Newsbud Exclusive- Western Kremlinoia & the Rise of Eurasia

Highlights from the 6th International Security Conference in Moscow

In what has already become a tradition, the Russian ministry of defense organized its annual international security conference in Moscow on April 26 and 27, 2017. This conference is the Russian government answer to the annual Munich security conference, the high-level gathering of veteran Cold Warriors and advocates of the Atlanticist geopolitical agenda.

In recent years, the Munich conference has become quite extensively infected by a serious case of Russo-phobia and Kremlinoia (the word I coined, defined as a paranoid attitude toward the Kremlin), so that it is no wonder that the Russians have decided to set up their own venue for expert security and military discussions and exchange of ideas. I have no doubt that they had invited most of the Munich crowd, but the list of speakers shows that none of them showed up. It is a proven fact that in the Atlanticist vision of the world, Munich and Moscow cannot come together as partners of equal strength. However, the absence of the Atlanticists was more than made up by the heavy presence of the top Eurasian military and security officials. The arrogant self-isolationism of the Western powers was once again on full display for everybody to see.

The Guests

According to the Russian ministry of defense organizers, the main focus of the conference was on the challenges to global and regional security in Europe and Asia-Pacific. Considering the recent Russian geopolitical discourse, it is not surprising that the first on the list of topics was international terrorism, but other topics, such as cyber security, were discussed as well.[1]

In my opinion, the overall goal of the conference was to discuss the new frameworks of international cooperation that may or, more importantly, may not include the participation of the Western powers. The prominence of the Eurasianist, non-Western standpoint was underscored by plenary speeches given by the top officials of the key regional political and military organizations in Eurasia: Rashid Alimov, the secretary-general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Valery Semerikov, the acting secretary of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).[2] It is worth recalling that the CSTO is the Russian-led equivalent of NATO military alliance, while the SCO is jointly run by Russia and China in close collaboration with India, Pakistan, and Iran. The defense ministers of all three states were present at the conference and gave plenary speeches. Out of the three, the speech of the Iranian defense minister Hossein Dehghan has had the most views on Youtube so far, but it is curiously missing from the English version of the conference site.[3] Perhaps that is because, in his speech, Dehghan sharply criticized Israel and the U.S., accusing the U.S. of “world fascism” and claiming that, together with Great Britain and Saudi Arabia, it has built up and supported terrorist networks in the Middle East and Central Asia.[4]

On the other hand, it is also important to note that the highest official of any EU or NATO member state giving a plenary speech at the conference was the director of the Greek defense minister's office, Theologos Symeonidis.[5] Not even the Greek defense minister was present, notwithstanding the historical and cultural ties between Greece and Russia. This is a clear indication that NATO and EU boycotted the Moscow conference. The only non-Eurasian officials at the plenary sessions were the U.N. under-secretary-general Jeffrey Feltman who delivered the greetings of the U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres and the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Lamberto Zannier.

The only American in the plenary sessions (if we exclude Feltman who was there as the representative of the U.N.) was Thomas Graham, the managing director of Kissinger Associates, the person that many who hoped for the U.S.-Russia detente thought the U.S. president Donald Trump would choose for the new U.S. Ambassador to Russia. Trump, however, left them bitterly disappointed by choosing a typical U.S. foreign policy establishment war hawk, Jon Huntsman, the chairman of the most vocal and powerful Atlanticist think tank in the world, the Atlantic Council. And so, the writing is on the wall: there will most likely be no relaxation of tensions between the two nuclear (super) powers any time soon. In fact, since Trump moved into the Oval Office, several new crises flared up between the U.S. and Russia, in the Middle East, in the Balkans, in the Arctic, and in the Pacific.

The Hosts

The top Russian officials, however, still speak as if they did not give up on the possibility of a détente with the U.S. In his speech at the conference, the Russian defense minister Sergey Shoigu stated that he would very much welcome the cooperation with the U.S.-led coalition in Syria. According to Shoigu, the common goals in Syria could easily be agreed on: the fight against ISIS, delivery of humanitarian aid, demining, and the new Syrian constitution.[6] However, he also stressed that the other side seemed not to be willing to cooperate with Russia. NATO continued to push its geopolitical agenda in Europe, militarizing Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Arctic, while the U.S. was integrating Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, and Spain in the system of the continental and sea-based missile defense. Shoigu referred to both of these processes as serious threats to political stability in Europe and stated that Russia would respond in an adequate manner. He called on the Western politicians to stop scaring their populations with the Russian threat (Kremlinoia) and begin negotiating with Russia (and other non-Western powers) a new global security architecture.

The Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who spoke after Shoigu, developed the idea of a new global security order even further. He described the potential for an “equal and indivisible” security space from Vancouver to Vladivostok based on mutual respect and partnership.[7] However, for this to become a political reality, according to Lavrov, “hegemonism and double standards” as the modes of functioning in international affairs need to be abandoned. This critique was clearly directed at the U.S. and, in fact, Lavrov explicitly mentioned the U.S. attack on the al-Shariat military base in Syria and the positioning of the U.S. THAAD missiles on the Korean peninsula as the examples of hegemonic activities that have destabilized the global system and make the outbreak of violent crises much more likely. Lavrov was one of the many speakers at the conference who invoked the concept of a polycentric (multi-polar) world order and implied that those in the Washington/Brussels establishments who appeared willing to use force to stop it from unfolding were engaged in a very dangerous and futile endeavor.

The conference was opened by Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council and the ex-chief of the Federal Security Service (FSB). Patrushev has been one of the closest associates of the Russian president Vladimir Putin, whom he has known since the 1970s when they were both young KGB officers. In an exclusive article for Newsbud, published in December 2016, I presented the case as to why I thought Patrushev would replace Dmitry Medvedev as the next Russian prime minister. I argued that Putin would push out the remaining liberals from the government (as being too much in favor of the neoliberal economic model and the weak state framework) and fill their positions with the strong-state-oriented siloviks (the veterans of the military, police, and intelligence services).[8] And now, while Medvedev was nowhere to be seen at the conference (even though two of his most important ministers delivered their speeches), it was Patrushev who not only opened the conference (the task typically reserved for the prime minister), but he also read out the congratulatory telegram from Putin. This is definitely yet another clear sign that Medvedev’s political star is waning and that he is on the way out, just as I anticipated in my article months ago.

Though he is no doubt one of the most powerful people in Russia, Patrushev is a surprisingly uncharismatic speaker. Still, in his 8-minute speech, he warned the West (though not mentioning any states in particular) not to use the cover of the fight against terrorism and cybercrime in order to put pressure on and destabilize sovereign governments.[9] Patrushev stated that the evils of terrorism, organized crime, and cybercrime (including hacking) could be successfully defeated only under a collective international framework, such as that of the U.N. The principle of non-interference in domestic affairs must be respected at all times. Patrushev stressed that Russia would be supportive of multilateral frameworks, but that it would also know how to defend itself unilaterally, if attacked.

Conclusion

The Moscow security conference has definitely become the most important security forum in Eurasia. The fact that no Western states were represented at the ministerial level is a symptom of their geopolitical autism and Kremlinoia. In the mid-to-long term, this attitude can be extremely damaging to the prospects for the Western economic prosperity, especially as the balance of global power is shifting toward Eurasia. It would be wise for the West to abandon the extreme versions of Atlanticist ideology, disband NATO, and start working out a common security architecture with the rising powers of the East. Instead of being shunned and accused of imaginary crimes, Russia could play the useful role of a mediator, the conferences such as this one being a great venue. Kissinger’s main associate Thomas Graham already has a front row seat and that is hardly an accident.

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Professor Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] The program of the conference (in both Russian and English) can be found at this link: http://mil.ru/files/morf/6_MCIS_booklet.pdf

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnqxlXZm61Y ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvk-g3CaBbk

[3] Compare the Russian version which includes the link to the Iranian defense minister’s speech http://mil.ru/mcis/appearance.htm with the English version that does not http://eng.mil.ru/en/mcis/speeches.htm

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeRbGt8h8qo&feature=youtu.be

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlLwdw8A2yQ

[6] For a video with English translation, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sb6Z2RTziXY

[7] For a video with English translation, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-2_T77730E

[8] https://www.newsbud.com/2016/11/21/newsbud-exclusive-will-nikolai-patrushev-be-the-new-prime-minister-of-russia/

[9] For a video with English translation, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQglBTNbGUQ

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Comments

  1. William Wanklyn says:

    It is refreshing to have access to what is going on in Russia and Asia which is not mediated through the paranoia of the western press, and is not coming directly from RT or Sputnik, with which my wife has a terrible problem, viz. the kremlinoia. Thank you Filip.

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