Political expert says Russian foreign policy "contradicts reality"

Text of report by anti-Kremlin Russian current affairs website Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal on 2 January

[Commentary by Aleksandr Golts: "Outcomes of the Year: Among Mirages and Phantoms"]

Talking about the main trend of Russian foreign policy in the past year, it is that never before has Russian foreign policy more obviously contradicted reality. Street protest became the main phenomenon of this year. Hundreds of thousands of angry people in Tunisia and Egypt force authoritarian leaders who had ruled for decades to abandon power. Tens of thousands of protesters in Western Europe dismiss governments. Thousands, united in the Occupy Wall St movement, introduce considerable amendments to the policies of the United States, the most powerful state in the world.

For Putin and company, who continue to live in a world of 19th-century Realpolitik, understanding and evaluating this is absolutely impossible. After all, they still see the world as a giant chess board, at which the great powers still conduct their endless games. In this game, peoples are no more than pawns, manipulated in the interests of the "big guys."

According to this logic, any protest is no more than the result of a cunning foreign plot. Something like the brilliant operations conducted during the World War I by Lawrence of Arabia, who started the uprising of Arab tribes against the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Imperial Germany. According to this view of the world order, the Arab Spring is the result of the astute work of "the Washington regional committee," which has cunningly learned to use modern information technologies like Facebook. No wonder [Deputy Prime Minister] Igor Sechin muttered something about "googled" subversive operations in the midst of the protests in Egypt. But nobody in the ruling group asks themselves the simple question: Why did the scheming Washington regional committee decide to overthrow dictators fully loyal to the West? And at the most inopportune moment, when unsuccessful military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan need to be brought to an end. This logic certainly can’t explain how the protest spilled out into the streets of the Old and New Worlds.

A policy built on mirages ultimately forms false targets. For the last five years or so, starting from Putin’s infamous Munich speech, the basis of Russian foreign policy has been the fight against US missile defence. Currently, the missile defence problem is the main issue in relations between Moscow and the West. The whole year passed in rather pointless debate. Russia essentially demanded the impossible. First the creation of a certain "sectoral missile defence," where Russia would defend NATO countries from Iranian missiles. Nobody paid attention to such tiny details as, say, Russia’s lack of means to intercept enemy missiles. Then Moscow demanded all NATO countries provide legal guarantees that their missile defence does not threaten Russia’s nuclear capabilities. All the while pretending not to understand that the adoption of such a document by the parliaments of NATO states may take several years. The other side’s compromise proposals, for example on creating joint centres for information exchange and developing a strategy for using missile defence, were rejected out of hand.

This uncompromising struggle has nothing to do with Russia’s security. The international community of experts has already said a hundred times: NATO’s missile defence is not, and never will be a threat to Russia’s nuclear capabilities. This isn’t really a concern for Kremlin bosses. If they really feared a sudden nuclear attack from the United States, they would never have agreed to sign the START Treaty. After all, this agreement effectively formalizes a situation in which Washington has twice as many delivery vehicles as Russia.

In reality, this whole never-ending row is necessary for the realization of another strategy. It is based on the entirely sincere belief that any protests in Russia are the result of crafty foreign scheming. So, Putin tries to busy his foreign partners with counting useless warheads. As in, we’re crazy, we only believe in parity. At first, Western partners accepted this game. Well, if that’s what you want, let’s count warheads. Especially since Russia consistently supplies gas and oil, and provides transit to Afghanistan. But as Moscow’s rhetoric became increasingly hostile (we need only recall Medvedev’s latest threatening speeches about pointless "retaliatory measures"), Russian strategists’ games became a nuisance. Moreover, they threaten to turn into a domestic political problem for President Obama, who has an election next year. The thing is that the Republicans, like the Kremlin, have started to practice meaningless military rhetoric, trying to hit the current occupant of the White House hard over what they see as his excessive leniency towards Putin.

The funniest thing is that these military exercises have not brought the result desired by Putinites. While the Washington regional committee was counting warheads, unprecedented protests began in Russia. And it is clear to every normal person that the West has absolutely nothing to do with this. Meaningful hints about the cunning West from the boa constrictor of all Russia can inspire nothing but laughter. The main outcome of Putin’s foreign policy is that we’re back to where we started. A policy that existed among mirages and that tries to achieve phantom targets has reached its natural end. As, indeed, have all Putin’s policies.

Source: Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal website, Moscow, in Russian 2 Jan 12


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