Original by Dmitriy Yevstafyev, translation by J.Hawk
If one looks at the whole history of relations between Russia and the West, not since the Crimean War but going even further back, one is struck by something peculiar. Russia has for the longest time tried to act and protect its interests through a variety of international institutions. G-8, OSCE, Russia-NATO Council, even Council of Europe where we weren’t treated as an equal for a long time, UN Security Council, countless other committees and commissions.
We, however, have forgotten that we spent all of 2013 pursuing fruitless attempts to force our “wonderful Western partners” to hear Russia’s voice through various international institutions. We received an answer in the form of, at best, silent indifference to Russia’s totally reasonable concerns and offers or, at worst, as in the case of PACE, public insults and humiliations.
The current state of relations with NATO is no less critical. They are at a strategic dead end for many objective and subjective reasons, and it would be senseless to deny Moscow made mistakes here. The situation is dangerous is due to the fact that NATO is suffering from a disproportionate influence by politically and, especially, militarily marginal forces. Such military and political “giants” of our world as Estonia, Latvia, Romania, Norway, have captured the “propaganda battlefield” of the Russia-NATO relations and are dictating their will concerning the state of relations with Russia to the formerly leading powers of the alliance. It would be funny if it weren’t for the possibility of these geopolitical marginals profoundly destabilizing the Russia-NATO relationship through launching border provocations.
In any event, this “dialogue” with global, regional and, especially, “Western” political institutions yielded minimal results even as it consumed significant organizational and even financial resources.
How did we get ourselves in that situation? Probably because Russia was over-reliant on political institutions, on the possibility of discussing long-term strategic relations in the Russia-NATO Council framework and failed to recognize the strategic realignment of political influence within NATO. It especially failed to recognize the enormous growth of US influence within that organization following NATO’s failure to demonstrate its organizational potential during the Afghanistan stabilization operations. After that, to put it bluntly, failed experience and under the influence of growing economic problems, the influence of European countries within NATO which was genuinely increasing during the ’90s and even ’00s, collapsed.
By 2012-2013, NATO decisionmaking was no longer being made on a “coalition” basis, even though that fact was being carefully and skillfully concealed. But the “Crimean Spring” and Europe’s “post-Crimea syndrome” dispelled all appearances and illusions and revealed the hard reality. The indisputable reality is that currently NATO does not engage in any sort of “policy coordination”, instead all the major issues are decided in Washington which sometimes, let me emphasize that, sometimes seeks London’s advice, but judging by recent events, less and less frequently. The remaining members of the alliance, including the recently muscle-flexing “Merkellian” Germany, are part of NATO only, it would seem, to “deliver” the decisions to their “ultimate recipients.”
Naturally, the media report leaks about “difficult dialogues” or “resistance by individual NATO members,” but one has to keep in mind that is merely a ritual which still has some political utility. But it bears to resemblance to the actual decisionmaking mechanism.
Hence the following conclusion: instead of wasting time and resources to organize a “dialogue” with the supposedly vacillating NATO countries such as Italy, Spain, Greece, Czech Republic, and hoping for the results of French elections, it would be far more productive to simply fix our relationship with the US.
Look at how Syria turned out: it was enough to reach a strategic agreement with Washington (and we’ll never know what titanic efforts by Russian diplomacy and, possibly, not only diplomacy, it took) and suddenly there was a strategic “breakthough.” And those “partners” who even yesterday were convincing Erdogan to “hold on to the last” and wanted to introduce a “no-fly zone” and even spoke of the Russian bombings’ “monstrous humanitarian consequences” from every available soapbox, suddenly and in unison came around, acting as if they were trying to propose something like this all along, but just didn’t get around to it…
All of that took place in the space of a few days following NATO countries and their coat-tails Ukraine and New Zealand rejected the Russia-proposed UNSC resolution on Syria’s sovereignty. It seems that there is no more obvious demonstration of the sad but undeniable fact that in the “West” there is the US and “all the rest.”
It will be the same in all other situations where Russia’s interests clash with NATO’s. As soon as Russia reaches a mutual understanding with the US, one way or another, most of the problems in our relations with the West will automatically vanish. Conversely, all our attempts to “water down” “Western unity” through dialogue and dangling “carrots” in front of European countries have only led to our supposed “allies” squeezing additional “bonuses” from Washington which is no use to Russia at all.
So instead of attempting to “reanimate” the Russia-NATO Council, which many are talking about right now, it would be more productive to create instruments and institutions for a continuous dialogue with the United States.
This situation actually reflects an important ongoing geopolitical process. yes, naturally, the US political and military unipolarity is gradually fading into the past. Including thanks to Russia’s policies and growing strength. But that unipolarity is not yet a thing of the past and, secondly, it has led to a veritable US dictatorship within that which we have accustomed to call the “Western world”, a dictatorship that has compensated for America’s loss of influence outside of the Western world.
Therefore Moscow should treat as a given that Russia does not have a viable partner within the West other than the US and will not have another one for a very long time.
Besides, why try to reach an agreement with the serfs if you can talk to the master. Yes, the master has grown stupid on us, he’s not always acting rationally, and has succumbed to the sins of post-modernity, but he still keeps his servants on a short leash without granting them any wiggle room. The US has demonstrated its ability to maintain its monopoly on power within the so-called “Western world,” and we have to acknowledge this not very pleasant for us geopolitical reality. But that recognition releases us from a world of illusions in which we lived for the first half of the decade, hoping that “Europe will hear us”, and instead allow us to enter the world of objective global politics.