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The EU Sputnik Borrell in Moscow: An aftermath, of Diplomacy

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EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell (l) with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

After almost unanimous assessment of the Western media and analysts (one would be inclined to conclude they are “gleichgeschaltet”, modeled on the methods of Nazi master of propaganda Goebbels ), a visit to Moscow of the EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, Joseph Borrell, was – depending on the author – a failure, a fiasco, a disgrace.

And it was, indeed. But not by the criteria applied by Western propaganda; it is difficult, when reading these “analyzes”, to avoid the conclusion that their authors are neither journalists nor political analysts, but just – propagandists, harnessed, consciously or unconsciously – this could be discussed – in the circle of politics that the West applies in dealing with Russia for years. It is the policy of “containment” which is only a weak, but no less dangerous copy of the policy that the West practiced towards the Soviet Union. Worthwhile to note: apparently none of these so well-informed “journalists” and “analysts” take into account that Putin is not Stalin and that today’s Russia is not the former Soviet Union.

The problems, if that’s even the right term, in relations between the West and Russia begun after at the helm of Russia Vladimir Putin replaced Boris Yeltsin Of course, Yeltsin, known for his alcoholic escapades, was to the liking of the West. Russia under his leadership was rapidly declining and not only was it no longer any, even potential, threat to the West, but it could not be its competitor in any area, even in its influence in Third World countries. At the same time, no one in the West resented Yeltsin for using even the most brutal force to stay in power. We are thinking of the order to “subdue” the Russian parliament, which resisted the unconstitutional dissolution, with tank shells . On the contrary, the Western media rejoiced at every hit of a tank grenade in the building where the seat of the Russian parliament was, and from which the parliamentarians allegedly offered armed resistance. 

When asked by a foreign journalist why is he reporting about gunshots from the parliament building, when it is obvious that there were none, a Western correspondent offered the following answer: “So it was decided!” Those grenades didn’t bother anyone, neither then nor later. But, those shots which were not fired, were “invented”, because they were needed for having the wanted picture. A hint of the “objective” reporting we are witnessing in recent weeks and months, relating to Alexei Navalny and the Russian vaccine Sputnik V.

With the arrival of Putin on the scene, however, another Russia emerged; Russia, which had the ambition to be a relevant factor in international relations and which not only wanted, but expected to be treated as a great power, and with respect. Since then everything goes downhill. The West did not want to accept the fact that Russia refuses to be treated as defeated and submissive. So the accusations started, so the sanctions started, some after obviously staged occasions, some evidently without any basis.

 And now Borrell is coming to Moscow with the proclaimed goal of re-establishing dialogue, but most likely too with the task of examining the extent to which the Russian vaccine against covid19 can help Europe, which has found itself in an awkward situation due to drastic reductions in deliveries or delays from manufacturers of the vaccine it has ordered. But even before going to Moscow Borrell announced his intention to visit in prison Navalny who was sentenced to 3.5 years for violating probation. Let us remember: Navalni, an activist and blogger was transferred, with the “blessing” of the Kremlin to hospital in Germany after he was taken ill on an internal flight in Russia. It was immediately “clear” to everyone that he was poisoned and that, of course, the government, and Putin himself, was behind the assassination attempt. In Germany, poisoning was promptly confirmed, but only with the “assistance” of a military doctors, poisoning with Novičok, an extremely lethal means from the Soviet arsenal of chemical weapons. To make things more convincing, the findings from Berlin were also confirmed by laboratories in Paris and Stockholm. No one from those around Navalny had the slightest symptoms of poisoning (everybody apparently forgot the spectacle with protective measures and decontamination, staged by the British after the alleged poisoning of Skripal’s). Navalni quickly recovered and, although the Germans now claim that he could not leave to Russia because he was undergoing medical treatment, it is documented that he traveled around in Germany, with the assistance of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), and that he worked on a film which, as soon as he returned to Russia and was arrested, would “revealed” Putin’s glamorous “secret residence”.

Russia persistently asked to get the findings that confirm the poisoning, but – it did not get them. And with a laconic “explanation”, that the Russians anyhow know everything. The Russian findings made before Navalny left for Germany were simply ignored.

Navalny, like Khodorkovsky at a time, is clearly the West’s choice in the role of Putin’s opposition leader and his possible successor. The scenario is known from all the so-called colored revolutions in Eastern Europe. To what extent he is “the puppet on the string”, and to what extent he has his own agenda, is a matter for discussion. But it is undeniable that he has the full support, both financially and logistically, of Western services in everything he does (including the production of sensational discoveries that the Russians will immediately unmask as a montage, but that will remain largely or completely ignored by the Western media).

However, although the Russians have shown that “Putin’s secret residence” is not who Navalny claims, but the site of a super-luxury hotel still in construction, owned by a few oligarchs, although they show how in the animation of the entrance door the Russian emblem (eagle) was replaced by the Montenegrin, although there are recordings that show how “peaceful” demonstrators for Navalny physically attack Russian policemen, in the West every average citizen today “knows” that Moscow poisoned Navalny, that Putin has a secret residence, and that Russian police across the country is beating peaceful demonstrators who only want Putin’s removal (although they, young people in the first place, are invited to demonstrate by promising that it will be a “good party”).

 The same type of “blindness” prevailed until a few days ago in relation to the Russian vaccine against covid19. Despite the fact that it is for weeks applied in Russia, that it is exported to a dozen countries, some of which take on the production (such as for example Serbia, or Iran), in the Western media Sputnik V, the world first registered vaccine against Corona simply did not exist. And even after the UN Secretary-General explicitly cited Sputnik V as a significant tool in the fight against the pandemic, this vaccine was nonexistent in the Western media. Until Europe was confronted with the fact that the favored AstraZeneca drastically reduced the promised delivery and until a prestigious British medical journal did not “discover” that the Russian vaccine was both effective and harmless. And now suddenly all those who have kept silent or ignored the vaccine, not because it is suspicious, but because and only because it came from Russia, and was – above all – the world’s first, seem to compete in writing and speaking about Sputnik V.

In such circumstances Joseph Borrell went to Moscow. And, of course, he disappointed all those Western propagandists who still live in the “Trump film”, who are still prisoners of the policy of “containing Russia”, because – instead of hammering with his fist on the table, instead of threatening and blackmailing – he mostly silently listened to the remarks of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, including the one describing the European Union is an “unreliable partner.” But now analysts and journalists, both of whom does not deserve to be called as such, compete in attacking Borrell, saying that his performance was shameful and that he disgraced European Union, that his trip to Moscow was a “failure” and wishing in his place Mike Pompeo, Trump’s foreign minister (yes, so far we have fallen!). 

And the Russians, to show how the time had passed when they silently received blows from the West, just at the time of Borrell’s visit to Moscow, announced the expulsion of three Western diplomats for “participating in illegal demonstrations by Alexei Navalny’s supporters.” The West does not accept this, ignoring the fact that the demonstrations did take place without the permission of the authorities and that the job of diplomats is not to be “in demonstrations”, but to report on them. But very significantly, the German chancellor did not fail, in condemning the Russian step, to add that stopping the completion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is out of the question.

And that is exactly the core of today’s problems in the relations between the West and Moscow. If the West start using common sense in achieving its interests in relations with Russia, if it stops playing on this or that potential successor of Putin (which would be more acceptable to the West, which means more compliant, not to say more obedient), if it stops treating the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a unique victory of one, its, system over another (liberal capitalism over the idea of socialism, because socialism as a system presented itself in many different forms, of which the Yugoslav was the most liberal), it will create conditions for a new, open dialogue. A dialogue in which neither Moscow will have to listen to the “lectures” from Brussels, nor the EU will be forced to “swallow” unpleasant Russian responses.

But it must be a dialogue of equal, because the crucial Russian ambition is to be accepted as an equal partner and not treated as defeated and subordinate. As long as the politicians and the so-called journalists in their service do not understand this, failures and shames will continue. But whose? Not Europe’s, not Russia’s. Any further failure in the effort to put Russian-European relations on a new, different and healthy foundation will be a failure and a shame for common sense, but also for the interests of the citizens of both Russia and the countries of the European Union. We are consciously not mentioning America in this context, because Europe should be able to act in its own name and in defense of its interests. But, judging by the reactions to Borrell’s visit to Moscow, we are still very, very far from that.

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Europe

Europe tells Biden “no way” to Cold War with China

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Amidst the first big transatlantic tensions for the Biden Administration, a new poll shows that the majority of Europeans see a new Cold War happening between the United States and China, but they don’t see themselves as a part of it.

Overwhelmingly, 62% of Europeans believe that the US is engaged in a new Cold War against China, a new poll just released by the European Council on Foreign Relations found. Just yesterday US President Joe Biden claimed before the UN General Assembly that there is no such thing and the US is not engaging in a new Cold War. So, Europeans see Biden’s bluff and call him on it.

The study was released on Wednesday by Mark Leonard and Ivan Krastev at the European Council on Foreign Relations and found that Europeans don’t see themselves as direct participants in the US-China Cold War. This viewpoint is most pronounced in Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Portugal and Italy, according to the study. The prevailing view, in each of the 12 surveyed EU member states, is one of irrelevance – with respondents in Hungary (91%), Bulgaria (80%), Portugal (79%), and Austria (78%) saying that their country is not in a conflict with Beijing.

Only 15% of Europeans believe that the EU is engaged in a Cold War against China. The percentage is so low that one wonders if there should even be such a question. It is not only not a priority, it is not even a question on the agenda for Europeans. Even at the highest point of EU “hawkishness”, only 33% of Swedes hold the view that their country is currently in a Cold War with China.  Leonard and Krastev warn that if Washington and Brussels are preparing for an all-in generational struggle against China, this runs against the grain of opinion in Europe, and leaders in Washington and Brussels will quickly discover that they “do not have a societal consensus behind them”.

“The European public thinks there is a new cold war – but they don’t want to have anything to do with it. Our polling reveals that a “cold war” framing risks alienating European voters”, Mark Leonard said.

The EU doesn’t have the backing of its citizens to follow the US in its new Cold War pursuit. But unlike the views of the authors of the study, my view is that this is not a transatlantic rift that we actually have to be trying to fix. Biden’s China policy won’t be Europe’s China policy, and that’s that, despite US efforts to persuade Europe to follow, as I’ve argued months ago for the Brussels Report and in Modern Diplomacy.

In March this year, Gallup released a poll that showed that 45% of Americans see China as the greatest US enemy. The poll did not frame the question as Cold War but it can be argued that Joe Biden has some mandate derived from the opinion of American people. That is not the case for Europe at all, to the extent that most of us don’t see “China as an enemy” even as a relevant question.

The US’s China pursuit is already giving horrible for the US results in Europe, as French President Macron withdrew the French Ambassador to the US. The US made a deal already in June, as a part of the trilateral partnership with the UK and Australia, and stabbed France in the back months ago to Macron’s last-minute surprise last week. Max Boot at the Council on Foreign Relations argues that it is Macron that is actually arrogant to expect that commitments and deals should mean something: “Back in February, Macron rejected the idea of a U.S.-E.U. common front against China. Now he complains when America pursues its own strategy against China. What’s French for chutzpah?” What Boot does get right is that indeed, there won’t be a joint US-EU front on China, and European citizens also don’t want this, as the recent poll has made clear.

The US saying Europe should follow the US into a Cold War with China over human rights is the same thing as China saying that Europe should start a Cold War with the US over the bad US human rights record. It’s not going to happen. You have to understand that this is how ridiculous the proposition sounds to us, Europeans. Leonard and Krastev urge the EU leadership to “make the case for more assertive policies” towards China around European and national interests rather than a Cold War logic, so that they can sell a strong, united, and compelling case for the future of the Atlantic alliance to European citizens.

I am not sure that I agree, as “more assertive policies” and “cold war” is probably the same thing in the mind of most Europeans and I don’t think that the nuance helps here or matters at all. Leaders like Biden argue anyway that the US is not really pursuing a Cold War. The authors caution EU leaders against adopting a “cold war” framing. You say “framing”, I say “spin”. Should we be in engaging in spins at all to sell unnecessary conflict to EU citizens only to please the US?

Unlike during the first cold war, [Europeans] do not see an immediate, existential threat”, Leonard clarified. European politicians can no longer rely on tensions with China to convince the electorate of the value of transatlantic relations. “Instead, they need to make the case from European interests, showing how a rebalanced alliance can empower and restore sovereignty to European citizens in a dangerous world”, Mark Leonard added. The study shows that there is a growing “disconnect” between the policy ambitions of those in Brussels and how Europeans think. EU citizens should stick to their sentiments and not be convinced to look for conflict where it doesn’t exist, or change what they see and hear with their own eyes and ears in favor of elusive things like the transatlantic partnership, which the US itself doesn’t believe in anyways. And the last thing that should be done is to scare Europeans by convincing them they live in a “dangerous world” and China is the biggest threat or concern.

What the study makes clear is that a Cold War framing against China is likely to repel more EU voters than it attracts, and if there is one thing that politicians know it is that you have to listen to the polls in what your people are telling you instead of engaging in spins. Those that don’t listen in advance get the signs eventually. At the end of the day it’s not important what Biden wants.

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Germany and its Neo-imperial quest

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In January 2021, eight months ago, when rumours about the possibility of appointment of Christian Schmidt as the High Representative in Bosnia occurred for the first time, I published the text under the title ‘Has Germany Lost Its NATO Compass?’. In this text I announced that Schmidt was appointed to help Dragan Čović, the leader of the Croatian HDZ party, to disrupt the constitutional structure of Bosnia-Herzegovina and create precoditions for secession of the Serb- and Croatian-held territories in Bosnia and the country’s final dissolution. I can hardly add anything new to it, except for the fact that Schmidt’s recent statements at the conference of Deutsche Atlantische Gesellschaft have fully confirmed my claims that his role in Bosnia is to act as Čović’s ally in the latter’s attempts to carve up the Bosnian Constitution.

Schmidt is a person with a heavy burden, the burden of a man who has continuously been promoting Croatian interests, for which the Croatian state decorated him with the medal of “Ante Starčević”, which, in his own words, he “proudly wears” and shares with several Croatian convicted war criminals who participated in the 1992-1995 aggression on Bosnia, whom Schmidt obviously perceives as his ideological brethren. The question is, then, why Germany appointed him as the High Representative in Bosnia? 

Germany’s policy towards Bosnia, exercised mostly through the institutions of the European Union, has continuously been based on the concept of Bosnia’s ethnic partition. The phrases that we can occassionaly hear from the EU, on inviolability of state boundaries in the Balkans, is just a rhetoric adapted to the demands by the United States to keep these boundaries intact. So far, these boundaries have remained intact mainly due to the US efforts to preserve them. However, from the notorious Lisbon Conference in February 1992 to the present day, the European Union has always officially stood behind the idea that Bosnia-Herzegovina should be partitioned along ethnic lines. At the Lisbon Conference, Lord Carrington and Jose Cutileiro, the official representatives of the then European Community, which has in the meantime been rebranded as the European Union, drew the maps with lines of ethnic partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina, along which the ethnic cleansing was committed, with 100.000 killed and 1,000.000 expelled, so as to make its territory compatible with their maps. Neither Germany nor the European Union have ever distanced themselves from the idea they promoted and imposed at the Lisbon Conference as ‘the only possible solution’ for Bosnia, despite the grave consequences that followed. Nor has this idea ever stopped being a must within their foreign policy circles, as it has recently been demonstrated by the so-called Janša Non-Paper, launched a couple of months ago, which also advocates the final partition and dissolution of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Such a plan is probably a product of the powerful right-wing circles in the European institutions, such as Schmidt’s CSU, rather than a homework of Janez Janša, the current Prime Minister of Slovenia, whose party is a part of these circles, albeit a minor one. To be sure, Germany is not the original author of the idea of Bosnia’s partition, this author is Great Britain, which launched it directly through Lord Carrington at the Lisbon Conference. Yet, Germany has never shown a will to distance itself from this idea, nor has it done the European Union. Moreover, the appointment of Schmidt, as a member of those political circles which promote ethnic partition as the only solution for multiethnic countries, testifies to the fact that Germany has decided to fully apply this idea and act as its chief promoter.

In this process, the neighbouring countries, Serbia and Croatia, with their extreme nationalist policies, can only act as the EU’s proxies, in charge for the physical implemenation of Bosnia’s pre-meditated disappearance. All the crimes that Serbia and Croatia committed on the Bosnian soil – from the military aggression, over war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide, up to the 30 year-long efforts to undermine Bosnia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – have always had a direct approval and absolute support of the leading EU countries. During the war and in its aftermath, Great Britain and France were the leaders of the initiatives to impose ethnic partition on the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and now Germany has taken up their role. In such a context, the increasing aggressiveness of Serbia and Croatia can only be interpreted as a consequence of the EU’s intention to finish with Bosnia for good, and Schmidt has arrived to Bosnia to facilitate that process. Therefore, it is high time for the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina to abandon any ilussions about the true intentions of the European Union and reject its Trojan Horse in the form of the current High Representative.  

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Should there be an age limit to be President?

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The presidential elections in Bulgaria are nearing in November 2021 and I would like to run for President of Bulgaria, but the issue is the age limit.

To run for President in Bulgaria a candidate needs to be at least 40 years old and I am 37. I am not the first to raise the question: should there be an age limit to run for President, and generally for office, and isn’t an age limit actually age discrimination?

Under the international human rights law standard, putting an age limit is allowed in the context of political participation under the right to vote and the right to run to be elected. Human Rights Committee General Comment No.25 interpreting the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that an age limit has to be based on objective and reasonable criteria, adding that it is reasonable to have a higher age requirement for certain offices. As it stands, the law says that having an age limit for president is not age discrimination, but is 40 actually a reasonable cut-off? National legislations can change. We need to lower the age limit and rethink what’s a reasonable age for President, and not do away with all age limits.

We have seen strong leaders emerge as heads of state and government who are below 40 years of age. Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland, became Prime Minister at 34. Sebastrian Kurz, the Prime Minister of Austria, was elected at 31. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, assumed her position at 37. So perhaps it is time to rethink age limits for the highest offices.

The US has plenty of examples where elected Senators and Congressmen actually beat the age limit and made it despite the convention. The age limit for Senator in the US is 30 years old. Rush Holt was elected to the US Senate at 29. In South Carolina, two State Senators were elected at 24 years old and they were seated anyways. The age limit for US president is 35 years old.

In Argentina, the age cut-off is 30. In India, it is 35. In Pakistan, it is 45 years old. In Turkey, it is 40 years old. Iceland says 35 years old. In France, it is 18.

Generally, democracies set lower age limits. More conservative countries set the age limit higher in line with stereotypes rather than any real world evidence that a 45 year-old or 55 year-old person would be more effective and better suited to the job. Liberal countries tend to set lower age limits.

40 years old to be a President of Bulgaria seems to be an arbitrary line drawn. And while it is legal to have some age limits, 40 years old seems to be last century. Changing the age limit for president of Bulgaria could be a task for the next Bulgarian Parliament for which Bulgarians will also vote on the same date as they vote for President.

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