By Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann

The decency should have prompted European and Western governments to show signs of compassion regarding the terrible tragedy in Kemerovo in Siberia with the death of many children in the fire of an entertainment centre. But not at all, humiliation was on the agenda. They were more preoccupied at applying new sanctions against Russia at the same moment. They expelled Russian diplomats all across EU and the “Western” world, as a consequence of the Skripal affair, but without any single serious evidence so far. Western governments show usually mutual understanding when a tragedy or a terrorist attack takes place on their territory. But it seems again of secondary importance for these same governments when a tragic accident or a terrorist attack is happening in Russia. Although concerning a terrorist attack and not a ” tragic accident”, we remember the queues of Russian citizens to leave flowers in front of the French embassy in Moscow after the Islamists attack in November 2013 in Paris. Was something equivalent across EU when a Russian passenger jet crashed in Sinai peninsula because of an ISIS bomb ? No, because there is an asymmetry in compassion after years of media propaganda to depict Russia as an hostile nation and deforming people’s mind.

The announcement of the expulsion of Russian diplomats was of course not made to coincide on purpose with the national mourning all across Russia, but they reveal more the western sense of superiority regarding Russia. Not only these new sanctions are useless since they will lead to nowhere, but they underline a complete lack of diplomatic tact when Russian citizens have in mind the Kemerovo tragedy with families and officials all across the country mourning their dead. This tragedy is also leading to demonstrations of anger against the corruption of local authorities. In this context the Westerns sanctions will miss their objective. Many Russians citizens do not pay attention, but others will have noticed this lack of sensitivity from the West. This comes after so many systematic cases of Russian bashing since 2014 and the Ukraine crisis, and this will lead to even more suspicion. Vladimir Putin will probably will be obliged to respond with an escalation in counter-measures after having paid tribute to the victims of the Kemerovo tragedy. He might do so in order to respond to this coordinated reputation damage but also to canalize the anger of the population as a result of the Kemerovo tragedy. The crucial question is: How long can the “Western ideologues” test the patience of the Russians ?

This episode is again an example of bad diplomacy applied from “Western governments” but there is something more revealing behind this new episode about the current state of our World. From the point of view of Western governments, there are two type of citizens in the world: the “Western citizens” within the “civilized world” (in reality the “Americanized world”) and the second class citizens outside the “West ” that should be “westernized”. This is the result of a misplaced “moral superiority” as a disguise for the geopolitical objective of maintaining at any price a “Unipolar world” around NATO-EU alliances and the US/UK in the middle. These Western governments constantly tried in the past to impose the Liberal-Globalist ideology, although it failed to take care properly of the safety and prosperity of most citizens. There is a growing gap between what governments and their citizens think. This led to the election of Trump and Brexit. Since the Liberal-Globalist ideology on which US and UK profited to impose their global order is fading, US and UK governments need to compensate their loss of influence by adopting a more aggressive posture, with Russia as the enemy.

We have to understand what lies behind the notion of the “West”. The “West” is a convenient geopolitical representation that emerged during the Cold War and instrumentalized again for power objectives. The “West” is a now a disguise for the US and its minor ally UK to maintain the global order they created after the Second World War and its enlarged version after the collapse of USSR, against the emergence of multipolarity.

In the context of Brexit, the Atlanticist government of the United Kingdom wants to promote “Western” unity at any price and torpedo a potential improvement of relations between EU and Russia, to avoid its own isolation and improve its negotiating stance towards EU. Their objective is therefore to regain geopolitical unity in the name of the “West” against Russia. This is done at the expense of the long term interest of European continental nations, France and Germany especially, to include Russia in a reformed European project. The Skripal affair comes at a time when the Franco-German axis might try to think about a different EU-Russia policy and just before the impressive show of unity of the Russia nation behind Vladimir Putin during presidential elections. Whatever the truth about the Skripal affair, and before any conclusions from the enquiry, the use of the Skripal affair in a opportunistic way for geopolitical objectives is more interesting. Each time Russia might be perceived as a more positive, successful, or strong actor on the international stage, ( Olympic games in Sochi, its decisive contribution to the defeat of Islamists in Syria, a deal on Ukraine question, the re-election of Vladimir Poutine…) systematic destruction of the Image of Russia is applied by the most Atlanticist Western governments and their media and subsided think tanks.

The number of expelled diplomats per country is somehow a good sign of the intensity of geopolitical rivalry and the willingness to escalate: USA 60 UK 23 Ukraine 13 Poland, Germany, France 4, Italy 2… for the bigger states. However Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, and Slovenia. didn’t decide to expel diplomats at the date of the 28th of March. Austria who refused to expel diplomats, positioned itself interestingly as a bridge between Russia and EU.

Actually only 18 out of 27 EU member (plus USA and Canada) took more sanctions and 10 others abstained so far. EU is therefore divided and huge pressures have been applied by the US and UK to convince EU members states to apply sanctions according to the logic of alliances. We have to remember that this is a logic of alliances that led to the First Word War. NATO an EU membership should not lead to blind alignment on US/UK narrative and actions. This is why de Gaulle decided to get France out of NATO military command in the 60’s. The same caution should prevail today.

There is also a difference of intensity of expulsions between the “Anglo-Saxons” governments and “continental European” governments. The geopolitical rivalry between Germany and Russia is aggravating, but the German government, as a central European power, understood they have too much to loose in applying real new sanctions. These expultions of diplomats are symbolic and were decided to avoid a more visible fracture within EU. But nonetheless, these diplomatic sanctions are demonstrating a willingness to degrade Russian reputation. The decision of the French government, although initially sceptical because of the absence of evidence, align itself to the UK/US fake narrative. It is departing from the Gaullist legacy to practice balance of power.

How can they take seriously a clown like Boris Johnson comparing Putin to Hitler ?

It seems now that the West-Russia crisis will not fade, but might become systemic for the next decades, since Russia is not only the scapegoat goat of the “West” failures, but also the nightmare of the Euro-Atlanticist ideologues refusing the multipolar world promoted by Russia.

It is of utmost importance for European nations to maintain control on their own destiny in the context of this increasing geopolitical struggle for the global order. They should not align themselves blindly according to the logic of alliances, on Euro-Atlanticist geopolitical objectives to initiate a New Cold War under the leadership of the US/UK. This might lead to more confrontation with a sleepwalker syndrome. The only hope now lies in the resistance of European citizens who believe less and less in these repetitive instrumentalization of crises against Russia. They can apply pressure to politicians with their vote to promote the rise to power of governments defending the interests of their own nation. It is time for European civil society, researchers, citizens, of all horizons to stand up against these attempts by Euro-Atlanticists ideologues to torpedo any move toward a continental space of solidarity and security from Brest to Vladivostok ! It is time to think about “Europe first” and not the “West” promoted by EU and NATO.

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