OPINION

Ideologies and politics

The extremely discreet political and diplomatic presence of Russia in the war on Lebanon is surprising if one bears in mind that the Middle East and the Israeli-Arab dispute, in all its versions, have always been the focus of clashes between the former Soviet Union and the United States. And so, as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice travels around the globe promoting America’s ideology of the «democratization» of the Muslim element and of a «new Middle East,» Russia, having already consolidated its presence in the European energy market, is beginning to penetrate the energy sector in the American continent. Last Thursday, Venezualan President Hugo Chavez opened up his country’s energy market to Moscow, signing multibillion-dollar deals with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Obviously Washington was displeased about the whole affair but Russia succeeded in achieving an historic leap in Latin America. Indeed, an extraordinary turnaround has been occurring over the past years. For decades, the Soviet Union had been captive to its ideologies, adopting the «historic responsibility» of solving social problems on a global level through the imposition of the communist system. It invested colossal sums to this end, exhausted the resourcefulness of its citizens and, in order to win the respect of both friendly and rival powers, developed its military machine to the extreme. Ronald Reagan, a president who was not regarded as intelligent at home or abroad, perceived the deadlock in which the Soviet Union found itself, adopted the notorious «Star Wars» program and obliged Moscow to become involved in a fierce arms race with the USA, which eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet bloc (which was also precipitated by other factors, of course). Because of this, he became one of the greatest presidents in US history. The collapse of the Communist regime liberated Russia from the burden of promoting an ideology with an international scope and Putin exploited Russia’s energy arsenal to boost his country’s influence on the international stage. Russia does not have the slightest involvement in the instability of the Middle East, which has caused oil prices to skyrocket, threatening the economies of Western Europe. The region has come under the absolute management of the USA, assisted by a few of its European partners. Moscow is simply profiting from the opportunities being produced by the current state of global affairs. Indeed, those governing the Kremlin are displaying an impressive business logic in the way they exercise foreign policy. Of course, Putin’s Russia has no fondness for fanatical Islamic groups following the Soviet Union’s bitter experience in Afghanistan. Today, Russia limits itself to tackling Chechen Muslim rebels on its own territory. In any case, the task of crushing radical Islamists has been undertaken on a global level by the USA and on a local level by Israel, whose military has taken on Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. But this time the war is completely unconventional. When the Warsaw Pact collapsed in 1989 without a shot being fired, NATO and the United Nations rightly celebrated moments of glory. When in 1948, 1967 and 1973, Israel crushed the combined military might of Arab states, it won the West’s admiration. But the situation today is very different. European Union countries are bordering on self-degradation as they are utterly incapable of shaping a firm policy, with the exception of France, on occasion. Meanwhile, the UN appears to have become involved in a perpetual, and probably pointless, struggle to convert Muslim states into Western-type entities. The West has finally become infected by ideological fixation, originally a preserve of the former Soviet Union and Communist regimes. US intervention in the Islamic world is incomprehensible in terms of conventional policy. On the other hand, Russia appears to be the only one of the world’s traditional powers to act in a purely political way. It has evidently grasped the significance of the shocking change that occurred following the collapse of the Communist regimes in Europe, namely that ideologies with an international scope overwhelmingly undermine the nation-state in the long term.