Concluding my review of this piece by Dmitry Bavyrin, who argues that Russia’s return to PACE was a victory of Russian diplomacy. Some Russophiles argue that Russia should never return, and just tell the Europeans where they can stick it. But even they have to admit, it was lots of fun to watch the hysterics of the Ukrainian delegation. Maybe even worth the price of the annual dues!
Bavyrin argues that Russia’s return also signals the return of normalcy and even a return to common sense. Well, he might be over-optimistic about that, but let us hear him out:
Russia’s temporary absence from this forum lowered the level of its authority, not to mention the level of European security. This Parliamentary Assembly is not some elite club which invites only stylish gentlemen and excludes shaggy bears.
PACE is also not a military-political bloc (like NATO) which requires unity of thought and consensus. No, PACE is a forum for dialogue, exchange of diversified opinions, and input of expert thinkers. This is a debating club where Europeans can offer alternate views on important topics. Through this medium European governments can inform one another of their thoughts and opinions, while attempting to work out a common approach to the most sensitive issues of the day; and also help to avert threats and mitigate risks.
Russia is not only the largest and most populated nation on the European continent, it also possesses the biggest economy, and is an influential player on the world stage. Where it also enjoys a unique position as a nuclear power and the supplier of major energy resources. Given all this, it is simply not possible to solve the larger continental issues at stake without Russian participation.
Is Russia the Surgeon?
Try out this analogy, writes Bavyrin: Imagine there is a consult of physicians which does not include the surgeon. One of the neurologists (for example, Ukraine) will start screaming that there is no place for the surgeon in a civilized body of medical practitioners. And yet, everybody notices that they cannot really come to a meaningful decision without the input of the surgeon.
And thus has our (Russian) delegation returned. It returned because it was impossible not to return. Its absence caused harm to the work of PACE. And yet the return did not happen just by itself, or magically. A lot of work went on behind the scenes.
For starters, the official Moscow position was that Russia’s participation in PACE was only acceptable if her delegation’s rights were reestablished in full. Russia’s delegates would not be told to stand in the corner and keep their mouths shut, and only called back into the huddle for certain issues. Some Russians were even okay with that and willing to put up with such humiliation, as the price of being allowed into the room at all.
However, the Kremlin’s firm uncompromising position — We get a seat at the table or we take our ball and go home [apologize for the mixed metaphors] — bore fruit! The overwhelming majority of European delegates were forced to accept the Russian ultimatum. Since that was the logical and rational thing to do.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Russia’s firm and unassailable position was: No tickee no shirtee. In other words, if you want us to pay dues, then you better give us all the rights of a paying member. As it so happens, PACE had a big-ass hole in their budget, thus the functionaries in the apparatus could not resist the lure of that sweet sweet Russian cash. The functionary vote helped to sway the tide.
Thirdly, on the ideological front, Russia did not even blink once when PACE kept drumming on the theme of Crimea. Recall that this issue was the breaking point: Russia’s so-called “annexation” of Crimea was the main source of European hysteria. Instead of mealy-mouthing the issue, the Russian government just stated firmly in such a way that even a child could understand: This issue is a non-issue. Crimea is part of Russia. End of story. Now shut up about it.
Bavyrin is proud that the Russian government did not listen to those internal voices of appeasement, who argued that Russia should go crawling back to PACE as a second-class citizen, sitting in the corner with duck-taped mouth and hands tied behind back; anything, just for the supreme honor of being in the presence of such outstanding people. PACE, for its part, could have supported Russia’s return in such capacity, always lulling itself with the fantasy that the current Russian “regime” will be overthrown some day.
But those days of Russia’s denigration belong to the past. The reunification of Crimea with Russia, done with such “surgical” precision, and with the overwhelming support of Crimeans themselves, as well as the entirety of the Russian people, have made any such compromises impossible. Even in the West, people have realized this, although they don’t want to admit it out loud.
Everybody knows that the punishment of Russia in PACE was carried out as a show of solidarity for the Ukrainian government. By the same token, Russia’s return, with full rights, is a bitch-slap to the face, to that same Ukrainian government. Everybody understands that the Ukraine has been publicly humiliated. Although, as mentioned previously, nobody ever in the world can humiliate Ukrainians as much as they humiliate themselves. As mentioned previously, they were only able to summon up 5 other governments willing to stand with them shoulder to shoulder. The ideologically-driven “Incorruptibles”, whose motor of thought processes is pure visceral hatred of Russia.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world shrugs and goes on, driven by rationalism and pragmatism. And this is the way it should be, according to Bavyrin. The adults in the room have a lot of important problems to work through. And if a screaming child is getting in the way of this, it should simply be ignored, or even pushed aside.
In conclusion: What does the Ukraine have to offer the continent of Europe? Other than a system of glaring corruption, idiots at the helm of government, censorship, a totalitarian police state, discrimination against millions of Russian speakers, neo-Nazism in the streets, and a complete unwillingness to settle the Donbass conflict via compromise and peaceful solution?
It is Russia’s job in PACE to bring these simple truths to the attention of the European delegations. In other words, the Europeans have been putting their money on the wrong horse. But now it is time for reason to prevail: To support a peaceful resolution to the Donbass conflict; to help the people there rebuild their lives; to conclude mutually beneficial economic deals with Russia; to put the gas pipelines back on line, etc etc.
The Ukraine is an obstacle to achieving all these good things. But this obstacle can be dealt with in a rational way. If people learn to use their functioning reason and allow themselves to be guided by their own national self-interests, rather than mindless ideological Russophobia.