My critique of Paul Craig Roberts’ critique of Putin

My critique of Paul Craig Roberts’ critique of Putin

 

by Don Hank

 

Recently, Paul Craig Roberts wrote an article criticizing Putin for thinking he can partner with the US. Roberts thinks this is naive, and indeed it would be naive if Putin really thought that way. But he doesn’t (I make it a point to read all of Putin’s speeches and interviews in the original Russian, much of which is not reported in the West, which picks and chooses the items that, out of context, make Putin look worse. In fact, Putin is a gifted statesman and has crafted a winning strategy that most Westerners, and even many Russian analysts, fail to grasp).

Almost any Western analyst is going to fail when writing about Russia because Western thinking is not applicable to Russia or China and few can grasp Eurasian thinking unless they have lived in Asia, studied the cultures and can read the languages.

Westerners have been conditioned for years into believing that the world needs, and will always have, a hegemon who can simply punish countries that “misbehave” and straighten them out at its whim. It doesn’t have to be polite or apply time-tested standards of fairness, because the hegemon defines fairness as it goes. Thus the Western way that the US has modeled for the world is to simply boss other nations around in the crudest and rudest way — as Victoria Nuland did when she was interacting with some top level Russian diplomats, sneering that they had “lost” (referring to the Cold War), implying they must now come to heel and obey their masters. Putin, by contrast, is modeling a mature and professional approach that has a universal appeal.

Eurasians no longer believe in the hegemon fairy tale. They are busy reinventing mutual respect and sovereignty of nations and are in turn garnering the respect of the rest of the world. This fact is crucial to interpreting the actions of China and Russia. Heavy handed Western writers have been trying for years to drive a wedge between Russia and China by suggesting that one or the other will eventually try to gain the upper hand and become king of the world. Yet the harder these propagandists try, the closer they drive the two countries together — to the extent that they are nearly inseparable at this point. And by that I mean economically/financially as well as militarily. The US government still believes in the cave man approach but the Eurasians have discovered that treating people with respect garners respect for them. Why would they abandon this approach as long as it works?

So why does Putin keep trying to negotiate politely with the evil Washington government as though he were dealing with peers, and why does he not use his enormous military power in Ukraine as Roberts (and, BTW, a lot of Russians) thinks he should?

Simply put, he is buying time, getting his last ducks in a row. (Note that each of Putin’s speeches gets a little bit stronger as he and his Eurasian partners gain strength).

Although Roberts was once assistant secretary of the treasury for economic policy, oddly, he does not enter into economics and finance in his analysis, and yet, for Putin, the long term strategy is all about economics and finance.

Here is why I say Putin is buying time.

Russia and China are working feverishly to accomplish at least 2 goals behind the scenes:

1–Establish the RMB as the new world reserve currency.

2–set up a parallel SWIFT-like system of international money transfers, initially between the BRICS countries but later the world. See this, for example.

Why must the Eurasians do this?

Because even if they are superior to the US militarily, they need to become financially independent to prevent a lot of useless bloodshed. The US uses the dollar as a weapon, punishing its perceived enemies by freezing accounts, preventing transfers, imposing economic sanctions, seizing bank accounts (incl those of non-Americans living abroad) and generally seeking to paralyze them financially. Examples include the US-imposed record fine of $8 billion against French bank BNP Paribas in retaliation for that bank’s having made a dollar-denominated transfer to Iran (which was not illegal in France; the US’s rationale: since the transaction was denominated in dollars, it was illegal because the US is the legal owner of all dollars, the world reserve currency under the Bretton Woods agreement); and, on a smaller scale, seizure of foreigners’ cash, as with the IRS’s seizure of $8000 from the bank account of a Venezuelan man residing in Panama who had once lived in the US (not reported in the media. My banker told me the story).

The Eurasians, witnessing the results of this financial bullying, have made amazing strides in a very short time in achieving the 2 goals mentioned above, as I reported here and here.

As for the plan to make the RMB the fall-back reserve currency, that project is well underway, as shown in my translation and analysis here.

But one crucial step remains and that is to create and test the new Eurasian cash transfer system designed to bypass the US-controlled SWIFT system. Before this is accomplished, Russia and its Eurasian partners are still vulnerable to one last Western ace in the hole, and that is the freezing of money transfers anywhere in the world, as outlined here.

Reports on the target date for the new interbank transfer system differ widely but I think we can assume, based on Putin’s mild mannered behavior, that this is not yet accomplished.

Now just imagine if Putin had long ago played the military card in Ukraine and simply defeated the Ukrainian army that bombs its own citizens. Would US allies have rushed to join the Eurasian bank AIIB? They may have thought better of it knowing that Eurasia includes Russia. But Russia played the nice guy, bided its time, and these countries saw the AIIB as an opportunity to get out from under the obsolescent World Bank and IMF. The only main US allies who have not yet joined are Canada and Japan, and even that could change.

Putin plays a long game, a strategy virtually unknown in the West and not well understood even by the best American minds.

But not to fear: we will see it in action (non-military to be sure) soon enough.

So should we be worried?

Once the last piece in the Eurasian strategy is in place, I think we will see that Putin was not kidding when he talked about mutual respect. While the US has consistently sought to lord it over its trading partners, both militarily and economically, and has actually sought to bankrupt them via World Bank loans (see the book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins), the Eurasians focus on garnering and keeping the trust of all their partners. Unlike US elites, they are keenly aware of a key fact: The only way to get rich and stay rich is to trade with partners in ways that benefit both parties so that even poor partners become richer, boosting sales and loan transactions. And the best way to expand trade is to treat existing partners fairly and with respect. Making even one partner poor or showing a lack of respect undermines the trust that the rest have invested in you.

Now why didn’t we think of that?

 

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov interview

Interview of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the Sunday Evening Show with Vladimir Soloviev

Translated by Don Hank (all footnotes and links were added by the translator)

Original interview on video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Itd9WaolJtY 

Original Russian text:

http://el-murid.livejournal.com/1717453.html

Question: Hello, Sergey Viktorovich. What a feeling it is to realize that you are now not just the Minister of Foreign Affairs, but also the Minister of Foreign Affairs military. Every time I see and listen to you, I have a feeling of tremendous anxiety and that the world has gone mad. My generation does not remember this level of escalation. What is actually happening?

Lavrov: I think the entire world system is being reformatted, because after the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, those we refer to by the collective word “West” missed a historic opportunity when Russia proposed a number of initiatives that would allow us to truly unite not only the European continent, but also the Euro-Atlantic, including Eurasia. There were suggestions to center this work around the OSCE based on equality of all states. There were suggestions that after the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, the major threats to the countries that were part of the NATO-North Atlantic bloc had ceased to exist or, at least, would not expand.

We were assured of this; we talked a lot about the fact that now everyone is interested in peer collaboration, which will be based on respect for each other’s security interests, that security is indivisible, and no one would ensure his own security at the expense of others. First they assured that the unification of Germany would not mean the spread of NATO rules and armed forces to the territory of the former GDR. Then this promise, of course, was forgotten. Then they promised not to expand NATO further to the East, not to cover Eastern and Central European countries, as recorded in a number of agreements, which, unfortunately, were not issued legally. But these promises were also violated. Then there were the political declarations signed at the Summit of the OSCE and they created the NATO-Russia Council which ensured NATO countries would not put substantial combat forces on the territory of the new member states of the North Atlantic bloc. This promise also failed to withstand the test of time, like the declaration of indivisible security that I mentioned earlier.

We started asking questions about why the military infrastructure of NATO is moving closer to our borders; why create a missile defense, for which we have good reason to believe that it carries risks for our strategic forces of nuclear containment. We were told not to worry, because it is not against us. But our calculations and facts that Russian experts have repeatedly provided to jointly explore the U.S. and other NATO partners say the opposite. Serious discussion on these topics was not conducted for all these years.

After this the EU Eastern Partnership was initiated, which covered six post-Soviet states – Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, with priority given to Ukraine.

As you know, the EU has offered Ukrainians an association agreement and a free trade zone. We politely raised the issue that we have a huge amount of trade, economic, investment and industrial relations with Ukraine and it would be nice to consider together about how to develop our relationship. They said “We will first make an agreement with the Ukrainians, and then we’ll show you what you have agreed upon.” We were assured that the Association Agreement and free trade zone would be standard – the same as the European Union had concluded with Mexico, South Korea and some other countries. Then, when the already initialed agreement appeared on websites (we had not seen it before that), it turned out that the draft document goes much further than the standard agreements, which we were told about by the EU. It goes so far as to directly affect Russian-Ukrainian trade and economic cooperation, impeding the functioning of the CIS free trade zone, which, incidentally, was formed at the initiative of the and the insistence of the former President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, ie at the insistence of the Ukrainians, and creates discriminatory conditions for Russian goods, worsening the agreements reached after Russia joined the WTO. Our efforts, already at the stage of holding an expert, professional, depoliticized conversation between Ukraine, Russia and the EU, were rejected, although Ukrainians were on board. And they were rejected with the words: “Do not interfere in EU-Ukraine cooperation.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/23/uk-tells-russia-dont-in_n_4841424.html)

Q: Of course, we are a regional power, which, as it turned out, lost some sort of war. Somehow I have not seen any foreign soldiers marching in a victory parade on Red Square. But it turns out they can shout to our representative at the UN, “Do not forget that you are the losers!”[1]

U.S. President Barack Obama tells us that we are a regional power and no one wants to talk to us (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/03/25/obama_regional_power_russia_is_no_threat_to_us.html). Why should we be informed of what is happening on our borders? Our destiny is to observe and, as I understand it, to continue the theme of decay, begun in 1991. Then we will gain love and respect. In other words, crumble into dust.

Lavrov: At the heart of what is happening is a winner syndrome which has emerged under the new conditions, and which they cling to in the depths of their souls, assuring us that in the “cold war” there were no winners, and we all have benefited from the fact that we now share common values. Of course, there is also the hurt pride: they believed they could ignore us and do whatever they saw fit with Russia’s neighbors and partners, without asking our opinion, ignoring our legitimate interests. Of course, there is obvious resentment over the fact that the next project of the Georgian Saakashvili[2] type had not panned out. All this is definitely being manifested.

Question: But this is manifesting itself in our relationship as well. We thought they were the allies on the Elbe[3], but it turns out that they saw us as the losing country, to which they only had to give McDonald’s and throw us a bone from a distance. Now it seems that the problem is not in relations between Ukraine and Russia, but between Russia and the U.S., which is behaving as though Alaska had voted for reunification with Russia. Why suddenly such an emotional, and I’d say extreme, reaction?

Lavrov: This proves only one thing: the expansion of NATO, the hasty inclusion in NATO and the European Union of new states, including Baltic countries, which did not meet the criteria for membership, but yet were instantly absorbed under an EU policy called the “Eastern Partnership” – all this was conceived with a significant proportion of American schemes to keep Europe under its thumb and to ensure formats of NATO and the EU which would give the U.S. a substantial voice. Concerns that Europe could suddenly become independent or more independent and less dependent on the Euro-Atlantic link are definitely present in Washington.

We can see it. No one talks about it openly, but it manifests itself in all the practical specific steps taken by the United States in connection with the Ukrainian crisis. We were concerned about this because the problem is not in Russian-“Western” or in Russian-Ukrainian relations, but in Ukraine, where there is a deep statehood crisis which must be overcome, and it can only be overcome by the Ukrainians themselves. We are in favor of this being done on the basis of a national dialogue of  awareness on the part of those who came to power in Kiev, and the need to reach out to all Ukrainians, without exception, including all political forces and all regions of the country, starting a real constitutional reform that is transparent and comprehensive. That’s what we need to talk about. Encouraging Ukrainians to hold this national dialogue and constitutional process must be a joint effort of Russia, the U.S. and the EU. But, unfortunately, our Western partners are trying to present the case as if everything revolves around a Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Question: The Pentagon saw Russian troops on the border with Ukraine. Interestingly, the broadcaster CNN, came and videotaped, but did not find the troops. U.S. State Department officials saw Moscow’s hand in the events in the East and South-East of Ukraine. But when we asked for evidence, we were told: “Why? Everyone has free access to the social networks.”

This is a new logic in international diplomacy when a country decides on its own: “Here we see it, here we don’t; we accept this evidence but not the other. Everything the Russian side says is untrue, and we don’t take it into account, and everything the official Ukrainian side says, is considered legitimate. Europe and America represent ultimate truth.” So what’s the point of even talking to them if they don’t hear us?

Lavrov: You’ve always got to talk, and with everyone. It is always better to talk than not to talk and accumulate misunderstanding.

As for our troops allegedly preparing to roll across the Russian-Ukrainian border in the South-East of the country, I can say that they were training. This was announced, no one hid this fact. Within the framework of the OSCE and the so-called Open Skies Treaty, we have the obligation to inform partners about certain exercises, starting with a certain size and number of deployed forces and materiel, and that’s what we did. Moreover, in response to requests, including those of Ukrainians, Americans and Europeans, inspections were conducted, representatives of these countries were invited, who visited the exercise area and according to their own statements, they drew an official conclusion, finding no threatening military activities. After that, our representatives in the OSCE officially asked the inspectors to make their conclusion known in this esteemed organization. They have not yet done so.

Soloviev : Are they embarrassed?

Lavrov: They probably are. It just does not fit into the overall scheme of the whole situation from the West’s viewpoint.

Question: The Russian delegation went to PACE, where we were frankly humiliated, deprived of all rights except one – the sacred right to pay for membership.

S.V.Larov: And sit in the hall.

Q: Neither the West nor America wants to see the revival of the spirit of slumbering Nazism in the “right sector,” Banderovtsy, Shukhevich,[4] Svoboda (the ”Freedom Party”)[5], the same party that the EU once considered anathema, delegated five members to the current Ukrainian government, and the unpleasantness disappeared instantly. There is a feeling that countries that once had not supported the Hitler coalition were taking revenge on us for having won the Great War.

Sergei Lavrov: I have had many conversations with my colleagues about the nature of the coalition that broke the agreement of February 21, signed by the leaders of three parties that entered into it, and carried out a coup d’état. Of course, we talked about Svoboda (the “Freedom Party,” see footnote). I repeatedly asked John Kerry and foreign ministers of Europe, where one can explore their position on Svoboda and on that party’s policy documents, which provide a direct reference to their succession Declaration in June 1941, proclaiming their mission of helping Hitler impose a new order. I was unable to get a reference to public statements made in this regard.

We certainly know about the numerous speeches of the American, Israeli, and world community as to what the Svoboda Party is, not to mention the “right sector.” In conversations John Kerry told me: “We understand they have a troubled past, but, according to our observations, they are moving toward the political mainstream. “Laurent Fabius [French Foreign Minister–Translator] in one of his speeches said that Svoboda is “just a little bit to the right of others.” An astounding statement!

We have said that such an attitude toward the memory of those who fought and defeated fascism, who saved Europe from Fascism, is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to us to attempt to install in a European a country a coalition involving such people.

Question: This is not a coincidence, but a certain trend. On the one hand, they refuse to see absolute Nazis in the face of Svoboda. On the other hand, when a representative of the Russian delegation to the UN Security Council said that the tragedy in Syrian Kesab, where there is genocide of the Armenian people, cannot be ignored, the Americans blocked this decision. Isn’t this a double standard? Unfortunate Armenians must suffer because Armenia supports Russia?

Lavrov: Fortunately, it is better to be a refugee than to die. The vast majority in Syrian Kesab managed to escape: some to other Syrian districts, some to Lebanon. There were no massacres in the area with photos distributed in the Internet, but photos from other areas of Syria were shown on the internet, and that makes them no less horrific. But the idea of conducting ethnic cleansing in Kesab had emerged. This attempt was obvious, and at one point, it was partially successful. Therefore, when we proposed a clear and unequivocal comment on this topic in the UN Security Council, they said, “But let’s simultaneously condemn the Assad regime, because he is also doing bad things.” There is always a constant linkage tactic, a refusal to condemn specific acts of terrorism in Syria, citing the fact that they would not have happened if Assad had voluntarily disappeared, a violation of all the resolutions of the Security Council and the UN General Assembly, bilateral documents clearly stating that terrorism cannot be justified on any grounds.

Q: A lot of questions about the reunification with the Crimea. We see it quite differently. On radio station “Vesti” and on television, when I consider this topic with our distinguished guests, they all note that a 16,000 strong Ukrainian military corps was stationed in the Crimea. Officially, there were also Russian troops. More than 2.5 million men, and not a shot was fired. This is a real show of will that Americans and Europeans do not want to see. Can no one can tell the essential difference between the Yugoslav scenario and Crimea? Can no one see parallels between the reunification of West and East Germany, and of Russia and the Crimea? Has the level of political blindness and deafness reached an all-time high?

Lavrov: I think I’m pretty sure that everyone sees everything and everyone understands. But thanks to an ideologically charged atmosphere bent on restraining our country, and ill-concealed anger over the fact that it defended its legitimate interests, long violated despite all the constitutions and laws of secession from the USSR, no one has every concealed  the geopolitical project of Russian containment (and this is where it all started ). This is unfortunate and sad. If anyone needed proof of our suspicions and fears, it is no longer needed. All these years our Western partners have lied to us when vowing theirs commitment to a united Europe without dividing lines, swore that they would fully respect our interests and that security is indivisible, etc.

As for parallels that suggest themselves (Kosovo, and more), we are constantly told that “Kosovo was a special occasion; thousands of people were killed there.”[6] This has no part in any civilized framework. It seems that for residents of Crimea, with its overwhelming majority in favor of reunification with Russia, to receive recognition of their inalienable rights, it is necessary that as much blood must be shed in the Crimea as in Kosovo? Excuse me, these are totally unfit parallels and analogies.

But there is a more direct parallel; it is quite interesting — I mentioned it earlier — but I will tell you more. During the decolonization of Africa, in the Comoro islands, which were owned by the French, were released somewhat late from the colonial yoke — independence came only in the early 70s, later than in most other African countries. By arrangement with the colonial power, a referendum was held in which all the Comoros voted for independence except one, Mayotte, the majority of whose residents voted against independence. But the conditions of the referendum were that all should vote en bloc and if the majority said they want independence, then independence would be recognized.

Our French colleagues at the time refused to recognize the results of the referendum, although they were accepted by the UN General Assembly, and they said that a separate additional referendum would be held, and the vote on each island would be tallied and each island would get the status for which it voted. The referendum was repeated. Mayotte again voted against independence, and the UN General Assembly again disagreed with the results of the independent vote. But France said it would recognize the vote of the Mayotte residents. Contrary to the numerous decisions of the UN, which condemned this approach and did not recognize the results of the referendum, Mayotte became a French Overseas Department, i.e., a full-fledged member of the French Republic, in 2011.

Q: It is interesting that neither trade nor political nor economic sanctions followed.

Lavrov: Yes. I repeat, despite disagreement on this by the UN General Assembly, the EU ignores the decision of the international community.

Question: The sanctions against Russia are unusual, very harsh. The officially declared ones seem personalized and reflect resentment, while the informal, economic ones are unique. Everything is forgotten:  the right of business to make a profit and business freedom, and sanctions have even been imposed against journalists[7] for having the audacity to speak their minds. When this was published on the Ministry website warning the Russians that 111 countries signed a treaty with the United States, according to which Russian citizens can turned over to the American authorities…

Lavrov: Or robbed

Question: Or robbed, even on trumped up charges. So it turns out that Russians had better not go abroad?

Lavrov: It is absolutely better to travel. We do everything in our power to broaden these capabilities: annually concluding additional agreements on visa-free regimes, facilitating travel to many countries. Such arrangements exist with nearly all the countries of Latin America, many countries in Asia, and we have been ready to do this with the EU for a long time. Long before the Ukrainian crisis all the arrangements were ready, but their approval was delayed under the influence of a well-known minority[8] in the European Union, which wanted to hinder our rapprochement with the EU solely for reasons of ideological bias.

Question: For reasons of historical revenge..

Lavrov: Including for reasons of historical revenge. Probably in the minds of many, these phobias still play a dominant role.

Travel, of course, needs to be safe, and we pay attention to this issue. For example, during the exacerbation of the situation in Egypt or Thailand when unrest and riots occurred, we were obliged to warn our citizens that it was not safe to go there, so it was best to stay in the resort areas, etc. But what you’re talking about is a problem of a completely different nature associated with the extension of U.S. extraterritorial jurisdiction to territories that do not belong to them, but in which Americans feel entitled to seize citizens of other countries if Washington has issues with them. (http://www.ibtimes.com/russia-issues-travel-warning-about-us-citing-threat-kidnapping-1402265). This happened to the Russians K.V. Yaroshenko and Viktor Bout, who were arrested not for anything they had done, but had been lured into a conversation, during which they made certain statements, which undercover agents interpreted as sufficient grounds for their arrest. They were extradited to the United States in violation of the legal and procedural norms of Senegal and Thailand. These are not the only two examples. There are also such cases in European countries and Canada. Recently, at the request of Americans, Russian citizens were taken from Costa Rica, despite our protests and demands to comply with the requirements of applicable law. Therefore, we are obliged to warn Russians that if they have had some kind of relationship with our American partners, if they have reason to believe that there are issues with them, even the most innocuous, it is better…

Q: To go to Sochi!

Lavrov: Why? To Crimea!

Q: That’s a choice: you can go to Sochi or Crimea.

Lavrov: This is true.

Q: It was no accident that I said you were the most popular minister, and not only in Russia. Numerous articles, written by you or about you, have recently appeared in the foreign press, have created an image of a powerful politician. You are both hated and loved, are respected but people say that you allow yourself to make harsh statements. And you are right to do so. But you also point out that you have had for many years a good personal relationship, in particular, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Now you probably see him more often than your own family, holding “marathons” lasting several hours.
Lavrov: But not on the same issues.

Question: I hope we are still a traditional country. When you are dealing with John Kerry, do you ever feel like you are talking to a robot, who can’t hear you, doesn’t want to admit the obvious? Speaking of that, the following question arises: where is there a higher arbiter, who in the case of a dispute between the two major powers can say “break” and decide who is right and who is wrong, if each side claims that it is right and only its opinion is valid?

Lavrov : I cannot describe any of the partners as a robot or, in other words, say they lack understanding. Absolutely not. Secretary of State John Kerry is a highly intelligent man with a vast experience in the United States Senate. As senator, he was the head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and a presidential candidate in a US election that was won by Bush. He is a very erudite, experienced politician and diplomat.

Most of my other partners in conversations that are not intended for the public, express understanding and behave absolutely properly. With them, you can talk, discuss, exchange arguments, even sometimes disagree on things. I note parenthetically that we never say that our line is absolutely correct, and refuse to give an inch, centimeter, millimeter. Absolutely not. Convince us, because we never reject reasonable arguments and compromises since politics is the art of the possible. It is not part of our tradition to dictate to the rest of the world. This is just a trait of some other powers. I would really like the “unipolar world syndrome” to quickly disappear, because the world can only be multipolar. And the stronger the other poles, besides America, the more useful it will be for Washington itself.

Question: But the U.S. can’t see that.

Lavrov: They’ll have to see it, and I think they already do. Just as in the case of talking about Ukraine, or anything else, they will have to admit it. They understand it, sense it internally. Even when the U.S. decided to bomb Iraq or go to Afghanistan, they began to cobble together a coalition, seeking to include even the small island states willing to send at least some signals unit or two staff officers. And in the end, it all added up and it was announced that dozens of states (40 +) formed the coalition and the effort was legitimized, etc. They already knew it was inconvenient to go it alone, and they still understand that.

As you know, on the eve of the recent vote by the UN General Assembly resolution in support of the sovereignty of Ukraine, including Crimea, which is a clear anti-Russian step, there was no capital, where U.S. ambassadors would not go and impudently request to vote for the resolution, saying that they just have to do it. Those who did not agree were blackmailed and threatened. We know this. For obvious reasons I cannot name the countries and names, but it happens.

Q: And yet it didn’t work.

Lavrov: It didn’t work because only half of the members of the UN supported this resolution.

Question: The wisest was Israel, where there was a strike at the time, and they couldn’t vote.
Lavrov: You asked about the visible and invisible sanctions reaching the point of absurdity, when journalists are forbidden to practice their profession, etc. Besides what lies on the surface, we know that all over the world messengers were sent and American and European ambassadors from different countries were instructed to seek a freeze on normal working contacts with our representatives. In Moscow, the ambassadors of the EU and the U.S., apparently, also agreed to communicate less with us on issues that they believe are of interest to us. Although on issues interest to them, they will definitely be in touch with us.

Here you need to understand a simple thing: international relations are based on reciprocity – “Do as is done to you.” We will not retaliate or act out of spite, but we will take a balanced approach to specific situations arising.

When they make statements about certain arrogant new sanctions against Russia, it is entertaining to listen to what follows that. For example, NATO announced it would freeze most practical projects, including the “helicopter” project for Afghanistan. It splits the cost in providing service to Soviet and Russian helicopters, spare parts supplies, primarily with Russian enterprises, training for pilots and maintenance personnel. There are a  number of other projects, including training to combat drug trafficking in Afghanistan and Central Asia. These were projects of the NATO-Russia Council. In announcing these sanctions, one of the Vice Secretary General of NATO, when asked by reporters, said: “We understand that these are the areas in which it is very important to achieve results, but we will continue to seek cooperation in these areas in other formats.” In other words, the NATO-Russia Council will not do it, but the members of the Alliance will seek ways to continue these projects under another “umbrella”. This shows contrived, artificial ideas in line with the logic of “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

Question: Have these people who are “cutting off their nose to spite their face” put us in a category all by ourselves or is there someone lower down the list than us? Are we alone? Unfortunately, we have people who always vote the same way as we do, like have North Korea, although they’re not the best example. They are willing to do anything to “cut off their nose” to spíte the US. Are there any countries that can be called “wise people” who support Russia?

Lavrov: We have serious support. If smaller countries still cannot afford to openly talk about this because they are too dependent on the West economically and financially, countries that feel more self-reliant and take a serious approach to international relations, understand what is now in question. The problem now is not that it is necessary to help the Ukrainians to overcome the crisis, although that is important, but, as I said, reformatting the world system, the objective formation of a polycentric world order. In late March at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, we met with the foreign ministers of the BRICS countries. A statement was adopted which emphasizes the need to avoid interference in the internal affairs of other countries, condemns any policy of unilateral sanctions and expresses commitment to all the principles of the UN Charter in its entirety.

Question : Is BRICS on our side?

Lavrov: BRICS, I think, is not just for us, but understands that the stakes are enormously high, and not in terms of “who wins and who loses,” but in terms of defending their legitimate interests in this changing world.

Question: How long will this last? Have we ended the era of “peace, friendship, chewing gum” and entered a new round of “cold war”? Changing relations, sanctions, extreme rhetoric – will this go on for a decade?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I don’t expect it to last a decade. Even now you can see a number of signs that our Western partners are “torn .” On the one hand, they see quite calm reaction on the part of Russia: They failed to ruffle us with the sanctions which go far beyond the scope of basic human decency. Therefore, our partners want to continue to annoy us hoping to ruffle…

Q: They want to ruffle us to achieve what result? So we could write our names on the Brandenburg Gate[9] again? What’s the idea here?

Lavrov: In simple terms, they want to see how we felt now that we’ve been punished.

Question: Call the parents, bring the report card. Are we school kids or what?

Lavrov: Something like that. It has nothing to do with the real problems of international life, Europe, Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian. In parallel, they have to understand that without us it would be very difficult to solve many problems, and I’m not just talking about Syria or Iran. We’re not about to declare: “If you do this to us, then let the bloodshed continue in Syria; we will not deal with a political settlement or provide humanitarian assistance; let Iran build a nuclear bomb.” Russia will not do this, because we’re responsible people, unlike many who are trying to push us in this direction. Without us it will hardly be possible to seriously address the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula – we don’t want to have a nuclear bomb at our borders.

In addition to the political context and the problems on the agenda of the international community (I can’t use this term without irony, because the West applies this term solely to itself and to those who support it unconditionally), there are the economic and business interests. You can read the press or participate in some activities conducted by business circles of Germany, Italy, Spain, France or the USA. In America, a number of companies are deeply invested in the Russian economy: for PepsiCo, for example, Russia is the second biggest market, while Coca-Cola planned to invest $5 billion by 2016; ExxonMobil invested a mere $10 billion; Boeing, Caterpillar and many others work here. Their response shows that they are not welcoming the signals from Western governments, like, “Come on, guys, don’t develop too much cooperation with Russia.” Businessmen are convinced that it is necessary to maintain and cultivate our economic cooperation not only because business always wants profit, but also because business is not sure that these sanctions are lawful.

 



[1] Referring to a hysterical outburst by Samantha Powers, US ambassador the UN.—Tr.

[2] Mikahil Saakashvili, US backed former Georgian president—Translator.

[3] Lavrov is referring here to the link-up of Soviet and American forces at the Elbe River near the end of WW II.–Translator

[4] Ukrainian nationalists widely accused of collaboration with the Nazis in WW II—Tr.

[5] A party now holding top positions in Ukraine thanks to Western support. Their leader Oleh Tyahnybok, who posed famously with John McCain during the Maidan uprising, is listed by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre as the world’s 5th

most dangerous anti-Semite.

[6] Lavrov is referring to the fact that, despite the irregularity of an outside state (the US in that case) intervening in a war of secession, the US was given the green light during the Kosovo War (1998-9) to bombard Serbian cities, under the pretext of alleged “genocide” of Kosovars by Serbs. Later investigations revealed numerous murders of Serbs by Kosovars as well. The US bombing raids killed untold numbers of civilians. Meanwhile the “international community” has recently condemned Russia for intervening in Crimea to save lives, saying that not enough casualties had accumulated to justify the intervention. Lavrov is nonplussed that the “international community” would require people to be killed to justify intervention and is suggesting it should be the other way around: the fewer the casualties the more successful, and hence, justified, the intervention is—Translator.

[7] There are indeed reports of such sanctions in the Western media, such as here.

[8] I am not sure what “minority” Lavrov is referring to here. However, the UK, for example, has had rocky relations with the Russian Federation over issues of extradition and the Litvinenko murder. Yet despite strong anti-Russian sentiments in the political class, over 60% of UK citizens polled recently by The Independent said Putin was their favorite world leader. Their own David Cameron scored 1%!

[9] TV host Vladimir Soloviev is alluding here to the Battle for Berlin after which the fallen Russian heroes were commemorated with a memorial at Brandenburg Gate. The names of some of the Russian fallen are inscribed on this memorial—Translator.

Never the twain shall meet

Oh East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.

Rudyard Kipling (the Ballad of East and West)

 

by Don Hank

Recently, a quiet philosophical debate took place without media fanfare between Brazilian philosopher Olavo de Carvalho and Alexandr Dugin, Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical strategist and leading organizer of the Eurasian Movement  – considered to be the most influential Russian thinker in the Post-Soviet era. It was a classic clash of East and West.

Both submitted photos of themselves, and no reader could help but be charmed by the kneeling de Carvalho posing with his hunting dogs and shotgun, in contrast to the stern figure of Dugin standing in front of a Russian tank holding a machine gun. One prepared to kill human opponents and the other simply prepared to hunt rabbits or quail.

De Carvalho’s opening remarks are as disarming as the picture:

“I am just a philosopher, writer, and professor, committed to the quest for what seems to me to be the truth and to educating a group of people who are so kind as to pay attention to what I say.  Neither these people nor I hold any public job.  We do not have any influence on national or international politics. We do not even have the ambition – much less an explicit project – for changing the course of history, whatever it may be.  Our only hope is to know reality to the utmost degree of our power and one day leave this life aware that we did not live in illusions and self-delusion, that we did not let ourselves be misled and corrupted by the Prince of this World and by the promises of the ideologues, his servants.  In the current power hierarchy of my native country, my opinion is worthless, except maybe as a negative example and an incarnation of absolute evil[1], which is a source of great satisfaction to me.  In the country where I live, the government considers me at worst an inoffensive eccentric.

“No political party, mass movement, government institution, church or religious sect considers me its mentor. So I can give my opinion as I wish, and change my opinion as many times as it seems right to me, with no devastating practical consequences beyond the modest circle of my personal existence.”

Incredibly, rather than try to assert that he too is writing as an individual and has a personal standpoint of his own, Dugin, in his response, argues against the whole notion of individual thought, saying:

“I accept it fully and agree to recognise the fact that our Russian (Eurasian) individuation consists in the desire to manifest something more general than our individual features. So, being a collective entity … for me is rather an honour. The more holistic is my position, the better it is.”

Now it may be acceptable, even noble, that Russian leaders are willing to sacrifice their own “individual features” for the good of the fatherland, but de Carvalho wasn’t talking about “features.” He was talking about a viewpoint on the nature of vital philosophical issues of government and social thought. Though he doesn’t mention this, the debate actually centers around whether one can think as an individual or only as a collective entity—a notion with overtones of science fiction, evoking dark images of Brave New World and 1984, for example. Just as importantly, Dugin’s unvarnished preference for group think as opposed to individuality touches on the very nature of thought (or cognition) and what it is.

For de Carvalho, thought is modern (as opposed to postmodern) and concrete. Truth can be known and is objective, ie, something that exists on its own outside the self (the debater in this case) and outside the collective. For Dugin, truth is what his powerful autocrat friends decide it is and say it is.  What you or I think is of no consequence.  One of his arguments in a later round was that Olavo de Carvalho was on the losing side, not because his reasoning was faulty, but because his side lacks power in both the East and the West. Unfortunately, he is right. But in a fair debate, which of the two debaters has the most power is irrelevant. His reasoning amounts to bullying, pure and simple.

Aside from all the deeper philosophical arguments presented here, this debate boils down to a confrontation of freedom vs. serfdom, individual rights vs. rule by an independent oligarchy.

If Dugin has his way, the world would be ruled by a technocracy. If de Carvalho has his way, you and I can live in a relatively free world where individuals could use the observations and logic to draw our own conclusions about the world and issues that are vital to us. If Dugin has his way, the powerful decide for you. Whether Dugin considers himself a postmodernist or not, he in fact defends an important aspect of that philosophy. For while the postmodernist believes that truth cannot be known, the Eastern philosopher like Dugin believes that — if it exists at all — it is irrelevant and only power matters.

What’s more, he doesn’t seem to understand that the fight of de Carvalho and all free people is not only against the Eurasian viewpoint Dugin represents but also against the Ruling Elite in the West (as de Carvalho later contends). Thus, in terms of power, the fight is unbalanced, favoring Dugin and the vast majority of influential Western thinkers – a true David vs Goliath bout if there ever was one.

The whole notion behind our post-modern way of “thinking” is that the scientific method, consisting of

1— the formulation of a hypothesis through observations (inductive reasoning)

2— the testing of this hypothesis (experimentation)

3— the establishment of a conclusion (deductively) based on the results of that experimentation

4— Subsequent ongoing verification of the results and conclusion by independent researchers

has outlived its usefulness in areas such as philosophy, economics, political science, government, and social thought, no longer applies and must be replaced by a system based on consensus. Note that this conclusion itself was reached by fiat, not by use of a scientific method, but since that method is declared obsolete it supposedly no longer applies. Hence, this is circular thinking as the more astute reader will have observed. I need to point out that Dugin does not admit that he is a postmodernist and probably, he would reject my mentioning that issue, but the commonality lies in the fact that postmodernism in politics does in fact rely on consensus and denies the individual’s ability to reach valid conclusions on his own. That, by inference, is a denial of the scientific method, without which the truth cannot be apprehended.

Despite the abandonment of the above-described scientific method in vital areas that affect our lives, but that fall outside the “natural sciences[2],” these 4 steps remain unquestioned as the requisite procedures by which we infer knowledge in the field of natural science. Thus, researchers in the areas of all natural sciences, such as physics, chemistry and medicine, are required to use this method, and aside from out and out cheating and falsification of results, such as that observed  at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, and aside from the area of origin of life research, most researchers stick to this rigorous method, out of necessity.

As an aside, it is more than intriguing that, in the non-exact sciences, the scientific method was replaced by those who are opposed to a society based on biblical principles. The Left’s age-old notion that Christianity has been an obstacle to scientific thought would seem, a priori, incompatible with the abolition of the scientific method.

Yet it is the Left that wants to abolish it. Also beyond intriguing is the fact that one of the key links in the philosopher chain that led to the development of the scientific method was a monk named Roger Bacon, who was able to publish his three tomes outlining the method (Opus Majus, Opus Minus and Opus Tertium) thanks to a commission granted by Pope Clement in 1265.

None of this movement to eliminate the scientific method in the interpretation of our world is comprehensible without an understanding of the Left’s desire to replace Christianity with their own religion, which could be called “Historicity.” Though never enunciated specifically by anyone, this is the religion whereby History would be God. When the Democrats say “we are on the side of history,” what they mean is that History (I use the capital H because it is their god) is tending toward all the progressive goals they are working toward, such as homosexual marriage, drug legalization, abolition of the words father and mother, abolition of the traditional family, wealth redistribution, abolition of borders, abolition of all immigration laws in rich countries and enforcement of Draconian environmental regulations in rich countries but not in the Third World, abolition of petroleum use, strict China-like population control, and in short, abolition of the traditional concept of law and order and the establishment of a Global Oligarchy with the “progressives” in charge. And to the Left, these agendas are sacred missions.

Though they would never admit it, in an effort to implement these long-term goals, their short-term goal is to eliminate thought, or cognition, as it is traditionally construed, and replace it with the notion of consensus, as reflected by Dugin’s statements quoted above. But what that means specifically is a consensus formed by a majority whose thoughts and attitudes are controlled by the Oligarchs through psychological control techniques designed to make the members of the target group believe that they arrived at their conclusions independently and that, therefore, they are free.

Which leads us to the thorny task of defining freedom.

Most of us derive our own definition of freedom simply by evaluating each individual situation and asking ourselves essentially “do I feel free or do I feel coerced in this situation?”

But, while that cognitive habit is useful in everyday situations, it is fatally flawed when we consider how easy it is, through thought control techniques, to induce the majority to arrive at predetermined conclusions and to convince them that they have arrived at these conclusions independently on an individual basis.

So that definition is a non-starter.

But post-modern “philosophers” have been saying, roughly since Nietzsche, that truth cannot be known. Now, by extension, freedom could not be defined if that were so. This claim, however, negates itself, because if it is true that truth cannot be known, then this statement itself obviously cannot be called the truth and is of no epistemological value.

More indicting of postmodernism is the fact that the scientific method is still used in the exact sciences, not because it is accepted by academics by consensus, but because it is indispensable and because the best minds have not only accepted its use but have not been able to successfully disprove its usefulness or get by without it.

All successful new drugs and new scientific discoveries are tested, verified and authenticated by this method. Any that are disqualified by the method are discarded. Patent specifications routinely contain hypotheses, test results and conclusions.

The claim that this method does not apply to other areas of vital national, global or personal interest would require overcoming a huge cognitive hurdle, and it would fail, because to say the scientific method no longer applies or that truth cannot be known would be analogous to saying that a glass is no longer necessary to hold drinking water. That would be sophism, pure and simple, and would in no way affect our lives because people would continue to use glasses to drink water regardless – not because consensus had made that the accepted method to drink water but because without a drinking glass it would be impossible or unnecessarily difficult to drink water. The musings of idle minds on this subject would be of no consequence in the real world.

Like the drinking glass, sound objective thinking based on the tried-and-true method generally going by the name “scientific method” is nothing but a tool and is not subject to sophist argumentation.

Therefore, by extension, Alexandr Dugin’s argument that consensus (“being a collective entity” and hence thinking collectively) is superior to the individual’s own thought processes, based (by implication) on the scientific method (even though neither debater uses this term), should also be rejected by anyone of sound mind. That is, if the free world itself is to survive.

Yet, the fact that fantasy-based Keynesian economics continues to be the dominant orientation in Western universities, and the fact that banks are allowed to gamble fraudulently with their clients’ money and then receive unconstitutional bailouts instead of a jail sentence, is a reminder that, in spite of a sovereign debt that threatens our dollar and our children’s future, Western society has yet to acknowledge the usefulness of practical tools – common sense and free market economics – as vital to our welfare as the common drinking glass.

I think even Alexandr Dugin would agree with me on that.

The author is a technical translator who has translated, since 1971, over 10,000 scientific and medical documents and patents.


[1] Olavo de Carvalho has been a thorn in the side of the leftist government in Brazil, which sides with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez and imprisons or fines Christians, for example, who stick to biblical teachings on homosexuality.

[2] By natural sciences I mean sciences involving observable regularly behaving phenomena whose regular behavior can be used to derive laws by observation and experimentation.

The debate:

http://www.theinteramerican.org/blogs/98-olavo-de-carvalho/247-olavo-de-carvalho-debates-aleksandr-dugin-i.html