Friday, January 28, 2005

Encirclement

[30/01: added half-sentence giving credit to Kerry]

Via Apostate Windbag, I found this surprisingly insightful post-Orange-Revolution analysis written for the British UK Ministry of Defense by Graeme Herd, a professor on security issues.

The thesis is, basically, of negative consequences in the region: authoritarian rulers elsewhere in the CIS states will react to the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine with increased authoritarianism, limits on NGOs and Western organisations, which the aim to prevent the possibility of further 'velvet revolutions', in which they will be successful. He argues that the perception alone of a Western grand plan behind these velvet revolutions is enough to elicit such response, and singles out some neocons specifically for bolstering these perceptions with op-eds and public statements. He also argues that the accusation of being a front for Western services will be used against democratic movements the same way the War On Terra has been used by regimes in predominantly Muslim countries or regions to clam down on the opposition.

This rhymes well with two connected issues I have only touched here before. The first is "what to do with Russia?"

The neocons (and their DLC bedfellows in the Democratic Party, most of whose senators again proved they aren't worth the support and trust of all the US liberals lining up under the Anything But Bush banner, voting for Condi Rice - tough, to his credit, now Kerry himself was among the "No"-voters) again push for the strategy of encirclement, justified (rhetorically) with Tsar Putin's increased ante. The main EU powers, on the contrary, want to maintain relations - which, especially in the case of German chancellor Schröder, includes a lot of economic arguments and goes as far as ignoring Putin's authoritarian moves and cruelty in Chechnya in open sight. However, some lesser EU powers, most notably Poland, and some political thinkers also embrace the idea of encirclement, of closing off Russia.

In the article I also referred to at the end of the previous post, the one criticising the Hungarian government for inept foreign policy from an Atlanticist's viewpoint, the encirclement of Russia appeared in another point - one complaining about the Hungarian foreign ministry not joining in the loud pro-Yushchenko chorus and about the previous PM's idea of building relations with Russia for commercial gain.

I think the idea of encirclement is, simply put, pure idiocy. It achieves nothing positive - the enircled authoritarian ruler will only become more paranoid and more authoritarian, making people's lifes (more) miserable. Those doing the encircling will be viewed cynically by a lot of people, often majorities as having less than altruistic motives when helping break-off/pro-local-regime-change movements, and that both before and after the change (when euphoria is over), which will work against even just the achievement of encirclement itself. (Emphasis on "viewed" not because that view wouldn't reflect reality, but because whether that truth enters public consciousness is the more important factor here.)

Maintaining relations, channels that could be used to prevent political misunderstandings and escalations, and non-political connections which can be used in case of some upheaval - as done by most Western European governments with Eastern Europe after German chancellor Willy Brandt's "Wandel durch Annäherung"[*] - is much more sensible and productive, but only if you don't forget to bother the authoritarian ruler(s) with questions about human rights. Which is quite different from the crude 'economic-realist' spinelessness of Mr. Schröder et al. (Which reminds me of his role model, Brandt's successor Helmut Schmidt, not a man without shameful compromises himself, who a few years ago famously complained about the lack of far-sightedness and the general mediocry of present-day politicians.)

For the record, that's my stance on the USA, too. With its actions abroad, its stance on weapons treaties, human rights, laws of war, and the most pressing global problems, and its relative effect due to its weight, the USA is currently unrivalled as the worst of the rogue states - while its economy is a global timebomb. Which is of course why I advocate an even more independent, non-deferential approach of Europe, and an economic parting of ways. But, even if such a policy is just a distant possibility and is advocated by people far away from power, I would oppose a fully confrontational approach aimed at cutting off the Bushista USA from the rest of the world, for similar reasons as in the case of Putinista Russia. (I can't for my life understand why some here want to abadon the besieged American Left [and anti-war Right], even if most of it fell for ABB.)

The second, related issue is one of diplomacy. This is really a DUH! thing - if you don't want a regime, or even more importantly, a population submitted to its propaganda, to become paranoid about you, choose your words carefully, speak as objective as possible. A distinction that all responsible EU politicians, not to mention newspeople, and not even to think about printed or blogging pundits, should have made is between being "pro-democracy" and being "pro-Yushchenko", especially as in 'democratures' (as opposed to totalitarian dictatures) the pro-regime side is a significant part of the demos.

(In a related note, there is no democracy without a viable opposition, so just one group or alliance deposing a regime means elite change, and not necessarily real democracy. Just witness some of the disasters around my region. Hence if 'fostering democracy' means anything at all, it means fostering multiple opposed groups that don't want hegemony should they gain power - and of course institutions that would prevent any group from gaining hegemony.)

UPDATE: I avoided to sound deeper scepticism about (some) policies purporting to be aimed at spreading democracy (as those towards Venezuela), and their effectiveness even if they are honest. But you can read insightful excerpts from Eric Hobsbawm in a post by histologlion. Interesting connection there to earlier disasters, like the post-WWI disintegration of Europe.

[*] The original author of this policy, who under Brandt became secretary of the chanchellor's office, Egon Bahr, summarised the essence of it in this (translated) sentence when a treaty was signed with East Germany: "Until now, we had no relations, now we have bad relations - and that's progress."

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