* Valdai Club: Alistair Crooke: Assad Will Win in a Fair Election.
Ostpolitik and Unfinished Business of WWII & Cold War.
Valdai Club, 21 April 2016
Valdai Club: Fyodor Lukyanov: Academic Director of Valdai Club Foundation, Editor in Chief of Russia in Global Affairs interviews Alastair Crooke, British diplomat, founder and director of the Conflicts Forum, explains why the role of personalities the Middle East politics is exaggerated, and why Russian actions in Syria are viewed favorably even by those regional actors who consider them contradicting to their own interests.
“The [Middle East] region always appreciates states that have a clear direction in which they want to go. Whether they like the direction or not they appreciate states that are not uncertain, but know where they want to go, have a clear and consistent goal, and are tough about it.
Thats the Middle East. ………… and the other is a clear vision and understanding by Russia as to what you want, and where Russia is going. And if you compare that to the American and Western coalition, people are not sure who they are supporting [in the Middle East] any longer. …..
The Middle East don’t want outside interference; until when they have problems; then they are begging outside powers for help; but local actors refuse to accept the help advised. …
The Middle East is in deep crisis of defining islam in contemporary world. …..
I think also its important because there is a much longer term game in play for Russia, which is the future of Europe. And the future of Europe is now very much uncertain and in the balance. And we may see, partly exacerbated by the refugee crisis, but because of internal dynamics, that Europe has to reinvent itself, because it won’t stay as it is. And it also needs to reinvent itself as an identity. What does it mean to be European today. I mean what are European values? I mean no-one can really answer these questions. Europe was built on the false basis of the promise of prosperity for all. There has not been prosperity for all, for some years now, since 2008, and in fact its getting much worse no in many parts of Europe. So what do we stand for? Where do we stand? And into that comes the question of the role of NATO, as the representative of the carry on of American occupation of Europe, but also as a means of Euopean foreign policy, is NATO foreign policy. Its not independent of it. And a strong sense in many of the European countries that actually we have to deal with the unfinished business of the second world war.
The outcome of the Second World War was not won on the beaches of Normandy but was won in Stalingrad. A huge loss of life. That was the fundamental defeat of Germany. At the end of that war, Germany understood the need to come to terms with its situation, and asked France to gullverize it, if you will, but it tipped the whole of the European balance towards the Atlantic, which was quite suitable for the Americans at that point. But the Berlin Wall meant that there was no reconciliation with Russia. The wall came down and then it was stopped. There was no sense of the psychological need, if you like to get passed that period. And after that NATO has pushed, pushed, pushed the walls closer and closer to Russia’s frontiers, the missiles and tanks upto its borders.
Europe, if it is to survive needs to address this fundamental question about ostpolitik; and this was the point that was made very clearly earlier.
What was it that Germany did not say No, to Clinton when he proposed moving the frontiers of NATO further and further upto Russia? Its the real issue, also partly because the German leadership of Europe is now quite vulnerable. Mrs Merkel is still Chancellor, but its not clear that she will survive politically. And then what do we have? At the moment we have a German Union, I mean we have to be frank, Germany is the hegemon of the European Union; and many states are uncomfortable about that. I think ultimately Europe must look to ultimately going back to more of a concert of Europe, if its going to find any independence and autonomy. But before that we are going to go through a crisis, because the refugee crisis is going to move us to more right wing populist.
The states are fighting each other, but out of this I think will come some sense of how do we undo the .. how do we find a way to get past the legacy of the second world war. I think that is something that we see that President Putin very carefully understands in the way he works with Europe. I mean given the sorts of snubs and insults that come from Europe, its clear that he is working to an agenda of understanding, that when you look at most of these areas in Europe you find that there are large elements of opinion that favour closer relations with Russia. ….. I think this will become an important point.”