A Total But Peaceful Battle Over Ukraine, For a New World Order

14 march 2014

Timofey Bordachev - Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the National Research University–Higher School of Economics, and Director of the Eurasian Program at the Valdai Club Foundation. He holds a Doctorate in Political Science.

Resume: Everything will now depend on future developments and on Russia’s strategy. In my opinion, the Kremlin should plan its strategy very thoroughly and with due regard for the strategic nature of the ongoing confrontation.

The unconstitutional takeover in Ukraine was the toughest, consistent and so far most effective Western counterattack launched amid the ongoing struggle for a fairer world order.

In response, Russia clearly and openly expressed its solidarity with the people of Crimea who want more independence in deciding their future. This Russian act has stopped the situation from becoming uncontrollable. But this resolve should become part of a more diverse strategy combining economic, diplomatic and humanitarian elements.

Everything will now depend on future developments and on Russia’s strategy. In my opinion, the Kremlin should plan its strategy very thoroughly and with due regard for the strategic nature of the ongoing confrontation. Only the naïve believe that the United States and Europe will willingly share their right to rule the world, though their belief is worthy of respect.

The West won the right to rule the world in a life-or-death struggle, and now enjoys huge economic benefits.

The United States and Europe indicated their unwillingness to respect the other side’s rights last year. They violated both formal and informal agreements on Ukraine’s neutral status and eventually recognized the government of those who forced President Yanukovych to choose between his seat and his life.

It is highly unlikely that the crisis in Ukraine will be a reason to convene a “global peace conference” now or in the near future. But it could be the first step towards a new world order.

The crisis itself will certainly be settled diplomatically, but this will not provide an embracing solution to the issue of the hidden confrontation between the West and the rest of the world. This will take a much longer period of tension.

We should proceed from the assumption that a “hot” military conflict between Russia and the West is impossible, even though some hot heads stubbornly push us toward it.

Thank God for nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence, as well as the fear of the apocalypse that has been the most reliable guarantee of strategic stability for decades. The war for a new, fairer world order will be waged as a series of local diplomatic battles. The first such battles were waged in Libya and Syria. Another possible battlefield is the East China Sea, where China is regularly provoked into taking a harsh stance.

This is not fighting by the rules, because the rules of war have been laid to rest along with the relatively gentlemanlike Cold War era.

International institutions are tools which the “controlling shareholder” feels free to use. This is why Russia should think very carefully before negotiating the resumption of financial assistance to Ukraine, especially within the framework of IMF programs as the West insists. The reason is that these programs will most likely include reforms designed to destroy the infrastructure of Russian-Ukrainian industrial cooperation. In fact, this was the goal of the association agreement, which Yanukovych rejected and which the new Kiev authorities are willing to sign.

It will be a total, although outwardly relatively peaceful, battle.

The United States and its allies are strong not just because they are united by a common ideology and armed with high-tech weapons and propaganda technologies, or because their political leaders have learned to deny the obvious and to speak lies with admirable cynicism.

Unfortunately for Russia, the real power of the West is the attractiveness and relative effectiveness of its socioeconomic system. People like countries that have fair courts and effective law enforcement agencies, and many of them want to get personal entry tickets to these law-abiding and seemingly harmonious countries.

Russia’s president, who is also a commander-in-chief, is undeniably a better man than the leaders of most other countries, and Russia has smart diplomats and has modernized its army and navy. But to be able to get out of the current crisis with as little loss as possible, or better still, win the battle, it must prove that it can be the best, the most reasonable and the most honest country. It must destroy its rivals’ monopoly on justice and harmony.

The history of international relations shows that any victory can turn into defeat. Yesterday’s winner can become an outcast tomorrow. The only true victory is victory over oneself. Russia can bear up and create a fair world order for everyone. But to be able to do this, it should back up its diplomatic victories with consistent efforts to improve the country and make it more attractive, including to its citizens.

Each car parked by the rules, each polite and trim police officer, each honest and professional official, clean entrance hall, scrupulous doctor and new sports center, as well as each bottle of vodka we refuse to drink, will be our small victory and our contribution to the big victory that is sure to come.

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