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28.12.2016 Author: Veniamin Popov

The Year it All Changed


It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that in 2016 the balance of power in the world has changed radically. Just take a look at the so-called Brexit, Donald Trump’s presidential victory, the fact that François Fillon and Marine Le Pen are the main contenders in the French presidential election, as well as the presidential elections in Bulgaria and Moldova, and the latest failure of a major Italian politician in elections in southern Europe. These factors indicate that much will change drastically among  international politics in the next year, as these trends are gaining momentum rapidly.

The aspirations of Western ruling elites to seize virtually all resources in the world that appeared after the collapse of the Soviet Union have been, in reality, a sever disadvantage. In the absence of any sort of counterbalance, these elites assumed there’s no reason to share their wealth with the middle class and the poor, which resulted in ever growing dissatisfaction among the populations of Western society.

Back in the 1990s a well-known American scholar Samuel Huntington coined a term to describe these new elites – Davos men. These are the men who are in control of virtually all international institutions, a number of governments and their economies. These men are not really concerned with such matters as national security and national boundaries, since they perceive those as an obstacle to the expansion of their own influence. To protect their global operations and maximize profits they ecourage migration, since migrants decrease labor costs significantly.

EU officials have also been trying to limit the amount of sovereignty individual states enjoy, leaving them with purely administrative duties to perform, which has resulted in a belief that European elites have become completely divorced from reality. The short-sighted policies of European leaders have led to a failure of the so-called multiculturalism concept, since as new waves of refugees arrive to Europe, they increased the influence that extremists enjoy over this continent.

Deutsche Welle notes that ISIS (the Islamic State) is making a bet on the further polarization between Muslim newcomers and non-Muslim indigenous populations in order to get as many recruits into its ranks as it can, which will in turn, result in the destabilization of Europe and the expansion of the “caliphate’s” influence.

Islamophobia as a whole is playing into the hands of terrorists, since ISIS wants Muslims to believe that its territories are more of a home to them than Europe, since those Muslims who genuinely want to integrate into European society are facing increased hostility and discrimination, which will provoke even more hatred in their hearts.

As it’s been noted by a prominent Russian geopolitical analyst, Daria Aslamova, this is particularly evident in Belgium – a small country with a rich, unwieldy bureaucracy and relaxed police officers – adding up to an attractive environment for international crime. Young Belgians are constantly being told that European Muslims can’t stop playing the blame game, since they are convinced that they have been underfed, under-educated and under-supported. Social insecurity results in local young Muslims facing jail, and when they are released, they make perfect recruits for terrorist organizations.

As a result of the short-sighted policy of the West, we’ve witnessed a second military invasion of Iraq committed under false pretenses, the destruction of Libya, and the desperate attempts of certain Western powers to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad with the help of  terrorists. All this created an atmosphere of constant chaos and fear in the Middle East. As a matter of fact, Russia’s operation in Syria has inflicted a grave blow to international terrorist networks, saving France, Belgium, Turkey and other Washington’s allies from a massive number of additional terrorist attacks.

Evenpresident-elect Donald Trump has acknowledged that the Obama administration has spent 6 trillion dollars in a bid to overthrow unwanted regimes in different parts of the world, creating a terrible mess afterward.

Today, there’s a number of preconditions for the successful resolution of a number of conflicts through negotiations. Many today still remember the wisdom of USSR Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, who announced: “It’s better to have ten years of negotiations, than one day of war.” This sensible approach now lies as the basis of the policies pursued by Russia.

Since Aleppo has been liberated, there is a real opportunity to organize peace talks between the Syrian government and the so-called moderate opposition in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. This has been clearly demonstrated during a tripartite meeting in Moscow – which featured Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Iran and Turkey. This format will be a real step towards the actual settlement. There’s a long list of diplomatic envoys in Russia now, all demanding Moscow’s assistance in peaceful negotiations. Among them one can spot representatives of Libya and Yemen, the two states that have been suffering the most from years of conflict.

It is obvious that only through joint efforts of all stakeholders can a resolution of the most difficult conflicts in the Middle East be devised. It is important for Russian-American cooperation to begin once again. Further still, it should be expanded to encompass China and the European Union.

Veniamin Popov, Director of the Center for Partnership of Civilizations at MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.” 


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