West in best

Which of course it is, but we must get real…

The West continues to exist in its own cocoon, still thinking within that post-Berlin Wall world frame of mind, where history (as God once had been) was on our side, if it hadn’t actually come to an end.

Two examples:

1) Charles Krauthammer (a serial offender) in the Washington Post exercises himself over the failure of America to take a lead, a moral lead, in the Middle East. He fails to recognise the simple truth that America has very limited moral force in that part of the world. And even the pro-Western countries don’t want its leadership. Obama is wisely steering a course more subtle than the American right which still inhabits a neo-liberal world can grasp.

2) The Economist had an in many ways excellent piece on Russia earlier this month (February). We have the statement ‘[Russia] is an unconstrained state that can sacrifice its citizens’ interests to further its destiny and satisfy its rulers’ greed. Both under communism and before it the Russian state acquired religious attributes.’ As a statement this recognises the old and deep rooted sense of ‘Holy Russia,’ but doesn’t engage with it as a reality. The ‘state’ and its ‘citizens’ are much closer than the Economist would have us believe.

There’s always been a battle in Russia between traditional and Westernising influences – going back to Peter the Great. That sense of Russia as a place apart, with a sentiment attached to it that you have to be Russian to understand, is woven into Russian life. Russians doesn’t want to be subsumed into a broader Western identity. If we get our heads round that we’ll better understand who we’re dealing with, and how to find agreement. Not least we’ll understand that the Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine really do instinctively look east, and while we want to preserve Ukraine as one country we have to see it at the very least as federated, with western and central Ukraine looking to the EC, and the south-east looking to Russia. From that starting-point we might just find a solution, given time and patience.

The Baltic states are of course another matter. Kiev, capital of the Ukraine, is also at the heart of the history and mythology of mother Russia. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are countries with more recent Russian populations, the result of Russian occupations. Their integrity should be absolute, something it now seems that NATO has taken fully on board. We must be vigilant, even more so reading today of Boris Nemtsov’s murder.


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