This article offers an interesting pragmatic look at the relations with Russia: “In other words, in the politics with Russia we should rely more on pragmatic interests, and less on ideals and sentiments.”
Originally appeared at Politika.rs, translated by Slavko Kovačević exclusively for SouthFront
Radio Free Europe or Deutsche Welle are routinely considered independent media, not as organs of the USA and Germany, while it is important to emphasize that Sputnik is sponsored by the Russian Federation.
“You could say with reason that the Russian nation is one of the most light-minded, but also one of the most fathomless in the world. With what did this nation contribute to the progress of human spirit? It never had any philosophers, moralists, lawmakers or scientists whose name left a trace in human history, nevertheless it hasn’t lacked skilled diplomats and clever statesmen,” wrote Marquis de Custine in his famous book Russia 1839. In his world known book, Marquis de Custine branded Russians as the “social and moral dregs” of Eurasia, but acknowledged the political skills of individuals. Dobrića Ćosić, let’s remember, wrote of Albanians in his book, Age of snakes : “That social, political and moral dregs of tribal barbarian Balkans took USA and EU for its allies against the most democratic, most civilised, most enlightened Balkan nation – the Serbian nation.”
Because of the quoted sentence, two NGOs sued Ćosić 6 years ago, claiming that by writing it he “incited national, racial and religious hatred and bigotry, and also incited racial and other discrimination.” Đorđe Balašević, truth to be told, for his sentence about Albanians was never sued, but even now, 30 years after publishing Three afterwar friends, the most delicate and sensitive souls hate him and verbally attack him for writing, “The cause for everything was Kosovo. There is evil there. The land is infested by newcomers from the neighboring darkness, from the land without history, without birds, without artists, ballerinas, cellists…”
Let’s pre-empt the expected complaints and stress that, of course, the fact that Marquis de Custine wrote his book in the first half of the 19th century can’t be neglected, while the quoted passages from Ćosić and Balašević come from the end of the 20th century. Of course, attitudes towards ethics and politics will evolve through time, but let’s not forget that the book of Marquis de Cusine gets the most praise in the present. It seems that at least part of the tolerance for this kind of generalisation, for the western public, comes from the fact that Russians are the target. About Russia and Russians, we could say, you can implicitly spill stereotypes, and use all means necessary to generalise.
Dejan Ilić did not hide his displeasure about even thinking of the idea that the Eurosong could be held in Russia, when he wrote in the last days: “We were a hairbreadth away from being in a position to receive messages from ‘libertarian’ Russia and its cheerful hosts about peace, tolerance, and the need to recognize the human rights equally for everyone, regardless the differences.” I couldn’t help myself but quote the adjective ‘libertarian,’ just to make sure no one thinks he actually meant it. Nevertheless, his stand is perfectly aligned with the sentiment of the public which loudly booed when Russia was in the leading position, or when it got maximum points from countries like Germany.
Let’s get this clear, Russia is a world power whose foreign affairs are managed mostly by pragmatic interests. But here’s the essence: this is not what makes her in any way different from USA, UK, Germany, France, China or Japan, but what makes them all alike.
Yes, the annexation of Crimea was not completely legal according to international law, but the same goes for the recognition of the independence of Kosovo. Yes, an indirect part in the Ukrainian war is not ethical, but that is more true for bombing Libya and the invasion of Iraq. It is common to use different standards for Russia and other powers. So, let’s say, Radio Free Europe or Deutsche Welle are routinely considered independent media, and not as organs of USA and Germany, while it is important to emphasize that Sputnik is sponsored by the Russian Federation. Same goes with how singular incidents are treated. Stevan Dojčinović felt the unpleasantness when Russian border guards refused to let him enter Russia, without stating a reason, just to send him back to Serbia with a years-long ban from entering Russia, which became number one topic in the media, particularly for media controlled by the West. Without denying the urge to clarify the situation, and offering solidarity to my colleague and noting the protests of media organisations, I think it is important to understand that using this individual incident to prove anything is disastrous, not to mention that some parties are even positing that the Dojčinović unpleasantness should be attributed to Putin himself. At the same time, no one feels the need to comment on the humiliating treatment of Serbian citizens who need to travel to the UK.
After the British revoked their consular sections in all of their embassies in the Balkans, Serbian citizens who apply for a visa must allow some private companies to take their biometric data and passport, then to send all of that to Warszaw, to, in the best case scenario, get it back through express post in 3 weeks. I know a few cases of respected writers, professors of university and journalists who could not attend their meetings in the UK because they could not get their documents on time, not to mention the potentially dangerous situation in which you could be left without your documents for a whole month.
Borko Stefanović asserts that relations with Russia should be put in the prism of economics and the energy sector, and less in the political prism. In other words, in the politics with Russia we should rely more on pragmatic interests, and less on ideals and sentiments. That is quite right, but not only concerning relations with Russia. The same should go for foreign affairs in general.