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The West Versus Russia: Towards The End Of A Pax Americana?

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap] peaceful dissolution of the USSR according to the agreement between Mikhail Gorbachow and Ronald Reagan in 1988 in Reykjavik brought a new dimension of a global geopolitics in which up to 2008 Russia, as a legal successor state of the USSR, was playing an inferior role in global politics when an American Neocon concept of Pax Americana became the fundamental framework in international relations.

Therefore, for instance, Boris Yeltsin’s Russia capitulated in 1995 to the American design regarding a final outcome of the USA/EU policy of the destruction of ex-Yugoslavia in November 1995 (the Dayton Agreement) followed by even worse political capitulation in the case of Washington’s Kosovo policy that became ultimately implemented in June 1999 (the Kumanovo Agreement). Russia became in the 1990s totally geopolitically humiliated by the USA and its West European clients to such extent that we can call a period of Boris Yeltsin’s servile policy toward the West as a Dark Time of the history of Russian international relations when the main losers became the Serbs who were and still are extremely demonized by the Western mass-media and academic institutions.

An ideological-political background of Boris Yeltsin’s foreign policy of Russia was the Atlanticism – an orientation in the foreign policy that stresses as the fundamental need to cooperate (at any price) with the West especially in the area of the politics and economy. In the other words, the integration with the West and its economic-political standards became for Boris Yeltsin’s Russia, governed by the Russian Liberals, an order of the day. This trend in Russia’s foreign policy in the 1990s had the roots in the 19th century geopolitical and cultural orientation of the Russian society by the so-called Russian „Westerners“ who became the opponents to the Russian „Slavophiles“ for whom the ultimate aim of the Russian foreign policy was to create a Pan-Slavonic Commonwealth with the leadership of Russia.

The actual outcome of the Russian Liberals „in the years following Yeltsin’s election were catastrophic as, for instance, Russia’s industrial production dropped by nearly 40%, over 80% of Russians experienced a reduction in their living standards, health care disintegrated, life expectancy fell along with the birth rate, and morale overall collapsed“.However, the political influence of the Russian Liberals became drastically weakened by Vladimir Putin’s taking power in Russia from 2000 onward and especially from 2004. A new global course of Russia’s foreign policy after 2004 became directed toward a creation of a multipolar world but not unipolar Pax Americana one as the American Neocons wanted. Therefore, the Caucasus, Ukraine and Syria became currently directly exposed to the Russian-American geopolitical struggle while Kosovo is up to now still left to the exclusive US sphere of interest. Nevertheless, it can be expected in the nearest future that post-Yeltsin’s Russia will take decisive geopolitical steps with regard to Kosovo as from the year of 2000 the Russian exterior policy is constantly becoming more and more imbued with the neo-Slavophile geopolitical orientation advocated by Aleksandar Solzhenitsyn (1918−2008) as a part of a more global Eurasian geopolitical course of the post-Yeltsin’s Russian Federation supported by many Russian Slavophile intellectuals like a philosopher Aleksandar Dugin.

Ivan L. Solonevich, probably, gave one of the best explanations of Russia’s geopolitical situation and peculiarity in comparison to those of the USA and the UK focusing his research on the comparative analysis of geography, climate and levels of individual freedoms between these countries:

“The American liberties, as well as American wealth are determined by American geography. Our [Russia’s] freedom and our wealth are determined by Russian geography. Thus, we’ll never have the same freedoms as the British and Americans have, because their security is guaranteed by the seas and oceans, but ours could only be guaranteed by military conscription“.

Semuel P. Huntington was a quite clear and correct in his opinion that the foundation of every civilization is based on religion. Huntington’s warnings about the future development of the global politics that can take a form of direct clash of different cultures (in fact, separate and antagonistic civilizations) is unfortunately already on the agenda of international relations. Here we came to the crux of the matter in regard to the Western relations with Russia from both historical and contemporary perspectives: the Western civilization, as based on the Western type of Christianity (the Roman Catholicism and all Protestant denominations) has traditional animosity and hostility toward all nations and states of the East Christian (Orthodox) confession. As Russia was and is the biggest and most powerful Christian Orthodox country, the Eurasian geopolitical conflicts between the West and Russia started from the time when the Roman Catholic common state of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania launched its confessional-civilizational imperialistic wars against the Grand Duchy of Moscow at the very end of the 14th century; i.e., when (in 1385) Poland and Lithuania became united as a personal union of two sovereign states. The present-day territories of Ukraine (which at that time did not exist under this name) and Belarus (White Russia) became the first victims of Vatican policy to proselytize the Eastern Slavs. Therefore, the biggest part of present-day Ukraine became occupied and annexed by Lithuania till 1569 and after the Lublin Union in 1569 by Poland. In the period from 1522 to 1569 there were 63% of the East Slavs on the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania out of her total population. From the Russian perspective, an aggressive Vatican policy of reconversion of the Christian Orthodox population and their denationalization could be prevented only by a military counter-attacks to liberate the occupied territories. However, when it happened from the mid-17th century till the end of the 18th century a huge number of the former Christian Orthodox population already became the Roman Catholics and the Uniates with lost original national identity.

A conversion to the Roman Catholicism and making the Union with Vatican on the territories occupied by the Polish-Lithuanian common state till the end of the 18th century divided the Russian national body into two parts: the Christian Orthodox, who remained to be the Russians and the pro-Western oriented converts who basically lost their initial ethnonational identity. This is especially true in Ukraine – a country with the biggest number of the Uniates in the world due to the Brest Union in 1596 with Vatican. The Uniate Church in (the West) Ukraine openly collaborated with the Nazi regime during the WWII and for that reason it was banned after the war till 1989. Nevertheless, it was exactly the Uniate Church in Ukraine to propagate an ideology that the „Ukrainians“ were not (Little) Russians but separate nation who are in no any ethnolinguistic and confessional connection with the Russians. Therefore, it was opened a way to successful Ukrainization of the Little Russians, Ruthenians and Carpatho-Russians during the Soviet rule. After the dissolution of the USSR, the Ukrainians became an instrument of the realization of the Western anti-Russian geopolitical interests in the East Europe.

The unscrupulous Jesuits became the fundamental West European anti-Russian and anti-Christian Orthodox hawks to propagate an idea that a Christian Orthodox Russia is not belonging to a real (Western) Europe. Due to such Vatican’s propaganda activity, the West gradually became antagonistic to Russia and her culture was seen as a disgusting and inferior, i.e. barbaric as a continuation of the Byzantine Christian Orthodox civilization. Unfortunately, such negative attitude toward Russia and the East Christianity is accepted by a contemporary US-led West for whom a Russophobia became an ideological foundation for its geopolitical projects and ambitions. Therefore, all real or potential Russia’s supporters became geopolitical enemies of a Pax Americana like the Serbs, Armenians, Greeks, Belorussians, etc.

A new moment in the West-Russia geopolitical struggles started when the Protestant Sweden became directly involved in the Western confessional-imperialistic wars against Russia in 1700 (the Great Northern War of 1700−1721) which Sweden lost after the Battle of Poltava in 1709 when Russia finally became a member of the concert of the Great European Powers. A century later, that was a Napoleonic France to take a role in the historical process of „Eurocivilizing“ of „schismatic“ Russia in 1812 that also finished by the West European fiasco, similar to a Pan-Germanic warmongers during both world wars. However, after 1945 up to the present, the „civilizational“ role of the Westernization of Russia is assumed by the NATO and the EU. The West immediately after the collapse of the USSR, by imposing its client satellite Boris Yeltsin as a President of Russia, achieved an enormous geopolitical achievement around Russia especially on the territories of ex-Soviet Union and the Balkans.

Nevertheless, the West started to experience a Russian geopolitical blowback from 2001 onward when the B. Yeltsin’s time pro-Western political clients became gradually removed from the decision-making positions in Russia’s governmental structures. What a new Russia’s political establishment correctly understood is that a Westernization policy of Russia is nothing else but just an ideological mask for economic-political transformation of the country into the colony of the Western imperialistic gangsters led by the US Neocon administration alongside with the task of the US/EU to externalize their own values and norms permanently. This „externalization policy“ is grounded on the thesis of The End of History by Francis Fukuyama „that the philosophy of economic and political liberalism has triumphed throughout the world, ending the contest between market democracies and centrally planned governance“.Therefore, after the formal ending of the Cold War in 1989, the fundamental Western global geopolitical project is The West and The Rest, according to which the rest of the world is obliged to accept all fundamental Western values and norms according to the Hegemonic Stability Theory of a unipolar system of the world security. Nevertheless, behind such doctrinal unilateralism as a project of the US hegemony in global governance in the new century clearly stands the unipolar hegemonic concept of a Pax Americana, but with Russia and China as the crucial opponents to it.

According to the Hegemonic Stability Theory, a global peace can occur only when one hegemonic centre of power (state) will acquire enough power to deter all other expansionist and imperialistic ambitions and intentions. The theory is based on a presumption that the concentration of (hyper) power will reduce the chances of a classical world war (but not and local confrontations) as it allows a single hyperpower to maintain peace and manage the system of international relations between the states. Examples of ex-Pax Romana and Pax-Britanica clearly offered support by the American hegemonic administrations for imperialistic idea that (the US-led) unipolarity will bring global peace and, henceforth, inspired the viewpoint that the world in a post-Cold War era under a Pax Americana will be stable and prosperous as long as the US global dominance prevails. Therefore, a hegemony, according to this viewpoint, is a necessary precondition for economic order and free trade in global dimension suggesting that the existence of a predominant hyper power state willing and able to use its economic and military power to promote global stability is both divine and rational orders of the day. As a tool to achieve this goal the hegemonic power has to use a coercive diplomacy based on the ultimatum demand that puts a time limit for the target to comply and a threat of punishment for resistance as, for example, it was a case in January 1999 during the „negotiations“ on Kosovo status between the US diplomacy and Yugoslavia’s Government in Rambouillet (France).

However, in contrast to both the Hegemonic Stability Theory and the Bipolar Stability Theory, a post-Yeltsin’s Russian political establishment advocates that a multipolar system of international relations is the least war prone in comparison with all other proposed systems. This Multipolar Stability Theory is based on a concept that a polarized global politics does not concentrate power, as it is supported by the unipolar system, and does not divide the globe into two antagonistic superpower blocs, as in a bipolar system, which promote a constant struggle for global dominance (for example, during the Cold War). The multipolarity theory perceives polarized international relations as a stable system because it encompass a larger number of autonomous and sovereign actors in global politics that is as well as giving rise to more number of political alliances. This theory is in essence presenting a peace-through model of pacifying international relations as it is fundamentally based on counter-balancing relations between the states on the global arena. At such a system, an aggression policy is quite harder to happen in reality as it is prevented by the multiple power centres.

A new policy of international relations adopted by Moscow after 2000 is based on a principle of a globe without hegemonic leadership – a policy which started to be implemented at the time when the global power of the US as a post-Cold War hegemonic power declines because it makes costly global commitments in excess of ability to fulfill them followed by the immense US trade deficit. The US share of global gross production is in the process of constant falling even since the end of the WWII. Another serious symptom of the US erosion in international politics is that the US share of global financial reserves drastically declined especially in comparison to the Russian and Chinese share. The US is today a largest world debtor and even the biggest debtor ever existed in history (19.5 $ trillion or 108 percent of the GDP) mainly, but not exclusively, due to huge military spending, alongside tax cuts that reduced the US federal revenue. The deficit in current account balance with the rest of the world (in 2004, for instance, it was $650 billion) the US administration is covering by borrowing from private investors (most from abroad) and foreign central banks (most important are of China and Japan). Therefore, such US financial dependence on the foreigners to provide the funds needed to pay the interest on the American public debt leaves the USA extremely vulnerable, but especially if China and/or Japan would decide to stop buying the US bonds or sell them. Subsequently, the world strongest military power is at the same time and the greatest global debtor with China and Japan being direct financial collaborators (or better to say – the quislings) of the US hegemonic leadership’s policy of a Pax Americana after 1989.

It is without any doubts that the US foreign policy after 1989 is still unrealistically following the French concept of raison d’état that indicates the Realist justification for policies pursued by state authority, but in the American eyes, first and foremost of these justifications or criteria is the US global hegemony as the best guarantee for the national security, followed by all other interests and associated goals. Therefore, the US foreign policy is based on a realpolitik concept that is a German term referring to the state foreign policy ordered or motivated by power politics: the strong do what they will and the weak do what they must. However, the US is becoming weaker and weaker and Russia and China are more and more becoming stronger and stronger.

Finally, it seams to be true that such a reality in contemporary global politics and international relations is properly understood and recognized by a newly elected US President Donald Trump. If he is going not to be just another Trojan Horse of the US Neocon concept of a Pax Americana, there are real chances to get rid of the US imperialism in the recent future and to establish international relations on more democratic foundation.

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It Is Crucial to Watch Changes among the Russian Elites

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Georgia’s and to a large extent any other post-Soviet state’s foreign policy depends on what happens in/to Russia.

Problems in the Russian economy might be causing reverberations in Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, etc., but it still is not a long-term problem. What should matter more fundamentally to us are internal developments within the Russian ruling class, changes in the government, struggle among powerful groupings, and relations between the civil and military branches.

In other words, we need to pay closer attention to the Russian elites which govern the country and therefore control the country’s foreign policy. This is important since Russia’s internal situation often has a bearing on foreign policy, and that is where it matters to us.

To be sure, watching developments in a country’s ruling elites is crucial for almost every modern state which is geopolitically active. But with Russia, this is even more important as the political power in the country does not derive from the people as in the European democracies, but rather from powerful security and military agencies which enable the central government in Moscow to control efficiently large swathes of territories, usually of unfriendly geographic conditions.

The way modern Russian elites operate is very similar to the way how Soviet and imperial (Romanov) governments worked. Quite surprisingly, in all the cases Russian elites have been always perceptible of changing economic or geopolitical situation inside or outside the country.

It is often believed that a ruler, again whether during the imperial or Soviet times, wielded ultimate power over the fate of the population and the governing elites. The same notion works for Vladimir Putin. Westerners often portray him as a sole ruler to all the affairs Russian and non-Russian and a major voice in what should be done. True, the incumbent president is powerful, but he gained this authority more as a balancer among several powerful groups of interests such as military, economic, security, cultural and numerous smaller factions inside each of these large groups.

To many, it might seem strange and hardly possible that the Russian president balances rather than rules, but generally a Russian ruler, despite the historically autocratic models of government, always had to pay attention to changing winds among the country’s elites. In the beginning, if all goes badly, the elites might be silent for the fear of oppression, but slowly and steadily they would always try to influence the government. If this did not work, the Russian elites would not hesitate to abandon the ‘sinking ship’.

Indeed, Russian history shows how powerful the Russian elites are and how vital their support for a government is.

Take the example of the Romanov dynasty before World War I. There was a big disenchantment with the way the government operated and once the Tsarist rule failed in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 and the WWI, the result was immediate: the elites turned their back on the Romanovs and the Empire ceased to exist in 1917.

Perhaps an even better example is how the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Though there were military problems, corruption as well as economic woes, it was still in the minds and hearts of the ruling Russian and Ukrainian, Georgian and other governing circles that the idea of a common state failed.

Nowadays, Russia is experiencing serious problems, ranging from economic and educational to purely geopolitical. There are occasional signs that the Russian elites are getting more worried about the future prospects of the country. Where before the Ukrainian crisis there was still hope of final European-Russian rapprochement and the idea that Russians had to model themselves on Europe, now this idea is dead.

Thus, along with social and foreign policy troubles, the Russians are also experiencing a purely spiritual problem. All point to the fact that there are too many issues which have accumulated during Putin’s rule, which, surely, will not be easy to change overnight, but there is a growing understanding that this chosen way is not getting Russia to a spectacularly good place in the world arena.

This brings us to the pivotal question of what Russia will be like after Putin. Is a change to the existing status quo possible? Many developments show that it is a plausible scenario. Considering how many problems have accumulated and considering how troublesome historically it has been for the Russian elites to act openly against the government, it is possible that once Putin is out, internal infighting among elite groups will take place. As a result, reverberations to foreign policy will follow. It is not about wishful thinking on the part of the western community, but rather the result of an analysis of Russian history and the Russian mentality. Almost always, changes at the top of the government, whether peaceful or otherwise, have an impact on the foreign and internal situation.

This is what should be meticulously studied by the Georgians.

Author’s note: first published in Georgia Today

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Experts Campaign to Enlist Russia’s Commitment to Africa

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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Roscongress Foundation and Integration Expertise LLC (Intex) have signed an agreement on cooperation between their organizations to work collaboratively on the “Russia-Africa Shared Vision 2030” in preparation for the forthcoming Russia-Africa Summit. The agreement directed towards collecting and collating expert views for the project “Russia-Africa Shared Vision 2030” that could be incorporated into the final Summit Declaration.

A group of Russian experts plan to present a comprehensive document titled “Russia-Africa: Shared Vision 2030” at the forthcoming Russia-Africa Summit scheduled on 23–24 October in Sochi, southern Russian city.

Sochi, located in southern Russia, has an excellent heritage. In both winter and summer, the city hosts world-class global international events, such as the Olympics, the World Festival of Youth and Students, and many others. Sochi has one of the largest congress complexes in the country.

The key issue emerging from many policy experts is a fresh call on Russian Government to seriously review and change some of its policy approach currently implemented in Africa. It’s necessary to actively use combined forms of activities, an opportunity to look at the problems and the perspectives of entire Russian-African partnership and cooperation in different fields from the viewpoints of both Russian and African politicians, business executives, academic researchers, diplomats and social activists.

The Russia-Africa Summit will be the first platform to bring African leaders and business executive directors to interact and discuss economic cooperation of mutual interest with Russian counterparts, nearly 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Even as the historical event draws nearer and nearer with preparations underway, Russian officials at the Kremlin and Ministries, particularly Ministries of Foreign Affairs, and Economic Development and Industry, are still lip-tight over what African leaders have to expect from the Summit.

On the other hand, competition is rife on the continent, with many foreign countries interested in Africa. Resultantly, African leaders have been making rational and comparative choices that enormously support their long-term Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Roscongress Foundation along with the Integration Expertise information-analytical company said in a recent news brief that collaborative writing team of Russian and African experts have been working on a document that would outline the main areas for interaction between Russia and African countries.

An expert analysis, including macroeconomic reviews, and an analysis of political systems and inter-country development strategies would be used to reach conclusions about opportunities for cooperation, make recommendations, and define specific goals for the development of Russian-African relations in the period until 2030.

Anton Kobyakov, an Adviser to the Russian President, noted that “Russia has traditionally prioritized developing relations with African countries. Trade and economic relations as well as investment projects with the countries of the African continent offer enormous potential. Major Russian businesses view Africa as a promising place for investment.” 

Andrei Kemarsky, Director of the Department of Africa of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the work on the series of expert reports united by the common theme “Russia-Africa Shared Vision 2030” would make a significant contribution to intensifying Russian-African cooperation and would further promote Russia’s interests on the African continent.

“This project seems to be particularly relevant given the fact that the Russia-Africa Summit is scheduled to be held in Russia with the participation of heads of all African countries,” Kemarsky said.

In December 2017, Russian Export Center became a shareholder of Afreximbank. Russian Export Center is a specialized state development institution, created to provide any assistance, both financial and non-financial, for Russian exporters looking for widening their business abroad.

 “We are seriously looking at multifaceted interaction with Africa. Russia has a long historical connection with the continent since the time African states started gaining their independence. However, that has lost its momentum in early 90s. It is our major goal now to rebuild the trust and the connections with the African countries to make the strong foundation for further business cooperation,” the General Director of the REC, Andrei Slepnev, told me in an emailed interview.

“We’re witnessing a clear growing interest from the both sides to establish the new level of relationships which means it is a perfect timing to boost the economic agenda we have, create a platform to vocalize these ideas and draw a strong roadmap for the future,” stressed Slepnev.

“Given the growing interest in Africa, Russian organizations, both private and public, need a high-quality guide that will help to avoid at least some of the mistakes that have already been made and provide pointers on some of the most promising mechanisms for collaboration,” Roscongress Foundation CEO, Alexander Stuglev, said.

Alexandra Arkhangelskaya, a Senior Lecturer at the Moscow High School of Economics said that Russia and Africa needed each other – “Russia is a vast market not only for African minerals, but for various other goods and products produced by African countries.”

Currently, the signs for Russian-African relations are impressive – declarations of intentions have been made, already many important bilateral agreements signed – now it remains to be seen, first of all, how these intentions and agreements would be implemented in practice with African countries, according to Arkhangelskaya.

During the signing of an agreement between the Integration Expertise and Roscongress Foundation, Yevgeny Korendyasov, a Senior Researcher at the Institute of African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that intensifying Russian-African cooperation was now among the list of current priorities of the Russian government and the business community.

“Preparations for the Russia-Africa Summit as a new platform for the Russian-African partnership are in full swing. In this situation, ensuring that relations between countries reach a new level requires a rethinking of approaches, mechanisms, and instruments for cooperation based on their heightened significance in the new conditions of world politics and economics,” according to Yevgeny Korendyasov.

Andrei Maslov, an Expert at the Valdai Discussion Club, noted that Russia’s partnership with the African continent was also a major focus at the Valdai International Club’s  discussion platform, which hosted an expert session titled “Russia’s Return to Africa: Interests, Challenges, and Prospects” held in March 2019.

On March 19, under the Chairmanship of Yury Ushakov, an Aide to the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Organizing Committee on Russia-Africa held its first meeting in Moscow. The Russia–Africa summit is expected to be attended by roughly 3,000 African businessmen, according to the official meeting report.

As a way to realize the target goals, a preliminary Russia-Africa Business Dialogue as part of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) will take place on June 6–8, and will be followed by the annual shareholders meeting of African Export-Import Bank. Russian Export Center became a shareholder in December 2017.

The Roscongress Foundation, established in 2007, is a socially oriented non-financial development institution and a major organizer of international business conventions, together with Russian Export Center are the key institutions responsible for preparation and holding of the all events. President Vladimir Putin put forward the Russia—Africa initiative at the BRICS summit (Russia, Brazil, India, China, and South Africa) in Johannesburg in July 2018.

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Russia and North Korea: Key areas for cooperation

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The April 25 meeting in Vladivostok between President Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un was their first since the North Korean leader came to power in 2011. Arriving on his armored train, Kim Jong-un said that he had always dreamed of visiting Russia and hoped that his first visit would not be the last.

“We talked about the history of our bilateral relations, about the current situation and the development of relations between our two countries,” Vladimir Putin said wrapping up the opening phase of the negotiations, which lasted for two hours – twice longer than originally planned.

Kim Jong-un said that the two leaders “had a very meaningful and constructive exchange of views tete-a-tete on all pressing issues of mutual interest.”

“I am grateful for the wonderful time I have spent here, and I hope that our negotiations will similarly continue in a useful and constructive way,” he added.    

The talks later continued in an expanded format and ran for three and a half hours.

“We had a detailed discussion of all issues on our agenda: bilateral relations, matters related to sanctions, the United Nations, our relations with the United States and, of course, the central issue of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, focusing on different aspects of all these problems,” Vladimir Putin said during the final press conference.

The main outcome of the talks, however, was the two leaders’ repeated emphasis on the need to restart the six-party talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, as well as Russia’s readiness to act as a de-facto mediator between Pyongyang and Washington. Representatives of Russia, North and South Koreas, China, Japan and the United States regularly met between 2003 and 2008 (under Kim Jong-il), but those meetings were eventually suspended by Pyongyang following Washington’s refusal to ease the sanctions regime and its attempts to revise existing accords.

Ahead of the Vladivostok summit, the US Special Envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, made a brief visit to Moscow to discuss the terms of the new Korean settlement parley. The US State Department described the diplomat’s visit as a desire to “discuss respective bilateral engagements with North Korea and efforts to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.”

However, Mr. Biegun’s visit only underscored the lingering differences in the negotiating sides’ views on resolving the situation on the Korean Peninsula and regarding the mechanisms and mutual steps needed to make this happen. While North Korea, Russia and China are holding out for a phased lifting of sanctions on Pyongyang in exchange for North Korea gradually rolling back its nuclear missile program under international security guarantees, the United States insists on Pyongyang’s prior cessation of its entire nuclear missile development effort. According to Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un then asked him to convey his position and expectations to Washington.

“Chairman Kim Jong-un personally asked us to inform the American side about his position and the questions he has about what’s unfolding on the Korean Peninsula,” Vladimir Putin told reporters after the summit.  He promised to do this at upcoming international forums – including in China, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The North Korean leader had thus decided to get back to Pyongyang’s previous practice of “balancing” between the leading world powers in an effort to achieve maximum possible concessions. This balancing act is important for Pyongyang primarily with Washington and Moscow – especially after the failure of the US-North Korean summit held in Hanoi in February.

According to Andrei Kortunov, director of the Russian International Affairs Council, “Kim Jong-un’s trip to Vladivostok means that he is looking for outside support amid his stuttering talks with the United States.”.

“With the failure of the Hanoi summit, Kim Jong-un needs to confirm that he is generally committed to denuclearization, but within the framework of the Russian-Chinese phased plan. Donald Trump and his team reject this and demand a complete denuclearization of the DPRK as a condition for lifting the sanctions,” Go Myung-hyun of Seoul’s ASAN Institute of Policy Studies said.

“What Pyongyang now needs following the failure the Vietnam summit is at least a semblance of minimal diplomatic success,” Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, said.

The list of countries Kim Jong-un can now turn to for diplomatic support is very short. These are essentially Russia and China. However, his visit to Beijing is not in the best interest of China, which is currently locked in tense trade negotiations with the United States.

Therefore, Kim Jong-un apparently hopes that his talks with Russia will send a signal to Washington that since political pressure on Pyongyang is not working, the Americans should proceed to a phased lifting of sanctions against North Korea in exchange for Pyongyang partially coming across on its nuclear missile program.

“North Korea’s strategy always has been walking a tight-rope between the conflicts of the world powers and getting concessions that way,” the BBC commented.

With the successful Russian-North Korean summit, which reaffirmed the two countries’ shared desire to breathe new vigor into the Korean settlement process, the ball is now in the US court, and President Trump’s well-known predilection for quick fixes and spectacular moves inspires hope for his next, third, meeting with Kim Jong-un.

During his recent visit to Washington, South Korean President Moon Jae-in underscored the need for a new such meeting between Trump and Kim. When meeting with Donald Trump, President Moon stressed that his “important task” is to “maintain the momentum of dialogue” toward North Korea’s denuclearization while expressing “the positive outlook, regarding the third US-North Korea summit, to the international community that this will be held in the near future.” Donald Trump responded in his peremptory manner: “I enjoy the summits, I enjoy being with the chairman,” he said, adding that his previous meetings with the North Korean leader had been “really productive.”

Although there has been no word yet about when exactly this meeting could happen, Kim Jong-un has already made it clear that he is ready “to be patient and wait for the American president by the end of the year.”

Seoul, another target of Pyongyang’s political signals, factors in very importantly in the diplomatic activity currently swirling around North Korea. 

“Kim launched the inter-Korean phase of the “new way” immediately after the meeting in Hanoi. It involves ratcheting up pressure on South Korea to demonstrate greater independence from the US,” The Hill commented.

“Of course, while it is awkward for South Korea to say so openly, there is no gainsaying the fact that the failure to make really meaningful progress in implementing the detailed agreements negotiated during the inter-Korean summits in Panmunjom and Pyongyang is due to the constraints imposed by South Korea’s support for the US’ North Korea policy.”

“South Koreans truly may be the most effective mediators precisely because they are caught between the parties: the Americans with whom they share long-term, common interests; and the North Koreans with whom they share an existential, common national identity,” the publication concluded.

In addition to general political issues and the problem of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, economic projects in energy and infrastructure, including the construction of a gas pipeline and a railway line linking the two countries are an equally important aspect of cooperation between Russia and North Korea.

All these things, however, depend very much on the overall situation on the Korean Peninsula and the prospects for the normalization of inter-Korean relations.

“I spoke about this. We have been talking about this matter for many years. This includes direct railway traffic between South Korea, North Korea and Russia, including our Trans-Siberian Mainline, opportunities for laying pipelines – we can talk about both oil and gas, as well as the possible construction of new power transmission lines. All of this is possible. Moreover, in my opinion, this also meets the interests of the Republic of Korea, I have always had this impression. But, apparently, there is a shortage of sovereignty during the adoption of final decisions, and the Republic of Korea has certain allied obligations to the United States. Therefore, everything stops at a certain moment. As I see it, if these and other similar projects were implemented, this would create essential conditions for increasing trust, which is vitally needed to resolve various problems,” President Vladimir Putin said about this particular aspect of the talks with his North Korean counterpart.

Any further progress in the Korean settlement process depends directly on the kind of relationship we are going to see happening within the framework of the “six” world powers. Anyway, the summit, which has just closed up shop in Vladivostok, gives reasons for optimism. 

 First published in our partner International Affairs

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