Mitch Polman on Wed, 21 Apr 1999 12:00:33 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Finally, a sane Russian

     [orig to <JUSTWATCH-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU>; cleaned up.]

David Johnson promised me that he would be posting thispiece by the
well-respected political commentator Leonid Batkin.  Batkin lambastes Russian
policy in the Yugoslav crisis. He points-out that Russia stands alone with
Belarus in supporting Milosevic.  (Cross-posting of comments only)

Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 09:46:30 -0400
Subject: David Johnson <>: Batkin article I'll be
        sending out tomorrow

--------- Begin forwarded message ----------
From: David Johnson <>
Subject: Batkin article I'll be sending out tomorrow
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999 15:46:52 -0400
Message-ID: <>

14 April 1999
The Third Axial Period
by Leonid Batkin
[translated by Rachel Dubin]

I support NATO's military action, sympathize with its aims, and
wish it success. And I am ashamed of those who condemn it; my
friends are among them, too. But it is no aggression whatsoever.
I have not seen for many years such an amount of lies and
stupidity, which has generally poured forth in the last two weeks
Chatter about brother Slavs, and imperial chatter, seems to me to
be a continuous lie. There are brother Slav Serbs. But there are
other Slavs too--brother Croats, brother Macedonians, brother
Slovenes, brothers in Bosnia. For some reason, Russia has behaved
entirely differently when it comes to Bosnia. There are brother
Bulgarians, who are bursting into NATO; brother Czechs and brother
Poles, who are already in NATO. Therefore, when we shout about
NATO aggression, about the role of the world policeman, it
concerns Poles and Czechs, too. In general, we must realize that
we have business not with NATO, but with all of Europe. Even
Ukraine looks at it differently than Russia. We are staying in
complete isolation from all of Europe by being in Lukashenko's
[Belarusan president--R.D] company.

We are supporting the last communist regime--that bloody
ulcer--in Europe. The West and especially united Europe could
not relate to this indifferently.  But by an extreme measure,
negotiations have been conducted for more than a year. They [the
Serbs--R.D.] were persuaded not to drive the Kosovars from
Yugoslav command, and not to infringe on its territorial
integrity. Only one thing remained--for Milosevic to agree to
grant wide autonomy, and as they were already shooting there and
hating each other for 10 years, neutral troops, which would not
shoot at this or the other side, of course had to be brought in.
What kind of troops? Right away, an answer suggested itself--UN
troops, or, shall we say, troops with the sanction of the UN
Security Council. Milosevic refused the presence of what would be
foreign soldiers on the territory of Kosovo.

NATO is accused of breaking international law. But the
persecution of people for their beliefs, based on ethnicity or
religion, is not some country's internal matter. Russia's
guilt lies in its UN veto decision and in the fact that NATO
military forces, not UN peacekeeping forces, the so-called "blue
helmets," are acting in Yugoslavia. This is a result of
Primakov's policy, which is a direct continuation of Soviet
imperial policies. In general, the right of veto has become
obsolete. Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt established it. It was
reasonable at that time. For there were two opposing world
powers; a situation in which one of these powers could, by a
simple majority, use the UN like an instrument had to be
precluded. Now, the right of veto must be changed and decisions
made, for example, by a three-fourths vote. Incidentally, a
four-fifths vote of those who voted for an action has taken place
in recent Security Council voting. The only thing Russia has to
do now is to convene the UN Security Council to propose a
cessation of military actions and an introduction of UN "blue
helmets." Milosevic would be driven into a corner; the West
would heave a sigh of relief. For the Western countries do not
entirely feel like continuing to be tied up in it. And Russia
would earn respect.

I support NATO's action. But this does not mean that I am
ecstatic over this action. They cannot be ecstatic themselves,
either. This is an emergency action. It is risky and has turned
out to be considered impossible in the end. Meanwhile, as a
result, we have in Kosovo a tragedy called a humanitarian
catastrophe. Bringing in or not bringing in ground troops is also
an open question.

>From the point of view of world history, the totalitarian regimes,
world wars, and all other cataclysms created by the 20th century,
are convulsions, so frightening and tragic, of a tormentous
transition to new forms of existence.

We have entered a third axial period. The axial period is a term
suggested by Carl Jaspers [German Existentialist philosopher,
1883-1969--R.D.] during the emergence of the first civilizations
in ancient China, India, Sumeria, Egypt, and others. I am
suggesting that the term "second axial period" relate to the
emergence of a new European civilization in Western Europe in the
15th-18th centuries and the "third axial period," to the
consolidation of this process in the 19th century. And although I
can chatter about it with a perfect spirit, I believe, however,
that this is a time that will lead to world government, to the
unity of humanity. This is an old dream, Kant's dream of an
eternal world, of one humanity, which not long ago was called an
ironic smile. However, Sakharov, for a long time looking forward,
inserted the memory of world government into a project of the
Russian constitution. It is illustrated by the process of the
European Union, the European Parliament, and the Schengen
agreement. After two years, the franc, the mark, and the lira
will disappear; a single currency, the euro, will appear in their
place. England's island posture has lost its meaning. Because
England will no longer fight with the French, as during
Napoleon's time, or with Germany, as during the two World Wars.
People have always dreamed of a world without wars. So,
therefore, there will be no more wars in Europe. There cannot be
war in North America, either. And what is happening now are final
outbursts connected with backward enclaves. These are the last
squalls of those storms which have raged in Europe for thousands
of years. There will be no more of them. In which volumes wine
should be produced or beef should be exported will only be argued

What we have now is happening not only on account of events in
Yugoslavia, that creation of absurdity, lack of logic, nonsense,
thoughtlessness, of absence of a needed scale for addressing
these questions, and if possible, the shortage of patriotism. The
understanding of patriotism changes, like everything in the world.
I think that in these times, a Russian patriot is a person who is
acutely aware of the history of his country and of how it changes
over time, not only comparing the present with the past, but also
looking at the future.

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