|AXIS OF UNFREEDOM REPLACES AXIS OF EVIL
NEW YORK. (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev)
The 61st UN General Assembly began in New York Tuesday with striking news,
if not a sensation.
I am referring to the speech made by U.S. President George W. Bush. He
addressed the forum after Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva,
setting the tune in the Assembly and global politics for the year ahead.
In fact, even when the order of speakers is different, it is the address
by the U.S. president that is expected to be the key event at that main
conference of the world’s diplomats. In the past three or four years,
Bush was expected to hint at or to announce a forthcoming war, or speak
about the threat of war.
Experienced diplomats said the war against Iraq was inevitable after
Bush’s UN address in 2002, six months before it began. Then the U.S.
president made meaningful statements about Iran, which were perceived as
an open threat, if not a warning of an impending war. Therefore,
international politics after Bush’s speeches was reduced to the world
powers’ attempts to make the right decision. Should they join the Untied
States or try to prevent a war, put a spoke in Washington’s wheel or, at
worst, start preparing to withdraw from a war?
This year, Bush did not speak of war. That marked absence of the military
note from the presidential speech is seen as proof that the world has
changed again and diplomats will have to adjust to this new situation.
They should prepare to see the end of an age when the Untied States
believed in its omnipotence, or at least tried to make other states
believe in it.
The reasons for the change are insignificant. The insiders’ explanation
is that Bush is trying to save the Republican Party from defeat at the
forthcoming elections, because any candidates to the Senate or the House
of Representatives of the U.S. Congress who dare mention their support of
war, notably the Iraq war, are mercilessly weeded out. The process is also
underway in the Democratic Party.
However, leaders use the UN dais to address the world. This year Bush made
many predictable statements and some quite unexpected ones in the UN.
In fact, his speech was one big address to the peoples of the Middle East,
one after another, with criticism of their governments and one simple and
very American idea. He implied that religious extremism made them victims
of military conflicts primarily waged against the Untied States and its
allies, such as Israel, and that this happened because the governments of
these countries waged the wrong policy, depriving their people of civil
Bush mentioned Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Palestine in this connection, and
said that the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle East countries
had become free. It sounded hugely different from his previous speeches
about “the axis of evil.” I would say that he spoke about “an axis
Bush did not threaten Middle East governments with a war; he promised the
region’s people to “stand with the moderates and reformers (…) who
are working for change across the Middle East.”
True, it is undiplomatic to address the people of foreign states with
statements spearheaded against their governments. The United States is
almost the only country in the world whose leader, members of government,
or diplomats consider such statements admissible and possible. But still,
this is better than Bush’s previous militant addresses, if only because
this approach permits a response to Bush, including in the UN as a place
where key world problems are discussed. In fact, the U.S. is criticized at
each General Assembly, although the speakers do not point their finger at
it but speak about “a great power.”
It would be wrong to say that all criticisms of the Untied States were
true. Likewise, it cannot be said that the analysis of the internal
situation in some Middle East countries “according to Bush” is
correct, though words about some “achievements” in Iraq and
Afghanistan sound disturbing. But then, there is always something to
debate, provided the discussion is held on equal terms, as it happened in
There was a phrase in Bush’s address that could have been overlooked, if
not for The New York Times, which quoted an anonymous member of the
administration on the day when Bush spoke. The official was asked what the
president would talk about in the UN. He replied that he would say that
nations moved to freedom in different ways depending on the situation and
Here is what Bush said: “Every nation that travels the road to freedom
moves at a different pace, and the democracies they build will reflect
their own culture and traditions. But the destination is the same: A free
society where people live at peace with each other and at peace with the
The truth is that this phrase could have been said by Russian President
Vladimir Putin – who has said something of this kind – or Chinese
leader Hu Jintao, or many other leaders.
The key world capitals have apparently noted this change in Bush’s tone
and will try to encourage him to carry on. The United States may find that
it has more friends today than it had yesterday. And it does not matter if
the change is described as the nascent era of multipolarity, new global
partnership, or in some other words. -0-