On 28th July exactly 100 years ago, Central Europe declared a war to Eastern Europe, an event that marked the official outbreak of World War I. This was a turning point which finally fractured a fragile equilibrium of La Belle Èpoque, and set the Old Continent and the whole world with it into the series of motions that lasted for almost a century, before docking us to our post-modern societies. From WWI to www. Too smooth and too good to be true? Let us use this occasion and briefly examine our post-modernity and some fallacies surrounding it.
In the (Brave New) world of www. where, irrespectively from your current location on the planet, at least 20 intelligence agencies are notifying the incoming call before your phone even rings up, how is it possible to lose jumbo-jet for good? The two huge aviation tragedies affecting same country – Malaysia, are yet another powerful reminders that we are obsessed with a control via confrontation, not at all with the prosperity through human safety. Proof? Look at the WWI-like blame-game over the downing of the plane – a perfect way to derail our most important debate: Which kind of future do we want? Who seats in our cockpit and why do we stubbornly insist on inadequate civilizational navigation?! Consequently, Ukraine today is a far bigger crash site, which is – regrettably enough – well beyond an ill-fated MH 17.
Why in the www. world our media still bears the WWI-like rethorics? The ongoing demonization of President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin in the so-called mainstream media actually serves as a confrontational nostalgia call on the side of West. Hence, this main-scream seems aiming not to alienate, but to invite the current Russian leadership to finally accept confrontation as a modus operandi after a 25 years of pause.
The conclusion these media leaves us with, is somewhat puzzling: the West has democratically decided that the CC + CC has no alternative (more Carbons and Confrontation e.g. in Ukraine, besides and despite the planetary Climate Change). President Putin autocratically still hesitates, and does not rush into the CC. Does it mean that Russia is more democratic and more progressive than it is reported to us, or that the West is more militaristic and more conservative than it loves to portray itself? Neither or either, all or none?
How about our post-modern cooperation? Which kind of neighborhood the European Union and United States have supported around Russia for the last 25 years, that same sort of Russia we are trying to see today. I would even dare say that Russia today is far better than the West (and its past acting) deserves to have. The same attribution would most probably apply to the Arab world. The way Atlantic-Central Europe and the US interacted with the MENA (Middle East–North Africa), and the sort of Islam they supported there yesterday, is the sort of Islam we are getting today in the Christian Europe as well as in the Christian neighborhoods of Iraq.
For the sake of quick Atlantic-Central Europe penetrations into the body and soul of East, all important debates such as that of Slavism, identity, secularism and antifascism have been adviced to Eastern Europe to abandon. By doing so, all the vital merits were simply handed over to Russia to solely deal with it. Why then our sudden shock that once recuperated, Russia returns with a (reloaded) identity which champions antifascism and (pan-)Slavism? After all, the rich but egalitarian, democratic, transparent, antifascist, a non-nation-state determined and secular US has supported everything opposite in Eastern Europe (in the MENA, too). For far too long, in the pretext of fighting the legacies of communism, Americans have tolerated Über-economic, political and socio-demographic neo-Nazism as well as the clerical ethno-fascism in the core sectors of Europe. It is now time to pay for letting the unchecked happen.
The winner takes it all is a Swedish song, not a Swedish table. Clearly, there is no winning without a full share of responsibility.
Europe of Sarajevo 100 years later
The end of the Cold War came abruptly, overnight. Many in the West dream about it, but nobody really saw it coming. The Warsaw Pact, Red Army in DDR, Berlin Wall, Soviet Union, one after the other, vanished rapidly, unexpectedly. There was no ceasefire, no peace conference, no formal treaty and guaranties, no expression of interests and settlement. Only the wonderer-boy face expression of that time Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze who circles around and unconvincingly repeats: “we now better understand each other”. In his luminary work ‘The New Asian Hemisphere’, Mahbubani accurately concludes that Mikhail Gorbachev – not understanding the real success of Western strength and power, handed over the Soviet empire and got nothing in return. Does our history only appear overheated, but is essentially calmly predetermined? Is it directional or conceivable, dialectic and eclectic or cyclical, and therefore cynical?
The Soviet Union was far more of a classic continental military empire (overtly brutal; rigid, authoritative, anti-individual, omnipresent, secretive), while the US was more a financial empire (covertly coercive; hierarchical, yet asocial, exploitive, pervasive, polarizing). Bear of permafrost vs. Fish of the warm seas. Athens vs. Sparta. Phoenicia vs. Rome… Consequently, the Soviets went bankrupt by mid 1980s – they cracked under its own weight, imperially overstretched. So did the Americans – the ‘white man burden’ fractured them already by the Vietnam war, with the Nixon shock only officializing it. However, the US imperium managed to survive and to outlive the Soviets. How? The United States managed its financial capital (or an illusion of it) insofar as to be(come) a debtor empire through the Wall Street guaranties. Titanium-made Sputnik vs. gold mine of printed-paper… Nothing epitomizes this better than the words of the longest serving US Federal Reserve’s boss, Alan Greenspan, who famously said to then French President Jacques Chirac: “True, dollar is our currency, but your problem”. Hegemony vs. hegemoney.
This very nature of power explains why the Americans have missed to take our mankind into completely other direction; towards the non-confrontational, decarbonized, de-monetized/de-financialized and de-psychologized, the self-realizing and green humankind. They had such a chance when, past the Gorbachev’s unconditional surrender of the Soviet bloc, the US – unconstrained as a ‘lonely superpower’ – solely dictated terms of reference. Sadly enough, that was not the first missed opportunity for the US. The very epilogue of the WWII meant a full security guaranty for the US: Geo-economically – 54% of anything manufactured in the world was carrying the Made in USA label, and geostrategically – the US had uninterruptedly enjoyed nearly a decade of the ‘nuclear monopoly’. Up to this very day, the US scores the biggest number of N-tests conducted, the largest stockpile of nuclear weaponry, and it represents the only power ever deploying this ‘ultimate weapon’ on other nation. To complete the irony, Americans enjoy geographic advantage like no other empire ever. Save the US, as Ikenberry notes: “…every major power in the world lives in a crowded geopolitical neighborhood where shifts in power routinely provoke counterbalancing”. The US is blessed with neighboring oceans.
Why the lonely might, an empire by invitation did not evolve into empire of relaxation, a generator of harmony? One of the leading architects of the American foreign policy, Simon Serfaty laments: “The irony is plain for all to see. Ten years after the fiasco in Iraq, the global demand for American power has never been higher, but its credibility rarely lower and its reliability more in doubt…a preponderant power must be right…for its enemies it must be strong, it must inspire trust…” What are we talking about here – the inadequate intensity of our confrontational push or about the false course of our civilizational direction?
Indeed, no successful and enduring empire does merely rely on coercion, be it abroad or at home. However, unable to escape its inner logics and deeply-rooted appeal of confrontational nostalgia, the prevailing archrival is only a winner, rarely a game-changer.Hence, to the above asked question whether our history is dialectic or cyclical, the current Ukrainian events are like a bad-taste déjà vu.
End of the Cold War – such a buzzword, of a diametrically different meaning. East interprets it as the final end of confrontation – beginning of the age of a mutual respect, harmony and understanding. The Westerners have no such an illusion. To them it is the end of war, which only came after the unconditional surrender of East. Another powerful evidence to support our claim: Just 20 years ago, distance between Moscow and NATO troops stationed in Central Europe (e.g. Berlin) was over 1.600 km. Today, it is only 120 km from St. Petersburg.Realities have dramatically changed for the Atlantic-Central Europe block and for Russia, while for Eastern Europe much remains the same–East still serves others as a strategic depth playground.
Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic
Vienna, 28 JUL 2014
Author is professor for international law and global political studies, based in Austria. His recent book Is There Life after Facebook? is published by the New York’s Addleton Academic Publishers. He was born in Sarajevo, place from which the Eastern effectively challenged Central Europe.
Or, by the words of the senior UN diplomat who, contemplating with me over the question whether a middle-power foreign policy is adequate for a great power, recently told me in Geneva: “The difference between Russia and the Soviet Union is that the Federation desperately looks around for respect, but leaves the world responsibilities solely to the US. As known, admiration and respect is earned not given for free.” Clearly, the post-Soviet Russia avoids any strategic global competition with the US. Still, it feels rather insulted with the current strategic global partnership – as both the US and China treat Moscow as a junior partner. Is it possible to (re-)gain a universal respect without any ideological appeal? That could be debated, but one thing is certain; even the mid-size powers such as Brazil, Indonesia or Turkey have moved on from a bandwagoning, reactive, opportune and slow to an emancipating proactive, accurate and extensive foreign policy.
How was a debtor empire born? One of the biggest (nearly schizophrenic) dilemmas of liberalism, ever since David Hume and Adam Smith, was an insight into reality; whether the world is essentially Hobbesian or Kantian. The state will rob you, but in absence of it, the pauperized masses will mob you. The invisible hand of Smith’s followers have found the satisfactory answer – sovereign debt. This ‘invention’ means: relatively strong government of the state, heavily indebted – firstly to local merchants, than to foreigners. With such a mixed blessing, no empire can easily demonetize its legitimacy.
One of the biggest ideological victories of the US is the fact that, only two decades after the Soviet collapse, Russia today has an economy dominated by oil-rich class of billionaires. The assets of this new caste are 20% of country’s GDP –by far the largest share held by the ultra-rich in any major economy. The second largest ideological victory for Americans is reported by the New York Times. It states that the outgoing Chinese President, leader of the country that officially still rests on ideology of oppressed working class, has allegedly accumulated family wealth of 1,7 billion in less than a decade of his rule (‘only’ 1 USD million every second day). Some in the US are not that happy about it, and are wondering – like Fukuyama in his luminary essay – “where is a counter-narrative?” To ease the pain for all balance-seekers: Even if the American ideological triumph might be a clear cut, geopolitically it remains undecided. While Russians were absorbing the shock of loss of their historical empire, the ‘lonely hyper-power’ did not quite know what to do with its colossal gain. The fact that there is no (yet) clear leader of the post-Western world, does not mean that the post-Christian and post-industrial West – as a place and as the geo-economic and ideological model – is unquestionably accepted as it was before.
There are many who would claim that the West was unable to capitalize on the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that the real winner in the superpowers’ playoff is actually the third. It is not only that Asia is resurfacing very self-confident. Deeper and structural, the issue is more subversive as well: One of the most remarkable achievements in the world history of capita-lism is happening last 20 years under the leadership of the largest Communist party on this planet. (While one of the biggest collectivisations à la communism was taking place in the cradles of capitalism –the US and UK financial hubs.) At this point, let us recall what was the epilogue of a lasting ideological confrontation between Byzantium and Sassanid Persia and of their colossal geopolitical overextension? Clearly, it was an appearance of the Third Power Center on a geopolitical and ideolo-gical terrain, which was gradually prevailing from the 7th century onwards. Byzantium and Sassanids corroded and imploded.
Despite the (formal) end of the Cold War, and contrary to all what we celebrate as a technological progress, our Gini coefficients’ distances are far larger than they were two decades ago. Additionally, as the EU was getting closer to Eastern and Russophone Europe, the socio-economic inequalities and politico-cultural exclusions there, were growing wider. The contemporary world (believes it) has unprecedented wealth. Although over the last four decades the global working force has tripled from roughly 1 to 3 billion, the world today holds mass poverty – like never before, especially in underdeveloped Africa and de-industrialized East of Europe. The newly set ‘economic system’ in Eastern Europe in fact reproduces poverty, even among the fortunate ones – people with a job, victims of low wages and long hours. According to the World Bank, total global wealth was $241 trillion in 2013 and is expected to rise to $334 trillion by 2018. The WB defines the UN standard poverty line with a threshold of $1,25/day. Lant Pritchett, a critical WB/IMF developmental economist, advocates a more reasonable bottom-line of $10/day. If his calculations were applied, between 90 and 95% population in the East-Rusophone Europe would be well below dignified life, deep under the poverty line!
Before too long, Washington will have to decide: either containment or accommodation – a viable truce with Moscow or unconditional backing of Russia’s closest neighbours. If Putin finally abandons the non-confrontational course, and regularizes the play on a confrontational nostalgia card, the US-led West might award Moscow by returning Baltics, some central-southern portions of Eastern Europe, along with Central Asia and Caucasus to Russian sphere of influence. If the history of Russo-American confrontations is (noisy or) deep, wide and long, their ability to broker a deal is remarkably extensive, too. Or, as prof. W.R. Mead elaborates: “…In deciding how hard to press Russia over Ukraine, the While House cannot avoid calculating the impact on Russia’s stance on the Syrian war or Iran’s nuclear program.” (Mead, W.R. (2014), The Return of Geopolitics, Foreign Affairs Magazine 93(3) 2014)
The story of Elysees Palace and nuclear deal with Iran
The paradoxical Macron game against a nuclear deal with Iran has reduced the credibility of Paris and its role in the international system.
Today, few speak of France as an independent player in the world, since after the end of the presidency, Jacques Chirac, all three current French presidents have become one of the White House actors in Europe. Emanuel Macron, the young and new president of France, also goes on to lead his ancestors. He was the main European politician who agreed to “change the nuclear deal with Iran” at the request of Trump. Macron, Trump and Netanyahu (prime minister of the occupying regime of Jerusalem) promised to meet all their demands for a nuclear deal. Undoubtedly, this French attitude was contrary to their obligations in the international system.
It was for the first time that the French President Emanuel Macron insisted that the nuclear deal could be amended in some parts, including Iran’s missile power and the introduction of new time limits (after 2025). During the meeting between Macron and Trump in New York (2017) and on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, France’s opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the Islamic Republic of Iran became more and more evident. In the joint project conducted by the White House and the Elysee Palace, the French are tasked with focusing on Iran’s missile power, providing the ground for simultaneous restriction of Iran’s nuclear and missile capabilities. In other words, Paris’ main goal here was to link Iran’s missile program to the JCPOA and turn the existing equation into a two-variable equation. In their latest position against Iran, the French have accused our country of violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231. The French authorities have also explicitly stated that the use of ballistic missiles by the Islamic Republic of Iran is unacceptable and that it should be negotiated with Tehran.
Today, after the departure of the United States of America from a nuclear deal with Iran, Macron continues to play its paradoxical game with Iran. He argued last week that a more complete agreement with Iran (including missile and regional concerns) would be inevitable. However, the French President during a meeting with the Russian president has emphasized the adherence to the current nuclear deal!
At a recent meeting between the Russian and French presidents, Putin stated:
“We can not make preserving the Iranian nuclear deal dependent on these three parameters because if we do, it means that we too are withdrawing from the accord because the deal that exists foresees no additional conditions.”
As Reuters reported, a Macron adviser hailed Putin’s comments as a “key” point of convergence between Paris and Moscow as the Trump administration urges its European allies to sever economic ties with Iran.
After talks that ran long over schedule, Macron and Trump entered the news conference looking relaxed and smiling. Macron acknowledged Paris and Moscow disagreed on a range of issues but called for “strong multilateralism”.
Another point is that in this equation, the main difference between the French and the American officials is the “tactic” employed by the White House and the Elysee Palace. Since the presidential campaigns of 2016, the JCPOA was called “the worst deal ever” by Trump and called for “changing” it or “withdraw” from it. However, the French have chosen the policy of “playing with ambiguous words”. The vocabulary used by the French authorities is wider than Americans in this regard: from “commitment to the JCPOA” to “completing the JCPOA”! Therefore, the French game is more complicated than that of the Americans. Many analysts of international affairs believe that France hasn’t played a transparent game considering the nuclear accord. Sometimes it is said that this lack of transparency is due to the French’s confusion over Iran’s nuclear deal, but by looking at the positions of the American and French officials towards the JCPOA, we can clearly see that they are trying to complete the same puzzle in opposition to Iran.
Ultimately, the actions of French President Emmanuel Macron and other officials of the country, in contrast to the nuclear deal, will never be a reminder of the Iranian nation. Obviously, in the event of a complete cancellation of the nuclear deal, there will be no difference between the presidents of the United States and France.
First published in our partner Mehr News Agency
US-EU possible soft tactic to contain Iran
The US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has created a new rounds of speculations about the three European major players’ (the UK, France and Germany) capabilities and abilities to keep the deal alive without the US.
Following the US President’s unilateral move to withdraw from the Iran’s Nuclear Deal, lots of diplomatic and political efforts have been made both by the European and Iranian officials to keep the internationally achieved deal alive.
Islamic Republic of Iran has announced that it will remain in the JCPOA just if the EU can guarantee Iran’s benefits and interests under the JCPOA in the absence of the US, otherwise Teharn will leave the deal, too.
Despite all measures taken and political promises made by the European sides to keep the JCPOA alive, over the past ten days many big EU firms and international companies have announced their decisions to stop their activities and operations in Iran including Total, Eni, Siemens, Airbus and Maersk.
Just couple of days after the US withdraw from the JCPOA, French gas and oil giant Total has announced that due to return of the US sanctions against Iran it has to pull out of Iranian Southern Pars oil field.
Italian oil giant Eni has also decided to abrogate its agreement with Iran to study oil and gas in Iran.
Maersk as the biggest shipping company in the world has announced that due to its vast activities in the US and to avoid possible US punishments, it will stop its activities in Iran.
Considering the limited capabilities and potentialities of the EU to challenge the US hegemony and also the fact that EU governments cannot force private sectors to work with Iran, it is not realistic to expect the EU to save the JCPOA.
As I mentioned in my previous writing, the possibility of job division between the US and EU to contain Iran should not be ignored.
All facts on the ground imply that all EU measures and promises to keep the JCPOA alive will only result in remaining of some small European companies in Iran. Big companies that can invest and transfer technology to Iran will leave Iran to avoid the US possible punishments. This possible soft and indirect US-EU tactic can help the joint goal of the US and EU to contain Iran.
By this tactic, firstly the EU can buy time and contain Iran so that not to leave the JCPOA. Secondly, the EU will pave the way for selling of its products and services in Iran’s market without investment and transferring technology. Thirdly, Iran’s incomes and revenues will be limited which Americans and the Europeans consider it as a good soft and indirect way to increase pressure on Iran to limit Iran’s regional influence and missile capability.
First published in our partner Mehr News Agency
Internally weak EU cannot be strong international player
Commenting on the EU capabilities to protect its interests against the US unilateralism, Italian political science professor, Dr. Pastori Gianluca believes that an internally weak EU cannot be a strong international player.
The US president’s decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) despite the US key European allies’ opposition has raised so many questions about the global weight of the EU.
Despite many promises from EU key states to keep the JCPOA alive without the US, many believe even if the EU decides to do so the block won’t be able to challenge the US President’s decision due to its internal disunity and limitations. The issue was discussed with political science associated professor of Milan Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Dr. Pastori Gianluca.
How can the EU protect the right of its companies working and investing in Iran? Is it feasible?
European companies have always had good economic relations with Iran and these relations have grown even stronger in the last few years. I do not think that this attitude will really change in the coming months. In the past, the US already adopted secondary sanctions against countries investing in Iran (e.g. with the ‘Iran and Libya Sanctions Act’ in 1996), but their impact on the behaviour of foreign investors was quite limited. At that time, even some US companies managed to bypass the sanctions operating through foreign branches. Moreover, US-EU relations are currently quite tense, also due to the US will to introduce tariffs on European export. For this reasons, I think that, while the European governments will take a low profile in face of new US sanctions, on the political level they will keep on supporting their national presence in Iran.
Despite being an economic superpower, the EU is not able to protect its interest against the US unilateralism in recent year. Why?
The main problem is that the EU still faces difficulties in transforming its economic power into political power. Traditionally, the EU has been quite effective in promoting and protecting the economic interests of its members but has been far less effective in the political filed. There are many reasons to explain this state of things. As an economic community, the EU exists since 1957, when the European Economic Community was established, while the political union is far more recent. Moreover, the different member states have different visions of the international system and different interests to pursue. Finally, many of them are very jealous of their own sovereignty in international matters and are not ready to submit this kind of matters to a meaningful coordination or – even more — to subordinate them to a common foreign and defence policy.
The EU officials have talked about independent EU over the recent years. Considering the existing facts and EU potentialities, how feasible is it? What are the obstacles to this end?
The EU is currently facing one of the most difficult phases in its history. Anti-European parties are gaining strength in several member states, while the results of the referendum held in 2016 on the exit of the UK from the Union (‘Brexit’) have shown that integration is a reversible process. In the long term, this is the main problem that the EU has to face to affirm its international role. An internally weak EU cannot be a strong international player. At the same time, the development of a strong international profile can help to re-launch the European project, showing to the member states that the EU can be helpful even in the political field. Worth noting, since 2017, several countries are striving to implement a more effective common security and defence policy, largely due to Donald Trump’s proclaimed will to reduce the US engagement in Europe.
First published in our partner Mehr News Agency
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