Orinoco Tribune | July 09, 2022
The wider Ukraine meaning lies in this insight: Other leaders are no longer naïve when the West offers glass beads (or paper dollars) in exchange for their real riches
The West, in its cavalier manner, entered upon war with the Russia-China axis, without due care. It expected easy ‘wins’ with sanctions imploding the Russian economy, and with military urban-war tactics borrowed from Syria, bleeding out the Russian army. Instead, it is turning-out to be a monumental débacle. More than that, its multiple failures and insultingly-cocksure propaganda are proving a breakpoint, ushering-in a new era rather than nailing down the old order, as the West had hoped.
Why is this new era so grave? Firstly, because of that which lies ‘beneath’. The structural weaknesses and ‘dry rot’ that have been accumulating over decades, in damp basements. It was kept away, out of sight. The ‘children’ were removed from earshot, when ‘adults’ spoke amongst themselves, to acknowledge the decay and rot affecting their Mansions.
Of course, the dilapidated condition of the ‘Big House’ (the US) was always suspected by the outside world, but then Russia brazenly demonstrated how rickety it actually is to all the world — in economics; in war; and at the St Petersburg Economic Forum. Putin urged the world to stand firm against the pretensions of the snooty Big House owners. It was a gentle, courteous call to rebel.
Yes, the Ukraine conflict is indeed a point of inflection. But for whom? Some (from the non-West) at the recent Davos Forum, simply rolled their eyes at the emotional European reaction to events in Ukraine, and pointed to double standards in their neglect of ruinous conflicts elsewhere and disdain for earlier waves of refugees. “There’s a Manichaean, Occidental urge to see the world in binaries”, Samir Saran, from a New Delhi think tank said: “We work in shades of grey.”
Yet, the realpolitik of Ukraine is reshaping the global geo-politics. At one level, it has prompted ‘others’ to rebel against the pretensions of the West calling itself The Civilised World, as if to say, ‘there is no civilisation outside our civilisation’. This conceit explains why the West condemns all other civilisations, both in the present and in the past, as backward and as potential threats to global stability and security. This is why it uses euphemisms to define itself as ‘the international community’.
Why? It is because western Zeitgeist refuses to be content with the unchanging law of social tradition which rules oriental cultures, “but manifests as a spirit that strives to incorporate itself in humanity and to change the world” — Christopher Dawson so wrote, nearly a century ago in Religion and the rise of Western Culture. This means that, unlike Chinese, Indian, Buddhist, Amazonian, Orthodox Christian, Muslim or any other civilisation, Western civilisation is unique, as it has continually sought to spread itself aggressively in a missionary way, imposing itself on, and taking over the rest of the world. In other words, it alone claims to be global.
The wider Ukraine meaning lies in this insight: Other leaders are no longer naïve when the West offers glass beads (or paper dollars) in exchange for their real riches. Ukraine has accelerated talk of integration among economic blocs, with several speeches by BRICS regional leaders at the Summit this week focussed on how to escape dollarized debt. Or better yet, how to implement an alternative system to the one established at Bretton Woods.
Furthermore, BRICS citizens – as those in Europe too – do not yearn for more efficient markets or for ‘more’ neo-liberalism. The Middle East particularly, has had its’ fill of neo-liberalism with the extreme inequalities of wealth to which it has given rise. They have bad experiences from World Bank and IMF-style predatory development doctrines. Now they have the evidence that properly-prepared states can not only survive western sanctions, but can use them as a tool to alter the global trading system to their advantage.
The risk coming from the coming cost-of-living crisis is easy to grasp: The risk from additional food shortages is almost beyond calculation. There – as in Europe – is fear, and anger too, at system disintegration; fear, as cities become both violent and mal-administered. They are not seeking ‘more Europe’; more identity politics. They don’t care a jot for ‘more anything’. Anger is plain as people want systems to work – yet they don’t . They want to return to living life, normally.
And as the cold winds of inflationary price hikes and recession blow, they look to their leaders – not for ‘more free market’ – but rather, for protection from markets and regulatory absurdities. They sense the danger of unknown ‘doom-loops’ imploding parts of their economies.
This is the major geo-strategic message to emerge from the West’s war on Russia: Russians – and many others – say that they have ‘had it’ with ‘Westification’ (by which is meant its ‘missionary’ attribute). By all means, be ‘the West’, but not ‘Westified’; by all means be ‘European’, but not some ‘more Europe’ demagogue, non-westerners suggest.
It is in this context that the term ‘Russian World’ (Russky Mir) takes meaning. It has an ancient origin: Its’ first formal use in its modern sense was in 2007, when President Putin decreed the establishment of the government-sponsored ‘Russky Mir Foundation’.
For some, the term ‘The Russian World’ means wherever Russians live. If it means only that, then this is a purely nationalistic project. For some, the term means the Russian-speaking world, but if it means only that, then this is a purely linguistic project. For others, the term means wherever Orthodox Christians live — but if it means only that, then this is a purely denominational project.
For many Russians today however, ‘the Russian World’ means something else, something far broader. It means wherever live those who are opposed to exploitative Westification. Although they mainly live in Russia, China, India, Africa, Latin America, the Muslim World, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan, they exist all over the world, even within the western heartlands. They are those who resist the carefully-orchestrated campaign of illusion by ‘the international community’. For those Russians who live in the real world, the illusions of the West are both absurd and evil.
Alastair Crooke Director of Conflicts Forum; Former Senior British Diplomat; Author.