Much is said nowadays about the East vs West face off. If two separate spheres of influence exist they cannot have the same values, or there would be a single sphere of influence in which different powers were competing in order to expand their influence. Therefore both sides have played along with the script: Western powers are the defender of democracy, human rights and rule of law, Russia the home of realpolitik, doing things because it has the power to do them.
Western Europe, NATO and its ally the United States, insist that there are rules to the game of international and interstate conduct and these civilised rules must be abided by, at least when they serve the interests of American hegemonic desires. The implication is that the West always abides by these rules itself. Russia and the “Eastern” countries, and political and business figures with them, do what they see fit and try to extend their real world power and influence. Two approaches and two spheres of influence: No matter how much one side or the other might complain from time to time, everyone stays happy and life and business continues as usual.
The question is: Why doesn’t Russia speak out against a system such as that in Denmark, where parliamentary majorities change by the day, issue-by-issue, on a whim, or Sweden, which has a king with so little effective power he is not even allowed to put a satellite dish on any of his residences, all of which are state-owned, for fear of disfiguring a historic property? Why doesn’t the West actually act when democracy is put under threat, rather than bolstering undemocratic regimes through international aid programmes and interference in other countries’ domestic affairs while the people who live there cry foul for democracy?
Few take notice that in the US the people do not elect the president, majority a complicated system exists, the electoral college, that assure that the people will never have the chance for direct democracy—as that would be too dangerous for the establishment and those who can fund election in key states that will allow the most politically correct candidate to win high office.
The West doesn’t want Russia to be its enemy rather it would like to see it as a silent partner. In a place where “those people” get up to “those sorts of things” the West disassociates itself from, it is often the West which is actually imposing them on the local population. Russia, in its turn, knows this and sees the hypocrisy.
When Russia acts to protect its best interests in its own backyard, it is merely being consistent with the national interest of what any country would do. The West will never openly admit it does the same – and that it wants to create other spheres of influence in which it can do it – and Russia is happy to gain the moral high ground by letting it pretend and then “pulling-the-rug-from-under-it-now-and-again”, as was the case in Georgia when the 2008 Georgian-Russian conflict was just as flimsy ploy to get US Senator John McCain elected.
The ensuring debacle turned into some sick sort of game theory move to test Russian resolve and its military’s command and control structures, which only proved the failure of the US’s much touted 64 million dollar train and equip program, and the overall inability of the Georgian army to fight a conventional war on its own territory. It also exposed the endemic corruption in the Georgian military and how Georgia, and its end user certificates, were used by the US and Jordan, a strategic partner, as a corridor for weapons trafficking to Africa and other hotspots around the world.
All the while little was ever mentioned in the Western media about the killing of Russian peacekeepers in their sleep by their Georgian counterparts in August or the indiscriminate use of Israeli made cluster bombs on civilians by the US-sponsored Georgian military, killing not only civilians but many of their own soldiers. There are also allegations which have proved more than rumour that US defence contractors took an article part in both the 2004 Georgian-South Ossetian Conflict and the 2008 frontal attack by Georgian on its former breakaway region.
In true Western fashion, the right to self-determination of small peoples, a Western value ignored in many areas of the West such as the Basque country, half of Northern Ireland and the South Tyrol. The Yugoslav war when there was much talk about Serbian forces attacking the demilitarized zones established by, ostensibly, the UN, to protect the local population. What does “demilitarized” mean? In this case, it meant that the combatant forces could not enter them, with their weapons, but the “peacekeepers” could fill them with their own weapons and attack Serbian forces outside the zone, and individual Serbs caught within in, from within this safe haven. Would such areas have been called “demilitarized zones” had they been established by the Serbs, with the help of their ally on principle, Russia?
The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was similarly characterized in the West as the revolt of an oppressed people against a system they had never wanted or liked. It should therefore have been offered material support by that same West, if it actually believed this was a good thing. It never came, very little was given, beyond misleading radio broadcasts, lip service, because neither side wanted nuclear war to break out. However the successful uprising was soon crushed, despite this threat, when the West’s bluff was called.
When Britain and France intervened in Suez in 1956 at the same point the fighting stopped in Hungary, what was to stop the Warsaw Pact forces intervening in Hungary? The West was happy to denounce this as typical of the enemy, but could hardly complain about the principle when they were doing the same thing in Egypt, which they would never be allowed to do back home.
If two separate spheres of influence exist they cannot have the same values, or there would be a single sphere of influence in which different powers were competing in order to expand their influence. Is the world is as split in two between the East and the West as we were told back in the days of Cold War or there is no real difference between the two, except for the willingness of one side to act upon what was said and the unwillingness of the other to admit its hypocrisy?
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.