Russia Paralyzed by Isolationism and Nationalism and the Myth of a NATO Threat
Invited by the European University St. Petersburg (EUSP), the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) and supported by the External Relations Committee of St. Petersburg and by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V., 120 selected deputies and consultants coming from politics, businesses, sciences and civil society got together in St. Petersburg in order to discuss the current situation of the EU-Russia relations and their development with regard to the Ukrainian Crisis.
Dr Hubertus Hoffmann, President and Founder of the World Secuty Network Foundation, held a speech about European Security Architecture, which stirred a lot of attention and controversy. His statement reads as follows:
"In Sotchi Russian President Putin opened the Valdai International Discussion Club on October 24th, 2014, demanding in his important and very frank speech, The World Order: New Rules or a Game without Rules:
"If we do not speak directly and honestly about what we really think, then there is little point in even meeting ...
We get together so as to talk frankly with each other. We need to be direct and blunt today not so as to trade barbs, but so as to attempt to get to the bottom of what is actually happening in the world, try to understand why the world is becoming less safe and more unpredictable, and why the risks are increasing everywhere around us."
I agree- excellent approach- thank you Mr Putin- let's do it!
The Russian President demanded: "As we analyze today's situation, let us not forget history's lessons... changes in the world order ...have usually been accompanied ...by chains of intensive local-level conflicts. Second global politics is above all about economic leadership, issues of war and peace, and the humanitarian dimension, including human rights... The world is full of contradictions today. We need to be frank in asking each other if we have a reliable safety net in place. Sadly, there is no guarantee and no certainty that the current system of global and regional security is able to protect us from upheavals. This system has become seriously weakened, fragmented and deformed."
Again, I agree with Vladimir Putin- more and more becoming a 'Putin-Versteher' - someone who understands him.
His focus is the United States of America. They did it all wrong and are the bad guys of global chaos:
"It is my conviction that we could not take this mechanism of checks and balances that we built over the last decades, sometimes with such effort and difficulty, and simply tear it apart without building anything in its place. Otherwise we would be left with no instruments other than brute force. What we needed to do was to carry out a rational reconstruction and adapt it to the new realities in the system of international relations.
But the United States, having declared itself the winner of the Cold War, saw no need for this. Instead of establishing a new balance of power, essential for maintaining order and stability, they took steps that threw the system into sharp and deep imbalance. "
Here comes my disagreement.
Putin is right to criticize the mismanagement of the U.S. in Iraq, Syria, Libya or Afghanistan, where no solid plans were conceived and implemented for the time after military actions. Indeed, the White House has a poor track record in managing crisis hot spots over the last ten years. The Maghreb is in upheaval and warlords and Islamists pop up in the deserts and cities due to a vacuum of stability. This is an American disaster. This mismanagement within White House must end as soon as possible. The main problem is not ill intentions by U.S. Presidents but an ineffective bureaucratic process- see my speech and fresh approach and proposals in World 3.0.
But where is the better plan from Mother Russia? Where has the Kremlin masterminded better structures? Only to say Nyet! is not of value to our world. Only to stick with obscure dictators is not the future.
I would love to see not only criticism, but a better performance by Russia itself. Come with plans for Iraq and Syria and let us work together against the real threat of terrorism- as in the past.
What is wrong with EU-Russia relations in security issues today?
Nobody in Western and Central Europe blames Russia for speaking in favor of human rights for the Russian minorities in the former USSR republics, as these rights are guaranteed by the UN, the Helsinki Charta as well as the Council of Europe or OSCE and the tradition in the European Union to treat minorities fairly - look at the German minorities in Poland, France, Belgium or South Tyrolia, the Sorbs or Danish in northern Germany or different minorities in the Balkans.
Nobody blames Mr Putin for modernizíng his forces- like the U.S. and all NATO countries and EU members do.
Nobody blames the Kremlin for military exercises- as we all do in Europe.
The EU and NATO and the U.S. only blame Moscow to send undercover or rather thousands of "volunteers" or reserve officers and soldiers "on holidays" together with a lot of weapons into a European state, although in 1994 Russia promised not to do so in the Budapest Agreement with Kiev and signed the Helsinki Accord in 1975 and the UN Charta much earlier.
Russia has broken its word and several important contracts.
Does this not contradict the demands of Mr Putin for respect for the European peace order?
In Sotchi he said: "The Cold War ended, but it did not end with the signing of a peace treaty with clear and transparent agreements on respecting existing rules or creating new rules and standards. This created the impression that the so-called 'victors' in the Cold War had decided to pressure events and reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests. If the existing system of international relations, international law and the checks and balances in place got in the way of these aims, this system was declared worthless, outdated and in need of immediate demolition.
Pardon the analogy, but this is the way nouveaux riches behave when they suddenly end up with a great fortune, in this case, in the shape of world leadership and domination. Instead of managing their wealth wisely, for their own benefit too of course, I think they have committed many follies.
We have entered a period of differing interpretations and deliberate silences in world politics. International law has been forced to retreat over and over by the onslaught of legal nihilism. Objectivity and justice have been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Arbitrary interpretations and biased assessments have replaced legal norms. At the same time, total control of the global mass media has made it possible when desired to portray white as black and black as white.
In a situation where you had domination by one country and its allies, or its satellites rather, the search for global solutions often turned into an attempt to impose their own universal recipes. This group's ambitions grew so big that they started presenting the policies they put together in their corridors of power as the view of the entire international community. But this is not the case.
The very notion of 'national sovereignty' became a relative value for most countries. In essence, what was being proposed was the formula: the greater the loyalty towards the world's sole power centre, the greater this or that ruling regime's legitimacy."
And: "A unilateral diktat and imposing one's own models produces the opposite result. Instead of settling conflicts it leads to their escalation."
This should not only be addressed towards the United States, but the Russian Federation - and its power actions in Ukraine - as well. While sitting in a glasshouse Mr Putin criticizes the U.S. for not respecting national sovereignty. Why not behave more respectful in Ukraine? Why make the same mistakes the U.S. is blamed for?
How would the Russians feel, if NATO were to start a pro-Western infiltration with thousands of NATO soldiers on holidays in Belarus? Or pay proxy-fighters in the Caucasus region to kick the Russians out, as done in Afghanistan in the 1980s?
The Russian actions in Eastern Ukraine sometimes remind me of someone who commits suicide out of fear to die. Or of a nasty school boy who blames his classmate for his misbehavior - only to do exactly the same.
To me, Russian President Putin acts a little like our last German Kaiser Wilhelm II who wanted to be respected by the big power UK and blamed them. At the very end of his deadly ego-trip against Great Britain, France and the United States, 100 years ago, he lost his job and Germany lost it all with millions killed all over Europe. America rose out of the ashes.
My advice to my Russian friends: look carefully into the Germany history and study the mistakes of the last 100 years- but better do not copy and repeat.
I fully understand the frustration of the Russian President regarding the revolution in Kiev in February and agree that the EU mismanaged the association process by failing to come to an agreement with Russia, in particular trade relations, in parallel.
I like the Minsk-Protocol from September 5th, 2014- a wise document- but is has to be implemented- by Russia as well as by the rebels.
President Putin is very badly advised- unfortunate for him, the Russian people and us all in Europe.
The day-to-day strategy, the actions and the nationalistic visions make Russian not strong but weak, not respected but outlawed, not happy but sad.
It is a dead-end road of Russian isolationism- a Wagenburg or bunker mentality. Like the overly proud and nationalistic Germans in 1914, the nouveaux riches of that period. They committed suicide and started a 20th century full of blood and tears.
The wake of the ghosts of nationalism will drive Mother Russia deeper and deeper into a dead-end road, confrontation and isolation. Right into the arms of the Chinese Dragon which is very lively and eight times bigger and stronger than the Russian Teddy Bear.
I agree with Mr Putin when he warned:
"Patriotism can turn into nationalism. I agree with you here, this is a very dangerous tendency. We have to keep this in mind and make sure it does not happen. It is dangerous for the country. I am the biggest nationalist in Russia.
However, the greatest and most appropriate kind of nationalism is when you act and conduct policies that will benefit the people. If nationalism means intolerance of other people, chauvinism – this would destroy this country, which was initially formed as a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state. This would lead us not only into a dead end but also to self-destruction. Russia will do everything possible to make sure it doesn't happen."
But where are his actions to stop chauvinism in Russia and to grow and promote codes of tolerance at home?
There is no Russian strategy. It is a chaos of misperceptions and a loose-loose approach.
America- the arch adversary of the Cold War- is only strong because of Wall Street, Silicon Valley or Hollywood and Harvard. The military power is based on economic strength, innovation, free enterprise, rule of law, reliable law enforcement and courts, free media, a democratic system. With all weak points in a not-perfect-world of human beings.
Of course, sometimes Americans can be ignorant and arrogant- but who is perfect? The Russians? The Germans or the French?
The President argued in Sotchi: "We certainly have our drawbacks. They apply to the system. Many of them clearly come from the past. There is a lot we need to change. We are doing it gradually, but not through revolution."
Russia is and will be forever weak if it does not go the path of Peter the Great- radical reforms like in the West.
Mr Putin: "gradually" is not enough to make Russia strong! A White Revolution is needed, lead by you. Russia needs oxygen, radical reforms, more freedom for the people, a fair rule of law, less corruption, freedom of ideas and speech and less power for the bureaucrats, who only want cash-back. Send them home and give diversity and creativity and the young generation a chance! Or you will ossify and paralyze Russia and make it weaker and weaker in the global competition. This is the real strategy for Mother Russia and nothing else.
The USSR or the GDR failed not because they were not forceful enough in military power, but because they all lacked the humus of economic and political progress. Why should it work now after it failed in the past?
Partnership: in a globalized world even the US or the EU cannot act alone, have to cooperate, convince, compromise. But Russia can do without? This is a Russian myth – or naive wishful thinking.
There is no threat by the EU, NATO or the U.S. - all this is a misperception which harms the design of a powerful Russia. There are no plans to attack, no war games, no threats- nothing.
Addressing the Russian Parliament on April 18, 2014 President Putin stressed the humiliation that Russia had suffered as a result of the many promises broken by the West, including the promise not to enlarge NATO beyond the borders of a reunified Germany. But is it really true?
The Berlin Wall had fallen on November 9, 1989. On December 25, 1991 the USSR was finished and by July 1st, 1991 the Warsaw Pact was history.
In the crucial 2 plus 4 negotiations, which finally led Gorbachev to accept a unified Germany in NATO in July 1990, the issue of Eastern European states joining NATO was never raised. This treaty ruled out only "the stationing of foreign NATO troops on the territory of the former GDR."
As former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze argued the idea of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact dissolving and NATO taking in former Warsaw Pact members was beyond the imagination of the protagonists in 1989 and 1990. So the oral promises of German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and US Secretary of State James Baker were vague. There was no promise or agreement on NATO membership of the Eastern European countries, which started to join nine years later.
So, the road of the NATO-Russia Council and closer cooperation was the right track. Including cooperation in missile defense.
Do the people of Sankt Petersburg feel threatened since NATO has been bordering Russia in Estonia for a decade now?
Why plan for something that does not exist?
Lets us all openly discuss our misperceptions and national interests and reset the button for cooperation again."