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Russians Must Prepare for Lengthy Stand-Off with the United States (Izvestia, Russia)


"Russian leaders have a slight advantage at the moment. … If Russia endures, in five to ten years the critical foundations of American influence will wane. An alternate system of payments and a reserve banking system, international banks, reserve currencies and financial centers will emerge, accelerating the flight from the dollar. … Is there a way around this? … We could proclaim Ukraine's neutrality in perpetuity. This could be enshrined it in its constitution and guaranteed by external powers. East Ukraine would become autonomous. Russia and Germany could reach an agreement on joint support for Ukraine's economic development. A mutual cessation of sanctions and counter-sanctions could then be agreed to."


By Sergei Karaganov



Translated By Rosamund Musgrave


September 19, 2014


Russia - Izvestia - Original Article (Russian)

Political analyst Sergei Karaganov on when we can expect relations with the United States to improve - and why it is unlikely to happen in the near future.


It appears that Russian-American relations have entered a long period of confrontation.


Since 2012-2013, relations between the two countries have entered a dead-end of mutual recrimination. Analyses of the current interests of our elites indicate that things are only going to get worse. It is important, though, that the confrontation not lead to full-scale war.


First of all, let us consider the interests of the United States.


After apparent victory in the Cold War and nearly achieving the dream of a Pax Americana, America's ruling elite sought to secure victory and even expand the their sphere of influence - including through the use of military force. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, however, the Americans and their allies suffered political defeat. The 2008-2009 economic crisis diminished faith in the liberal model of economic development associated with the United States and based on the Washington Consensus. The divisions within the American elite have exposed the ineffectiveness of their political model, and are yet another blow to American "soft power" - which is a willingness on the part of other countries to automatically follow America's lead, imitate them and obey them.


Meanwhile, all of these failures have occurred with the backdrop in the 2000s of the rapid rise of "new" superpowers, particularly China.


Since 2000, America's global position has plummeted from the heights that American's conceit and the stupidity of everyone else who bought into the myth of the "sole superpower" had allowed it to reach.


By the end of the decade, key member of America's leadership began to think that the U.S. should cut back on its overseas responsibilities and focus on domestic revival, which is precisely what Barack Obama has focused on. Yet all that has done is widen the rift, uniting hard-line conservatives and far-right religious groups with something approaching hatred. Faced with these pressures, it is likely that Obama will be forced to replace his revanchist team.


In the meantime, as usual proclaiming a policy aimed at maintaining peace and stability, the United States has de-facto adopted one of destabilizing key regions of the world. This it has done by undermining the remains of international law through the use of aggression and mass murder by drones. This is a significant if not radical change in American foreign policy. I am certain that for most members of the American foreign policy establishment, even the suspicion that the United States would adopt a policy of destabilization seems offensive, but such a course is obvious.


This rearguard strategy of creating zones of instability and potential dependence has never been clearer to be seen than in its provocation of the Ukraine crisis and its subsequent inflation.


Since Soviet times, Russian leaders have been under the influence of the Cold War legacy of anti-Americanism and their experience of politics over the last 25 years, during which they considered themselves to have been treated unjustly and even deceitfully. As far as the Russian side is concerned, any chance of establishing normal relations may have been lost as far back as the bombing of Yugoslavia, which horrified even the most ardently pro-Western members of the Russian elite. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin tried again after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States - but it didn’t happen. What followed was a new wave of NATO and America's withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty [in 2002].


The desire to try again with Obama was almost nil, and whatever little remains disappeared with Libya. Russia, left with a complex due to its humiliation in previous years, made no immediate attempt to constructively engage with the U.S.


Then both sides made a mistake with the "reset."


It was built on the legacy of the past, based on an unnecessary agenda of strategic arms reductions. Meanwhile, more important questions went ignored, such as the destabilization of the Middle East, and more importantly, the post-Soviet space.


Now the chances of finding a way out of confrontation are slim. Theoretically, the possibility of an abrupt change in course remains. Obama has no elections to fear and Putin is domestically strong. But the balance of interests and mutual suspicion will interfere with the search for a compromise. An escalation is more likely.


Moscow doesn't seem interested in avoiding confrontation. Having failed to develop and implement a credible and effective strategy for development, the Russian elite instead talked about modernization, and both consciously and unconsciously began to look for excuses for their own inaction. As always, they have returned to the idea of saving the country, which for 1,000 years has been based on defense and the idea of an external threat. That is the way it kept itself going. Then a real crisis began - a genuine threat appeared.


For the United States, a lot is at stake in the Ukraine situation. With its leader's reputation already declining, the U.S. risks another humiliating defeat. The stakes are high also because Russia stands as a symbol of the ever-growing and increasingly anti-Western "non-West." The U.S. is fighting Russia, but it wants to intimidate China, India and Brazil. Through the use of propaganda, it has encouraged people to believe, falsely to an extent, that Russia is a "colossus with feet of clay" that can be thoroughly defeated, completing the unfinished business of prior decades.


The United States has genuinely thrown caution to the wind. Not only has it rejected all ethical standards in the information war, its strategy is a very double-edged sword. By imposing sanctions that include methods of payment like Visa and MasterCard, threatening to cut Russian banks out of SWIFT [Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication] and imposing personal sanctions against members of the Russian ruling class, the U.S. is threatening to undermine economic globalization. These sanctions are detrimental not only to Russia, but the system of finance and trade through which America has enjoyed such influence. Everyone uses the modern financial and trading system, but it is most beneficial to the Americans.


Alarm bells begin to sound at WTO


If Russia endures, in five to ten years the critical foundations of American influence will wane. An alternate system of payments and a reserve banking system, international banks, reserve currencies and financial centers will emerge, accelerating the flight from the dollar. Furthermore, there will be a greater tendency to establish trade groups outside of the World Trade Organization.



For Moscow, the stakes are even higher. Losing this confrontation will mean real defeat – for decades to come. It would undermine any hope nurtured by the majority of our elite for a revival of Russia as a great power and independent center of world economics and politics. And perhaps more importantly for Moscow, it would qualitatively weaken the legitimacy and support for the government, which is increasingly based on restoring a sense of national pride and the belief inherent in a majority of Russians that "we live in a great power."


America's elite doesn't want to retreat in Ukraine. Yet the prize would the abrupt entry into the West's sphere of influence of a country that, given the state of the Ukrainian economy, government and society, is beyond redemption. The game is being played to achieve negative ends: to prevent Ukraine from falling back under Russian influence, maintain the division of Europe, and even more obvious, weaken Russia itself and almost openly, topple the current regime - Putin in particular. The cost of such a policy to the United States is fairly small. Most of it would be passed on to Europe, Russia, and of course, the long-suffering people of Ukraine.


Taken from a dusty shelf, the scenario being played out by the U.S. looks farcically and tragically similar to the Reagan Administration's combat with the "evil empire." Only this time, instead of provoking an uprising in Poland, one has been conjured in Ukraine, and instead of a Korean Boeing [Korean Airlines Flight 007], the plane that has been downed is Malaysian [MH17]. Both were attempts to manipulate the price of oil and prevent the construction of new pipelines linking Russia and Europe.


Russian leaders have a slight advantage at the moment. The unification of Crimea created an upsurge in national pride and self-esteem and a sharp increase in the president's popularity. It dealt a heavy blow to the West's policy of expansion. It has accelerated the world's transformation from one dominated by the West to a more equitable and less Westernized world order, although how irreversible this is remains to be seen.


But after having lost the first round, when Russia transformed an almost below-the-surface rivalry into a fierce competition of strength and willpower, the United States is now focusing on the Europeans, seeking to shift the battlefield to areas it is stronger - economic pressure and information warfare.


Russia is paying the price for its initial success with a deteriorating economic climate and a damaged image in the West. Which incidentally, the Kremlin hasn't been worrying about for the past year. A further cost –the crisis is inhibiting a long overdue economic reorientation to Asia via the rapid rise of Siberia and the Far East. Indeed, distracting Russia from turning east remains one of the goals of U.S. and European policy. Success in the region would strengthen Russia's trading position vis-ŕ-vis the West and strengthen China, but also provide more room to maneuver for America's allies in Asia, reducing their dependence on American guarantees.

Posted By Worldmeets.US


Also, direct injury to Russia's opponents is limited. Therefore, apart from a largely-symbolic embargo on agricultural products, Russia's strategy tends to focus on the division of Ukraine in the hope that the West (namely Europe) will come to its senses and back down.


Is there a way around this? The worst cannot be ruled out. Mutual suspicion is off the charts. "Black swans" - unforeseen catastrophes or provocations like the downed Malaysian Boeing - could start flying in flocks.


But there probably is another way. Inside Russia, society is being mobilized to absorb the shock of economic reforms that will set the stage for the rise of the Russian Far East. In August this year in Crimea, VV Putin spoke of the necessity of focusing on domestic development.


We need to look for a long-term solution - better agreements for a new status quo in Europe. The territory of present-day Ukraine will end up being divided, or it will become a zone of joint development.


Russia needs a peaceful settlement with the West, and Europeans need peace in Eastern Europe. Both players are threatened with international marginalization if they fail to overcome their separation and merge their efforts and capabilities.


We could proclaim Ukraine's neutrality in perpetuity. This could be enshrined it in its constitution and guaranteed by external powers. East Ukraine would become autonomous. Russia and Germany could reach an agreement on joint support for Ukraine's economic development. A mutual cessation of sanctions and counter-sanctions could then be agreed to.



These decisions seem a long way off, but the alternative is war at the heart of Europe with the potential of a major catastrophe. Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors, which could doom the nation's people to decades of misery and the deaths of hundreds and thousands of people - not only through conflict, but the degradation of social and health care systems.


Such proposals are, of course, compromises, perhaps with a slight bias toward the West. One can only hope that diplomacy will be given a chance.


In any case, we can no longer put all of our eggs in the European basket. Therefore, in parallel with efforts to negotiate with the West, we must boost our efforts tenfold on the development of Siberia, the building of a new model for diplomacy and economy in Asia, strengthen the Shanghai Cooperation Association and its integration with the Eurasian Economic Community, the Collective Security Treaty Organization and with China's concept of a new Silk Road, with South Korea's idea of a "Eurasian Community," and with the future leader of the Middle East and Central Asia - Iran. Such a turn will be difficult for Russia's Eurocentric elite.


Yet attempts to integrate with the West have not yet failed. To turn our backs on Europe and our European roots would be dangerous to the Russian identity and Russia's development. Dangerous, too, would be to ignore and mismanage the potential of the east.


Hopefully, after four or eight years passes, it is possible that the worst will have passed and a new settlement with the United States will be possible. Objectively speaking, as it used to be said, this would meet the interests of the parties and the entire world.


*Sergei Karaganov is an author and chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy.



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Posted By Worldmeets.US September 19, 2014, 11:59am