I write these blogs for personal reflection as well as an online writing space that is not necessarily discoverable. To clarify, I don’t support fascism or the ideologists that try and practice it in any country. I’m not going to say what I think Russia should or shouldn’t do, just explain it as I see it this week in 2016.
A well intentioned & very mild mannered chemist said to me recently that he believed that a good war will sort things out. Well history has told us about well intentioned chemists that become rich by making bombs or other lethal weapons.
He grew up after WW2 so how could he know? I don’t know of anyone who still lives to talk about wars, has fought in wars, has supported wars, has studied wars – who says they’re a good thing. So:
With it’s unique size & location has more complex relationships with its neighbours and history of how Russians have lived and worked in and out of these countries. Much has been made of Vladimir Putin’s statement about Gorbachev’s policies in the 1980s and 1990s but as far as I’m aware that has not ever been clarified in independent English language media. Vladimir Putin’s statement/interview (in English) following G20 this summer mentions that Russia does not trade territories, that discussion of territories in Europe with WW2 agreements is a Pandora’s box and that Russia has enough land.
The history of Russia and its relationships with its nearer and slightly nearer neighbours is continuously evolving and this is why I find some of the foreign policy statements that the Russian government more sensible – Russia is not an EU in itself but it is a federation with not completely dissimilar internal relationships from what I’ve understood so far.
From what I’ve read about the Russian President including some critics, there is an ultranationalistic far-right in Russia but he is not described in that category. However there is increasing evidence that he and/or advisors maintain relationships which benefit the European far right.
It is natural for citizens in the UK who have never lived abroad to view things that have a perspective that is similar with the views of US presidents and US corporations as that is what they are contiuously exposed to and vice versa in Russia. We are also aware that there have been throughout history, views held and supported by those with power in the US, UK and EU countries who maintain relationships that benefit the European far right. The UK and the US have not been invaded or occupied in the 20th century and that may be part of the reason why this ambivalence towards fascist ideas is again taking root – as well as Conservative (political party members) trading relationships with countries that produced these.
These relationships maintained by any country rightly bring into question the motivations behind other geopolitical intentions as the interests of the European far right have increased with large scale unemployment, inability to live with citizens who look different to them and fantasies about Hitler, Nazis or others who support/are fascists. A large geopolitical war won’t sort these out, the reality is not just far right but across all sections of political society, numerous smaller complex conflicts across the whole of Europe, Russia’s Eurasian neighbours and Russia which either escalate to military actions or don’t.
This is why I believe NATO needs reviewing but alongside European security and defence policy. I don’t think it is helpful to have an organisation in 21st century for which all military actions are steered by a US commanding officer, it is at odds with how the EU has evolved, attempted to evolve. Russia has a relationship with NATO and it’s not that there should be a gigantic geopolitical shift where suddenly instead of a US command or increased Russian interest being represented – that other countries become dependent on a Russian commander for example.
I don’t support economic sanctions either but that is not because I think Russia should be given freedom to use its size to score better deals for itself abroad, it is time to find useful agreements Russia, US, EU , China etc that recognise peoples’ countries’ rights to exist, agreements that don’t bankrupt their future and those of their citizens or the planet’s future. I don’t believe that agreement can’t be found, an agreement can be found that does not disadvantage a group of people territorially, economically, culturally.
There is evidence from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia that Russian communities in those countries who have connections with families / friends / colleagues in what was the USSR are not given the same rights as others who live there. That is understandable considering the last few centuries where they have tried to define their identity, however that does not make everything ok.
Turkey for example. Recep Erdogan has changed significantly since the early 2000s where he was originally featured in Turkish media – visiting poorer people instead of taking holidays for relaxation and now in 2016, thinks it’s natural to a) want a 1000 room house, b) rights taken away from Turkish government and given to him, whilst c) giving positions of power to relatives / friends. c) is not unique to him and happens in every country that I can think of.
I find some similarities between Russia’s relationships with its near neighbours and Turkey’s relationships with Turkmen in northern Iraq. When the second Gulf war broke out and the Kurdish conflict spread into areas where Turkmen were living and working, there was a huge response from Turkish citizens if military action was needed. There have been accounts of Kurdish people burning down offices and paperwork that shows the residential / territorial rights of the Turkmen people. These actions are not acceptable but it doesn’t have to produce a military response if a diplomatic one can produce more long term stability.
There is also the issue of an English global language as highlighted by Andrew Monaghan in The Politics of New Russia where an agreement (trading, territorial or otherwise) is not necessarily the same thing for either parties. I know this at a very small level when I worked for PwC with my European colleagues – after sitting for several hours in a meeting, with even translators available, that doesn’t mean that the outcomes were what each party involved understood them to be or how they will be delivered.
A war won’t fix these, infinite patience might. And as a UK military commander said in a Remembrance Day service I was in yesterday in London, practice compassion daily – regardless of your situation.