Saturday, October 29, 2016

Russia has No Allies for Any War with the West, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 29 – Many in Russia and the West are now talking about a third world war, but if the conflict between Russia and the West in fact escalates, it won’t be like either World War I or World War, conflicts that involved large alliances. But in any future war in that Russia will have no allies, Vadim Shtepa says.

            When Kremlin propagandists talk about the prospects for a third world war or when Russians speculate about what it might look like, neither, the Russian regionalist writer points out, reflects that unlike in past wars, Russia will have no allies in a future one, a kind of state “loneliness” that will make any such conflict very different from a world war (

            “Who could be part of a bloc with Russia in the event of a hypothetical clash with NATO?”  No one or at least no one important, Shtepa says. Not China, Belarus or Kazakhstan, but perhaps “only the unrecognized pseudo-states like the DNR and LNR, Transdniestria and South Osetia and also possibly the Pacific archipelago of Tuvalu.”

            While the Kremlin talks about the possibility of a world war, its policies have so alienated everyone else that Vladimir Putin has reduced the allies Russia to the only two Tsar Aleksandr III famously described, “its army and its fleet.”  And as a result, Russia is left in the position of “proud loneliness.”

            There is “a certain historical and geographical mysticism” in this situation, Shtepa says. “In the wars of the 18th through the 20th century, Russia typically was part of one of the global blocs against others. One of the few exceptions was the Crimean War of 1853-`856 when Russia clashed with all the world powers at one and the same time and lost the war.”

            The current global crisis began this time in Crimea, the commentator says. “Having annexed the peninsula, the Kremlin powers that be in fact declared to the world: we want to be ‘a great power’ and we spit on all international treaties.” You on the other hand, the Kremlin said, must follow all agreements you make with us or we won’t keep any of them.

            Over the last two decades, Russia has harming its relations not only with Western countries but “even with the majority of neighbors in the post-Soviet space because the Kremlin out of Soviet habit considers all this space ‘its own,’” a view the others cannot help but be angry about.

            “By trying to continue the imperial tradition,” Shtepa says, “the Kremlin leadership has completely failed to see that any empire pretending to global status must also have global attractiveness, something it can have only by offering the world such a civilizational project that other countries will want to join it.”

            The Soviet Union both in its first days and then as a leader in the anti-fascist effort was such a country and that allowed it to become part of the anti-Nazi coalition. But today, the Kremlin empire offers nothing of the kind.  Its “Russia world” is offensive to everyone: even Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka has suggested Moscow should drop it.

            And the current Moscow leadership has compounded the problem by seeking to portray itself as an advocate of a certain kind of “’moral conservatism’” even though the people making this claim are former communists. As a result, the Kremlin’s “’neo-Orthodoxy’ surprisingly coincides with the ideologues of ISIS” on many points.

            In fact, Shtepa says, “all the geopolitical projects of the Kremlin, including even the
Effort to place the card of world separatism, is clearly reactive: its chief goal is anti-Americanism. But no projects, build on an ‘anti’ basis alone without having any positive content will ever win.”

            There are of course many countries in the world that have problems with the US, but “the era when Moscow considered itself the leader of ‘all progressive humanity’ has long passed, but it appears that the residents of the Kremlin still live as if that were true.”  They have forgotten something else as well.

            “Historically, World War III already happened: it was called ‘the cold war.’” And in the conflict the US and its allies achieved “an unqualified victory over the USSR and more generally the Soviet bloc, but the main weapons of this war were not rockets but rather computers, jeans, and rock and roll.”

            “This was a war for the free contemporary individual, with all the multiplicity of his interests, against the old ideological dogmas which remained from what was once revolutionary communism,” Shtepa continues. “The aging Politburgo with its cult of ‘the heroic past’ didn’t have the necessary soft power and therefore inevitably lost this war.”

            This is true of Putin’s regime as well, but his situation is even worse from his point of view. At least the Soviets proclaimed that they were always engaged in “’a struggle for peace.’” Putin can make no such claim given his aggressive war. But he fails to understand that or that the USSR lost the Cold War not because of an American conspiracy but because of its own failings.

            Putin’s obsessive cult about victory in World War II reflects his desire to return to a time when Moscow really did have the power to get its way on many things.  But the current regime because it doesn’t want to understand the contemporary world acts as it if can restore things to what they were 70 years ago.

            As a result, Shtepa concludes, “Russia finds itself not only in political but in historical loneliness” because while the rest of the world is focusing on new technologies, Russians under Putin are “dreaming about the era of Stalin or even worse Ivan the Terrible.” And that points to a real disaster ahead.

            The current situation resembles all too closely the era of the 19th century Crimea War, a conflict Russia lost but could only recover from by engaging in reforms at home. Unfortunately, Shtepa says, “the current Kremlin powers that be are hardly capable of such a transformation.” 


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