Original by CrimsonAlter published by PolitRussia.com; translated from Russian by J.Hawk
The most recent news of Russia’s and Putin’s international isolation are impressive. Here’s a fresh selection:
There was a meeting between Vladimir Putin and the deputy to the Crown Prince, Second Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense of Saudi Arabia Mukhammad ibn Salman al-Saud;
There was a meeting between Vladimir Putin with Crown Prince of Abu Dabi, the Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the UAE Mokhammed Al-Nakhayyan.
The president of the Italian company Pirelli, Marko Tronchetti Provera, who also badly needed to talk to the “isolated from the civilized world Russian president” managed to wedge himself between the two Arab leaders.
The level of interest with which various Muslim (Sunni) leaders have shown toward Moscow has become very noticeable in the last few months. Some such attempts were undertaken earlier, but they were either lacking in boldness or ended badly before they could yield some positive results (as in the case of Saudi prince Bandar bin Sultan). Now, after the demonstration of Russian power in the Middle East, the situation could change.
One has to remember the difference between what ordinary citizens perceive and what national leaders perceive. Ordinary citizens would like us to have friends in the world, and that citizen expects loyalty, sincerity, and willingness to help in a difficult hour from these friends. Moreover, one would prefer one’s friend to be a decent human being. It’s all fine and good, but not applicable to the real world of international politics.
In the real world there are no “friends”, there are only interests, compromise, blackmail, threats, bribery, and deception. That’s the whole range of possible interaction among countries. Friendship and enmity do not belong on that list. That which is usually described as “friendship” is simply a temporary coincidence of interests. “Enmity” is by the same token a temporary conflict of interests. And we are not talking about national interests, but rather the interests of the countries’ political and economic elites which do not always coincide.
For example, with the exception of a very short period, the interests of the Soviet political elite often ran clearly counter to the interests of the people. One faction of the Soviet elite believed its interest to be “setting the flame of the world revolution,” with the country being the instrument for setting that fire. Another, later faction of the Soviet elite wanted to ensure for itself a material standard of living comparable to the Western elites’, while the country was seen as an asset that could be “spent” to achieve that aim. That’s the generation of the elites which finished off USSR. Many national elites are suffering from a similar illness, from Africa to Ukraine. The specific needs of the national elites dictate the strategy and tactics of the Kremlin toward specific countries.
The Kremlin is often criticized that it is not working actively enough with the elites of other countries, and the critics often cite the US approach. The problem here is that the US strategy can be implemented only by the US. Judge for yourselves: if one is to attempt to compete with the US in the area of material well-being, one might as well give up immediately. If it comes to that kind of an “auction,” the US will easily outbid China when attempting to “buy” this or that member of the elite. The Washington’s military club is, at the minimum, no worse than Moscow’s or Beijing’s. It is also difficult to compete with the US on the cultural and ideological playing field: elite daughters and mistresses dream about Nice or realty in London, not about beaches in Sochi or Sanya.
Therefore what can we offer to the political elites of the Middle East or the hypothetical Kazakhstan? It’s all simple when it comes to the Old World elites–the old European business aristocracy wants to shake off the American yoke and return to the Great Game on equal terms. But what should one do with the elites of countries which never aspired to superpower status or even to being independent players? What can we or the Chinese offer that Washington’t won’t?
Putin found an offer which represents an ideal lock pick for entering the world’s most complex regions. There is only one problem–the lock pick only works if the elites with whom he negotiates have a brain. If the brain is missing (e.g. Yanukovych) the approach doesn’t work. Putin is brilliantly using one of the strengths of US strategy turning it into weakness. The Americans never bet on only one politician. In every country in question, the ambassador holds several political forces on the leash thus simultaneously controlling both the authorities and the opposition. The example closest to us is Ukraine: Poroshenko, Yatsenyuk, Turchinov, Lyashko are all politicians who hate one another but who are connected to one and the same US-held control panel.
This design allows Washington to get rid of politicians who have discredited themselves in a timely manner or who attempt to become independent players. It also allows one to engage in spectacles of the “fight against corruption” and “the ability to unelect a government” which are beloved by naive plebeians who believe in Made in USA democracy.
That system has one vulnerability. Every pro-US politician who has an IQ larger than his shoe size understand he can be gotten rid of at any moment and, no matter how servile he is, he will be deprived of his stolen money and tarred and feathered to placate the crowd. That’s how they all end. With no exception. Mubarak and Hussein were one-time big friends of the US.
That brief moment between the inevitable becoming apparent and actually taking place represents a unique chance for the suddenly world-wise member of the elite to save himself, often together with his country. Putin appears on the stage precisely at that moment, bearing a unique proposal. The uniqueness of Putin’s proposal lies in that in the event of even minimally productive collaboration with that country’s authorities, the Kremlin will never work with the opposition. NEVER. No matter what. Even the most minimal level of willingness to work with the Kremlin is a life insurance policy which covers even idiots (for example, Yanukovych). Putin is not offering money, and cooperation with Russia means that the member of the elite cannot access US real estate, offshore accounts, and cocaine parties in Las Vegas, but he gets something priceless in return–a chance to retain power.
It’s not only a Russian strategy. China is implementing something identical in Africa which drives the US batty. And today, after the demonstration of Russia’s power in Syria, even the oldest of US vassals are at the minimum ready to carefully listen to Russia’s proposals.
Prince Mukhammad ibn Salman Al-Saud who recently came to Moscow is not the first Saudi elite who realized the tragedy of his position in the context of US plans to spread “controlled chaos,” but perhaps he will be luckier than Prince Bandar who was “winged” by the Americans last year. Prince Mukhammad ibn Salman is not a lone wolf but the de-facto ruler of the country who is taking advantage of the monarch’s incapacity and of support by several other reasonable representatives of the House of Saud.
The prince’s visit appears to have had positive results. “Moscow and Riyadh confirmed their common goals in Syria,” says Sergey Lavrov.
It doesn’t mean that Saudi Arabia will become Russia’s ally tomorrow, but the drift toward Moscow is already visible. An “Arabian Maidan” is already being prepared against the Crown Prince, with the participation of local pro-US aristocrats. It’s entirely possible that it was his desire to preserve his own life and power that led him to come visit Putin.
It would seem that the “Arabian Maidan” is the first attempted “color revolution” driven by blue-bloods. I wonder what they’ll call it? “Camel Revolution”? “Ferrari Maidan”? “Oil Spring”?
But a fact is a fact, and The Guardian has published a manifesto that is being propagated among “Maidan Princes” who are trying to organize a little coup for Mukhammad ibn Salman al-Saud.
What’s funny is that they themselves don’t understand that the US doesn’t want a change of government but complete bloody chaos. It would be foolish to expect these hereditary rulers to think a few moves ahead.
Will the Crown Prince manage to draw the correct conclusions and bring sufficient factions to his side to turn Saudi Arabia away from the precipice and save the dynasty? So far it’s not clear. If everything turns out fine, it’s possible that the Syrian question will be resolved with the participation of all the conflict parties minus the US. And a “personal OPEC” would also be a useful global strategic influence instrument.
And if everything turns out badly? Well, then Yanukovych might get a neighbor with a big harem. In any event, we are not losing anything but we could win a great deal. That’s Putin’s modus operandi. Let us wish success to his diplomats which still face a great deal of hard work in Riyadh.