Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Putin Cites US' Excessive Use of Force

Once again Russian President Vladimir Putin has sparked controversy for daring to tell the truth about US foreign policy, an unforgivable sin.

We all remember July of last year when Putin landed a shot right between the eyes of the American President in a response to US criticism of his commitment to democracy. It was a real knee-slapper.

This past weekend he was at it again. At a security summit in Munich Putin addressed a gathering of world leaders with a strong critique of current US policy, the transcript and video of which are available online:

Putin on the blitzThis conference’s structure allows me to avoid excessive politeness and the need to speak in roundabout, pleasant but empty diplomatic terms. This conference’s format will allow me to say what I really think about international security problems. And if my comments seem unduly polemical, pointed or inexact to our colleagues, then I would ask you not to get angry with me. After all, this is only a conference. And I hope that after the first two or three minutes of my speech Mr Teltschik will not turn on the red light over there...

Uh oh...

It is well known that international security comprises much more than issues relating to military and political stability. It involves the stability of the global economy, overcoming poverty, economic security and developing a dialogue between civilisations.

This universal, indivisible character of security is expressed as the basic principle that “security for one is security for all”. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said during the first few days that the Second World War was breaking out: “When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries everywhere is in danger.”

These words remain topical today. Incidentally, the theme of our conference – global crises, global responsibility – exemplifies this.

Only two decades ago the world was ideologically and economically divided and it was the huge strategic potential of two superpowers that ensured global security.

This global stand-off pushed the sharpest economic and social problems to the margins of the international community’s and the world’s agenda. And, just like any war, the Cold War left us with live ammunition, figuratively speaking. I am referring to ideological stereotypes, double standards and other typical aspects of Cold War bloc thinking.

unipolar world that had been proposed after the Cold War did not take place either.

The history of humanity certainly has gone through unipolar periods and seen
aspirations to world supremacy. And what hasn’t happened in world history?

For readers wondering what Putin means by this reference to a "unipolar" world, look no further than these comments made by our stunningly counterproductive Secretary of State, the perennially overrated Dr. Condoleeza Rice, to a 2003 gathering of the International Institute forHell's Midwife Strategic Studies in London. Rice attempts to sell the imposition US hegemony to an international audience by dressing it up as "a world united by common values". Coming from the administration of "you're either with us or against us", its disdainful dismissal of "Old Europe" and this, Dr. Rice's comments read more like "If you people would just shut up and fall in line we'd have unity".

Volumes could be written in response to the Orwellian and Manichean constructs in this speech, but I'll strain to limit my comments to Condi's wonderful "not unipolar" concept. She explains...

We are rapidly closing the book on centuries of European conflict, and opening a new, more hopeful chapter in which Europe is whole, free, and at peace for the first time in its history. Next year, ten European nations will join the European Union; seven will join NATO. Russia is our partner. Lingering conflicts, such as those in the Balkans, are being put to rest.

This confluence of common interests and common values creates a historic opportunity to break the destructive pattern of great power rivalry that has bedeviled the world since rise of Instead of repeating the historic pattern in which great power rivalry exacerbates local conflicts, great power cooperation can now solve conflicts.

In recent months some have questioned whether this is possible -- or even desirable. Some argue that Europe and America are more divided by differing worldviews than we are united by common values. More troubling, some have spoken admiringly -- almost nostalgically -- of “multipolarity,” as if it were a good thing, to be desired for its own sake.

The reality is that “multi-polarity” was never a unifying idea, or a vision. It was a necessary evil that sustained the absence of war but it did not promote the triumph of peace. Mulit-polarity is a theory of rivalry; of competing interests -- and at its worst -- competing values.

We have tried this before. It led to the Great War -- which cascaded into the Good War, which gave way to the Cold War. Today this theory of rivalry threatens to divert us from meeting the great tasks before us.

Why would anyone who shares the values of freedom seek to put a check on those values?

Democratic institutions themselves are a check on the excesses of power. Why should we seek to divide our capacities for good, when they can be so much more effective united?

Only the enemies of freedom would cheer this division. Power in the service of freedom is to be welcomed, and powers that share a commitment to freedom can -- and must -- make common cause against freedom’s enemies. This is not a description of a unipolar world. As the President’s National Security Strategy states, “there is little lasting consequence that the United States can accomplish in the world without the sustained cooperation of allies and friends.”
Rice asks why would people of shared values want to put a check on the implementation of those values. I think I can answer to that one. I suspect it has something to do with the road to hell being paved with good intentions. I'm under no illusions that the intentions of Rice and her ilk are good at all, mind you. But I think this principle does factor into the equation somewhere. Every despotic force in the history of the world rose to prominence on the promise of advancing some shared value, which was then perverted, diverted and eventually betrayed in the interest of attaining and retaining power. That's why, Madame Secretary.

So, although "power in the service of freedom" is to be welcomed, there are no guarantees that once that power is granted it will always be used to that end. That's why, Madame Secretary.

But I digress. Getting back to Mr. Putin, we left off with his allusion to "aspirations to world supremacy". I wonder what he's talking about? :

The history of humanity certainly has gone through unipolar periods and seen aspirations to world supremacy. And what hasn’t happened in world history?

However, what is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to one type of situation, namely one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making.

It is world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.

And this certainly has nothing in common with democracy. Because, as you know, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority.

Incidentally, Russia – we – are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves.


I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. And this is not only because if there was individual leadership in today’s – and precisely in today’s – world, then the military, political and economic resources would not suffice. What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilisation.

Along with this, what is happening in today’s world – and we just started to discuss this – is a tentative to introduce precisely this concept into international affairs, the concept of a unipolar world.

And with which results?

Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not resolved any problems. Moreover, they have caused new human tragedies and created new centres of tension. Judge for yourselves: wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished. Mr Teltschik mentioned this very gently. And no less people perish in these conflicts – even more are dying than before. Significantly more, significantly more!

Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible.

We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?

There's a not-so-hidden warning contained within Putin's message. It's one the US, in all its super-power glory, would do well to heed. That is that the world has never, in its entire history, stood still for the imposition of domination by any single nation-state no matter how strong. Like the systems of evolution (think Jurassic Park) "life finds a way" to prevent it. I think we're beginning to see the process at work already. A particularly prescient article I read years ago, one that I like to refer to from time to time, descibes it to a tee. The author describes the process as "the global red-lining of America":

In self-defense, the world will be forced to reorganize itself, to create new mechanisms of trade and security in place of the institutions that the Bush men are deliberately savaging. The Americans will be left out of these arrangements…

A kind of international redlining will increasingly make itself felt, but not seen. The Bush men believe they are willing into existence a New American Century, while in reality they are creating an America-phobic planet in which the U.S. has earned an invisible but powerfully consequential non-favored nation status. Having invented the concept of globalism, the United States will be consigned to pariah status - and shrink, until it learns to live by human norms and scales.

Think about the many ways we're seeing this process play out in the world every day. New alliances we never thought possible are being formed all around us. Plates are shifting. The ground beneath us is churning to restore some counterbalance to what is increasingly being viewed as an American threat to world peace. There will be a multi-polar world whether we like or not. It's up to us to decide whether we want to be one of many working in true cooperation or a single isolated aggressor state beset on all sides by the rest of the world. This is the condition to which Bush and his cronies threaten to reduce us.