If the G7 were based on GDP, adjusted for purchasing power, it would be comprised of the USA, China, India, Japan, Russia, Germany and Brazil. Such a lineup would have remarkable clout. Members would boast 53% of the globe’s entire GDP and the planet’s 3 genuine military superpowers would be represented.
A ‘G7’ based on GDP adjusted for purchasing power: China, US, India, Japan, Russia, Germany and Brazil – UK doesn’t make it in.
— Richard Wellings (@RichardWellings) June 7, 2015
The problem for Washington is that this putative G7 might actually be a forum for a real debate about the world order.
nstead of a real G7, we have a farce. An American dominated talking shop where the US President allows ‘friendly’ foreign leaders to tickle his belly for a couple of days. There is no dissent. Washington’s dominance goes unquestioned and everyone has a jolly time. Especially since they kicked out Russia last year – Vladimir Putin was the only guest who challenged the consensus.
However, the problem is that this ‘convenient’ G7 is way past its sell-by-date. The days when its members could claim to rule the world economically are as distant as the era of Grunge and Britpop. Today, the G7 can claim a mere 32% of the global GDP pie. Instead of heavyweights like China and India, we have middling nations such as Canada and Italy, the latter an economic basket case. Canada’s GDP is barely more than that of crisis-ridden Spain and below that of Mexico and Indonesia.
Yet, the Prime Minister of this relative non-entity, Stephen Harper, was strutting around Bavaria all weekend with the confidence of a man who believed his opinion mattered a great deal. Of course, Harper won’t pressure Obama. Rather, he prefers to – metaphorically – kiss the ring and croon from the same hymn sheet as his southern master.
There was lots of talk of “Russian aggression” at the G7. This was hardly a surprise given that 6 of the 7 are also members of NATO, another body at which they can tug Washington’s forelock with gay abandon. Obama was at it, David Cameron parroted his guru’s feelings and Harper was effectively calling for regime change in Russia. It apparently never occurred to the trio that resolving their issues with Russia might be easier if Putin had been in Bavaria? The knee-jerk reaction to remove Russia from the club was hardly conducive to dialogue.
Meanwhile, Matteo Renzi stayed fairly quiet. It has been widely reported that the Italian Prime Minister privately opposes the EU’s anti-Russia sanctions due to the effects on Italy’s struggling economy. Also, Renzi’s next task after the G7 summit is to welcome Putin to Rome.
With that visit in mind, Putin gave an interview to Italy’s Il Corriere della Sera where he essentially answered the questions that Obama, Cameron and Harper could have asked him if they hadn’t thrown their toys out of the pram and excluded Russia from the old G8. Putin stressed that one should not take the ongoing “Russian aggression” scaremongering in the West seriously, as a global military conflict is unimaginable in the modern world. The Russian President also, fairly bluntly, stated that “we have better things to be doing” (than starting World War 3).
Putin also touched on a point many rational commentators have continuously made. “Certain countries could be deliberately nurturing such fears,” he added, saying that hypothetically the US could need an external threat to maintain its leadership in the Atlantic community. “Iran is clearly not very scary or big enough” for this, Putin noted with irony.
A world of ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’
For Washington to maintain its huge military spending, it has to keep its citizens in a state of high alarm. Otherwise, they might insist that some of the armed forces’ cash is diverted to more productive things like hospitals and schools. These services, of course, are not very profitable for weapons manufacturers or useful for newspaper and TV editors looking for an intimidating narrative.
Following the collapse of the USSR, Russia was too weak and troubled to be a plausible enemy. Aside from its nuclear arsenal – the deployment of which would only mean mutual destruction – the bear’s humbled military was not a credible threat. Instead, the focus of warmonger’s venom shifted to the Middle East and the Balkans, where Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Slobodan Milosevic and Osama Bin Laden kept the general public’s attention occupied for roughly a decade and a half. However, they are now all dead and pro-war propaganda needs a new bad guy to play the Joker to America’s Batman.
Kim Jong-un looked promising for a while. Nevertheless, the problem here is that North Korea is too unpredictable and could very feasibly retaliate to provocations. Such a reaction could lead to a nuclear attack on Seoul, for instance, or draw Washington into a conflict with China. Even for neocons, this is too risky. Another candidate was Syria’s Basher Al-Assad. Unfortunately, for the sabre rattlers, just as they imagined they had Damascus in their sights, Putin kyboshed their plan. This made Putin the devil as far as neocons are concerned and they duly trained their guns in his direction.
Russia – a Middle East/North Africa battleground?
In the media, it is noticeable how many neocon hacks have suddenly metamorphosed from Syria ‘experts’ into Russia analysts in the past 2 years. Pando’s Mark Ames (formerly of Moscow’s eXILE) highlighted this strange phenomenon in an excellent recent piece. Ames focused on the strange case of Michael Weiss, a New York activist who edits the anti-Russia Interpreter magazine (which is actually a blog). The Interpreter is allegedly controlled by Mikhail Khodorkovsky and a shadowy foundation called Herzen (not the original Amsterdam-based Herzen) of which no information is publicly available.
Weiss was a long-time Middle East analyst, who promoted US intervention to oust Assad. Suddenly, shortly before the initial Maidan disturbances in Kiev, he re-invented himself as a Russia and Ukraine ‘expert,’ appearing all over the US media (from CNN to Politico and The Daily Beast) to deliver his ‘wisdom.’ This is despite the fact that he appears to know very little about Russia and has never lived there. The managing editor of The Interpreter is a gentleman named James Miller, who uses the Twitter handle @millerMENA (MENA means Middle East, North Africa). Having been to both, I can assure you that Russia and North Africa have very little in common.
Weiss and Miller are by no means unusual. Pro-War, neocon activists have made Russia their bete noir since their Syria dreams were strangled in infancy. While most are harmless enough, this pair wields considerable influence in the US media. Naturally, this is dressed up as concern for Ukraine. In reality, they care about Ukraine to about the same extent that a carnivore worries about hurting the feelings of his dinner.
Russia’s military policy is “not global, offensive, or aggressive,” Putin stressed, adding that Russia has “virtually no bases abroad,” and the few that do exist are remnants of its Soviet past. Meanwhile, it would take only 17 minutes for missiles launched from US submarines on permanent alert off Norway’s coast to reach Moscow, Putin said, noting that this fact is somehow not labeled as “aggression” in the media.
Decline of the Balts
Another ongoing problem is the Baltic States. These 3 countries have been unmitigated disasters since independence, shedding people at alarming rates. Estonia’s population has fallen by 16% in the past 25 years, Latvia’s by 25% and Lithuania’s by an astonishing 32%. Political leaders in these nations use the imaginary ‘Russian threat’ as a means to distract from their own economic failings and corruption. They constantly badger America for military support which further antagonizes the Kremlin, which in turn perceives that NATO is increasing its presence on Russia’s western border. This is the same frontier from which both Napoleon and Hitler invaded and Russians are, understandably, paranoid about it.
The simple fact is that Russia has no need for the Baltic States. Also, even if Moscow did harbor dreams of invading them, the cost of subduing them would be too great. As Russia and the US learned in Afghanistan and America in Iraq also, in the 21st century it is more-or-less impossible to occupy a population who don’t want to be occupied. The notion that Russia would sacrifice its hard-won economic and social progress to invade Kaunas is, frankly, absurd.
The reunification of Crimea with Russia is often used as a ‘sign’ that the Kremlin wishes to restore the Soviet/Tsarist Empire. This is nonsense. The vast majority of Crimean people wished to return to Russia and revoke Nikita Khrushchev’s harebrained transfer of the territory to Ukraine. Not even the craziest Russian nationalist believes that most denizens of Riga or Tallinn wish to become Russian citizens.
Putin recalled that it was French President Charles de Gaulle who first voiced the need to establish a “common economic space stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.” As NATO doubles down on its campaign against Moscow, that dream has never looked as far off.