Russia enjoys its glorious short summer. The global warming phobia couldn’t penetrate its chilly limits. While the South of France suffers a heat wave, California burns, and the progressive forces demonstrate against the climate, the Russians shrug their shoulders in disbelief. They wouldn’t mind some global warming. Here temperatures rarely go above a comfortable 22 °C, and now, in beginning of July, they are stuck at about 15 °C. Summer is the best time for the country covered by snow for the most of the year. Now one can travel into the deep countryside and discover ancient fortresses and churches – without suffering too much.
If you have ever traveled in Russia outside of Moscow, you certainly have some horrible stories to tell about its atrocious roads, food and lodging or rather lack thereof. Things have changed greatly, and they keep changing. Now there are modern highways, plenty of cafés and restaurants, a lot of small hotels; plumbing has risen to Western standards; the old pearls of architecture have been lavishly restored; people live better than they ever did. They still complain a lot, but that is human nature. Young and middle-aged Russians own or charter motor boats and sail their plentiful rivers; they own country houses (“dachas”) more than anywhere else. They travel abroad for their vacations, pay enormous sums of money for concerts of visiting celebrities, ride bikes in the cities – in short, Russia has become as prosperous as any European country.
This hard-earned prosperity and political longevity allows President Putin to hold his own in the international affairs. He is one of a few experienced leaders on the planet with twenty years at the top job. He has met with three Popes of Rome, four US Presidents, and many other rulers. This is important: 93-years old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who ruled his Malaysia for 40 years and has been elected again said the first ten years of a ruler are usually wasted in learning the ropes, and only after first twenty does he becomes proficient in the art of government. The first enemy a ruler must fight is his own establishment: media, army, intelligence and judges. While Trump is still losing in this conflict, Putin is doing fine – by his Judoka evasive action.
Recently a small tempest has risen in the Russian media, when a young journalist was detained by police, and a small quantity of drugs was allegedly discovered on his body. The police made many mistakes in handling the case. Perhaps they planted the evidence to frame the young man; perhaps they had made the obvious mistakes to frame the government. The response has been tremendous, as if the whole case had been prepared well in advance by the opposition hell-bent to annoy and wake up the people’s ire against the police and administration. Instead of supporting the police, as Putin usually does, in this case he had the journalist released and senior police officers arrested. This prompt evasive action undid the opposition’s build-up by one masterly stroke.
Recently he openly declared his distaste for liberalism in the interview for the FT. This is a major heresy, like Luther’s Ninety-five Theses. “The liberals cannot dictate… Their diktat can be seen everywhere: both in the media and in real life. It is deemed unbecoming even to mention some topics… The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.” Putin condemned liberals’ drive for more immigration. He called Angela Merkel’s decision to admit millions of immigrants a “cardinal mistake”; he “understood” Trump’s attempt to stop the flow of migrants and drugs from Mexico.
Putin is not an enemy of liberalism. He is rather an old-fashionable liberal of the 19th century style. Not a current ‘liberal’, but a true liberal, rejecting totalitarian dogma of gender, immigration, multiculturalism and R2P wars. “The liberal idea cannot be destroyed; it has the right to exist and it should even be supported in some things. But it has no right to be the absolute dominating factor.”
In Putin’s Russia liberalism is non-exclusive, but presents just one possible line of development. Homosexuals are not discriminated against nor promoted. There are no gay parades, no persecution of gays, either. Russian children aren’t being brainwashed to hate their fathers, taken away from their families and given to same-sex maniacs, as it happened in the recent Italian case. Kids aren’t being introduced to joys of sex in primary schools. People are not requested to swear love to transgenders and immigrants. You can do whatever you wish, just do not force others to follow you – this is Putin’s first rule, and this is true liberalism in my book.
There is very little immigration into Russia despite millions of requests: foreigners can come in as guest workers, but this does not lead to permanent residency or citizenship. The Police frequently check foreign-looking people and rapidly deport them if found in breach of visa rules. Russian nationalists would want even more action, but Putin is a true liberal.
Russia is a state where ‘toxic masculinity’ and ‘white guilt’ are unheard of. Boys are not forced into homosexuality; girls do not have to claim MeToo. This attitude had made Putin a cult figure among Europeans dissatisfied with mass migration, with gender totalitarianism, with feminist rule and endless wars. This is one of the reasons he is so hated by promoters of the New World Order and admired by the ordinary people.
I am certain this love of ordinary Europeans causes a happy smirk on his lips, now and then. But Putin and his administration want to be friendly with the US, the UK and Europe. This is their first priority. If the West weren’t so intransigently hostile, Russia would be its friendly giant. However, long experience had taught Putin that he can’t surrender in exchange for empty promises. He wants to fix a deal with the US, first of all. A deal that would allow Russia to live the way it wants and act as the international law permits without becoming an object of American fury.
Why does Putin care about the US? Why can’t he just stop taking dollars? This means he is an American stooge! – an eager-for-action hothead zealot would exclaim. The answer is, the US has gained a lot of power; much more than it had in 1988, when Reagan negotiated with Gorbachev. The years of being the sole superpower weren’t wasted. American might is not to be trifled with.
- The US can forbid Russians to carry on their foreign trade in US dollars via US banks, and Russia’s economy would plummet.
- The US can forbid the export of high tech to Russia, as it did in the Soviet era, and Russia would grind to a standstill.
- The US can use its copyright and license system to stop Russian computers from functioning. They already tried to forbid the Russians from using computer scripts; they can block all Microsoft-based and Apple computers in Russia. They can forbid the usage of processors, like they have tried now with Huawei.
- They can give Russia the full treatment of Iran and North Korea and ban its exports.
- They can attack the Russian power grid and computerised processes in an act of cyber warfare, as the New York Times insinuated.
True, Russia is big enough to survive even that treatment, but Russians have got used to a good life, and they won’t cherish being returned to the year 1956. They took action to prevent these worst-case scenarios; for instance, they sold much of their US debt and moved out of Microsoft, but these things are time-consuming and expensive. Putin hopes that eventually the US will abandon its quest for dominance and assume a live-and-let-live attitude as demanded by the international law. Until it happens, he is forced to play by Washington rules and try to limit antagonism.
An experienced broker came in, promising to deliver the deal. It is the Jewish state, claiming to have the means to navigate the US in the desired direction. This is a traditional Jewish claim, used in the days of the WWI to convince the UK to enter the deal: you give us Palestine; we shall bring the US into the European war on your side. Then it worked: the Brits and their Aussie allies stormed Gaza, eventually took over the Holy Land, issued the Balfour declaration promising to pass Palestine to the Jews, and in return, fresh American troops poured into the European theatre of war, causing German surrender.
This time, the Jewish state proposed that Putin should give up his ties with Iran; in return, they promised to assist in general warming of Russo-American relations. Putin had a bigger counter-proposal: Let the US lift its Iran sanctions and withdraw its armed forces from Syria, and Russia will try to usher Iranian armed forces out of Syria, too. The ensuing negotiations around Iran-Syria deal would lead to recognition of the US and Israel interests in Syria, and further on it could lead to negotiations in other spheres.
This was a clear win-win proposal. Iran would emerge free of sanctions; Israel and the US would have their interests recognised in Syria; the much-needed dialogue between Russia and the US will get a jump-start. But Israel does not like win-win proposals. The Jewish state wants clear victories, preferably with their enemy defeated, humiliated, hanged. Israel rejected the proposal, for it wanted Iran to suffer under sanctions.
The Russian proposal had been first sounded in September last year, and it was discussed behind the closed doors in the Israeli Knesset (Parliament). Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “The Russians asked us to open the gates for them in Washington”. Netanyahu rejected the Russian proposals because he thought the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran could be used as leverage on the Iranians over Syria — not the other way around, wrote a knowledgeable Israeli journalist Barak Ravid of Channel 13. “Netanyahu refused to show any flexibility on the issue of U.S. sanctions,” – he quoted an Israeli official.
Russians agreed to the weird idea of Russian and American security advisers meeting in Jerusalem, hoping it would lead to a breakthrough. My readers remember that I was very worried about this trilateral meeting of a Russian representative with the notorious warmongers John Bolton and Netanyahu. Israeli media played the summit up as the pivotal point for the region. Russia would part with Iran and pivot to Israel and the US, they predicted. This will be a new Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, of Russia coming to terms with the aggressor. Good-bye, Iran, welcome, Israel.
However the gift of prophecy had been taken away from the people of Israel and given to fools, said the ever-knowing Talmud (Baba Batra 12b). The Russian representative at the summit, Nikolai Patrushev, while being friendly to Israel, didn’t pivot away from Iran. He denied Tehran is the key threat to regional security. “In trilateral Jerusalem summit, Russia sides with Iran, against Israel and US. Senior Russian official stands by Tehran’s claim that US drone was shot down in Iranian airspace, defends rights of foreign troops to remain in Syria despite Israeli opposition” – concluded an Israeli newspaper.
Russia is friendly to Israel, as many Israelis are connected to Russia by their own, or their parents’ birth. An even stronger reason is that Jews are the top dog in the US, and the Jewish state can open many doors in Washington. Jews and the Jewish state would be as important as, say, the Kurds, if they did not have a hold on the US.
Russia certainly wants to live in peace with the US, but not at the price Mr Netanyahu suggested. Mr Patrushev condemned the US sanctions against Iran. He said that Iran shot down the giant American drone RQ-4A Global Hawk worth more than a hundred million dollars over Iranian territory, not in the international airspace as the Pentagon claimed. He stated that American “evidence” that Iran had sabotaged tankers in the Persian Gulf was inconclusive. Russia demanded that the United States stop its economic war against Iran, recognize the legitimate authorities of Syria, led by President Bashar Assad, and withdraw its troops from Syria. Russia expressed its support for the legitimate government in Venezuela. Thus, Russia showed itself at this difficult moment as a reliable ally and partner, and at the same time assured the staggering Israeli leadership of its friendship.
The problem is that the drive for war with Iran is not gone. A few days ago, the Brits seized an Iranian super-tanker in the Straits of Gibraltar. The tanker was on its way to deliver oil to Syria. Before that, the United States had almost launched a missile attack on Iran. At the last moment, when the planes were already in the air, Trump stopped the operation. It is particularly disturbing that he himself unambiguously hinted that the operation was launched without his knowledge. That is, the chain of commands in the US is now torn, and it is not clear who can start a war. This has to be taken into account both in Moscow and in Tehran.
The situation is daunting. President Trump may want to climb down from that tall tree he had driven himself into when he led his country out of a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran. But he is hampered by his “deep state”, by Pompeo and Bolton; about the latter, Trump himself said that he wants to fight with the whole world. Presidents can’t always remove the ministers from whom they want to get rid of – even the absolute monarchs of the past did not always succeed.
Let us hope that, given Trump’s unwillingness to go to war and the weak position of Premier Netanyahu himself, there will be progress in this matter. But meanwhile Trump introduced new sanctions against Iran; the Iranian leader called the American leadership “insane”; the Americans are again threatening to “completely destroy” Iran.
Russia wants to help Iran, not out of sheer love to the Islamic Republic, but as a part of its struggle for multi-polar world, where independent states carry on the way they like. Iran, North Korea, Venezuela – their fight for survival is a part and parcel of Russia’s struggle. If these states will be taken over, Russia can become the next victim, Putin feels.
President Trump seems to have some positive ideas, but his hands are tied up. At the July 4 parade, his own Pentagon cruelly laughed over his wish to parade tanks in Washington. They had sent a few rusty old paint-peeling tanks, though the president demanded to send the best and most excellent equipment. Thus Trump had been shown that he can’t impose his will even over his own army.
In this situation, Putin tries to build bridges to the new forces in Europe and the US, to work with nationalist right. It is not the most obvious partner for this old-fashioned liberal, but they fit into his idea of multi-polarity, of supremacy of national sovereignty and of resistance to the world hegemony of Atlantic powers. His recent visit to Italy, a country with strong nationalist political forces, had been successful; so was his meeting with the Pope.
In the aftermath of the audience with the Pope, Putin strongly defended the Catholic Church, saying that “There are problems, but they cannot be over-exaggerated and used for destroying the Roman Catholic Church itself. I get the feeling that these liberal circles are beginning to use certain problems of the Catholic Church as a tool for destroying the Church itself. This is what I consider to be incorrect and dangerous. After all, we live in a world based on Biblical values and traditional values are more stable and more important for millions of people than this liberal idea, which, in my opinion, is really ceasing to exist”. For years, the Europeans haven’t heard this message. Perhaps this is the right time to listen.
Israel Shamir can be reached at [email protected]
This article was first published at The Unz Review