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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*)

Russia is courting Europe rather than threatening it.

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All Comments (75)

ZACHARY:

medical insurance Indian giver

ZACHARY:

medical insurance Indian giver

TAYLOR:

stafford loan payment No names: no pack-drill

Felix Drost:

Russian in London, it is more than half a year but I hadn't returned to this debate. The EU accession criteria are described here: http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/enlargement_process/accession_process/criteria/index_en.htm

Russia would become a EU nation, would become a part of the internal market, any European could come to work or do business in Russia and any Russian likewise in Europe. Russians would be as EU as Greeks, Finns, Irish and Portugese are. For myself it is a natural development, Russia is much more European than Turkey and I certainly hope Turkey joins as well.

Russian living in London:

I get the feeling that Russian government has wanted to join Europe for quite a while...

I am glad that the West - you say - wants Russia in Europe, but where can we get independent (truthful)information on it:

1. what needs to be done for Russia to integrate?
2. who sets the standards and who accepts them??
3. what has been achieved by Ruassia up to date?
4. should the standards be equal or at least balanced (eg can be Russia allowed to invest in Europe or USA?)
5. what are the real stumbling blocks?

The thing is that Russia recently started to shut the door (and turning East)as a responce to the West agressiveness and misunderstanding of Russia's interests...

I am sure 100% - the Russians would be happy keep the doors open to friendly partners...

Russia is too big - there is place for everyone with GOOD intentions (not for business killer sharks like SHELL)...

Thank you

Felix Drost, Amsterdam:

Russian from London, I am glad you're still here. I agree that the danger is that the more we criticise 'Russia' the more Russians will feel alienated from the west. But in many cases the criticism is because people worry; most people that I talk to that are critical of Russia would very much like Russia to be closer; Russia is in the OSCE and in NATO's partnership for peace, but NATO or EU membership seems to be ever further off; and I don't think it's because the West doesn't want it but because the Kremlin doesn't seem to be prepared to do what it takes to join the global economy. To respect human rights, property & ownership rights and the rule of law are essential for Russia to further integrate with global standards and bodies. China, India, Brazil and other large nations are increasing their compliance with global standards while Russia is lagging behind and actually reversing course in some ways. China's growth has been strong because it's been for example willing to adopt product safety standards, willing to protect the interests of foreign investors, more willing to respect intellectual property rights, etc. For it to grow further it will have to protect the human and property rights of its own citizens, fight corruption, provide an increased sense of political participation to the growing middle classes, etc; otherwise its internal market can't reach its potential.

Russia at the moment doesn't need to compromise with the world economy because Russian growth is not contingent on any world market mechanism except for energy prices. If oil prices were to drop below $40 a barrel again Russia would be in a lot of trouble while China would even grow more rapidly. Like other oil producing countries such as Venezuela and Iran Russia can afford to be insensitive to globalism and global standards because the countries that depend on oil imports are going to have to buy anyway. Until an energy alternative arrives.

Russian living in London:

LAST COMMENT WAS FROM
RUSSIAN from london

Anonymous:


Agree with FELIX FROST this time!


Your Quote:
Most if not all Warsaw pact nations except Russia are now EU and NATO members including even some former Soviet republics. they all voluntarily and democractically joined. But why not Russia...
---------------------------------

I agree that Russia should join and the Russian Goverment wants this !

But the WEST does not...

Yes, the West does not want Russia to be a member. They probably still have the idea that simply by tapping into vast Russian natural resorces (as they did after USSR collapse) is simply cheaper and more profitable alternative.

Russia should join the West and the West should help Russian democracy (mostly with information and changed attitudes of the Cold War) - not interfere and hinder the development of democracy in Russia...

You see, now the unfounded HYSTERIA of the west angers some people in Russia and strenthens the posision of some forces that would not be so strong otherwise...

When the Russians see the West slander Russia everyday - the patriotism of the Russians arises as (same as in physics - the more pressure you apply - the more resistanse you would have).

It is not the way forward... If the west does not want to see us together, then Russia naturally would drift to China and India. This is what is happening. Russians become really fed up with the West promising too much but always keeping Russia at the distance...

When the West invests into Russia it is OK for the West, but when Russia invests abroad in is - NO NO.


Last Point:

The investors are usually the most informed people of us, because they RISK THEIR MONEY. Agree?

Because, we ordenary people, just bla-bla-bla without betting our own money.

Look at the amount of money being poored into Russia, also look at the returns: 50-250% yearly!

Russia is the TOP investment performer for the last couple of years.


May be this is what west wants to hinder?

When the Russians had almost nothing, and people did not get their salaries for HALF A YEAR = it was OK for the west... Russians now live much better...

May be this is what west is afraid of?

Thank you

Felix Drost, Amsterdam, NL:

http://www.economist.com/daily/news/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8839944

Is the moral of the story the following: investing in present day Russia is less safe even than investing in Tzarist railroad shares; back then it took a communist revolution to render ones holdings valueless, now all it takes is the whim of the Kremlin? Should people in the west confide in Russia when so many are so blatantly defrauded?

I hope postglobal can keep this thread alive for a while longer, the subject has not been relegated to obscurity and an open exchange is vital to everyone.

Felix Drost, Amsterdam, NL:

I've been trying to formulate a response, why all people should have self determination including Chechnyans, how democracy and freedom in the US and Europe are a fundamental property of the people themselves; for example I am Dutch and politics in this nation is owned by me, the politicians are responsible to me and the tax I pay is mine all the way even after I paid it because it is spent on projects that are supposedly beneficial to me and are decided upon by a government that has the backing of the majority of the people. I'm not sure that people who aren't familiar with the workings of liberal democracy appreciate it; when corruption happens and bad decisions are made people demonstrate, they hit the streets, write their opinion in places such as these and ultimately go to the polls and vote for other parties and people. It happens time and again, Chirac, Bush, Berlusconi, Blair, Schroeder all have (had) to pay for their decisions.

Most if not all Warsaw pact nations except Russia are now EU and NATO members including even some former Soviet republics. they all voluntarily and democractically joined. But why not Russia, what's there not to like in joining Europe, because Russians are European and Europe is so diverse that Russians certainly would fit in as well. What's keeping one nation from joining a union of 27; Russia is vast and diverse yes but why is there alienation; it certainly is no policy of the EU or the US to alienate Russia.

I post this now because there's this post here in the post:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/11/AR2007031101047.html
that mostly supports my thinking.

I'm not anti Russian, not afraid of Russia or the Russians, I don't even understand why I'm presumed to be; I ask critical questions and make critical statements and I believe they deserve solid dialogue.

Since we had this discussion some people told me Chechnya was destabilized from within Russia as well so that the Kremlin had an excuse to intervene; the Jeltsin administration was afraid that if Checnyan independence was successful more Muslim peoples would seek independence from Russia. Why can't they have it? What's so important of keeping the empire intact that so many people have to die for it?

Russian living in London:

I agree with DB330 that the West " WILL use the energy weapon against Russia" if ....,

so why Russia should not have to have this right?

Or why Russia should be different in that respect?

Because there is slightly different democracy in Russia?

Also reply to DROST, you say:

" You ask if I recognize that Russians have a right to their own standpoint, I believe all people have that right. If Chechens had that right then they would probably be independent now"


Chechens were independent from Russia and it was a complete disaster from every point of view for the Chechens and Russia:

After Russian troops withdrawal from Chechnya (I think 1998) it became a completely lawless place. A mess.

War between warlords, organised drug production and trafficking, apartment blocks blown up in Russia (yes with people).

It was an open “gate” to Russia of lawlessness, crime and destabilisation. and religious fanatics and terrorism.

Also it could evoke further division of Russian Federation (that would be OK for CIA though) and separation of all other republics (Russia has got so many nationalities that you would not believe it!)

It could be a second Palestine in respect of constant regional destabilising factor…

Try to choose from these devils!

Now imagine that part of YOUR OWN COUNTRY had such a region...
Zeeland, for example?


What would you do Mr DROST ?? What would be YOUR solution? ...Let it go, and be afraid for your life and the life of your children?

Or you simply ask USA to deal with it?

db330:

>

hi, western nations are far more guilty in all of these areas, in my opinion, than russia.

- protection of minorities: lest we forget how the catholics are treated in northern ireland... or that the 30% russian populations of some baltic nations have been stripped of all their civil rights... or how african-americans were literally spat on through the 60s and are discriminated against gravely to to this day... and how about american indians who's land this was?... not to mention the treatment of muslims throughout the e.u. and u.s... and anti-semitism in france and eastern europe (poland) is much more common and dangerous than anti-semitism in russia...

- protection of ownership rights: the u.s. supreme court's decision on eminant domain could have grave consequences for ownership rights in the u.s. if you are arguing about yukos, then you will not be able to argue successfully - because the case against yukos is supremely strong and the yukos people were and are pure criminals.

- protection of workers rights: the advanced liberal economies have fought AGAINST workers rights. unions in the u.s. are weakening. wal-mart, for example, employs more than a million americans, doesn't let any of them unionize, and i think the figure is that more than half of the million wal-mart employs can also qualify for government assistance due to the humiliating wages they are being paid. btw, nikes made by 8-year old kids who get paid $1 a day, very humanitarian... western corporations are taking advantage of workers ACROSS THE WORLD.

- freedom of speech: being eroded in the u.s., where demonstrations now require hard-to-get permits, etc.

- independent media: in the u.s. and e.u., the media is controlled by a handful of corporations who are in bed with politicians and the government. fox news of course, but also their democratic party equivalents, who of course never dared to question the iraqi wmd evidence - all of them reading the same line, be it from one mouth or another... besides, local news in america today = entertainment news, anna nicole, paris, etc. and real news is reported by a declining number of outlets...

etc. etc. etc. i firmly believe that russia is far more progressive than you are giving it credit for and forming an it's version of a liberal economy will rectify some of the problem's of ours (i.e. savage money-hungry corporations, a nation without a soul, etc.). still, as it is being cornored by the imperialistic west, your prediction will come to fruitition anyway -- it WILL use the energy weapon against us if we become hostile to it. for a short while, we will complain, but russia will NOT listen to our complaints and ignore our criticism. then what?

Jan Drost, Amsterdam, NL:

Alexey from Russia, thank you for your response. You ask if I recognize that Russians have a right to their own standpoint, I believe all people have that right. If Chechens had that right then they would probably be independent now.

I know that President Putin is very popular and that a majority wants a strong leader but minority rights are not well respected in Russia. Having the right to have your own standpoint means you concede such rights to others as well. When I said that the people of Russia would need to taste European style democracy I meant precisely that; it's about protecting everyones rights equally, not just for the majority but for all kinds of minorities; political, ethnic, issue, etc, as well. What Russia had in the 1990's wasn't liberal democracy; what Russians had must have left a bad taste. But most Russians also know that that's not what people in the EU have. Most EU nations have protection of minorities, protection of ownership rights, protection of workers rights, freedom of speech, independent media, an independent judiciary, seperation of powers, parliamentary control over security services, etc; all aspects of liberal democracy that Russia doesn't have or doesn't have to the degree that you can call it a liberal democracy.

Western Europe starts to increasingly depend on natural gas from Russia and we need to be strengthening a very long term relationship between all European peoples; we need to understand and respect each other and listen to each other and have good debates like this one, at a political level there are talks but between the people themselves we also need to reach a much better understanding. There is no fear of Russia or the Russians, but there is fear that Mr. Putin is playing power politics with Russia's energy reserves. Mr. Putin's Kremlin has not been giving off many encouraging signals and in many ways we still seem to have trouble letting go of the cold war mentality, on all sides. But for anyone to contract like the people of Europe need to things must be clear, we must grow trust.

db330:

a+

Financial Times article:

Rising incomes making Putin popular with the Russians
By Christopher Granville

Published: February 27 2007 02:00 | Last updated: February 27 2007 02:00

From Mr Christopher Granville.

Sir, In his analysis of Russia ("As long as it is trapped, the bear will continue to growl", February 21), Martin Wolf refers to an argument in a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development brief on the country that the drivers of strong economic growth - oil price increases, spare capacity and a cheap currency - are now played out.

But the Russian economy continues to grow at the same rapid rate. So there must be other factors at work - and two stand out.

First, domestic investment in new capacity and the expansion of young businesses is now growing even faster than domestic consumption; and this investment demand is being financed easily as the banking system has taken off, while capital flows strongly into the country from abroad.

Financial deepening at home and the reversal of capital flight are big breakthroughs. They reflect confidence and openness - exemplified in the past year by the rouble becoming a fully convertible currency and foreign direct investment reaching 3 per cent of gross domestic product (well ahead of the emerging market average).

Second, the buoyancy of the domestic economy is most marked in consumer-oriented and service sectors. Under Soviet central planning most such sectors were rudimentary or, as in the case of media and advertising, did not exist at all. This gives companies tremendous opportunities to grab market share - on top of the already strong growth environment.

These two factors - capital and financial deepening, and huge new swathes of market share - are also transitory. But this is a long-term transit of many years if not decades, generating continually better living standards for the Russian people along the way.

It is rising incomes rather than, as Mr Wolf suggests, restored great power status that makes President Vladimir Putin popular among the Russian public. Even as the bureaucracy extorts

its rents, the present Russian government is doing more for ordinary people than any of its predecessors.

Three out of the four World Bank governance indicator charts exhibited by Mr Wolf show Russia improving in the past seven years while the OECD countries are getting worse. Perhaps the grand theorists of political economy whom he quotes should be thinking up a new "convergence" category between their good and bad "orders".

Christopher Granville,

Managing Editor,

Trusted Sources,

London W1T 2NS, UK

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

Russian living in London:

Reply to DO THEY?

Can you kindly explain in plain English - I have difficulty understanding what exactly do you mean... Sorry - my English is not my first language. Where are you from?

Thnaks

DO THEY?:

DO the posters on this column... who cite their origins as German or Dutch or Russian or whatever, and then write in idiomatic english, in phrases that we've all seen on their posts under another phony name...think anyone is fooled? This is junior high stuff. Entirely worthless and anyone with any brains is long gone. WHAT a joke. (by the way they tend strongly to be proIsrael, and so proud of their heritage...
Do read Friedman in the Times today. But it won't make you any more proud.

Alexey, Russia:

To Russian living in London:

More like a modernized model of a good tzar I mean. Sort of brushed up and made more acceptable for general public perceptions, also for western general public. It is not about the terms or how you call it. And I also don't see anything wrong with that. (Oh yeah, I already hear the voices humming "these Russians are so much stubborn that they would eagerly get a dictator on their own neck". Well, we are only half-Europeans, and the second half comes from Asia, don't forget.) But seriously, it is about national faith, national tradition and national idea. It is about what people believe in. Having people believe in something deeply rooted in their tradition is a strenth, not a weakness. How many Westerners believe in just anything? Look how cynical Western participants are at times here, and they openly admit that, no problem. I feel that Western democracies are themselves lost at times as to what real substance the word "democracy" attains nowadays. Media? Large corporations? Brainwashing? Illusion of having a choice at general elections? Exports of democracy to Iraq? Crude oil and cheaper heating?

Look, I am not advocating any political model or monarchy here. I talk about what perceptions ordinary people have.

It is not politically correct to talk about kings and queens these days, I agree. Sounds so old-fashioned. And very dictatorship-looking indeed. Although Netherlands is itself a Kingdom by the way, to my best knowledge. And so is UK together with Sweden.

Exasperated:

DROST wants NATO membership for Israel? How about membership for all the parts of Africa that also practice genocide and apartheid? The blindness of Jews about what Israel really is is astounding. Maybe we should invite the savages to the "neighborhood" meeting in Iraq just outlined? How about a spot on the UN security council? A crown for good citizenship?

Russian living in London:

To Alexei from Russia

I do not agree with the things about having contemporary Russian Tsar at all...

It has been good to have stronger Putin, who helped come out from after Soviet collapse and anarchy quicker.

But to have a Tsar without opposition is bad for Russia and Russian progress at large. We have to have healthy competition at the top.

Without competition = political and economical stagnation. It is like in business world. If you are not constantly outrun by someone - you relax. When you relax - you stagnate...

Do you agree with this? Tsars do not have competition. There is no match to working competitive governments. Tsars are not "good value for money". Working democracy is much more progressive and productive.

What we have now is Russian style democracy - similar to the western. That is not bad.

So let's have and improve democracy in our homeland. Let's not have monarchy and Tsar - it is not competitive in modern world. It is an illusion.

Russia would have disadvantage if we had "full power" Tsar. It would be unwise. Putin himself clearly understands this and does not try to tighten his power in every field of Russian political system - this is good.

But I think you are right about western DOUBLE STANDARDS. In many instances the democracy principles do not stretch beyond western borders. And different rules apply to other countries.

Partly it is because of ignorance and lack of particular country) education and understanding of cultural differences.
Partly it is because of inadequate media coverage.
Partly because it is suits them or cheaper, or easier to implement.
Partly because they do not have come out of old stigmas and do not know how quickly Russia changes.

Thank you

Regards

ALEXEY, RUSSIA:

Mr. Drost, your comment was one of the most interesting ones to read in this thread. You make good points in things that you say. You make your comments from your own standpoint however. I would expect that you would recognize that we Russians have a right to have our own standpoint as well, and this might be different from what you think.

To start with. Why do you think Russians are unhappy with strong presidential power in their homeland. They welcome it, rather sincerely and wholeheartedly. And because this is their land, not yours, you have no say in determining how they make up their living out there. What you call an authoritarian rule is a good tzar-father for them, the envoy of God, the one they have been seeking so desperately for so long time and whom they found finally.

I would denouce your critics if you say that looking for a king is childish. Sorry, I would say we have the right to see things differently. Especially when it concerns our own land. And we are as much human beings as you are. You probably do not undestand how deeply this faith in a good king is rooted in our national psychology, history and self-identification. Besides, from what we see it is the Western model of democracy that is irresponsible and brainwashing, not ours.

Why do you think we want to taste democracy Western style at all? Do you have some cooked up recipes for us? For us it sounds much like communist revolutions exports that the Soviet Union was constantly doing during 30s and 50s. And to us practical implications of exports of democracy mean all the poverty and oligarch rule we have observed during 90s. Thank you, not anymore. This is what Putin might have meant we he said that those guys who keep on teaching us democracy don't want to study the subject diligently themselves.

When you say there is something to swallow for Mr. Putin and his friends, you also mean 80% of Russian population (this is Putin's support figure in 2006). This counts for more than 100 million people. How many people live in Netherlands, for that matter? You also mean me and people like me. I am a critical thinker, too, and possess two university degrees. And this is definitely not the tone I would expect from a conversational partner, especially with undisclosed educational background.

tommy t:

i love living in the country that the world is so jealous of. the usa is great and president bush is the best president for the current world situation. if clinton gets elected then the muslim extremists are going to have a party. like the one the hijackers had in lebonon before they flew into our buildings. oops i wasn't suppoesed to say they drank booze too. you know they are great muslims and all. what hypocrites!! anyways it looks like the peaceniks are going to get there way and we will probably have hillary as a president. then after that when the extremists get powerful enough again she can do what bill did and bomb an empty desert after they bomb one of our cities. that will show them. and people wonder why we are in this situation. its because of 8 years of bill clinton running around the white house with dirty draws. maybe hillary will try something different like sending them flowers.

Russian living in London:

=========================


ANSWER to FELIX DROST

you say about Russians:

"I enumerated the following wrongs: shelling civilians, poisoning heads of state, killing journalists, obstructing effective action by the UN, racist justice, renationalizing energy assets owned by foreign investors, arming Iran and cutting off gas deliveries to its customers in the middle of winter and said it was exemplary of the kind of wrong signals the Kremlin continues to send. That's not about Russia that's about Putin. I think you can love London and dislike Ken Livingstone as well; one doesn't imply the other."

So, SOME Russians / Europeans may say:


"The US/NATO/WEST:

shelling civilians, killing heads of states (Iraq, Serbia, Cuba attempt, other smaller and bigger countries too), killing (in monetary terms) journalism and real freedom of speech, obstructing effective action by the UN, racist justice (remember history: extermination of Indians, black), not allowing / ceasing energy assets owned by foreign nationals, arming Iran - yes Iran and Iraq and the other half of the unstable world)and cutting off gas, oil, medicine, other vital supplies - introducing embargos to various countries in the middle of winter/drought/desease/hunger. Or inventing "intellegence" to suit...

The US/NATO/WEST Supporting Al-Quida and Muslim fanatics for about 10-15 years, destabilising and threatening other countries, putting NEW ! Missile systems to Russian borders (Poland, Chek. Rep and Afganistan) and other kind of wrong signals the White House / West continue to send.

That's not about Western people - that's about Bush? I think you can love Russia and Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and hate and be afraid (for no reason) of the Russians; one doesn't imply the other = following your logic."


Dear FELIX -


I asked for the facts about Russia - not everyday Media coverage - they are two different things...

By the way this is not full list of WESTERN DOUBLE STANDARDS... I just do not have time to really spend much time here...

I DO NOT TRY DO DEFEND RUSSIA OR DISCREDIT ANY OTHER COUNTRY.... I also do not defend "rogue" states in the world = there are many of them...

I want the world to progress and develop - not to be at war - even "Cold War" or culture war.


I want to hear the truth and not sponsored Media coverage rubbish - I am not interested in that... sorry


Thanks

Felix Drost, Amsterdam, NL:

Russian from London: I'd apologize if my remarks caused confusion but you are jumping to conclusions. I do not hate or fear Russia or Russians, I'm just critical of the Russian leadership; when I talk about Russian wrongs I don't mean you or your parents I mean the people in the Kremlin.

I enumerated the following wrongs: shelling civilians, poisoning heads of state, killing journalists, obstructing effective action by the UN, racist justice, renationalizing energy assets owned by foreign investors, arming Iran and cutting off gas deliveries to its customers in the middle of winter and said it was exemplary of the kind of wrong signals the Kremlin continues to send. That's not about Russia that's about Putin. I think you can love London and dislike Ken Livingstone as well; one doesn't imply the other.

As a matter of fact I am a great fan of things Russian, especially of of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

db330:

dear russian living in london,

i agree that hatred of russia runs deep in the west.

as an american, i agree that jealousy and fear are two BIG reasons.

from the fall of communism, through the yeltsin era, through the first few years of putin's presidency, and russia's acceptance of u.s. bases in central asia immediately post-9/11, russia has tried to COOPERATE with a u.s./u.k.-led west that is still in a cold war-like COMPETITION mode.

so, yeah, cold war mentality:
- fear that russia's nuclear might is the only thing that could checkmate the west's world-conquering ambitions (military, economically, and culturally).
- jealousy of russia's land mass, natural resource wealth, science and technology achievements, spirituality, humanism, and past military successes against other western-based empires.

the hate of russia and the steps to destroy it are evidenced in: the astronomical military budget of the u.s. and the american military-industrial complex, media and ngo propoganda (including made-for-tv tales of espionage and murder, financed by like-minded oligarchs in exile), 'stirring the pot' and instigation by puppet regimes in poland, the baltics, and georgia, and the expansion of nato and the creation of a reverse iron curtain.

Russian - living in London:

WHY FELIX DROST SAYS THE FOLLOWING... WHY?

"...But the long list of Russian wrongs that I enumerated for me serves to illustrate that they do not show their cards, they reneg on their promises, fail to uphold ethical standards, betray our trust and offer no trust in return; they generally cannot be depended upon to do as they say...."

Dear Felix, could you provide some facts about your STRANGE statements?

It looks that you, for some reason, hate the Russians...

Is it because you bombarded with negative Western media coverage about Russia?

Or you affraid? Or you envy?

Is it culrural you think?

The thing is many westeners share your views, but I reallyy want to find out why?

Share you secrets please.

Because SOME Russians say EXACTLY THE SAME about the west...

Do you think the Russians wrong??? and why - please be detailed and factual...


thank you very much

Salamon:

Felix Drost, Amsterdam, NL:

I enjopyed reading your notes above. I wish to address a few comments to your treatis:

1., Whether you like it, Sir, or not, the world does not have the resources to support the life style of Developed Countries if the large undeveloped nations are catching up. Without doubt the prospect for lowering the standard of living is nigh upon us. Short of extriminating about 50 % WORLD's of the population, there will be major changes with or without global warming.

2., The elephant in the room is global warming with the prospect of major population displacements and major investments for protection of coastal cities [Your country below the sea level, has even more to fear], energy sources, recycling, adjustments to agricultural practices and TRANSPORTATION.

3., While Amnesty international might give a fairly clean slate to the USA [notwithstanding its highest rate of jailings], this organization does not analyse over and covert foreign policy measures, nor does it analyse the strong support of dictators, heredetary rulers, destruction of democraticly elected governments, etc. Nor does Amnesty international analyse the effects of the USA arms trade [over 50% of the total] the effect of 400+ military bases propping up "friendly" governments. or pressuring others. The instability of this situation was well analysed by Mr. Putin.

4., Iraq [and the coming Iran] wars are WAR CRIMES under the precepts of the Nurnberg Trials:

"
According to the Final Judgment at Nuremberg, a ruling that has provided all succeeding generations with the classic pronouncement on the illegality of aggressive war: "War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." See Final Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Trial of German Major War Criminals (September 30, 1946), specifically "The Common Plan or Conspiracy and Aggressive War," from which this passage derives."

as such there is no excuse for the War, whether the end result would have been beneficial or the chaos now prevalent.


5., While liberal democracy is a fine aim, that which is practiced in the EU or USA, or Canada, etc. is at least as corrupt manifestation of the ideal as the Iranian or Saudi manifestation of the theocracy of Islam. Will not even bother to comment on the mess in Israel. These governments all promise the sky, and leave the country bankrupt for the next generation. Non have the financial strength to deliver the social benefits they promised to the next generation. While EU is more egletarian, the USA is a picture of destructive LAISSEZ FAIRE CAPITALISM.

6., I agree with you, Sir, that the French and English botched up the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, and also the Habsburg Empire. Their arrogance and greed overcame their sense of history, culture and benevolence. Unfortunately since the Suez Crisis the USA has taken the mantle of the old imperial powers, and acts as stupidly as did the French and English at the end of WWI.

7., Your comments on Russia are as applicable to the UK/USA meddling in Middle East [especially with respect to the Palestinian Question], or Africa{why does the USA need an AFRICAN COMMAND?]

My conclusion, as an expatriate of Eastern [actually central] Europe who was born under Stalin's benevolence [due to the Treaty of Yalta] is that the EU will have to get closer to Russia, for geographic/economic reasons. It is also my contention that the USA will have to go throough major reform, with respect to internal issues [disparity, K Street] and international issues [Cut in Defence and war, withdraw most of FORWARD BASES] etc. Fianlly if the USA doe attack Iran, and Iran manages to take its revenge on the oil ports/pipelines, Straight of Hormuz, then all bets are off. we might be looking at WWIII, or the finacial collapse of USA, as the bankers {CHINA, JAPAN, RUSSIA, EU] will wash their hand of USA $.

adsd:

I Agree

Felix Drost, Amsterdam, NL:

Ps: where I wrote "both sides" I don't mean to imply opposite sides, just to be clear I meant it as the two advocates of distinct perspectives. I was just now thinking that NATO membership for Israel and a guarantee of something akin to its 1967 border could be helpful in giving Israel the security it needs; if Arab states could live with that in the context of the year 2000 Clinton framework. I would enjoy hearing your thoughts. Granted, the subject has little to do with the old Bear to the northeast.

Felix Drost, Amsterdam, NL:

Mahmoud Sabit, I thank you again for your response. Together with hundreds of millions of Europeans I am, at this moment, heating my home, in my case with natural gas. When people go to work they tend to commute; their cars burn fuel, bthe trains use electricity generated by plants generally burning hydrocarbons; people spend most of their waking hours primarily maintaining, not enjoying, their way of life; it is more than a habit, it is a necessity to live like this. Those that cannot or will not participate still need heating, sustenance, housing. I can't step out of this life and reject this political economy because there literally is no space for an alternative lifestyle here where I live. In many ways through our companies and our socio-economic and political ties with other countries we maintain a grip on the economy of this planet, a grip that climate change shows is ultimately detrimental. But it's not an exclusive 'global arrogances' neocolonial cabal maintaining that grip; India and China have joined the world economy and while that is a tribute to freedom and the power of capitalism it also doesn't bode well for the price and availability of raw materials such as oil nor for the climate and well being of the planet.

I think you must have met many people from the west and have observed that most of them are fairly decent and humanitarian people that are genuinely shocked by povery and injustice when they witness it. If the Dutch were a few hundred thousand monks living in the lands here, hurting nothing and living in balance with nature, we would have fundamentally reconciled ourselves with our Christian / Humanist ideals and values (freedom, democracy, dialogue over violence). But since we aren't and since we need all those resources we have plenty of excuses for tolerating repression and coercion. If Mr. Schroder himself works for some Gazprom pipeline then why shouldn't Gaz de France strike a deal with Russia as well. One of the most compelling arguments for Turkish admission to the EU is that they have more young people and we need them here to work so they can pay our pensions because Europeans are getting older and older. We're selfish enough, no denying that; I'm not sure how many people will sit in a cold house because they out of humanitarian concerns refuse Russian gas; many will just shrug and turn up the heat anyway. In the end the excuse for US foreign policy is similar. Much like young people getting old, democratic leaders start with lofty ideals and leave having made bitter compromises.

Even so when you consult the US record on amnesty.org (which I presume to be a very reliable indication of a nation's human rights record) they aren't doing that much wrong. The US invasion of Iraq was folly and the consequences terrible. But there is no indication, no policy directive, declaration of intent or military tactic that shows that the current situation in Iraq is what the Bush administration intended it to be. If anything they wanted Iraq to become a happy country full of citizens munching hamburgers who have jobs and go to the cinema and participate in their (US) dream, much like Europe. Imagine if a realistic variant of that dream had happened, then the approval rating of President Bush would be stellar, the US would be Rove-Republican for the forseeable future, Iraqis would be content and would willingly and out of gratitude concede their oil to mostly US companies; the US could even be presiding over the fall of dictatorships and rise of democracy allover the Middle East. That was the neoconservative dream and it's failure, however predictable in hindsight, is a great tragedy for the entire world and for the Iraqis in particular..

The Machiavellian and atomic thinking of Clausewitz is a thing of the past; a return to that past would cause a breakdown of the EU and the post war institutions. Obviously there is a machiavellian streak to be seen in US foreign policy but rooted as they are in over a century of internationalism such a fundamental shift cannot occur in a mere 6 years. The current backlash against it is intense; I think it's very likely to snap back to where it used to be pre 9/11. But when considering Iran, Venezuela, Russia; all of them large oil exporting nations with questionable democratic practices it is as if we've reverted to Napoleon's 1815 where this old thinking took root. The leadership of these nations demonizes the USA; choice phrases from 2006 are "the smell of sulfur" (Venezuela), "(US lead) crusades, holy alliances" (Russia), "the great satan", "global arrogances", "experience a world without the United States" (Iran).

One of the most compelling arguments against that attitude at this time is being made by Grand Ayatollah Montazeri of Qom. Once the designated successor of Khomeini he has been very critical of the current Iranian regime; this year he said that President Ahmadinejad's aggressive nuclear diplomacy had harmed the country and in 2004 he said "Repression is carried out in the name of Islam, and that turns people off. . . . All these court summonses, newspaper closings and prosecutions of dissidents are wrong. These are the same things that were done under the shah and are now being repeated. And now they are done in the name of Islam and therefore alienate people." That's from an interview in the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/12/opinion/12KRIS.html?ex=1399694400&en=17c26f6f79376e66&ei=5007&partner=USERLAND
It illustrates that people in Iran question Ahmadinejad's policies, so there is a very solid case to be made that the Iranian regime is playing with fire (the kind that has a half life of thousands of years). To be blunt, to say that Iran's nuclear program solely is for peaceful purposes only because the current regime says so is a slap in the face of this good man whom I hold in high esteem and all those with him who would like to just get along with the rest of the world and enjoy the fruits of their Islamic revolution in peace.

When Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei speak of "global arrogances", they mean me, my lifestyle, my heated home, car, job, but especially the companies, institutions, alliances that support me and billions of people that either live like me or aspire to be more financially secure around the world. Their style reminds me of populist marxists and socialist revolutionaries like Chavez who are railing against capitalism and globalism but who have no clue as to what to propose as an alternative political economy (other than the animal farm) that could provide the same securities. Like Chavez they think they can buy socialism or Islamism with the money that I pay them for their oil and gas and at the same time they think they have the moral high ground. But if I am representative of the great satan then accepting my money turns them into Faust.

The reason for requiring nuclear weapons is to deter the US who suddenly is all around Iran, in both Afghanistan and Iraq and all along the Persian Gulf coast; maybe Iran even want to challenge Saudi Arabia and Sunni Islam. I don't think they will nuke Israel or Saudi Arabia because they wouldn't survive it; also they would kill Muslims and in case of Israel they would contaminate, not liberate, Al Quds. But once they do have nuclear weapons then, as is the case in Pakistan, they cannot be effectively pressured to change and that would ensure the survival of the people around Khamenei and the Pasdaran leadership internally.

You wrote: "The question remains; would a more liberal solution devoid of dominance and in the interests of balance offered by an illiberal Russia to Europe be more acceptable than a solution based on dominance and coercion offered by a liberal USA? Especially when taking into account the liberal and democratic inclinations of European publics and governments?"

If Russia were to propose such an avenue I think Europeans would advocate it, as has been the case before. Russia, in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, also does require the PA to fulfill its obligations. But the long list of Russian wrongs that I enumerated for me serves to illustrate that they do not show their cards, they reneg on their promises, fail to uphold ethical standards, betray our trust and offer no trust in return; they generally cannot be depended upon to do as they say. I think it's not because they don't want to be reliable but because they haven't yet crystallized around a posture and Putin isn't sure whether to play poker or to seek an energy wedlock.

We seem to agree that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is strategic because of its popular appeal, not because it is especially brutal or vital. You reference Muslim solidarity but Muslim solidarity fails in Darfur and Chechnya. In the Middle East at this time nobody seems to want to hear about Muslims suffering in places other than Israel or Iraq. But why? This solidarity should be energized to stop the killing of hundreds ouf thousands of Muslims in Darfur. If it isn't then the outrage over Jew and Muslim killing each other just isn't as genuine as it could be. The solution is in equal justice and security for all.

Following up on your treatise on Arab nationalism and political Islam (which is a subject worthy of years of fine debate): What I would much like to see is an end to Lebanon, an end to Israel, to Jordan, Syria, all of the Arab nations perhaps all the way up to and including Morocco, and for those nations to join in an Arab union with all the freedoms of religion and speech that would make it a paradise for Muslim, Jew and Christian again. I think that's the revolution people like Montazeri seek. All these questions of who has a right to live on what piece of land didn't bother Maimonides the fabled Jewish philosopher and physician who was born in Spain, lived in Morocco and Israel/Palestine before he became physician to the Grand Vizier and Sultan of Egypt. At one time that unity of territory and people and relative freedom was a self evident fact; it takes a leap of faith and good will to restore it. Imagine visiting Bagdad during the reign of Harun Al Rashid, debating philosophy with Rambam or talking religion, politics and tactics with Saladin; imagine working to remake the region in honour of their spirit. The British and French never understood the realities of the Ottoman Empire; how it all sort of hung together with vague borders and local patrons; they cut it up and divided it into impossible entities; a Christian Lebanon, a Jewish Israel, and all these angular Arab states with arbitrary borders. Jews fled Europe and Arab countries in almost equal numbers to seek security in their own brand of nationalism; hostility on both sides; refugees on both sides; an artificially maintained hatred on both sides. Sometimes it seems like it's just a mad hot balloon you can pop with a needle and people will wake up. Maybe it's that simple; there are people who think this great guy will come along who will make it be that simple. I do believe in that guy, but he's all of us, together.

Thank you for your time and effort in formulating your response; I rarely receive a chance to have such a stimulating public debate in which both sides try to be practical and realistic. You honour me with your considerate effort and response. Perhaps there is hope for postglobal after all!

Nicolai N Petro:

Identifying Russia as friend, not foe


Rarely has Russia's leadership been so widely reviled in the West, yet rarely has the West needed Russia's friendship more.

The most obvious reason the West needs Russia is the latter's abundance of natural resources, which Western governments have for decades assumed would always be at the disposal of their industries.

Indeed, Europe has almost learned to take its dependence for granted, relying on its good fortune that, for the past three centuries, the Russian elite has identified itself wholeheartedly with European culture and values. The occasional voices that arose to call for a reorientation eastward to Siberia, or southward to Central Asia, have never been more than marginal political or cultural influences.

Until today, that is. Now that two-thirds of gross domestic product (GDP) in the world is generated in the Asia-Pacific arena, and European and US elites trumpet their increasing hostility toward Russia's economic and political resurgence, it becomes hard for even such an ardent Europhile as President Vladimir Putin to argue that his country's destiny perforce lies with Europe.

Translated into simple geopolitical terms, if the West cannot convince Russia that it deserves a "special relationship", then over the next two decades China and India, rather than Europe, will become the primary beneficiaries of Russia's resource abundance, and the axis of global political and economic development will shift accordingly.

The consequences of such shift for the West are not hard to imagine. It would lead to the decline, first of Europe, and then inevitably of Europe's closest ally, the United States. Ultimately, Russia's decision (and it is clearly its to make) to align itself or not with the West will prove decisive in tipping the scales in favor of the long-term prospects of modern Western civilization. Given these stakes, the United States and Europe should strive harder for Russia's friendship.

More than a decade and a half after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, it is high time to set aside hostilities and to confront the main obstacle to achieving true friendship - an inordinate and often irrational fear of Russia.

Fears have both objective and subjective sources, intertwined in such a way that it is often difficult to tell them apart. As a result, the subjective components of our fear linger well beyond their objective reality; think, for example, of how often as adults people still react viscerally to the things they feared as children.

So it is with Russia today. Compared with the USSR of 30 years ago, Russia's decimated army, which even with recent increases spends no more than 5% of the US military budget, is no military threat to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Moreover, Russia's overarching economic and political ambition since 1991 has not been global conquest, but integration into the global market economy (incidentally, making Moscow the world's fifth-largest stock market). And yet despite having undergone changes that would have been inconceivable a generation ago, many Western pundits seem to fear Russia even more than they feared the USSR, and routinely compare Putin to Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, even Adolf Hitler!

Such an intense level of fear must be linked to self-image - to a cultural identity so deeply ingrained that many in the West simply cannot imagine parting with it. That cultural identity, based on separating Russia from the West, served the West quite well during the Cold War by bolstering its psychological defenses against an implacable ideological foe. Now, however, it is hampering our ability to see the profound changes that have occurred in Russian society, and we must let it go.

Among the many factors that shape perception of the world around us, the mass media play a singularly important role. Sociologists tell us that we see people as "informed" when their opinions match the categories established by the media. When one challenges these categories, therefore, one literally runs the risk of being seen as taking positions that are "against all common sense".

In reporting about Russia, we see all too often that as reality diverges from our preconceptions, media reports serve to reinforce our stereotypes. The sad truth is that the more negative a story is about Russia, the more we know it to be true - a toxic axiom that has resulted in a surreal picture of contemporary Russia. Here are just a few of the choicest examples.

Western reporting about Chechnya has focused on the devastation of war and terrorism. This remains the primary focus today, even though more than 7,500 rebels have laid down their arms, terrorist attacks have fallen to almost nil, Russian military casualties went from 1,400 in 2000 to 28 in 2005 and, last August, Russia disbanded the operational headquarters of its military counter-terrorism operations in the North Caucasus and transferred security functions to the local Chechen militia.

Since welcoming back most of what were once nearly a million refugees, more than 30,000 new businesses have sprung up. Today there are regions of Grozny where real-estate prices are higher than in Moscow. New political and financial institutions are functioning routinely throughout the republic.

This is not to suggest that all is now fine in the North Caucasus - unemployment is still widespread; many kidnappings remain unresolved. Still, it is clearly a distortion to pretend that there has not been dramatic progress in this region in the past five years. Russia has won its war against the Chechen rebels and it is safe to say that most people in the West don't even know it.

Reporting about the Russian legal system is full of tales of corruption, murder and political pressure, and while these do exist, they have become the exception rather than the norm under Putin.

Reading the Western press one would never know that since Putin became president, citizens' use of courts to redress grievances has risen sevenfold, and that 71% of plaintiffs win their cases against the government.


Largely unbeknownst to us in the West, dramatic changes are transforming the Russian legal landscape. In 2006 alone, laws were passed that virtually eliminate closed judicial proceedings, expand the rights of defendants to call witnesses on their behalf, specify that government officials must respond to a citizen's requests within 30 days, create a nationwide juvenile court system, and add significant new privacy protections for individuals.


Over the next five years, nearly US$2 billion will be injected into the judicial system to enhance its openness and public accessibility. The Russian Association of Lawyers has received government funding to establish a nationwide network of support centers where citizens can turn for free legal advice.

Admittedly, these changes do not guarantee that justice will always triumph in Russian courts, but they are a clear sign that things are moving in the right direction, which is not the impression one gets from the Western media.

Discussions of the Russian media typically imply that state control is total, when in fact there are more private media in Russia today than at any time in its history.


In 1997 there were just over 21,000 registered periodicals, virtually no electronic media, and just under 100 television companies. More than half of all media were owned by the state. A decade later, there are more than 58,000 periodicals, 14,000 electronic media, and 5,500 broadcasting companies. The state's share in the newspaper and journal market in 2006 was estimated to be less than 10%, while its share in electronic media, which today reach 25 million people, is even smaller.

Today it is not the Russian state but foreign companies that own shares in more than half of all Russian broadcasting companies.

Critics, however, have zeroed in on the one area of the media where the state's presence still predominates - national television. Through its control of seats on the board of the joint stock companies that control the media corporations that own particular stations, it is argued, the government exerts undue influence on national television channels. What does the evidence actually show?

Last month, Medialogia (www.medialogia.ru), Russia's leading private media research firm, released its fourth annual survey. It shows that in 2006 pro-government parties received 54.9% of all the air time devoted to major political parties, up from 45.4% in 2005. The survey also breaks down how often parties were discussed positively and negatively on seven national television channels.

Last year the pro-Putin United Russia Party was mentioned positively more than twice as often as all other parties combined. This large preponderance, however, is a bit misleading.

United Russia may indeed mentioned far more often than any other party, but not always favorably. A direct comparison shows that positive reports about United Russia outnumbered negative ones 58% to 42%, a modest 16-point margin.

Medialogia's detailed statistics also demolish the myth that Putin dominates national television and allows no critical reporting. In 2006, for example, Putin garnered more than a third of total mentions among the top 10 most popular figures on national television, while his ratio of positive to negative reporting was just over 3:1.


Is this too high or too low? Russian television viewers seem to feel it is just about right. In 2005, two-thirds said they had seen no change in television coverage of Putin and that he was covered about the right amount. Moreover, by nearly 4-1, they said opposition parties can freely express their views on national television and in national newspapers. Interestingly, even 56% of Communist Party voters agreed.

These results will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the variety of media options available to most Russians. These include local television and radio stations, half of which are in private hands, the private Ren-TV network that reaches roughly 113 million people in the Commonwealth of Independent States through its 406 commercial stations, as well as cable and satellites channels that are available to about 20% of the population nationwide.

To sum up, under Putin, for the first time in modern Russian history, independent media have become profitable. The typical Russian media conglomerate today is a mixture of foreign investors, Russian banks and local governments. If a local project goes national, as in the case last year of St Petersburg's Fifth Channel, the shares owned by local governments are often bought out by private investors. Russia already has more private media outlets than any other European country, and as long as advertising revenues continue to rise 15% and more each year (87% annually on the Internet), privatization will continue its unstoppable advance.


Surely one of the most disingenuous claims about Putin is that he has undermined democracy by abolishing gubernatorial elections. Here is how the process actually works. Parties that have won seats in a regional legislature may submit names for governor to a presidential commission, which reviews them and makes its recommendations to the president. The president then forwards his nomination to the local parliament for ratification. Unless there is a serious objection, the candidate proposed by the head of the party that was victorious in the previous elections is typically nominated, a practice that is expected to become legally binding on the president this year.


Critics say this violates the separation of powers enshrined in the Russian constitution. The Constitutional Court, however, reviewed this argument at the end of 2005 and disagreed because "the final decision on appointment ... is taken specifically by the legislative body". The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe's advisory body on legal matters, and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe subsequently conducted their own reviews and found that the new system conforms with European norms.

But while the media's attention has focused on the appointment of governors, there has been almost no mention of the dramatic expansion of local self-government that Putin introduce simultaneously. Last year, tens of thousands of new civic communities began functioning independently of state authorities, leading to an increase in civic initiative and philanthropy.
As a spokesman from the Siberian Civic Initiative put it: "Many Russia watchers are operating under the impression that the environment in Russia for NGOs [non-governmental organizations] that receive support from international donors has deteriorated during the last year.

It has, in fact, improved for those that have expertise in building democracy from the ground up because they are in demand by government departments. Government is saying to NGOs, 'Help us, we do not know how to do this,' and NGOs are generating income by providing their services."

And speaking of NGOs, while the view that they are under threat has been widely popularized, no major media outlet has bothered to explain how their number has swelled from 100,000 when Putin took office to more than 600,000 today. Western financial assistance is certainly not the key, since foreign donations constitute only 8.4% of all donations to civic organizations.

Could it be that the severely criticized NGOs legislation of December 2005 has actually proved beneficial?
One could go on and on, but these examples should suffice to provide a sense of the hurdles that even the most thoughtful and well-informed media consumers face when trying to understand the changes that have taken place in Russia since Putin took office.

I will not even mention Russia's economic miracle - eight straight years of economic growth that have led to a fivefold increase in GDP, except to highlight one telling point. It astonishes people to learn that return on foreign investment in Russia is an order or magnitude higher than in China, and that foreign companies that invested in Russia have outperformed those that invested in China every year since 2001.

The fact that China is widely regarded as a more attractive investment opportunity than Russia despite yielding much lower profits, having more corruption and far less political freedom, and facing enormous future political uncertainties testifies amply to the role that media-fed cultural preconceptions play in relations with Russia.

If the main obstacles in this relationship derive from a profound discomfort with the notion that Russia is rapidly becoming just like us in the West, then the fundamental task before us is learning how to envisage Russia as part of the West.
It sounds simplistic and naive to say that hostility toward Russia is rooted in a mental image. How hard can it be to change an image? Many scholars have shown, however, that the "invention of tradition", to use British historian and author Eric Hobsbawm's felicitous phrase, has always set the terms for what is accepted political discourse.

People have no problem embracing a completely invented tradition or history, so long as it is reinforced by a consistent media message. That is why, realistically, we cannot expect Western perceptions about Russia to change any time soon.
But that does not mean such efforts are bootless. Regardless of what some may wish to believe, Russia has already evolved so far from the Soviet Union that the conceptual struggle to preserve a link between the two is destined to fail.

The only question is whether we in the West will be able to change our cultural narrative about Russia sooner, at a lesser cost to our relations, or later, at a far greater cost.
We can take some comfort in the fact that this has all happened before. Reflecting on how dramatically the world had changed since his youth, British historian Sir Herbert Butterfield (1900-79) recalled:
In the days of my own childhood, it was still the English against the French, these latter being the traditional enemy.

I can remember even now the schoolbook which said that the English owed all their freedom to their kinship with the Germans, for liberty went back to the Teutons in their primeval forests. The Reformation, the emancipation of religion, came from Martin Luther, and Germany in any case had long enjoyed federal government, state rights and even free, independent, self-governing cities, like Hamburg.

The antithesis to all this was to be found in the Latin countries. I still remember how it was all spelled out: Italy stood for the Papacy, Spain had had the Inquisition, while France, twice over, if you please, had chosen to live under Napoleonic dictatorships, an evil which, in my young days, had as yet had no parallel in other countries.

Then, as now, success lies in recognizing that our former enemy's cultural heritage is not just similar to our own, it in fact is our own. Only when we recognize this fundamental truth will we be able to rewrite the script of "Western democracy" to include Russia, just as we once rewrote it to include Germany and Japan.


I copied this :


(Nicolai N Petro served as the US State Department's special assistant for policy on the Soviet Union under president George H W Bush, and now teaches international politics at the University of Rhode Island)
Internet

JAMES EXELBY:

1. Byzantium was never unipolar. The Sassanids were virtually its equal. An interesting duopolar analogy, both with multiple enemies on all sides with a third force rises in the shape of Islam (for another time, perhaps)?

2. Russia is stuck in Cold War mode. High oil and gas prices plus (relatively) sophisticated arms industry does not equal sustainable power. Russia's use of the energy weapon this winter made no new friends in Europe. Its arms deals in the rest of the world make Ivan the Terrble's domestic policy look ethical.

3. Putin seems to know he has a limited amount of winning cards and he's playing them all at once to forestall ?succession problems?

4. Double-headed eagle: the problem of facing both ways at once is that you don't see the hole you're in.

Mahmoud Sabit:

Felix Droze
Many thanks for your response, and I appreciate the time and effort expended by you in your comments.

While I am aware that the Netherlands is a tolerant society governed by a liberal democracy, I find it difficult to understand how you can fundamentally reconcile yourselves with the politics of repression and coercion currently being undertaken in your name. Because by extension, using your arguments that the Netherlands is reliant on such policies as the United States is implementing in the region, to maintain your stable supply of energy, and thereby maintain your politics of liberal democracy, you are identified with such polices. Whereas to be truly tolerant and liberal one would imagine that you would attempt to find different solutions, more liberal, more by negotiation and compromise rather than coercion and the threat of violence.

Ultimately today the choices for the region are stark, either one attempts to be part of the solution, or one is part of the problem. The USA through its policies has discovered this truth, and I cannot imagine how a solution can be furthered through war and the destruction of societies, because ultimately such choices underestimate the resilience of the human condition. I would also submit that many European governments and their publics in both Europe and the United States are aware of this contradiction.

Iran has stated that it seeks a nuclear energy solution to their long term energy needs, it has stated that its nuclear program is being undertaken to address this requirement, and is designed for peaceful purposes. So far no military program has been confirmed, and to date no credible evidence has been presented. Despite this let us assume for the sake of a hypothesis that they are working on a military program, for what purpose would such a program be undertaken? An irrational urge to destroy Israel without thought of the consequence, and the inevitable utter destruction of their nation? Unlikely. Following their front seat eyewitness in the spectacle of the complete deconstruction and subjugation of their neighbor to the west; Iraq, and a determination that this will not happen to them? Most probably. A fear of a hostile, nuclear armed Israel with a policy of power projection with the intention of dominating their neighbors to impose their diktat wrapped as a unilateral ‘solution’, in effect to avoid any negotiations whatsoever? Most definitely, for the consequences of such dominance will seriously inhibit Iran from maintaining an independent policy, one that includes deterrence.

This is a situation in which Russia is perfectly aware, and it is in their interest to provide a more logical solution to such alternatives. What would be more logical? A WMD free region is one, which cannot be implemented so long as the prevailing situation of conflict exists. Therefore a solution to the regional disputes are vital, one that at this time the Arab governments are willing to undertake, but one that Israel, does not seem to have any interest in. Would these governments accept an Israel armed with nuclear weapons? Within reason, and limited to its own defense, I think they probably would so long as an equitable and definitive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is agreed to. Would Iran accept to abandon their alleged militarized nuclear program following such an eventuality? They would certainly be more inclined to, but would require that their other regional concerns are also addressed. Therefore such impartial solutions will have a greater impact on curbing the trend of nuclear proliferation that may be beginning to pervade the region that you mention in your comment.

Whilst this is a hypothesis, the point is that this sort of solution has not been attempted by this present US administration, and would seem unlikely to in the near future. On the other hand were such an avenue of crisis resolution be proposed by Russia acting in concert within a European partnership, would Europe be more inclined to participate? The question remains; would a more liberal solution devoid of dominance and in the interests of balance offered by an illiberal Russia to Europe be more acceptable than a solution based on dominance and coercion offered by a liberal USA? Especially when taking into account the liberal and democratic inclinations of European publics and governments?

In addition it is more in character to pursue solutions based on capitalism, freedom and democracy, than the present choice of war and destruction, which are more usually associated with totalitarian solutions. I would hate to think that the terms; liberal and democratic was merely hypocritical window dressing when applied to considering the problems of peoples of different color, different faiths and different customs, peoples whose core values within their local context includes open markets, the rule of law and representational government, sentiments not so dissimilar with those that you expound. If so, then truly we have not progressed much beyond 19th century European imperialism, with its characteristics of capitalist exploitation of weaker peoples held in economic thralldom to the interests of the few and the elect.

The reason the region has been radicalized and is now taking on a more religious character is very much because of the rising sentiments in reference to the mistreatment of the Palestinians by Israel and the general unwillingness to address this problem through normal channels; the UN, and the more usual avenues of arbitration based on the rule of law. At the very outset of the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1948 the dispute was over land, and at least from the Arab side the religious connotations were muted, the issue had more to do with the injustice of the expropriation of Palestinian land and the establishment of a state that was not willing to engage in either a logical nor a just settlement.

The emergence of secular Arab Nationalism in the early 1950’s is a further confirmation of the distinction of religion from the Arab-Israeli conflict. Egypt’s decision to enter into peace agreements with Israel in the late 1970’s was a decision made under the priorities of Egyptian national interests rather than Arab Nationalist ideological concerns. Islamist Nationalism began its rise in the Arab Middle East as a result of the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; it is a competing ideology to both Arab Nationalism and State Nationalism. The Afghan war against the Soviets gave Islamic Nationalism form and substance, similar to the impact the Spanish Civil War had on anti-fascist sentiment. Islamist Nationalism has been further accelerated as a result of the failures of Oslo.

The failure of the Oslo initiative has seen resurgence in Islamic Nationalist sentiment at the expense of secular Arab Nationalism, this latter ideology is being abandoned and is confirmed by the demise of Saddam Hussein, and the unwillingness of his populace to defend their nation from invasion in 2003. It can also be discerned by the failure of the secular PLO at the ballot box in the Palestinian territories. One should also bear in mind the elements of reciprocity in terms of the religious ideological reaction to the religious exclusivity that Israel represents, in that Israel is a Jewish state and practices policies of religious exclusivity. This has affected its mistreatment of the Palestinian population under their occupation, and in turn has provoked Islamist reaction in both the Arab and Moslem world. The term ‘Holy Land’ is not just a figure of speech for either the Israeli’s or the Arabs, be they Christian or Moslem. The factor of Moslem solidarity should not be underestimated, and deeply affects populations in distant Moslem countries.

Ultimately Arab Nationalism has been discredited for among other reasons its inability to solve the Arab-Israeli dispute through peace or war. Today Arab governments are riding a tiger of discontent amongst their own populations. They are competing with Islamist Nationalism for the political support of their populace, therefore inclining them to be unwilling to interfere in the freedom of debate regarding the superstitions of organized conspiracies. Especially in light of Arab governments inability to persuade their Western friends, to seriously address local issues, friends who are instead more inclined to invade and conquer Arab countries rather than solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Following such conduct the Arab governments may consider it unwise to interfere in a free and open debate over the possible conspiracies that these recent events may represent. However absurd or anti-Semitic you may consider them. I am also aware that the ‘protocols of the elders of Zion’ were a fabrication invented by the Tsars secret police; the Okhrana to discredit Bolshevik sentiments, casting them as a proto-Jewish conspiracy in the early 20th century.

Finally it is not in the interests of Arab governments to neither prioritize the issue nor further inflame its populace, it is more an effort to contain and deflect, because ultimately it is in the vital strategic interests of the Arab governments in the region to definitively solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through negotiations.

Whilst the region may be considered strategically unimportant the lack of principles under which it is being mistreated has a far reaching effect, well beyond its physical importance. It is this last factor that gives it, its significant strategic import.


C Lemming:

Tommy T, I am going to assume the lets buy (the conservative and largely pro-US) Poland from Russia line is a joke .... otherwise I have this bridge in San Francisco that I am willing to sell you for a real great deal.

To the rest of the debate: While this piece and some of the comments have raised some interesting points I find the arguement completely unrealistic as it seems to miss to accept a highly improbable possibility as an inevitablity.

Europe ('old' and 'new') will not side with Russia over the US. This is just not feasable for Europe as a whole (as CL has correctly pointed out with the nature of the EU decision making process). Even on a country by country basis I cannot think of an EU member state that would support favouring increasing ties with Russia. At least in terms of the alliances this article suggests.

The Bush administrations actions may have annoyed us here in Euroland (actually the Bush administration has always annoyed us even before it took office). An attack on Iran may also lead to a very vocal (but ultimately toothless) condemnation of the US by both European governments and particularly in opinion polls of EU citizens. We in Europe, however, have shown ourselves to be extraordinarily happy to condemn the US but to be completely unwilling to do anything about it. Even if the EU did want to do something about it, partnership with Russia will not be considered desirable.

Normally I would not comment on sites such as the Washington Post but this is simply not going to happen.

CL:

Oh Please:

Sorry about that, 'external' policy of the EU is what is commonly referred to in the US as 'foreign' policy. The European Commission's website should provide an explanation of this in the event you have further questions.

I am quite surprised by the negative reactions to European opinion's being voiced on this page that quite rightly debate a point raised by the panelist:

'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.'

Perhaps pre-enlargement this might have been more feasible, but currently, given the Atanticist (some might even say anti-Russian) leanings of new member states, one must question this assumption.

tommy t:

Mr Stewart, I hope you are not a democrat/socialist/communist. You know there is a reason they call it the Democratic Republic of North Korea. I know this is a liberal publication but come on guys if you don't love it here just leave.

tommy t:

i think we should just strike a deal with russia just like we did with the french in luisiana. lets say offer the russians 10 mil for poland, the checks and maybe they will throw the baltics as a bonus.

James Buchanan:

The US has overextended itself, and will fall from "grace" for a decade or so, until it can regain its footing. The hamfisted maneuverings of a Christian warped majority have stretched the proverbial hamstrings. I would not bet on a Soviet style implosion, though. We've been down before, and we come back. The US is learning the hard way that unilateral military undertakings are entirely too expensive. The most modern army in the world comes with a spectacular pricetag when you attempt to use its full strength without full civilian mobilization.

The rise of Russia and China is a sad statement, though. That so many would take their rage at a single Presidential administration out and turn to support the rise of two nations who could care less for personal freedom is a little distressing.

I think the majority of the problem here is in Western Europe. Too many want to see the US brought down for no other reason than the novelty of a change of pace. The US's most vocal critics are starting to take the form of a group of "usual suspects". Italy, France, and Germany. Lovely noise, but hardly a quorum in Europe, given the number of nations involved. Perhaps the European Union has a hegemony in play already that doesn't care for competition?

Janusz E. Starkel:

When you all criticize the Russia what about democracy and freedom in Germany and other European countrys.When a person it is sentenced to prison for a difference of opinion I called it totalitarism.The most dangerous form of government.Look at the place where you live and tell me if you are free.
Thank you.

Salamon:

ASDF:

The total indebtedness of USA Government[s], USA registered Corporations held by forign entities is approx 14 trillion dollars, growing at a rate of almost 1 trillion per year. The growth represents approx 7% of the USA GDP. your interest costs are probably half of that [counting corporate bonds] The data is from the Finacial Times of London.

If you think the USA has any REAL [as opposed to BS] fiancial power, just ask the Babnk of China to stop buying USA Treasuries and Corporate Bonds for a week.. See wher it would get you [and the USA $].Even Russia has USA Treasury - they recovered from their finacila problems. The USA does not even try to recover, enjopys printing FIAT MONEY - God help you if the world takes a dim view of this FIAT ISSUE.

Oh please:

Lessee. What would be "..the impact of enlargement on EU external policymaking".(Is policymaking one word?) Well...what's"external EU policymaking"? If the EU makes policy isn't it
internal, I mean don't they do it with themselves? D0
they step outside to policymake? Do they say...well today we're makingpolicy externally?
See the problem of discussion with you? It's the brilliance. I can't get past the brilliance.

CL:

Oh please:

If you disagree with points I made, I would enjoy hearing a response to the argument itself. Any thoughts on EU decision-making processes and the impact of enlargement on EU external policymaking?

hello:

and now all the crazies have come out! Citing Debka! LMAO! First of all from a purely strategic perspective Israel-Palestine is indeed insignificant. Its a tiny ball of dirt that has no natural resources of significance that it radicalizes muslims is a testament to the piss poor socio-ecnomic state of the muslim world that it would allow itself to go nuts over a ball of dirt so small. Israel-Palestine has no effect on the decision making process of the major powers, its a sideshow.

On Chechnya

After Iraq and the bloodletting there the West has no right to lecture Russia on Chechnya. Iraq has produced 20x the number of refugees Chechnya has. If Russia had the money to fight a clean war it would, but the Russian army was forced to fight that war on the cheap and yet it clearly managed to win it while the US has yet to win in Iraq after 4 years.

Felix Drost, Amsterdam, NL:

"funny, at least:"

It's a mixed pleasure to be quoted out of context; it shows that people feel strongly about what I write but do not or can not engage in debate over substance. Whoever you are, anonymously playing cheap politics with the effort I put into explaining my view doesn't help in actually solving anything.

rk:

I stand by my previous comment. Russia will rise
and fall with the price of petroleum.

funny, at least:

READ the ll:49 above by DROST...last two graphs will be enough.
The Israeli Palestine conflict is "utterly insignifican...artifically inflated...of no stragetic" importance. (the locals are just hocking it up because they're anti-semtic).
And, by the way, this savant says China and Russia will ally with the US, rather than Russia with Europe.
To Ignatius. Congratulations on your post global. It's come to this.

oh please:

CL. But how wonderful to have you aboard. You know everything. So glad to hear that Europe won't even look at Russian overtures. That Europe will just ho hum at an Iran attack.
Of course they will side with Israel. Everyone does.
You are so wise, and so adult.

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 unilateralism in Iraq has driven a wedge between Europe and the US. But I doubt that Europe has moved closer to Moscow relative to the distance that is felt with Washington because with its behaviour Moscow has not encouraged rapprochement.

Your exploration made me pause and think about fundamentals; what compels me to feel so strongly positive about our alliance with the US? The Netherlands has more than 16 million people living on an area the size of the Egyptian province of Janub Sina (in US terms the state of Maryland). Just as in many urban areas of the planet today in the bottom line event of a catastrophic economic crisis we'd barely be able to feed our own population and we'd still require large amounts of fuel for distribution and to pump water out of the polders. In our more recent history the US has been the only nation who both understood our security needs and could underwrite the international order that we require. Perhaps few realize how vulnerable we are to an oil or natural gas shock. A crisis of large magnitude could be triggered in the event of a disruption of the supply of oil from the Gulf. That supply would be threatened if war were to break out with Iran or more fundamentally if Iran were to aquire and threaten the Persian Gulf area with nuclear weapons. Last january President Chirac of France said he was prepared to use nuclear weapons against Iran in such an eventuality (against those who would envision using weapons of mass destruction against French interests) which in my mind illustrates the concern over continued access to oil from the Gulf.

We can't afford to be held hostage by Russia or Iran. The list of Russia's irresponsible actions (shelling civilians, poisoning heads of state, killing journalists, obstructing effective action by the UN, racist justice, renationalizing energy assets owned by foreign investors, arming Iran and cutting off gas deliveries to its customers in the middle of winter) is exemplary of the kind of wrong signals the Kremlin continues to send. Perhaps Putin thinks that words spoken in Munich may set a future stage but he does not instill any confidence that gravitating towards Russia will buy us anything secure or anything like the 60 years of peace and prosperity we've grown accustomed to. So I suppose that even if the US were to attack Iran there still would be no real alternative to the international institutions (UN, GATT, WTO, etc), to capitalist globalism, to NATO and hence to the US. As the role of the US as guarantor of stability recedes we'd still have to anchor ourselves in capitalism, freedom, democracy and the rule of law, we'd still out of necessity need to partner with those that reinforce our liberal values; because those values (freedom of expression, open markets etc) are essential to the operation of our economies, the well being of our people and our very survival. Abandoning those values and international institutions implicitly means embracing the use of force as a means to resolve conflict and that would mean the end of the EU.

What would the US do? If they do not attack Iran I wonder if it matters very much what they do; whether they retreat from Iraq or not the conflict between Shia and Sunni doesn't seem like it will end any time soon; the US presence keeps it from escalating into full scale civil war but might prolong it as well. The US cannot leave the Saudi peninsula, but whether they do or not, Saudi Arabia is still likely to seek to aquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan, if it hasn't already. When both Iran and Saudi Arabia have nukes and the ability to strike each other the security of oil from the gulf will be permanently undermined. The only way out is that Iran stops seeking nuclear weapons. The only way to have that happen peacefully is for the Russians and Chinese to align with the US; not for Europe to align with Russia.

A solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem is important because it radicalizes the region. I don't understand why Russia's large scale murder of its own Muslim citizens in Checnya and Sudan's genocide of Muslim people in Darfur fails to radicalize the region. According to many sources almost half a million people have been killed in Darfur; the scale of that genocide makes the scale of the suffering in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians seem utterly insignificant; besides, the latter has no strategic importance other than its popular appeal. Many government sponsored TV stations broadcast the protocols of the elders of zion; state sponsored schools in the Middle East have institutionalized antisemitism in their curriculum; it seems to me the issue between Israel and the Palestinians is radicalized with assistance of local governments in the Middle East, and the only reason why, that I can think of, is so that it continues to be an artificially inflated strategic problem. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be solved but with such racist tactics to inflame the population against Israel I feel blackmailed into prioritizing it.

Thanks once more, it's good to see a panelist engage in discussions, you do yourself and postglobal great credit.

CL:

whatdoesitmean: It seems to me that Putin wants to forge a greater alliance with Europe...

Putin may want this, but he is not going to get it for reasons that I have already explained. Many Western European leaders will certainly rhetorically condemn a US attack upon Iran, but that is all.

Any EU-wide public position against such an attack will be blocked by the new member states.

www.whatdoesitmean.com:

It seems to me that Putin wants to forge a greater alliance with Europe because he knows that the zionists in Israel and the US are gearing up for an attack on Iran.

http://www.debka.com/headline.php?hid=3872

Is there anyone here naiive enough to believe that this isn't going to happen? And can anyone trully imagine the consquences of such an act? The balance of power hangs in the middle east. If you've really been paying attention, you will know that Putin intends to support Iran when this attack occurs - and I suspect that he would rather have his neighbours on side when he does.

Incidentally, I'm glad that the US economic issue has been raised - this is the prime reason for the coming attack - Iran is just about to open its own oil bourse and intends ditching the dollar for other currencies.

http://www.worldpress.org/Mideast/2314.cfm

Incidentally, this is precisely what Iraq was trying to do before it was invaded.

There is a whole lot more to all of this than meets the eye - do some homework folks.

CL:

Sabit:

Thank you for your detailed response. While you are correct in highlighting that US policies have not won it any friends in wider (western) European public opinion, and that an attack on Iran would be catastrophic for how the US is regarded outside its borders, I think your analysis would be more accurate had the European Union not expanded in 2004 and 2007 (and again in 2009..) to include states that have very different foreign policy outlooks and even perceptions of conflicts in the Middle East. For example, Chirac is unable to promise Abbas a lifting of EU sanctions on the Palestinian territories, because East European governments oppose this and some in rhetoric appear to be more pro-Israeli than the United States itself. What is surprising about this is that the UK position is closer to Paris' then the new member states... For example, Czech politicians have a habit of using the words 'Palestinian' and 'terrorist' interchangably. Without the agreement of Prague, Bucharest and Warsaw, Paris cannot coordinate EU action on any external matter.

But, moving away from that point, current EU policies toward its eastern borders cannot be interpreted as recognizing a new pragmatism toward Russia.

First, EU member states support the further expansion of NATO and the EU into the Balkans. Brussels is clear that despite some US reservations, at the Riga Summit it was informally agreed upon that Croatia will be invited to join NATO in 2008. NATO's further expansion is be urged on by European capitals..

Second, is the question of Kosovo. Although the EU is internally divided on this question, Germany, France, Austria, and the UK all support Ahtisaari's final status proposal and an imposed solution, while member states that have reservations have agreed to keep quiet so as to allow for a common EU policy on the matter. If Russia veto's this resolution (Brussels views Russia's rhetoric on Kosovo as a mere bluff and that in the end no veto will be deployed) perhaps then one could say Putin was putting Europe on notice.

On Chechnya, 'universal jurisdiction' over war crimes is something that many EU member state judiciaries claim, thus Spanish judges can issue indictments against Argentinian generals and Belgian judges can issue indictments against Rwandans implicated in the Rwandan genocide. Rumsfled himself is targeted in Germany. Numerous human rights groups are currently putting together dossiers that will allow prosecutors to take up cases against specific Russian officers that have served in Chechnya, Putin himself even may be implicated through 'command responsibility,' - what does this mean? The relationship between Moscow and many European capitals will become increasingly strained in the coming years.

ASDF:

Putin's vision is warped because of his perception that Europe speaks with a single voice, and if he believes that EU member states will form some sort of balance of power to counter-balance US influence, perhaps he will have better luck turning to Beijing. Power politics is a game that the EU cannot play because of the divergent interests of its individual member states.

678:

For some from a place that has lost wars, GERMAN VOICE has a lot of irrelevant stuff to say!

German Voice:

@ASDF

You wrote that the U.S. debt is close to 80%. Here you get an overview.

United States
GDP: $13.22 trillion (2006 est.)
Debt: 64.7% of GDP (2005 est.)

Japan
GDP: $4.911 trillion (2006 est.)
Debt: 175.5% of GDP (2006 est.)

Germany
GDP: $2.858 trillion (2006 est.)
Debt: 66.8% of GDP (2006 est.)

United Kingdom
GDP: $2.341 trillion (2006 est.)
Debt: 42.2% of GDP (2006 est.)

France
GDP: $2.154 trillion (2006 est.)
Debt: 64.7% of GDP (2006 est.)

Italy
GDP: $1.78 trillion (2006 est.)
Debt: 107.8% of GDP (2006 est.)


More information can be found at http://www.imf.org/external/data.htm

German Voice:

Mahmoud Sabit: "Felix Drost/CL
I am not suggesting that Europe will turn its back on its long standing relationship with the USA, however recent US policies in the Middle East have had a traumatic effect on European publics."

Wrong! It's not the U.S. policies in the Middle East that drives the people in Europe crazy, it's the one-sided EU-Propaganda a.k.a. anti-America or NAZI-Propaganda. The most people in Europe do not know what's really going on around the world. That's the point! The European Union is a socialist dictatorship (just read the EU-Constitution) which is spending billions of Euros in order to spread the ideology of (national)socialism around the world. Well, the EU is nothing else than the old dream of Adolf Hitler's "Germanisches Reich"! Right after WWII, European NAZIS came together in order to make this dream come true! Unfortunately, the most people in Europe and the most nations around the world haven't realized that! By the way, NAZIS are socialists!

Indeed, the EU and Russia have very close ties and it's time to be aware of it, because they have the same ideology!

However, stop the propaganda lies of the EU and Russia! Otherwise, the people will think that you get paid for it! By the way, only brainwashed hardheads buy it!

asdf:

This is wildly off the topic but some people are living in dream land. All nations have debt. Even the N.Koreans issue debt instruments (they arent worth anything but that is not the point). Most developed nations are running debts close to 100% of annual GDP (japan is over 100%) by comparison US debt is closer to 80% of GDP and is mostly debt to its own citizens. Such debts are not serious enough to really change anything strategically. The largest holder of US debt are US citizens who own US bonds either directly or through retirement funds. Most US government debt is owed to its own citizens not foreigners.


George Stewart from US:

Mr Tommy T:

You might want to check to see how much of our (US) national spending goes to pay interest on our national debt. No guns would be needed to reign us in if the world decides the US is a threat... an orchestrated effort to prevent the purchase of US Government Bonds would produce very painful consequences.

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans want to deal with the US national debt because they are afraid of the political fallout, but unless it IS dealt with very quickly we won't have to worry about what someone else might do to us, we'll have wrecked ourselves and have only us to blame for it.

Sorry about the hijacked post.

George Stewart from US:

I have found the commentary here to be illuminating, and tend to believe that the future is collective security, on both economic and military matters. Mr Bush's policies have clearly failed, and seemed to have backfired.

I hope that going forward US policies will become more constructive instead of destructive. Looking at the consequences of the massive US national debt, the USA cannot afford to continue on our current path so one way or another the 'World Policeman' idea is going to die.

I hope what we get instead helps all of us.

tommy t:

you guys are crazy. the reason the usa is spending all this cash is not to fiight this war. the real money is going into research and development. yes that is right we are developing the weapons that will allow us to fight a war without human resourses. iran is going to get smacked real soon. the first thing that will happen is the usa will sink every ship in irans inventory. then they are going to bomb every planer on the ground. you guys have wishful thinking. the usa has 100 times the gdp of the russia. russia can do nothing to stop us. iran will be smushed without a sweat. oh and if the iranians play the chemical of nuclear game god forgive them because americans wond sit down until iran turns into a dust bowl. good luck wishful thinkers

student:

Well, all the revenues above $30 (it was $27 and not sure what it is now) go in a special fund and gov debt payments. Your statement may be correct if you replace the number with $10.

rk:

I agree with much of what has been written here
concerning Mr Putin and his hopes for Russia.
However, it must be said that if the price of oil
falls back down to $30 a barrel and stays there for
a few years, Putin, or his replacement will have to
try another plan.

I live in London, Russian:

The more I read about politics for the last couple of years the more I feel that majority of Western countries and Russia also act like businesses or corporations...
By saying this I mean that they do not want to "know" truthful information or make sure it is produced independently in the Media.

They (the governing structures) only want to potray or listen to the info that is good for their own countries. Nothing else matters. More and more you can see ideological wars which very often do not reflect the reality.

More and more you can see that the blogs (similar to this one for example) used by sponsored commentators - to form particular opinion.

There is a saying in Russia that "repetition is “mother” of learning or believing".

I fully understand now how it works in the Media and Cyber Space...

For example almost any “western” article about russia has a list of negative statements.

They are repeated and repeated all over again. So when you read for the 50th time the same list of statements you start to believe they are true. Without even thinking about it. Then you do not need to question - you accept it as the basic. Psychology, yes?

Examples:

Statement 1. Bad Russia = cut off gas to Ukraine and Belorussia.

Nobody mentions that the prices they paid were sponsored by Russia for 12 years (!) and 3-5 times lower than the competitive – real price.

Question to you reader: Would "the West" loose so much money like that? So, why hysteria?

Statement 2. Russia has no democracy

It is a difficult one. I think many Russians a bit afraid of democracy because it is associated with the times of hardship. For about 12 years. Democracy can not be created overnight. The Eltsin democracy = was anarchy. So there could not be a reduction of the democracy in Russia from the times of Eltsin.
When you are in Russia – you do not feel like there is no democracy – it is there… It is different – not so developed in some instances, but there are different aspects to that: cultural, technological, informational too…
The West should really provide help with democracy BY BEING a FRIEND. ONLY THEN YOU CAN CRITICISE AND BE LISTENED TO. It is important! Do not just dump a bucket of specially collected rubbish… (Litvinenko reference)

Statement 3. Chechnia.

I think Russia simply could not afford to keep Chechnia NOT under its control. The reasons?

After troops withdrawal from Chechnia (I think 1998) it became a completely lawless place. A mess. War between warlords, organised drug production and trafficking, apartment blocks blown up in Russia (yes with people). It was an open “gate” to Russia of lawlessness, crime and destabilisation. Also it could bring complete division of Russian Federation (that would be OK for CIA though) and separation of all other republics (Russia has got so many nationalities that you would not believe it!) It could be a second Palestine in respect of constant regional destabilising factor… Try to choose from two devils!

Statement 4. The Putin’s opposition being “killed off”.

I am not an investigator but a professional investigator would always look for a motive first.
What is the motive? Litvinenko, Politkovskaya… Were they obstacle to Putin, did they hindered him, so he can not become a president again? How on earth these poor (no disrespect at all) journalists could shift 75-85% support for Putin??? What is the logic/magic?

What is the logic to poison a guy who 3-4 years lived in London, could tell (and told) everything he knew about KGB (FSB)? What new he could have known?

Statement 5. Cold War

What they are talking about? Are they mad? The Russians (at least the people I know) want to be “friends” with the west. They watch movies that 90% western…
Russia has always wanted to help and needed help solving common problems. I am not sure but it seems it was pushed aside as not having enough “rights”.


Statement 6 Gas Monopoly and Shell

26% of Russian complex is owned by foreigners!
Shell is happy to be in Russia after all - because they know what they have done to the contract to explore the gas (They used their top business experience, I think), underestimating the gas fields and damage to the nature… (please read the facts somewhere else yourself)
But you have to admit that every government have to serve their nation first. It goes without saying.
Look at France – how many industries the sate controls? Have a look


I have the opportunity to travel - and I have open minded views. I live in London and I see the people generally have no clue about real Russia. Russia changes quicker then “old” world – it becomes more entrepreneurial, business like. The Brits I know want to invest in Russia, because their friends got very big returns already. When they hear scare stories they become more wary, but they are not sure if everything “yellow” press says is true.

P.S. I did not say any negatives about Russia here because I simply have to go now - SORRY
(yes, there are problems: shrinking population, real poor countryside, alcoholism, HIV)

But let’s BUILD THE FUTURE NOT DESTROY IT -


ASDF:

It is a mistake to think that Putin has a warped 19th century imperialist outlook. Putin accepts the promise of globalization which is why Russia is seeking WTO admission, is fighting for the repeal of Jackson-Vanik and has accepted the jurisdiction of the european court. The Russian leadership today is more aware than most government where the nations competitive advantages sit. Russia has no territorial claims on any of its neighbors. There is no serious attempt to rebuild the Soviet empire.

All that said, classic "power politics" is still the dominant school of thought in military and foreign policy circles. Clausewitzian balance of power analysis is what all world leaders do, though they can deny it and mask their goals in ideological nonsense about the spread of "democracy" or "world communism." The US chose to bring democracy to oil rich Iraq, but not to any resource poor nations. The Americans have the good fortune of having selected the right economic system, Russia picked wrong. Turning it into a moralality or ethics question is for philosphers not political scientists and policy makers. Nations are not inherently good and they are not inherently evil, they are more like going concerns -- like coporations. Since the wealth of nations no longer depends on land and agriculture there is no need for empire. That's all that has changed. But make no mistake that access to markets today is contingent on what levers your power can push. Russia has been trying to get Jackson-Vanik trade restrictions lifted since 1991. Only now that Russian power is resurgent does it finally look like the US will lift the restrictions. For a decade Russia was ignored by Washington.

Everyone in this game thinks in terms of alliances, influence, hegemony (even if only regional) and centers of power. The Americans are no more innocent than the Russians in this respect. Nations have competitive advantages that they seek to maximize and when factor endowments clash in competition rivalries can turn more than bitter. The rules of the game are clear, but its possible to make mistakes. Being perceived as irrational is one mistake. That is Iran's mistake.

Putin is not seeking to undermine the Atlantic alliance. Russia does not have the power to do so even if it wanted to. Putin wants a more level playing field for himself. Why is it that foreign concerns today pump 24% of Russia's daily oil output, but Russia cant get a seat on the EADS board? EADS owns 10% of Irkut, but OAK cant buy 10% of EADS. Why can Italy own 25% of the RRJ project, but a Russian firm cant buy 25% of Centrica without getting into a political fight with the UK? Flush with money, Russia wants to be a player in the european market to no less an extent than europe is a player on the Russian market.

The double standard is clear and it isnt Russia's fault.

complexity:

Ah, complicated enough, the discussion of potentials above. But factor in, for example, if China weighed in in any fundamental financial way,(all those US dollars) or military way,(some subs,etc., or refusing to help with things, NK, for example. And India with it's graduation of 20x more engineers each years than the US.
Will we be loved for our armanents alone? As they grow old and outdated, as we are broke and China has ditched our dollars...I mean your musings are glorious but limited in scope. Not?

Tarik:

Mr SABIT wrote : ..Double headed eagle reinstated in the new Russian Federation insignia..one looking east one looking west...

Brilliant analysis.
But hardly comforting.

Mahmoud Sabit: Top Commenter

Felix Drost/CL
I am not suggesting that Europe will turn its back on its long standing relationship with the USA, however recent US policies in the Middle East have had a traumatic effect on European publics. If anything Europe is being invited to diversify its political and diplomatic investments, an option that it may well consider attractive. Although there are several issues involved, let us as an example take a salient issue and explore its possible implications;

There is the present direction in which US policies in Iraq and Iran are headed, and at the same time an ascendant democratic party becoming more assertive, to the detriment of the executive authority that the US presidency has until now exerted. How will this effect the situation in Iraq? It would seem quite clear that whether the US remains or leaves within the next two years, it would not change the situation in Iraq to the better. Once the US leaves this unhappy country to its own devices with continuing civil strife, and its neighbors either becoming engaged in a war by proxy, with Iran supporting the Shia’a and the Arab countries supporting the Sunni’s. Or equally Iran and the Arab countries will in concert exert the sort of pressure necessary to end the conflict and impose an equitable solution, for the existing situation is not in the interests of either party. Will the US continue to maintain some sort of influence in the region outside of Israel?

Europe is not thrilled at the prospect of a unilateral military assault on Iran, they are well aware of how small the prospects are of success of such an action and of how great are the dangers. In the event that the administration decides upon such a course, how likely is it that Europe would fully support such an action? How would their publics react to such perceived aggression? To what extent will their relationship with the USA suffer from such an eventuality?

Many governments and publics in Europe are agreed that the Palestinian Israeli dispute is central to the radicalization of the region, will the USA make any realistic effort to solve this conflict? Based on past performance Europe probably considers this as unlikely, in that Israel is far too deeply enmeshed with partisan politics in the USA, and is not really a foreign policy issue, but rather a domestic policy issue.

In addition European diplomacy was built on the foundation of a balance of power, ultimately balance. Dominance was also applied, but only on entities that could not effectively defend themselves, including I might add, entities that were burgeoning democracies at that time. In this day and age they are well aware of the need to re-establish strategic balance in the region, in the event of an uninvolved USA how will Europe address the Middle East? Will they continue to leave it to fester, allow other entities to gain influence in the vacuum created by an American withdrawal from the area, with all that that represents in terms of future conflict, future radicalization, future economic/energy implications and a future bereft of stability? The Russians may consider this to be quite unlikely. Europe may believe that a solution to this issue may be more productive through a multi-lateral approach with other partners, including Russia.

These are issues that go well beyond democracy or a lack thereof, well beyond the dividends of a Shell Oil or how closely your cultures are interwoven. It would seem that this latter may not have been considered by the US administration when making its unilateral policies regarding Iraq. These are issues of a necessary partnership through realpolitik. These are the questions that seem to have inhabited the calculations of Russia’s policy making apparat, and Putin’s speech certainly implies this sort of reasoning. The issue is not about taking sides, it is an issue that offers additional, more proactive possibilities. I would add that the Russians seem to be placing this option on the table for future reference rather than for immediate action, because ultimately it depends on what actions and decisions the US is likely to be making in the next year or two.

I followed closely the OSCE and its debates in reference to Chechnya, and could only conclude that its lack of action in reference to this issue was very much connected with an acceptance of pragmatism in its dealings with Russia. No doubt the Russian leadership was also aware of this flexibility of principals.

CL:

Mr. Drost is making a good point.

Mr. Putin's views of European politics are trapped in warped 19th century perceptions of power politics. European Union member states do not feel the need to 'side' with either Moscow or Washington, and if presented with such a stark choice, the choice would certainly not be Moscow. Has Mr. Sabat considered that the current 'energy security' debate within the EU is only taking place because Russia is considered to be an undesirable source of energy resources.

Second, 'Europe' is not some sort of homogenous entity that can 'side' with Moscow. The new member states of Eastern Europe hold an effective 'veto' over the EU building closer ties with Moscow and this veto was recently employed by Poland over an energy agreement.

I am not arguing that Russia should be rebuffed, far from it, but to suggest that 'Europe' will somehow side with Mr. Putin's Russia is something that is not likely.

However, if Russia wants to build a partnership with EU member states, perhaps it can start by taking a more cooperative attitude toward European Court of Human Rights cases concerning human rights abuses in Chechnya.

Silly:

Does Drost suggest that the Dutch are closer to America than Europe? How very silly when that country is clearly and emphatically in the EURO zone. Most citizens, Drost, don't think their citizenship is malleable, to go wherever Israel's interests lie.

Felix Drost, Amsterdam, NL:

Forgot to sign the above post with my alias and location.

Anonymous:

Mr. Sabit:

Interesting Machiavellian analysis but lacking in that it doesn't acknowledge that Europe and the USA are very strongly connected through their economies, supranational institutions, shared values and NATO. In 2009 we (the Dutch) celebrate 400 years of Dutch-American heritage, if any friendship is fast, good and an example and expression of solid internationalism but also of realpolitik it is the Dutch-American one. Just over 60 years ago a US lead coalition defeated the Germans and restored our freedom and democracy; the US stayed and invested heavily both in the economy (Marshall Plan) and in our security by setting up NATO and by stationing troops the total cost outlay of which was massive and for which the US bore the brunt of the cost. At this moment, Dutch companies like Shell, Philips and Unilever are intimately tied to the fate of the American economy and the dollar. Our cultures are strongly interwoven; music, movies, the internet, arts, television, software, language, politics; there is a free, bidirectional cultural exchange.

Mr. Sabit's analysis has valid points but is strongly machiavellian and excludes the parts that count; democracies rarely act as atomic Clausewitzean entities because they aren't ruled by a single minded elite; especially in Europe they are ruled by shifting coalitions. Their primary purpose is to keep people employed and secure. Russia doesn't offer that. Does anyone believe the Dutch have an interest in preferring aligning with Moscow over Washington? Royal Dutch Shell was forced to concede half of its Sakhalin stake after already investing billions there; how solid a relationship can you build on such one sided strong arm tactics?

Over the last few years Russia has waged a civil war within its own borders where its own army killed its own civilians by the thousands; that would not have happened if Russia had not been the remnant of an empire where many of its people (such as the Muslim peoples of the Caucasus) are not constituent but subject. They, like the Baltic people, also are entitled to self determination; why is Moscow still wielding the imperial sceptre over these peoples when in elections and referenda they have chosen to be free? Russia has become a racist nation where citizens from these southern republics are murdered by skinheads who are then convicted of 'hooliganism'; as if stabbing Uzbek or Tajik children to death is a crime equivalent to throwing a rock through a window. Russia kills journalists, critical expats. The Kremlin bought up and cajoled the free media into becoming propaganda instruments of the state. Kremlin controlled Gazprom turned off the gas in mid winter twice to Ukraine and Georgia where people froze to their death.

"Putin asks Europe: Where will you stand in that multipolar world?"
Answer: With capitalism, freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

Russians, you are a strong and resilient people; defeating the German army on the eastern front, bringing Sputnik and Gagarin into space; you've made amazing things happen. You haven't tasted democracy though; you've had chaos after the fall of the Soviet Union and populist leadership since. You haven't had democracy like Western Europe has it. Democracy brings a more equal sharing of wealth and opportunity but it is a process of decades where populism and corruption have to be eradicated. It'll also mean self determination for the peoples of Russia and hence a democractic end to the empire. That turned out to be too much to swallow for Mr. Putin and his friends.

JRLR:

At last an analysis that is forward looking and dynamic. It takes into account this fascinating attempt, by true leaders, at positioning their country anew in the world, taking into account the evolving geo-political realities of the day.

What defines Russia and its future is precisely its being both a European and an Asian country. That Russian reality gives it a net advantage over others and a unique role to play in the community of nations.

It is arguable that the greatest weakness in the American outlook, today, comes from its ignorance of both Europe and Asia; hence of Russian reality and interests. Ignorance of others invariably breeds inimical feelings towards them. That is particularly obvious listening to what so many Americans have had to say, lately, about Europe, Asia, and Russia.

Unless American leaders and the American people can renew their obsolete outlook on the world, unless they rid themselves of the political obsessions that are part of their hegemonic ambitions, more particularly in the Middle-East, it is likely the US will find itself uncomfortably isolated, between the Bear and the Dragon, while other Animal Farm residents will be either busy combatting it or distancing themselves even further from it.

Seeing that U.S. policies have not been successful, more and more Americans seem to consider that a few years of good old isolationism might give the country much needed time to heal its wounds. They seem not to notice that unilateral interventionism a la Bush IS isolationism, and the problem, by no means the solution.

Ellen and Jean Reid, Australia:

It is great to see a commentator piece together the jigsaw puzzle of world events. Russia's change of national ideology from Communism back to the Third Rome is a warning to the world of her ambitions.
We have been observing the rebirth of the Byzantine double-headed eagle for 15 years.
It will be intriguing if the Europe Community brings back the Habsburg double-eagle as part of a re-orientation to her Catholic heritage.

demetri:

great analysis.

furthermore, i think germany, france, italy, spain, and greece have reached out and grabbed russia's extended hand and are, even if it's not completely evident yet, "on russia's side" (vs. the u.s.). the u.s. has the u.k. and poland (and much of the rest of the eastern bloc_ though.

when rumsfeld said it then, it was not old europe vs. new europe and rumsfeld never thought that it would be like that. he made is a mild threat, frustrated yes, but assured that nato would thrive (and expand). now, his irrelevant threat has become a reality... like if you know your future, you are bound to fulfill it...

Salamon:

Proper analysis. Eventually Europe will have to choose between hegenomic USA and Europe's own interest regarding natural resource security. The USA is on the decline, Russia is on the rise. India and China will sew up the African/South American Continent's resoources, for they are closer and they have the cash - something the USA lacks.
The USA is on its way to bankrupting itself by overwhelming military expenses. Most of these expenses are only useful in a total war [a war which ends up being suicidal], while China and Russia perfect the soft diplomacy, while making sure that their defence capabilities are sufficient to ensure their own safety. This does not need an arm race, just assymetrical preparations [as were shown by the Hezbullah and IRaq]. Even God will not be able to help USA if it endevourts to go after Iran.

Great:

Great. Something very intelligent given to us to consider.
Who could ask for anything more.

Yuri Aksanov:

This is the best editorial dealing with Putin's speech I've read anywhere. You hit the nail on the head sir. Most commentators have been wildly off.

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