Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) once remarked that “assassination is the extreme form of censorship”. The satirist might add that so too are “sanctions” as a form of censorship.
Hardly a week goes by, it seems, when there is not some new round of sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and its allies in the European Union. This debased ritual has been going on for six years since the Western powers backed a violent coup d’état in Ukraine in 2014, and yet they have continued to blame Russia for that conflict.
In addition to ironical allegations about Russia interfering in Ukraine, other far-fetched pretexts have been invoked to justify imposing further rounds of sanctions on the Russian Federation. These include accusations of annexing Crimea despite a legally constituted referendum, the shooting down a Malaysian civilian airliner, interference in U.S. presidential elections and, most recently, the poisoning of a minor Russian opposition figure, Alexei Navalny.
The thing is that in all these alleged grievances, the Western states do not provide any verifiable evidence to back up their provocative claims. The accusations are made on the basis of hearsay, innuendo insinuation, force of repetition and assertion, and anti-Russian prejudice with no legal due process afforded to Russia. This unilateral high-handedness is a travesty of diplomatic norms and is completely unacceptable. It speaks of an inveterate Russophobia harbored by Western governments and servile media.
This, however, is the point of sanctions. The unilateral imposition of these measures precludes communication on the basis of equality. It sets up a framework of guilt before evidence. That is a repudiation of respect for international law, sovereignty and the core principles of the United Nations Charter.
Europe’s slavish following of U.S. policy in imposing sanctions on Russia over dubious claims betrays a failure of diplomacy and political maturity. There is no sign of willingness for dialogue as equals. Western exaltations of rule of law and independence are a self-parody.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov remarked recently at the Valdai discussion forum in Sochi that: “The European Union is actively pursuing the path of the United States relying more and more on threats and sanctions.”
Lavrov added: “People who are responsible for the Western foreign policy and do not understand the need for mutually respectful dialogue… [means] we probably have to suspend dialogue with them for a while.”
Russia’s exasperation is understandable. It takes two to tango and its takes two to have a dialogue. The American and European side has evidently shown an unwillingness to hold a dialogue with Russia.
What is deplorable is that underlying this Western attitude is an evident lack of respect for Russia as an equal. In the absence of such respect, then the prospects for dialogue are diminished. Without dialogue there is limited prospects for security and partnership.
The arrogance of European so-called leaders is particularly palpable here. They want access to Russian natural gas and they want security, yet they arrogantly think that they can treat Russia like some kind of serf. Talk about delusions of grandeur. The delusion is abject because it is the Europeans who are behaving like the serfs lorded over by the United States which rations their “independence” like a condescending nobleman.
This paradox in relations is particularly lamentable in the vital realm of arms controls. Currently, Russian appeals for upholding the New START treaty on strategic nuclear weapons are being snubbed by Washington in the same way that the U.S. last year trashed the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reasonable proposals for a moratorium on installing missiles in Europe are being treated with a contemptible complacency, both by the Americans and their European vassals who obviously have no independent say on the matter.
Sanctions are a failure of diplomacy and betray lack of political intelligence and maturity. That inevitably manifests in cutting off dialogue and cooperation on vital matters of security and stability.
There is more than a suspicion that the Russophobia seeping into Western polities is a reflection of the reprehensible revisionism that has crept up in recent years concerning the history of the Second World War. Certain anti-Russian European states and Western ideologues have managed to make almost mainstream their odious view of “moral equivalency” between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, whereby the latter is depicted not as the victor over fascism in Europe but somehow as guilty of comparable aggression. Shamefully, the European Union’s parliament voted in a resolution last year which seeks to blame the Soviet Union for partly starting the 1939-1945 war along with Nazi Germany.
The reflexive imposition of sanctions by Western states against Russia speaks of abhorrent Russophobia and a prejudice of reactionary revisionism. These sanctions are but an extreme form of censorship, which can be viewed as a form of aggression towards Russia.
This failure in diplomacy is a dangerous development at a time of heightened international tensions. Shame on the U.S. and Europe for ratcheting up tensions instead of working for peace. The history of aggression lies beneath.