Along with South Pacific minnow Vanuata, Russia today joined the World Trade Organisation. So in a week when Russia has been endlessly criticised for the draconian sentences handed out at the Pussy Riot
trial and in a year when the country faced further allegations of electoral fraud
– what could be the reason that the 'international community', or 157-country WTO membership, has suddenly allowed Russia into the club after a wait of 19 years?
Well, the answer is quite obvious really. It is because "trade can bring a predictable and stable basis for economic growth" – according to WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy. In other words, the west – and in particular those countries that have achieved some economic growth in recent years by selling goods into fellow WTO powerhouse China, like the United States and Germany – now feels that opening up Russia's population of 142 million citizens as a new market for US and European goods could be a route out of recession. It is certainly a bold move and leftist pressure groups will no doubt suggest that commerce is once again being prioritised above human rights and democracy. In fact, Russia
is already Europe's third largest export market.
We know that China was also forced to wait out 15 years of negotiations before its WTO membership was finally approved in 2001. Since joining, its economy has been propelled up the global rankings – from 6th place to 2nd – and its exports have grown five-fold. The rest of the world has sold a lot of western goods into China, but nowhere near the amount of Chinese goods that the global community has bought from China in return. The hope is that with Russia's creaking industrial and technological infrastructure, and a rapidly growing middle class hungry for western status symbols as opposed to China's massive pool of cheap labour, the trade balance will be more equal this time around.
The list of industries ripe for global mergers and acquisitions includes telecoms, banking and automotive to name but a few. Although commodity-rich Russia has the luxury of falling back on oil, gas and steel as huge revenue and foreign investment boons. So whichever way you look at it, the decision to bring Russia into the fold just four years after its illegal incursion into Georgia is a huge gamble. It may bring economic benefits for the rest of the world but it could also turn Russia into an even more arrogant superpower, given that the west has played its final card.
In addition, it might bring Russian President Vladimir Putin's once unthinkable idea of a Eurasian Union – to rival the European Union – one step closer. It is hard to know whether we should be excited or scared at the new opportunities and problems that Russia's WTO membership may bring. The international community has rolled the dice, now the west can only cross its fingers and hope for the best.
Great Britain is a gifted nation of fairness. It has given democracy and rule of law in the sense of fairness to the whole world, including the United States. Yet the leadership of this great nation has always been guided by two fears: (i) there should never ever emerge one single strong nation in Europe to dominate the continent; and (ii) lest rival powers anywhere on the globe unite to the extent that they outdo the United Kingdom, hence the strategy of divide and rule.
These fears have reduced the nation to a pygmy on the global stage, on the European stage, and on the Commonwealth stage. Whatever recognition the nation has in the international community has mainly been sustained by its sheer association with the super power America. Yet the reality is: (i) none can beat the British in the art of governance; (ii) none can beat the Americans in the art of organisation; (iii) none can beat the Russians in secrecy and patience; (iv) none can beat the Germans in hard work; (v) none can beat the French in the intellect; (vi) none can beat China in shrewdness; (vii) none can equal Japan in refined culture; and (vii) no matter how corrupt its leaders have gone today, none can beat the Indians in humanity and spirituality, the mother of every virtue.
The world has a superpower in the US, yet a fortunate asset with the United Kingdom. Europe has not one but three - Germany, Russia and France - strong nations to play dominant roles. The Commonwealth has all the humanity and spirituality that the fairness needs to govern the globe. Britain still is fully alive to the best ever cultivated art of governance by fairness at hope.
With all the allies mentioned above, to be harnessed to united and survive fairness of humanity and spirituality of mankind, Britain still has the opportunity of getting rid of its two fears and rise to the challenge of global governance with fairness and its two corollaries of democracy and rule of law. Whether Russia has joined the WTO or China has become an economic powerhouse is immaterial. Britain still has the guts, wisdom and leadership to accept the challenge with the harnessing of all above. Will she? I
f not, it is doomed to become a Mongolia of Europe. If yes, it is destined to be the nation of super Asoka grade leaders governing the global community of "we the peoples of the United Nations" with the sole objective of promoting and protecting their human dignity. How would they like to go down in the history of mankind? It remains to be seen. All I can say is: if Britain does not rise to the global challenge of the 21st century the whole global community once more has to face what we call 'world war'.
Prof. Dr. S.R.S. Bedi