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The Return of History

As part of our media partnership with Blogactiv, we are cross-posting this article by Stanley Crossick, the founding chairman of the European Policy Centre.

Francis Fukuyama was wrong. We have not been witnessing the end of history, but the return of history.

One reason for this is that we have not learned the lessons of history. But who did not at least think that 1989 had brought to an end four decades of Cold War in Europe and the establishment of a long term Pax Americana?

The US and Europe, led by market-obsessed economists, focused on economic and democratic reform in Russia and anchoring former Soviet countries in first in NATO and then in the European Union. Little attention was paid to Russian sensitivities or western behaviour perceived by Russians to be humiliating. We should have recognised that permanent change had not taken place: historical Russia was on vacation.

A combination of high energy prices and a populist, popular and effective President has returned Russia to its underlying imperial traditions and insecurity complex. Balance of power and containment thinking is alive and well.  Cold War II may soon be with us - indeed will be with us - if we have still to learn the cost of humiliating the Russian Bear.

Russian behaviour in Georgia and Ukraine is to be deplored, but we will not find a modus vivendi with Russia unless we give due consideration to valid Russian concerns.  Incorporating Georgia and Ukraine into NATO and extending the Anti-Missile Defence System to within a few hundred kilometres of the Russian borders are provocative and always asking for trouble.

At the very least, there has to be an agreed and implementable strategy.  What would have happened if Georgia were a member of NATO?  Would Article 5 have been invoked against Russian aggression in Georgia?  NATO leaders should by now have learned that you don't start something you don't know how to end.  They should also have learned to tread warily with leaders of the character of President Saakashvili.

The South Ossetia/ crisis was totally predictable.  The ongoing geopolitical tensions between Russia and the US, and Europe, risk escalating.  Vladimir Putin has stated that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the worst geopolitical disaster of the 20th century: he means it.


Return of history (2)

By remarkable coincidence, Kishore Mahbubani, with whom I have in the past exchanged views both in Singapore and by email, wrote in yesterday's Financial Times, making the identical point that my post made: we are seeing played out in Georgia, "the return of history" - not its end and not the "triumph of western civilisation".

The 'triumphalism' was and is, essentially, American, with we Europeans as ever sitting on our hands.  Failure to resist entitles Kishore to assert that "the west" has intruded into the geopolitical spaces of other countries.

The current issue of Foreign Affairs, which I also received yesterday, contains an essay by Bob Kagan, (the writer with whom I most enjoy disagreeing!), the author of "The Return of History and the End of Dreams."

Bob argues that the next US Administration should learn from Bush's mistakes, but it cannot shrink from using
US power to build a liberal order founded on democratic principles.  Kishore, I'm sure, also rejects this thinking.  As he writes, "The gap between the western narrative and the rest of the world could not be greater."

Bob Kagan provocatively concludes his essay, "In a fracturing world, the only worse thing than a self-absorbed hegemon is an incompetent self-absorbed hegemon."

Stanley Crossick is a political analyst and media commentator on EU internal and external policies, with special expertise on China. He blogs at Blogactiv. More about his bio.


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Pat Patterson on :

I'm trying to figure out how establishing transparent rule of law, recognition of the rights of citizens and a better economic system can be seen as confounding Russian sensitivities. One could ask the simple questi; Are Russians better of now with an admittedly imperfect democracy and rapidly growing economy than under a perfect communist state? Let's not continue to apologize for rapacious behaviour because the perpetrator has psychological issues. I would be interested in the genteel reaction if Japan and Germany started demanding some attention be paid to their imperial traditions and allowed some leeway to restore their inner calm?

John in Michigan, USA on :

Even though it is no longer an ideological battle, it is two nuclear powers facing off, so comparisons with the Cold War are inevitable. However, to me this feels more like a return to 19th century "balance of power" politics. The assumption in Russia and Europe, and also in the realist wing of the US, is that certain Great Powers may determine the borders and alignments of all the little Balkan republics. This is appalling. God forbid these republics should be permitted to negotiate their borders an decide their alignments themselves! Where are the screams of "colonialism!" from the left? It is awfully quiet.

Said Faisal Hassan AL-Sultany on :

سياسي عراقي سابق عالق في روسيا الاتحادية الكاتب : العراق للجميع | أضيف بتاريخ :09-08-2008 7:59:30 PM | [ قراءة : 35209 مرة ] سياسي عراقي سابق عالق في روسيا الاتحادية ايهاب سليم-صحفي مستقل-السويد-تقرير-9/8/2008: سعيد فيصل حسن السلطاني,56 عاما, سياسي عراقي سابق كان يعمل امين مخزن في ديوان الرئاسة السابق ضمن مهمات القصر الجمهوري,حاز على كتاب تثمين الجهود المرقم 2995 عام 1987من قبل الرئيس العراقي السابق صدام حسين,قرر السلطاني تقديم استقالته من العمل رسيما ضمن الكتاب المرقم 5162 عام 1993. بعد معاناة مريرة في العراق,قرر السلطاني التوجه الى روسيا الاتحادية عام 1994 طالبا اللجوء فيها ولاسيما ان العراق كان يمر بأوضاع مأساوية,الا ان على ما يبدو جرت عملية تزييف في الاقوال من قبل المترجمة العراقية اثناء مقابلة المحامي على حد قول السلطاني,ادى ذلك الى رفض طلب لجوءه من قبل المفوضية العليا لشؤون اللاجئيين التابعة للامم المتحدة. اكمل السلطاني قائلا:تقدمت باكثر من عشرين شكوى الى المفوضية العليا لشؤون اللاجئيين الا ان المفوضية العليا تؤكد بعدم وجود هذه الشكاوي في ملف طلب لجوءه! اضاف السلطاني قائلا:الادهى من ذلك انهم سجلوني اعزب رغم اني متزوج ولدي اولاد وهم يعيشون في روسيا بأوراق ثبوتية قانونية صادرة من الامم المتحدة بعد قبول طلبات لجوءهم. عائلة السلطاني منهم شقيقه العقيد الركن في الجيش العراقي السابق وشقيقته العاملة في الخطوط الجوية العراقية سابقا وباقي افراد اسرته قد غادروا العراق الى بلدان اخرى بعد تلقيهم تهديدات مباشرة من قبل الميلشيات المدعومة من ايران. اختتم السلطاني مناشدا المنظمات والهيئات الدولية ايجاد له حل سريع ولاسيما انه يعيش منذ اربعة سنوات داخل شقته على نفقة اولاده واصدقاءه دون التمكن من التسوق او التوجه الى المستشفيات الرسمية في روسيا الاتحادية او حتى عدم القدرة للعودة الى العراق وذلك لخشيته من الاستهداف المباشر من قبل الميليشات المدعومة من ايران على حد قوله. ............................................................................................. Iraqi political man appeal in Russia Ihab Salim- independent journalist-Sweden-Report-9/8/2008: Said Faisal Hassan AL-Sultany,56 years,a former Iraqi political man who worked Treasurer in the former Presidential Office within the Republican Palace,he got the book value the efforts No. 2995 in 1987 by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein,AL-Sultany decided to submit his resignation from his post within the book No.5162 in 1993. After suffering a difficult in Iraq,AL-Sultany decided go to Russia in 1994 requesting asylum because that Iraq was going through a tragic situations,but it seems that process took place in the falsification of statements by the Iraqi translator during an interview lawyer according to AL-Sultany said,this led to the rejection of his asylum request by the High Commission for Refugees of the United Nations. AL-Sultany said:I was given twenty filed a complaint to the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees but the High Commission stresses that there is no such complaints on file a request for asylum! AL-Sultany added:Harder than that,they wrote at i am single although I am married and i have children,they live in Russia according to the legal identity papers issued by the United Nations after accepting requests for asylum! AL-Sultanie's family including his brother Colonel corner of the former Iraqi army and his sister working in the former Iraqi Airways and the rest of his family members had left Iraq to other countries after receiving direct threats by militias backed by Iran. AL-Sultany appealed to international organizations to find a quick solution,especially he lived for four years inside his apartment at the expense of his children and friends,he can not to the shopping or go to the hospital official in Russia,he is unable to return to Iraq because of fear of direct targeting by militias backed by Iran,According to AL-Sultany said

John in Michigan, USA on :

Mr. AL-Sultany, Thank you for providing an English translation. Kindly reply to this comment and I will be happy to discuss your situation.

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