29 June 2017
Moscow: 10:31
London: 08:31

Consular queries:  
+44 (0) 203 668 7474  
info@rusemb.org.uk  

 

SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

02.03.2012

On latest Chatham House report on Russia

It seems that the latest Chatham House report on Russia cries out for comments by our Press Office. The authors, unfortunately, displayed an utterly biased attitude towards the subject and abysmal lack of intellectual honesty, leaving an impression that Russian politics is done in London. For the sake of comparison, the report “Engaging with Russia” to the Trilateral Commission in July 2006, represented a genuine attempt at honest analysis.

It is natural that Russia’s politics attract lots of attention. After all, their present state is a function of the new state of our society, which, in its turn, is a result of the socio-economic development of the past 12 years. Nobody is perfect. There are real issues that are hotly debated. And this makes Russia look more familiar to the Western public opinion, say, a normal country subject to general laws governing societal evolution. The remaining difference being the fact that it has always had a future, since its full potential couldn’t be made use of. It is still the case now.

We’ll pass by the authors’ effort to provoke Russia to make enemies with China. Nobody seeks that, least of all Britain. But the charges of our punching above our weight and being a spoiler in international affairs need setting the record straight.

Today’s Russia has never aspired to be treated as a Great Power or another Superpower, both categories abolished with the end of the Cold War. We deem ourselves to be a leading or major world power which accurately reflects the realities of our fast-changing world.

One can gather it from the Foreign Policy Concept of 2008, which, by the way, in its view of the world doesn’t differ much from the Foreign Policy analysis of HMG of today, and, for that matter, views expressed in the course of deliberations of Lord Lothian’s Global Strategy Forum. It is all about multipolarity, net-worked diplomacy, emphasis upon strong bilateral relationships with other major powers, pragmatism.

It is somewhat extraordinary to try to spoil the US-Russia relationship. Arrogance would be the first qualification to cross the mind. Or is it about long-standing tradition of trading the charges of bloody-mindedness, a term so difficult to translate into other languages. Certainly, the Americans and us will make our own decisions based on the enlightened self-interest as we see it. Suspicions on Germany’s count are a fresher, historically, phenomenon. We, in Russia, have got over this attitude towards Germans, partly through the Cold War experience of the GDR.

It is no wonder, still sounds bizarre, that the authors pretend to have been charged with looking after European cohesion as regards Russia. That is for the Europeans to decide among themselves, be it the Third Energy Package, blasting their environment to get shale gas or anything.

Making Russia part of the West is a more exciting subject, which betrays the chief preoccupation of the authors with Russia, i.e. its foreign policy independence, our aloofness to things we don’t believe in. Why then it wasn’t done in early 90-ies, through our membership in NATO? It was a perfect chance, which, true, required a measure of generosity and far-sightedness, and a leap of faith, of which our Western partners proved to be incapable.

We have always been open-minded and held a broad view of things, sometimes, perhaps, too broad. But we have never been cuddly. Prince John could take that for a compliment (in Walt Disney’s Robin Hood). It has never been our cup of tea. This cuddliness, one might suspect, is the reason for the known attitude of Zb. Brzezinski towards one of the former British Prime Ministers, who contributed to the former US Administration’s policies of self-destruction, both domestically and internationally. We weren’t cuddly towards Napoleon (see Dominic Lieven’s Russia against Napoleon), nor more cuddly towards Nazi Germany, than London and Paris in the run-up to WWII. The very term Phoney War and what it was about are still rare to find in British history books.

One can agree that the sense of style saved the British the trouble of infatuation with fascism, with Sir Oswald Mosley’s guys dressed for a ride, but no horse around. For sure, we’ll never deserve to adopt a retired police horse, but that needn’t be a problem in our bilateral relationship.

At the time of collectivization in the Soviet Union, there was quite often a gun on the table at which people signed up to a kolkhoz. Now, that we are plainly offered to join a Western kolkhoz and leave our history and culture by the gate, there isn’t a horse or a gun in sight. But what is there?

Another latest report, now by the European Council on Foreign Relations (entitled “European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2012”) suggests that us and the rest of the world be offered “Western model of economic and values development”. What model? Is it the one now in crisis? Nobody minds market economy and democracy. But why emulate a model, so obviously bankrupt, representing not only capitalism gone rentier, but also democracy highly dysfunctional. Entire nations are being destroyed to avoid dealing with one of Jane Austen’s universal truths, this time of inevitability of a correction by way of massive write-off of value (inflated through financial sector’s alchemy over the past 3 to 4 decades) as a prerequisite for a fresh start in Western economies. The origins of malaise are well-known, just see Tyler Cowen’s Great Stagnation, Peter Beinart’s Icarus Syndrome and others. Quite enlightening in this regard are Niall Ferguson’s memorial lecture at the Peterson Institute for International Economy on May 13, 2010, Leslie Gelb’s admission in the Foreign Affairs magazine that the West had fundamentally misjudged the situation brought about by the end of the Cold War, or Francis Fukuyama’s article in the FA latest issue. Still, Russia is blamed for European and global instability!

Brad Gregory in his Unintended Reformation traces its roots to the European history of XVI and XVII centuries, when the West gave up on Life Questions and went shopping. Although he doesn’t cite Oswald Spengler’s analysis of the West’s “Faustian soul’s flight into infinite space”, nor Russian philosophers (like Fedor Tutchev, Fedor Dostoevsky, Vassily Rozanov, Pitirim Sorokin and others), who predicted the present crisis of the Western society as based on a shaky foundation of consumerism, a social contract not sustainable enough to ensure lasting social cohesion. Our thinkers believed that to have been caused by voids in human soul left by former Christianity, that was successfully (?) overcome over the past five centuries.

On our part, we believe that human rights, as well as economy (if it is to be conducive to nations’ prosperity), have got to be rooted in traditional values, like dignity, freedom, responsibility, fairness, respect for each other etc. It is also about the Christian truths of daily bread and debt forgiveness. Maybe, had it not been for this divide between human rights and those eternal values, we would not have heard statements questioning the right of the newborn to live.

Overall, the report makes an impression that Russia is a problem, not the crisis of the West. At the hight of the Bush Administration’s folly Zb. Brzezinski in his article in the American Interest magazine (Autumn 2005) warned against putting in practice “Spengler’s notions of manipulated masses clamoring for a war willed by their leaders, Toynbee’s of suicidal statecraft that undermines its own imperial power, and Huntington’s of culturally antagonistic democratization”. One has to read Somerset Maugham’s Outstation and Sir Walter Scott’s Old Mortality to see what that means, including aggressive narrow-mindedness of religious fanaticism denying salvation to everybody else, whether by Puritan fanatics, Bolsheviks or neocons.

Minister for Europe David Lidington speaking recently in Lisbon, drew a parallel between the collapse of communism and the end of the British Empire. The crisis of liberal capitalism may well fall in the same category. Anyway, vicissitudes of Russia’s politics are nothing against the background of a bigger issue of how the West manages its relative decline. Perhaps, that is the reason why differences with Russia on a particular international issue, Syria for example, are treated in ultimate, ideological terms as something existential. This hype sounds all the more artificial that Russia’s realistic and pragmatic position (which may be accounted for by the fact that we never dominated the Middle East) could help the West to avoid the costs of another military intervention. As a matter of fact, our analysis doesn’t differ much from that of Peter Oborne, Gideon Rachman or Abdel Bari Atwan. The Syrian people deserve the advantages of a soft landing, akin to the settlement of the Glorious Revolution, i.e. an orderly transition, not a bloody one, leaving no room for politics and policies of moderation and tolerance.

England enjoyed the extremists’ choice of leaving overseas. Here it is different. So, the international community, including the West (that have explored the limits of majority democracy), ought to encourage parties to the conflict to seek a compromise of checks and balances leading to a participatory and deliberative democracy.

Now about UK being a thorn in Russia’s side. Heavy stuff indeed. Why this enthusiasm for irresponsible and inconsequential rhetoric? Russia and Britain, in the final count, have one thing in common, that is we leave nobody indifferent. We never basked in this shared uniqueness. Being homes to two greatest world literatures seems to be enough things in common to have respect for each other. W. Shakespeare was and still is your ticket to immortality, F. Dostoevsky being ours. Everything else is petty and minor. We don’t debate the state of the British society, partly out of focusing on our own business. That seems to be a top priority for every responsible member of international community. If the West had minded its business well enough, the world wouldn’t have had to confront the present crisis and its hardships. In any way, trying to live off the financial flows is as short-sighted as off the gas pipe.

We do have positive, non-confrontational ideas, both in the said FP Concept and what President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin have written or said. It is, in particular, a vision of a truly Greater Europe, or “Union of Europe”. That means bringing together all three branches of European civilization - North America/US, Western Europe/EU and Russia/Eurasia. It requires convergence, fusion and synthesis, of which we have seen numerous examples over the past 300 years, including 20th century and now, i.e. moving towards each other, combining our relative advantages and drawing lessons from our common history, and thus, addressing the real common problems. Is not it great? Or rather, too simple to be true? We don’t know. But Leo Tolstoy wrote in his War and Peace that all great truths are simple.




LATEST EVENTS

15.06.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's speech at the British Library exhibition "Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths"

The exhibition "Hope, Tragedy, Myths" gives an excellent insight into the tragic events of 1917: why the revolution started, how it unfolded and evolved into the civil war. It explores the ideas behind the conflict and gives a comprehensive and accurate image. The exhibition gives a unique opportunity to see original documents related to the key personalities of the Russian history, and not only politicians - the section telling the story of the Russian emigration has valuable documents on Russian literature history.


13.06.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko’s speech at Russia’s National Day Reception (13 June 2017, London)

Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Dear friends, It is a privilege to welcome you all at my Residence on the occasion of Russia’s National Day. Thanks God for fine weather. Hope you will enjoy the time at our place. Ever since my country embarked upon the path of radical change 30 years ago, we have had a difficult, even painful journey. It was the price of profound transformation of a society, aspiring for freedom and justice. We abandoned any ideology as alien to common sense and real needs of real people. We have been seeing those tough decisions bearing fruit.


26.05.2017 - Ambassador Yakovenko’s address at the RBCC Business Forum (25 May, “BMA House”, London)

It is my pleasure to welcome the participants of the annual Business Forum held under the auspices of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce. Whatever the political situation, the Chamber has always been successful in its mission to strengthen bilateral trade and economic ties (“Russo-British Chamber of Commerce” was registered on the 23rd of October, 1916, in London as a joint-stock company with the aim “to promote trade between the British and Russian Empires”).


19.05.2017 - Ambassador Yakovenko’s remarks at opening of the "Travels in Holy Russia with the Temple Gallery” exhibition

Dear Ladies and gentlemen, Friends, It’s a real honor for me to be here today at the opening of exhibition of photographs: "Travels in Holy Russia with the Temple Gallery”.


11.05.2017 - The Worshipful Mayor of Southwark speech on Victory Day (May 9 2017, Imperial War Museum)

I welcome you all here today at the Soviet War Memorial as we remember those who gave their lives during the Second World War on the 72nd anniversary of the victory of the allied forces in Europe.


09.05.2017 - Ambassador Yakovenko’s remarks at the wreath-laying ceremony at the Soviet War Memorial (London, 9 May 2017)

Today we honour and remember men and women who fought heroically, sacrificing their lives in the fight against fascism. We also honour all those who selflessly toiled at factories to bring the Victory Day nearer. All those who suffered one way or another, went through all the hardships and tragedies of that war


17.04.2017 - Ambassador Yakovenko answers the Daily Mail questions (17 April 2017)

1. Theresa May said today (Thursday) that Russia was on the “wrong side of the argument” when it comes to Syria, what is your response to that? Answer: With all my respect for Prime Minister Theresa May I’ve got to say that the opposite is true. Even former British Ambassador in Damascus Peter Ford (on the BBC the other day) said that there is no moderate opposition alternative to the present government is Syria. That’s why there is urgent need for lasting ceasefire and political process among the Syrians, so that they can decide for themselves. It seems that our Western partners don’t like this approach and want to decide for the Syrians who will take part in the political process and who shall not. I think the reason is they know well what the choice of the Syrians is going to be after the 6 years of civil war.


10.04.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's opening remarks at Quantum Workshop (7 April 2017)

I am honoured to be at the opening the Trilateral Quantum Workshop organised by the Russian Quantum Centre. This is an unprecedented and very timely event. Even as somebody rather uninitiated in quantum science, I hear more and more about the advances in this area and find myself reading up on the basics of quantum technology. Luckily, wider public now has the benefit of learning more from Internet.


17.03.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko about learning Russian: talking points for BBC interview

Foreign languages are an essential skill in the modern world. For example, in Russia, English is taught in all schools, mostly as primary and sometimes as secondary foreign language (2 foreign languages are now mandatory). Russian, the language that has most native speakers in Europe, is equally important for economic, cultural and political reasons. Learning Russian is in high demand in Asia, including China. Today you don’t even need to physically attend classes – online education is available, in some cases even for free, by Pushkin State Russian Language Institute, Moscow State University and RT TV channel. In UK, the demand for Russian is high: 21% of British employers are looking for Russian-speaking staff – this is no wonder since 600 British companies are working in our country, and the prospects are good: GDP is expected to grow between 1 and 2 percent this year.


15.03.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's speech at Valentina Tereshkova concert (March 14, Ambassador’s Residence)

It’s an honour and real pleasure for me to welcome a legendary woman – Dr Valentina Tereshkova, Russian cosmonaut, engineer, politician, mother and friend. You are a real Russian star, our pride and a true example of patriotism.



all messages