BASICS OF RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY


A recent report published by the United Kingdom’s Intelligence and Security Committee defines Russia’s behaviour in the following manner :

Russia seems to see foreign policy as a zero-sum game: any actions it can take which damage the West are fundamentally good for Russia.

and once again, like we did for RAND, we need to disprove this sentence as biased, if not fully perfidious; Russia’s foreign policy actions are in support of international law, with the aim of uphold and strengthen the UN Charter as the fundamental base for international relations (as compared to the West’s actions, which support the fabricated “rules-based-international-order”, mentioned just underneath this sentence, where the fraudulent cultural construct known as “West” has the power to make and destroy nations with no reproach). With these premises, it is easy to imagine how painfully narrow-minded and fundamentally incorrect this report is.

Moreover, we need to note how “the West” presented by the UK as a unitary entity is actually not so much united; the last Munich Conference’s theme was “Westelessness” and the Superintendent was showcasing there great displease, if not downright contempt, for those countries, who don’t behave accordingly to the Superintendent’s own edicts. So not only is the UK here misrepresenting Russia, but it also trying to mystify the situation further.

But let’s see in the specific how they classify Russia’s actions in the international realm:

The limited number of individuals who are ‘in the know’ makes decision-making hard to understand, compared with systems where power and influence are dispersed among a great number of political players. Moreover, the President can make swift decisions that even his inner circle are not aware of – further complicating any ability to understand or predict Russian government intent.

and this is indeed very interesting, because in the Principles of Russian Foreign Policy we find the sentence:

Russia’s foreign policy is open and predictable. It is characterized by consistency and continuity and reflects the unique role Russia has played for centuries as a counterbalance in international affairs and the development of global civilization.

But how do we prove who’s telling the truth? Let's first try to define what a predictable foreign policy is, (= which principles does it abide to); then we'll contextualise these principles into real life happenings, and we'll close with the usual reflection on what actions the European Union could take in order to become a force for good in the world.


Foreign Policy principles at a glance


In theory, all nations claim to be committed to respect

independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of other nations

so let's see what do these principles actually mean:

INDEPENDENCE is the right of nation-states to be their own entity - nations have the right to not be colonies of other countries; an independent nation-state often is characterised by a common language and a shared cultural background; a Constitution; on the symbolical level, independent nations states have a flag, a coat-of-arms or emblem, etc

TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY is the right of nations to not be invaded and taken over / partitioned by other countries. This principle, however, has many caveats; for example it is recognised in the 1975 OSCE Helsinki Final Act that

frontiers can be changed, in accordance with international law, by peaceful means and by agreement.

which seem to be including happenings such as the Kosovo independence declaration, as outlined by the United Nations itself.

SOVEREIGNTY refers to the right of every nation-state to govern itself - so they have the right to decide which type of government they have, which kind of policies they enact, which kind of judicial system they have, etc

What does this “sovereignty” mean, in practical terms? As this is a crucial concept to understand in order not only to understand Russia’s actions, but also in order to change and improve the European Union’s foreign policy, we need to really understand what "respecting other countries' sovereignty" entails. In practical terms, it means that no state has the right to invade others (or harass them in other ways, such as the usage of economical sanctions, which mostly hit the civilian population, arming the opposition to a foreign government in order to place in power a leader they like more, or randomly throwing bombs) in order to oblige them to change their government / change their laws / change their policies. In the contemporary global context the practice of forcibly removing governments has become a standard; yet it has brought more downsides than benefits; as this habit of trying to “democratise” people in far away lands is directly linked with the rise of islamic extremism. In simple words: people see a foreigner, who tries to oblige them to run their state as they wish, as an invader, and the opposition to this invasion mostly manifests itself in the form of religious extremism (often based on dubious and non-mainstream interpretation of religious doctrine), as religion, especially in the MENA area, is a fundamental part of one’s identity (see all of the shia-sunni disagreements). So the extremists leverage the natural discontent of the population for being attacked by someone from the outside in order to gain themselves more power (and lands, and booty, etc). Without even mentioning that this complete disregard for other countries’ sovereignty is at very base of the immigration / refugee crisis (if we wouldn’t throw bombs on them, people wouldn’t need to run away from their countries).

Sovereignty needs to be respected also while trying to help other countries’ to solve internal issues; one cannot oblige two (three / more) parties to talk and solve issues; and neither can external players decide that only some parties to the conflict are allowed into the negotiation, as every party represents in any way a segment of the population. External players can just advise on the best actions to take and can help into creating the conditions for ALL the internal players to be able to resolve their own issues by themselves.


Moreover, the UN charter states:

Article 1
The Purposes of the United Nations are:
1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
4. To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

and from this we can gather that a well-devised foreign policy aims at de-escalating conflicts and promoting dialogue and political solutions over military solutions.


So now that we have outlined the good practices of foreign policy making, we'll take as an example the situation around the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in order to see, if the United Kingdom is telling the truth about Russia, or if it is instead the Russians who are telling the truth about themselves; we'll give some context to the matter, then we'll dive into the recent flaring up of the conflict, the armistice mediated by Russia, and finally, we'll discuss on the press-coverage of the matter, and we'll conclude with the usual reflection on Europe.


THE CONTEXT IN BRIEF


Recent history: Nagorno-Karabakh is geographically located in between the countries of Azerbaijan and Armenia; legally, it is part of the Azerbaijani territory, but Armenia disputes this, in view of the fact that the Nagorno-Karabakh area is populated mostly by ethnic Armenians. This situation came to be because of the collapse of the USSR (Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics), as Azerbaijan and Armenia both used to be Soviet Republics. When the USSR started to collapse in fact, in many areas the issue of establishing new borders and new nation-states arose; new borders, which often didn't take into account the ethnic composition of the population, were drawn up arbitrarily and this caused a lot of issues (think for example at how the Ossetia and Abkhazia regions started a war because they didn't want to be part of the newborn nation of Georgia). In 1988, a conflict in between Armenia and Azerbaijan erupted - but it went on undetected and undeclared for a while, as combat was happening mostly in the mountains (the so called "line of contact" is located in the Murogdav mountain range). It is to note that massacres and ethnic cleansing were happening from both sides. Nagorno-Karabakh declared itself to be part of Armenia with a referendum; Azerbaijan didn't recognise it. Eventually, this "low-key" combat became open war in 1992, and Armenia occupied the Nagorno-Karabakh area militarily.


By 1993, it was clear to everyone that neither of the two sides would give in; this war was set to continue for years to come, hence the United Nations Security Council (UNSC from now on) started to activate itself to maintain peace and stability, as per their mandate. On the 29th of January 1993, the president of the security council published a note, where he expressed serious concern for what was happening in the area and wished for negotiations and political talks to start under the aegis of OSCE (the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe). A few UNSC's resolutions followed this note (822, 853, 874, 884). The breakthrough however, happened in May 1994, when the Bishkek Protocol was signed. This protocol was signed in Kyrgyzstan, at the initiative of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) inter-parliamentary assembly; by the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan and the Federal Congress and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. With this protocol, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on a ceasefire (aka truce, "suspension of hostilities") and all the parties declared to be willing to work towards a more stable solution, in line with the UNSC's resolutions and with the cooperation of OSCE. In 1995 in fact, OSCE, on the mandate of the UNSC, created the "Minsk Group", co-chaired by Russia, the United States and France. According to the mandate, the group and especially the co-chairs had to work towards finding an appropriate, mediated solution to this Clausewitzian "political disagreement" if you will. Since 1995 however, no political agreement has been found; and the area routinely flares up with some skirmishes (see 2016) until when this year, in September 2020, open hostilities erupted violently; for twenty years the area had not been in such a state.


Geopolitical context (overview): this recent flare up has to some degree less to do with the actual political disagreement than it has with the overarching geopolitical context; as the Caspian Sea area is a transit area for oil to Europe. Turkey, like the United States, wants to be able to control and manage energy supplies to Europe (and elsewhere). We have seen this in relation to Libya and to Eastern Mediterranean - and now we see this again here. Turkey backed Azerbaijan militarily in this latest eruption of the conflict, with the aim of granting them a victory and thus earning an ally who would have helped in controlling the pipelines directed towards the South of Europe; because while Turkey is not an energy producer, they want to be a oil manager. Now, this move was aimed at increasing control both over Europe and Russia; as pipelines going from Russia to Europe go through that area (see the defunct South Stream, which both the European Union and the United States wanted to stop, by emitting new legislation, the former, and by pressuring Bulgaria, the latter).


While Turkey wanted one side to win, Russia had interest in the escalation not becoming open war, in primis, because this situation could have escalated into a bigger war, given the fact that Armenia is part of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) which is a military organisation active in the Central Asia area, with the aim of maintaining peace and stability (although NATO would argue they are failing miserably at it, as they haven't started any war yet). So, if Turkey-backed-Azerbaijan would have attacked Armenia proper, Russia would have been obliged to respect their commitments and go to the military help of Armenia. In a second instance, Russia has extensive ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan, and about 2M ethnic Armenians and 2M ethnic Azeris currently live in Russia. So the prompt de-escalation of hostilities was in the national security interests of Russia.


The United States and France, the other two Minsk Group co-chairs, were less invested in the results of this war, all notwithstanding. While the three Minsk co-chairs issued a joint-statement calling for the cessation of hostilities on the 1st of October 2020, and the United States mediated a ceasefire on the 26th of October 2020, deep down France just wanted to give a good beating to Turkey, because this has been the leitmotiv there for a while (not that Turkey would shy away from trying to give a good beating to France, it's a totally mutual sentiment there). The European Union, on her part, seemed to take the view that Turkey could have been brought to reason.


The 2020 conflict in brief: the 27th of September 2020, clashes erupted in the area. Both Azeri sources and Armenian sources accused the other of starting the conflict. While in the 90's Armenia had the military upper-hand, this time Azerbaijan seemed to have it; but throughout the whole conflict, accusations and unsubstantiated claims of victory came from both sides. Azerbaijan shelled Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh's de facto capital, and Armenia shelled cities in Azeri territory. Various ceasefires were mediated, the above mentioned American mediated ceasefire and a Russian mediated ceasefire on the 10th of October, but nothing stopped the two warring parties until on the 9th of November 2020 an armistice was signed between Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. The ceasefire started on the 10th of November, 00:00 Moscow time.


Before we go on, let us digress a moment and explain what is an armistice. An armistice is a declaration by which parties to a conflict agree that while the political disagreement over which the war started still exists, they at the same time declare their willingness to stop the military hostilities in favour of other problem-solving means (such as diplomacy). In other words, it is a truce. The agreement which ends a war altogether is called a peace treaty and it normally is signed after one of the warring parties capitulated, or surrendered. There is no such a thing as a "peace-deal" which seems to be a trendy term nowadays. Now let's go on.


On the 9th of November, as we were saying, an armistice was signed. According to the text of the armistice, the two warring parties agreed to stop hostilities and Russia agreed to send in peacekeeping troops to keep the situation stable. In brief: Azerbaijan gets back the Aghdam, Kelbajan and Lachin regions; an exchange of prisoners has to take place; transportation for civilian passage has to resume; internally displaced persons have to be able to return to their houses under the protection of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Russian peacekeeping troops have a five-year mandate for the area (automatically extended if neither party complains about it).

Russia agreed to send in 1,960 military personnel, 90 armoured personnel carriers, 380 units of automobile and special equipment. They are stationed along the "line of contact"; along the Lachin Corridor (the stretch of land which connects Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia proper) and they have few observation spots (16) stationed around the whole area.


Given that Armenia was strong of a victory in the 90's, and now they had to cede territory to Azerbaijan, this armistice could be considered a net loss for them; and this is why protests erupted in Yerevan on the day the armistice was signed - parliamentary forces would have rather continued the war than having to "admit to defeat" (defeat, so to speak, as they could have resorted to asking for help from CSTO, but it seems like CSTO was not too much into starting a war, my personal opinion). On the other hand, given the loss in the 90's, Azerbaijan scored a half-victory; half-victory because their intention was to take the whole Nagorno-Karabakh area. The real victor of this situation, in fact, was Russia, because they managed first, to stop a war, second, to strongly position themselves as the actual efficient peacemakers and peacekeepers in the region, and in my opinion, third, they actually gave some lessons in diplomacy to the West (I wonder if the West got that).


Now, Turkey still wants to be involved, but they are in favour of a military solution, while Russia is not. In fact, while there have been misinformed Western journalists who claimed that this is a Turko-Russo matter, Turkey is kinda biting the dust here as well. Turkey was involved in the process, and for sure the diplomatic and military consultations are still ongoing, but they have no active peacekeeping troops in the area (there is no mention of that in the armistice text). Apparently the armistice irritated a bit the Western co-chairs of the Minsk Group as well, who complained about not being "informed" that Moscow was negotiating a ceasefire (and I'm baffled by this statement; as Russian media itself was telling since the beginning of the conflict that stopping the fighting was their aim? ). And this is additional proof that this was a clear, net victory for Moscow.


This seems to be confirmed by Russia herself; as they published an article literally titled:

Nagorno-Karabakh peace: Battlefield victory for Azerbaijan, diplomatic win for Russia; Armenia saved from catastrophic defeat.

But more interesting than checking what the Russians say about the matter, it is to check what the war-loving British press says about it (as they're the ones throwing out intelligence reports which claim that Russia is erratic and dangerous). The Guardian's reporting on the armistice is pretty interesting; and it does show indeed in primis, their love for war, and in a second instance, their completely bias reporting skills.


The Guardian's view over the armistice which stopped the Armeno-Azeri conflict.


So they manage to present the armistice as a bad thing; because the point is not that the armistice stopped the war; the point is that the armistice caused the pro-war faction in the Armenian parliament to protest. This should highlight The Guardian's ethical and moral standards; a war is better than an armistice mediated by Moscow. There are of course various imprecisions in this piece; such as quoting someone saying

“The deal ends six weeks of heavy fighting, but is not a comprehensive peace treaty,” said Olga Oliker of the International Crisis Group in a statement, adding that many details of the ceasefire “remain vague”.

Duh, The Guardian. It is not a peace treaty and no one has called it peace treaty. Not the Kremlin, not the Russian ministry of Foreign Affairs, not the Russian ministry of Defence. It's an armistice, aka a truce, aka a cessation of hostilities. Do you have some troubles with the English language at The Guardian?

And moreover, I'd like to know which details "remain vague". On the opposite, we have very clear information over the steps which every side needs to undertake. Your statement, on the other hand, seems to be a bit "vague", The Guardian (and as a side note: the International Crisis group has ties to the United States military industrial complex, and their analysis always has the bottom line: war is good).


Even The Guardian, however, seems to be aware of the fact that stopping the war was a victory for Moscow, but look at how they frame Moscow's victory:

Michael Carpenter, an adviser to the US president-elect, Joe Biden, described the deal as a geopolitical victory for Vladimir Putin.

In primis, again, The Guardian, this is not a "deal" this is an armistice. And here we really see the whole of the pro-war sentiment popping out from the Holy Guardian of the Warmongering Left. An adviser to Biden says that stopping the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was a geopolitical victory for Putin; and heaven knows, that if Putin wins by signing armistices, then we need to do more war, because duh, Russia Bad! Joe Biden has lost no time in that regard; as he swiftly firmly placed a bunch of hawkish military industrial complex's figures at the head of his foreign policy cabinet. Like Merkel and like sharks, they smell the blood at The Guardian, and they are going in for the kill. War is finally respectable again, with Joe Biden!


Short version: left-wing, anti-war comedian and political commentator Jimmy Dore complains about Biden's fully pro-war cabinet.


Long version: anti-war, dissident author and journalist Max Blumenthal dissects Biden's pro-war foreign policy.


So if we consider the quote I opened this piece with:

Russia seems to see foreign policy as a zero-sum game: any actions it can take which damage the West are fundamentally good for Russia.

in context, then we can say, that to some twisted level they are correct; if the West's main interest is to keep war going, in order to feed the humongous American military-industrial complex, then Russia going around trying to de-escalate conflicts and signing armistices is a damaging action towards the West. But more than this; this morning in my newsletter I got this article:


From RT


and straight away I was remembered of:


From Foreign Policy magazine

Can you see it? The West defines "humanitarian" the throwing of bombs over unsuspecting countries; while Russia considers "humanitarian" the setting up of refugee camps after having negotiated an armistice.


And here we come back to the Weltanschauungskrieg; the War of the Worldviews. If Westerners would read Russian media more often they'd see, that they are bragging about signing armistices and stopping wars and that they use the word "humanitarian" in connection with disarmament and setting up refugees centres and they'd eventually realise, that Russia is not the dangerous Evil Actor who Wants to Destroy the World - because that's our role.


And in this sense we also need to mention how all of these "humanitarian" wars are against the UN Charter, article 1 comma 1, which was cited above:

Article 1
The Purposes of the United Nations are:
1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;

Let me be clear here (even if I have already stressed this point) - there is no such thing as a humanitarian war. War is the ultimate way to settle political disagreements; or the way to advance one country's interests by military means. Internal disagreements in third countries need to be resolved by fostering and promoting diplomatic / political solutions and with the main objective in sight to reduce civilian loss of life and civilian life disruption. In view of the case-study I presented above, it is very clear that Russia here had all of the possibilities of starting some kind of a war (given the fact that Armenia is in CSTO, and a casus belli is always easy to fabricate, if you really want a war) but they did not, because that would have been a breach of the UN Charter.


And the second sentence we quoted in the beginning is also deeply flawed, in view of the case-study presented above:

The limited number of individuals who are ‘in the know’ makes decision-making hard to understand, compared with systems where power and influence are dispersed among a great number of political players. Moreover, the President can make swift decisions that even his inner circle are not aware of – further complicating any ability to understand or predict Russian government intent.

in primis because as soon as the conflict erupted, I would have easily predicted, even without checking what the Russians themselves said about the situation, that they were not pleased with the flaring up of the conflict, and that they would have worked towards de-escalation. They are, indeed, very predictable; it is a decade that they go around saying the same things. Seriously, I've been checking myself. There is no swift decisions which dramatically change the status quo when it's clear to everyone, at any given time, what is included in the foreign policy principles. And international laws are not changing that swiftly; the UN charter has been around, unchanged, for about 75 years. Sure the President has the last word on things (= takes the final decision), but that doesn't mean that the rest of the bunch is totally unknowing of the direction the country is headed towards. The "swift decisions which not even the inner circle knows of" are rather taken in the United States, where Clinton can decide from one day to the other to throw some bombs over Iraq to distract the population from a sperm stained blue dress; where Trump can decide from one day to another to assassinate Iran's top general Suleimani to distract the population from the fact that he wanted to get some dirt over Biden.

So the answer to the questions we posed in the beginning (who's telling the truth, the UK or Russia?) is quite obviously that Russia is the one whose actions prove the truthfulness of their words while the United Kingdom's intelligence committee keeps on misrepresenting Russia in line with the NATO policy of fighting the Soviet Union forever.





WHAT WOULD AUTONOMOUS EUROPE DO?

We should mention that already in 2006 Russia was proposing cooperation in between the CSTO and NATO; and that is a smart idea indeed, as it is pretty obvious that neither Autonomous Europe nor Russia (and the CIS countries) gain anything for keeping their neighbouring areas in a state of constant conflict. And in this sense, it would be very advantageous for European controlled NATO to cooperate with the CSTO in order to ensure stability, preventing conflicts and solving issues in the area. And moreover; given that more than one EU member country is in the Minsk Group, and France is a co-chair of the Group itself, this unfortunate matter could easily be the starting point for common resolution of problems in the Eurasian supercontinent, as an armistice was signed but a peace treaty is still not on the cards as far as we know.


On a second instance, Autonomous Europe would come back to compliance with the UN Charter, and stop waging "humanitarian" wars. It is indeed really scary that German-led Europe seems to have forgotten the lessons of Nuremberg.






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POST SCRIPTUM While I'd love to savage The Guardian, as the whole publication (in my opinion) seems to have no actual journalistic, ethical or moral standards, I'd limit myself to note that today I read the expression "intersectional imperialism" - and this is exactly what they're doing. Oh, finally, finally the Good Guys are throwing the Good Bombs, says The Guardian. And we just have to wait for Harris to take the presidency (I have the feeling the 25th Amendment was amended to allow Harris to take the presidency without being voted in, as she had to drop off from the primaries very early, as no one liked her, she was polling at like 1%) and then see how they'll go on great lengths to praise her wars; oh finally, finally, a black woman is the one dropping missiles over the Middle East. Isn't this a great victory for the Great American Democracy! Aren't the brown children there all excited that it is a black American ravaging their countries and shelling their houses?


And I'd like to suggest to The Guardian that rather than criticising Russia for the Nagorno-Karabakh armistice, they should perhaps engage with Whitehall's actions in Syria - did you notice how the UK was running an entire operation to keep the war going in Syria, giving weapons to everyone ?