FOREIGN MINISTER SERGEI LAVROV: WESTPHALIA, SOFT POWER, AND NEW ...March 27, 2017
Many people sent me this transcription of a recent speech by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking to the Military Academy of the Russian General Staff. Indeed, the speech is quite important for what it says, and to a certain extent, confirms many high octane speculations that I've advanced here, and more extensively in private conversations. For our purposes today, Mr. Lavrov stressed many things in his speech, but I want to focus on three: (1) the Westphalian system, (2) the foreign policy of "human rights" that has enabled US unipolarism and interventionism, and (3) the appearance of wholly new types of non-nuclear strategic weapons of mass destruction.
Here's the article:
(1) The Westphalian System: Notably, Mr. Lavrov mentions the Westphalian system, and later the Congress of Vienna system, and the consequences of not including Russia in similar collective security arrangements that occurred after World War One:
I’m aware that some entertain the notion, which is eagerly picked up by Russophobes, that Russia’s vast geography took shape due to expansion resulting from an internal sense of insecurity. As if the Russians, who for several centuries expanded their territory, were trying to “push back” a potential aggressor. To this, I can say that the greatest misfortunes in the past centuries came to Russia almost always from the West, while Russia, according to Mikhail Lomonosov’s famous dictum, “expanded through Siberia,” bringing different peoples and lands in the East under its wing. Many centuries of experience of harmonious coexistence of different ethnicities and religions within one state now allow Russia to promote a dialogue and form partnerships between cultures, religions and civilisations, which is also what happens within the UN, the OSCE and other international and regional organisations.
Another hallmark associated with our vast Russian territory concerns respect for the state, which is the guarantor of the country’s unity and the security of its citizens. A strong state also underpins an independent foreign policy. In international relations, all of that is embodied in the notion of sovereignty.
The sovereignty of states, their equality as the main subjects of international relations, was substantiated and approved within the Westphalian system that took shape in Europe in the 17th century. Currently, these traditional notions are being questioned in a number of Western countries. They are trying to secure for themselves, for example, the ability to interfere in other people’s affairs under the pretext of non-compliance with all sorts of unilaterally engineered human rights concepts like the so-called “responsibility to protect.” We are against such a distorted interpretation of the most important universal international legal norms and principles. Healthy conservatism with regard to the inviolability of the stabilising foundations of international law unites Russia with most countries of the world. (Emphasis added)
While I've commented before on Russia's apparent anti-Globalism, Mr. Lavrov's remarks are a reminder that Russia's is not simply an unthinking opposition; it is, rather, well-thought out and well-considered, and hence, Russia has increasingly returned to the mention of the Westphalian system. As Mr. Lavrov points out (and reading his remarks in context), the heart of the Westphalian system is the recognition of national sovereignty. Reading behind the lines here, what Mr. Lavrov is really saying is that any global system which reduces the role of the nation-state or that eradicates its sovereignty is not a genuinely global order: merely a tyranny imposed on the globe by a certain group in the West who then use "human rights" to justify an imposition of their policies on everyone else. It was a process begun under Jimmy Carter and his so-called "human rights" foreign policy, brainchild of his national security advisor, the vowel-impaired Zbgnw Brzznsk (Zbigniew Brzezinski).
There is, of course, something lurking in Mr. Lavrov's remarks here which, if carefully considered, will reveal a rather sweeping vision, and Mr. Lavrov, as a careful student of history and culture, will know that this implication, while not explicitly stated in his remarks, is there nonetheless.
The Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), which was essentially a religious war, trying to secure Europe for Protestantism, or Romanism. It ended, effectively, with a stalemate. But as a result, what was recognized was not only the sovereignty of the nation-state over its own internal affairs, other things were also recognized, and they were equally, if not far more, important. The first was the recognition that these nation-states were sovereign, and not the respective religion of their respective princes. In short, the secular state was born, provided it recognized the equal rights of both Protestant and Catholic within its borders, and provided no religious party attempted to impose its own religious law, doctrine, or practice, on the other.
Stop and consider what this means, for by invoking the Westphalia system, Russia has a very long term goal and agenda in mind. Allow yourself to do some high octane "imagination" on what an application of the Westphalian principle would mean: it would mean, for example, an absolute end to Sharia law, and the attempt to impose it on non-Muslim countries or even localities; it would mean Christian churches would have to be allowed to function, freely, openly, and without interference in Muslim lands, and vice versa, mosques to function openly and freely in non-Muslim lands, so long as neither attempted to impose their religion nor seize the power of the state to do so. In a certain sense, the Westphalian principle resembles the so-called "Meccan versus" in the Koran, unhappily set aside by the later "Medinan" verses, where the tolerance of the Meccan revelations are set aside for the "more recent revelations" urging murder and forced conversions.
But there's more here than meets the eye, but for that, we'll have to wait for Part Two tomorrow.
See you on the flip side...