Mahmoud Sabit at PostGlobal

Mahmoud Sabit

Cairo, Egypt

Mahmoud Sabit is a historian and an authority on Egypt’s 19th century political reforms. Sabit also works as a writer and producer of historical documentaries. Close.

Mahmoud Sabit

Cairo, Egypt

Mahmoud Sabit is a historian and an authority on Egypt’s 19th century political reforms. more »

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Putin Asks Europe to Join Him (*Author Responds*)

Before the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, Russia considered itself the heir of Rome or at least of Byzantium, the second Rome. When the Byzantine Empire fell, Russia dubbed itself the Third Rome. Byzantium had been the pre-eminent power of an unipolar world. But once on the defensive, unable to lead its empire, it fell back on a policy of balance and stability. They relied on small tilts in that balance, which went in their favor.

The speech made by Putin on February 10th in Munich was not the declaration of a new Cold War. Instead, it was a message that the world is shifting again from a unipolar one to a multipolar one. Russia is putting Europe on notice that Moscow’s geo-political interests are in a multipolar world. Put asks Europe: Where will you stand in that multipolar world?

Russia foresees fluid strategic partnerships with different players in separate hemispheres replacing the global economic and political dominance of a single power bloc. Russia also says it has vital interests in this new world order. It does not appreciate NATO expansion, or the Eastern European missile shield. Russia considers these events unwanted encroachments on its emerging interests. So in many ways Mr. Putin’s speech is historic.

In the late 1990s Russia attempted to make inroads with Europe but was rebuffed; it felt excluded from the golden circle of the industrialized West. Since then, Russia has been quietly building alliances where it can. Historically enthusiastic chess players, Russians look several moves ahead. And they apply realpolitik in their political dealings.

They see that the ‘War on Terror’ has reached its climax, and is becoming overshadowed by global realities. U.S. policies have not been successful, despite the flexing of military might in the Middle East. Russia is in a region that has been driven to strategic imbalance by U.S. policies. Its southern borders with Muslim majority populations could become unstable.

Russia may consider that in the current international situation, Europe would be more amenable to a closer collaboration with Russia, a collaboration that with time could equal the collaboration that the USA has hitherto enjoyed with the continent. Russia is perhaps suggesting multilateral solutions in which Europe would play a decisive role rather than being lukewarm supporters of U.S. unilateral action.

Russia must consider the implications of an unsolved Iraq debacle and a U.S. withdrawal from an untenable quagmire. What vacuum of influence would emerge in that eventuality? Could Russia be a strategic contender at such an event? Would they attempt to fill such a vacuum alone, or would they have strategic partners?

Russia is courting Europe rather than threatening it. As such, worries about a new Cold War are unfounded. It is the U.S. which may be facing a political and diplomatic checkmate. America should be concerned. In the chess analogy they may be facing a ‘zugzwang’ -- a position in which any move will not improve their position.

The double-headed eagle was once the symbol of the Byzantine Empire, it was later adopted by the Russian Empire. And following the demise of the Soviet Union, it was reintegrated into the coat of arms of the modern Russian Federation. The emblem is double-headed because while one face looks West, the other East.

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» Felix Drost, Amsterdam, NL | Mr Sabit, thank you for your response, you raise many challenging questions and have elucidated your position. You are correct in that US un...
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