Is it rules by the rulers or laws by the law makers?
[Image from the Russian International Affairs Council]
Russian Federation veteran Foregin Minister Sergey Lavrov has published a four and a half thousand word piece at the Ministry's web-site. Having finished reading it, I have a few comments.
Firstly, read it. It describes the core principles behind modern Russian international relations, as seen by Lavrov and obviously approved by the Federation's President Putin. One may disagree with every word, but it is still important to understand Russia's declared position.
Personally, I am largely in agreement with the Foreign Minister, and enjoyed his dissection of the West's "Rules Based International Order" (RuBIO). (Yes, there's a play here with the US Senator's name, but it rolls off the tongue so much smoother than 'RBIO'). Lavrov begins the dissection by stating two key points:
the rules are never elaborated, except in the vaguest terms
why these rules are needed or useful is also never stated
He goes on to note that this gives the west the greatest lattitude for RuBIO's invocation. Of course he mentions illegal economic coercive measures, aka Sanctions, aka Economic Warfare, aka Collective Punishment, as one of the enforcement mechanisms. His key arguement is contained in one paragraph:
Still, the West reserved its biggest words to the inner workings of the “non-democratic” countries and its commitment to reshape them to fit into the Western mould. This entails bringing society in compliance with the vision of democracy as preached by Washington and Brussels. This lies at the root of the demands that Moscow and Beijing, as well as all others, follow the Western prescriptions on human rights, civil society, opposition treatment, the media, governance and the interaction between the branches of power. While proclaiming the “right” to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries for the sake of promoting democracy as it understands it, the West instantly loses all interest when we raise the prospect of making international relations more democratic, including renouncing arrogant behaviour and committing to abide by the universally recognised tenets of international law instead of “rules.” By expanding sanctions and other illegitimate coercive measures against sovereign states, the West promotes totalitarian rule in global affairs, assuming an imperial, neo-colonial stance in its relations with third countries. They are asked to adopt the democratic rule under the model of the Western choosing, and forget about democracy in international affairs, since someone will be deciding everything for them. All that is asked of these third countries is to keep quiet, or face reprisals.
Spot on, Sergey.
He also mentions the new updated Atlantic Charter which mentions neither the United Nations or the Organisation for Security Cooperation in Europe, essentially placing NATO as an important and independent "legitimate decision-making centre". Indeed, by omitting these other important bodies it declares NATO as the "only" such centre.
Mr Lavrov goes on to observe the double standards of the NATO based RuBIO by citing three events:
The rules-based order is the embodiment of double standards. The right to self-determination is recognised as an absolute “rule” whenever it can be used to an advantage. This applies to the Malvinas Islands, or the Falklands, some 12,000 kilometres from Great Britain, to the remote former colonial territories Paris and London retain despite multiple UN resolutions and rulings by the International Court of Justice, as well as Kosovo, which obtained its “independence” in violation of a UN Security Council resolution. However, if self-determination runs counter to the Western geopolitical interests, as it happened when the people of Crimea voted for reunification with Russia, this principle is cast aside, while condemning the free choice made by the people and punishing them with sanctions.
He delves into a lovely piece of linguistics looking at the roots of the words "law" and "rule" in Russian vs English. It brought thoughts of Chomsky to mind. I shall not spoil it for you. Go read.
The Foreign Minister is moving towards his summary, which I take to be, that this new "RuBIO" is an end run around the UN, the UN Charter and International Law. He is calling for a resuscitation of the UN or at least a return to its principles, and shoots a very big shot across the bow with:
Efforts to bring more democracy to international relations and affirm a polycentric world order include reforming the UN Security Council by strengthening it with Asian, African and Latin American countries, and ending the anomaly with the excessive representation of the West in the UN’s main body.
I see the RuBIO as exactly that which I think Mr Lavrov is pointing at; UN circumvention. The reason is obvious; Russia and China are in a quasi-alliance, China is the largest world economy and is thus very difficult to bully, and Russia has an advanced military and they both have veto powers at the UN Security Council, thus the "end run". Russia's foreign policy response is to suggest an expansion of the security council!
Finally, the Foreign Minister gets to summarizing Russia's foreign policy doctrine:
Regardless of any ambitions and threats, our country remains committed to a sovereign and independent foreign policy, while also ready to offer a unifying agenda in international affairs with due account for the cultural and civilisational diversity in today’s world. Confrontation is not our choice, no matter the rationale. On June 22, 2021, Vladimir Putin published an article “Being Open, Despite the Past,” in which he emphasised: “We simply cannot afford to carry the burden of past misunderstandings, hard feelings, conflicts, and mistakes.” He also discussed the need to ensure security without dividing lines, a common space for equitable cooperation and inclusive development. This approach hinges on Russia’s thousand-year history and is fully consistent with the current stage in its development. We will persist in promoting the emergence of an international relations culture based on the supreme values of justice and enabling all countries, large and small, to develop in peace and freedom. We will always remain open to honest dialogue with anyone who demonstrates a reciprocal readiness to find a balance of interests firmly rooted in international law. These are the rules we adhere to.
“The Law, the Rights and the Rules”, Sergey Lavrov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs
GDP, PPP (current international $), World Bank