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Europe, Politics

Is Russia isolated? Unpicking the politics of anti-Putinism

The reports in the French and British press of the G20 held in Australia presented a Putin supposedly isolated by the international community. This is a textbook example of the manipulation of information and misinformation, argues Jacques Sapir.

It is not the “international community” that has sought to isolate Vladimir Putin, but the United States and countries linked to them, like Great Britain, Australia and France (and to a lesser extent the Germany). So yes, relations with Vladimir Putin leaders of these countries have been strained. But the positions taken by Russia and Putin in particular, are in fact very popular in China, India, South Africa and Brazil. The G20 was an opportunity to mark the clear difference between countries called “emerging” and the others. NATO members wanted to see this divergence at this summit. But it is a real long-term danger. But such a division cuts the world into two, and could lead to significant consequences in the ability to resolve future crises.

BRICS leaders at the G20

The danger here is that US policy, because this is essentially what are talking about, is in the process of crystallizing a divide between emerging countries, which are trying to organize around Russia and China, and countries under American influence. It’s a game that is both dangerous and stupid because everyone knows that the United States, which remains powerful, is nevertheless a declining power. This is not how they will manage their decline. But it may prevent the world from tackling a series of problems. This policy will lead, perhaps, to delay the inevitable. It may not prevent it.

Moreover, it is clearly not in our interest to us French or Europeans in general. We have common problems to solve, especially in the Middle East and Africa, these problems are military or related to the development of these areas, or they relate to health problems such as the spread of Ebola virus. Large-scale cooperation is needed. It is striking that the final communiqué of the G20 should indicate the need to “eradicate the Ebola virus” but does not specify any financial means to carry out this task. Similarly, the issue of terrorism has never been more pressing. The recent atrocities committed by those who call themselves “Islamic State”  remind us of this, as do the fact that terrorism kills every day in Syria, Iraq or Libya or Nigeria. But the truth is we only pay heed when a “Westerner” or “whites” are victims. The indignation of the American President and our President, Francois Hollande, appears to be very hypocritical.

Anti-political hysteria

In fact, there is an intense military cooperation between Russia and Mali and Niger. It could be the same in the Middle East. It is against these issues that the stupidity of systematic opposition to Vladimir Putin and  his “demonization” in the press is should be measured. Henry Kissinger said many times in recent months that the hysterical “anti-Putinism” in the United States and the American press does not constitute a policy, but is actually a response to the absence of policy. Nothing more true could be said. Today it is tragic that this war propaganda has invaded the media in France and Britain.

The media tell us that Russia wants to restore the strength it had under the defunct USSR. And so we must do everything to block this project, This is what justifies the violence of the opposition to Vladimir Putin. But this is a huge and significant error. Russian leaders and Vladimir Putin first and foremost, have drawn a line under the former USSR. The real challenge for the next thirty years is the alliance between China and Russia, and whether the countries called BRICS come to constitute a coherent front against US policy. Everything else is just (bad) literature.

The Ukrainian question

Similarly, on the Ukrainian question, Russia has always considered that the accession of Ukraine to the EU was a Ukrainian problem in which she had no say. In contrast, and this is understandable, Russia has said many times that if Ukraine wanted to join a free trade zone with the EU, it could no longer benefit from special conditions of trade with Russia. The problem is that the Ukrainian leadership wanted it both ways. Russia reminded them that this was not possible. Economic integration of the two countries was on track when it the Maidan events occurred. The error of the Russian leadership was to overestimate the weight the economic situation in the political context. But politics is driven by emotions and is subject to processes of radicalization that are not based on economic realities.

In addition, the Ukrainian political system was terribly corrupt, something the Russian leaders themselves recognize. In January 2014 in Moscow, I was told in discussions with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia that they were disturbed by   the level of corruption of their Ukrainian counterparts. Indeed, the Maidan movement began as a protest against the corruption of the Ukrainian political and economic system, and this protest was totally legitimate. Nobody disputes in official circles in Moscow. But at the same time, Moscow continued to negotiate with these corrupt leaders. There is a contradiction but it is unclear how it could be overcome. Moscow has probably suffered because it was engaged in negotiations with Yanukovich. But the latter was the legally elected President of Ukraine, could it be otherwise? Honestly, I do not think so.

NATO

The issue of NATO is another problem. There was an agreement between the United States and Russia that NATO would not expand on the former Eastern European countries and the CIS without the consent of Russia. This agreement has been violated. NATO even went to into Kosovo, yet today they are denouncing intervention in Crimea and Ukraine. Russians naturally draw the consequences and they oppose any further enlargement of NATO. But the truth is that we in the West are paying a high price for our inconsistencies vis-à-vis Russia. The political use of international law by the US with the consent of its vassals is a real problem because there cannot be stability and peace in the world unless it is based on rules respected by all.

Translation/edit by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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