SANCTIONS, RUSSIA, & BIDENENKO
My how the worm has turned...
When I was a boy, it was pretty clear who the "good guys" were and who the "bad guys" were. The "bad guys" were the people who built the Berlin Wall, and who kept most of Eastern Europe and all of the Soviet Union as a kind of vast open air prison. They shot people trying to escape the workers' paradise, and their "human rights violations" were there for all to see. Backing up this repression was an endless parade of (very large) intercontinental ballistic missiles through Red Square in Moscow on May Day, and detonation of huge hydrogen bombs like the Tsar Bomba. We in the West were the "good guys," though Stanley Kubrik's Dr. Strangelove was there to remind us that even though we were the "good guys," we had some mighty strange characters imported from Germany after the war who were helping to form American policy. We reveled in our goodness and our smooth and democratic transfers of power sans bloodshed. Or at least we did until the assassination of President Kennedy, but even then, most of us remained convinced of our innate goodness.
But now, it seems, the shoe is on the other foot in the wake of the arrest of Navalny in Russia. This event has been used to call for more economic sanctions on that country, but the Kremlin isn't buying it, according to this interesting story shared by W.G.:
What's interesting here is that the Russian Foreign Ministry is not mincing words:
In the statement, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova delivered a scathing assessment of the human rights situation in the United States under President Joe Biden.
Zakharova described the ongoing crackdown against Trump loyalists in the United States:
The FBI has reportedly opened more than 400 criminal cases and applied for more than 500 search warrants and subpoenas for suspects; it has also brought charges against and detained around 200 people. Only several dozen defendants have been released on bail or placed under house arrest. The others are being subjected to harsh pressure, with members of their family and social circle being coerced into giving a ‘convenient’ testimony. Moreover, people who have not even been officially charged are losing their jobs; they are being banned from social media and publicly ostracised.”
She also questioned the “objectivity of the law enforcement agencies” involved in this campaign, noting that they were acting under orders and “in line with the narrative of the current administration who declared the events of January 6, 2021 a riot and everybody who was near the US Congress on that day all but plunderers.”
She warned that the administration’s crackdown would not solve the widespread discontent towards Biden’s rule:
“Their protest will not just go away. You cannot just sweep discontent under the rug. Even the rhetoric that the United States allows itself to use with respect to Russia will not help distract public attention from the country’s own problems. They will have to be dealt with. US citizens deserve to be treated according to the law and in line with Washington’s international obligations.”
Accordingly, she then called on the United States to respect the “basic human rights” of Trump supporters.
“In this context, we have every reason to express concern and demand that basic human rights be observed,” she added. “US officials are constantly and hypocritically taking care of these rights when it comes to other countries; and yet, they have no scruples in ignoring them at home.”
In other words, rules for me, not for thee.
But I rather suspect that there's more going on here than meets the eye. For one thing, it follows a well-established pattern of Russia under Mr. Putin in calling out the hypocrisies of Mr. Globaloney and challenging some of Mr. Globalism's favorite dogmas. For another thing, is fits a more subtle pattern of Russia speaking not only to, but for the "populist" voices in the West that have, to a certain extent, been ignored by their governments. While this pattern is more subtle, it is there if one bothers to look for it. And Ms. Zakharova is, once again, reaffirming that by speaking, in this case, to the "narrative" of the previous US election, and its opposition.
But as I say, I suspect there's more going on than even this. I strongly suspect that what we're looking at are the opening salvos in a new sort of diplomatic offensive by Russia, one which, at least from the Russian point of view, is long overdue. That this might be so is evident by contemplating what is (currently) missing from the Russian statement: sanctions. If one were to assume that it wasn't the Russian Foreign Ministry making such a statement, but rather, a Western one commenting about election results in Russia after a rigged and stolen election and internal opposition to them, then one would expect the usual call for "more sanctions." But now imagine if Russia were to add sanctions to the mix, not just against the USA (which would hardly notice), but against any country supporting the narrative and behavior that Ms. Zakharova mentions. It's not so far-fetched, since the EU/NATO act more or less in concert with American wishes with respect to sanctions on Russia. If, suddenly, Russia were to do so with respect to Europe, it would get everyone's attention. Indeed, Ms. Zakharova's superior, Foreign Minister Lavrov, has already made it clear that Russia does not need the EU. A "bloc-wide" response is long overdue from Russia, and it may be something to consider. Mr. Lavrov has already hinted at it.
And therewith we note something else about the Russian statement: restraint, and maneuvering room, in short, statecraft. Had this been a western power, sanctions would already be on the list and talked about (as indeed they already are by the EU in response to the Navalny affair). In other words, by not going for the full court press, Russia can (1) up the ante if it so chooses, and gradually ratchet up pressure, and thus (2) has allowed itself maneuvering room that brinksmanship ab initio would not.
What remains to be seen is if in fact Russia will gradually increase not only the pressure, but its commentary on such incidents in the west. My guess is that it will. Time will tell, but coming so soon after Mr. Lavrov's blunt statements to the EU, Ms. Zakharova's statements should be read in that context.
And finally, let it be noted, the Russian Foreign Ministry is subtly and implicitly stating its not buying the narrative of the US election results either. "Not-agreement-capable" comes to mind once again...
See you on the flip side...
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