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International Law

Triangularity of Nuclear Arms Control

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In December 2019, the United States officially invited China to enter intoa strategic security dialogue. The White House said it hoped Beijing’s consent to this proposal might become the first step towards an international agreement encompassing all nuclear weapons of the United States, Russia, and China.As expected, this proposal was rejected. China said its nuclear arsenal was much smaller than those of the United States and Russia, and it would be able to participate in such talks only when their nuclear potentials were brought to parity with its own.

In March 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump once again declared his intention to ask Russia and China to hold such talks with the aim of avoiding a costly arms race (Reuters.com, 2020).The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s response followed virtually in no time. Its spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that China had no intention of taking part in the so-called China-U.S.-Russia trilateral arms control negotiations, and that its position on this issue was very clear (ECNC.cn., 2020). He called upon the United States to extend the New START and to go ahead with the policy of U.S-Russian nuclear arms reduction, thus creating prerequisites for other countries to join the nuclear disarmament process. There is nothing new about China’s stance. A year earlier Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng  Shuang, while speaking at a news conference in May 2019, made a similar statement. China refused to participate in a trilateral arms control agreement (Fmprc.gov.2019).

It is noteworthy that while advising the United States and Russia to downgrade their nuclear potentials to its level, China does not say what exactly this level is. One of the rare official statements (if not the sole one) on that score was the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s statement, published on April 27, 2004,that China’s nuclear arsenal was the smallest of all (Fact Sheet China, 2004). Even in that case the Chinese Foreign Ministry did not specify if it was referring to the quintet of the UN Security Council’s permanent members. If so, China’s nuclear arsenal, according to official statistics, consisted of no more than 190 warheads (Britain’s level that year). Such(understated according to most analysts)estimates, have also been mentioned by a number of experts. For example, Harvard researcher Hui Zhang says China in 2011 had 166 nuclear warheads. There are other, higher estimates. For instance, Professor Phillip Karber of Georgetown University believes that China has 3,000 warheads at its disposal (Karber, 2011), while many other researchers call this in question.

The estimate offered by H. Kristensen and M. Korda of the Federation of American Scientists, who issue annual world surveys of nuclear arms potentials, is shared by most researchers and draws no objections from political circles in various countries, including the United States. According to their calculations as for April 2020,the United States had 3,800 deployed and non-deployed nuclear warheads, and Russia, 4,312 warheads. As for China, the same survey says it has 320 non-deployed nuclear warheads (Kristensen and Korda, 2020).

While underscoring the importance of nuclear arms cuts by the United States and Russia to China’s level, Beijing does not specify if this idea applies only to strategic or all nuclear weapons. In the former case, if China’s approach is to be accepted, Russia and the United States would have to slash their nuclear arsenals by 65%-75% (from 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads in compliance with the rules of the still effective New START). But if the total number of nuclear warheads on either side is to be counted, each country’s nuclear potential would shrink by no less than 90%. Only after this will China be prepared to consider in earnest its participation in nuclear arms control talks.

The United States and Russia can hardly find this suitable. At the same time, these countries have not yet officially formulated their specific approaches to and basic provisions of hypothetical trilateral talks and a future agreement on this issue. For the time being, these issues are in the focus of experts’ attention in a number of countries, and theyhave over the past few years offered a variety of possible formats and parameters of a future “multilateral” treaty. In most cases, experts delve into certain aspects of a future agreement that might be attractive to China. Very few think of what China might lose the moment it enters into nuclear arms control talks or what military-political consequences might follow if China eventually changed its mind regarding participation in such negotiations.

In my opinion, China’s demand for achieving the “comparability” of nuclear potentials as a precondition for beginning a trilateral dialogue stems precisely from its evaluation of the consequences of its participation in the negotiations. This stance is neither far-fetched nor propagandistic, contrary to what some experts and politicians claim, but rests upon major political, military and strategic cornerstones. Disregard for China’s arguments actually reduces to nothing all efforts, above all those taken by Washington, to engage Beijing in nuclear arms talks.

As far as the United States is concerned, the motives behind its attempts to persuade China to join nuclear arms talks are not quite clear. There may be several possible considerations that the United States is guided by in its policy on the issue. One is that Washington may be looking for a way to obtain necessary information about the current state of China’s nuclear potential and plans for its development in the future in order to be able to adjust its own modernization programs accordingly. Another explanation is that the United States may be reluctant to go ahead with the nuclear disarmament policy and hopes to use China’s unequivocal refusal to participate in negotiations as a chance to blame it for the disruption of this process and for dismantling the nuclear arms control system as such. I believe both explanations may be true, but their analysis lies beyond the scope of this article.

Options Of Engaging China In Nuclear Arms Control Talks

“Americans performed three very different policies on the People’s Republic: From a total negation (and the Mao-time mutual annihilation assurances), to Nixon’s sudden cohabitation. Finally, a Copernican-turn: the US spotted no real ideological differences between them and the post-Deng China. This signalled a ‘new opening’: West imagined China’s coastal areas as its own industrial suburbia. Soon after, both countries easily agreed on interdependence (in this marriage of convenience): Americans pleased their corporate (machine and tech) sector and unrestrained its greed, while Chinese in return offered a cheap labour, no environmental considerations and submissiveness in imitation.

However, for both countries this was far more than economy, it was a policy – Washington read it as interdependence for transformative containment and Beijing sow it as interdependence for a (global) penetration. In the meantime, Chinese acquired more sophisticated technology, and the American Big tech sophisticated itself in digital authoritarianism – ‘technological monoculture’ met the political one.

But now with a tidal wave of Covid-19, the honeymoon is over” – recently wrote professor Anis H. Bajrektarevic on a strategic decoupling between the biggest manufacturer of American goods, China and its consumer, the US.

Indeed, Washington has not formulated in detail its official stance on engaging China in negotiations yet. Disarmament experts consider a number of options that may be proposed in principle. These options may be grouped into three main categories. The first one is putting pressure on China with the aim of making it change its mind regarding arms control. The second one is the search for proposals China may find lucrative enough, which the Chinese leadership might agree to study in earnest. And the third one is a combination of these two approaches.

As far as pressure on China is concerned, the United States is already exerting it along several lines. For one, China is criticized for the condition and development prospects of its nuclear arsenal. Specifically, it is blamed on being the only nuclear power in the Permanent Big Five that has not reduced its nuclear potential. Moreover, as follows from a statement made in May 2019 byRobert Ashley, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, “over the next decade, China is likely to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile in the course of implementing the most rapid expansion and diversification of its nuclear arsenal in China’s history”(Adamczyk,2019). Both officials and many experts have been quoting this postulate asan established fact requiring no proof.

China is also accused of the lack of transparency, that is, refusal to disclose the size and structure of its nuclear forces, programs for their upgrade, and other nuclear policy aspects. The U.S. leadership argues that this state of affairs by no means promotes strategic stability and international security. Some experts believe that China’s involvement in negotiations would help avoid some adverse effects, for example, another nuclear arms race under a Cold War scenario (Zhao, 2020). Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security in the Barack Obama administration, believes it may be possible to “make a case for the Chinese to come to the table early on intermediate-range constraints of ground-launched missiles, because they are staring at the possibility of a deployment of very capable U.S. missiles of this kind” (Mehta, 2020).

Apparently, the United States had counted on Russia’s support in such matters, especially as the Russian leadership said more than once that the New START, signed in 2010,was to become the last bilateral nuclear arms reduction treaty and time was ripe for other nuclear states to join the nuclear disarmament process. However, in late 2019 Russia made a U-turn in its stance on China’s participation in negotiations. Speaking at a conference entitled “Foreign Policy Priorities of the Russian Federation in Arms Control and Nonproliferation in the Context of Changes in the Global Security Architecture,” held on November 8, 2019 in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia respected China’s position concerning its refusal to participate in the talks. Moreover, he stated that declaring China’s consent to participate in the negotiating process as a precondition looked “openly provocative.”Thus Russia made it clear that it had no intention of putting pressure on China regarding the issue, but at the same time it would have nothing against the Chinese leadership eventually making a decision to join the United States and Russia in nuclear disarmament talks. Russia is unlikely to alter its position even under pressure from the United States, which has long harbored plans for using the prolongation of the New START as a factor for getting China involved in the talks in some way, or even securing its consent to become a signatory to the treaty. Specifically, the U.S. president’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brian made an unequivocal statement on that score (Riechmann, 2020). Also, in May 2020, the United States came up with an ultimatum that it would not extend the New START until China agreed to participate in it. Moreover, the newly appointed special U.S. presidential representative for arms control, Marshall Billingslea, actually demanded that Russia “bring the Chinese to the negotiating table.”

The United States may exert (or is already exerting) pressure on China “indirectly, ”for example by using such levers as the U.S.-Chinese trade war and China’s alleged “responsibility” for the spread of the coronavirus (which the United States regards as proven). Such pressures may be largely exerted covertly.

Some military and political experts believe that it is worth exploring compromise options of China’s participation in nuclear arms control. Such optionsmay accommodate the interests of all partakers and match the specific structure and quantitative parameters of weapons subject to control. Establishing transparency in the given sphere would be one of the “simple” ways of involving China in the strategic dialogue. In other words, such transparency would imply mutual disclosure of information about the number of missiles and deployed warheads, their basic parameters, including range, and also specific locations and deployment sites (Tosaki, 2019). It must be noted that this seemingly “least painful” and easy-to-accomplish solution for making China join the international arms control dialogue is in fact least acceptable to it.

The long list of other proposals includes various options of a “mixed” approach to the control of missile systems. For instance, reaching an agreement on a common ceilingfor intermediate-range ground-based and air-launched missiles or a similar restriction on any strategic missiles regardless of the type of deployment (ground, sea, or air launched), as well as the intermediate-range missiles of three nuclear powers―China, the United States, and Russia. The proponents of this approach believe that this may provide an approximately equitable basis for talks among the aforesaid states (Zhao, 2020).

All of the aforementioned recommendations―and a number of other ideas―for plugging China into bilateral or multilateral nuclear arms control talks are based on the past experience of negotiations on the issue. In the meantime, the specifics of China’s nuclear policy are left unnoticed or intentionally ignored. It is generally believed that inviting China to participate in negotiations is tantamount to official recognition of its status as a great power responsible, like the United States and Russia, not only for its own security but also for global security. This recognition is often considered a reason enough to expect China to consent to participate in such negotiations and the main problem is seen in the formulation of concrete proposals for discussion. In the meantime, such an approach looks erroneous.

The Fundamental Principles Of China’s Nuclear Policy

China’s policy concerning nuclear arms and their role in maintaining national security has remained unchanged for more than 55 years, starting from its accession to the “nuclear club” in 1964. Central to that policy is China’s pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons or threaten to use them against non-nuclear countries and countries in nuclear free zones. It is believed that Mao Zedong made that decision personally in 1964 (Fravel, 2019).

In accordance with this pledge, China, as it reiterates, maintains its nuclear deterrence weapons at a required minimum by declaring its readiness for retaliation against an aggressor in the event of a hypothetical nuclear attack. China vows it does not participate in a nuclear arms race against any country. These provisions have remained unchanged for many years and can be found in many Chinese fundamental military and strategic planning documents, available from open sources (The State Council, 2019), and are repeatedly quoted by the Chinese mass media (Xinhuaneet.com., 2019).

In contrast to the classical nuclear deterrence formula China does not demonstrate its retaliatory strike capabilities; on the contrary, it conceals them for various reasons. Enhancing the survivability of retaliatory strike systems is one. Such “existential” means of deterrence enables the country possessing a relatively small nuclear potential to keep a potential aggressor in a state of strategic uncertainty as it cannot be certain that its first strike would “disarm” the defending opponent by eliminating all of its nuclear weapons with a surprise counterforce strike.

To confirm its adherence to the no-fist use principle, China declares that it limits its nuclear potential to the “minimum” defense requirements, while all upgrade programs are geared mostly to ensuring the survivability and reliability of retaliatory strike systems. China’s nuclear forces have become more survivable due to the creation and deployment of mobile ICBMs, and measures to shelter a considerable part of its nuclear potential, including mobile ICBMs and shorter-range missiles in a network of underground tunnels―the Underground Great Wall of China. Also, other means of hiding nuclear weapons are used, such as mock ICBM silos and shelters for nuclear submarines inside coastal rocks.

As the information about the condition, development prospects and size of China’s nuclear potential remains scarce, its nuclear policy issues are in the focus of attention of many specialists and think tanks in the United States and other countries. Most of them (but far from all) believe that China’s declared policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons and estimates of its nuclear potential (around 300 warheads) agree with reality (Pifer, 2019). But other researchers maintain that under certain circumstances China may revise its attitude to the no-first-use principle and abandon the minimum deterrence concept in favor of gaining opportunities for conducting limited nuclear war. Such conclusions are made on the basis of data showing the growth of qualitative parameters of China’s nuclear forces―greater accuracy of nuclear warheads, the deployment of MIRVs on ICBMs, forecasts for a considerable increase in the overall number of nuclear weapons at the country’s disposal, etc. (Giacomdetti, 2014; Yoshihara and Bianchi, 2019; Schneider, 2019).

It should be acknowledged that the lack of official information about the condition and development prospects of China’s nuclear arsenal and implementation of programs in the strategic field (creation of a heavy ICBM, research and development of a missile attack warning system, deployment of a missile defense, and others)afford ground for a variety of speculations over China’s compliance with the professed principles regarding nuclear weapons.In the meantime, this by no means contradicts the fundamental principle of China’s nuclear policy―no-first-use of nuclear weapons―which will remain unchanged in the foreseeable future. Even if one assumes that China does participate in the nuclear arms race (which is also a subject of speculations), it is by no means its instigator.

Certain changes are possible, though. China may acquire real capabilities for a limited response to a limited nuclear attack. In other words, the country’s military-political leadership, empowered to make a decision to use nuclear weapons, will acquire extra opportunities and options for retaliation other than a massive nuclear strike against the enemy’s major unprotected targets, such as cities and industrial centers. At the same time there is no reason to say that the improvement of parameters of China’s strategic nuclear forces increases the risk of a first counterforce strike against a would-be aggressor just because the nuclear potentials of China and the two leading nuclear powers are incomparable. In this case size does matter.

Effects Of Arms Control On China’s Nuclear Strategy And Policy

Should China agree to participate in negotiations or draft an agreement on control of its nuclear weapons, its nuclear strategy and policy will most likely undergo the most serious changes. And these changes, in the author’s opinion, may be far from positive. They will result not from possible restrictions imposed on China’s nuclear forces or disadvantageous terms of a future treaty forced upon China, but the very fact of concluding such an international treaty.

A close look at Soviet-U.S. and Russian-U.S. nuclear arms control agreements reveals how the parties’ approaches to solving the problems of national security and strengthening strategic stability have been changing. At early stages the two sides managed to come to terms regarding the overall number of ground-based launchers of strategic ballistic missiles, SLBM capable submarines and SLBM launchers. Later, the class of strategic weapons was expanded to incorporate heavy bombers armed with long-range cruise missiles and gravity nuclear bombs. Some types of nuclear weapons, for instance, strategic air-launched ballistic missiles were banned. Next, there followed restrictions on nuclear warheads deployed on delivery vehicles and then their reductions. A total ban was applied to ground-based intermediate- and shorter-range cruise missiles. An attempt was made to outlaw ICBMs with multiple warheads. Each clause of the concluded treaties was scrutinized by the expert community and drew worldwide interest.

In addition, efforts were made to develop a mechanism to verify compliance with the assumed commitments. The first Soviet-U.S. agreements SALT-1 (1972) and SALT-2 (1979) assigned the control function to “national technical means of verification”―intelligence satellites. The contracting parties pledged to refrain from creating impediments to their operation. Also, the signatories undertook “not to use deliberate concealment measures which impede verification by national technical means of compliance.” In the next agreements―the INF Treaty (of 1987) and, particularly, START-1 (1991)―a comprehensive system of control and verification was developed and adopted. It envisaged exchanges of data (including the geographical coordinates of each ICBM silo) and various notifications and on-site inspections, which made it totally impossible to conceal even the slightest violations of these agreements. This system of verification functions within the framework of the still effective Russian-U.S. New START, concluded in 2010.

It is hard to imagine a hypothetical agreement with China not including compliance verification procedures. And it is very unlikely that the system of verification in such an agreement will be“soft,” as was the case with the one established under the earlier SALT-1 and SALT-2 treaties. On the contrary, as follows from statements by U.S. officials, the United States is determined to pay the closest attention to the verification and control of compliance with all future agreements. U.S. Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Christopher Ford has made an explicit statement on this score.

Even if such an agreement does not impose any obligations on China, requiring reduction of its nuclear potential, Beijing will be expected to provide exhaustive information about its nuclear weapons and deployment sites. Also, China will have to give up measures to conceal its nuclear forces, change the locations of mobile missile systems and allow foreign inspectors to visit classified facilities (including the Underground Great Wall of China) in order to confirm that the provided information is correct and proper action has been taken under assumed commitments. Besides, China will have to notify other signatories of the commissioning of new nuclear weapons and withdrawal from operational duty or elimination of older systems, the redeployment of weapons, etc. All these measures will make it possible to keep under full control China’s nuclear potential and nuclear arms delivery vehicles.

These measures, understandable from the standpoint of an arms control treaty, may have truly disastrous effects on China’s entire official nuclear policy. Information disclosure and control measures would make China’s nuclear arsenal totally vulnerable to a first nuclear strike and partially – to a non-nuclear strike. A potential aggressor, possessing a considerable advantage in nuclear weapons and full information about the deployment sites, will have a guaranteed capability to destroy the adversary’s entire nuclear potential. Theoretically, it would spend far more nuclear weapons than the victim of the aggression (in this particular case, China) would lose, but still retain an enormous attack potential. In a situation like this, there will be no weapons available to deliver a retaliatory strike. All this will mean that China’s declared no-first-use policy will lose credibility. In other words, it will turn into a propaganda slogan, with no real resources to rely on to implement this policy in practice.

Apparently, it is precisely these considerations that are behind China’s refusal to participate in nuclear arms control talks, and they will remain in place at least until the strategic situation in this field undergoes fundamental change. One of the most important conditions for China to enter into such negotiations (it says so openly) is further reduction of nuclear arsenals by Russia and the United States to levels comparable with China’s potential. As it has been already stated, this condition, described as a political one, has fundamental strategic, military and technical grounds.

Likely Consequences Of China’s Participation In A Nuclear Arms Control Treaty

As has been said above, China’s consent to enter into nuclear arms control negotiations and conclusion of a corresponding agreement will be unlikely in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, it is worth pondering on what decisions in the military and political field the Chinese leadership may adopt if it has to give in to U.S. pressure. One of the most important decisions is, to my mind, the possibility of China remaining committed to the no-first-use principle.

Currently, this principle is ensured not so much by the quantitative parameters of China’s nuclear arsenal, but as its stealthy deployment, concealment measures, and refusal to provide relevant information. In order to retain a retaliatory strike potential in a situation where the information about the deployment sites of China’s nuclear forces has been disclosed while the amount of nuclear arms available remains considerably inferior to those of the “partner” or “partners,” China will have to exert major efforts to ensure the invulnerability of at least some of them. Doing this will be impossible without a major buildup of the nuclear potential, above all, of the least vulnerable strategic systems (mobile ICBMs and SLBMs). All of this will require considerable expenses and time. Even if the work on a new treaty takes two or three, or even five years, one can hardly expect any considerable changes in the quantitative and qualitative structure of China’s nuclear forces by the moment this work is finalized.

The problem of strategic nuclear forces’ vulnerability may theoretically be resolved (at least to a certain extent) by developing and deploying missile defenses around deployment sites. But this would entail heavy spending, too. Also, such a program can hardly be implemented within tight deadlines. The problem of greater vulnerability of China’s strategic nuclear forces can also be resolved by adopting the “launch-under-attack” concept or “launch on warning” concept. Their adoption might be considered, although with great reservations, to conform to the no-first-use principle, but in this case it will be essential to build a warning system based on early warning satellites and radars. However, still there will be no guarantees that such a system will be able to issue a timely notification to the military and political leadership of a missile attack against China, if such a strike is carried out with U.S.S LBM shaving short flight-in time and counterforce capability. Under such a scenario China’s strategic forces will have to remain on high alert all the time. This means that China will be forced to give up keeping missile warheads in store separately and to deploy them on strategic delivery vehicles, thus demonstrating its readiness for instant retaliation in case of an attack warning.

The above arguments prompt the conclusion that China, if it agrees to the drafting and signing a nuclear arms control treaty, will certainly have to depart from the principle of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, with all the ensuing negative consequences. This may also trigger an enhanced arms race and induce China to adopt more aggressive nuclear arms concepts.

It is nakedly clear that China finds it far easier to refuse to hold nuclear arms control talks than address the adverse military and strategic effects its participation in such an international agreement is bound to entail. In this situation the United States should give more thought to its policy of engaging China in nuclear arms control talks and focus on Russian-U.S. strategic relations, including the prolongation of the New START without any linkages and preconditions.

As far as Russia is concerned, its current policy of avoiding pressure on China to make it engage in nuclear arms talks looks reasonable. From the political standpoint―alongside with other considerations―a trilateral agreement would mean that Russia officially regards China, albeit formally, as a “partner” (if not a “potential adversary”), just as the United States, and that strategic relations among such parties are based on the concept of nuclear deterrence, the balance of nuclear forces, and their capabilities to deliver first and retaliatory strikes. Incidentally, China’s participation would have the same implications for Russia. Lending this dimension to bilateral relations hardly meets the interests of the two countries.

Chief Research Fellow at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (Moscow, Russia). In 1989-1991 was a member of Soviet negotiating team at START-1 negotiations (Defense and Space Talks).

International Law

The West Goes West: Greed, Speed and the Fear of Simplicity

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Introduction [1]

I began thinking about what I am now writing about two months ago, and I am now ready to bite the bullet, and to cut the Gordian Knot of dithering around reported facts and events, propaganda, visceral hatreds, atavism, greed and ambition. The final trigger for my getting this article off the block, and waiting no longer, was the—for me surrealistic—murder of a young Russian journalist, daughter of an academic acquaintance of mine, Alexandre Dugin, who chaired a couple of seminars at Moscow State Lomonosov University, at which I spoke [2]. At any rate, his daughter’s murder was not the reason for this article; only that it decided me to get on with the job. The reasoning for the article follows in the next paragraph, and involves the quest for simplicity as an aid to comprehend what is happening, and why decay often comes with the end of empires [3].

Will we ever admit that truth and simplicity are bedfellows, but that weakness fears both? Let us take the bull by the horns and dive deep into our minds, recalling Giambattista Vico’s words that the world passes from order to disorder and currently appears to be moving into disorder [4]. I intend to argue and explain that the so-called Western world is in political, social and moral decay, currently brought into full relief by the troubles in Ukraine and the fallout of the continuing tensions over COVID and other viruses.

First, I shall touch on the observations of some serious thinkers to stimulate us into some free thinking and reflection. Thus prepared, I shall consider the term ‘West’ and its apparent values; identify the decay; its symptoms; the obsession with Russia; lack of leadership; and finally suggest how to return to common sense, compassion and responsibility.

Thinking

Thucydides wrote that the simple way of considering matters, so much the example of a noble nature, was seen as an absurd characteristic, and soon died [5]. He went on to observe that love of power, operating through greed and through personal ambition, was the cause of all these evils [7], meaning the Peloponnesian Wars that devastated the Hellenic world. Echoing him many centuries later, Francesco Guicciardini wrote that greedy men easily believe whatsoever they desire [7]; that avarice in a prince is incomparably more hateful than in a private man; [8] and that in his youth he believed that no amount of reflection would enable him to see more than he took in at a glance, and that the longer we reflected, the clearer things grew and the better we understood them [9]. Here we see that power, speed, greed, ambition and self-love have their deadly side, as accentuated by current events.

Four hundred years after Guicciardini, Lin Yutang observed that putting human affairs into exact formulae showed a lack of sense of humour and therefore of wisdom, while man’s love for definitions was a step towards ignorance. The more he defined, aiming at an impossible logical perfection, the more ignorant he became [10]. This connects to Tolstoy’s observation that the Germans’ self-assurance was worst of all, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because the German imagined that he knew the truth – science – which he had himself invented, but which was for him the absolute truth [11]. The implication here is that he was unable to control his excess of logic, pursuing it blindly to the death.

Before considering the question of Western decay, I need to explain what I mean by the simple way of looking at things, and why simplicity is often feared: humans tend to avoid it, since it requires mental nudity. As most people have a certain degree of insecurity, or at least feel a need to protect themselves, they feel that nudity will expose them to potential attack. Thus, they wear various mental masks as filters, and lie if necessary, sometimes even to themselves. To put the point more poignantly, consider these words, spoken by the Reverend Arthur Beebe in E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View: ‘It is so difficult – at least I find it difficult – to understand people who speak the truth.’ [12]

In short, the simple way of looking at things, especially where politics and morals are concerned, is a rare phenomenon, requiring detachment from one’s protective masks. Having now perhaps afforded ourselves some mental space to reflect and read the rest of this article, let us grasp the nettle, and get the ball rolling, becoming increasingly specific.

What is the West?

The ‘West’ means different things to different people. Miguel de Unamuno, that tortured Roman Catholic, wrote of the ‘Graeco-Roman’ or ‘Western civilisation.’ [13] He was, of course, writing this in the 1920s. Since then, we have had the Cold War, when the West simply meant the anti-Communist antithesis of the East, ‘democracy’ against ‘Marxism’, free trade against extreme dirigisme, and pluralism against totalitarianism.

Then we have a purely geographic concept, which does not include, for example, Australia, New Zealand, much of South America, Japan and South Korea, where the ideological view sullies the geographic one.

We also have the blue-jeans and American hamburger ‘cultural’ West—in other words, consumerism and the self, allied to certain styles of rock music and ‘artistic’ fashions. Here, of course, countries such as Turkey, the Iran of the 1970s and Israel can claim membership, although if you scratch beneath the surface, you will find that this ‘western culture’ actually wears rather thin, even with the advance of globalism.

Finally, we have the colonial West, when Europe, and then the U.S., controlled a huge part of the globe. Today, no country would dare admit to pursuing colonial policies, whatever the reality of geopolitical control and stealing weak countries’ resources.

In truth, there cannot be, nor ever has been, a clear and universal—let alone unique—Western civilisation. There have only been historians, or pseudo-historians and the like, such as the political scientist Samuel Huntingdon, who claim that the ‘future of the West depends in large part on the unity of the West.’ Such expedient and simplistic pigeon-holing of ideas, based on simple historical ignorance, is irresponsible, since it is dangerously discriminating, creating a kind of incipient international apartheid, a sort of exaggerated power-block nationalism, where arrogance and suspicion rule the roost. And by stressing NATO as the ‘security organisation of western civilisation’, Huntingdon inadvertently showed that his motive was not to teach history, but rather to cherry-pick it to spread his political ideas. He was not a historian, but more of a political designer.

To further drive home my point that there is no unified West: French Gaullist values of independence from NATO sit hardly comfortably with those of Britain, which is psychologically and economically chained to NATO. On top of this, governments that profess to support NATO are often at loggerheads with their electorates. A prime example is NATO’s 78-day illegal bombing of Belgrade in 1999, when the Greek people as a whole came out against the bombing. Another is the illegal attack on Iraq in 2003, when the French and German governments refused to support Bush and Blair. In this sense, the West comes across as dysfunctional. In November 2019, President Macron referred to NATO’s ‘brain death’, hardly surprising, given the organisation’s history after it was given a new lease of life in 1999 [14].

As I write this, ‘Ukrainistic’ and anti-Russian hysteria has taken over—whether by design or default is a moot point—and the mainstream media is again promoting the West as the embodiment of civilised values versus Russian barbarity, just as during the Cold War. The same things are returning, albeit in new names and colours. Let us now take a glimpse at Western values, whatever they are.

What are Western Values?

It is difficult to pinpoint ‘western values’, especially since some eastern countries are ‘honorary’ western countries, such as Japan and the Anglo-Saxon Australia. But let me try to obtain at least a modicum of specificity that goes beyond the puerile western bromides of ‘peace’, ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, with which we are incessantly bombarded by the media and politicians.

First, we have the ancient Greek ideal of democracy, symbolised by the Parthenon (visually) and by Cleisthenes and those of his ilk (ideastically). The Pax Romana and later Christianity took over, with many Greek ideas going underground with the excesses of early Christianity, only to reassert themselves after the Dark Ages, epitomised in the Renaissance and by the likes of Gemistos Plython, although Arab scholars had also helped to preserve Greek philosophy.

Second, moral values and economic/business interests began to insinuate themselves into each other, the most obvious example being perhaps the over-enthusiastic interpretation by the rich of Calvin’s ideas, so as to praise the profit ideal and justify wealth. Also, germane here is the warped synergy between the American Revolution/War of Independence and the French Revolution: warped, because much of the ideal behind the former was essentially business-oriented, with the Rights of Man being propounded to make a profit, free from English interference and taxes. In contrast, the French declaration of human rights was more about political rights and freedom of the individual than profit pur et simple, at least presentationally.

When Europe overtly ruled and exploited much of the world territorially and economically, one could safely say that underlying values were by and large based on Christianity and the family, both in the Americas and Europe. Morality, at least in public, was the order of the day. But the French Revolution had already introduced secularism into the social equation, beginning with attacking the Church’s privileges. Although a modus vivendi was reached by the time of Napoleon, the slogan ‘Egalité, Liberté, Fraternité’ was accorded serious meaning, and even used as an example for countries to throw off their colonial masters, to the irritation of the likes of Metternich. And in 1905, a French law separated Church and State. Despite the obvious continuous acceptance of the family and religious freedom as mainstays of Western society, at least after the Thirty Years’ War, whether Anglo-Saxon- or French-influenced, politics and propaganda began to rear their ugly heads, as ‘national interests’ and values were becoming increasingly intertwined, and as splits were developing between the English world and French-influenced Europe. Hence, the first war fought globally, known in Europe as the Seven Years’ War, when England took over Canada and much of India from France. France avenged herself on England by supporting the American rebels, leading to American independence. While the new USA was finding its feet, the second global war, namely the Napoleonic Wars, occurred.

Anglo-American and French mutually antagonistic atavism exists even today, epitomised by the atavistic Gaullist suspicion of the Anglo-Saxons. This French suspicion of Britain and then America was nevertheless allayed by fear of a rumbustious Germany, one of the underlying causes of the First World War, originally known as the ‘Great War’, being in fact the Third World War. Another cause was Anglo-German economic rivalry. Princip’s bullets were merely the excuse that triggered the madness, just as the invasion of Poland was the official reason to declare the next war on Germany, setting off the most destructive war in known history, when political values meant anti-Nazism and anti-Fascism. To these values were added anti-Communism, thus revealing the West’s lack of gratitude for Moscow’s crucial help in saving Western Europe from Nazi domination. At any event, European and American family values were still the mainstay of society.

However, we see from the above how ‘national interests’ (i.e. profit) were becoming increasingly intertwined with moral values, to the extent that the ‘superior’ West exported these values to allegedly less civilised (or less industrially developed) parts of the world. In fact, it can be argued that the West was simply grabbing resources under the guise of allegedly superior moral values. For example, Sir Francis Younghusband (famous for having led the invasion of Tibet in 1904) wrote: ‘Our superiority over them [Indians] is not due to mere sharpness of intellect, but to the higher moral nature to which we have attained in the development of the human race.’ [15] This form of Darwinian thinking, so beloved by the Nazis, was to culminate in the term ‘geopolitics’, a veritable excuse for grabbing other countries’ resources. It involved the creation of unnatural business borders, leading to strife generations later. One has only to look at a map of Africa and the Middle east to see this. The Sykes-Picot agreements are a fine example. Whether we are talking about Mackinder’s obsessions with keeping Germany and Russia apart, and maintaining British imperialism, or Haushofer’s justifying Germany’s eastward expansion, geopolitics became the fashion (even if Mackinder referred to it as ‘political geography’, to differentiate himself from his German homologue Haushofer). Geopolitics became an imperial doctrine. In the words of one critic, the random way in which frontiers are superimposed on the world means that states vary enormously in size, mineral wealth, access to the sea, vulnerability and cohesiveness [16].

If you are slightly confused by now, and not much nearer to identifying ‘western values’, this is not surprising, given the above history. And if we mention family values, that is not a western sine qua non, but a world one. As for accusations that Soviet Communism undermined the family, it was more a case of bringing the idea of the family closer to Marxist theory, than undermining the family per se, which was considered a purely private affair between individuals.

Today, we have new colours and names for western ‘values’. ‘Freedom’ and ‘democracy’ are vital bromides to feed to the masses when justifying attacks on various countries, usually illegal into the bargain. Business and economic interests will rarely be mentioned, even though they are surely fundamental to the American-influenced Western values. The American-influenced West is, to a considerable extent, the epitome of freedom to make money. A prime example of American influence lies in Ayn Rand’s ‘objectivism’, showcased in her novel Atlas Shrugged, the theme of which she described as the role of the mind in man’s existence, a new moral philosophy, rational self-interest, that rejected faith and religion’ [17]. She influenced a host of young, and not so young, Americans, just as McCarthyist hysteria was reaching its zenith. In essence, she epitomized the selfish aspects of the American dream, which we are witnessing today. As such, ‘Western values’ center on the American-inspired cult of the self and attack anything that smacks of socialism. Thus, modern ‘western values’ have their origin in America and a missionary character. As early as 1947, the British Embassy in Washington wrote: ‘The missionary strain in the character of Americans leads many of them to feel that they have now received a call to extend to other countries the blessings with which the Almighty has endowed their own.’ [18] The anti-Soviet Truman Doctrine lives on today, in the form of Russophobia.

With the current Western-contrived Russophobia and demonisation, the attacks on Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and Syria tend to be played down or ignored wherever possible. The hypocrisy is manifest. We are constantly bombarded with western ‘values’. The words ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ and ‘inclusion’ are bandied about, as if they are a panacea. In 2003, at New York College in Athens, during the run-up to the illegal invasion of Iraq (on a false pretext), the British ambassador to Greece referred before an audience of students to ‘we, the forces of good. [19]’ Such supercilious words were simple propaganda.

For those who still have the space and the inclination to reflect, incomprehension can set in: they wonder what this freedom and democracy exported by the West actually is. In fact, it seems that this Western ‘freedom’ can be a euphemism for destruction and mass killing of civilians. Its origins lie in the United States, the self-proclaimed leader of the West. The truth is presented by Western/NATO governments as controversial or even conspiratorial. Yet, the facts speak for themselves, if we consider the U.S. bombing list and democratic world tour: Korea 1950-1953, Guatemala 1957, Indonesia 1958, Cuba 1959-1961, Guatemala 1960, the Congo 1964, Laos 1964-1973, Vietnam 1961-1973, Cambodia 1969-1970, Guatemala 1967-1969, Grenada 1983, the Lebanon 1983-1984, Libya 1986; El Salvador 1980, Nicaragua 1980, Iran 1987, Panama 1989, Iraq 1981 (Persian Gulf war), Kuwait 1991, Somalia 1993, Bosnia 1994-1995, Sudan 1998, Afghanistan 1998, Yugoslavia 1999; Yemen 2002, Iraq 199-2003, Iraq 2003-2015, Afghanistan 2001-2015, Pakistan 2007-2015, Somalia 2007-2008 and 2011, Yemen 2009 and 2011, Libya 2011 and 2015, and Syria 2014-2015. This litany of American interference makes Russia’s occasional bouts of self-defense look like a Girl Guides’ tea-party on a Sunday afternoon.

I hope that I have at least managed to make the reader reflect seriously and deeply on what Western values are in the political sphere, if they indeed exist as tangible and comprehensible. As for “Eastern values”, we rarely see reference to them, other than as the antithesis of those of the West. Let us now identify examples of Western decay and its causes. First, a thought-provoker: ‘Today’s reigning morality is the work of slaves, a conspiracy organized by the weak against the strong, the flock against the shepherd. With cunning self-interest the slaves have turned values upside down; the strong person becomes bad, the sickly and weak good.’ [20] Or could it also be that gigantic financial interests have manipulated the weak to feel strong? The debate is eternal.

Identifying the Decay

I shall simply provide a few examples of what I consider to be decay in the socio-political and moral spheres. While humanity has always displayed hypocrisy, greed and inhumanity, it seems that—with the business passion for, and obsession with, globalism—we are currently witnessing a dangerous surfeit of decay that borders on illogicality, immorality, incipient chaos and decadence.

Institutional rot: Queen Elisabeth II made the former British Prime Minister Anthony Blair a Knight of the Garter. Members of the order are chosen in recognition for their public service and are personally selected by the Queen. We see here one of the most prestigious state awards given to one of the chief architects of the illegal attack on Iraq in 2003, a proven liar responsible for the vicarious killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis. I was flummoxed when I read the news.

Anglo-Saxon undermining of traditional family values: this has been going on since at least the ‘Swinging Sixties’, leading to even the British Prime Minister, Cameron, referring in Parliament to Britain’s ‘broken society’, when in 2011 he also criticized parents for lack of control over their children. This connects to political correctness/wokism.

Political correctness/wokism: the American exported obsession with ‘inclusiveness’, ‘diversity’, positive discrimination, identity, gender and the cult of the self is undermining common sense. This obsession has confused many young minds, not helped by lazy parents. Just a few years ago, one could never have imagined that schoolchildren would be asked to identify themselves as male or female, and that on official forms, ‘mother’ and ‘father’, would be replaced with ‘parent 1 and parent 2’, or that ‘partners’ would replace husbands and wives. One could never have imagined that ‘LGBQT’ would be explained to young pupils as part of the curriculum. There have of course been reactions to this, and some debate, but the machine—allegedly ‘liberal’, but disguising authoritarianism—grinds on. This was preceded by so-called ‘positive discrimination’, which was actually insulting to minority groups, and brought down the standards of recruitment, with a white often overlooked for a position in favour of a non-white. A comment by a concerned diplomat explains the disease better than I can: ‘I have viewed with dismay the spread of “Political Correctness” in recent years. Intellectual honesty is the foundation of our Service; Political Correctness its antithesis. “Diversity” is the latest of several rather fatuous fashions. The truth is that diversity is irrelevant to diplomacy. No foreigner I have ever met cares whether the Service has fifty per cent women, ten per cent homosexuals and five per cent ethnics. His (or her) only interest is whether a diplomat has something useful to contribute. Furthermore, “targets” are but a thinly disguised form of positive discrimination; this undermines the fundamental principle of public service that promotion should be based on ability alone. The risk is that “minorities” will be promoted because they are (just) credible, not because they are the best; if so, they will become symbols, not of inclusion but of incompetence. The Service should cease to be invertebrate in the face of this politically motivated interference.’ [21]

Despite such thoughtful common-sense comments, the irrational multi-gender machine grinds on, with its meaningless semantic baggage of ‘empowerment’, ‘inclusiveness’, ‘shoulder to shoulder’, and ‘going forward’. Hardly a day goes by without yet another gender category added to university and school curricula. Various categories have even begun to irritate each other, as, for example, when men claiming to be women compete in female sports events, or when a ‘woman’ uses a female public lavatory. With their rights to individual identity unquestioned, the politicization of and public promotion of their behavior is leading to the undermining of common sense and social stability. This connects to the so-called transhumanist agenda.

Transhumanism and the Great Reset

Although Julian Huxley first used the term in 1957, it was only in the Eighties, in America, that the whole idea of eugenics and using technology to eliminate the weak and strengthen the strong, and creating super beings, took hold in a big way. Its proponents are essentially playing with Nature; some would say that they are playing God. In this connexion, we turn to Klaus Schwab’s the so-called ‘Great Reset’, and his so-called ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, with its clear attachment to transhumanism and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Those who criticise its implications tend to be labelled as ‘conspiracy theorists’. Their critique runs something like this: ‘Imagine a world controlled by a small group of people with the extreme power to control the flow of goods, services and other resources around the world. They have the ability to dictate to governments around the world to impose certain health mandates. They have the power to require passes for travel, and to have people confined to their homes. They have the power to tell retailers to refuse cash. This small group of people control the networks of commerce. One has only to consider the power of Amazon and Google (to name but a few) to realise the danger to individual freedom posed by these concentrated financial interests.’

Yet much of the above has already happened, and is continuing. Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, even used Prince Charles as his useful PR idiot, with the latter actually calling on the private sector to lead the world out of the approaching catastrophe [22].

The question must be posed as to how seriously the Schwabs of this world – and their followers – should be taken. That financial power is becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of less people is hardly open to dispute. But it does not necessarily mean, as Schwab claims, that somehow governments will agree, and act on, a ‘Great Reset’, or the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. In some ways, he and those of his ilk have jumped onto a bandwagon, praising, for example, the increasing tendency away from cash payments, and forcing people to buy Smartphones to pay for certain things, which depend on various ‘apps’. These developments were with us well before Schwab’s ‘Great Reset’ was announced.

Some serious people have criticised the ideas contained in the ‘Great Reset’, even some in the much criticised ‘mainstream media’. For example, Sky News Australia presenter Rowan Dean stated: ‘It is a global commitment they have made to use the panic and fear generated by the corona virus as a means to reshape all our economies and laws and move to a new form of capitalism that focusses on net zero emissions, to use all the tools of COVID to tackle climate change. If implemented successfully, the Great Reset will undeniably and deliberately have extreme and possibly dire repercussions. “You’ll own nothing, and you’ll be happy” is just one of their marketing slogans. The plan involves replacing shareholders of big companies with stakeholders, who happen to be left-wing bureaucrats and climate change zealots. Replacing Mum and Dad’s small businesses and private enterprises with big tech and big business. Remember, it’s not only a great reset, it’s a great deception [23].’

Even Fox News has weighed in, through its presenter and journalist Carlson Tucker, who wrote: ‘The most intimate details of our lives are being completely controlled by our leadership class. The people who used to scream at politicians, “Keep your hands off my body!” aren’t saying a thing about this. In fact, they’re encouraging it. So the question is, what exactly is this about? It’s not about science. If masks and lockdowns prevented spikes in coronavirus infections, we wouldn’t be seeing spikes in coronavirus infections after nine months. But we are seeing them, so clearly, the geniuses got it wrong once again. This time, they’re not even bothering to point to legitimate scientific studies to support continuing their policies because there aren’t any studies that support that. So what is going on?’ [24]

Given the above, it seems perfectly legitimate for thinking people to ask whether the power-mongers messages of happiness for all, and of individual ‘empowerment’, is utterly hypocritical, since it is merely the semantic seduction of individuality, leading to slavery, and control by the few. The more uniform the customers, the simpler and cheaper the production, promotion and selling of goods, thus leading to a lack of quality and creativity. Information, or rather the control of it, is power. And somewhere, behind all this, lurks the idea that the military-industrial-congressional complex is pulling the strings. All very paranoid, you might think, but remember that plotters do their utmost to dismiss critics as conspiracy theorists. Although the idea of a single group of plotters controlling the world agenda may indeed be an absurd ‘conspiracy theory’, there are nevertheless business groups (shareholders) that try to set their agenda, exporting their alleged western values.

Exporting ‘values’: many American values have automatically transmogrified into British ones, particularly on questions of sexual preference. Some years ago, the Polish civil rights ombudsman protested about British ambassador Todd’s exceeding his authority in promoting a ‘UK Guide to LGBT and their Rights’. Far from apologizing for this form of one-sided (what about heterosexual rights?) irrelevance, the then Foreign and Commonwealth Office pompously replied that it ‘has a policy of promoting LGBT rights abroad.’ These, then are the new British values to be promoted, some would say on America’s behalf. In 2008, the ambassador in Warsaw even hoisted a ‘rainbow flag’ next to the British one [25]. If one accepts that part of British social decay (Cameron’s ‘broken Britain’) is connected to the exaggerated attention given to minority questions and sex, it seems curious to rational minds as to why America and Britain wish to export these ‘values’. Given the huge amount of publicity, one would not be blamed for thinking that the majority of society is the LGBQT brigade.

Irresponsibility: English Prime Minister Liz Truss recently stated that she is ‘ready’ to launch nuclear war, ‘even if it meant global annihilation’ [26]. This kind of attention-grabbing political rhetoric is simply dangerous, and encourages extremism.

Stupidity: the Globe Theatre in London is producing Shakespeare’s Joan of Arc (Henry VI, part 1), depicting her as ‘non-binary’, using the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’ to replace ‘she’ [27]. This one of many examples, inevitably imported from America, which distort history and language beyond recognition. The distortion of history means that the same mistakes will continue to be made. Another example of stupidity is the German Foreign Minister Baerbock’s recent statement that no matter what her voters thought, she wanted to ‘deliver’ to the people of Ukraine. She also came across as illogical, since she is a member of the Greens, once a party claiming to be democratic and peace-loving [28].

Dying Educational Standards: although the dumbing down of university-level education is fairly well known, little has been done to prevent the slide into stupidity. The explosion in student numbers led to the so-called ‘dumbing-down of education’ In Britain, for example, before 1992, there were fifty-four universities. In 1992, thirty-eight were added, and by 2011, the total had climbed to one hundred and twenty-seven. Most of the newcomers were not actually new but, to be able to call themselves universities, simply expanded from being colleges of higher education – often changing their name – to meet various quantitative criteria. Students now became customers, buyers of knowledge. The manic expansion led to considerable organisational problems, a drop in standards, and a lack of transparency and accountability, even leading to some closures and mergers in recent years. A plethora of new subjects was introduced. ‘Relevance’ was the catchword; relevance to the modern world, with the laudable aim of ensuring that young graduates were ready for the job market. Degrees in new subjects were introduced, such as in nursing. Thus, nurses now had a Bachelor of Science, leading to many no longer wishing to clean bedpans, since this was considered too demeaning for university graduates. Degrees in public relations were introduced, as well as in catch-all communications studies, which could sometimes include media studies. Specialisation increased: along with ‘niche’ marketing came ‘niche degrees’. ‘Bums on seats’ was the name of the game. Students were now customers, paying thousands of pounds a year in tuition fees, into the bargain. However, not too much serious attention was paid to the job market.

It was somewhat naÏvely – or more likely, ingeniously ingenuously – claimed that natural market forces would solve any potential problems. This was the age of the surge in MBAs. Inexorably they found their way on to the European continent. The humanities were to some extent considered passées and not relevant in the brave new world of customers and clients. Mistakes were made, and still are. For example, in Britain, in 1997, only about half the public relations consultancies took on PR graduates [29]. This was because graduates in, for example, cognate disciplines such as English literature, history and philosophy tended to be better at research, analysis, evaluation, and communicating ideas clearly and cogently.

Many employers complain today that some graduates cannot write properly, despite our brave new world. There is a sneaking feeling in some quarters that the flashy language that now characterises, and claims to improve, standards, in fact reflects a lack of substance, and is a mere marketing ploy that has adversely affected the traditional subjects of the humanities. ‘Knowledge management’, ‘total quality management’, ‘benchmarking’, ‘management by objectives’ and ‘key performance indicators’ are the order of the day, along, of course, with ‘the global world’. While such language is that of competitive business, it sits rather uncomfortably in the strictly academic world, which is being adversely affected by the bureaucratisation of scholarship, a word strangely absent from much of the new ‘global’ terminology. Today, many universities have transmogrified from places of research, thinking and learning into professional training centres. There is nothing wrong with professional training, of course; indeed, it is vital. But the flip side comes with the ‘Steppenwolf effect’: side-by-side with the new training-oriented degrees are traditional disciplines such as history and literature. Those of you who have had the time to read this far may have noticed that simple stupidity is in the ascendant.

Interference: the highly respected Imran Khan, recent Prime Minister of Pakistan, has been charged with terrorist offences. He has provided evidence that the US is behind the move, essentially because he wishes to improve trade relations with Russia. The CIA’s well-known and proven history of regime change et al lends much weight to the statesman’s assertions.

Hatred and Hysteria: as I write, the European Union, under pressure from Poland and the Baltic statelets, is trying to suspend the visa facilitation agreement of 2007 between Russia and the EU, and may go further, by banning even tourist visas. Poked also by a jingoistic Britain, with its new-found ‘Falklands spirit’, we are witnessing a major anti-Russia propaganda campaign to target the Russian people as a whole. This smacks of the anti-German propaganda of the Great War. It gets worse: Estonian banks are refusing to accept utility bill payments from Russian property owners in Estonia, citing the sanctions, meaning that they could then dispossess the owners. This is theft; and racism. Matters are becoming surrealistic.

Symptoms

I have listed above just a few factors that strike me as irrational, propaganda-laden and the result of socio-political decay in the West. There are many more, but it would take a book to list them. The digitally imposed speed of living today means that such factors have been allowed to run rife, with many not knowing and understanding what has been happening for years, as people have become increasingly selfish, rationalising themselves into their comfort zones. Let us now try to identify the causes and symptoms of the decay.

Addiction: the United States makes up 4.4% of the world’s population, but consumes over 80% of the world’s opioids. 22 million people suffer from active substance use disorders, while 45 million people (14% of Americans) are directly impacted by addiction [30]. While this is a worldwide, but essentially western, phenomenon, it is most extreme in the Britain, which is the highest per capita consumer of opioids globally [31]. This surely explains some of the causes of the irrationality that we are witnessing today.

Twitterisation: this important part of the social media has had a big effect on public policy-formulation. According to the late Umberto Eco: ‘Social media gives legions of idiots the right to speak when they once only spoke at a bar after a glass of wine, without harming the community … but now they have the same right to speak as a Nobel Prize winner. It’s the invasion of the idiots’. This American-inspired social medium has now taken over from traditional diplomacy in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO). A senior official wrote proudly some years ago that six ministers and eighty ambassadors were on Twitter, almost as if this was the be-all and end-all of successful diplomacy and communication [32]. Yet it is well known how controversial Twitter can be, and that it can lead to all kind of spats, not to mention being open to attack from virtually any quarter. Twitter is essentially a private game, for people to bloat their egos. Those who use it to promote their official views or careers open themselves to unwarranted attacks from cranks and enemies. To imply that it is a useful part of diplomacy is off-beam. It can actually lead to a dissipation of seriousness, and is but a cheap substitute for serious analysis and evaluation, so vital to the formulation of policy. For even if there is still some traditional formulation of policy, it is surely being eroded subliminally in the minds of those responsible for British interests. More American business language has now invaded a once traditional bastion of Britishness: ‘Drawing a line under things’, ‘going forward’, ‘shoulder to shoulder’, ‘fit for purpose’, ‘performance targets’, ‘cutting edge’, ‘stakeholder management’, ‘hot desking’ and the like. According to a recently retired ambassador, the collective memory has gone, and most work is done on the hoof. This is hardly surprising, since departmental registries no longer exist. In short, the misuse of social media is trivialising the serious business of policy formulation, not just in British official life, but all over the West. The speed and greed engendered by the obsession with digitalisation and irresponsible use of technology means that communication is destroying communication, ironically in the very name of communication [33]. The space to reflect, so crucial to decision-making, is no longer there.

Apathy and Hypocrisy: these symptoms of decay are manifesting themselves exponentially. We have only to consider the lukewarm response of once responsible governments to outrages like the treatment of the journalist Julian Assange, a political prisoner if there ever was one, rotting in a British prison at America’s behest, while his supporters try to prevent his extradition to America. His ‘crime’ was to expose American crimes. The general apathy surrounding this case is astounding, especially when juxtaposed with Blair’s crimes against humanity, with the former Prime Minister being rewarded by Queen Elisabeth. As for the anti-Russia sanctions, it is telling that Turkey’s illegal occupation of one third of an EU member, Cyprus, its invasion of Syria, and Israel’s occupation of much of Palestine and killing of civilians, have not met with sanctions.

Greed/Avarice: probably born of a feeling of insecurity, it has of course always been a symptom of decadence, but is now far more visible than hitherto. In the words of William Burroughs, ‘the old miser fingering his gold coins with idiot delight has given way to the deadly disembodied avarice of vast multinational conglomerates, with no more responsibility or consideration for the welfare of the planet than the computers that orient their manoeuvers, programmed for maximum profit, humming and purring and sucking up rainforests and spewing out dividends [34].’ This whole question of corporate greed connects to the West’s (ie the EU’s and NATO’s) expansion, examples of a combination of thoughtless ambition bordering on gluttony. In 1999, the north Atlantic Treaty was due to expire. Instead, although the Warsaw Pact was long gone, it chose to expand eastwards and engage in a 78-day illegal bombing campaign of a sovereign state. In the words of one expert, ‘this was a classic example of image taking precedence over substance, which is not uncommon in today’s political world. It is often associated with a rhetorical style that is more concerned with effect than with accuracy [35].’ NATO in fact, found the bombing a good way to promote its 50th anniversary, when it was already beyond its shelf life. Greed had led to gluttony. Russia looked on bemused, but also worried, since she had received reassurances from various western politicians that NATO would not expand towards Russia’s borders. But NATO gluttony has no reverse gear, at least not in the case of NATO and the West, which are now virtually synonymous, operating under an American umbrella. Russia understandably became increasingly worried as the West destroyed Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Syria was the final straw, and Moscow had little choice but to react militarily. As for the EU, it expanded too rapidly in 2004, leading to a certain measure of administrative confusion, pleasing America and Britain, since the expansion weakened the Franco-German axis to the benefit of anti-Russian Poland and the Baltic statelets: indeed, only one year after France and Germany had publicly opposed the invasion of Iraq, the expansion put paid to their sudden streak of independence vis-à-vis America, and they are now back in Washington’s anti-Russian camp. NATO seems to thrive on war. We shall turn to its current war in our conclusions.

Identity Obsession: this is a recent symptom, spurred, fed and nurtured by digital illiberalism, and part and parcel of the whole ‘inclusion’, LGBQT phenomenon that is rampaging through the western world, trying to insinuate its allegedly liberal ideas into stable societies like Russia’s. Many a young mind has been confused by adults experimenting on young minds. Some traditional child psychologists must be tearing their hair out when they consider the explosive growth of tattooing among young people, asking themselves why they need to identify with empty- headed celebrities, especially footballers. Once, tattooing in the West was mainly the preserve of sailors and the lower socio-economic groups, mainly among males, and not covering whole arms, legs and bodies. Let us now elaborate on all that I have observed in our conclusions.

Conclusions

NATO: Bismarck said that the most significant event of the twentieth century would be the fact that the North Americans spoke English. But no one has yet said that the most significant event of the twenty first-century is the fact that the English speak North American. This has entailed a political West that is controlled by the Anglo-Saxons, who have decided against an independent Europe, while transmogrifying NATO into a world policeman: the EU must be kept away from serious co-operation with Russia, whose attempts to work with NATO have been rebuffed. To this must be added the Anglo-Saxon obsession with Russia, dating at least to 1791, when English Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger lambasted Russia for wishing to carve up the Ottoman Empire [36]. The Cold War is well over two hundred years old, and Mackinder’s (see above) obsession with keeping Germany and Europe away from Russia lives on with a vengeance, to the point of idiocy and the stultification of the many, who are led by a compliant media machine that only rarely sticks its neck out for factuality and criticism. The Assange case speaks volumes. Even though the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a statement saying that the potential extradition and prosecution of Assange raises concerns relating to media freedom and a possible chilling effect on investigative journalism and on the activities of whistle-blowers, there is a deafening silence from the governments of the allegedly democratic West.

Stultification: leadership in the West seems to have taken leave of its senses: how else to explain the fact that the sanctions against Russia are rebounding onto the peoples of the EU, and that Brussels is committing slow economic suicide, on Washington’s instructions, while the continuing supply of billions of Dollars’ and Euros’ worth of lethal equipment to Kiev and its oligarchs – paid for by western taxpayers – is leading to an unnecessary continuing slaughter of thousands of soldiers and civilians, with the shareholders of the military-industrial-congressional complex laughing all the way to the bank, while America also promotes its Liquefied Natural Gas? [37] It seems that NATO’s very existence depends on war, and that it has taken over the political West. The EU clearly lacks decent and strong leadership, many of these leaders themselves being victims of the lack of moral gumption, the irreligious cult of the ego and identity politics. To speak of spiritual strength is now frowned upon. The lemming syndrome is in the ascendant, while headless politicians rush around in circles, helping one of the most corrupt countries in the world to continue an otiose yet deadly war. Liberal and digital totalitarianism seem to be the new norm. Kiev now labels anyone who agrees with Moscow an ‘information terrorist’.

End of Politics: in the words of an expert, ‘politics is anything but permanency. Whenever one tries to catch the political spirit of the time by the tail, it shirks away’ [38]. The ideas of Left- and Right-wing have now lost any real meaning. They are simply terms exploited rhetorically by self-seeking politicians, where expressions such as ‘far right’ and ‘far left’ are bromides to feed to the stultified gender-obsessed masses. Gone are the likes of Charles de Gaulle, Willi Brandt, John Kennedy and Edward Heath, and even Margaret Thatcher, people with a solid identity. There are still some sensible politicians such as Dominique de Villepin in France, Dennis Skinner and Jeremy Corbyn in England and, surely, several others around Europe, but they have been sidelined by the media. In the EU, only Victor Orban seems to have the courage of his convictions, daring to agree in public with Moscow’s socio-economic policies, in the face of EU anti-Russian hysteria.

Solution to Idiocy: first, the West needs to reassert the importance of the family as the basis of social stability, and put gender-identity politics back in its place. The simple and obvious message is that our identity comes from our parents, and in the case of orphans, from those who bring us up, even if such a truth is anathema to the more extreme ‘inclusionists’, as it pulls the carpet from under their feet. This needs to be connected to the truth that there are two genders, male and female. And even in the case of hermaphrodites (extremely rare), they are still a mix of the two genders.

Second, the oxymoronic relationship between globalism and sovereignty needs to be re-balanced, since the western obsession with globalism is leading to the enslavement of states, in the hypocritical name of freedom. World leaders need to be re-educated into seeing that NATO currently controls the West, has no reverse gear, and is leading the world to destruction. European leaders, in particular, need to reassert their freedom of action, as Orban has done.

Third, and connected to the above, comes education. At school level, this entails protecting children from excessive and mind-destroying gender-identity politics. It means educating their parents, many of whom seem to have become passive and apathetic. At post school level, it needs to be emphasised that the current disorder in the world reflects the disorder in understanding world politics, and of the ever-increasing speed of profit-driven technology, where managers, as well as agenda-driven academics and journalists have little time to reflect on their deadline-driven actions. Lucidity and simplicity need to be re-established. The Bellum Americanum could then become the Pax Americana. The alternative is NATO’s globalism, which evokes the following: it is easier to confuse in order to control, than to control in order to confuse: power without responsibility is easier than responsibility without power.

Fourth, the media needs to re-establish its independence, and not avoid embarrassing facts. For example, on 2 March 2022, 141 UN members (73%) voted to condemn Russia, while by 25 August, the number had shrunk to 58 (30%). This significant news was hardly reported in the so-called mainstream media.

Back to Common Sense: I began this article by asking whether this could be done and whether I could focus your attention for a few minutes. If you have got this far, then I must congratulate you, whatever your reaction. Has it been done? I again quote Thucydides: ‘The simple way of considering matters, so much the example of a noble nature, was seen as an absurd characteristic, and soon died.’ Let us end with Guicciardini: ‘In my youth I believed that no amount of reflection would enable me to see more than I took in at a glance. But experience has shown me this opinion to be utterly false; and you may laugh at anyone who maintains the contrary. The longer we reflect, the clearer things grow and the better we understand them’[39].

from our partner RIAC

1. I thank Zoran Ristic and Charalambos Tsitsopoulos for some fruitful discussions and suggestions.

2. Our private conversation was brief but telling, and he gave me a synopsis of his ideas on geopolitics. His deep and vast knowledge of the world, as well as of his own country, impressed me. He needed no label, whether ‘right-’or ‘left-’ wing. He is a thinker whose impressive works on the primitive (for me) theory of geopolitics caught the attention of both the Kremlin and the White House. He is the antithesis of an extremist, always logical and calm in his ideas. Individualism, the class struggle and nation appear to seem less relevant to him today, than simple existence, which appears as one of his mental mainstays.

3. See Fouskas, Vassilis K., Zones of Conflict, Pluto Press, 2003, for a thoughtful and still valid analysis of American foreign policy.

4. Vico, Giambattista, New Science: Principles of the New Science concerning the Common Nature of Nations, Penguin Books, London, 2001. First published in 1725 in Naples.

5. Quoted in Mallinson, William, Guicciardini, Geopolitics and Geohistory: Understanding Inter-State Relations, Palgrave Macmillan/Springer Nature, 2021, p.1.

6. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, translated by Rex Warner, introduction and notes by M. I. Finlay, Penguin Books, London etc., 1972., p.243.

7. Guicciardini, Francesco, Counsels and Reflections, translated from the Italian (Ricordi Politici e Civili) by Ninian Hill Thomson, M.A., Kegan Paul, Trench Trübner & Co., Ltd., London, 1890, 35, p.48.

8. Ibid., p.133.

9. Ibid., p. 137.

10. Yutang, Lin, The Importance of Living, William Heinemann Ltd., London, 1938, p. 5.

11. Tolstoy, Leo, War and Peace, Wordsworth Editions, Ware, Herts, 2001, p.505. First published in 1865.

12. Quoted in Forster, E. M., A Passage to India, in Appendix 2 (Peter Burra’s Introduction to the Everyman Edition), Penguin Books, 1989, p.329. First published by Edward Arnold, 1924.

13. I’m sorry, hut I forget in which of his writings I found this.

14. In April 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty was due to expire. Instead, it was renewed, then expanded, and bombed Belgrade. It now claims to be a worldwide organisation.

15. Huttenback, Robert A., Racism and Empire, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, p. 15.

16. Hill, Christopher, The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2003, p. 169, in Mallinson, William, Guicciardini, Geopolitics and Geohistory: Understanding Inter-State Relations, Palgrave Macmillan/Springer Nature, p. 62. Hill is particularly damning in his critique of geopolitics.

17. Rand, Ayn, Atlas Shrugged, Random House, 1957.

18. Telegram from the British Embassy in Washington, commenting on the Truman Doctrine, 14 March 1947, printed in Documents on British Policy Overseas, Series 1, Volume XI, No. 62.

19. Mallinson, William, Cyprus, Diplomatic History and the Clash of Theory in International Relations, Bloomsbury, 2010, p. 54.

20. Kazantzakis, Nikos, Report to Greco, translated by P.A. Bien, Faber and Faber,1973, p. 322. First published (in Greek) in 1961.

21. Parris, Mathew and Bryson, Andrew, Parting Shots, Penguin, 2011.

22. Davos, 22 January 2020.

23. Sky News Australia, 15 November 2021.

24. Carlson Tucker, Fox News, 16 November 2020.

25. Daily Mail, 11 June 2009.

26. The Independent, 24 August 2022. Truss was not yet Prime Minister.

27. Daily Mail, 11 August 2022.

28. Forum 2000, Conference, Prague, 31 August 2022.

29. Mallinson, William, ‘Whither PR Graduates?’, Journal of Communication Management, vol. 3, no. 1, London, August 1998.

30. HHS.gov.opioids, 27 August, 2021.

31. LSE News, 3 December 2021.

32. The March 2014 edition of the FCO Association’s Password Magazine.

33. See Chapter Three of Mallinson, William, Behind the Words, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2024 and 2016.

34. William S. Burroughs, The Seven Deadly Sins, Lococo-Mulder, New York City, September 1991.

35. McCgwire, Michael, ‘Why Did We Bomb Belgrade’, International Affairs, vol. 76, no. 2, Chatham House, London, April 1999.

36. Wallbank, T. Walter et al. (eds.), Civilisation, Past and Present, volume II, Harper Collins, 1996, p. 721.

37. See Tucker Carlson on Fox News, 30 August 2022, for a thoughtful critique of the current stupidity.

38. See Pavel Kanevskiy’s foreword to Mallinson, William, Guicciardini, Geopolitics and Geohistory: Understanding Inter-State Relations, Palgrave Macmillan/Springer, 2021.

39. Op.cit., Guicciardini, 297, p. 126.

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International Law

Human Rights Across The World: Never More In Peril?

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Edvard Munch: The Human Mountain. Munch Museum, Oslo

The human right scenario across the world is abysmal. Human rights have been undermined across the world, and even in the United States, which is the staunchest champion of democracy, human rights are in peril. Freedom of expression, which is considered the cornerstone of human rights, is muzzled and the rights of the minority and immigrants are increasingly trampled while bestowing privileges to the native. In this context. human rights had been leveraged as a foreign policy tool across the world, often to impose pressure on other countries, and to perpetuate a neo-colonial policy of sustained supervision and castigation. This is at odds with the sovereignty principles that underpin relations among countries, which prohibit the arbitrary interference of a country on another country. However, in a world where, human rights had been weaponized as a convenient foreign policy tool, rather than informing the inclusive policies at home, the grotesque and monstrous face of travesty in the name of human rights is unfurled.

Human rights are visibly under stress across the world, evident from the increasing enactment of the draconian legal provision in India which bestows privilege to the particular religious community, while dispossessing others’ basic rights. Besides, in the guise of majoritarian democracy, where legitimacy springs from the majoritarian gambit, rather than transparency and accountability, human rights are severely undermined in favor of vociferous rhetoric that consolidates the firm hold on power by a religious majority, which invariably comes at a steep cost of denigrating the “other”. The authorities in India enacted a string of controversial laws to gag the freedom of expression of media. In India, the scenario of human rights is abysmal, while continuous emasculation of the civil society through a mix of intimidation and harassment, continues to dissuade the human rights defenders and members of the civil society. The revelation of the illegal surveillance, infringes the rights to privacy, data protection, and discrimination. In line with a creeping rise in the increasingly intolerant Hindutva movements, the vigilante cow protection groups assailed the minority communities, giving rise to a miasma of trepidation among the minorities, with ramifications for the livelihoods of the minority. Furthermore, arbitrary detention and incarceration had been weaponized by the government of the country, to silence the dissenting quarters and to dissuade people from castigating the government.

 In Pakistan, we witness a similar intrusion of the military institutions over the levers of powers, which is veiled under the farce of democracy, which nonetheless is under unprecedented threat recently. In Pakistan, curbs had been imposed on the freedom of expression and dissent through instituting stringent laws, with human rights defenders and journalists subjected to increasing scrutiny.

Besides, police had unleashed inordinate force in quelling the protesters, while the resolution of the enforced disappearances remain elusive. Furthermore, thousands of people in the country are rendered homeless through coercive evictions. The contentious blasphemy law continues to inculpate the people of the besieged Ahmadi Muslim community, putting their life of the people in peril. The gender-based violence is rampant in the country, undermining the rights of women in the conservative Muslim society.

While the United States purports itself as the champion of global human rights. proselytizing its human rights advocacy across the world, thus concealing its ulterior geopolitical strategy with the benign image of human rights. While the United States ceaselessly promotes the human rights of the individual, however, human rights in the country are at a perilous edge, indicating the depth of the worsening human rights principles in the country. Dite the spurious pledges of safeguarding international human rights and ideologically-loaded diatribes and opportunistic castigation of other countries, the human rights situation in the country divulges the vacuous rhetoric of human rights.

The rampant privatization and neoliberal conviction of the United States had called to relegate the interests of the general people to the back burner, serving the interests of the corporate and political elites. In the United States, where businesses are oriented towards accruing astronomical profits, often on the altar of the rights of the general people, consumerism reigns supreme with forbidding costs. This had been revealed due to the flagrantly disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on the lines of caste, which is emblematic of lingering disparities in the health, education, and economic sector. While the U.S. is conveniently oblivious of its colonial and racist past, even so with the condescending moralizing towards other nations, the racist roots of the countries can hardly be effaced.

While the United States considers itself an advocate of multilateralism worldwide, its actions nonetheless suggest otherwise. The United States whimsical withdrawal from the multilateral institutions undermines the sustainability of the institutions, prejudicing the interests of people who rely on these organizations. Besides, while United States implicates foreign governments for flimsy and undocumented breaches of human rights, which pales in comparison with the unconscionable violation of human rights by the country with which the U.S. partnered and condoned the debasement of human rights. This becomes conspicuous from the fact that — while the United States imposed sanctions on Bangladesh based on spurious and overblown allegations, it however maintains close liaison with Saudi Arabia, despite the damning allegation against the former for the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. This indicates that, in the lexicon of the United States, human rights are only parochially construed from the prism of geopolitical leverage, thus cloaking questionable geopolitical projects under the guise of human rights.

Elsewhere in the world, the situation of human rights is dismal, from the deplorable predicaments of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to the embattled people in Ukraine, to the people in the war-ravaged middle-east countries, who continue to battle with unconscionable pitfalls. Human rights have been relegated from the attention of the international community, at a period when geopolitical interests transfixed world attention, rendering human rights subservient to ulterior geopolitical projects.

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International Law

Mikhail Gorbachev: Between Glorification and Criticism

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Whatever your position on it, the former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who passed away a few days ago, is the most important global leader in the last half-century

Those who praise or critics him, agree on this, who see him as a champion of peace, who ended the Cold War between Moscow and Washington and began reducing the threat of nuclear war between East and West, and who see him as a hero of the West only dismantled the second superpower in the world and plunged his country into the chaos that reached its summit with the first president of Russia (after the end of the Soviet Union Behind him is, Boris Yeltsin).

This was evident from the world’s reaction to his death at the age of ninety, after years of illness. However, this did not prevent some overly demagogic Western media from saying that he could not bear President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and died, especially as he is emotionally linked to his Ukrainian origins from his mother’s side.

On the other hand, you find in Russia, the West, and the Arab world those who say that he was the most dangerous agent of the US and the West at all, as he dismantled his country, eliminated its capabilities and followed the railing of the US and the EU.

There is some excuse for these, despite the extreme exaggeration of their statements. Rarely has history witnessed a leader of a great power writing off the structure of power that made him a world leader, only to lose his authority and even the components of his country piece by piece and a source of strength after one another. Also, the admiration of the Western political and media at the time (from the mid-eighties until the beginning of the nineties of the last century) was unprecedented, which may explain the perception of some that he is an American or Western “spy”.

For comparison purposes only, taking into account the great difference between the two cases, the position of Gorbachev is similar to that of the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who was praised by the world because he was the first Arab leader to make peace with Israel on the one hand, and he led a transformation in his country from the central economy that State-controlled market economy to a free market system on the other hand. At the same time, many Egyptians criticized him after calling him the hero of war and peace because he shocked society with the policy of economic openness.

As for outside Egypt, many excused him for the results of that transformation, praising his vision and blaming the Egyptian bureaucracy that resisted development and the shift towards an open economy.

And now one can find those lamenting the former Soviet leader Gorbachev who blames the West and acknowledged that his only problem was that he believed Western promises to help his country transform and open up and that the West failed and did not support him to make his project successful and satisfy his people. One can also find those who reconsider Gorbachev’s legacy on the basis of “late wisdom” and excuse him that he did not want his great country to disintegrate, but his shock treatment of its deteriorating conditions made things slip out of his hands – this is a much more logical explanation.

However, perhaps the closest description of rationality is what the veteran British journalist John Simpson wrote that Gorbachev was “a good man but without a vision”. When Gorbachev was elected, after 3 leaders of the Soviet Union, not all of them spent much in power due to old age and disease, the country was in economic decline and in a state of political and social stalemate.

The man wanted a movement to restore the union to its vitality, and his conviction was that the problem was in the structure of power and the rule of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and that was what made the country lag behind in development in the world. Since assuming power in 1985, he began to put forward initiatives such as ‘Perestroika’ and ‘Glasnost’ and change the political system to expand the base of participation in state. The result was that this encouraged the constituent states of the union to seek secession and with each of them a part of the strength of the union. Gorbachev could not stop this disintegration, which he neither expected nor wanted. Undoubtedly, the US and the West had hand in it. The Cold War mentality did not end, of course, as Gorbachev imagined, perhaps with strategic naivety.

But the dark spot that severely stained Gorbachev’s legacy was the status of what was left of the Union, Russia, and his successor, Boris Yeltsin, as the first president of the Russian Federation. The intent is not to blame Yeltsin for cleaning up Gorbachev’s reputation, but for the corruption and plundering of the country’s wealth, the exodus of billions of ‘thieves’ from the country to the West, and the selling of everything (including Soviet nuclear capabilities in the broken states) on the black market, the Russians blamed Gorbachev is the one who started the process of collapse from their point of view.

All of this makes Gorbachev’s legacy the most important and controversial in modern history. Whether he was an optimist with an idea, a visionary that could not be achieved, an adventurer with little political wisdom, or a loyalist who wanted good for his country and faced difficulties that he could not overcome..etc. In the end, his short reign marked the beginning of the end of bipolarity in the global system and the entry of the world into the stage of searching for a new world order that is yet to be reached.

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