Human rights, the divided West, Putin and Russia

Human rights, the divided West, Putin and Russia

On the part of value-oriented politicians, there is a tendency that it is best not to talk with dictators and also not to conclude contracts. In practice, however, this line is untenable and even value-oriented politicians tend to compromise. While the human rights situation in China is much worse than in Russia, while the Beijing regime is more restrictive and now shows tendencies towards a neo-totalitarianism under Xi, Germany and the EU will not impose sanctions because China, unlike Russia, is a world economic power and  yet disputed islands like the Senkaku, Spratley, Taiwan, etc. has not yet conquered directly, but is on the way to it. The trade war between Trump and Xi has also not human rights motives, but purely economic and geopolitical reasons.

In addition, it must be seen that the West, when still in the Cold War, had to do with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, which in comparison to Putin was more dicatorial and closed, despite all this came to important treaties. Above all Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, Nixon / Kissinger’s Detente and the CSCE process. Thus the West signed with the dictatorial Soviet Union the CSCE Final Act, which also included human rights, concluded the START treaties on arms limitation, as well as contracts for the economy, all the way to the natural gas tubes business. Even when differences between Germany and the USA came about, similar to today with Nordstream.

Kissinger describes in his book Diplomacy that the CSCE process was so successful with the fact that they had different „negotiating baskets“.  Armslimitation, economics, human rights, etc. For the opposition groups in the Eastern bloc, the CSCE Final Act meant relief for human rights and new freedom, which the Solidarnos, KOR, the Charter 77 and the opposition in the GDR and other Eastern Bloc countries also knew to exploit in the peaceful revolutions of 1989. However this potential only came to life when Reagan and NATO embarked on a policy of strength against the economically eroding Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

The current situation has some similarities, but also significant differences. On the one hand, the West is divided, whether from G7 to human rights issues and democracy, as Trump has moved away from the liberal, value-oriented policies of the former US adminsitrations, has now also started a trade war with the EU and has questioned his NATO obligations as well general multilateralism aas the WTO, climate protection agreement, Irandeal, etc.

On the other hand, the bipolar block confrontation has given way to a multi-polar major power competition with China and India as essential new global players, in addition to traditional conventional and nuclear weapon systems now also space and cyber weapons as well as mininukes, neutron weapons, global-strikes and other innovations have been added. In view of this more multipolar situation, the old arms limitation treaties between the Soviet Union / Russia and the US, such as the INF Treaty, no longer hold. Also, in 2008, the global economy has  seen such a deep and deep financial crisis as in 2008 as never in the post-war world. Beyond this fierce trade conflicts and the possibility that Facebook’s Libra currency could create a supranational world currency  and a currency compeition close to Hayek’s neoliberal ideal of monetary competition , which also puts into perspective the role of central banks in the creation of money, as well as the concerns of many critics in terms of increasing instability of the international financial system. In addition flows of refugees from the Greater Middle East and Africa to Europe and Latin America to the United States, which leads to the rise of right-wing parties supported by Putin, such as the Front National or the FPÖ, in order to dismantle the EU.

Similar to the Soviet Union, Putin-Russia today also suffers from an economic crisis that, although exacerbated by Western sanctions, is not caused by them, but is more closely related to the economic policies of the Russian government, which are quite wrongly positioned in terms of modernization. But Russia, through its contacts with the economic power of China, India, and Japan, has even greater leverage than the Soviet Union, when the G7’s West still had the bulk of the world economic power, and was unified, and there were no G20 and trade wars between the US and China and the EU. As in the days of the Soviet Union’s SS20 deployment, Putin has now begun deploying medium-range missiles against Europe, but also against Asia. So far it has not come to an arms race, although the INF contract was terminated. But if this were the case, this could trigger a momentum that could ruin the START contracts and ICBM limits.

But now again back to the actual question of human rights and democracy. As long as Trump is in government, only parts of the EU, above all Merkel Germany without PiS Poland, Orban-Hungary, Babis-Czechoslovakia, remain the value-oriented representatives of human rights issues of zhe West. That the negotiating position of the remaining West, i. Canada, Germany and the EU on this issue has weakened against Russia and China, even if a mainly value-oriented human rights party like the Greens should be given a leading role in the next German and Austrian governments.

Should the Greens hace a dogmatic, abstract approach of human rights, no appraochment and compromise will be possible.  Here, the question arises whether the second option is to use the experience of the CSCE process and decide on various negotiating baskets in the negotiations with Russia, such as: disarmament, the economy, financial stability, migration, terrorism and Islamism, cybersecurity, ecology and human rights, s regional conflicts and also to have a more comprehensive approach that also allows bartering. One difference, however, is that the West does not appear united on these issues, if Trump will be re-elected  and another is that Putin is on human rights issues due to his experiences with the CSCE Final Act and the peaceful revolutions which ushered in the end of the Eastern Bloc and also the Soviet Union, which he called the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, less willing to compromise.  And he will be still restrictive for the opposition, NGOs and human rights than later, as he doesn´t want to create the basis for a regime change and a colorful revolution against himself.

Conversely, there is a third variant: this is a symbolic human rights policy, which is largely personalized and aimed at particularly exposed opposition leaders. It may have been useful to support opposition leaders and symbolic figures such as Nawalny, Khodorkovsky, Pussy Riot, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc., but there is also the tendency of the Pesron cult as observed in the case of Denis Yücel. All efforts and all media attention is directed to a person and their release and once released, you can not hear anything about the human rights situation in Erdogan Turkey and the 200,000 detained opposition figures. It is therefore more appropriate to adopt an approach similar to that used in the CSCE process, which, perhaps, would make Putin comply with the OSCE’s simple human rights standards, which would be a general improvement.

The danger is if Putin or the currrent Russian leadership is not making any concessions on human rights, the black-green goverment or the green-black goverment will support  an arms race by NATO, not be interested in any cooperation, torpedo any initiative for a New East Policy in the EU together with Poland, attack Nordstream and even promote more sanctions. Russia then can only rely on Trump in the West and even he is not a reliable actor. If a Trump-Putin deal ever materializes is unsure. Putin then could hope that we wins over the black conservatives to appease the Greens and to bring more Realpolitik in the next German goverment or push the AfD in the hope that they will be the decisive game changer which forms a coalition wth the CDU/CSU against the Greens like Kurz did with the FPÖ. But Kurz is alreafy thinking about a coalition with the Green Party of Austria.

Putin hopes that Trump will be reelected in 2020 and he himself hopes to stay in power till 2014,´ and that a Trump-Putindeal materializes till then. And if that shouldn´t happen he is looking for an reliable successor.Unlikely however that he will rewrite the constitution like Xi Jining to give him the opportunity of eternal rule and introducing the Putin ideas into the constitution.  The liberal parts of the USA, its deeper state and most of the liberal EU hope that Trump won´t get reelected and that Putin will be history even before 2024 because of the economic crisis in Russia. The FAZ today had an article about the trial against Pawel Ustinow who was released due to protests of the civil society and parts of the Russian elite. For the FAZ author the case Ustionw is an indicator that there are no clear rules for repression in Russia anymore and that Putin is more and more concentrating on the Silowiki and their loyalty. and doesn´t care about the other elite or the population. As long as there are no signals or offers from the West Putin will increasingly try to concentrate power inside and outside Russia.

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