18.05.2024 Author: Ksenia Muratshina

Once again about sanctions, or where to see social constructs and the day before yesterday

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Another European visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping has once again highlighted the problem of unprecedented Western pressure on the rest of the world, on the global majority, to destroy its relations with Russia. For the umpteenth time, both the leaders of individual EU countries and the pan-European Union authorities are trying to put pressure on Beijing. And even after the leader of a powerful China expressed his displeasure to them and made it clear that he would not follow their lead, the problem of such attempts to interfere in the foreign policy of others remains on the agenda of the whole world.

Both the USA and its satellite allies (Great Britain, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea), as well as the states of the European Union, still consider it a norm to tell other participants in international relations how they should behave, how they should react to events in the world, with whom they should cooperate and with whom they should not. This applies not only to relations with Russia, but also to relations with China, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, any state that pursues an independent and autonomous policy and can afford to feel free to determine its own destiny, as Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear in his inaugural speech on 7 May. Southeast Asian countries, for example, are regularly told by the collective West how exactly to deal with Myanmar and what specific sanctions to impose on it. Yet, Myanmar is not a neighbour of Paris, Berlin, Brussels or Canberra, but of the countries of Southeast Asia, which in one way or another have their own relations and traditions of interaction with Myanmar. But no, the West continues to believe that it knows better how people should live on another continent and how international relations should be conducted there.

Moreover, these instructions are usually accompanied by threats: if you violate the requirements and do business with those whose foreign policy does not suit Western capitals and does not conform to their clichés, beware, you will be subject to secondary sanctions and labelled as an accomplice of “wrong” and undesirable regimes. At the first opportunity, threats are made in the most brutal style. Although nothing could be more brutal in the international relations of mature sovereign states, the West insists on giving instructions and labels: this state is democratic, that one is not; this one will receive humanitarian aid, that one will not; one will be patronisingly patted on the back (regardless of whether this is permitted by its national diplomatic etiquette); the other will be declared a centre of evil; the third will be called a failed state.

It makes no difference to Western countries who they are trying to point the finger at and threaten – whether it is a small island state in Oceania or the Caribbean, or global powers such as India or China. The reason is that not all of them have the power and confidence to respond. If India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar can calmly say what he thinks about Western sanctions against Russia and Western approaches to assessing conflicts around the world, and Iran can simply impose its own, essentially retaliatory, sanctions on Western counterparts without much preamble, many small states do not have the resources to respond when their rights are violated. All they can do is speak out and work hard to remove the labels imposed by the West and get out of this or that anti-rating.

In its pseudo-mentorship, the West is not only sure of its own rightness, but as if it does not see any changes in the world around it. For politicians and the majority of Western societies, which are entangled in information propaganda, the simple truth is still not clear: each state chooses its own way of development, the way that its people need and that is in line with its national interests. It also protects its people, chooses its partners abroad, decides which international organisations it should participate in and which ones are completely useless or even hostile, decides what is a favourable factor for it and what is a threat to which it should react.

In fact, the current situation points to nothing else than the absolutely colonial and racist character of the thinking of the average Western politician, which has persisted to this day, and comes from the depths of centuries. If we look at such a historical document as the Statute of the League of Nations, which will be 105 years old this year, we can read in it a clearly articulated justification of why the West considered and continues to consider itself entitled to interfere in the affairs of other peoples around the world. Article 22 seems to be carved in granite: “To those colonies and territories which as a consequence of the late war have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, there should be applied the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilisation and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied in this Covenant. The best method of giving practical effect to this principle is that the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who by reason of their resources, their experience or their geographical position can best undertake this responsibility, and who are willing to accept it, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as Mandatories on behalf of the League. There are territories, such as South-West Africa and certain of the South Pacific Islands, which, owing to the sparseness of their population, or their small size, or their remoteness from the centres of civilisation, or their geographical contiguity to the territory of the Mandatory, and other circumstances, can be best administered under the laws of the Mandatory as integral portions of its territory, subject to the safeguards above-mentioned in the interests of the indigenous population”.

Do you feel the pathos? Only Western mandate holders (we were talking about the system of mandates on colonies) know better how to rule some island in the Pacific or a country in Africa, only the “civilised” world. But the worst thing is that in the heads of this “civilised” Western world nothing has changed in 105 years. The same confidence in their rightness, exclusivity and impunity. Moreover, it includes sympathisers from non-Western states that are in allied relations with the Westerners and/or maintain close economic ties with them – Japan, South Korea, Singapore.

In the West, the constructivist paradigm is very popular in analysing international processes. In general, in the scientific study of international relations, it is high time to abolish the requirement of meaningless references to Western political scientists and their theories; in this context, however, it is simply a case of knowing your enemy by sight and understanding his way of thinking. So, constructivism assigns a significant role in international relations to identities, social practices and social constructs. In the most general terms, a constructivist can refer to social constructs as anything: political systems, philosophical views, understanding of what human rights are, etc. A typical social construct cannot be seen or touched, it exists only because many people support it, their perceptions – their own or imposed from the outside – coincide, and thus the same mantra about democracy in the West is ready to be repeated endlessly, without even thinking about what they mean by this word and what the ancient Greeks meant.

Today’s Western policy with sanctions and interference in the internal affairs of many countries of the world gives us an opportunity to see with our own eyes, live, what is a social construct of the Western almost racist belief in its exclusivity. To put it in Russian, the West continues to live not even yesterday, but the day before yesterday. It does not see a new world in which states are developing, moving forward, and want to determine their own fate, and in which it is impossible to remain in the old realities and follow the same “rules” that are persistently spoken about in every pro-Western diplomatic document, near-scientific work, and media. Everyone can observe this day before yesterday with their own eyes, contrary, so to speak, to the laws of physics. But if we continue the analogy with time, the date line has already been passed, and it is time for the whole world to live not the day before yesterday, but today, to wake up from this centuries-long racist hypnosis about the superiority of Western civilisation, Western liberal economics, Western political thought, Western science, and to remember its roots, its traditions, its own economic, political and cultural views. Then the collective social construct of Western imposition of ideas and labels on the whole world will end its existence, and the day before yesterday will finally fade completely into history. That is where it belongs.


Ksenia Muratshina, PhD in History, Senior Researcher at the Centre for the Study of Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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