October 24, 2014
Vladimir Putin lashed out at the United States and the West for destabilizing the world order of checks and balances for its own gains. He also accused the West of inflaming the situation in Ukraine and said Russia is not interested in building an empire.
The Russian President delivered a fierce broadside aimed at the United States in a speech for the Valdai Club in Sochi, which is an informal group of scholars. He hit out at Washington for behaving without regard to the rest of the world’s interests
“The system of international relations needed some changes, but the USA, who believe they were the winners of the Cold War, have not seen the need for this.” He added that the US has been trying to create the world “for their own gains.” The Russian President added that because of this, regional and global security had been weakened.
During his speech, Putin used the Russian version of the Latin phrase, “Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi” (what is allowed for god, is not allowed for cattle,) alluding to the double standards used by Washington.
US sponsoring Islamic extremism
Putin also touched on the issue of the growth of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and also accused the West of, “turning a blind eye,” to the encroachment of international terrorism into Russia and Central Asia. Putin believes the US has played a considerable role in sponsoring the growth of Islamic extremism, using the example of Washington’s funding of the Mujahidin in the Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980’s, which eventually gave birth to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
“It never ceases to amaze me how our partners have been guilty of making the same mistakes time and again. They have in the past sponsored Islamic extremists who were battling against the Soviet Union, which took place in Afghanistan. It was because of this the Taliban and Al-Qaeda was created,” the president added.
Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) is the latest terrorist organization, which is destabilizing the world and Putin was scathing of countries that have been helping to fund the Islamist militants by buying cut price oil they are selling.
“Terrorists have been selling oil at really low prices and those countries who have been buying it and then selling it on, are financing terrorism, which will eventually come back to bite them,” the Russian President said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and former Chancellor of Austria Wolfgang Schussel during the final plenary meeting of the 11th session of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi October 24, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Vitaliy Belousov) Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and former Chancellor of Austria Wolfgang Schussel during the final plenary meeting of the 11th session of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi October 24, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Vitaliy Belousov)
Putin all for Nuclear cuts
Relations between Russia and the US have been plummeting for months; however Vladimir Putin accused the US of using the EU to further its own gains against Russia. He hit out at the numerous sanctions that have been imposed on Moscow, saying, “This was a mistake, which has a knock-on effect on everyone.”
“The USA, which has implemented sanctions against Russia, is sawing at the branches, upon which they are sitting,” President Putin added.
The reduction of nuclear arsenals was another issue, which was high on the agenda for the Russian President and once again, he was not afraid of having a dig at Washington for their reluctance to cut the number of nuclear missiles. He mentioned that unfortunately many countries see the only way to preserve their sovereignty is, “To make a nuclear bomb.”
The reduction in nuclear arsenals was initially proposed by the Obama administration and Putin admitted it had potential, before talks about decreasing weapons stockpiles collapsed.
“Russia has been all for the continuation of talks about the reduction of nuclear arsenals,” and according to President Putin, “Moscow is ready for serious talks, but without “double standards.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the wrap-up session of the 11th Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi on 24 October 2014. (RIA Novosti / Vitaliy Belousov) Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the wrap-up session of the 11th Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi on 24 October 2014. (RIA Novosti / Vitaliy Belousov)
Genie out of the bottle
Perhaps Putin’s harshest criticism was reserved for the West’s creation of color revolutions and “controlled chaos,” which he a likened to “letting the genie out of the bottle,” with particular reference to Ukraine.
“We have been trying to discuss the Ukraine issue with the EU for a long time, but we were told this was none of our business. They then put two countries against each other, which has led to countless destruction of infrastructure. When I asked why did they do this, they just shrug their shoulders and don’t have an answer,” Putin added.
President Putin made reference to the ‘Bear’ defending its territory to take a swipe at the US for its continued encroachment towards Russia’s territory. “He is considered the owner of the Taiga, but he, I know for a fact, does not want to go to a different climatic zone, as it is uncomfortable for him there. However, he will not give it to anyone else; I think that this should be clear,” he said.
The Russian President said that there is no truth whatsoever in claims from the West that Russia is interested in empire building and that Moscow is looking to destabilize the world order. With relations between Russia and the West at a very low ebb, Putin also hinted Russia will look to develop allies further afield.
“Russia has made its choice – we want to develop our economy and develop democratic values. We work with our counterparts in the Shanghai Cooperation, the BRICS union for example. We want our opinions to be respected likewise. We all need to be cautious to not make hasty and dangerous steps. Some of the players on the global front have forgotten about the need for this,” he said in another barb directed at Washington.
The policy is short-sighted, petulant, and self-destructive. Its making Putin more popular and strengthening Russia’s resolve on Ukraine. EU and Washington are “deluded”.
Sat, Oct 25
Edward Lozansky and Martin Sieff
Edward Lozansky is President of the American University in Moscow. Martin Sieff is a national columnist for the Post-Examiner online newspapers and a senior fellow of the American University in Moscow.
National governments and international alliances can sometimes be short sighted, petulant and self- destructive.
The ever–escalating programs of economic sanctions that the United States and the European Union are imposing on Russia are proving to be a classic example of this.
Of course they can, and already do, cause certain damage to the Russian economy, but if Western strategists believe that this will foment an anti-Putin revolt, they would be well advised to abandon their wishful thinking.
Not only do Putin ratings keep climbing up with each new wave of sanctions but, in addition, far from isolating Russia, they are driving it and China far closer in economic ties and strategic cooperation in a new Eurasian dynamic that India has made clear it wants to be a full partner in as well.
In addition, as the recent Caspian agreement shows, Russia is also making new common cause with Iran and other Asian countries to counter U.S. and European economic and other penetration of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus.
On the economic front the continuing consolidation of the BRICS nations creates an important shift in economic and financial weight from the West when U.S. and Europe no longer can dictate and impose their rules of the game on the rest of the world.
It is indeed an extraordinary strategic fantasy to imagine that the United States and the EU can “isolate” Russia and China, which are not so lonely after all. European countries getting more and more frustrated with Washington’s dictates and many South American nations, at least morally, are on the Russian side.
More popular, and more confident, than ever
Ironically a few European nations are far more dependent on Russia than Russia is on them: Siberian natural gas remains essential to heat the homes of hundreds of millions of European homes every winter. Even in prosperous, booming Germany, at least 300,000 well-paying industrial jobs remain directly dependent on Russian orders for their exports alone.
The more anti-Russia Western policy becomes, the more Russian and Chinese regional and geopolitical interests converge as Beijing realizes that Washington will not hesitate to cross any red line to promote its interests.
The bigger question is whether such policy will indeed serve American interests in the long run. The coming together of Russia and China threatens both U.S. security and two important global economic goals: the creation of a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe and a similar Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Asia.
These initiatives would benefit American companies enormously. However the development of a Russia-China economic axis forged in reaction to the sanctions regime against Russia and China’s frustration at what it interprets as U.S. efforts to “quarantine’ or confine it in Asia, would create a political, strategic and economic power bloc that some European and Asian nations can not afford to ignore.
The fact is that an economically weak and troubled European Union, crippled by a dysfunctional currency and massive, structural high unemployment in France, Italy, Spain, and other countries, is too interconnected with Russian markets.
At the same time the United States for its part cannot afford to anger China too much since the State Bank of China continues to hold around one third of all U.S. Treasury Bonds in existence. Washington too runs enormous risks if it goes too far in angering and alienating Russia, which remains its crucial partner for global strategic nuclear security.
Policymakers in Washington and Brussels continue in the delusion that they live in an “End of History” world where their shared liberal and democratic values are bound to win – and quickly – over every alternative economic and political system.
However, the harsh truth remains that we live in a fragmenting world of 7 billion people where competing and very different centers of civilization and power have already emerged. It is the world predicted 21 years ago by the late American historian and geo-strategist Samuel Huntington.
In Huntington’s multi-polar world, which, in fact, already exists, the West’s sanctions on Russia will certainly not bring Moscow to heel over Ukraine. They will backfire, creating instead the very nightmare that Washington and Brussels policymakers should avoid at all costs: The creation of a world divided between different trading and strategic blocs.
Economic sanctions are not isolating Russia: They are isolating the United States and straining the bonds of the European Union. Those outcomes are already clear.
By MICHAEL FORSYTHE and ALAN WONGOCT. 21, 2014
HONG KONG — After weeks of protests that have shaken this financial hub of 7.2 million people, residents thought they had seen it all. Then, on Tuesday night, something even more extraordinary happened, on live television: a polite debate between earnest students wearing black “Freedom Now” T-shirts and top Hong Kong leaders over the future of democracy.
Five student leaders, hair disheveled, took on the officials, who were old enough to be their parents, in the frank discourse. They spoke Cantonese, the prevailing local Chinese dialect, with simultaneous translations into English and sign language.
The students wanted officials to commit to greater liberties in future elections. “What is the next step?” Alex Chow, 24, the secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, asked Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, Carrie Lam, 57.
Officials in the two-hour debate made no promises and said they were there to listen. Still, the exchange suggested a softening in the crisis that has convulsed Hong Kong for nearly a month and a possible exit ramp from it.
The government and the students who have been the driving force behind the protests said they wanted to move forward on Tuesday. Credit Nicolas Asfouri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
It was a remarkably civil and scholarly discussion, all the more so given the generational divide between the sides. Each cited articles of Hong Kong’s Constitution, chapter and verse, to back its points.
Even more remarkable was that it was happening in Hong Kong, the former British colony only a few miles from mainland China, where such a freewheeling public political discussion had not been heard in at least a quarter-century, since students occupied Tiananmen Square in Beijing. That protest provoked a bloody crackdown that has reverberated through China ever since.
At issue in Hong Kong was how voters would choose its top leader, the chief executive, in elections planned for 2017. For the first time, all five million eligible voters may cast ballots.
But China’s Communist Party-controlled legislature, which has the final say on how Hong Kong changes its Constitution, restricted the way people can win a spot on the ballot, a decision that democracy advocates say effectively excludes those who offend Beijing.
That sent people into the streets in late September, and they have been there ever since, erecting colorful tent cities on some of Hong Kong’s busiest avenues. Yet on Tuesday night, both sides, the government and the students who have been the driving force behind the protests, said they wanted to move forward.
Mrs. Lam told the students that the government was willing to submit a new report to Beijing acknowledging the surge of discontent that followed the Aug. 31 decision by China’s National People’s Congress on the election guidelines.
In what appeared to be a further conciliatory signal, she also said the rules could change in subsequent elections.
The students stuck with their demands for immediate changes to Hong Kong’s election law. They want the 2017 elections for the chief executive to be open to a wide range of candidates. But Mrs. Lam’s offer did stir some interest.
The government has rejected or ignored all of the students’ demands, except for their request to talk.
Hong Kong’s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, made clear on Monday that the government would only listen to what the students had to say and explain to them how Hong Kong’s political process works. The territory has a great deal of autonomy from Beijing, and its people enjoy a broad range of civil liberties that mainland Chinese lack, including freedom of speech and assembly.
“It is not a negotiation,” Mr. Leung said. “We have deliberately said it is a dialogue. We are all ears, and obviously we are dutybound to explain to the students and through the media the constitutional arrangements for us to have universal suffrage in Hong Kong.”
Mr. Leung is a focus of the students’ anger, and they reminded the government officials, on at least two occasions during the debate, of comments he made on Monday about how full democracy would mean “a numbers game” that would force the government to skew “politics and policies” toward poor people.
“Is he going to be serving the tycoons and the business sector?” Mr. Chow asked. “Is this system democratic? Is it free?”
In public appearances after the debate, both sides played down expectations. Mrs. Lam told reporters that “we can only agree to disagree.”
And Yvonne Leung, one of the student debaters, told supporters at the main protest site that the government “didn’t give us a material response or direction.”
“We’re disappointed,” Ms. Leung said, “and we must continue to stay here.”
Despite the animosity, students and other protesters, watching the debate on large projection screens at the main protest site near the government headquarters, were happy that the government was at least willing to talk.
“This is the first time the government has spoken with protesters on an equal level,” said Teddy Yeung, a computer engineering student wearing a red bandanna. “That’s already a step forward for us.”
~~ Chris Buckley, Hilda Wang and Siobhan Downes contributed reporting ~~
“If language is not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.”
Chinese coastguard ships in the South China Sea, the subject of maritime disputes between China and various Asean member states. The rows have received much attention but they are not the central issue. They are symptoms of a far more fundamental issue that colours the entire Asean-China agenda. Photo by Reuters
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Hong Kong erupts even as China tightens screws on civil society
By Simon Denyer
The Washington Post
BEIJING — Chinese leaders unnerved by protests elsewhere this year have been steadily tightening controls over civic organizations on the mainland suspected of carrying out the work of foreign powers.
The campaign aims to insulate China from subversive Western ideas such as democracy and freedom of expression, and from the influence, specifically, of U.S. groups that may be trying to promote those values here, experts say. That campaign is long-standing, but it has been prosecuted with renewed vigor under President Xi Jinping, especially after the overthrow of Ukrainian President…
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