Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I'm sorry, who lectured Washington on democracy?

So a few days ago ol' Vlad Putin got all up in America's bizness with a speech in Munich:
What then is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it describes a scenario in which there is one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making. It is a world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And this is pernicious, not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within. And this, certainly, has nothing in common with democracy. Because democracy is the power of the majority in the light of the interests and opinions of the minority.

We, Russia, are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves.
Oh no he didn't! Seriously, any Russian leader lecturing the rest of the world on Democracy -- or lecturing the lecturer, even -- is really too funny. Nevertheless, Putin's message is correct, even if he makes a piss-poor messenger on this count. But it would be a mistake to view America as the audience for this speech: think the capitals of Europe instead, argues Nick Gvosdev.
An important litmus test for the United States—and for claims being made here in Washington that problems in the transatlantic relationship can be laid solely at the doorstep of the Bush Administration—is the response in the coming days and weeks to what Putin said. Polite disagreement, vehement rejection, studied silence? Even a quick perusal of European-based chat rooms shows the main split among English-speaking Euro-netizens to be between those who agree with Putin’s assessments versus those who argue that Russia’s own less than exemplary record in foreign and domestic policy do not give Putin the moral authority to launch any critique of the actions of the United States—one is much harder pressed to find defenders of American actions....

Was Putin trying to speak for a European “silent majority” on Saturday? And will what he put on the record make it more difficult for European states whose populations are increasingly skeptical of U.S. intentions to cooperate with Washington’s security agenda?

Time will tell.
One of Russia's long-term strategic goals (and before Russia, the USSR) is the removal of US influence on Continental Europe. The thinking has always been to drive a wedge between the US and Europe (possibly in the guise of an independent European-only security force to replace NATO) leaving Russia as the single biggest power in Europe. Of course, the 1990s saw the exact opposite happen -- NATO's borders moved East until they now sit on Russia's doorstep.

Still, it will always be in Russia's interests to drive wedges between Europe and the US. Because of his toolish incompetence, Bush (and Rumsfeld, and Cheney) have inadvertently served Russia's interests.

Seriously, is there any country hostile to US hegemony (save the notable exception of Iraq) that hasn't benefited from George Bush's policies? Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, Venezuela...

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