МОСКВА, 22 февраля 2022, Институт РУССТРАТ.

The Russian «isolation», which many Western (and not only) observers tend to insist on, has rarely been so noticeable as in the first month and a half of 2022. In a very short time, Russian President Vladimir Putin held several meetings with leaders of countries near and far abroad, as well as a number of telephone conversations.

The Russian Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defence also worked at a comparable pace — also on the line of external communications. Loud sensations, as far as we know, did not happen even in the strategic exchange of messages with the United States and NATO, but the list of guests and the topics raised and the nuances of the negotiations can mean a lot of things.

The first and most important thing is that the collective West is gradually moving into the stage of «bargaining». Using the concept of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, we can note the West’s transition through the stages of «denial» of Russia’s real potential and «anger» caused by the awareness of its existence. There is «depression» and «acceptance» ahead, but so far the collective political unconscious of our strategic partners is increasingly taking the form of «bargaining».

First of all, we are talking about those who are accustomed to consider themselves a hegemon, or at least close to hegemony, with the right of an influential voice. States that stand on the principles of sovereign policy — like Hungary or representatives of Latin America — are spared the need of «jonesing» for political psychology, developing mutually beneficial relations with the Russian Federation without these optional steps.

The defining factor of world politics 

The key result of Russia’s foreign policy contacts, which appeared in the winter of 2021/2022, was an objective awareness by partners and especially rivals of Russia’s role in the global economy, logistics, trade relations, military potential and political opportunities.

Of course, the weight categories of Russia and many other countries, and let alone the blocs, are not comparable — China, the US and the EU are many times superior to us in economic power, and a clash with a truly united NATO bloc will also not bring anything good. However, being seriously inferior to the larger players, Russia is much more effective, achieving comparable results with much smaller resources.

Western media has never been known for subservience towards Russia, but it makes no sense to deny the growing number of mentions of Moscow as a factor influencing a variety of processes — from the dynamics of gas prices to world food trade, reorientation of logistics flows and military-power parity. Of course, most mentions are negative by definition, but their very number is very symptomatic.

Naturally, this leads to the transition of the «Russian factor» from the external to the countries of Europe and other regions of the planet, to the internal. The visit of French President Emmanuel Macron had a noticeable «pre-election» component — on April 10, 2022, he will be re-elected for a new term, and relations with Russia occupy far from the last place on the French political agenda. Regardless of the specific connotations, all the candidates of any significance in the French elections have to designate their attitude towards Russia.

A similar situation is observed in Britain. The current Prime Minister Boris Johnson has significantly lost popularity after the «leak» of videos from parties where the head of government had fun during strict prohibitions to compatriots to spend time in the same way. As the most likely candidate to replace him, British analysts point out the head of the Foreign Ministry, Liz Truss, noting that sending Truss to Moscow, obviously without her preparation and understanding of the context, may be Johnson’s gambit, trying in this way to consolidate the image of Truss as incompetent and unsuitable for responsible work.

The United States’ critical dependence on Russia in the domestic political agenda is remaining. Joe Biden is the second consecutive president of the United States forced to build actions through the prism of Russia, including when organising counteraction with the largest geopolitical opponent of our time, China. The issue of the most serious actual dependence of the American economy on the Russian factor was considered separately in the materials of RUSSTRAT.

Although correspondence with the United States and NATO could hardly lead to the immediate fulfilment of all the demands of the Russian side, it gave a very important result of a different kind: unlike the 90s, Russia’s opponents were forced to recognise the existence of Moscow’s own interests and the resources needed to defend them. The leaders of all countries forming the combat potential of NATO visited Moscow or held talks with.

Crystallisation of multipolarity

The visits of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Iranian President Ebrahim

Raisi, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro and Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh give an idea of the wide geography of Russian political and economic ties.

It is noteworthy that in some cases such meetings act as a clear counterpoint to the still mainstream of Western politics. Budapest, despite the criticism of Brussels, concluded an exceptionally profitable direct contract for the supply of gas, immediately putting itself in a privileged economic position against the background of the rest of Europe.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, despite US pressure and Washington’s active efforts, refused to terminate the Nord Stream 2 project, and also, despite the status of a serious arms manufacturer for the entire NATO bloc and its satellites, continued the arms embargo against Ukraine.

Taking into account the opinion of the President of Croatia, who did not visit Moscow, but swore to voters to withdraw every single Croatian soldier from NATO if the situation in Ukraine worsens, it is impossible not to notice a serious internal crisis of NATO. The opinions that the Secretary General of the organisation Jens Stoltenberg regularly voices do not look like an expression of the collective will of the alliance members, but «one of the opinions» that is not at all necessary for support.

A number of French presidential candidates have directly voiced their intention to leave the bloc if they win, and member countries such as Hungary or Croatia have actually sabotaged the united resolve. Hungary, through the mouth of Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, categorically refused to deploy additional NATO troops on its territory, referring to its own armed forces.

The visits of the leaders of the countries representing Latin America enjoy less attention from the Western media than Olaf Scholz or Emmanuel Macron. However, the media reports that serious opposition to such visits has been overcome. The Washington Post directly points out that Bolsonaro «resisted calls from within the country, as well as pressure from US officials» in order to meet with Vladimir Putin.

The publication close to Joe Biden’s Democratic administration is seriously offended by Bolsonaro. The Brazilian president, «who spent years hugging the American flag,» has now «led Latin America’s largest and most powerful country into the arms of one of the United States’ greatest foreign adversaries,» WP writes.

According to the publication, the United States has made «at least two attempts» at a high level to convince Bolsonaro to cancel the trip. Although Bolsonaro listed exclusively the economic reasons for his visit, the opposition is confident that communication with Russia will allow the president to score political points following Macron’s example — a presidential election will be held in Brazil in October.

It is worth emphasising that the leaders are going to Moscow, not Washington, to increase their chances of re-election. This is due to many reasons, economic and political, but in the dry balance it turns out that the «Russian factor» is increasingly more significant than Washington’s opinion.

This fact should not be overestimated, but we can say with confidence: the economic and political multipolarity of the world has taken place, and Russia occupies one of the strategically important positions in this diversity.

Objectivity of Ukraine

Numerous visits and negotiations have indicated another thesis — Ukraine, to whose fate, according to the Western media, the attention of the whole world is riveted, is of no interest apart from Russia. Although the Ukrainian track in most cases was a prominent reason for meetings in Moscow, in practice the parties discussed, by and large, the economy and related bilateral issues. The President of Mongolia did not care about Ukraine at all, as did the leader of Russia’s ally Kazakhstan.

There are no facts of any harsh ultimatums from Western guests, except for the aggressive rhetoric of Liz Truss – which British Defence Minister Ben Wallace immediately tried to soften by meeting at his level with Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu.

The general conclusion that follows from the statements of those who visited Moscow or talked to it on the phone does not give anything new in terms of the implementation of «Minsk» — it will be absent in the foreseeable future. However, there have clearly been negative changes in the perception of Minsk: none of the visitors focused on these agreements, beyond the formal mention.

None of those who could be classified as «defenders of Ukraine» offered a model for breaking the Ukrainian impasse, which lasts for almost 8 years. It is noteworthy that even in cases when Western leaders announce some local breakthrough on Kiev’s implementation of the Minsk Agreements or negotiations in the Normandy format, this is disavowed by Kiev’s further behaviour or direct statements by the Ukrainian side.

Thus, on February 8, French President Emmanuel Macron announced at a press conference in Kiev following a meeting with local President Zelensky that the latter had informed him of his readiness to implement the Minsk Agreements. On February 17, Zelensky called the Minsk Agreements a «poorly drafted document» and made it clear that he did not plan to implement them. Actually, the lack of even minimal progress over the years since the signing of Minsk 1 and Minsk 2 clearly indicates the absence of Kiev to fulfil them, and the Western countries to change this situation.

In other words, one of the results of a series of visits was a clear understanding of the lack of prospects for «Minsk» in the foreseeable future. This means that another solution to the Ukrainian crisis is needed. What it can be is indicated, among other things, by the appeal of the State Duma sent to the President of Russia on the recognition of the LPR and the DPR as sovereign states.

Let’s find an agreement

There is no «unified position of the West», as the guests convincingly demonstrated. Every visitor solved their own issues, using «Euro-Atlantic solidarity» just as a negotiating tool.

In fact, Russia’s dialogue with the West is now being built in accordance with the principle of multipolarity – the Russia-West contour has been replaced by a series of individual negotiations with representatives of specific Western countries, with a unique agenda in each case. The days when the conditional «Joe Biden» could singlehandedly speak on behalf of the entire Western world, or at least its Anglo-Saxon part, apparently have definitely passed.

Serious problems arise with attempts to assemble a «sanctions» coalition against Russia. Italy — with whose businessmen the Russian president also managed to talk — appealed to the European Commission with a recommendation not to take into account the energy sector in possible sanctions.

Rightly believing that pressure on this area will cause a negative effect primarily for Europe itself. France, Germany and other countries fear a negative effect on the banking and commodity sectors of the economy.

It is still for a long time that we won’t be able to talk about Russia’s global victory over the collective West — however, such a goal would be unreasonable. Pragmatic relations with other states are sufficient for the realisation of Russia’s strategic goals. Building such a system of relations is exactly what is happening – including with those who previously did not see any reason to perceive Moscow as an equal partner at all.

Russia has its own interests and resources to defend them by asymmetric methods, but quite effective ones, and this must be taken into account. This is the result of numerous meetings and negotiations that have taken place in Moscow at the highest level over the past two months.

Институт международных политических и экономических стратегий Русстрат


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