The 16th big press conference of Russian President Vladimir Putin has drawn a line. In the history of the “concentration of Russia”, a thirty-year period has come to an end, characterized by successively advancing: fascination with the West, doubt in the West, and disillusionment with Western “values”. Russia has entered a new period.
During the final press conference of Putin, an incident occurred that caused a lot of funny comments in Russian society and in the Russian press. BBC journalist Steven Rosenberg asked the Russian President: “Is Vladimir Putin personally responsible for the deterioration of relations with Western countries? Or is Russia all these 20 years of Putin’s rule «white and fluffy»? And, in addition, as expected, [he asked] «how is it going with the investigation into the poisoning of Navalny?»
A dialogue ensued, during which the British journalist looked rather pathetic, to which everyone paid attention. But the result of this conversation, although everyone quoted it, was not appreciated by anyone. In the end [of the dialogue], it was said that Putin is responsible for the people of Russia and before the people of Russia, and that yes, we are white and fluffy, especially compared to you.
I can understand how the British journalist felt at this time. The world collapsed around him. From his point of view, such an end to the conversation was simply impossible. He was not taught this.
Recollection of the present
I know very well what I am saying. In 1993, together with another three dozen diplomats representing all post-Soviet republics (including Russia) and all post-socialist countries of Eastern Europe (then none of them were members of either NATO or the EU, although everyone already dreamed of), I was at diplomatic internship in the UK. Among other things, we were offered an educational format for communicating with the Western press, which (what a coincidence) was represented by a rather elderly lady from the BBC. She explained to us for a long time and tediously that we, as government officials, would have to listen carefully to the position of journalists and if the journalist himself (especially a Western one) became interested in some information or pointed out some political error, then the information should be provided immediately, and the error should be corrected with an apology.
She talked for about forty minutes. I waited until she was exhausted and asked: «Why?» I waited on purpose. Usually, in such cases, our Western friends simply repeat their monologue. But the journalist was already quite second-hand, she had fizzled out over the previous hour and, losing her guard, missed a hit. She answered with a question to the question: «What do you mean why?».
It was then that I explained to her that in any country, Great Britain is no exception, there are a lot of journalists from mass media. And each of them will be happy to interview a government official and receive exclusive information on his (official’s) terms. And such «smart» ones as she won’t even get into the waiting room. There are many ways to avoid accreditation under a plausible pretext. And after her publication is given to understand that no one will ever speak to this journalist in this country, she will simply be fired for incompetence or sent to the Papuans, from where one report is published every ten years.
This dialogue took place in the summer of 1993. I was 27 then. I think that Steven Rosenberg was then at the same (plus or minus a couple of years) age. I have long forgotten the name of the BBC lady, but I will never forget her face. She looked at me as if the gates of hell had opened behind me and the entire infernal army was about to rush at her. Rosenberg’s face was half hidden by a mask, but it could not hide his confusion, further emphasized by a stampede from the press conference.
Let me stress again that I understand him well and sympathize with him. 27 years ago, when the incident I described above happened, journalists already liked to speculate about the «fourth power», but most of them themselves did not really believe in this thesis. Nevertheless, open disregard for the «rights of the press» was not comme il faut even then. Like «homophobia» about ten years later.
Since then, the young and then seasoned BBC journalist Steven Rosenberg was taught for 27 years that he was not just a «fourth power», but a representative of Western civilizers in a semi-primitive world that dreams of becoming like the West. Stephen is the bearer of civilization. Any of his statements is a priori true, and the authorities of the «wild tribes» to whom he brings civilization must justify themselves to him and immediately rush to eliminate the shortcomings he has noticed.
«Russia is disappointed with Europe’s inability to defend its interests on its own»
And after all, for a long time it was so. Including in Russia. Not that the Kremlin believed in the Western «mission of good offices», but they proceeded from the fact that compromise is better than enmity and were ready to make reasonable concessions in anticipation of reciprocal steps. It cannot be said that this strategy has completely failed to justify itself. Part of the Western world, especially in the EU and especially in Germany and Italy, really strives to build equal pragmatic relations with Russia on the basis of a mutually acceptable compromise.
But the part is not the whole, and on the whole, the Western world retains its hostility towards Russia, poorly hidden by unfounded arrogance. Moreover, it is clear that despite the strengthening of the Western political circles sympathetic to our country, this trend will not be broken in the coming years. But then it will be too late. The window of opportunity will close.
Any political decision is possible and expedient within a certain time frame. If someone does not have time to meet these deadlines, then they have to implement a different version of the future. That is why not a single serious state works according to the principle of no alternative. There are always fallbacks, maybe not as good, but not disastrous, usually just less profitable. But those who are late for the joint train to the future remain at a broken trough.
2020 was the year of summing up the results in Russian-European relations. At the level of statements by politicians and press materials, at the level of visits, agreements and active events, the fading of Russia’s interest in the European vector and the redirection of the dominant of its foreign policy to the Far and Middle East became noticeable.
The last warning was the autumn speeches of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in which it was stated openly that Russia is disappointed with Europe’s inability to defend its interests on its own and, given this factor, does not expect anything else from cooperation with the West and does not plan to unilaterally take into account the opinion and the interests of the West.
Perhaps in the UK or specifically on the BBC, being immersed in their Brexit, Lavrov was not heard. But that’s their problem. Russia is not doing anything out of the blue. Before openly telling the West that “We didn’t actually want to work with them” a long-term (stretching over a decade and a half) work was carried out to search for alternative markets, to import substitution of critical products imported from the West, to strengthen the army, to recreate the ocean-going fleet, gaining allies, creating military bases controlling trade routes that are critical for Russia.
The West missed this entire era of «concentration of Russia» (the expression of Chancellor Gorchakov). Already the second time the West misses (the first «concentration» in the XXI century ended in 2008). In Europe and the United States they consoled themselves with the fact that Russia is a «colossus with feet of clay», that it does not have sufficient resources even to intervene in the situation in the post-Soviet space, that «Moscow is bluffing», that the West is indispensable because it is a «civilizational choice» etc.
And suddenly, in 2020, the collective West saw that Russia’s positioning towards it had changed dramatically. If earlier [the West’s] claims were heard, explanations were given, Russia was trying to prove something, now Europe began to be ignored as an annoying mistress. With some countries, the Kremlin has stopped talking altogether, with some it talks, but «without respect.»
“Yes, we are white and fluffy”! — But only for ourselves. So what will you do to us?
Western journalists, especially BBC journalists, do not ask random questions at press conferences of heads of state. BBC is a state corporation, its activities are aimed at realizing the state interests of Great Britain, including collecting information using the possibilities of journalism. By asking the question «Are you white and fluffy?» — the leading circles of the West probed the soil and were ready to hear anything in response, except what sounded: «Yes, we are white and fluffy» — and your opinion on this issue interests us least of all.
This is the point, the end of the long-term flirtation between Russia and the West, which the West hoped to start up in an absolute moral and material gain, and suddenly sees itself in the role of «Ariadne abandoned.» Given the Western vindictiveness, such public humiliation of it became possible only following the results of a decade and a half of well-coordinated, albeit invisible, work of all Russian state structures, including state-owned companies.
In 2014, the West was surprised to learn that Russia is able to ensure its food security (over the next six years, Moscow has been steadily increasing its food exports). In 2015, the West became convinced of the stability of the Russian financial system, which it never managed to break. In 2016, the West still laughed at the «cartoons» and argued that in reality Russia did not have demonstrated weapons systems, because it could never be. Since 2018, he has been forced to admit his critical lag in the military sphere. In 2017-2018 the West suddenly learned that Russia concentrates on itself the supply of liquefied gas, for which the West was a de facto monopoly, one by one introducing the corresponding terminals in the North and the Far East (which makes the fight against Nord Stream 2 and other flows senseless, since Russian gas will come to Europe by a route alternative to the Ukrainian one, if not through gas pipelines, then with the help of gas carriers). By 2020, the West learned that Russia is also able to build gas carriers on its own (as well as other ships and vessels of any class).
In parallel, international systems of cooperation between Russia and China, Iran, Turkey and Egypt were being built. If, until about 2014, Russia’s priority was to ensure internal stability and security in the context of a likely break with the West, then the emphasis in domestic policy shifted to disavowing the ideological expansion of the West, and in foreign policy to building alternative trade and economic ties, securing promising markets. and partners.
All this, of course, is not as beautiful as the even ranks of the royal grenadiers, bravely breaking the enemy’s resistance under a hail of grapeshot. But for the latter to become possible, many years of routine work are needed to create an independent economy capable of meeting the needs of the army and the people in any conditions, for a period of time of any length, as well as to provide the rear with reliable military-political alliances.
And only after many years of efforts of millions of people, someone alone can smile and say to the unfortunate journalist, turning over his head to the collective West: «Yes, we are white and fluffy!» — So what will you do to us?
In the history of Russia, a thirty-year period has come to an end, characterized by successively advancing: fascination with the West, doubt in the West, and disillusionment with Western «values.» The line has been drawn. Russia has entered a new period characterized by indifference towards the West and a lack of illusions about all of its current partners and allies. We leave ideals for home use, for external use we have only interests. Russia itself has built its own well-being and is going to use it itself. And whoever doesn’t like it, can cry, or gnaw the earth, or bite his elbows. We are «white and fluffy», but only for ourselves.
Rostislav Ischenko, 21.12.2020 / Source.