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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/16/21

The US-Russia Summit

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From Consortium News

Two recent moves on Moscow's side suggest that the encounter in Geneva will mark the start of a long and welcome process.

Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva 16 June 2021
Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva 16 June 2021
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: kremlin.ru)
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Curious it was to read that the Russian judiciary ruled last Wednesday that Alexei Navalny's political network is an extremist movement. Its members should be grateful that the courts recognized it as a movement, given Navalny's nationwide support has never exceeded three percent or so, but on paper they are now liable to arrest and prosecution and, if convicted of one or another charge, could be fined or imprisoned.

There have been no arrests, so far as has been reported. But think of all those chances Western intel agencies and their clerks in the press may now have to lionize a new cohort of oppositionists as Navalny's heroic followers. Let us not forget, a kooky poseur journalist named Oleg Kashin had the nerve to call Navalny "Russia's true leader" in a recent New York Times opinion piece.

There is no limit to the silliness in all matters Russian, it seems. At least not at the Times .

I say "curious" because, in the ordinary conduct of statecraft as we have had it for the past seven decades, the Moscow's court's ruling, exactly a week prior to President Joe Biden's first summit with President Vladimir Putin, would have to be counted obtuse. Wouldn't minding one's manners especially given that the Navalny network's significance resides solely in the minds and news pages of Western propagandists be the wise course?

I don't think so. I have no clue as to the independence or otherwise of the Russian judiciary, but it is unthinkable the Russian leader did not know in advance of what the courts were about to determine. I think Russia was indeed minding its manners a different and altogether more honorable set of manners than American pols and diplomats have exhibited lo these many decades.

In a sensible read, the court ruling was a calculated gesture in response to Biden's commitment, announced during a Memorial Day speech, to confront Putin in Geneva on June 16 with the question of human rights in the Russian Federation. "We will not stand by and let him abuse those rights," saith the man from Scranton.

We will not stand by, Moscow replied in so many words, as you grandstand at Russia's expense. Recall in this connection, Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, has lately made it a habit to note that Moscow is monitoring human rights in the U.S. since the Jan. 6 protests at the Capitol. "We have no taboo topics," Lavrov said in evident response to Biden's speech. "We will discuss whatever we think is necessary."

It would be very wrong to take this matter as a passing spat as the Russian and American presidents find their feet with one another. In my view, the court judgment last week and Lavrov's remarks on human rights as a two-way street make the Geneva encounter far more important than it may have otherwise turned out to be.

Five Principles

To understand this, we must go back and back and back some more until we reach the early 1950s, when newly independent India and newly socialist China were working out how two very large neighbors ought best to conduct their relations. It was while negotiating a bilateral agreement on this question in 1953 that Zhou Enlai, Mao's cultured, subtle, farsighted premier, first articulated his Five Principles, the ethical code by which the People's Republic would conduct its relations with all nations.

These were incorporated into the Sino-Indian Agreement of 1954 and have been justifiably well-known since. Note that four of the five have to do with respectful conduct and parity:

-- Mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty;

-- Mutual nonaggression;

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Patrick Lawrence is a columnist, author, editor, and educator. He has published five books and currently writes foreign affairs commentary for Consortium News and other publications. He served as a correspondent abroad for many years and is (more...)

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