By Tomislav Jakić
If there were those in today’s generation of grandparents (and grandmothers, of course), and this author firmly believes that he was not the only one, who in their youth followed the events on the international scene, some may recall the time when the People’s Republic of China published almost on a daily basis, “serious warnings” to the United States. It was a time when Washington was pursuing a policy that could be reduced to the formula “Taiwan (Formosa) is China, and the People’s Republic of China is – nothing.” But Washington knew very well that this “nothing,” which would only be recognized as a state during Richard Nixon’s tenure, is a reality that must be reckoned with. And as such real calculations were made primarily by Cold War proponents, because this “war” was not limited to US-Soviet relations, and by generals, the United States provoked Beijing every now and then militarily, knowing quite well that the Chinese could not and did not want to engage in armed conflict. And so the Americans were provoking, and the Chinese issuing “serious warnings” – hundreds. For years.
Nowadays, an observer of world events who is not from yesterday, had to remember those Chinese “serious warnings” when he heard Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov telling the European Union that Russia is ready to sever relations with it, if the Union reaches for a new package of sanctions against Moscow, all related to the famous “Navalny case”. There is, however, one important difference. What Lavrov said was really the first warning, but it would be the last of its kind.
For years, Russia is faced not only with charges of aggressive intentions towards certain members of NATO, which is rapidly expanding towards its borders, despite a promise given verbally to Mikhail Gorbachev that after German reunification this will not happen. But it did happen and it is still happening. With this goes the sanctioning of Russia, primarily in economic field, for years, with the sanctions proclaimed not by the United Nations (therefore illegitimate) – as “punishment” for alleged military interference in Ukraine, because – and again alleged – annexation of Crimea, because of – for the third time alleged – poisoning of politically undesirable persons, such as the former intelligence officer Skripal and his daughter and – most recently – blogger and activist Alexei Navalni, predestined by the West as the future president of Russia. Not to mention anything else.
Assertiveness of the fading one
It may be boring, but we have to repeat; if for no other reason, than because the Western propaganda uses the method of constant repetition, thus converting lies and half-truths in generally accepted and incontrovertible truth. In Ukraine, legal and legitimate President Yanukoviych (regardless of how one might asses him) was overthrown by violent street riots in which the West did not hide its involvement at all. He was overthrown only because he asked for a postponement (not cancellation, but a postponement!) of the signing of a cooperation agreement with the European Union, which was offered to him in the form of: either the Union or Russia, while Yanukoviych considered it his country’s interest to maintain and develop relations with both the European Union and the Russian Federation. The statement of Victoria Nuland, now the second ranking person in the US State Department, that “$ 5 billion has been invested in the development of democracy in Ukraine” (read: in the change of regime) is remembered from that time, as well as her vulgar response to the remark that the EU does not look just with sympathy the profile of people who appear as holders of the new government in Ukraine: “Fuck the EU”.
The eastern part of Ukraine, inhabited mainly by Russians, did not accept the changes in Kiev, the increasingly obvious anti-Russian course of the new authorities who, among other things, hurried to declare the infamous collaborator with the Nazi occupiers, Stepan Bandera, a national hero, resulting in rebellion and secession. Russia did not intervene directly, but hardly anyone can doubt that it helped the rebels militarily; although it never acknowledged their declaration of secession from Ukraine, let alone accept those parts of the Ukrainian east as parts of Russia. There were very likely “volunteers” from Russia on the side of the Ukrainian rebels, just as it is certain (proven) that on the side of the government forces from Kiev was a colorful group of volunteers, mercenaries and right-wing adventurers from a number of European countries. The situation is still tense today, the rebels control “their” part of Ukraine, the government in Kiev does not show much readiness for negotiations, and even less for any concessions. Indeed, the anti-Russian hysteria goes so far as to ban the use of the Russian language in Ukraine under threat of punishment and that Ukraine – so far the only country in the world – has officially banned the use of the Russian vaccine against covid19 (meaning Ukraine is not only not ordering this vaccine, it is prohibiting its use) .
The Crimea is a different story. Crimea is important to Russia for strategic reasons. Historically seen it had more ties to Russia than to Ukraine. If anyone doesn’t know: Crimea was part of Russia during the Soviet era, until Nikita Khrushchev, the first man of the Soviet party, a Ukrainian, did not with a stroke of a pen “give” it to Ukraine (which was not particularly important during the Soviet era). And in 1989., a little more than 67% of all inhabitants of Crimea were Russians, while in “Ukrainian” Crimea in 2001. this percentage was 65.2%. Enough for anybody thinking with his/her own head. But where are such smart people today?
At the time of the violent change of government in Kiev, Russia took control of Crimea with its troops stationed there (in unmarked uniforms). No riots, no unrests, no dead and wounded. Then a referendum was organized in which a convincing majority, as one could have expected, opted for the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Moscow accepted this. The West did not and still does not want to. Since then sanctions against Russia started, it is worth repeating: not by the United Nations, who only have the right to impose sanctions in international relations. Since then, the stories started about how Russia is dangerous for Europe (and NATO regularly sends contingents from its member countries on the border with Russia), from then stories started of how sanctions are breaking the Russian economy (which is not true), how Russia is isolated on the international scene (which is also not true), and how Putin has nobody to talk with in the world (and again – untrue ). The only thing the West should understand after years of the ineffective sanctions it is that Russia is a reality and that Vladimir Putin is a reality too.
West does not lead, it self-isolates itself
Unfortunately, the West – still intoxicated by its own view of the collapse of socialism in which it sees itself as a winner – either does not want to, or, blinded by its own lies, can neither see nor understand this. And the pressure continues. The new sanctions were introduced after a rather murky case of poisoning in Britain of the former Soviet spy Skripal and his daughter. Promptly the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin himself were accused, it was disclosed that the Skripal’s were poisoned with Novicok, a very lethal means from the Soviet arsenal of chemical weapons. There was no solid evidence, no “smoking gun”. Still, the accusation was not changed even after the president of the Czech Republic publicly said that Novicok was produced in his country too (that is, not only in Russia!). Nothing was changed even after the “to death poisoned” Skripal’s survived, gave several interviews and simply – vanished, even after nobody in the small town where the poisoning took place showed the slightest signs of contamination. The accusations were uphold and the imposed sanctions were not lifted.
Europe is now threatening new sanctions over an almost identical case of Alexei Navalny’s poisoning. And here is a lot of obscurity too, from the fact that the German authorities do not want to give laboratory findings that confirm poisoning (and again with Novicok!) to the Russians (who claim that their findings, because Navalny fell ill in Russia, do not confirm poisoning ), to the fact that Navalny who was supposedly recovering from a severe poisoning in a Berlin hospital, was traveling around Germany and working on a film in the Freiburg film studio to “disclose” Putin’s secret super-luxury residence (which the Russians quite credibly presented as a forgery).
And now Moscow has clearly warned that it will sever relations with the European Union if new sanctions are imposed on it, which will affect “sensitive segments of the economy.” If there was a little common sense, instead of victorious euphoria and self-love in its own superiority, in Western capitals they would realize that they had brought Russia to this position. The fact that Russia has so far largely failed to respond to sanctions, that it has persistently maintained a position of readiness for talks and agreements (despite the fact that Donald Trump in his own rude way broke key bilateral arms control agreements), has begun to erode Putin’s popularity. And to strengthen the camp of those who advocated an energetic response and objected to “indulgence” to the West .
So Lavrov’s warning should be taken seriously and not written off as a “new Russian threat” . Yes, it is the first such warning, but most certainly the last one too. If this is not understood in Brussels, but also in Paris, Berlin and Rome (small EU members will anyhow follow the big ones), if it is not understood that it is in the interest of Europe and peace in Europe, but world peace too, to cooperate with Russia (which they cannot erase, no matter how much they disliked it), but also to talk to Putin (no matter how much they disliked him too), the result can be only one: destabilization of Europe, but also of the world, because Russia will be pushed to the end in an alliance with China. And the Russian-Chinese alliance is something the West, both economically, militarily and politically, should fear, especially as long as Western politics consists of confrontation only.
And, finally, for those who might say: so what, why should we be concerned by all this, a short answer: it does concern all of us, no matter where we are and what we are, because we live in an interconnected and interdependent world (today it was common to say: globalized ). That is why, to reiterate, Sergey Lavrov’s warning should be taken very seriously and those big ones in the EU (those little ones and smaller ones riding on the wave of antirussism are already lost and there is no point in explaininig to them anything) should be helped to understand this. While there is still time. And time is running out.
Tomislav Jakić is a Croatian journalist, who is covering the international relations for more than 50 years and who served as Foreign policy Advisor to Croatian President Stjepan Mesic (2000. – 2010.)