Newsbud Exclusive – “From the Atlantic to the Pacific”: Vladimir Putin & the Current State of Eurasian Integrations

At the May 15, 2017 roundtable meeting of the political leaders participating in the ‘One Belt, One Road’ international summit in Beijing, the Russian president Vladimir Putin proclaimed the famous Eurasianist political formula – “from the Atlantic to the Pacific.” To emphasize it even more strongly, he ended his plenary address with it.[1] There is therefore no possibility for misunderstanding or misinterpretation: Putin (yet again) publicly challenged the Atlanticist geopolitical agenda, first codified by the British Empire in the late 19th century and then implemented by the U.S. after the end of the Second World War.

The leaders of 30 states were present at the meeting. The round table format emphasized mutual respect and the equality of status. However, while other leaders were seated according to the alphabetical order of their countries’ names, Putin and the Chinese president Xi Jinping were seated next to each other. The presidents of Argentina, Belarus, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Philippines, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam as well as the prime ministers of Cambodia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Poland, Serbia, Spain, and Sri Lanka took part in the meeting.[2] The heads of the U.N., the IMF, and the World Bank were also there. This is particularly interesting because the latter two organizations, the IMF and the World Bank, have historically played a leading role in globalizing the Atlanticist agenda.

It could be that Christine Lagarde of the IMF and Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank were invited as the stand-ins for the U.S. interests. In contrast to Russia, the long-term diplomatic strategy of the host of the summit, China, has been to avoid openly confronting the Atlanticists, though, on the practical level, it is clear that the Chinese initiatives proposed in the context of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ framework directly threaten the foundations of the Anglo-American geopolitical vision for Eurasia. Obviously, the strategic U.S.-China confrontation with enormous global implications is only being pushed off into the future. However, the interests of Russia and especially the president Putin, who has been under the tremendous pressure of the Western mass media demonization in recent years, is to try to precipitate the confrontation, to make it bubble up to the surface of public international discourse and, by getting China on his side, use it to further the Russian regional political and economic interests in East-Central Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

Though he served as a foreign intelligence officer in Europe, and not in Asia, during the Cold War, Putin appears to possess an intricate understanding of the political cultures of the East and the ways of conducting effective diplomatic missions there. This can be seen, for instance, in his plenary address at the summit, in which he skillfully linked the Chinese ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy to the Russian-sponsored Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). This organization, which came into being in January 2015, and, at this time, includes the former Soviet states of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan (with the possible addition of Moldova as an associate member in October 2017), is a Russian-led effort to resurrect the economies of scale that made the Soviet Union such a formidable adversary to the West. Indeed, the Soviet Union came closest to embodying the Eurasianist geopolitical ideal of an integrated continental landmass “from the Atlantic to the Pacific” during the late 1940s and early 1950s when it developed extensive political, economic, and military ties with the newly Communist China. In my opinion, Putin’s aim is to reach this level of intensive cross-border cooperation between the two countries again.

If we take into consideration the exponentially rising tensions on the Korean peninsula at the present time, I think it is particularly pertinent to note that the Sino-Soviet cooperation peaked during the Korean war in the 1950s. Does this mean that another war in the same location would produce the same results? Can it be the case that some Russian military and intelligence circles take this historical parallel seriously? Would the attack of the U.S. and its allies on North Korea (even if it is just a “surgical” strike against the North Korean missile testing sites and laboratories or a sabotage mission by the U.S. special forces) draw China more closely into the Russia’s already well-articulated anti-Atlanticist geopolitical enterprise? If the answers to these questions are affirmative, then it would be in the Russian long-term national security interest to keep the North Korea-U.S. tensions high rather than to work toward their relaxation.

At the same time, it is reasonable to expect that the deeper U.S. military and intelligence entanglements in Asia would take its resources and personnel away from the NATO-led militarization efforts in Eastern Europe. Even the key U.S. European NATO allies might get drawn into the Korean conflict, thus essentially being prevented from ramping-up their military and intelligence activities on Russia’s western borders.

These activities, including the extensive hybrid warfare and counterintelligence programs, have been proliferating with the lightning speed across Europe in recent months. Consider, for instance, the recent NATO-sponsored conference in Prague where 160 “government specialists” from 27 states discussed how to counter the alleged Russian threat to Western democracies and “European values.”[3] The conference revolved around the bizarrely Russo-phobic report drawn up by the “Kremlin Watch Program” of the Czech European Values Think-Tank which describes itself as “a non-governmental policy institute defending liberal democracy.”[4] The 20-page report entitled A Framework Guide to Tools for Countering Hostile Foreign Electoral Interference is a compilation of biased news reporting, half-truths, allegations, rumors, and plain fiction that, unfortunately, has become the new normal in the Western dealing with Russia.[5]

The Current Context

Indeed, throughout history, with the exceptions of the medieval Mongolian conquests and the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 (which was engineered by Great Britain), Russia has been much more vulnerable to the attacks from the West than from the East. This is why the expansion of NATO continues to be Russia’s number one geopolitical concern. Although the Trump administration had a chance to block Montenegro’s NATO membership and thus send a signal to the Russians that it was ready to make a deal on this, for them, extremely sensitive national security issue and stabilize the European political scene, it did not do so. Trump behaved no differently than Hillary Clinton would, if she got elected president. This created a wave of disappointment in the Russian elite circles that I think will be difficult to counteract in the coming period. It is likely that the Plan B will be put into action by the Russian foreign-policy makers, which probably includes some kind of covert (hybrid) retaliation against the U.S. interests elsewhere. That elsewhere, in my opinion, can easily be the Korean peninsula, considering Russia’s decades-long extensive and close ties with North Korea. In fact, just a few days ago, Russia and North Korea launched a new ferry line connecting the most important Russian Far Eastern port of Vladivostok with the North Korean port of Rajin.[6]

At the same time, I also think that Putin appears ready to give diplomacy and peace one more chance and seems to want to be assigned the role of the mediator by the international community. This is quite apparent in his replies to journalists after the summit in Beijing.[7] Of course, his mediation could only proceed under the terms favorable to the Russian vital national interests. The gradual removal of the U.S./EU economic sanctions and the recognition of Crimea as a part of Russia (in the long run) are no doubt included in what Putin wants to see as a compensation for his involvement.

This is hardly palatable to many European leaders who increasingly seek to build up their sinking domestic legitimacy on the basis of valiantly opposing the alleged Russian threat to “freedom and democracy.” They have just started playing the Russian card to distract their populations from the multiplying economic and social problems linked to rising unemployment and ethnic/religious animosities and do not plan on giving it up so quickly. The military-intelligence apparatus and their contractors are also gleefully rubbing their hands, anticipating the tremendous increase in the defense and security spending. The peace dividend is always a bad news for those who feed off war.

No wonder, then, that conflict rather than cooperation appears much more likely. The fact that Putin also has a presidential election coming up in March 2018 may make some NATO military-intelligence circles believe that he is politically vulnerable and would be forced to compromise in the end. In my opinion, this assumption is mistaken, but level-headedness concerning Russia, rather than ideological fanaticism, has never been among the character traits of NATO leadership and so it is hardly surprising that they would block any road to peace, even though a slight chance for it (with strings attached, as I stated above) still exists.

During the Beijing summit, Putin intentionally contrasted the positive prospects of Eurasian integrations “to promote steady development, increase citizens’ incomes and improve education and health care” with the instability, uncertainty, and unpredictability in other regions of the world, including the EU and the U.S. He stated that in the U.S. “an intense internal political struggle continues, creating a nervous atmosphere in both politics and the economy,” while in Europe, “everyone is waiting to see what happens with Brexit, the process and its results … and individual countries have many issues to address.”[8] In other words, according to Putin, the long-time masterminds and exporters of instability and chaos have now become the victims of their own doings. It would hardly be the first time in history.

All spiritual teachings agree that what goes around, comes around. What is needed is a new beginning and a new karma.

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Dr. 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] http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/54496

[2] http://en.kremlin.ru/supplement/5188

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/15/nato-stages-summit-to-counter-alleged-russian-interference-in-elections

[4] http://www.europeanvalues.net/o-nas/nase-poslani/

[5] The Kremlin Watch Report can be found at this link: http://www.europeanvalues.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/35-measures-in-15-steps-for-enhancing-the-resilience-of-the-democratic-electoral-process-1-1.pdf

[6] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-russia-ferry-idUSKCN18E2AA

[7] http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/54499

[8] Ibid.

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Comments

  1. Bas Spliet says:

    Perhaps the presence of the IMF and Worldbank signals that a China- and/or Russia-led globalism will be more of the same?

  2. Roger Kotila says:

    This is an exceedingly insightful and important article. I have given up hope that Donald Trump and the Dinosaur Republican Party will abandon the ambitions of US/NATO/Israel Empire — even if it includes starting a (big) war via North Korea, Ukraine, eastern Europe, or Syria. The European Union has yet to accept that Russia is not really a (military) threat. It is a propaganda hoax cooked up by the Deep State.

    Professor Kovacevic’s analysis gives credit to Putin’s foreign policy skills which should be applied even more to keep the world out of WWIII.

    The United Nations, as I have pointed out in my own articles, is essentially sidelined and must become prepared for a “new UN” to be given the tools it needs to “end the scourge of war.” But this will require a new Charter such as WCPA’s Earth Constitution.

    I’d like to see Russia and China host a GLOBAL PEACE SUMMIT, and invite India to help partner such a meeting. EU countries should be invited directly to attend, as well as peace-seeking nations. Aside from starting to deal with the danger of a war between superpowers breaking out, there should be an open discussion about getting the nukes off hair trigger alert, and off “first strike”. NATO has permission to use tactical nukes in Europe if a conflict occurs. This fact ought to give EU nations pause for thought — they will be the sacrificial victims, not the U.S. which conveniently is thousands of miles away.

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