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Why Are EU & US Trying to Throw Legitimacy of Russia's Legislative Elections Into Doubt?

© Sputnik / Vladimir Vyatkin / Go to the photo bankMoscow Kremlin
Moscow Kremlin - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.09.2021
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Between 17 and 19 September, Russians will cast ballots in the country's legislative elections. However, the vote came in the crosshairs of European and American political institutions and press long before election day. What's behind the EU and US attempts to throw shade on Russia's democratic processes?
In May 2021, a draft document compiled by the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs called upon the EU to be prepared "not to recognise the parliament of Russia" after the upcoming September 2021 legislative elections in the country and to ask for "Russia's suspension from international organisations with parliamentary assemblies" on the premise that Russia's democracy does not correspond to European values.
On 4 August, the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) announced that they would not send election observers to Russia for the first time in nearly three decades after Moscow limited the number of observers to 50 and 10 individuals, respectively, because of COVID-19 restrictions. The OSCE has adopted an "all or nothing" approach, claiming that it needs at least 500 observers in Russia. At the same time, in 2020 the OSCE sent 102 observers to monitor the US elections; between 7 and 10 watchers to Poland, Serbia, Northern Macedonia and Romania; and did not send short-term observers to Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine at all, because of the pandemic. 
All in all, around 300 foreign observers will come to Russia in September 2021 to monitor the elections, while over 200 public observers will take part in Russia's elections abroad.
The aggressive tone of the EP's draft report, the OSCE's snubbing of the elections, and controversial statements in the Western press evoke strong memories of the "usual regime-change template" which has already been attempted by the West in Russia, post-Soviet space, and other foreign countries, according to Professor Glenn Diesen from the University of South-Eastern Norway.
Sputnik: What do you think about the OSCE move? Could it be connected to the directives outlined in the EP draft?
Glenn Diesen: The OSCE’s official stance is that they do not want to send any observers since Russia limited the OSCE mission in accordance with COVID restrictions. I do not want to speculate if the decision of the OSCE is influenced by other factors. However, the call by the EU Committee on Foreign Affairs not to recognise the parliament of Russia several months before the election indicates an obvious agenda. The EU report in reference also displayed hyperbolic language of the Kremlin “waging a war against the people of Russia”, and called for sanctions against a fraudulent election that had not yet been held.
Russian democracy should not be immune to criticism, but I think it is necessary to be honest about the strategic incentives to denigrate Russia’s democratic process. Russia’s democratic deficit is cited as the principal reason why Russia is excluded from the main European security institutions, and upholding the stereotype of Russian authoritarianism is thus a condition for continuing to organise European security in exclusive institutions from the Cold War.
Expressing the divisions of “us” versus “them” in the language of liberal democracy versus authoritarianism is also conducive to uphold an international system based on sovereign inequality in which the West remains the sole political subject and Russia is demoted to a political object.
Sputnik: What's your take on the OSCE's reasoning that they will not send observers to Russia because Moscow limited the OSCE's ODIHR and PA missions to 60 people due to the coronavirus pandemic?
Glenn Diesen: The inconsistency of the OSCE has for a while been a thorn in the side of Russia. The criticism of the OSCE boils down to it having become demoted to an instrument for the West to socialise or police Russia to perpetuate the subject-object relationship.
The initial intention of introducing democracy and human rights into the realm of international security was to create a more humane concept of security and because the advancement of democracy and human rights redefined security as a positive-sum game. The obvious problem is that in a divided Europe, we see that democracy and human rights can easily be used as an instrument of power politics by denigrating the sovereignty of adversarial states.
It is worth noting that human rights were introduced into the security discourse with the Helsinki Accords in 1975 as a format for pan-European security based on the principle of “sovereign equality”. The OSCE is the institutionalisation of the Helsinki Accords, which is an inclusive security institution that champions sovereign equality in a Europe without dividing lines. Once it was decided to organise Europe within the exclusive institutions of NATO and the EU, the dividing lines on the continent were preserved. The OSCE has therefore abandoned the concept of sovereign equality as it is no longer upholding common democratic standards for an inclusive Europe, rather it is an instrument for the West to police Russia. Thus, it should not come as any surprise that the OSCE operates with inconsistent standards.
Sputnik: On 5 August, the US State Department announced that it respects the OSCE's "professional determination" that the decision of Russian authorities had "made credible independent observation impossible" and supported the OSCE's decision not to dispatch their mission to Russia. It also threatened Russia that it "will not escape the international spotlight". On the same day, Neil Bush, the UK ambassador to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, voiced "UK dismay that Russia’s unwarranted restrictions have prevented ODIHR from effectively observing its elections in September". What's your take on Washington and London's rhetoric?
Glenn Diesen: The reference to “unwarranted restrictions” is not intended to be the subject of discussion. Rather this lays the foundation for the development of a narrative that predictably glosses over the COVID restrictions that are implemented in all states and the decision of the OSCE not to send any observers. When the Russian State Duma elections take place, the US and UK media headlines will certainly abandon all context and present the absence of the OSCE as evidence of the Kremlin’s attack on democracy.
Implicitly, the US and UK claim the moral responsibility as the champions of democracy to impose sanctions on Russia in a show of solidarity with the Russian people. These statements are the result of a flawed security architecture that results in denigrating democracy and human rights to a geopolitical instrument.
© Sputnik / Ekaterina Chesnokova / Go to the photo bankRussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov  - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.09.2021
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Sputnik: On 1 August, Sergei Naryshkin, director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), warned about Western plans to meddle in the Russian elections. On 9 August, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Western nations are seeking to use international institutions (the OSCE, in particular) to throw shade on the legitimacy of the September elections. Are Russian politicians' concerns justified, in your opinion?
Glenn Diesen: I think that the West should have an understanding of Russia’s concerns about election meddling given that we spent the past 4-5 years obsessing about the non-existent collusion between Trump and Moscow. However, a divided Europe recast artificially into democracy versus authoritarianism cannot be based on common standards. Implicit in the division of Europe into a subject-object or teacher-student is that the liberal democracies should have the prerogative and responsibility to interference in the elections of the authoritarian state.
It can be helpful to place the current election meddling debacle into the context of 500 years of subject-object relations. Historically, the West and Russia have been juxtaposed as Western versus Eastern, civilised versus barbaric, modern versus backward, freedom versus slavery, European versus Asiatic, or even good versus evil. During the Cold War, ideological dividing lines fell naturally by casting the debate as capitalism versus communism, democracy versus totalitarianism, and Christianity versus atheism. After the Cold War though, relations have again been re-ideologised as liberalism versus authoritarianism.
The process of “othering” Russia by presenting the world as black versus white has always entailed eliminating the grey commonality, which is why all nuance regarding the COVID restrictions in the upcoming election is absent. The purpose of “othering” Russia has also always been the same, to deny Russia political subjectivity or a seat at the table in Europe. Is Russia excluded from Europe due to its democratic deficiency or is Russia’s democratic deficiency exaggerated to exclude Russia from Europe?
Glenn Diesen is the author of "Europe as the Western Peninsula of Greater Eurasia: Geoeconomic Regions in a Multipolar World" (2021); "The Return of Eurasia" (2021); "Russian Conservatism: Managing Change under Permanent Revolution" (2021), "Great Power Politics in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: The Geoeconomics of Technological Sovereignty" (2021), "Russia in a Changing World" (2020), "The Decay of Western Civilisation and Resurgence of Russia: Between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft" (2018), and "Russia's Geoeconomic Strategy for a Greater Eurasia (Rethinking Asia and International Relations)" (2017).
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