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'Cold War Reanimators' Like Romney are Poor Role Models for Europe (Gazeta, Russia)


"The black and white Cold War mentality looks all the more absurd in the context of the tectonic shifts taking place before our eyes ... Mitt Romney, who readily repeats his idea that Russia is America's preeminent geopolitical foe, is the only such politician-reanimator of that ilk today. ... If he wins, Romney may of course try and revive the transatlantic mythology of the 'free world' vs. the successor of the 'evil empire,' but even Romney will quickly understand how far removed from the real issues this is."


By Fyodor Lukyanov



Translated By Anastassia Tapsieva


October 21, 2012


Gazeta - Russia - Original Article (Russian)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's unwelcomed comments to the Council of Europe: You need us more than we need you, and obsessing about transAtlantic ties with the U.S. will bring it no good.


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Speaking before the Council of Europe on the subject of European security, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lamented that, "In our image, some politicians would like to reanimate the image of a 'geopolitical foe' - an opponent that would allow them to maintain a strong political-military nexus between the U.S. and European members of NATO." In this case, as was rightly noted by the head of Russian diplomacy, "the black and white Cold War mentality looks all the more absurd in the context of the tectonic shifts taking place before our eyes."


Mitt Romney, who readily repeats his idea that Russia is America's preeminent geopolitical foe, is the only such politician-reanimator of that ilk today. Few take this seriously.


Even those unsympathetic toward Moscow understand that Russia's place in the hierarchy of threats is not that significant, and that the presidential candidate is simply regurgitating familiar clichés to express some sort of position.


At the same time, the threat of a crumbling of U.S.-Russia relations is real, but has nothing to do with exaggerating the Russian threat, and everything to do with the growing mutual indifference and disinterested neglect. And these symptoms are present on both sides.


The global politics shift toward Asia ultimately denies Russian-Euro-Atlantic ties their one-time conceptual content, which was determined by the long coattails of the Cold War - first the animosity, then overcoming it and denying it together, and finally a rebirth against the background of continued denial ... Regardless of whether all of this was real, a clearly-defined framework for relations emerged with its own internal logic.


Only a shell now survives - a shell that is hollow. In his remarks, Lavrov again listed the eternal problems - disagreements over Synchronized Armed Forces Europe (SAFE), which Moscow de facto left five years ago, the expansion of NATO's infrastructure, and the lack of mutual understanding on anti-missile defense. The latter is still topical, as it relates to the basic problem of global strategic stability (and it will remain as long as nuclear arsenals accumulated by the superpowers exist) and the future balance of power in Asia. The rest resembles a provincial theater of the absurd. In any event, the very presence on the agenda of the question of parity within SAFE (the gist of the document was the establishment of a balance of power between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, if anyone remembers) proves that there is nothing left to discuss.





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Europeans are also constantly resurrecting the question of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe - Russian and American. Why the weapons remain there remains as unclear as is the question of who is bothered by them. But launching negotiations on the matter, which is insisted upon by the Old World, would open a Pandora's Box of endless and unfounded mutual complaint. Even the more recent process of NATO expansion makes no political-military sense right now. Over recent years, the question of admitting Ukraine and Georgia has been in effect dismissed due to well-known circumstances, and whether Macedonia is admitted interests only the Greeks and Macedonians themselves.


Against this backdrop, Russia's offer in 2008, suggested by Sergei Lavrov, to sign a legally-binding agreement on European security (it has been a while) looks similarly like a blast from the past - a recent past, but in substance a distant one. Such a document would make sense if it were to put a line under the matter and bring it to a close. But there is little hope for that. Rather, the expectation is that it would revive the issue of European security.


There is, of course, another dimension related to what in former times was referred to as the "third basket": democracy, human rights, and the humanitarian component. In other words, the Council of Europe's area of influence. At one point it was believed that a society formed on its guidelines and principles would emerge, in which all military-political questions would vanish and be replaced with the issues associated with friendship and mutual understanding. It is now not only clear that this hasn't come to pass, but that the European Council is losing the capacity to ever foster such a development.


What makes the recent conflict about the report and its recommendations between Russia and PACE materially different from their many past collisions, is the Kremlin's official reaction. Presidential press-secretary Dmitri Peskov simply replied: "We don't find this language or statement appropriate, and will certainly not consider them."


And not only that, but the Council, amid deepening crisis in Europe, is more in need of Russia, one of its largest donors, than the other way around. Moscow increasingly views itself as the herald of other values - traditionalist values. And it isn't just the desire to freeze Russia's conservative domestic model, but a response to a global process: the collision of tradition and modernization, as well as the debate over the foundations, apart from liberal ones, that allow for modernization. This is one of the world's most intense processes.


Set in its usual Euro-Atlantic paradigm, the dialogue between Russia and what is commonly called the West has exhausted itself. It is now possible to hold a dialogue with Europe on a new basis, which would take into account obvious mutual economic interests and a common intellectual legacy: even the strange conservative hybrid that Moscow offers as an alternative to "European values" is deeply rooted in European culture. Understanding the need for re-evaluating the conversation will come if both sides realize that in an Asia-centric world, they are part of the periphery - classical Europe even more so than Russia.




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Previously, Moscow - rejecting all criticism - always held that it rightfully belonged in the Council, and wanted to be judged by its standards, but with acknowledgement of its unique circumstances. Now Moscow has made clear that it will no longer make such efforts: the Council of Europe is no longer of any importance.


In relation with America, Euro-Atlantic inertia is even more pernicious, as it detracts from the truly serious threats of the future.

Posted by Worldmeets.US


If he wins, Mitt Romney may of course try and revive the transatlantic mythology of the "free world" vs. the successor of the "evil empire," but even Romney will quickly understand how far removed from the real issues this is.


The big politics is playing out not in Europe, but in the Near and Far East. In the case of the former, Europe has some bearing (although the usual problem of European security does not apply); and in case of the latter, it is practically out of the game. Russia and America have lots of room for cooperation in Asia, since their interests there contradict less than they once did in Europe, and sometimes even overlap (as in relations to growth in China). The main thing is not to drag the momentum of the Pacific into the inertia of the now-pointless Atlantic rivalry.


Until the content of the dialogue gets an update and while the sides continue to repeat the same things, the sense of utter boredom isn't going anywhere. This boredom is a guarantee of indifference and a lack of desire to change things for the better.



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[Posted by Worldmeets.US Oct. 21, 8:08am]