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Ronald Reagan and Russia’s Re-annexation of Crimea

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On March 18th, 2014 following a popular self-determination referendum of the people of Crimea the Russian Federation declared re-annexation of the Crimean Peninsula which was annexed by the Soviet Ukraine in 1954. Nevertheless, the western global corporative media, politicians and statesmen classified such act as a matter of “aggression, violation of international law and unlawful occupation of a part of a territory of internationally recognized independent state and the UN’s member”.

Russia’s authorities on this occasion issued an official statement that Crimea’s re-annexation by Russia is based on the same self-determination rights as of the people (the Albanians) of Kosovo in 2008 which self-proclaimed independence from Serbia (by Kosovo parliament without any popular referendum) is already recognized by almost all western liberal governments.

The following text is a personal contribution to better understanding of the case of Russia’s “dirty policy of occupation and annexation” of Crimea in March 2014.

Grenada is an independent state, a member of the UN, located in the southern portion of the Caribbean Sea very close to the mainland of the South America (Venezuela). The state is composed by southernmost of the Windward Islands combined with several small islands which belong to the Grenadines Archipelago, populated by almost 110,000 people of whom 82% are the blacks (2012 estimations). The state of Grenada is physically mostly forested mountains’ area (of volcanic origin) with some crater lakes and springs. In the valleys are bananas, spices and sugar cane grown. The country is out of any natural wealth significance but has relatively high geostrategic importance. Economy was and is primarily agricultural with some very limited small-scale industry of the food production nature with developing tourism sector as growing source of the national GDP. The state budget is constantly under a high level of foreign debt (a “debt slavery” phenomenon).

As the island, Grenada was discovered by the Europeans (Ch. Columbus) in 1498 and colonized by the French in 1650 becoming a possession of the French royal crown in 1674. During the Seven Years War (1756−1763) between all major European states, Grenada was occupied by the British and according to the Peace Treaty of Paris in 1763 was given to the United Kingdom being a British possession for almost two hundred years with preservation of slavery. The process of democratization of the island started in 1950 when the universal adult suffrage is granted by the United Labor Party. Being shortly a member of the West Indian Federation (1958−1962) and seeking internationally recognized independence, Grenada was granted such separate independence only in 1974 with Matthew Gairy (a leader of the United Labor Party) as the first Grenada’s PM. However, only three years later in 1979 Gairy was deposed from the post in a coup d’état lead by Maurice Bishop (1944−1983) as a leader of a Marxist political group under the official title of the New Jewel Movement. M. Bishop proclaimed a new Government under the name of the People’s Revolutionary Government that became not welcomed by the US administration like the Socialist (Marxist-democrat) Government in Chile after the 1970 elections formed by Salvador Allende (1908−1973).

The issue is in this case that Allende was the first Marxist in the world’s history who became elected by the popular vote as the President of one sovereign and independent state. A new President of Chile was a head of the Unidad Popular that was a coalition of the Marxists (Communists) and the Socialists and therefore faced by hostility of the USA whose administration supported Chili Congress against Allende. The Congress backed by the USA heavily opposed Allende’s radical program of nationalization and agrarian reform – a program voted by the electorate in 1970. Due to such obstruction, there were inflation, capital flight and balance-payments deficit which heavily contributed to an economic crisis in Chile in 1973: exactly what the US administration wanted and needed. The crisis became the main excuse for the military coup organized and accomplished by the Chili army Commander-in-Chief general Augusto Pinochet (born in 1915) – a typical local exponent of the US global politics. As a consequence, there were around 15,000 killed people together with President Allende and about 10% of the Chileans who left the country during the new military dictatorship (1973−1990) which replaced Chili democracy elected by the people and brutally abolished all labor unions and any opposition organizations and groups. The capitalism was fully restored with the economy and social order very depended on the US financial support as a price for transformation of the country into a classic (US) colony. Nevertheless, the 1973 military suppression of democracy in Chile was a clear message to the whole Latin America that the Monroe Doctrine of “America to the Americans” (read in fact as “Americas to the US”) is still leading framework of the US foreign policy in this part of the globe. The Monroe Doctrine was articulated in President James Monroe’s seventh annual message to Congress on December 2nd, 1823. The European powers, according to Monroe, were obligated to respect the Western Hemisphere as the United States’ sphere of interest. Following later such doctrine, for the matter of illustration, there was the US direct military invasion of Panama causing the fall of General Noriega in December 1989: “Operation Just Cause”.  

bombing

Similarly to the Allende Case in Chile, Grenada governed by the President M. Bishop turned to the left in both inner and external policy of the state. Therefore, he encouraged very closer relations with F. Castro’s Cuba and potentially to the USSR. As a result, at the island there were some Cuban military presence composed by the engineers who were repairing and expanding the local airport. This fact became the main reason that political situation in Grenada became of interest of the U.S. administration. However, due to the internal quarrel within the People’s Revolutionary Government, Bishop was overthrown from the post and murdered by another Marxist, Bernard Coard, in 1983 who took control over the Government. There were the clashes of protesters with the governmental troops and soon violence escalated. However, the army troops under the command of General Hudson Austin soon took power and established a new military regime. This new Grenada coup was immediately followed by direct US military intervention in the island on October 23rd, under the order by the US President Ronald Reagan (the “Operation Urgent Fury”), for the very real reason to prevent a Marxist revolutionary council to take power. The US military troops left Grenada in December 1983 after the re-establishment of “democratic” (pre-revolutionary) regime and of course pro-American one transforming Grenada into one more Washington’s client state.    

It is of very concern to see what was de jure explanation by the US President Reagan for such military intervention and de facto the US military occupation of one sovereign and independent state. The President, based on the CIA reports on the threat posed to the US citizens in Grenada (the students) by the Communist regime, issued the order to the US Marines to invade the island in order to secure their lives. Here we have to remember a very fact of issue how much the CIA reports have been (and are) really accurate and reliable by only two fresh examples:

1)In 1999 Serbia and Montenegro were bombed by the NATO troops (the “Operation Merciful Angel”) exactly based on the CIA information about the organized (the “Operation Horse Shoe”) and well done massive ethnic cleansing of the local Kosovo Albanians (100,000 killed) committed by the Serbian regular army and police forces.

2)In 2003 the US and the UK troops invaded Iraq based also on the CIA reports about possession of the ABC weapons for the massive destruction by the regime of Saddam Hussein (1937−2006) (the “Operation Desert Storm 2”).

However, in both mentioned cases the reports are “proved to be unproved”, i.e. very false.

The fact was that in the 1983 Grenada Case, there were really about 1,000 US citizens in the island, majority of them studying at the local medical school. Citing the alleged danger to the US citizens in Grenada, the President ordered around 2,000 US troops, combined by some international forces from the Regional Security System based in Barbados. The White House claimed that it received a formal request for military intervention by the PM of Barbados and Dominica (both the US clients). If it is a true, and probably it is, then any state receiving such invitation by the foreign Governments (second states) has right to invade other state (third state) in order to restore the “democratic” order (in the sense of bringing justice) or at least to protect its own citizens. For instance, following the White House logic from 1983, overthrown legal President of Ukraine V. Yanukovych by the street-mob in 2014 could call the Russian President V. Putin to restore a legal order in whole Ukraine by the Russian army. In regard to the 2014 Kyiv Coup, according to Paul Craig Roberts, Washington used its funded NGOs ($5 billion according to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at the National Press Club in December 2013) to begin street protests when the elected Ukrainian Government turned down the offer to join the European Union. Similarly to the Ukrainian coup in 2014, the Guatemala coup in 1954, when democratically elected Government of Jacobo Arbenz became overthrown, was also carried out by the CIA. Following also Reagan’s logic for the military invasion of Grenada in 1983, the Russian President could send a regular army of the Russian Federation to occupy Ukraine for the security reasons of Russia’s citizens who were studying at the universities in Kyiv, Odessa or Lvov. Nevertheless, similar Reagan’s argument was used (among others) and by Adolf Hitler in April 1941 to invade and occupy the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as, according to the German intelligence service, the German minority in Yugoslavia (the Volksdeutschers) were oppressed and terrorized by the new (pro-British) Government of General Dušan Simović after the coup in Belgrade committed on March 27th, 1941.

reagan taliban

The US President Ronald Reagan with Afghan Mujahideen delegation in the 1980s negotiating American support for their fight against the Soviet troops

Nonetheless, the fact was that during the intervention in Grenada, the US troops faced military opposition by the Grenadian army relying on minimal intelligence about the situation in the country. For example, the US military used in this case old tourist maps of the island. Similar “mistake” the NATO did in the 1999 Kosovo Case by bombing the Chinese embassy in the wider center of Belgrade using also outdated tourist map on which a new Chinese embassy did not exist (here we will not comment or argue on credentials of such army and its headquarters to intervene outside of its own home courtyard). In order to break the Grenadian resistance the “Hollywood” President R. Reagan sent additional 4,000 troops to the island. Finally, an “international coalition” lead by the US troops succeeded to replace the Government of Grenada by one acceptable to the USA.

Regardless to the fact that a great part of the Americans did not support the 1983 Grenada Case that it took place only several days after a very disastrous terror act on the US military post in Lebanon when over 240 US troops were killed, calling into very question the use of the US military force in order to achieve the political goals, Reagan’s administration officially proclaimed the case to be the first “rollback” of the Communist influence since the beginning of the Cold War in 1949 (as the US military interventions against the “Communist infection” in Korea and Vietnam have been unsuccessful). A justification of the military invasion was mainly framed within the idea that the US citizens (students) in Grenada could be taken as the hostages similar to the 1979 Teheran Hostage Crisis. However, several US Congressmen, like Louis Stoks (Ohio), denied any real danger for any American in Grenada prior to the invasion (that was confirmed and by the students themselves) followed by unsuccessful attempt by seven Democrats in the Congress, led by Ted Weiss, to introduce a resolution to impeach R. Reagan. Finally, the UN General Assembly with majority votes (108, with only 9 against and 27 abstentions) adopted Resolution 38/7 on October 28th, 1983 which clearly accused the USA for violation of international law (“deeply deplores the armed intervention in Grenada, which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of that State”).

The 1983 Grenada Case is not for sure either the first or the last “Hollywood-style” violation of the international law and territorial sovereignty of some independent state by the US (or other) administration. But it is sure that it was done by the order of up today the only “Hollywood” cowboy-actor star in the office of White House in Washington as according to the US Constitution, Arnold Schwarzenegger does not have right to run for the post of the US President as he was not born on the US territory.  

Finally, if you think that the 1983 Grenada Case has nothing common with the 2014 Crimean Case, you are absolutely right.  

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Analysing the Russia Report: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Ernest A. Reid

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The long-awaited Russia Report has finally been released by the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee. However, whether it has lived up to all of its anticipants’ expectations is rather a matter of debate. While countless media pundits and pseudo-experts on both sides are already caught up in a frenzy of harvesting it for out-of-context quotes to aid them in their battles against Russia or Britain, Conservatives or Labour, Putin, Johnson or Corbyn, political scientists and security analysts are more likely to find the Report lacking in objectivity and rather revealing Britain’s political plans than making any significant contribution to the existing knowledge on Russia.

First of all, it is necessary to point out that the Report is not an impartial piece of analysis but rather a biased text that seems to use a number of framing techniques in order to promote certain agenda. It begins with an outline of a fairly one-sided “Us vs Them” narrative, in the spirit of Teun van Dijk’s “ideological square,” of selfless Britain extending the helping hand to malicious Russia just for Vladimir Putin to fool the West over and over again. While mentioning the death of former double agent Alexander Litvinenko in late 2006 (allegedly organised by the Russian state) as the moment of Russia’s metamorphosis into an “established threat,” the distinguished authors seem to omit the “Spy Rock” scandal which had revealed Britain’s less-than-friendly spy activity in Russia earlier that year. In the same fashion, it is Moscow (rather than Washington) that believes in the “might is right” world order, “flouting the Rules Based International Order” is a privilege that cannot be bestowed upon non-Western democracies and the zero-sum game concept is, apparently, exclusive to the foreign policy decision-making of the Kremlin, which seems to be intent on “damaging the West” because it’s “good for Russia.” Moreover, the authors attribute Russia’s view of NATO and EU having “a far more aggressive posture towards it than they do in reality” to “paranoia” rather than the military build-up along their borders with Russia, regular military exercises in the region and the economic sanctions.

Hence, with the aid of rather primitive framing tools the introduction sets a very subjective tone for the rest of the Report and has more in common with an average article in The Economist than with a serious government document. However, this is hardly surprising taking into account the line-up of “witnesses” among whom are an American journalist who has indeed worked for The Economist and Washington Times and has been a staunch critic of Russia, a British writer whose books may well be mistaken for pulp fiction with titles such as Spies, Lies and How Russia dupes the West, leaving little to the imagination, and an American-British businessman who has been convicted on charges of tax evasion in Russia and has been one of the initiators of the infamous Magnitsky Act, as well as two essentially more respectable gentlemen who nevertheless are not particularly known for a neutral stance on Russia either. Unfortunately, the quality of sources also varies significantly across the Report, ranging from the undisputedly reputable GCHQ to the likes of BuzzFeed and vague references. All of the above means that one must apply a strong discursive filter when reading the Report in order to separate the wheat from the chaff.

In spite of its ontologically anti-Russian angle embedded within the introduction, the Report does nevertheless make a number of correct (albeit obvious) observations. Among them are the “inheritances from the USSR and its status as a victor of the Second World War” in the form of the nuclear weapons and permanent seat on the UN Security Council as some of Russia’s primary strengths. The report also notes how Russia’s “large and powerful” armed forces and heavily-resourced intelligence services, as well as “lack of strong independent public bodies and the fusion of government and business” (i.e. centralised power) allow it to “leverage all its intelligence, military and economic power at the same time,” which gives Moscow a significant strategic (i.e. speed) advantage over Britain with its less centralised and more cumbersome bureaucracy. The Report also identifies some of Russia’s weaknesses, such as its relatively small population, weak economy and “lack of reliable partners or cultural influence outside of the former USSR.” The Report also does a good job at defining Russia’s “relatively limited” aims in terms of playing the dominant role in its traditional sphere of influence (former USSR) and keeping its current leadership intact.

Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that a substantial part of the Report is dedicated to recycling the mainstream media’s standard anti-Russian propaganda schemata and regurgitating the already-voiced UK government positions on Russia’s alleged complicity in Litvinenko’s assassination, Salisbury incident, 2016 US elections outcome, failed Montenegro coup, Brexit and even the Scottish referendum. However, the Report does also introduce some new information, such as GCHQ reports of GRU actors “orchestrating phishing attempts” against a number of Government departments and “indiscriminate and reckless cyber-attacks targeting public institutions, businesses, media and sport,” as well as apparent “links between serious and organised crime groups and Russian state activity,” which certainly are points of concern that must be addressed by Her Majesty’s Government.

Unfortunately, the findings such as the aforementioned revelations are rather scarce, as much of the new information provided to the Committee by GCHQ and other Agencies has been redacted. For instance, when assessing the potential connection between “bots and trolls” and the alleged Russian interference in the EU referendum the Committee had apparently contacted MI5, requesting evidence, and the Agency’s response, as documented in the Report, was as follows: “MI5 initially provided just six lines of text. It stated that ***, before referring to academic studies.” In the same fashion, the section discussing instrumentalisation of GCHQ and SIS for open source research ends with “However, we have found *** which suggests that ***. ***.” While such heavy redaction may well be necessary for security reasons, they nevertheless obfuscate the essence of the Report and reduce its potential utility as a credible source.

Apart from the section on cyber security there are also sections on “Disinformation and Influence campaigns,” which reinforces the idea that any narrative contrary to that of the Western media is “disinformation” (e.g. RT and Sputnik), and on “Russian expatriates,” which gives relatively accurate description of the “Londongrad” phenomenon whereby the UK’s lax financial regulations of the previous decades have resulted in Britain becoming a “laundromat” for illicit finances of various Russian businessmen who have come to be “well integrated into the UK business and social scene” by co-opting a variety of people — from PR specialists and lawyers to members of the House of Lords — into their schemes.

However, what is of greater interest are a number of initiatives that seem to be explicitly and implicitly promoted in this document, as they may well be implemented in due course. First of all, one can observe a series of statements about the GCHQ, SIS, MI5, MI6 and NCA being under-resourced, both financially and personnel-wise, especially in regard to their Russia desks. Also, a notion of the Agencies seemingly avoiding taking the lead and feeling somewhat secondary in terms of the responsibility for “the active defence of the UK’s democratic processes” seems to be implied several times throughout the Report. These recurring themes suggest that one of the Report’s key goals is to secure more funding for the Agencies, so that they are able to launch new recruitment campaigns and expand their Russia-related operations, and to potentially give the Agencies more powers. Another recurring theme is the cumbersome bureaucracy, which seems to impede Britain’s capacity for rapid response, and the need for “greater cohesion,” which suggests that another aim of the Report may well be to initiate a process of de-bureaucratisation (in respect of the Intelligence sector) and maybe even centralisation of power to some degree.

The Report is also apparently promoting tighter control in regards to social media companies (requirement for social media companies to co-operate with MI5) and firmer grip on the UK business community and even the Lords (e.g. potential introduction of an equivalent of US Foreign Agents Registration Act is mentioned rather unequivocally), not to mention highlighting the issue of Russian media outlets in the UK (RT in particular). We may therefore expect to see a McCarthyist-style witch hunt that would target anyone with “Russian connections,” potential “Kremlin agents” — from the usual suspects such as RT and wealthy Russians to British politicians, lawyers and businesspersons of all sorts. Most important of all, the Report seems to advocate for a more aggressive/offensive strategy towards Russia — from development of stronger Cyber Offensive capabilities and curbing of the Russian influence in the former USSR to pressuring countries with moderate and friendly stances towards Russia to review their foreign policy programs (e.g. France is mentioned several times throughout the Report and is portrayed as a victim of Russia unwilling to confront its alleged aggressor) and “leading international action” against Russia’s influence elsewhere in the world alongside the US, with the post-Salisbury purge of Russian diplomats portrayed as somewhat of a benchmark and a diplomatic success.

Finally, as far as dialogue is concerned, there is an acknowledgement of the need for “limited channels of communication with the Russian government,” “direct conversations” as means of reducing “the risk of miscommunication and escalation of hostilities” and utilising “opportunities to de-conflict military activities in areas where both the UK and Russia have active military presences.” However, the Report rules out “any public move towards a more allied relationship with Russia at present.” Furthermore, with Whitehall’s long-term strategy to develop “a Russia that chooses to co-operate, rather than challenge or confront” being mentioned more than once makes one wonder if a gradual regime change strategy is not completely off the table.

All in all, the Russia Report has not revealed anything new in terms of the official UK stance on Russia and has rather reinforced the previously voiced positions of HMG. However, it has revealed a number of initiatives, which, if implemented, may not only decrease any influence Moscow may currently have within the UK, but may well mean a new hybrid offensive against Russia, which is highly likely to lead to overstraining of resources on both sides and further deterioration of Russo-British relations.

From our partner RIAC

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Russia’s Troubles with Its “String of Pearls”

Emil Avdaliani

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An important part of Russia’s grand strategy in terms of foreign policy is its purposeful creation and management of conflict zones across the post-Soviet space. This has to do with the battle Russia is fighting with the West over the borderlands—i.e., the regions that adjoin Russia from the west and south.

Maintaining the 11 buffer states around Russia (excluding the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) is a cornerstone of the Kremlin’s foreign policy against Western military and economic encroachment. The Russians knew that because of their country’s low economic attractiveness, the South Caucasus states would inevitably turn to Europe. The same was likely to occur with Moldova and Ukraine on Russia’s western frontier, as their geographical proximity to and historical interconnections with Europe render them particularly susceptible to the West’s economic and military potential.

To prevent Western economic and military penetration, the Kremlin has deliberately fomented various separatist conflicts. This policy has been successful so far, as the EU and NATO have refrained from extending membership to Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.

However, Russia now faces a different problem: its long-term vision for the separatist regions is becoming increasingly unrealistic. While in the first years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia had to manage breakaway conflicts only in small and poor Georgia and Moldova, Moscow’s responsibilities had increased significantly by the late 2010s.

Following the Ukraine crisis, Donetsk and Luhansk became part of Russia’s “separatist empire.” One could also add Syria to the list. The latter’s inclusion might be surprising, but considering the level of Russian influence there and the stripping away of many of Damascus’s international contacts, the war-torn country is essentially now fully dependent on Russia.

With Syria and Donbas on the roster, the Kremlin now has to manage a range of territories that rely almost entirely, in both the military and the economic senses, on Russia—but that are also geographically dispersed, economically disadvantageous, and geopolitically vulnerable. Even the conflict around Nagorno Karabakh, in which Russia is not militarily involved, is under the geopolitical influence of the Kremlin.

This means that at a time when economic problems resulting from the pandemic, Western sanctions, and the lack of reforms are looming large on the Russian home front, Moscow has to pour yet more money into multiple separatist actors spread across the former Soviet space, as well as Syria. Moscow’s broader strategy of managing separatist conflicts is therefore under increasing stress.

It is more and more difficult for the Kremlin to maneuver across so many diverse conflicts simultaneously. At times, participants have tried to play their own game independently from Moscow. Kyiv and Chisinau, for example, have considered constraining the breakaway territory of Transnistria, and Moscow—which has no direct land or air route (Kyiv would likely block the latter)—can do little about it. In Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russian forces stand by and watch as NATO exercises take place on Georgian soil—an indication that despite Russia’s military presence, the West is continuing to expand its military support for Georgia.

Geopolitical trends indicate that Russia’s long-term “separatist” strategy to stop Western expansion in the former Soviet space is losing its effectiveness. While it is true that Moscow stopped its neighbors from joining the EU and NATO, its gamble that those breakaway regions would undermine the pro-Western resolve of Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine has largely failed. Although Russia remains militarily predominant, Western expansion via the powerful weapon of economic influence is proving to be more efficient.

Nor can the Russian leadership solve the problem of its failure to entice states around the world to recognize the independence of breakaway states. For instance, in the case of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, only Syria, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nauru have extended them recognition—not a prominent set of states from a geopolitical point of view. This trend is not likely to change anytime soon. Moscow simply does not have sufficient resources—and in any case, US laws withholding financial aid from states that recognize the independence of separatist territories throughout the former Soviet space remain a major disincentive.

Nor does Russia have any long-term economic vision for the breakaway states. Dire economic straits have inevitably caused populations to flee toward abundant medical, trade, and educational possibilities. Usually these are territories from which the separatists initially tried to break away. The Kremlin has failed to transform those entities into secure and economically stable lands. Crime levels have been on an upward trajectory, too, as high-level corruption and active black markets have undermined the effectiveness of Moscow’s spending.

Over the past several years, there have been hints in the media about rising discontent within the Russian political elite on how the breakaway territories (plus Syria) are being run. Questions have been raised about how Russian money is being spent and about the increasingly predatory nature of the separatist (plus Syrian) political elites, which are focused on extracting as much economic benefit as they can from Moscow.

This situation is similar to the state of affairs in the late 1980s, just prior to the Soviet collapse. At that time, members of the Soviet elite started to realize that Moscow had become little more than a supplier to Soviet republics that had grown more and more predatory as corruption skyrocketed and production levels sank. The result was the Soviet dissolution.

The Soviet level of endowment to the republics was far higher than it is now, but a similar pattern is emerging. Moscow has to cope with domestic economic troubles, “disobedience” from separatist leaders, and problematic relations with the West. These challenges make it increasingly difficult for Moscow to pull the strings in multiple separatist regions at once. Even in Syria, the Kremlin’s spending is occasionally questioned by Russian analysts and politicians. The Russian elite has grown less willing to provide direct economic benefit to the separatists, as the return is too marginal to warrant the expense.

Author’s note: First published in BESA Center

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Russia marks 15 years of its membership in OIC

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On June 30, 2020, the Russian Federation marked the 15th anniversary of its joining the Organization of the Islamic Conference (presently the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), as an observer.

Russian and foreign politicians, as well as the leadership of the OIC, took part in a videoconference organized on the occasion by the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

The participants discussed a range of important issues, including the development of political dialogue and across-the-board cooperation between Russia and the countries of the Islamic world. They also underscored the significance of Russia’s joining the OIC in 2005 as an observer.

However, the extensive preparatory work, carried out over several years ensuring the success of the Russian bid to join the organization as an observer has been largely ignored.

One aspect of that preparatory work was the need to ease tensions and explain the real meaning of the events in the North Caucasus, where the Russian Federation had to deal with a large-scale conspiracy by international terrorist organizations and a maze of anti-Russian forces supporting those organizations.

The February 2004 visit to Saudi Arabia by the first president of the Chechen Republic, Akhmat Kadyrov, who led a delegation of public and religious figures representing Russia’s North Caucasus republics, was a significant part of that preparatory work. 

The prospect of such a visit was discussed by President Vladimir Putin and the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Abdullah on September 3, 2003.

However, the whole idea faced serious hurdles due, among other things, to the presence in Saudi Arabia of opponents of our rapprochement, who were influenced by anti-Russian forces and criticized Moscow’s policies in the North Caucasus.

The Saudi Foreign Minister, Faisal Al-Saud, told me, as Russia’s Ambassador to the Kingdom, that “the fate of the visit is in the hands of Crown Prince  Abdullah,” who was then the de facto leader of the country (King Fahd was seriously ill and was virtually incapacitated).

After a tense, over two-hour-long discussion of the issue with the Crown Prince, he gave the visit the go-ahead, adding that all members of the delegation and accompanying persons would, without exception, be treated as “personal guests of the King of Saudi Arabia” and placed in the official government residence.

Upon his arrival in Saudi Arabia, Akhmat Kadyrov met with top members of the Saudi government, including the foreign minister and ministers of the economic bloc, the leadership of the OIC, the President of the Islamic Development Bank, Ahmed Mohamed Ali, and local public and religious leaders.

Akhmat Kadyrov’s excellent knowledge of the Arabic language and the intricacies of Islamic culture and his frankness eventually broke the ice of mistrust and contributed to the success of negotiations on Russia’s accession to the OIC.

Morocco’s ex-Foreign Minister Abdul Waheed Belkaziz, who served as the OIC Secretary General between 2000 and 2005, and Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Saud, who organized a meeting in Jeddah of representatives of OIC member countries to present weighty arguments in favor of the importance of Russia’s joining the alliance, played a major role in establishing a new climate of friendship between Russia and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. During the meeting we agreed to amend the IOC Charter so that it would allow Russia to join the organization as an observer.

Today, our cooperation is many-sided and productive. It is really imperative for us to bear in mind our previous experience of friendly interaction and to give credit to our partners, including the Saudis, who played such an important role in opening up new opportunities for cooperation between Russia and the Arab, Islamic world.

From our partner International Affairs

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