MOSCOW — The frank and generally constructive conversation at the June 16 summit between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joseph Biden in Geneva resulted in an agreement to begin a substantive dialogue on strategic stability [...] But almost immediately after the end of the summit, U.S. officials — including participants of the Geneva meeting — began to assertively return to their former attitude: "pointing out," "clearly warning" and making myriad demands on Moscow. Moreover, all these warnings were accompanied by threats: if Moscow didn't accept the rules of the game outlined for it in Geneva within several months, then it would be exposed to the new pressures.
Washington's instantly voiced backlash in the wake of the talks is quite indicative, especially since the European capitals, having caught the mood of big brother, immediately began to actively echo it — and with pleasure. The gist of their statements: They are ready to normalize relations with Moscow, but Moscow should change its behavior first.
The sense is that this chorus in support of the star performer was prepared in advance, and it was precisely this preparation that was laid out in a series of high-level Western events immediately before the US-Russia talks: the G7 summits in Cornwall and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Brussels as well as Biden's meeting with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
These meetings were carefully prepared in a way that leaves no doubt: the West wanted to make it clear to everyone that it is more united than ever and will only do what it thinks is right on the international stage, while forcing others — above all, Russia and China — to follow the course that it sets. The documents of Cornwall and Brussels enshrined the promotion of the concept of rules-based world order in opposition to the universal principles of international law, enshrined primarily in the UN Charter.
Putin and Biden shake hands at the Geneva summit — Photo: Sergei Bobylev/TASS/ZUMA
A series of summits of G7, NATO, and the U.S.-EU has marked, according to their participants, the return of the U.S. to Europe and the restoration of consolidation in the Old World under the new administration in Washington. Most NATO and EU members welcomed this U-turn with relief, accompanied by enthusiastic comments. The ideological basis for the reunification of the Western family was the declaration of liberal values as the guiding star of human development. Washington and Brussels, without false modesty, called themselves the anchor of democracy, peace, and security in opposition to authoritarianism in all its forms, declaring in particular the intention to strengthen the use of sanctions in the interests of supporting democracy around the world.
The new Atlantic Charter (new Anglo-American Atlantic Charter approved by Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the margins of the G7 summit on June 10) was also conceived as a kind of starting point for building a world order, but exclusively by Western rules. Its wording is ideologically charged with deepening the divide between liberal democracies and all other states, designed to legitimize an order based on rules. The new charter contains no reference to the UN or the OSCE, firmly fixing the commitment of the collective West to commitments within NATO as, in fact, the only legitimate decision-making center (this is how former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen characterized the importance of the North Atlantic Alliance back in 2014).
Russia and China are identified as bearers of authoritarianism, the main obstacle to the implementation of the course announced at the June summits. Two groups of claims are put forward, on both the domestic and international fronts. Beijing is accused of too assertive promotion of its economic interests (the One Belt, One Road project), building up its military and its technological power to increase its influence. Russia is accused of aggressive policies in many regions, posing as such Moscow's policy of countering ultra-radical and neo-Nazi tendencies in the policies of neighboring countries, which suppress the rights of Russians and other national minorities, uproot the Russian language, education and culture. Nor do we like the fact that Moscow is standing up for countries that have fallen victim to Western adventures and have been attacked by international terrorism with the threat of losing their statehood, as was the case in Syria.
They demand Moscow and Beijing (and everyone else) follow Western recipes on human rights, civil society...
Still, the main pathos of the announced Western approaches is focused on the internal structure of non-democratic countries, and the determination to change them according to its standards, seeking such changes in the organization of society that would correspond to the vision of democracy promoted by Washington and Brussels. Hence their demands for Moscow and Beijing (and everyone else) to follow Western recipes on human rights, civil society, opposition, mass media, functioning of state structures, and the interaction between the branches of power.
Sensible politicians in Europe and the U.S. understand the impasse of such an uncompromising course. So far, not in public, they are beginning to reason pragmatically, admitting that there is more than one civilization in the world, that Russia, China and other major powers have their own thousand-year history, their own traditions, their own values, their own way of life. It is futile to ask whose values are better or worse, we should simply acknowledge that there are other forms of social organization as compared to those in the West, accept them as a given, respect them. There are problems with human rights everywhere, but it's time to abandon the position of one's own superiority: we in the West will deal with them ourselves because we are democracies, while you are not yet mature enough; you need help, which is what we will do.
Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov before a press conference — Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS/ZUMA
The collective historical West, which has dominated everyone for 500 years, cannot help but face the truth that this era is irrevocably passing, even as it tries to hold onto what's slipping away, to artificially slow down the objective process of forming a multipolar world.
Introducing its concept of a rule-based world order, the West pursues the aim of leading the discussion of the key topics to the formats it finds convenient, where dissenters are not invited.
Narrow-group platforms and appeals are assembled to agree on recipes for subsequent imposition on everyone else. Examples include a call for security in cyberspace, a call for respect for international humanitarian law, a partnership for freedom of information.
At the same time, for each such format of like-minded people, the European Union creates its own mechanism of horizontal sanctions, also, naturally, without any regard to the UN Charter.
The West justifies the reckless expansion of NATO eastward to the Russian borders. When we refer to the assurances given to the Soviet Union that this will not happen, the answer is: well, these were just verbal promises, no documents were signed.
Rule-based order is the epitome of a double standard. When it is convenient, the absolute rule is the right of peoples to self-determination. This includes the Falklands 12,000 kilometers away from Britain, remote former colonial possessions that Paris and London retain despite many UN and International Court decisions, which no one is going to liberate, and the independent Kosovo, in violation of a UN Security Council resolution. When the principle of self-determination contradicts the geopolitical interests of the West, as in the case of the free will of the residents of Crimea in favor of common destiny with Russia, they forget about it and angrily condemn the free choice of people and punish them with sanctions.
Attempts by sane politicians to protect children from aggressive LGBT propaganda are met with militant protests.
The concept of rules also manifests itself in an attack not only on international law but also on human nature itself. In schools in several Western countries, children are taught as part of the curriculum that Jesus Christ was bisexual. Attempts by sane politicians to protect children from aggressive LGBT propaganda are met with militant protests in enlightened Europe. There is an attack on the foundations of all world religions, on the genetic code of key civilizations of the planet. The U.S. has led blatant state intervention in the affairs of the church, openly seeking to split the world orthodoxy, the values of which are seen as a powerful spiritual obstacle to the liberal concept of unlimited permissiveness.
Neither NATO nor the EU intend to change their policy of subjugating other regions of the world and proclaiming a self-appointed global messianic mission. The North Atlantic alliance is actively joining the U.S. strategic turn toward the Indo-Pacific (with the open goal of containing China), which undermines the central role of ASEAN in the open architecture of Asia-Pacific cooperation that has been built up for decades.
The EU, in turn, develops programs for the development of neighboring (and not very) geopolitical spaces without much consultation on their content with the invited countries. This is the nature of the Eastern Partnership and Brussels' recently approved program for Central Asia. Such approaches are fundamentally at odds with the way integration associations with Russian participation (CIS, CSTO, EurAsEC, SCO) which develop relations with external partners exclusively on a parity mutually agreed basis.
As for the West's approach to Russia, it is high time to understand that your hopes of having one-sided rules have been finally drowned out. All the formulas from Western capitals about their readiness to normalize relations with Moscow, if it repents and changes its behavior, have lost any sense — and the fact that many continue to put forward unilateral demands to us by inertia does not do credit to their ability to adequately assess what is happening.
Judging by the practical actions of the West in recent years (including the hysterical reaction to Moscow's defense of Russian rights after the bloody coup d'etat in Ukraine in 2014 supported by the United States, NATO and the EU), they thought that all this was not very serious: Russia had declared its principles, so be it. We need to put more pressure on the interests of the elites, increase personal, financial, and other sectoral sanctions, and Moscow will come to its senses and realize that without a change in behavior (that is, without obedience to the West) it will experience deeper and deeper difficulties in its development.
And even when we clearly said that we perceive this policy of the U.S. and Europe as a new reality and therefore will build our work in the economy and other spheres, based on the unacceptability of dependence on unreliable partners, they still continued to believe that Moscow will eventually change its mind and make the concessions required of it for the sake of material benefits.
I will stress once again what President Vladimir Putin has said many times: there were no unilateral concessions at the end of the 1990s, and there never will be any. If you want to cooperate and regain your lost profits and your business reputation, you should negotiate with each other in order to find fair solutions and compromises.
This world view is firmly rooted in the minds of the Russian people.
It is fundamentally important for the West to understand that this world view is firmly rooted in the minds of the Russian people and reflects the views of the overwhelming majority of Russian citizens. Those irreconcilable opponents of the Russian authorities, on whom the West relies and who see all of Russia's problems in anti-Westernism, demanding unilateral concessions in order to lift sanctions and obtain some hypothetical material benefits, represent an absolutely marginal segment of our society. At the June 16 press conference in Geneva, Vladimir Putin clearly explained what the West's support of such marginal circles is aimed at.
They are going against the historical continuity of a people that has always, especially in difficult times, been known for its maturity, sense of self-respect, dignity and national pride, ability to think independently while being open to the rest of the world on equal terms for mutual benefit. It is these qualities of the Russians after the confusion and vacillation of the 1990s that have become the foundational concept of Russia's foreign policy in the 21st century. They are able to assess the actions of their leadership themselves, without prompting from abroad.
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