Pretending to ‘understand’ Russia has become quite the lucrative business for Western media professionals in recent years – and “leading” Russia expert extraordinaire Keir Giles is the latest to believe he has cracked the code.
Generous Giles has published a list of 10 “ground rules” for befuddled Westerners seeking to unravel the enigma that is Russia – but before we delve into the finer details, let’s add some important context. This Russia whisperer is a “senior consulting fellow” at Chatham House – a British think tank receiving funding from the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO), the UK Ministry of Defence, the British Army and the US embassy, as well as an impressive array of arms manufacturers.
Recall a recent New York Times article which claimed corruption is in the Russian “DNA” and sharing is “not the Russian way.” Before that, there was James Clapper, former US Director of National Intelligence, telling NBC that Russians are “genetically driven” to lie and cheat. Now, enter Giles.
1. A different hymn sheet
This, however, is where the sense begins and ends.
2. No excuses for Russia (ever)
Translation: The West’s actions can always be justified and its views and values (expressed with utmost conviction) are always sincere and correct – but Russia’s never can be. Case closed.
3. There are no answers (ever)
4. Bluster and bravado (a Russian thing)
Threats and feigned outrage does sound familiar alright, but that couldn’t be right. Western politicians would never threaten to obliterate other countries or wipe them“off the face of the earth.” They’d probably also never invade and destroy multiple countries and then play the victim of the century when someone posts divisive memes on Facebook. They would never engineer military coups or cripple struggling populations with deadly economic sanctions, either. That would just be totally repugnant, wouldn’t it?
5. Russian ‘beliefs’ are a problem (always)
6. Russia is bad, but might get ‘far worse’
Political change in Russia might not “be an improvement” because remember, Russia is intrinsically awful. Russia is “reprehensible” now, but things could get “far, far worse,” Giles warns.
7. Russia is fundamentally indecent
Good things like “values and standards” were “invented elsewhere” so don’t expect Russia to ever be embarrassed by being backward and barbaric. This is the crux of Giles’ ground rule number seven. In fact, Russia “places no value on its reputation”so it is incapable of feeling the “shame” that Western governments might feel for their wrongdoings.
This is a totally legitimate and foolproof argument, because everyone knows just how inundated victims of Western imperialism have been with expressions of sincere regret and shame from Washington and London.
8. Russia doesn’t have a good side
There is no point trying to appeal to Russia’s “better nature,” says Giles, in xenophobic ground rule number eight, because it “doesn’t have one.”Russia sees “compromise and cooperation” as “unnatural and deeply suspicious”unless it has evident and immediate benefits to state or leadership interests. Another truly insightful point, and indeed such a stark contrast to selfless Western leaders who act out of pure altruism.
9. No common ground
The West has been valiantly searching for things to compromise with Russia on “since the end of the USSR,” according to Giles. But this common ground can’t be found because everything about Russia is “entirely incompatible” with Western ways.
Translation: Russia and the West can never work together and this suits the Pentagon and UK Ministry of Defence just fine. Why try to upend this financially lucrative stand-off now? It has worked for so long, after all.
10. No surrender!
For a “full explanation” of these ten ground rules, Giles points interested individuals to his new book, where on page 113he explains that “untruth and deception are a fixed principle of life in Russia.” What a treat.
Xenophobia aside, to argue that Moscow is inherently opposed to compromise and partnership with Western powers requires a broad disregard for recent history, during which Russia has bent over backwards fruitlessly attempting to incorporate itself into Western structures – even hoping at one point that it might join NATO.
As journalist Bryan MacDonald noted on Twitter in response to Giles’ diatribe, this pursuit proved to be pointless and that realization culminated Vladimir Putin’s infamous 2007 Munich speech, during which he ferociously scolded Western leaders for failure to cooperate with Russia and lambasted an “almost uncontained hyper use of force” that is “plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts.”
Moscow’s overtures toward the West were repeatedly rebuffed in favor of continued saber-rattling and Cold War-style scare-mongering, not because Russia is inherently incapable of compromise, but for the simple reason that Russia as the eternal “threat” is a far more profitable state of affairs for Washington’s warmongers.