Three recent speeches and interviews given by major politicians have sharpened the political debate now raging in the Western media. Ironically, none of the three speeches received significant coverage in the Western media. Ironically, despite the lack of Western media coverage, all three mark a significant development in the world geopolitical dialogue.
Two of the speeches occurred at the same meeting of the Valdai Discussion Group, an organisation established in 2004 and modified to become a foundation in 2011. Russia’s President Putin was an initial founder of the group and has spoken at every meeting since then.
In this year’s meeting Putin again gave a keynote speech and although, as is his preference he spoke in conciliatory terms toward Russia’s major geopolitical foe, the United States, there was no mistaking the edge to his remarks.
Putin spoke of a new era that in his view was about to begin. The world was not just on the edge of dramatic changes, but in what he described as a “tectonic shift” that would affect all areas of life. The process of change has become most marked in the past 40 years. Russia has been and will continue to be a major force in the process of change, undoubtably to the chagrin of its political foes.
For those in the West who were expecting, and undoubtably hoping for, the decline of Russia after the demise of the Soviet Union, Putin declared that to those still waiting for Russia’s decline,” the only thing we are warned about is catching cold at your funeral.”
Putin identified China as moving quickly towards superpower status, although some, including myself, would argue they have already achieved that status. The United States he identified as having at some point (the period 1990–2008?) having absolutely dominated the international stage, but “can hardly claim exceptionality any longer”. Therein lies enormous risk to the world.
Although Putin did not refer to the point, the United States’ unwillingness to acknowledge and accept the fundamental changes in their world status poses a very grave threat to the planet. He referred to authoritative international institutions (unspecified) as following in the wake of someone’s selfish interests as “saddening.” It is worse than that. Not only does it discredit those institutions (and the recent fiasco over the Navalny affair springs to mind) it exacerbates, said Putin, the world order crisis.
On the positive side, Putin identified the Shanghai Corporation Organisation as having spent almost 20 years contributing to development and the peaceful settlement of disputes in Central Asia. It is shaping, he said, “a unique spirit of partnership in that part of the world.” It is precisely because of this success that has been a major factor in the destabilisation efforts by the United States in the region, which has accelerated in the past few years, including but not limited to a diplomatic effort in the region (to use a polite term) of United States Secretary of State Pompeo.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov also addressed the meeting and gave extensive interviews following his speech. Whereas Putin spoke in his customary polite manner, Lavrov made no attempt to conceal his anger. In his principal speech Lavrov asked the not entirely rhetorically question: “when the European Union is speaking as a superior, Russia wants to know, can we do any business with Europe?”
In a later radio interview, Lavrov made the further point that “no matter what we do, the West will try to hobble and restrain us and undermine our efforts in the economy, politics and technology.” Although he did not use the illustration, the reaction of the West to the alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny is a classic example. The inherent stupidity, illogicality and sheer mindlessness of the Western attacks on Russia, not only in the Navalny case but also in the equally ludicrous claims regarding the illness of the Skripal father and daughter has recently been brilliantly ridiculed by former British diplomat and commentator Craig Murray.
The West cannot militarily defeat Russia, so this has led, Lavrov points out, to “non-stop harassment and undermining of Russia.” He went on to cite a number of recent examples of this in countries such as Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan.
Lavrov referred to the “comprehensive strategic partnership” that has emerged, not least in defence from this sustained Western economic and political attack, with China. He referred to this development making “total Eurasian sense, geopolitically and geoeconomically”.
Several years ago, Vladimir Putin referred to the West has being “not agreement capable.” Lavrov applied the same description to the European Union. Russia, he argued, should stop orienting itself toward the European countries, and caring about their assessments.
A similar level of growing exasperation with the West’s persistent disruptive techniques and the waging of all out warfare short of actually shooting is seen in the similarly recent address by China’s President Xi Jinping.
In a major speech Xi gave to commemorate the 70th anniversary of China’s involvement in the Korean War (another regime change operation mounted by the West under other pre-texts) Xi bluntly warned that China was not to be trifled with and would not sit idly by while its sovereignty was attacked. He specifically referred to current United States efforts to foster problems between China and Taiwan. Pretending that Taiwan is a separate sovereign state is a long-standing Western tactic dating back to 1949 when the Nationalists fled to what was then called Formosa.
Part of the pretence fostered by the United States and its allies is to ignore the fact that China’s claims in the South China Sea not only pre-date the coming to power of the Communist party in 1949, but that the exact same territorial claims are made by Taiwan, a fact never mentioned in the Western media.
Xi accused the United States of attempting to start a war between China and Taiwan to which Xi gave a blunt response: their (the United States) foreign policy will go nowhere. China would make what he called a “quiet strike” in retaliation without specifying exactly what he meant.
It was clear from Xi’s speech that he regarded United States foreign policy (and he is not alone in this view) as having been hijacked by the United States’ far right contingent. Irrespective of which of Trump or Biden succeeds in the November presidential election it would be extremely naïve to anticipate any meaningful changes in United States foreign policy towards either Russia or China.
Both countries have taken significant steps in recent years to prepare for the fundamental realignment in geopolitical affairs currently underway. The re-emergence of China as the world’s most powerful economic entity is essentially a redressing of the historical aberration that the past 300 years have exemplified.
The great danger to the world comes from the inability and unwillingness of the West to recognise that those 300 years were an aberration, not a blueprint for the future. How well the West copes with that reassertion of the old order may well determine the future of our planet.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based former Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.