signed with France for the manufacture of two helicopter carriers on a deal worth €1.3 billion. If the contract was canceled as part of the sanctions, France must repay the sums already paid out, plus contractual penalties. It would result in the elimination of thousands of jobs. But the worst is probably the loss of market confidence in the French armament industry, as noted by the Russian defence minister.
Do not forget that without the intervention of Russia, Western countries could never reach an agreement with Iran on nuclear non-proliferation, or with Syria on chemical disarmament. Many facts about which the Western media are silent. Because of its arrogance, ignorance of history and its blunders, the Western bloc precipitates systemic deconstruction of the unipolar world order. It offers on a platter to Russia and China – supported by India , Brazil, South Africa and many other countries – a “window of opportunity” to strengthen the unity of an alternative block. This was certainly coming, but slowly and gradually – no one was willing to give a kick in the anthill and suddenly destabilize the global system. But all of a sudden everything is moving faster and interdependence changes the rules of the game.
Regarding the G20 in Brisbane, it will be interesting to see how Mexico positions itself, after the G7 summits in Brussels in June and BRICS in Brazil in July . The situation is very fluid and will evolve quickly, which will require great diplomatic flexibility. If the G7 persists in marginalising or excluding Russia, the G20 could disintegrate. Mexico, caught in the nets of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA ) and the future Transpacific Partnership (TPP) would have to choose between a sinking Titanic, with the West, or adopting an independent position more in line with its interests as a regional power with global reach, by approaching the BRICS.
*Former French ambassador
Translation By Revolting Europe