On the retreat from Moscow in the winter of 1812 Napoleon Bonaparte complained that the countries of Europe did not understand that “the Russian Colossus” was the “enemy”.
General Caulaincourt tried to set him straight: “As a matter of fact, it is Your Majesty they fear. It is Your Majesty who is the cause of everyone’s anxieties and prevents them seeing other dangers. The governments are afraid there is going to be a World State.”
Caulaincourt had already told Napoleon that he “ought not shut his eyes to the fact that it was only too well understood in Europe nowadays that, when he concerned himself with the affairs of a country, it was to serve his own rather than its interests”.
At the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy recently, Russia’s President Putin said, “we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations”; and, “one state, the US, has overstepped its national boundaries in every way”.
“It is a world of one master, one sovereign.”
“This is very dangerous, nobody feels secure anymore because nobody can hide behind international law.” Putin is telling the US what Caulaincourt was telling Napoleon.
Russia has two immediate concerns. On US missile defence (particularly if launch facilities are stationed in eastern Europe), Putin said the “balance (of power) would be upset completely and one side will have a feeling of complete security and given a free hand in local, and probably global, conflicts.”
Not surprisingly, he added: “We need to respond to this.” On NATO: “The process of NATO expansion has nothing to do with modernisation of the alliance or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it is a serious factor provoking reduction of mutual trust.”
As Napoleon was to eventually understand, the reaction of those countries - Russia and others - that fear the intentions of the US is to put themselves in a position to fight back. As Putin said of present US attitudes and actions: “This is nourishing an arms race with the desire of other countries to get nuclear weapons.”
When Senator John McCain criticised Putin’s comments by saying, “in today’s multi-polar world there is no place for needless confrontation”, Putin’s spokesman replied that the speech was “not about confrontation, it’s an invitation to think”.
And, in words that could have easily been said by Caulaincourt, Putin’s spokesman added: “Until we get rid of unilateralism in international affairs, until we exclude the possibility of imposing one country’s views on others, we will not have stability.”
What is true of the world, is also true of the Middle East. At the Munich Conference, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, said of Iran: “It is a regime that mocks the Holocaust while threatening the world with a new one, while trying to develop a weapon to do so. Iran is a threat not only to Israel … but to the world.”
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