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Barack Obama: "At a Crossroads Between War and Peace"
DURING his 40-minute-long address to the UN General Assembly, President Obama sounded less like a president and more like a prophet" or a preacher with a mission to reveal the truth about the world to mankind. The host is expected to be restrained, especially in view of the realities of the day. This time, the host pushed aside all rules to confirm the old truth that weaker positions are defended by stronger rhetoric. It seems that time has come for the UN Security Council and General Assembly to revise the tradition of long introductory speeches. Indeed, people who represent the world community are exposed to endless bragging and all sorts of opinions voiced by the leader of one, even if the most influential, country.
His speech abounded in "political drama": "We come together at a crossroads between war and peace; between disorder and integration; between fear and hope" in the world "threatened" by Russian aggression in Europe." It looked as if the master of the White House was lost in a wood of different times, epochs, facts, and people. He showed us a black-and-white world in which white was taken for black and black for white. This brings to mind Vasily Rozanov who wrote in Fallen Leaves about a nightingale bewitched by his own song.
It would have been funny had not it been dangerous. On May 13, 2014, John Pilger wrote in The Guardian: "For the first time since the Reagan years, the U.S. is threatening to take the world to war. With Eastern Europe and the Balkans now military outposts of NATO, the last "buffer state' bordering Russia - Ukraine - is being torn apart by fascist forces unleashed by the U.S. and the EU. We in the west are now backing neo-Nazis in a country where Ukrainian Nazis backed Hitler. Having masterminded the coup in February against the democratically elected government in Kiev, Washington's planned seizure of Russia's historic, legitimate warm-water naval base in Crimea failed. The Russians defended themselves, as they have done against every threat and invasion from the west for almost a century... Russian-speaking Ukrainians are fighting for survival."
Public support for Obama was fairly weak and limited to Foreign Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt and Foreign Minister of Lithuania Linas Linkevicius, the most zealous critics of Russia. Today, many in Europe and even in America have assessed "political extreme" of the Obama Administration in its relations with Russia for what it is: irresponsible and open provocations rather than just a short-sighted and unrealistic course. The September/October 2014 issue of Foreign Affairs carried an article by John Mearsheimer, Professor at the University of Chicago "Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West's Fault." The author points to the United States and its European allies as the main culprits: "The United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis. The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia's orbit and integrate it into the West... Since the mid-1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed NATO enlargement, and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbor turned into a Western bastion. For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine's democratically elected and pro-Russian president - which he rightly labeled a "coup" - was the final straw... Putin's pushback should have come as no surprise. After all, the West had been moving into Russia's backyard and threatening its core strategic interests, a point Putin made emphatically and repeatedly."
On both sides of the Atlantic middle-aged and older people have been lamenting the loss of the tradition of Russia studies. Russia is turning into terra incognita while the degree of ignorance has practically reached the highest point. This is true at the grassroots level and is testified by blunders of prominent political figures of the West, the United States in the first place.
"If Russia takes that path - a path that for stretches of the post-Cold War period resulted in prosperity for the Russian people - then we will lift our sanctions and welcome Russia's role in addressing common challenges," promised the President of the United States at the UN General Assembly. There are people in Europe much better informed about the plight of Russians in the post-Cold War period. Gilles Remy, President of the CIFAL group and former foreign trade advisor at the French Government, writes in International Affairs: "In the 1990s, the Russians proud to belong to the second largest superpower lost their values, were pushed into economic disaster accompanied by rampart corruption in an oligarchic state and social problems and exposed to social, economic and political humiliation."
A propos, at that time, the Kremlin relied on prescriptions of American "shock therapy" experts. Gilles Remy goes on to say: "It was Putin's advent to power in 2000 that rescued Russia, studded with tiny principalities rising here and there in the provinces, from final disintegration. Seen at first as a premier of a technical cabinet he restored the state in the full sense of the word and bound it together."
The master of the White House showed us a black-and-white world in which white was taken for black and black for white.
Those who expected that sanctions would force Russia to toe the line were wrong: in the globalized world these measures can ruin only a relatively small country. In the mid-term perspective, the United States might undermine its status of the world financial manager and push Russia toward finding new partners and knocking together new alliances. Today, this is what they say in Europe: Russia is cherished as a partner, its role being not limited to the energy sphere. Europe knows that it will pay dearly for the possible split - there is no hope that the United States will shoulder at least part of the cost.
Here is what Gilles Rémy has to say: "The U.S. has other objectives: it is seeking stronger positions in the Pacific in line with the prevailing economic development trend. It can, therefore, push the slowly unfolding conflict in Europe aside and introduce sanctions at its whim: the share of Russia in its trade turnover is negligent. Americans are as pragmatic as ever: they need Russian helicopters for Afghanistan and engines for their space station, which saved the Russian producers of helicopters and engines from sanctions. In short, the United States has harmonized sanctions with its requirements."
Europe without Russia will no longer be Europe; it will be pushed away from its present positions by the mounting rivalry of the United States, China and Asia. I am not talking about the figures which describe contracting trade turnover and profit lost because of sanctions. The losses will spread beyond statistics: a split of Europe might echo in tectonic shifts all over the world.
President Obama spoke of the "threat of Russia" as the world's second gravest danger after the virus Ebola. I should say that an epidemic of hatred is much worse, for it is said: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body..." (Matt. 10:28).
This material is published as part of RIA Novosti's "From the Author" project // www.rian.ru/anthois/20100204/207658418.html
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Barack Obama: "At a Crossroads Between War and Peace"