A world war or a global revolution?

Those were the days when high-level negotiations and treaties were signed — checking the arms race and defusing potential danger. So, why doesn’t it happen now?


Diplomacy is useless, the art of inter-state negotiations is dying out: That was one of the subjects of an annual session of the Russian Council on foreign and military politics, traditionally held in springtime in a countryside resort near Moscow. 

On re-reading my column https://themalaysianreserve.com/2018/04/18/same-war-different-sides/ written one-year ago, after a similar session of the same assembly, I noticed: Nothing much have changed.

The best Russian experts on foreign policy keep on arguing over the reasons for the growing animosity of the Western group of nations, first against Moscow, and now, against Beijing.

Just like a year ago, too many experts are at a loss, trying to read the real motives and intentions of the Americans and the rest.

Why the familiar tools, like negotiations, do not work, while they worked perfectly during the times of the Cold War?

Those were the times when the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), officially, was in ideological and military confrontation with the West, but still there were high-level negotiations and treaties signed — checking the arms race and defusing potential danger.

So, why doesn’t it happen now — are we moving into a world war? Why there is almost no diplomacy at all, no attempts to defuse tensions?

But this year, the main topic of the conference was not just the demise of diplomacy.

The basic question was: Where are we and the world going to — to a world war or to a global revolution?

And, the funny thing, almost nobody among the experts accepted the idea I find all too obvious.

Namely, it’s the notion that we, the world, are dealing with the West in the middle of a terrible revolution which has divided the Western societies, thrown them into total disarray and prevents them from rational
foreign policy.

Being old is not always an advantage. I’ve had several discussions with grey-haired generals and diplomats in our weekend retreat near Moscow, and have discovered that they still keep in mind the same
old West they were facing three decades ago.

Their West was a homogeneous system with basic values, lifestyles and ideas more or less shared by everyone living there.

Differences between political parties were negligible, and ruling bureaucracies felt secure in dealing with foreign governments.

Finally, the “old” West was a united system, facing the Communist and the Third World, with all their complexities.

That West was very predictable. “We addressed the political movements in Europe”, one of veteran diplomat told me, “by asking them: Do you want to face our mid-range nuclear missiles, reaching your cities in 10 minutes?

“If not, tell America not to place its similar missiles in Europe, 10 minutes of fly time away from Russia. And so we had a treaty with the US banning such missiles in Europe after only two years of negotiations.”

And now, he said, nobody is interested in missiles or treaties. The public does not care either.

They may talk about freedom of gays and lesbians in your country, and use it as a lever to demand trade concessions from you. That’s all.

Global diplomacy is getting nowhere, and it looks like a situation when nobody wants wars, but they are starting by themselves anyway.

Your West is no more, was my answer. It’s in the middle of a total revolution with a publicly proclaimed aim of destruction of societies.

They destroy it in multiple hate campaigns. They lie and they split societies into irreconcilable parts (white racists/minorities, men/women, smokers/non-smokers, planet-savers/global warming deniers, etc), they provoke hatred and destroy people’s lives.

They want to ruin their own societies first, not ours so you will not see it. And how do you expect governments to behave rationally in such situation?

Not to mention the fact that the public, in the middle of that madness, is electing the most unpredictable rules and not trusting the old elites anymore.

And these rulers, hoping to stay in power, are not even worried about keeping the good old West as a united system. I’m not sure it is still around but how do you negotiate with it?

The problem is all revolutions lead to wars, starting with the civil, domestic ones. And these internal wars seldom keep themselves locked into national borders. Others often get involved.

“So, name the precedent. Show me the year we are back into,” asked the veteran diplomat.

Easily, I replied. The year was 1936 and it was the civil war in Spain, a purely domestic affair, when one half of the nation sincerely could not tolerate the other. Then, some European powers helped one side, while others helped the other. Then, the Japanese, seeing that Europe is busy, started their war in China.

And soon everyone was fighting everybody. Diplomacy really woke up much…much later than it should have.

  • Dmitry Kosyrev is an author of 8 novels and a book of short stories, as well as a columnist for 2 Moscow publications. Orientalist by education (Moscow University), he has a special love for Malaysia. The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.