Russian President Vladimir Putin, before an international audience, exposed an international order capitalizing on the end of the Cold War to reshape the world according to its own interests, sidelining concepts such as basic international relations, international laws, systems of checks and balances, and even the very concept of national sovereignty itself. Amid President Putin’s speech, he would condemn the United States’ support for neo-fascists, terrorists, and its contempt for national sovereignty around the world.
The West’s Rebuttal
Curious language accompanied the New York Times’ account of the Valdai International Club discussion in the Black Sea coastal region of Sochi, Russia in front of which President Putin spoke. In an article titled, “Putin Accuses U.S. of Backing ‘Neo-Fascists’ and ‘Islamic Radicals’,” the NYT attempts to portray President Putin’s statements about US support for neo-fascists and terrorists as merely baseless accusations.
The NYT claims, “instead of supporting democracy and sovereign states, Mr. Putin said during a three-hour appearance at the conference, the United States supports “dubious” groups ranging from “open neo-fascists to Islamic radicals.”” The NYT would also report, ““Why do they support such people,” he asked the annual gathering known as the Valdai Club, which met this year in the southern resort town of Sochi. “They do this because they decide to use them as instruments along the way in achieving their goals, but then burn their fingers and recoil.””
It is difficult to understand why the NYT attempts to portray this statement as particularly controversial, or as a “diatribe,” as the Times puts it, rather than a factual, timely, and necessary observation.
The NYT would also state, “Russia is often accused of provoking the crisis in Ukraine by annexing Crimea, and of prolonging the agony in Syria by helping to crush a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow’s last major Arab ally. Some analysts have suggested that Mr. Putin seeks to restore the lost power and influence of the Soviet Union, or even the Russian Empire, in a bid to prolong his own rule.”
Technically speaking, Russia is regularly accused of all of this, though the NYT fails to fill in for readers how ridiculous each and every one of these accusations are.
To begin with, the Ukrainian crisis began when neo-fascists violently overthrew the elected government of Ukraine in late 2013, early 2014 with the United States’ full backing. The political order that seized power constituted overtly fascist political parties including Svoboda and the “Fatherland Party,” and was openly backed by flagrantly Neo-Nazi armed groups such as Right Sector. It was only then that eastern Ukrainians began to flee into the arms of Russia who in turn oversaw a referendum returning Crimea to Russian sovereignty.
Likewise regarding Syria, there is no question today that the conflict Damascus is fighting is not a “popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad,” but rather a proxy war being fought against Damascus using sectarian extremists ranging from various Al Qaeda affiliates, to the newly christened “Islamic State,” all of which constitute terrorist fronts and in no way equate to a “popular uprising.”
As far as the NYT’s claims that President Putin seeks to “restore the lost power and influence of the Soviet Union, or even the Russian Empire,” readers may be left confused when considering that the Soviet Union and Russian Empire represent two diametrically opposed political orders, and still, neither aspired toward nor achieved the global hegemony Western military and economic expansion has reached.
The US is its Own Worst Enemy
President Putin’s comments about the United States using various proxies as “instruments” toward achieving their goals, but with which they”burn their fingers and recoil” in the process could best be exemplified in the US’ arming of Al Qaeda and other militant groups in Afghanistan during the 1980’s. Al Qaeda would go on to become a global scourge the US claims it must now wage an equally global war to extinguish, of course with no apparent success.
Part of the United States’ growing problem upon the global stage, a problem where it is irredeemably losing respect and legitimacy it had once commanded, is its own mass media and its utter failure to hold accountable poor policy driven by corrupt, criminal special interests. Leaving it to Russian President Vladimir Putin to point out the sorry state of American foreign policy grants Russia the respect and legitimacy the US would have otherwise held onto were it capable of putting its own house in order. The inability of America’s media to serve public interests is in itself a symptom of America’s greater malaise.
Of course as with all nations, Russia does what is in Russia’s own best interests. Occasionally, however, these interests converge with public interests and in this case, global interests. The United States’ foreign policy has become a global menace to all, not just a menace to Russia. However, because US foreign policy is a menace to Russia as well, Russia by necessity must protest it at venues like the Valdai International Club.Because of this, President Putin’s words strike with a popular resonance.
From Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Syria, to Ukraine and now ironically back to Iraq again, the United States has left a trail of catastrophe behind all that it has done overseas. Nations so far spared such catastrophe are most likely considering what happens if they’re next. It is not the Kremlin’s ability to sway the minds of the world that has turned the tables on America causing it to slink away into irrelevancy and general disdain, but its own actions it refuses to address or reform.
When America’s Agenda Becomes the “World’s” Agenda…
President Putin would continue with comments stating, “it looks like the so-called ‘winners’ of the Cold War are determined to have it all and reshape the world into a place that could better serve their interests alone.” He would also state, “in a world dominated by one country and a group of its satellites, the process of ‘global decision-making’ often boils down to pushing through their own recipes under the guise of a universal proposal. This group has in fact become so ambitious that its solutions are now passed off as decisions made by the entire global community.”It is difficult to disagree.
With the rise of the BRICS highlighting just how “global” America’s “recipes” are not, President Putin’s “diatribe” will soon become painfully obvious facts understood widely around the world and only further hinder the West as it tries to manufacturing legitimacy and authority out of thinner and thinner air. Indeed, as President Putin suggests, there is nothing truly “international” about what is often called “international consensus.” Instead, it is a collection of “satellites” around the United States, and often even states strong-armed into lending their “consensus.” When nations a billion strong refuse to sign onto the US’ agenda, or an entire continent rejects the authority of America’s so-called “international” institutions, can they truly be called “international?”
Such tactics however, resemble those of tyrannies, in fact, the very tyrannies the United States had once been thought of as the champion against. Ironic that it has become what it had once fought, from its inception to the pinnacle of its power, influence and respect. The tides will change when President Putin’s message becomes better understood and the true global consensus develops the power and resources to have its voice heard over the manufactured “consent” the US wields upon the world’s stage. While it is possible that the US might alternatively right itself before this happens, it is unlikely. As the NYT proves, those charged with holding the United States’ special interests accountable have clearly committed themselves to doing precisely the opposite.
Ulson Gunnar, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.