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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.

Professor of Political Ideas and Institutions, Università degli Studi Guglielmo Marconi

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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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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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What Is a Sovereign State?

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Against the backdrop of the rapid collapse of the US-led world order, the question of which states will survive in the new world is becoming increasingly relevant. It is no coincidence that the President of Russia regularly addresses this problem. In one of his recent speeches at the forum of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, Vladimir Putin defined “genuine sovereignty” as the main condition for the success of the countries of the world in the new era. 

At first glance, it may seem that we are talking about the obvious — over the past 100 years, the formal sovereignty of dozens of countries has become commonplace. However, in reality, the problem is much deeper — it is not at all evident that formally-recognised statehood indicates the viability of a state as a social organisation. 

That is why we now associate the survival of a state with its ability to independently determine its development and foreign policy behaviour. There are almost 200 sovereign countries in the world, including large, medium and small ones — but not all can be considered truly sovereign; fewer than half, in fact. This is not surprising — the entire international order after the Second World War was focused on somehow solving the problem of an ever-increasing number of formal sovereign jurisdictions. This is really a problem, because only a limited number of states have the resources to ensure a relatively independent existence. The rest had to rely on special connections with more powerful players from the start. Here there is no need to talk about complete sovereignty.

The last century was marked by three waves of emergence of states whose ability to survive independently in a chaotic system was unproven. The first set of these includes the countries that became the product of the collapse of European empires as a result of the First World War. At that time, practically all the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, the former possessions of the Austrian, German and Russian empires in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, arose. The only exception was Iran, which has maintained its tradition of statehood for centuries. The small new countries of Eastern Europe existed in an incomprehensible status for two decades and, after the Second World War, actually lost their sovereignty in favour of one of the superpowers — mainly the USSR.

The second wave of sovereignty is associated with the collapse of the world colonial empires, whose metropolises are located in Western Europe. The collapse of the British, Belgian, Dutch, Portuguese and French empires led to the emergence of dozens of new jurisdictions in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia, most of which immediately came under the decisive influence of their former colonial masters. Only a few powers in Asia and a few in Africa were able to achieve true independence. India, Vietnam or Egypt owe this to their demographics — a large population made it possible to create military and economic resources for independent behaviour.

And, finally, the third round of fragmentation into small formally sovereign units is associated with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Then 14 new countries of the so-called post-Soviet space appeared at once, and Moscow’s satellites did not restore their sovereignty, but simply came under the patronage of the winners — the United States and the large countries of Western Europe. Among the countries that emerged after the collapse of the USSR, only a few still look like they are capable of independent development. Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan have unique resources — population and natural wealth — the rest cannot boast of this, and their sovereign future is in question. In some cases (Georgia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) their geopolitical position contributes to the gradual strengthening of their sovereignty. These republics behave adequately to the power composition of Eurasia because they know how to look at the map. Although in the case of Georgia, the development of this skill does not take place without the help of Russia.

As a result of these waves of sovereignisation, more and more countries have emerged in the world whose power capabilities do not allow them to be considered fully autonomous units. This means that their own contribution to global stability is minimal, if anything. However, the endowment of small and medium-sized countries with formal rights within the framework of the UN system invented by the West after the Second World War required somehow the solving of the problem of managing these rights from outside.

For several decades, the consequences of the participation in world politics of many sovereign states which are incapable of independence have been mitigated through the institutions of the Liberal International Order. This gave small and medium-sized countries the opportunity to develop within a certain system of rules and norms determined by the West, led by the United States. Scores of countries throughout the world were actually deprived of sovereignty with respect to their domestic and foreign policies. In some cases, as, for example, in the system of agreements between the European Union and groups of developing countries, the renunciation of full sovereignty was fixed in the form of obligations in exchange for access to the resource development offered by Europe. All this, however, required the West to actually share a part, albeit a small one, of the development resources that the global market economy created.

The process of depriving many countries of real sovereignty gained particular intensity after 1991, when even the elementary system of checks and balances that existed during the Cold War was destroyed. It is not surprising that it was during this historical period, the discussion about the withering away of “Westphalian sovereignty” actively began in the context of the strengthening of international institutions. In fact, these institutions were controlled, directly or indirectly, by the victorious countries in the Cold War, who themselves were in no hurry to give up their sovereignty.

However, be that as it may, even if the deprivation of sovereignty by many countries did not receive formal implementation at the level of international law, they themselves were quite ready for this, in fact, glad about quite specific benefits. Moreover, many countries from among the last “wave” of sovereignisation even associated their plans for solving the main tasks of development with the loss of independence. In Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, we can find a whole group of countries for which the renunciation of sovereignty has already turned out to be practically the official “key” to a brighter future within the Liberal world order. It even went so far as to introduce such a task, in a veiled form, into the national Constitutions. In other cases, such as Kazakhstan, the transfer of some sovereign rights to partners in the West is seen as a way to protect themselves from the US and allies using local corruption and social stratification as a tool to influence the ruling regimes. There were countries which were suppliers of labour, other countries were gas stations, still other countries were granaries, other countries were military bases, and so on. The partial renunciation of sovereignty in favour of the West, in addition, is considered by individual regimes as a kind of ideal “guarantee” that the bigger neighbours — Russia or China — could more insistently indicate to their small neighbours their place in the geopolitical position.

However, this international order proved to be short-lived. First, because the largest of the countries outside the narrow community of the West — China, India and Russia — were not ready for their own desovereignisation. For them, following the proposed path would be disastrous for internal reasons and, accordingly, irrational from the point of view of the state’s survival. Therefore, such powers sooner or later had to create direct or indirect opposition to the West. Second, and more importantly, the world’s leading countries themselves have run out of resources that could be exchanged for the sovereignty of small and medium-sized countries. As a result, the US and Western Europe are increasingly forced to resort to extremely repressive measures — sanctions and special trade regimes — in order to ensure that their desires are met. The most striking example here is last year’s initiative of the European Union to make the ability of external partners to trade with its states dependent on the fulfilment of EU requirements in terms of climate change.

Finally, in the international community, a fairly significant group of states has emerged that feel so confident in their abilities that they can challenge the West’s monopoly in world affairs. This behaviour became evident in the US attempts to isolate Russia after the crisis around Ukraine turned into a military-political matter. And we are not talking only about such powers as Iran or Pakistan, whose interaction with the Liberal World Order has always been strained. In recent months, more and more middle-sized developing countries have shown that they are not going to follow the instructions of the US and its allies in politics and economic relations.

The result is the collapse of the system of limited sovereignties and, as a result, the “freezing” of many countries that are internally weak and incapable of independent development. Several dozen modern states are currently approaching a choice between gaining real sovereignty or losing it within the existing territorial limits. In fact, there is an alternative to such a gloomy choice — it is the formation of foreign policy and development policy based not on the institutional features of the outgoing world order, but on an objective assessment of one’s geopolitical position and place in the regional power composition. Moreover, it is difficult to imagine now when this or that great power will seek to deprive its neighbours of formal sovereignty — this is extremely costly in all respects. There is no doubt that not everyone is given the right choice, but only it, most likely, can become the basis for survival amid modern conditions.

From our partner RIAC

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