Wed 21 Sep 2022
THE RUSSIAN LEADER'S FANTASTICAL SPEECH SHOWS HE RECOGNISES THAT HIS COUNTRY IS LOSING ITS WAR ON UKRAINE
The Russian president Vladimir Putin's speech this morning, announcing partial mobilisation and warning of possible retaliation for western actions against Russia, will renew fears of reckless nuclear blackmail. But overall, it should be seen as more reassuring than troubling.
The good news here is that Putin's announcement of emergency measures shows he recognises Russia is losing in its war of imperial expansion. The less good news is that if he believes even a tiny fraction of the lies and fantasies he reeled off during the speech, his grip on reality is even shakier than we previously suspected.
Russia says it plans to mobilise an additional 300,000 soldiers. That raises the question of whether Putin is fully aware that his army is already unable to train and equip the much smaller numbers of reinforcements it has received to date. Coming as Russia's parliament passes laws for severe prison sentences for those evading military service, the new measures seem likely to set up a comical game of musical chairs: thrown into prison for not going to war, Russian prisoners can then be recruited to go and fight with the promise of their sentence being annulled.
In fact, few of Putin's contradictory storylines stand up to even a moment's critical thought: we are winning in Ukraine – but the forces of the west aligned against us are so powerful that now we need to dig deeper to stay in the fight; our proxy regimes in Ukraine need to hold referendums to join us – but we already know they all want to join; we're protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia itself – but to do this requires incorporating part of another country; our war aim has always simply been to "liberate" Donbas – but to do that we've also taken so much of Ukraine that we have a 1,000km frontline.
For long-term Russia watchers, the most striking aspect of Putin's speech was how little his claims about Ukraine and the world had moved on since his last major speech at the launch of his invasion in February. The central myth that the west wants to destroy Russia has now been embellished with the notion that the country has been threatened with western weapons of mass destruction. But otherwise, it was as though the collision with reality Russia's military has experienced over the past six months had had no impact at all on Putin's outlook.
The speech was primarily for a domestic audience, one that is preconditioned to accept, or at least tolerate, the looking-glass version of the world that Putin presents. But it also contained the familiar nudge and wink nuclear half-threats, designed to give western leaders the excuse they may be looking for to slacken support for Ukraine. Even here, though, there was an edge of desperation. "It's not a bluff," said Putin – a recognition that all his previous threats against the west, nuclear and non-nuclear, have been shown to be hollow as successive Russian "red lines" have evaporated in the face of western determination.
The speech is a further recognition that Russia has been unable to win on the battlefield – so, to defeat Ukraine, it has to win elsewhere. That win, Putin hopes, will come through undermining Ukraine's international support. It's a dare to the west and a play for the fearful among western leaders – especially those who read Russian nuclear intent from Moscow's propaganda rather than from its doctrine, which lays out a far more limited set of circumstances where nuclear weapons can be used or even be useful.
The hastily planned referendums in the occupied territories are another sign of Russia scrambling to find ways of dissuading Ukraine's supporters from helping it liberate its people. Being able to claim that the occupied territories of Ukraine are now part of Russia will allow Moscow to frame any attempt by Ukraine to free its citizens from Russia's savage occupation as an attack on Russia itself.
The outcome of the referendums is, of course, in no doubt. The "correct" figures will be ensured by adding in absentee voting from within Russia itself – and it is very likely that, just as with the same exercise in Crimea in 2014, the choices presented on the ballot paper will, in reality, be no choice at all.
KEIR GILES WORKS WITH THE RUSSIA AND EURASIA PROGRAMME OF CHATHAM HOUSE; he is the author of "Russia's War on Everybody"
CHATHAM HOUSE - Wikipedia
The Royal Institute of International Affairs finds its origins in a meeting, convened by Lionel Curtis, of the American and British delegates to the Paris Peace Conference on 30 May 1919. Curtis had long been an advocate for the scientific study of international affairs and, following the beneficial exchange of information after the peace conference, argued that the method of expert analysis and debate should be continued when the delegates returned home in the form of international institute.
Lionel Curtis was instrumental in the founding of Chatham House.
Ultimately, the British and American delegates formed separate institutes, with the Americans developing the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
100 YEARS OF CHATHAM HOUSE: A CENTURY IN THE SERVICE OF EMPIRE
Chatham House was a descendant of the Round Table, an openly imperialist group whose goal was the preservation of the British empire. Its main achievement was probably the making of the South African constitution under Sir Alfred Milner – which is instructive. It highlighted the group's imperial and racist attitudes as that constitution embedded and codified racial inequality, laying the initial foundations of apartheid.
But its imperial credentials and elitist mentalities, with their embedded Anglo-Saxonist notions of racial superiority, meant that Chatham House was destined to broaden the basis of oligarchy rather than democratise foreign policy. It meant that Chatham House became ever more integrated into the mentalities and machinery of the official foreign policy making process, even receiving direct funding from the state to supplement its corporate donations and US foundation grants. It was, moreover, part of a set of transatlantic, especially Anglo-American, elite networks that cemented politics, government, finance and cultures.
Leaders of Chatham House supported the appeasement of fascism in the 1930s, endorsing the official policies of the British government towards Nazi Germany. In the Second World War, the Institute was virtually nationalised by the Foreign Office to engage in conceptualising and planning for the post-war new world order, in which its Anglo-American origins and connections permitted it to leverage influence in regard to the making of policy but also conducting semi-official information campaigns, and diplomacy via the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR). In the latter, Chatham House was the IPR's UK national council, using the transnational forum to defend the 'achievements' of British colonialism against challenges from its US, Canadian, and Asian counterparts. Chatham House left its institutional imprint in the Foreign Office through the formation of its Research Department, which exists today as FCO Research Analysts. WWII was probably the height of Chatham House's influence and prestige though it remained close to government, media, academia and embassies in London, not to mention West End clubland.
But increasing dominions' nationalism, World War I, the virtual collapse of the moral authority of empire, and the rise of anti-colonial nationalist revolts, not to mention the Bolshevik revolution, forced a major rethink in elite circles. The post-1918 world was one of the crisis of colonial hegemony as the United States emerged as a dominant world power with a new, modern, scientific, concept of global governance, liberal internationalism.
In particular, a group of discontented colonial and other officials, and their allies, were largely ignored in the Paris Peace Conference deliberations and decided to form an institute of international affairs that would make the making of foreign policy more democratic and scientific. Chatham House was born as the weaker twin of its US counterpart, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The CFR publishes the influential review, Foreign Affairs, that reflects the mindsets and preoccupations of the US foreign policy establishment.
But its imperial credentials and elitist mentalities, with their embedded Anglo-Saxonist notions of racial superiority, meant that Chatham House was destined to broaden the basis of oligarchy rather than democratise foreign policy. It meant that Chatham House became ever more integrated into the mentalities and machinery of the official foreign policy making process, even receiving direct funding from the state to supplement its corporate donations and U.S. foundation grants. IT WAS, MOREOVER, PART OF A SET OF TRANSATLANTIC, ESPECIALLY ANGLO-AMERICAN, ELITE NETWORKS THAT CEMENTED POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, FINANCE AND CULTURES.
CHATHAM HOUSE (U.K.) < COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS (CFR) (U.S.A.)
COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS - Wikipedia
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