The contemporary foreign policy of the Russian Federation can be characterised as a pragmatic defence of self-interests along with the interests of its allies. All of these policies tend to be conducted within the framework of international law. In fact, Russia often finds herself having to define the precepts of international law to other nations who frequently violent it.
The forum where this is most frequently accomplished is the United Nations. The long-serving and recently deceased Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin became emblematic of Russia holding others to account, at least in terms of rhetoric and voting record.
By contrast, western foreign policy often shows a flagrant disregard for international law. Israel’s recent illegal attack on Syria as well is the illegal presence of US, Turkish, Saudi, Qatari, British, Dutch, Belgian, German and Jordanian soldiers, airmen and terrorist proxies in Syria, is just one example of the west and her allies using extra legal means to paint the world-map in their particular shade of blood. One could equally point to the illegal wars on Iraq, Libya and Yugoslavia as other relatively recent examples.
But beyond the illegality of much of western foreign policy, there is another way in which it diverges sharply from that of Russia. Western policy, is of course underpinned by a quest of profit, but beyond this universal reality, it is crucial to understand how the west attempts to sell its foreign policy. Even more important is the fact that many western political figures actually believe what they say when promoting their policies (although some clearly do not).
Western foreign policy is a latter day version of a crusade. It is an open endorsement of violence in order to attain what they define as a worthy goal. It is war justified not by law nor ethics but by ideology.
In the case of the Roman Catholic Church, the Medieval Crusades were an attempt to conquer and pacify the lands of ‘non-believers’, forcing them to submit to their own view of worship and holiness. The Fourth Crusade (1202-4) demonstrated that the holy warriors targeted not only Muslims and Jews but also Christians. It was during the Fourth Crusade that the Greek Orthodox Byzantine Empire was severely weakened by the Latin conquerors, paving the way for full Turkish conquest three centuries later and the beginning of Greek captivity to the Ottoman Empire.
Although the concept of zealotry is typically confined to debates on religious wars, the west implements a similar ideological strategy in selling the policy of ‘regime change, anytime, anywhere, with or without legal authority’.
But in their zealous destruction of legitimate regimes of the Arab world, the west has done something even more insidious than their crusading forbearers. They have not only attacked peaceful Muslim nations, nations whose populations live side by side with Christians, but they have made these countries dangerous places to live for moderate Sunni Muslims (the majority of the global Muslim population), all Shi’a Muslims and all Christians.
Iraq and Libya are now hotbeds of Whhabist/Salifist Islam and the terrorism that almost inevitably flows from it. This was never the case prior to western wars upon these states. Syria is currently engaged in a life and death struggle against the same Whhabist forces representing what many would justifiably call heretical Islam.
Although Russia does not form its alliances and foreign policy strategy on a religious basis, Russia is paradoxically acting as a defender of faith by omission. Because Russia refuses to engage in the zealous quests for resources based on the cred of liberal imperial zeal, Russia is de facto acting to preserve the peaceful religious status quos of the modern Arab world in states where secularism is best defined as a freedom to pursue religious activities as one wishes irrespective of one’s faith or how committed one is to that faith.
As an Orthodox Christian state, Russia’s religious tradition had no part in any crusading activities nor the later imperial expansion of various Catholic states, the most prominent example being Spain whose interpretation of Catholicism led Conquistadors to view the pagan natives as underlings to be conquered.
This historical reality is not intended to offend nor shame modern Catholics whose contemporary religious practice is as peaceful as any other mainstream Christian denomination. However, the liberals who have taken the worst parts of Roman Catholic history and applied them to wars of conquest and exploitation, are carrying on a tradition that is part of western culture.
Interestingly, one doesn’t need to be religious in order to internalise and adopt this particular feature of western history. The humanistic/secular French the pretext of liberal revolutionary zeal for their wars on fellow European states in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Likewise, Leon Trotsky, a Marxist atheist, sought to apply the same creed to his view of world revolution.
It is little wonder that many of the born-again neo-liberals in Tony Blair’s war-hawk government spent their school days as members of Trotskyist organisations.
Russia suffered a profound spiritual crisis in the 1990s at every level, both theoretically and practically. The internal stability and prosperity afforded by the Putin years has given Russia a sense of peace and has allowed Russia to return to its heritage as the largest Orthodox Christian state in the world.
As such, some would say Russia has a duty to defend fellow Christians. But Russian foreign policy is articulated differently. Russia defends its allies against aggression, but the fact remains that in doing so, Russia is by default, living up to its tradition as a defender of faith. But it is not just the Orthodox faith Russia is defending.
Russia is defending Muslims throughout the world at a time when western wars of aggression target Islamic populations and when western politicians like Geert Wilders lambaste Islam in the most disparaging terms.
Russia must make it clear to a Muslim world bombarded by western and Saudi propaganda, that it is a more honest defender of Islam than any major power on earth. It is able to say so because of its record of legality in foreign affairs and also because of a Christian tradition that Europe and to a large extent, America has entirely forsaken.