Andrew Korybko is the American Master’s Degree student at the Moscow State University of International Relations (MGIMO)
Washington and Brussels share equal responsibility for the deterioration of ties with Russia, despite what one may think. It’s been trendy to lay the vast majority of blame on the US’ doorstep and present the Europeans as victims of American neo-imperialism (which is not without reason), but doing so deflects culpability from the European side and overlooks the major reason why the EU has gone along with the US in the first place – ideology. Also, the preoccupation with the ‘dissenting’ views of Western ‘Brain Trust’ members forgoes an examination into the controlling influence of the West’s permanent diplomatic and security bureaucracy on the course of current events.
Europe Is Guilty Too
Today’s Europe is a citadel of expansionist Western liberal-democratic thought perverted by subjective interpretations of human rights rhetoric, with the case study of Eastern Partnership ‘integration’ being the spark that triggered this entire crisis in the first place. So ideological is the EU nowadays that it has even demonstrated the will to inflict serious economic damage to itself in order to promote the vague long-term ‘interest’ of transforming the socio-political landscape of the former Soviet sphere. Sure, this is first and foremost a geopolitical goal cooked up in Washington, but the European political elite are gleefully playing the tip of the spear in thrusting through Russia’s western periphery and violating its security.
They behave in this aggressive manner because to them, it’s not aggressive at all, but merely one step on the path towards the ‘End of History’ that they are so positively convinced is imminent. Not understanding that other civilizations can have separate values, they have actually come to believe their own (and Washington’s) vitriol about Russia’s "dictatorship”, thus creating a self-fulfilling cycle of counter-productive economic and political decisions all in the pursuit of some lofty and ‘high-minded’ ideological goal. So long as this mentality remains in Europe (and it shows no signs of going away after decades of preparatory indoctrination) and Brussels is willing to blast its own kneecaps to supposedly spite Russia, there’s no going back from the brink, and Russia must prepare for a prolonged period of soft conflict with the EU.
The results of Foreign Affairs’ poll showing that nearly a third of the ‘Brain Trust’ believes that the West is to blame for the current crisis are a prime example of ‘ivory irony’. That is to say, some of the ‘dissenters’ (Stephen Kotkin, Robert Legvold, Michael Mandelbaum, and Jack Snyder), while laying blame to the West for provocative NATO expansion, still refer to such terminology as "Russian revision”, "Russian aggression”, and Russia seeking to "manipulate and dominate Ukraine without invasion”, calling into question whether or not their perceived "boldness” commands respect in the first place. Rather, they seem to be following the old cliché of becoming a ‘different side to the same coin’, in that they agree with the basic premise of "Russian aggression”, but see its roots not in Moscow, but in Brussels or Washington. The latter part is true, but the irony is that one shouldn’t then attribute "aggression” to the side that was provoked, but instead call out the provoking side as the true aggressors and consequently extend greater understanding to the defensive reactions of the geopolitical victim, Russia. The singled-out ‘dissenters’ failed to do this, and thus, they are in effect only serving as more pragmatic ‘echo chambers’ of their more vocal anti-Russian colleagues.
The Real Problem
Too much attention is being paid to the statements of ‘Brain Trust’ members like the above and not enough is given to the source of the problem, which is the permanent bureaucracy of the NATO states. Their revolving heads aside, the settled body of diplomatic, defense, and intelligence agencies all throughout the NATO world have by now clearly shown their commitment to explicitly confronting Russia at all angles. The behind-the-scenes machinery is heavy at work and the cogs are definitely in motion, and this is what lies at the core of the problem. The decision had obviously been made beforehand to prepare these institutions for their prolonged push against Russia, and such large-scale mechanisms, once in motion, are not remediable by the statements of a few Ivory Tower ‘dissenters’.