A World Without Walls

Once the Russian government decided that integration with Europe and the U.S. was not possible, the West began to portray Putin as diabolical, writes Vijay Prashad.

Ever Fonseca, Cuba, “Homenaje a la Paz” or “Homage to Peace,” 1970.

By Vijay Prashad
Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

While the United States began its illegal war against Iraq in 2003, Cuba’s President Fidel Castro spoke in Buenos Aires. “Our country does not drop bombs on other peoples,” he said, “nor does it send thousands of planes to bomb cities … Our country’s tens of thousands of scientists and doctors have been educated on the idea of saving lives.”

Cuba had an army, yes, but not an army for war; Castro called it “an army of white coats.” Most recently, Cuba’s Henry Reeve Brigade of medical practitioners have selflessly worked around the world to help stem the tide of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Castro reminds us that there are two ways to be alive in this world. We can live in a war-filled world awash with weapons and confounded by intimidation, a world that continuously prepares for combat. Or, we can live in a world of teachers and doctors, scientists and social workers, storytellers and singers. We can put our confidence in people who help us create a better world than the one we live in today, this wretched world of war and profit, where ugliness threatens to overwhelm us.

The surface of our skin beats with the fear that a new Iron Curtain will descend, that there is pressure to box in China and Russia, to divide the world into camps. But that is impossible, because – as noted in last week’s newsletter – we live in a knot of contradictions and not in a clean-cut world of certainties.

Even close allies of the U.S., such as Australia, Germany, Japan and India, cannot break their economic and political ties with Russia and China. Doing so would plunge them into a recession, bringing the kind of economic chaos that war and sanctions have already brought to Honduras, Pakistan, Peru and Sri Lanka. In those countries – already battered by the International Monetary Fund by the greed of the elites and by foreign embassies – rising fuel prices have transformed an economic crisis into a political crisis.

Sergey Grinevich, Belarus, “Tank,” 2013.

Wars either end with the destruction of a country’s political institutions and its social capacity or they end with ceasefires and negotiations. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s war on Libya in 2011 ended with the country stumbling along with the smell of cordite in the air and a broken social order.

The fate of Libya should not be repeated anywhere, certainly not in Ukraine. Yet it is a fate ordained for the people of Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, who have been suffocated by wars egged on by the West – wars armed by the West and that have been profitable for the West.

When contemporary Russia emerged from the fall of the U.S.S.R., Boris Yeltsin led a coup against the Russian parliament, tanks blazing. Those currently in power in Russia operate in light of these violent beginnings and the experiences of other war-stricken nations. They will not allow themselves to suffer the fate of Libya or Yemen or Afghanistan.

Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine are ongoing in Belarus’ Homyel Voblasts (or Gomel Region), but trust must be strengthened before a ceasefire can become a real possibility. Any ceasefire should not only apply to the war inside Ukraine – which is imperative – but should also include halting the broader U.S.-imposed pressure campaign on all of Eurasia.

Svetlana Rumak, Russia, “Endless Green Fields,” 2017.

What is that pressure campaign and why bother talking about it now? Shouldn’t we only say “Russia out of Ukraine?” Such a slogan, while correct, does not address the deeper problems that provoked this war in the first place.

When the U.S.S.R. collapsed, Western countries wielded their resources and power through Boris Yeltsin (1991–1999) and then Vladimir Putin (from 1999).

First, the West impoverished the Russian people by destroying the country’s social safety net and allowing elite Russians to devour the country’s social wealth. Then, they drew the new Russian billionaires into investing in Western-driven globalization (including English football teams).

The West backed Yeltsin’s bloody war in Chechnya (1994–1996) and then Putin’s war in Chechnya (1999–2000). Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (1997–2007) signed allowances for Russia to buy British weapons till his arm hurt and welcomed Putin to London in 2000, saying, “I want Russia and the West to work together to promote stability and peace.”

In 2001, former U.S. President George W. Bush described looking into Putin’s eyes and seeing his soul, calling him “straightforward and trustworthy.” In the same year, The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman encouraged readers to “keep rootin’ for Putin.” It was the West that helped the Russian billionaire class capture the state and ride astride Russian society.

Once the Russian government decided that integration with Europe and the U.S. was not possible, the West began to portray Putin as diabolical. This movie keeps replaying: Saddam Hussein of Iraq was a great hero of the U.S. and then its villain, the same with former military leader Manuel Antonio Noriega of Panama. Now the stakes are unforgivably higher, the dangers greater.

Shakir Hassan al-Said, Iraq, “The Victims,” 1957.

Beneath the surface of the current moment lies dynamics that we foregrounded in our 10th newsletter of this year. The U.S. unilaterally damaged the international arms control architecture, withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (2001) and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (2018) and thereby gutting the policy of deterrence. In December 2018, the U.S. pushed its allies to prevent, by a slim margin, the United Nations General Assembly from passing a resolution to defend the INF.

Putin began to talk about the need for security guarantees, not from Ukraine or even from NATO, which is a puffed-up Trojan Horse of Washington’s ambitions: Russia needed security guarantees directly from the U.S.

Why? Because in 2018, the U.S. government announced a shift in foreign policy that signaled that they would increase their competition with China and Russia.

NATO-led naval exercises near both countries also gave Russia cause for concern about its security. The U.S. bellicosity is enshrined in its 2022 National Defence Strategy, where it asserts that the United States is “prepared to prevail in conflict when necessary, prioritising [China’s] challenge in the Indo-Pacific, then the Russian challenge in Europe.”

The key phrase is that the U.S. is prepared to prevail in conflict. The entire attitude of domination and of defeat is a macho attitude against humanity. The U.S.-imposed pressure campaign around Eurasia must end.

Abel Rodríguez, Colombia, “Territorio de Mito” or “Myth Territory,” 2017.

We do not want a divided world. We want a realistic world: a world of humanity that deals adequately with the climate catastrophe. A world that wants to end hunger and illiteracy. A world that wants to lift us out of despair into hope. A world with more armies of white coats and instead of armies with guns.

At Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, we amplify the lives and voices of people building a world of hope against fear, a world of love against hate. One such person is Nela Martínez Espinosa (1912–2004), the focus of the third study in our “Women of Struggle, Women in Struggle” series.

Nela, as we call her, was a leading figure in the Communist Party of Ecuador and a builder of institutions that infused the masses with confidence. These organizations included anti-fascist fronts and women’s federations, support for the rights of indigenous Ecuadorians and platforms defending the Cuban Revolution. In 1944, during the Glorious May Revolution, Nela briefly led the government. Throughout her life, she worked tirelessly to build the basis for a better world.

In 2000, as president of the Women’s Continental Front for Peace and against Intervention, Nela fought against the creation of a U.S. military base in the city of Manta. “Colonisation returns,” Nela said. ‘How will we escape this colonisation? How can we justify ourselves in the face of our cowardice?’

That last question hangs over us. We do not want to live in a divided world. We must act to prevent the iron curtain from descending. We must fight against our fear. We must fight for a world without walls.

Vijay Prashad, an Indian historian, journalist and commentator, is the executive director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the chief editor of Left Word Books.

This article is from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


8 comments for “A World Without Walls

  1. Chuck Knowles
    April 15, 2022 at 08:18

    That’s one of the reasons the U.S. Govt hates Communism: they are anti-fascist. The U.S. is pro-fascist, despite all the statements and actions _seeming_ to be to the contrary. But, such is the nature of Wall Street with which one, ‘builds ‘em up, to knock ‘em down.’ This is the very nature of Capitalism and their profit margins. Where there is money to be made, in any fashion, whatsoever, _there_ is United States Capitalism.

    • Piotr Berman
      April 15, 2022 at 11:27

      Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance : resolution / adopted by the General Assembly
      Voting Summary Yes: 130 | No: 2 | Abstentions: 49 | Non-Voting: 12 | Total voting membership: 193
      Vote date 2021-12-16

      No votes: USA, Ukraine
      Abstentions: US allies without Israel

      So not ALL statements and actions.

      • April 16, 2022 at 16:09

        Does not a U.S. No Vote promote that with which they ‘say’ they are in opposition? I’ll give the U.S. this: at least the final actions, in opposition to words, is — ‘honest to goodness’! — quite true and clear.

  2. Chuck Knowles
    April 15, 2022 at 07:31

    I love this! Those Cunning Russians, disguising missiles as “Myth Territory”: Trees, that look just like missiles, are, in fact, the ‘CunRu Missile System.’

  3. mgr
    April 15, 2022 at 03:33

    Excellent insight, thank you.

    “We do not want a divided world. We want a realistic world: a world of humanity that deals adequately with the climate catastrophe. A world that wants to end hunger and illiteracy. A world that wants to lift us out of despair into hope. A world with more armies of white coats and instead of armies with guns.”

    The central issue is that the US does not want this at all and will fight to prevent it. After about 30 years of being in the uni-pole position, the US certainly had its chance to demonstrate that it could lead the world to an equitable and sustainable future, and completely blew it through sheer gluttony. The status quo that the Biden admin embraces and that the US is striving to enshrine is effectively suicide, for America, for the world and for our future as a species on this planet. Note that the US foreign policy guide for this period was authored by Paul Wolfowitz who is also the idiot neocon architect of the Iraq invasion. How did that work out? And yet, here they, and we, are again. This is the status quo that America is fighting for with Biden leading the charge. Talk about mediocrity rising to the top.

    The idea of a democratized UN, functioning in a multi-polar world of responsible peers is struggling to be born while the US does all it can to strangle it at birth. If it fails, we all lose.

  4. Realist
    April 15, 2022 at 02:42

    The world will never have peace until the regime in Washington finally collapses. This war “in Ukraine” (really a global American attack against Russia and all of its interests, all of its actions, even the most innocuous financial and economic transactions and even against its most tentative allies, like Islamic prime ministers who get couped by the maniacs in DC, and strictly innocent bystanders, like sick or injured kids in need of medical attention–denied simply because they are of Russian descent by racist America and racist Europe) which escalates methodically and inexorably proves this.

    Even though the coming economic collapse will prove catastrophic for American citizens, it will be essential to starve the beast in Washington, Arlington and Langley until it is no longer an instant and insurmountable threat to every other nation on the planet. Sorry, folks but this horror show will not end until that happens. The homicidal maniacs who dwell in the aforementioned lairs of depredations know only how to endlessly double down on the threats, the destruction and other mad actions they have firmly committed to and have fanatically convinced the public who write the checks that all this murder, destructive and insanity is somehow an important feature of “freedom and democracy.”

    But wait, it gets even worse. The damned fools think they see the end point of their evil machinations as the utter annihilation of (at least) Russia and China. They think they can accomplish this with or without the employment of nuclear weapons. What they don’t see, or won’t admit in their own febrile minds is their own demise brought about either by a reciprocal strike from the other side(s), or perhaps a pre-emptive strike from their persecuted victims who refuse to face existential annihilation alone without the company of their tormentors, or perhaps even a rebellion by their own citizens who finally wake up and understand the meaning of all the crazed threats made flesh in the real world by the likes of the Clintons, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and all of the lesser fools occupying high places in the US government, so-called “intelligence” agencies and/or military services, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Independents alike, because the madness knows no political bounds in such a thoroughly psychotic and deranged society. I think the last scenario (a people’s rebellion) is least likely because the domestic population is as threatened and restricted by American military and police force as much as any foreign society targeted by our dear leaders.

    America as it is known to the rest of the world in all its grandiose horror will have to cease if the planet is to survive and for its human inhabitants to know peace and security. There is no going back to an earlier stage from which this could all be reversed. Like the activation energy for any exothermic chemical reaction, once exceeded the bang, crash and boom must inevitably happen. We are passed that point. America will either destroy the planet or be destroyed itself short of total global annihilation. Sadly, I think the odds strongly favor the first scenario. Give me a reason to think otherwise in the face of such obstinate intransigence by the maniacs that somehow hijacked control of this country and its near omnipotent killing machine. Start thinking of ways to preserve most of the rest of the world when the time of America’s inevitable, but required, utter eradication arrives. How might a very likely reflexive thermonuclear response to complete financial and social disintegration (the well-known human counter that “if I can’t have it neither can you”) be avoided, a concern that might also be realistically applied to Russia and China as well, if we expect them to take the licking our leaders have planned for them! See how insane for the maniacs in Washington not to leave one iota of flexibility short of unconditional defeat and ignominy for the other side, always. Human reality has to end because the American gangsters don’t get to dictate it in its entirety?

  5. Jeff Harrison
    April 14, 2022 at 17:39

    Frankly, this is all attributable to the US”s mad desire for global hegemony. If the US and their European vassals can be made to play nice, plausibly we can have peace but until they are willing to accept whatever happens which might mean that they would not be on top, we will have none.

  6. April 14, 2022 at 17:25

    The West has created a wall, for we have effectively built it. The wall will separate the global south from the West, and they will coexist just fine. The west will be on the outside looking in, unless you want a nuclear war.

    The world Fidel portrayed has nothing to do with the West. That is the hope of the global South. No criminals need apply.

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