ON LYING IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

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Russia should present evidence to support its foreign policy positions

Examples of evidence being tailored to fit the desired conclusions, and cynical manipulation of public opinion, cast further doubt on the quality of United Nations decision-making that gives the green light for military operations.


The British sailors have returned home and reported that they were threatened with seven years’ imprisonment for trespassing across Iran’s sea borders. The sailors admitted honestly that they did indeed move into Iranian waters. They also displayed a recording, dated a month ago, in which a Marines commander tells the camera that the purpose of their raids was to collect intelligence.

These British sailors, armed to the teeth, offered no resistance when the Iranians arrested them. The whole story reveals a rather unflattering image of British military personnel: they surrendered without a fight; they confirmed that they were sailing in Iran’s territorial waters; they gave evidence out of fear; and they were in another country’s waters not by accident, but on a mission. And these people, with their watered-down notions of military honor, almost ended up causing a major armed confrontation in the Persian Gulf region, which directly affects Russia’s interests.

A previously-classified Defense Department report released in Washington last week implies that even before the Iraq campaign began, the United States knew for certain that there were no direct links between the Iraqi leadership and Al-Qaeda. A few months ago, it was proved conclusively that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Baghdad. Hence, a question arises: on what grounds did the United States launch its military operation in Iraq?

The only positive aspect in all this is that democratic procedures and real political competition in Western countries make it possible to expose any deception on the part of the executive branch within a relatively short time. Nothing can be undone in Iraq; the war has claimed tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, and thousands of Americans; Iraq’s economy is in ruins, and democracy has not triumphed.

These examples of evidence being tailored to fit the desired conclusions, and cynical manipulation of public opinion, cast further doubt on the quality of United Nations decision-making that gives the green light for military operations.

Russia must draw the attention of its Western partners to the abovementioned instances of basic premises being deliberately falsified in decisions requiring Russia’s vote. Our veto power in the UN Security Council is an effective foreign policy instrument; we use it cautiously and rarely. However, given the information which has now been revealed, it is clear that our country had more extensive grounds for exercising its veto.

Furthermore, in order for Russia to be capable of resisting false arguments for or against a war, it is necessary for us to have more precise evidence to back up our position. Intelligence should play a decisive role here. The Foreign Intelligence Serviced (SVR) gets more and more funding with every year, but Russia’s position in conflict conditions usually seems like nothing more than a matter of taste. It would be appropriate, and it would carry weight, if we released satellite photographs proving exactly where the British sailors were detained, or provided evidence to back up our opinion on the situation in Iraq. A country’s position looks more worthy of respect if it is supported by documentary evidence. Such a position has to be taken into account, for substantive reasons rather than formalities. And if our Western partners sacrifice the truth to their current interests, at least the maturity of their domestic democratic institutions enables that sacrifice to be recognized as improper and damaging to their reputations.

Russia’s credibility only stands to benefit from this.

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