PLUS CA CHANGE, PLUS C'EST LA MEME CHOSE: RUSSIA FOREIGN POLICY IN 1903 AND TO-DAY
"He [Isvolsky] said that England was not understood in Russia and that he legend of perfide Albion still held good---and that public opinion was against England. I [Sir Edward Goschen] asked whether public opinion had much influence in Russia---and he answered 'enormous' and that it was very difficult to control. I asked how 'public opinion' penetrated to the powers that be---certainly not thro' the Press and that there was an iron circle of Tchinovniks (sic) which acted as a wall. He admitted this rather but said 'it filters through somehow---God knows how---but it does---and not only does it have great influence but he mere fact of its having no legitimate or legal channel to flow through---like Parliament and Press in England, rendered it very difficult to control'".Sir Edward Goschen. The Diary of Edward Goschen, 1900-1914. Edited Christopher H. D. Howard. (1980), p. 82. Conversation quoted on the 3 October 1903, between Goschen (British Minister in Copenhagen) and Alexander Isvolsky (Russan Minister in Copenhagen and future Foreign Minister, 1905-1910).
"Here we must recognize that foreign policy is an instrument of Putin’s domestic agenda. The domestic priority for the Kremlin is to preserve a status quo supported by three pillars: personalized power, its legitimation by superpower aspirations (or at least their imitation), and the attempts to consolidate society by seeking out an enemy and using that enemy to turn Russia into a besieged fortress. This is a traditional Russian Matrix. The more Putin’s regime is confronted with problems at home (and since last December, it has been challenged more than at any other time after 1999), the more actively it looks for foreign policy means to support the Russian Matrix. This translates in concrete terms to blocking the United States whenever and wherever possible. Thus, the Kremlin switches to vocal anti-Americanism and seeks to block the U.S. at the UN Security Council or in other fora. This switch has been most vividly on display in the endless harassment of U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul. Neither random nor a reflection of Putin’s personal likes or dislikes or phobias, this behavior is simply how the Kremlin survival mechanism works. To reproduce personalized power with global aspirations, the Kremlin has to contain America and undermine the American order wherever possible—in Russia’s own neighborhood or in other parts of the world. This is how Russian authoritarianism differs from other regimes of this type: In order to preserve and reproduce itself, the Russian personalized power system needs to demonstrate global reach. If the Russian ruling team can’t force or persuade the world to endorse its stance, it tries to at least undermine the American and Western positions. Accordingly, the Kremlin’s last client state in the Middle East became an arena of conflict geared toward bolstering the Kremlin’s survival strategy, and toward demonstrating that Russia can still impose limits on the West. Sadly, in the process of doing these things, the Kremlin has shown utter indifference to the suffering of the Syrian people, for it is more focused on its own future than it is on the welfare of others".David Kramer and Lilia Shevtsova, "Why Russia Doesn't Hold the Keys to Syria: The West may be using the Kremlin's intransigence as an excuse to do nothing." The American Interest. 11 July 2012, in http://www.the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=1284 The similarities of the two above quotes as an explanatory mechanism to make sense of the underlying dynamics of Russian foreign policy in 1903 and 2013 are too uncanny for comfort. Plus ca change indeed. If nothing else, what continuity of how decision-making is arrived at in Russian foreign policy in the two eras in question, make short work of the comforting notion, propounded by the bient-pensant, Financial Times, among others, that Moskva will suddenly give-in and agree to Western military intervention in the conflict in Syria 1. Whether or not the regime of Assad Fils has used Chemical weaspons or not. Certainly, based simply upon the Primat der Innenpolitik aspects of current Russian foreign policy, it is almost impossible to imagine that sans an almost complete collapse of the regime of Assad Fils, that President Putin will agree to give blanket approval of any policy of military intervention by the Western Powers in Syria. 1. Geoff Dyer & James Blitz, "Obama Syria warning adds pressure on Moscow." The Financial Times. 27 April 2013, in www.ft.com.