HUMANKIND has found itself in a rather deplorable state in 2021. The coronavirus pandemic as a new global threat has exacerbated existing risks and challenges. The economic depression that has affected the world, coupled with social problems and the inability of states to effectively protect their citizens, has revealed a systemic crisis of the existing world order. “Degradation” has become a key term in describing the situation in various sectors. The international order is dangerously degrading. The principles of the UN Charter and international law are eroding. Relations between the West and the East, which have taken years to develop, are losing their relevance and their value. Differences between the North and the South are growing.
Disturbing trends are rife in the world, creating a sense of emergency. In this situation, guided primarily by their own interests and in search of solutions, countries are beginning to alter their behavior in the world arena, acting more recklessly, opportunistically or even uncharacteristically. Some are trying to solve their problems by doing the bidding of stronger powers, even coming under their external administration. Others – usually stronger powers – are relying on tough measures, pressure, economic sanctions, and egotistic scenarios. Still others are stepping up their efforts in search of selfish gain, playing on disagreements between partners and opponents.
In the context of political trends in international relations following the disintegration of the USSR, the changing role of countries commonly referred to as “small power states” has brought about an entire class of states that are vociferously trying to put themselves on the radar of the international community through their provocative behavior. In an effort to pit leading powers against one another, they are striving to earn political capital, relevance, and support in the form of supplies, loans, and subsidies. The threats to international stability and security that they are creating are comparable to the harm that was done to the cause of peace by the provocations of “small countries” in the Balkans, which prodded leading powers toward World War I, or to the damage to the existing world order that was caused by the activities of the Baltic limitrophe states and small European states ahead of World War II.
The degradation of foreign policy strategies and concepts in the case of certain states accounts for the loss of reputation and prestige on the world stage and the decline to lower levels. The theory of “managed chaos” has invariably led to uncontrollable situations and failures with severe consequences for advocates of that theory. As for the countries to which this theory was applied (e.g., Iraq, Libya, or Syria), it has resulted in the destruction and ruin of formerly prosperous, thriving states that have turned into hotbeds of smoldering bloody conflicts.
The strategy of managed instability employed against the former republics and allies of the Soviet Union was designed to create a “belt of tension” around Russia comprising states of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltics that have reoriented themselves to the West, and to tear Ukraine and Belarus away from Russia.
Acting in this area, the collective West encountered a situation where the aggressiveness of the neophytes that it is sponsoring could cause a global fire leading to total destruction. It seems that the scientifically proven and confirmed truth that a new global battle will be the last and have no winners is unpalatable and incomprehensible to those strategists who are trying to convince themselves and the public otherwise. They are still considering the possibility and acceptability of a global war in present-day conditions, avowing that it can be “limited.” However, they are unable to explain how combat operations involving the use of nuclear weapons and other means of mass destruction, once they begin, could be stopped in the absence of any international mechanisms and tools. Clearly, they do not know the answer to this question.
The change of government in the United States has not brought any noticeable improvements in the situation on the world arena, other than the extension of the New START treaty. No sooner had Joe Biden become president than he declared the US’s readiness to sit at the head of the table and manage global affairs, which no one has ever asked America to do. It was shown once again that presidents come and go, but the US ruling class continues to view the world as its own project. At one time, under Stalin, having abandoned the idea of a world revolution, the USSR proclaimed the goal of building socialism in one country, and relying on its own resources, achieved so much success that it was able to rout Hitler’s Germany, which the West failed to do, and won the sympathies of many people around the world.
Having built its global sphere of influence that comprised more countries and was more attractive than the American empire, the USSR, degraded as a result of perestroika and betrayal by renegade party and state leaders, abandoned its vanguard role in the world, which today is seen as a huge fatal mistake. The result was the demise of a great power as a consequence of the suicidal policy of its leadership that acted according to Western patterns. It turned out that no one in the West had any intention to build a common home with Russia and that no one in the West was particularly concerned about universal human values that the first and last Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev had declared a priority. The goal was to eliminate a geopolitical competitor and gain access to its resources.
The West’s subversive actions, “color revolution” measures, and demoralization of society aimed at ousting undesirable regimes pose a serious threat to Russia.
It seems that this fact has not yet been fully comprehended in Russia. While most of the population – i.e., ordinary people with their daily concerns – have never expected anything good from the West, the intelligentsia and the business community have harbored illusions about the Western world, as well as high expectations of happily uniting with it. Essentially, this is the modern-day expectation of a “world revolution” on which Trotsky once pinned all his hopes. Nor was there a clear understanding of the fact that instead of equal cooperation, the collective West was trying to turn Russia into its raw materials appendage.
Acknowledging that the old Cold War has been unleashed against it by new means, Russia, facing a growing and very real threat to its further existence, can no longer limit itself to complaining about the West’s unfriendly behavior and expect changes for the better, unless it wants a repetition of the Soviet tragedy. After all, the plans of those taking part in the new crusade against Russian statehood to further dismember Russia and divvy up its parts are an open secret today. Under these conditions, variations of the notorious slogan that “the West will help us,” which was used by the wheeler-dealer Ostap Bender [reference to the rogue-hero of Ilf and Petrov’s “The Twelve Chairs,” Soviet literature’s biggest con artist – Trans.] to cheat provincials out of their money, seem to be a dangerous delusion for Russia.
The situation is compounded by several new geopolitical factors that Russia must urgently take into account in its actions on the international arena.
First, after the collapse of the bipolar system of international relations caused by the demise of one pole, i.e., the USSR, the US is persistently continuing to try to assert its role of geopolitical hegemon in the unipolar world order. Judging by US President Joe Biden’s statements, these attempts will only intensify, driven by outright antagonism toward the US’s main geopolitical rivals – China and Russia. The US administration’s course gives no reason to expect that a mutually acceptable solution could be reached to reduce the dangerous tensions that are escalating in the world as a result of Washington’s aggressive policy and its reliance on the use of force. Convinced that it has won the Cold War and will now dictate its terms, the US will agree to negotiate only when it becomes aware of a counterforce and a threat to its vital interests or, on the contrary, when it can obtain significant concessions.
In this context, it is important to understand that it is unrealistic and counterproductive for Russia to expect a sudden warming in relations with the US at present. Time is only being wasted in endless explanations over US charges and sanctions that are being used to diminish Russia’s potential and its attractiveness and lay the groundwork for a coup d’état by instigating a “color revolution” or direct intervention. It is necessary to act proactively, working as if in wartime conditions, opposing external aggression with a firm and resolute policy and effectively neutralizing internal aggression on the part of the “fifth column” and its efforts to demoralize young people.
Second, global security is clearly deteriorating; the number of armed conflicts and local wars is growing; and a dangerous multipolarity is emerging in the nuclear missile sphere that is manifesting itself in the growing number of countries that have or may have nuclear missile weapons. Global security is being undermined by a trend toward lowering the threshold for nuclear weapon use, fueled by the emergence of low-yield nuclear weapons.
Under Trump, the US openly embarked on the path of the weaponization of space. Biden, his successor, not only continued this course, but also returned to Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, which Gorbachev took at face value, refusing to believe his own scientists who said that technically it was a bluff. Right now, it appears that the US leadership is acting on the premise that since [Russia] fell for that trick once before, it will fall for it again.
By advancing toward Russia’s borders and deploying its missiles, officially designated as air defense systems, on platforms that can be converted to nuclear weapon delivery systems, the US is creating the potential for interpreting the launch of such missiles as a nuclear attack, with all ensuing consequences. Seeking to involve its allies in this course, the US leadership is pressuring them not only into immediate obedience, often contrary to their own interests and security, but also into making far-reaching doctrinal changes to their foreign, domestic, and social policies, and to economic, energy, engineering, agriculture and other key sectors. The goal is to make its “allies” dependent and controllable for the long term.
Under these circumstances, Russia should provide an alternative for cooperation and build up the resources of its political and economic competitiveness, abandoning chimeras and delusions regarding the omnipotence of the market and the need to participate in Western-controlled economic mechanisms such as the WTO and Russophobic political institutions like the European Parliament.
While working at the USSR Permanent Mission to UNESCO and other international organizations in France in the 1980s, I was among those who actively promoted the idea of expanding our country’s participation in European and international organizations. In particular, I was the first Soviet diplomat to visit Interpol headquarters and meet with its secretary-general, Raymond Kendall, paving the way to cooperation, which successfully continues to this day. Contacts were established with the Council of Europe and the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Now, the situation has changed, and there is a pressing need to carefully analyze what Russia is really getting from participating in European and international organizations. Perhaps it would make sense to suspend or terminate its participation in those organizations that aggressive circles in the West are using as a platform for attacking Russia and infringing upon its interests on the world stage. Regarding global security, it seems that right now it cannot be ensured by appeasing the increasingly aggressive course of the US and its most rabid NATO allies, including Poland and the Baltic limitrophe states, along with renegade Ukraine. Russia needs to stop acting as an amorphous diplomatic body and shift from defense to offense in the world arena.
Third, equally disturbing is the apparent degradation of ethics and morality in international relations. What used to be considered immoral and completely unacceptable is now being imposed as a norm if it is beneficial to the West. Double standards are being actively used on the principle of “what is permissible for Jupiter may not be permissible for a bull.”1 Needless to say, the West considers itself Jupiter, assigning the role of bull to Russia, China, and other countries. It is noteworthy that this principle is also applied in the West, where the US treats everyone except for itself as bulls; ditto for Great Britain, except for Anglo-Saxons, etc.
While traditionally accusing its opponents, as well as everyone it dislikes, of being undemocratic, the US, along with its allies, is using this concept as a political tool and label – as a kind of carrot and stick. The carrot is being used as a reward for obedience, which, however, may be withdrawn for deviant behavior, and the stick is being used to enforce obedience. The West is using the label “democratic” to mark its friends and foes; the use of this term has nothing to do with its original meaning, such as the power of the people, but only serves as a defining characteristic of [a country’s] status as part of the Western or pro-Western world.
The degradation of the value and concept of democracy was graphically demonstrated during the recent US presidential election, which more than half of the country’s voters consider unfair.2 That did not prevent the new US administration from continuing to exploit the subject of democracy, albeit with certain changes. In his March 3, 2021, speech, titled “A Foreign Policy for the American People,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “We will incentivize democratic behavior. But we will not promote democracy through costly military interventions or by attempting to overthrow authoritarian regimes by force. We have tried these tactics in the past. However well intentioned, they haven’t worked. They’ve given democracy promotion a bad name, and they’ve lost the confidence of the American people. We will do things differently”3 The changes in this case were promises not to unleash new wars that both the American people and humankind in general are so tired of. However, Washington’s policy whereby legitimate governments in countries that the US designates as “undemocratic” are called into question as illegitimate and pressured to become more obedient has remained unchanged.
The secretary of state reaffirmed the US commitment to assert all the rules, values, and relationships “that make the world work the way we want it to” and to “manage the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century: our relationship with China,” as well as serious challenges coming from Russia and other countries.4
While pursuing its own interests and neglecting the interests of others, the West is flagrantly crossing “red lines” and the internationally accepted rules of conduct on the world stage. During the 75 years without a “big war,” generations have come and gone; most of those who experienced its horrors firsthand are now gone, and many people view the current state of the world as a given. The degradation of the value of peace as such has become obvious. The West has begun to test its opponents for resilience, often approaching a dangerous line. Russia’s departure from the principle of reciprocity in favor of keeping the door open, waiting for understanding and hoping for improvement has almost always been perceived by the other side as weakness and an opportunity to go further and cross another red line. In this context, it would be appropriate to recall the firm stance of Russian Emperor Alexander III that went against the insistent advice of his pro-Western ministers but effectively protected Russia’s interests in the face of Bismarck’s attempts to impose his will on it.
Russia’s decision to meet the national liberation uprising in Crimea to end Ukrainian nationalist domination, as well as to accommodate the Crimean people’s desire to return to the Russian state, was extremely important and had deep historical roots. Russia continues to come under attack for that, and in this context, it is not clear why the Russian side is doing nothing to reject the allegations of violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity. The fundamental document on this issue for the international community is the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, adopted by the UN General Assembly on October 24, 1970. It states that the principle of territorial integrity does not apply to states that do not ensure equal rights for their peoples and do not allow the free self-determination of such peoples.
This is undoubtedly the case of Ukraine, whose nationalist policy, which discriminates against the Russian-speaking population and prohibits the use of the Russian language, has led to the separation of Crimea from Ukraine. Furthermore, this declaration, while directly prohibiting actions leading to the disintegration of states, does not prohibit the recognition of new states that have unilaterally seceded from other states, as follows from the decision of the UN International Court of Justice on Kosovo.5
France during the reign of King Louis XIV enriched international practice by creating “annexation chambers” that provided legal justification for France’s rights to territories with a French-speaking population, French language and culture that due to certain historical events wound up outside France’s state borders. While the West pays lip service to human rights, in reality it ignores them in relation to entire peoples who have become hostage to modern-day political games and are being subjected to open discrimination and persecution, as is the case with Russian-speaking people in Ukraine and the Baltic states, with Western “democracies” silently looking on.
An assessment of the current situation in the relationship between Russia and the West suggests that it is unlikely to become much worse under any foreign policy scenario, barring the possibility of a military confrontation, which neither the US nor any other Western country in their right mind would allow to happen, valuing as they do their own peace and prosperity. Within the bounds of a “cold” confrontation, the limit of Western sanctions has been effectively exhausted, since further sanctions would become increasingly damaging to their initiators. The West’s subversive actions, “color revolution” measures, and demoralization of society aimed at ousting undesirable regimes pose a serious threat to Russia, China, and other countries that are defending their sovereignty. Under these circumstances, countries that are coming under attack from the West should review their domestic and foreign policies, unilaterally abandon compliance with their restraining obligations, and shift to tougher and more decisive actions.
However, unlike the US, Russia is not used to behaving aggressively, toughly, and sometimes recklessly on the world arena, as the USSR did in the past and as China is doing right now. Furthermore, the mudslinging at the history of the Russian state, which began during the perestroika years and was accompanied by the denigration of the ideology of patriotism, to a certain extent continues to this day. Without decisively ending the attacks on our own history that are being orchestrated from Western centers, it will be impossible to eliminate the “fifth column” and unite in the face of upcoming trials and battles for the sovereignty and rights of Russia from which our people must once again emerge victorious.
1 Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi is a Latin phrase that indicates the existence of a double standard and essentially means: “What is permitted to one important person or group is not permitted to everyone.”
2 “V SShA priznali falsifikatsiyu vyborov,” https://news.rambler.ru/confiicts/45830233-v-ssha-priznali-falsifikatsiyu-vyborov/ Bolshe poloviny izbiratelei SShA ne veryat v spravedlivost sistemy vyborov, https://www.gazeta.ru/politics/2020/12/02_a_13383541.shtml
3 “Vystupleniye gosudarstvennogo sekretarya SShA E. Blinkena “Vneshnyaya politika SShA dlya amerikanskogo naroda.” March 3, 2021. Washington, https://ru.usembassy.gov/ru/secretary-antony-j-blinken-at-a-press-availability-ru
5 Advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice regarding the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence. “Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Respect of Kosovo” (§84), www.un.org (accessed on January 16, 2021).