The main aim of the government of any country is to preserve its reputation, contribute to its reputation and make the country respectable and trustworthy. After Crimea, Donbass, the Boeing that was shot down, Syria and endless lies Russia ended up as a country with bad reputation. No one trusts us. This is a blow to Russia’s diplomacy and foreign policy. We poisoned ourselves with lies.
The poisoning in Salisbury is not really about Russia’s intelligence service seeking revenge on “traitors” or Moscow’s “long arms” (an illegal operation in a foreign country). There were many spy stories in the world. All intelligence services seek revenge if they can. However, the poisoning of Skripals is symbolic for our country, it is a turning point that shows our place and role in the world.
It is obvious that the world’s reaction to the poisoning in Salisbury is unprecedented. There was a big scandal when former Federal Security Service agent Alexander Litvinenko died poisoned by polonium in London in 2006. But no sanctions, expulsion of diplomats or mutual statements by G7 followed. Nothing of this kind followed Russia’s conflict with Georgia and separation of Abkhazia from South Ossetia in 2008.
What has changed over the past 10-12 years?
This is what: some principle changes have occurred. The majority of countries in the world stopped trusting us. Russia’s reputation or rather infamy precedes itself. It means that almost all states think Russia’s acting government never tell the truth, never abide by their obligations if they see no profit in it, never observe international law and international agreements which they signed and interfere in other countries affairs, threaten and blackmail if they can.
In modern world there is no high court of justice, no absolute truth, no universal judge. But there is a mechanism of reputation. A positive reputation – a positive opinion of the country, its people and leadership – should be earned step by step and taken care of. One should defend it in every possible way. Honesty, honour, forward thinking, the ability to stand up for your national interests and act in accordance with universal values and principals helps gaining respect. This should be the aim of the foreign policy of any country.
In Russia they like talking about power as a foreign policy factor and reputation. Yes, it has some significance. However, what is power in modern world? Economic potential is power in modern world. Russia has 1.8 per cent of global GDP. (in comparison the USA has 24 per cent, EU – 22 per cent, China – 15 per cent, Japan – 6 per cent not to mention the total GDP of NATO countries). In other words, economy is the symbol of power in the first place. The more empowered poor people are, the stronger a country is. As for bombs and missiles, tanks and planes, only countries with weak economy need them to intimidate everyone around. They respect you for power and hate you for blackmailing and violence. This is why bombs will not help you gain and preserve a reputation.
For years Russia had had a high reputation in the world thanks to the crucial role of the USSR in the defeat of Nazism during the WW2 at the cost of tens of millions of lives. Our people paid that price. Furthermore, Russia managed to do away with the totalitarian communist regime willingly and have a transition to a democratic state with modern economy. Even when Russia made a brutal war in the Caucasus in 1990s and 2000s the world believed and trusted us (in my opinion, it was a mistake). They relied on Russia.
However, lies have gradually become a symbol of Russia’s policy. At first impudent lies produced a stunning effect. Some had doubtы and some believed Russia. After a while lies became universal.
In case with Scripals they lied from the start. Although at first there was no proof that Russia was involved in it, there were only formal doubts. Now names, photographs, passport numbers, visa application details, tickets, hotels and witnesses are available. Russia’s reaction to it – ridicules official comments and propaganda in mass media – will probably persuade any attentive observer that the UK has a point. The bold impudence of the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry that complain about Russia’s not being allowed to participate in the investigation raises a smile. Can you imagine a situation when a suspect is asked to help solving a crime?
Over the last 20 years state and political lies in Russia have become total again. The authorities lied when the default of 1998 was coming and when the “Kursk” submarine drowned. They lied about Nord-Ost and Beslan. They are lying about Crimea, Donbass and Syria. They are lying about taxes and pensions, economic performance, the state of affairs in the country. They even deprived the Federal Service of State Statistics of their autonomy and subjected it to the The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade so that they could lie in unison. If high ranking officials are found out in a lie they clumsily continue multiplying lies. The ability to lie is becoming the key skill for a successful career advancement in Russia. A bright example is appointing Vitaly Mutko Vice Prime Minister after the doping scandal. Lies and travesty of history, justification of Joseph Stalin’s crimes became the foundation of the modern mindset.
“The main political problem of our country does not relate to the level and quality of democracy or the protection of the freedoms and rights of the people, as is widely thought, but rather to the rampant and absolute lies at the foundation of the state and state policy.This is not attributable simply to the personal qualities of the heads of state – Yeltsin, Putin or Medvedev: the Russian state has been built on lies ever since the Bolshevik October Revolution in 1917. Lies became an essential component of the state system, which has been illegitimate now for more than ninety-three years and has to conceal this fact in every possible way.
Lies represent an organic component of today’s eclectic state system that is keen to maintain historical ties both with the Soviet regime, an autocracy that is a relic of the past and the modern world. This can only be attempted by clinging to incessant and all-encompassing lies…
The country has ended up in a vicious circle: in failing to renounce the lies, it is impossible to conduct any effective forms, while the renunciation of the lies would threaten the system as a whole.”
Lies and Legitimacy, April 2011
As a result of total lies on the state level Putin’s Russia has lost all reputation over the course of the past four years by:
• the annexation of Crimea;
• sparking and supporting a criminal war in Donbass;
• miring in lies in connection with Malaysia Airlines Boeing crash;
• Disgracing Russia by using doping at Sochi Winter Olympics;
• gas blackmailing;
• a coup attempt in Montenegro;
• dirty fuss on the Internet called “meddling in the USA presidential election”;
• having a diplomatic conflict with Greece with a hint of espionage;
• rudeness of Russia’s representatives at the UN;
• disgraceful propaganda in Russia and abroad;
• election fraud in Russia;
• pretending to fight corruption as in case with Sergei Magnitsky;
• adopting inhuman laws like Dima Yakovlev’s law [US adoption ban bill]…
I can go on with the list.
People supported all this at the presidential election 2018 – at least officially. After this support Russia’s people and government are seen as one. It is not the same situation as in the 1980s when people were “good” and the government “bad”. Now Putin and Russian people are one in the eyes of the world. Tarred with the same brush as the saying goes.
I do not know for sure who poisoned the Skripals, of course. But what I know that every president must defend the reputation of the country, serve its reputation, make sure that the state is respected and trusted. The president who failed this mission is a bad president. After Crimea and Donbass, after shooting down Boeing, after Syria and endless lies Russia has zero reputation (see article “крах Лаврова-Путина“). No one in the world trusts our country. This is the collapse of Russia’s diplomacy and foreign policy. We poisoned ourselves with lies.