Connect with us

Europe

Democracy: The Missing Ingredient in the Bannon/Dugin’s Eurasianism

Published

on

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap] strange phenomenon is observable lately among experts on Russia-US relations. There is a trend to explain the various thorny intricacies of such a relationship merely via economic strategies and formulas.

The narrative usually begins with the end of World War II when the World Bank (otherwise known as the Marshall Plan) was set up to help in the reconstruction of Europe, something whose success is usually praised by the experts. The main genial idea was that of giving rather than lending money to the tune of 13 billion dollars, in order to restore the economy of 17 EU countries (in today’s currency value it would be the equivalent of 120 billion dollars) as long as those countries agreed to use the money to buy goods from the US.

Then the narrative seems to jump some 40 years or so to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the setting up of the Western economically prosperous camp under NATO’s and the EU’s influence, and the Eastern camp under the influence of Russia. So, having eliminated ideological beliefs and strife (i.e., Communism vs. Capitalism) the split is now a mere spheres of influence opposition. This, so the argument goes, could have been easily eliminated if Russia had been economically been integrated into the G7 and brought up to speed, but alas it did not happen and that explains the present geo-political turmoil; in other words if another Marshall Plan had been devised benefitting the whole Eastern region.

At first blush it seems to make sense, but it’s a bit too facile and naïve. There are truths here, but there are also half-truths and false assumptions. It assumes that indeed ideology and political principles have simply disappeared in the world; that a sort of “end of history” has occurred. The fact is that they have not, and that is discernible not by what there is but what is missing, namely Democracy, what was also missing during the Soviet era. Let’s dig a bit deeper into this analysis.

Indeed it is true that the Marshall Plan, within the World Bank, was set up specifically to help a devastated Western Europe and foment its economic development. In effect the Marshall Plan replaced the World Bank. It was decided that the reconstruction of Europe would be more efficient and cost-effective than mere loans. But the ultimate goal of this economic program was to buttress the capitalistic Western democratic block against the undemocratic Easter bloc sponsored by the USSR. This has to be kept firmly in mind when suggesting that a second Marshall plan should have been created after the fall of the Berlin wall or one risks comparing orange and apples.

It needs to be mentioned also that the US government has learned from the mistakes made in the 1920s and 1930s. At the end of the first World War, the Treaty of Versailles, imposed on Germany the payment of huge compensations for war debt and reparation. Germany soon found it difficult to pay and this led to social discontent. The Wall Street crash that occurred in 1929 brought on a global economic crisis. The US drastically reduced capital outflow. Germany stopped paying its debt to France, Belgium and Britain, and these countries in turn stopped paying their debts to the United States. The more industrialized world sank into recession and massive unemployment, and international trade plummeted. To prepare for a different outcome after WWII, Washington decided on policies that would be completely different from those implemented after WWI and until the early 1930s. It set up the Bretton Woods institutions and the United Nations. This was the international institutions approach.

The US government’s major concern at the end of the Second World War was to maintain the full employment that it had achieved thanks to the tremendous war effort. It also wanted to guarantee that there would be a trade surplus in relations between the US and the rest of the world. |2| But the major industrialized countries that could import US commodities were literally penniless. For European countries to be able to buy US goods they had to be provided with lots of dollars. But how? Through grants or through loans? To put it simply, the US reasoned as follows: if we lend to our European allies the money they need to rebuild their economy, how are they going to pay us back? They will no longer have the dollars we lent them since they used them to buy from us. In all, there were three possibilities: first possibility, Europe pays back in kind. If this happens European goods will compete with ours on our home market, full employment will be jeopardized and profits will fall. This is not a good solution.

Second possibility, Europe pays back with dollars. They cannot use the dollars they received on loan to pay us back since they have used them to buy our goods. Consequently, if they are to pay us back, we have to lend them the same amount again, plus interest . The risk of being caught in an infernal cycle of indebtedness (which puts a stop to or slows down the smooth running of business) is added to the risk attached to the first possibility. To reduce their debts towards us the Europeans they will try to sell their goods on our home market. They will thus get some of the dollars they need to pay us back, but this will not be enough to rid them of their debts and it will endanger employment in the US.

We are left with the third possibility: we give Europe the money with which to recover. Rather than lend to Europeans (through the World Bank or otherwise) it seems appropriate to give them the dollars they need to build up their economy within a fairly short time. Europeans will use these dollars to buy goods and services from the US. This will guarantee an outlet for US exports which will help to maintain full employment. Once economic reconstruction is achieved Europeans will not be riddled with debts and will be able to pay for what they buy from the US. The US authorities thus concluded that it would be better to proceed by grants, and therefore launched the Marshall Plan.

To those grants in the framework of the Marshall Plan we must add the partial cancellation of France’s debt to the US in 1946 (2 bn USD were written off). Similarly Belgium benefited from a reduction of its debt to the US as compensation for the uranium provided to make the first two atomic bombs which were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki causing the first nuclear holocaust. The uranium had been extracted from the mine of Shinkolobwé (near Likasi, then Jadotville) located in the province of Katanga in the Belgian Congo. In the first instance: Belgium was granted debt cancellation thanks to the natural resources from its colony, which it lavishly exploited. Then: some fifteen years later, Belgium transferred, to the newly independent Congo, the debts it had incurred in order to exploit those natural resources as well as its population.

From the end of the second World War until today major powers have refused to implement a Marshall plan for developing countries (with two exceptions, South Korea and Taiwan). Loans with interest have been the main instrument used to allegedly finance the Third World’s development. Such refusal shows that creditors do not really want these countries to develop and be rid of their debts. Creditors consider that it is in their better interest to maintain developing countries in a permanent state of indebtedness so as to draw maximum revenues in the form of debt reimbursement, but also to enforce policies that serve their interests and to make sure that they remain loyal partners within the international institutions.

What the United States had done through the Marshall Plan for industrialized countries that had been ravaged by war they exceptionally repeated towards South Korea and Taiwan, two allied developing countries at strategic locations on the outskirts of the Soviet Union and China. As from the 1950s these two countries received significant aid, that largely contributed to their economic success.

Economists and geo-political area experts are now asking the crucial question: why was not a new Marshall Plan devised for the impoverished Eastern countries (former satellites of the Soviet Empire) after the fall of the Berlin Wall? It would have indeed made eminent sense if we stay with economic considerations. But there is another important consideration and it is the consideration of Democracy and a new ideology called Eurasianism to which we turn next.

What is Eurasianism? It is a kind of prophetic vision envisioning Russia’s destiny as that of leading all Slavic and Turkic people in a grand empire to resist corrupt Western values. Its main proponent is Alexander Dugin. His philosophy glorifies the Russian Empire—while on the Western side of the equation Bannon and the conservative website that he founded, Breitbart News, has revived the slogan of “America first.”

What Bannon and Dugin have in common is the idea that global elites have conspired against ordinary people—and the old order must be overthrown. In the West this is called populism. As Dugin declared to Newsweek: “We have arrived at a moment where the world is discovering a new model of ideologies. The election of Trump shows that clearly.”

Eurasianism seems like a mutual admiration society: Bannon admires Dugin for placing traditional values at the heart of the nationalistic revival and he has said as much at a Vatican Conference he attended in 2014. Dugin admires Bannon for rejecting Western liberalism.

One may ask: which are their common enemies? They are secularism, multiculturalism, egalitarianism and what both Dugin and Bannon dub the “globalized and internationalist capitalist liberal elite.” Which is to say the global ideological struggles will be reduced to an ultimate struggle between culturally homogenous—mostly white-homogenous groups founded on Judeo-Christian values and practicing a humane sort of capitalism, and the international crony-capitalist network of bankers and businessmen.

Both Bannon and Dugin wish to revive the nation-state. Hence their support for anti-European Union candidates from England and France to Hungary and Greece. They both are firmly against pan-European Union. In the US they have invented the Deep State or what they see an over-centralized government but paradoxically they’d rather have a strong state with an authoritarian personality on top, one that in effect ignores the freedoms as set-up by the founding fathers to be controlled at the local level.

In order to appear democratic and not ethnic chauvinists both Dugin and Bannon have declared that they believe in multi-civilizations which have their own identity and destiny and follow their own course. They have both described themselves as revolutionaries; Bannon has described himself as a Leninist who wants to destroy the State (i.e., the Deep State), while Dugin is the founder of the National Bolshevik Party which has been fomenting armed uprising among Russian minorities in former Soviet Republics. In any case, those states are always white, non Asian which of course is redolent of the theory of the “super-race” of Hitler and Mussolini.

So it comes as no great surprise that Trump’s election was greeted with enthusiasm in Russia. Trump would give Russia the respect it has so far been denied. St. Petersburg Cossacks have given Trump the honorary title of “captain” in case he decides with Bannon, to “make Russia great again.”

But this love-fest has been rather short-lived. Bannon has not advised to lift sanctions on Russia (imposed after Crimea’s annexation in 2014), nor to lift a travel ban on Dugin (imposed when he acclaimed Putin for taking over Crimea and invading the Ukraine) as he had previously hinted at. After all there are allegations making the round of contacts between Trump advisers in the White House and Russian spies. Suddenly Trump has became “tough on Russia” as I have endeavored to explain in my daily column “The Caligula Presidency.” At this point the appearance of collusion needs to be avoided at any cost, not to encourage the FBI to dig deeper.

Lastly let’s see what the reaction to these economic explanation has been among the nations of the EU. What is missing in those expert analysis: the very concept of Democracy. Let’s begin with England that has already divorced the EU. Theresa May is treating Britain to a surprise election in June. Even politicians have been blind-sided.

Were one to ask “what do so many disparate nations of the EU have in common?” one could find plenty of cultural common strains, but in purely political terms, perhaps the most apt answer may be “democracy.” That is the concept that seems obvious but one hardly ever hears in the debates and discussions about the possible dissolution of the EU, even when referenda and elections are taking place.

There is much bickering over fish, farms, cheese, sausages, pork pies, but little is mentioned on what unites and what divides so 27 disparate countries that consider themselves a super-nation. One hears about differences over currency, the return of sovereign rights control of one’s borders.

But one hears little about Free Speech or the ability to argue every detail of an issue without fear of arrest or worse. Democracy in fact remains the only indispensable pre-requisite needed to join the EU but nobody seems to notice it.

What one hears is advocacy for exit from the EU. One such example is already in place. The election of April 23 may determine if France and others will follow. Authoritarianism is on the rise and the putrid smell of dictatorship is in the air, Recep Tayyip Erdogan took control of his country out of the hands of the people, in effect turning his back on the model of democracy enjoyed in Europe, meanwhile he continues arguing for access to the EU and its single market. That’s now unlikely to happen.

What’s happening in the Ukraine is just as bad. There Russian President Vladimir Putin takes Ukraine’s desire to tip toward democracy as an insult. He is quite good in his rhetoric describing an overreaching NATO encroaching on regions of historic Russian interest, but what the experts out to defend him forget is that the vast majority of Ukrainians despise his manipulations of the media and the economy.

Meanwhile at the EU’s borders the anti-democratic forces are converging. They smell blood in the water. Erdogan for one, not unlike Donald Trump, treats every EU negotiation as business deal of sorts. Take the refugee deal: it started off as 3 billion euros in aid which quickly became 6 billion euros.

Then there is Putin whose strategy seems to be divide and conquer: not so much by brute military or economic force where he knows he will be beaten, but by breaking up the EU’s unity and resolve to punish his land grabs and flagrant violations of international law. Neither men give a damn fro North Atlantic values, never mind that of democracy itself. Their appetite for power creates a powerful contrast with what the EU has in common: Democracy and the democratic process which allows the likes of Theresa May to hold snap elections and be assured that the outcome will be free and fair. The same cannot be said for Russia or Turkey.

On Sunday the 23rd nobody will be voting to end democracy, which in fact is not on the ballot, but that may not be sufficient to stop democracy from being placed on the backburner while good old xenophobic nationalism gets moved to the front. That, I dare say, is the challenge that the Russia experts have to deal with yet.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

Continue Reading
Comments

Europe

NATO’s Cypriot Trick

Published

on

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Warsaw Pact died, there was much speculation that NATO would consider itself redundant and either disappear or at least transmogrify into a less aggressive body.

Failing that, Moscow at least felt assured that NATO would not include Germany, let alone expand eastwards. Even the NATO Review, NATO’s PR organ, wrote self-apologetically twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin wall: “Thus, the debate about the enlargement of NATO evolved solely in the context of German reunification. In these negotiations Bonn and Washington managed to allay Soviet reservations about a reunited Germany remaining in NATO. This was achieved by generous financial aid, and by the ‘2+4 Treaty’ ruling out the stationing of foreign NATO forces on the territory of the former East Germany. However, it was also achieved through countless personal conversations in which Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders were assured that the West would not take advantage of the Soviet Union’s weakness and willingness to withdraw militarily from Central and Eastern Europe.”

Whatever the polemics about Russia’s claim that NATO broke its promises, the facts of what happened following the fall of the Berlin wall and the negotiations about German re-unification strongly demonstrate that Moscow felt cheated and that the NATO business and military machine, driven by a jingoistic Cold War Britain, a selfish U.S. military-industrial-congressional complex and an atavistic Russia-hating Poland, saw an opportunity to become a world policeman.

This helps to explain why, in contrast to Berlin, NATO decided to keep Nicosia as the world’s last divided city. For Cyprus is in fact NATO’s southernmost point, de facto. And to have resolved Cyprus’ problem by heeding UN resolutions and getting rid of all foreign forces and re-unifying the country would have meant that NATO would have ‘lost’ Cyprus: hardly helpful to the idea of making NATO the world policeman. Let us look a little more closely at the history behind this.

Following the Suez debacle in 1956, Britain had already moved its Middle East Headquarters from Aden to Cyprus, while the U.S. was taking over from the UK and France in the Middle East. Although, to some extent under U.S. pressure, Britain was forced to bring Makarios out of exile and begin negotiating with Greece and Turkey to give up its colony, the U.S. opted for a NATO solution. It would not do to have a truly sovereign Cyprus, but only one which accepted the existence of the Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) as part and parcel of any settlement; and so it has remained, whatever the sophistic semantics about a bizonal settlement and a double-headed government. The set of twisted and oft-contradictory treaties that have bedevilled the island since 1960 are still afflicting the part-occupied island which has been a de facto NATO base since 1949. Let us look at some more history.

When Cyprus obtained its qualified independence in 1960, Greece and Turkey had already signed, on 11 February 1959, a so called ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’, agreeing that they would support Cyprus’ entry into NATO.1 This was, however, mere posture diplomacy, since Britain—and the U.S. for that matter—did not trust Cyprus, given the strength of the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) and the latter’s links to Moscow. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) wrote: ‘Membership of NATO might make it easier for the Republic of Cyprus and possibly for the Greeks and Turks to cause political embarrassment should the United Kingdom wish to use the bases […] for national ends outside Cyprus […] The access of the Cypriot Government to NATO plans and documents would present a serious security risk, particularly in view of the strength of the Cypriot Communist Party. […] The Chiefs of Staff, therefore, feel most strongly that, from the military point of view, it would be a grave disadvantage to admit Cyprus to NATO.’2 In short, Cyprus was considered unreliable.

As is well known, the unworkable constitution (described as such by the Foreign Office and even by David Hannay, the Annan reunification plan’s PR man), resulted in chaos and civil strife: in January 1964, during the chaos caused by the Foreign Office’s help and encouragement to President Makarios to introduce a ‘thirteen point plan’ to solve Cyprus’ problems, British Prime Minister Douglas-Home told the Cabinet: ‘If the Turks invade or if we are seriously prevented from fulfilling our political role, we have made it quite clear that we will retire into base.’3 Put more simply, Britain had never had any intention of upholding the Treaty of Guarantee.

In July of the same year, the Foreign Office wrote: ‘The Americans have made it quite clear that there would be no question of using the 6th Fleet to prevent any possible Turkish invasion […] We have all along made it clear to the United Nations that we could not agree to UNFICYP’s being used for the purpose of repelling external intervention, and the standing orders to our troops outside UNFYCYP are to withdraw to the sovereign base areas immediately any such intervention takes place.’4

It was mainly thanks to Moscow and President Makarios that in 1964 a Turkish invasion and/or the island being divided between Greece and Turkey was prevented. Such a solution would have strengthened NATO, since Cyprus would no longer exist other than as a part of NATO members Greece and Turkey. Moscow had issued the following statement: ‘The Soviet Government hereby states that if there is an armed foreign invasion of Cypriot territory, the Soviet Union will help the Republic of Cyprus to defend its freedom and independence against foreign intervention.’5

Privately, Britain, realising the unworkability of the 1960 treaties, was embarrassed, and wished to relieve itself of the whole problem. The following gives us the backstage truth: ‘The bases and retained sites, and their usefulness to us, depend in large measure on Greek Cypriot co-operation and at least acquiescence. A ‘Guantanamo’6 position is out of the question. Their future therefore must depend on the extent to which we can retain Greek and/or Cypriot goodwill and counter USSR and UAR pressures. There seems little doubt, however, that in the long term, our sovereign rights in the SBA’s will be considered increasingly irksome by the Greek Cypriots and will be regarded as increasingly anachronistic by world public opinion.7

Following the Turkish invasion ten years later, Britain tried to give up its bases: ‘British strategic interests in Cyprus are now minimal. Cyprus has never figured in NATO strategy and our bases there have no direct NATO role. The strategic value of Cyprus to us has declined sharply since our virtual withdrawal from east of Suez. This will remain the case when the Suez Canal has reopened.8

A Cabinet paper concluded: ‘Our policy should continue to be one of complete withdrawal of our military presence on Cyprus as soon as feasible. […] In the circumstances I think that we should make the Americans aware of our growing difficulty in continuing to provide a military presence in Cyprus while sustaining our main contribution to NATO. […]9

Britain kept trying to give up the bases, but the enabler of the Turkish invasion, Henry Kissinger, did not allow Britain to give up its bases and listening posts, since that would have weakened NATO, and since Kissinger needed the bases because of the Arab-Israel dispute.10

Thus, by the end of 1980, in a private about-turn, Britain had completely succumbed to American pressure: ‘The benefits which we derive from the SBAs are of major significance and virtually irreplaceable. They are an essential contribution to the Anglo-American relationship. The Department have regularly considered with those concerned which circumstances in Cyprus are most conducive to our retaining unfettered use of our SBA facilities. On balance, the conclusion is that an early ‘solution’ might not help (since pressures against the SBAs might then build up), just as breakdown and return to strife would not, and that our interests are best served by continuing movement towards a solution – without the early prospect of arrival [author’s italics]11.

And so it is today: Cyprus is a de facto NATO territory. A truly independent, sovereign and united Cyprus is an anathema to the U.S. and Britain, since such a scenario would afford Russia the hypothetical opportunity to increase its influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.

From our partner RIAC

[1] Ministry of Defence paper JP (59) 163, I January 1960, BNA DEFE 13/99/MO/5/1/5, in Mallinson, William, Cyprus, a Modern History, I.B. Tauris (now Bloomsbury), London and New York, 2005, 2009, 2012, p.49.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Memorandum by Prime Minister, 2 January 1964, BNA CAB/129/116, in ibid, Mallinson, William, p.37.

[4] British Embassy, Washington, to Foreign Office, 7 July 1964, telegram 8541, BNA FO 371/174766, file C1205/2/G, in ibid.’, Mallinson, William, p. 37.

[5] Joseph, Joseph S., Cyprus, Ethnic Conflict and International Politics, St Martin’s Press, London and New York, 1997, p. 66.

[6] In 1964, Cuba cut off supplies to the American base at Guantanamo Bay, since the US refused to return it to Cuba, as a result of which the US took measures to make it self-sufficient.

[7] Briefing paper, 18 June 1964, BNA-DO/220/170, file MED 193/105/2, part A. Mallinson,William, Kissinger and the Invasion of Cyprus, p. 127.

[8] ‘British Interests in the Eastern Mediterranean’, draft paper, 11 April 1975, BNA-FCO 46/1248, file DPI/515/1.

[9] Cabinet paper, 29 September 1976, in op. cit. Mallinson, William, Kissinger and the Invasion of Cyprus, p.134.

[10] Mallinson, William, Britain and Cyprus: Key Themes and Documents, I.B. Tauris, London and New York, 2011, and Bloomsbury, London and New York, 2020, pp. 87-121.

[11] Fergusson to Foreign Minister’s Private Secretary, minute, 8 December 1980, BNA-FCO 9/2949, file WSC/023/1, part C.

Continue Reading

Europe

Belarus divorces from the Eastern Partnership: A new challenge for the EU Neighborhood Policy

Published

on

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is the Eastern dimension of the EU Neighborhood Policy adopted back in 2009 aimed at deepening relations between Brussels and six Eastern European partners – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The EaP has been regarded as a strategic initiative based on mutual interests and common values with a goal of strengthening political and economic relations with those countries, helping them enhance their institutional capacity through sustainable reforms. While increasing stability and paving the way for the sustainable development of those societies, the EU’s overall goal has been to secure its Eastern borders.

Since the very beginning the EaP has been suspiciously viewed by Russia as an attempt of expansion of the sphere of influence and as a first step of EU membership of these countries. Russians point to the EU and NATO ambitious expansion eastward as the main reason for complicated relations and in this context the EaP has been regarded with traditional fears and paranoic perceptions. The Russian hard power approach causes serious problems for the EaP which fails to mitigate security concerns of partner countries and to come up with serious initiatives for conflict settlement. Being a laggard in terms of soft power, the Russian ruling elite has continuously used all hard power foreign policy instruments at its disposal trying to undermine the coherence of the initiative. And the very recent démarche of Belarus to withdraw from the EaP should be seen in this context of confrontation.

On 28th of June, the ministry of foreign affairs of Belarus announced a decision to halt its membership in the EaP as a response to the EU sanctions imposed on Minsk accompanied by the recalling ambassadors from both sides. Actually, this isn’t the first case of the EaP walkout blackmailed by Lukashenko. The first escape was attempted in September-October 2011, but the difficulties were soon resolved and Lukashenko revised his decision. This time situation seems very complicated and these far-reaching tensions may have tough consequences for Lukashenko’s regime. This new group of sectoral sanctions which target banking, oil, telecommunication spheres and also ban the export of potash, is a harsh response from the EU against Lukashneko’s scandalous hijacking activity in May to detain a Belarusian opposition journalist and blogger Roman Protasevich.

Lukashenko’s administration not only challenges the EU Neighborhood Policy and shows no retreat, but also goes forward escalating the situation. Minsk takes high risks freezing the Readmission Agreement signed by the EU. This document is a legal basis for bilateral cooperation aimed at struggling against irregular migration flows. It’s not a secret that the territory of Belarus has been used for illegal migration for the groups from the Middle East to penetrate into neighboring EU member states such as Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Moreover, Belarus territory has served as a transit route for smuggling circles going from East to West and vice versa.  And now closing eyes on all these channels, Minsk hopes to increase the bargaining power vis-à-vis Brussels. However, given the Western reactions, it seems that this time the EU is resolute.

Despite the fact that Charles Michel, the President of the EU Council, described this withdrawal as “another step backwards” and even threatened that “this will escalate tensions having clear negative impacts”, the EU wants to continue working with the Belarusian society  as Josep Borrel stated. The EU’s determination to keep the bridges alive with the Belarusian people, in spite of Lukashneko’s radical stance, is aimed at preventing further isolationism of Minsk which would benefit only Russia.

In contrast to the increasing level of tensions with the EU, the Russian authorities continue to support Lukasheno’s administration, thus trying to deepen the gap and to bring Belarus under their total influence. Russia uses Belarus in its chessboard with the EU and the USA in Eastern Europe. Last year’s fraud elections and brutal crackdown by Lukashenko left him alone with the only source of power stemming from the Kremlin. Thus the withdrawal from the EaP should be understood not only as a convulsion of the Belarusian authorities in response to the sanctions, but also Russia’s employment of the Belarus card to respond to the recent joint statement of the EU-US summit in Brussels, when both parties declared their intention to stand with the people of Belarus, supporting their demands for human rights and democracy simultaneously criticising Lukashenko’s regime and his reckless political behavior and also criticising Russian’s unacceptable behavior.

So, Lukashenko’s step to quit the EaP can be seen as a well-calculated adulatory sign towards Moscow sacrificing the last remnants of sovereignty in order to receive financial and political lifebuoy amid the increasing crisis in the result of sanctions.  And the recent visit of N. Patrushev, the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, to Minsk right after the withdrawal decision shows Russian inclination to strike while the iron is hot and to abuse the vulnerable situation of Belarus. Patrushev stated that the ultimate goal of foreign powers is to change the power in Belarus and he suggested instead of focusing on internal issues, to bring their forces together against external threats as their influence affects internal developments. For this reason, deeper integration of security and military services of both countries are on the table.

The reaction of opposition leader S. Tikhanovskaya was very rough, stating that this suspension will cut the opportunities of ordinary citizens who benefit from the political and economic outcomes of the EaP. Moreover, she claims that Lukashenko doesn’t have a right to represent Belarus since August 2020 and his decisions don’t have legal consequences for Belarus. This kind of approach is shared by the leadership of Lithuania too, whose president and minister of foreign affairs not only refuse to recognize Lukashenko as a legitimate president, but also highlight the role of the Kremlin in supporting the dictatorial power of Lukashenko in exchange for decreasing sovereignty.

The blackmail of Lukashenko to challenge the EU Eastern Neighborhood Policy  in order to have the sanctions lifted may bring about such kind of precedents with other partnering countries as well. First of all, this concerns Azerbaijan which continues to face serious problems related with human rights, freedom of expression, the problem of Prisoners of War and other traits of authoritarian power. It’s well-known that  human rights issues have been the underwater stones in the EU and Azerbaijan relations and they continue to pose new challenges for Aliyev’s non-democratice regime. Another weak ring of the EaP chain is Armenia. Even though reelected N. Pashinyan is eager to pursue a balanced foreign policy, post-war Armenia still faces serious limitations given its vulnerable dependence on Russia. Besides, Pashinyan’s main rival and the former President R. Kocharyan, whose alliance will be the second largest faction in the newly elected Parliament has recently stated that this new parliament can last up to one and half years and nobody can exclude the possibility of new snap elections. His pro-Russian attitude and anti-Western stance are well-known and in case he becomes a prime-minister, there is no guarantee that he will follow the path of Lukashenko. 

Therefore  the statement of the Austrian MFA, that ”we cannot leave South Caucasus to others” during the  recent official visit of the Austrian, Romanian and Latvian MFA under the mandate of the EU High Representative to the South Caucasus, reminds  about the EU presence in the region and also the fact that the ‘normative power’ can be a source of balance and a status quo changer.

Continue Reading

Europe

Anti-Macron protests underline classism, as corona protesters and gilets jaune join forces

Published

on

photo: Alaattin Doğru - Anadolu Agency

I get it. People in France are fed up with the Covid lockdowns and that’s why they are protesting against the new tightening of the Covid rules. But there is much more to the story.

The new anti-Covid rules by French President Macron came in the middle of the Cannes Film Festival where the rich and famous come out to play for 10 days at the French Reviera. I was there, too, in fact when the new set of rules angered so many ordinary French people. But guess what — the rules didn’t apply to us, those gathered for the Cannes red carpets and parties. Celebrities did not have to wear masks on the red carpet. I did not have to put on a mask at the red carpets. I was not checked even once on the mandatory Covid tests which we took every 2 days anyways. No one at the Cannes red carpets, parties or fashion shows was looking at Covid tests at the entrance, and I attended not one or two things. That’s at the time when the rest of France was boiling. Yes, we were treated differently as the Cannes crowd. That was obvious.

Don’t get me wrong — spending tens of thousands of euros to drink champaigne, walk red carpets and hang out with actors, models, designers and influencers is great. But I couldn’t help but notice that the Cannes elite was being held to a very different standard in comparisson to the ordinary French public. Macron exempted the Cannes crowd from the new rules and that smells of classism and elitism. I can see why the gillets gaune, which I wrote about in my book Trump, European security and Turkey (2020), are angry and want to resume their protests which were put an end to with the Covid lockdowns.

In fact, as soon as you move one or two streets away from the craze and snobbery of the Cannes Festival, you see a very different French picture. Actually, the most pleasant conversations I had in Cannes were with the guy that made my pizza at 2am, a couple of gillets jaune on the street, and the taxi driver who lives in Cannes. These were the pleasant, hard-working French people that represent France so much better than the snotty Cannes Film Festival organizers, the French police or the so-overrated snobbery at the Chopard events. 

From the pizza guy in Mozarella Street I learned that he works two jobs and sleeps 3 hours per night. That’s the reality for many normal French people. Yet, he was the nicest and coolest person I met in Cannes. Somehow I wished that he could trade places with some of the rest I met in Cannes who probably don’t deserve to have an easy life and should be taught a lesson. So I get it. I get the struggle of the gillets gaune and all those that are opposed to Macron’s policies. He is increasingly playing with the far right and that might as well mean that he is looking at his sunset. 

I also get the classism that persists in French society — it’s important to be aware of it even if you’re on the receiving end of a lot of glamor, bemefits and good things. All I can tell you is that next time I am in France, I am joining the gillet jaune protests. Now I really get it. 

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending