Friday, March 28, 2014

Western Unity Against Russia a Masterpiece of Illusion


When US President Barack Obama opened his tour of Europe this week it had the unmistakable choreography of a scripted set piece: lights, camera, action etc. The storyline is a familiar trope. America, the shining beacon of democracy and human rights, comes to the rescue of European damsels in distress just before they are ravaged by bestial European recidivism for war. 

European political figures of increasingly low caliber are indulging this American parody of reality by appearing to unite around Obama’s call for tougher sanctions against Russia. Britain’s David Cameron and his German and French counterparts, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, issued warnings of imposing economic penalties on Russian businesses and industries. Lots of bombast and melodrama were on cue, but there was a distinct lack of guts to follow. 

For Obama’s European visit this week it seemed more than a coincidence that the president made his first public statement from an Amsterdam museum. The choice of such a rarefied venue to launch Obama’s shuttle diplomacy may at first seem odd. 

As the Washington Post reported: «President Obama delved into a day of diplomacy Monday as he sought to rally the international community around efforts to isolate Russia following its incursion into Ukraine». 

And yet the US president chooses a museum to begin this seemingly important diplomatic week? It was Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum where he pronounced on international law and the need for a unified response to sanction Russian «violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of other nations».

The American leader’s utterances were made while standing in front of Rembrandt’s masterpiece, The Night Watch. Completed in 1642, the life-size portrait of Dutch soldiers is considered to be among the world’s finest art collection. The painting, by the way, had to be put into secret storage between 1939-45 to save it from damage during World War II.

Obama declared: «Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people; we're united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far».

The subliminal message here is: Washington is coming to Europe as a rallying force for good, to defend democratic principles, civilized values and to defeat barbarity. Obama’s presumption has a deep resonance with American mythology of «exceptionalism» and benign power.

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