For Western hegemony to continue, Russia must be defeated in Ukraine. But the opposite outcome seems to be emerging. Europe is now speaking in two voices. First, a chorus of unity against Russia’s “unprovoked invasion” of Ukraine. Second, Germany, France and some others leaking self-serving blueprints of a new order.
A change in the world order means gains and losses. The United States and the West will, sooner or later, lose their dominance. The tools used to advance their control of the world order will now be employed to stall the decline: such as accelerating Nato’s eastward expansion.
Lord Ismay, Nato’s first secretary-general, had succinctly outlined the alliance’s purpose: to keep the Soviet Union out of Europe, the Americans in and the Germans down. In a lucid opening statement to the media on European security issues, Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov used Lord Ismay’s quote to explain his understanding of the Ukraine conflict.
“What is happening now is nothing short of returning to the alliance’s conceptual priorities from 73 years ago. Nothing has changed,” he said. Nato wants to keep the Russians “out”, the American dream of keeping not just Germany but the whole of Europe “down”. Mr Lavrov was particularly severe: “The US has in fact already enslaved the entire European Union.”
As Germany was an enemy of the Western allies in the two world wars, a degree of anti-German prejudice was passed on everywhere, even in the schools in the former colonies, such as India. A great deal of the prejudice was drawn from war movies, of great escapes, clever spies, in each one of which the Germans were the butt of malicious humour.
During the Cold War, Germany receded as an issue but surfaced again once the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991-92. What was the need for Nato? On a visit to Finland, Margaret Thatcher was pointedly asked: “The Soviet Union no longer exists. What then is the need for Nato and for Britain’s nuclear arsenal?”
“We still have a problem in the Middle East”, she retorted. Informed circles in London and Washington began to touch on the German question in a new context. The Soviet Union’s collapse was cause for celebrations in the West, of course, but the fall of the Berlin Wall led the West to take note alarmingly of a reunified Germany.
A reunified Germany may be tempted to seek a greater role in the post-Soviet world order. This idea must not be allowed to germinate. It was to nip it in the bud that Operation Desert Storm was launched in 1991. It was ostensibly to free Kuwait, which Saddam Husain had occupied. Had he misread a signal from April Glaspie, the US ambassador in Baghdad?
A key event (or non-event) cited as one of the causes of Operation Desert Storm is to this day shrouded in mystery. In a routine conversation with Ms Glaspie, Saddam Husain complained of Kuwait encroaching on Iraqi oil-bearing land. Wikileaks made public the memo Ms Glaspie sent to the state department based on her conversation with Saddam Husain. “The US government takes no position on Iraq’s border dispute with Kuwait”. This is on record. Was Saddam guilty of moving into Kuwait assuming that the “US took no position” on the dispute?
It turns out it wasn’t a story relevant to West Asia alone, Mrs Thatcher and President George Bush, Senior, drummed up an international “Coalition of the Willing” to oust Saddam from Kuwait. With the Soviets out of the way, it was said then wars would now not be between the West and East, they would be between North and South. Is Ukraine an exception?
France’s President Francois Mitterrand, who probably understood the real game, initially refused to be part of the “coalition” being put together by the two Anglo-Saxon cousins. In Baghdad I realised how Mitterrand had gauged the “coalition” intentions correctly. During military action there were two separate briefings: one for American journalists, another for the British. The rest of the world press twiddled their thumbs.
The other key instrument the West uses to control the post-Soviet world order was inaugurated in Baghdad. It was the global media, exactly the one being used brazenly since the beginning of the Ukraine war.
Peter Arnett of CNN beamed the war in real time from the terrace of Al- Rashied Hotel in Baghdad. This was the first time a war was brought live into the world’s drawing rooms. This was to become a great resource for mobilising public opinion across the globe.
By the same token, it had the power to divide the world, pit one group against the other. Just one telecast of Desert Storm divided the world into two inimical and sets of audiences -- the triumphant West and a defeated, humiliated Iraq -- which had the sympathy of the entire Muslim world. Some of this stimulated antipathy gave a shot in the arm to Muslim terrorism.
“In 1990, at the closing stage of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe Summit in Paris, US secretary of state James Baker warned the US President that the CSCE might pose a threat to Nato. It revealed the US mindset”, said Mr Lavrov.
By persisting with Nato’s expansion from 16 to 32 states, James Baker’s intellectual descendants are averse to anything resembling the CSCE becoming a genuine bridge between East and West. The pursuit is for war to avert the end of Western hegemony.