By avoiding COP26, Russia and China could condemn us all

Before the passage of the imperium from Babylon to Persia, Isaiah (the second) rejoiced over the disappearance of the first: “Below, sit in the dust … sit dethroned on the ground … sit in silence, retreat into darkness. .. never again Will they call you Mistress of the Realms? “(Isaiah 47: 1-5)

It was in keeping with the general Bible treatment of superpowers as subjects of the kingdom of God, those whose missteps are recorded and in due course will be punished with resounding defeat, in the same way that God would reward a righteous emperor, Trampling nations before him. “And granting him” treasures hidden in darkness, “as Isaiah himself said of Cyrus of Persia (45: 1-2).

God’s role in the rise and fall of empires is a matter of faith, but the balance of power and justice of empires is a fact that raises a difficult question: are evil empires doomed to fall and empires destined to last?

The relevance of the question emerged this week in full force as China and Russia avoided the meeting of world leaders in Glasgow to seek ways to combat global warming and climate change. Do Beijing and Moscow follow the path of Babylon? Are we supposed to do something about it, and if so, what?

The most evil regimes didn’t really last. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan lasted less than two decades, as did Pol Pot’s genocidal government in Cambodia. The Soviet Union, with its purges, gulags, mass deportations, and religious persecution, lasted just 70 years.

An image of Earth is projected at the COP26 summit site in Glasgow, Scotland, Great Britain, on November 1, 2021. (Credit: REUTERS / HANNAH MCKAY)

Spain’s genocides in America and the expulsion of its Jews and Muslims were less than 100 years old when its army was sunk en route to England, a blow from which imperial Spain never recovered.

On the contrary, the empire of political tolerance established by the British enemy of Spain and which the United States succeeded in prospering to this day. Similarly, the culturally tolerant Ottoman Empire lasted four centuries, and the religiously pluralistic Roman Empire lasted more than twice that length.

Likewise, ethnically tolerant Persia lasted more than two centuries after restoring the Jews to their land, while Babylon fell less than 50 years after exiling the Jews from Judah. Assyria, which invented ethnic cleansing, fell less than a century after exiled nations, including Israel, found themselves in the Near East.

Still, such poetic justice, with due respect to the biblical prophets who insisted on its existence, has been flawed at best.

Righteous empires were relatively fair, offering tolerance to some but great intolerance to others. Worse still, the empires of evil may have fallen before others, but that was no comfort to the millions they killed.

Furthermore, empires that chose tolerance thought less of morality and more of stability, less of responsibility, more of profit. The pursuit of imperial responsibility is a modern Western concept and has often been a tragedy of paternalism and naivety.

“Accept the White Man’s Burden,” urged Rudyard Kipling of the American nation when he stormed the Philippines, “Send the best of you to breed / Go tie your children into exile / To serve the needs of your captives / To wait with heavy harnesses / On wild and unruly people / Your new moody towns / Half devil and half child. “

As it turned out in 1899, imperial responsibility was a matter of choice. Everything changed in 1945, when Empire suddenly assumed the ability to destroy the world.

Horrified by the idea that the atomic bomb would be dropped on humans, some of the scientists who invented it told US President Harry Truman that such an attack would compromise the “moral responsibilities” of the United States.

It took the crushing of two cities by the Bomb for the concept of imperial responsibility to mature. Ultimately, the idea of ​​imperial responsibility produced arms limitation agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union that reflected the understanding of imperial rivals that they had joint responsibility for the survival of the planet.

Now this inter-imperial understanding is dead.

THE THREATS of global warming can no longer be ignored.

With average global temperatures rising over the last decade by 1.09 ° C according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and with weather disruptions piling up as wildfires spread from California to Australia via Siberia, it is clear that emissions of the industry are putting the future of the planet at risk.

China’s industry is the world’s leading polluter, with 28% of global carbon emissions, and Russia is fourth (after the United States and India) with 5%. The two do not formally deny the problem. China claims it plans to withdraw from its coal production starting in 2026, and Russia says it will become carbon neutral by 2060.

However, diplomats doubt the sincerity of these votes, pointing out that China is building 60 new coal-fired power plants, while post-communist Russia has made fossil fuel exports its main source of income.

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping used the pandemic to excuse their absence from the Glasgow Conference. Few believe this. Russia and China are more likely to view the international effort to cut carbon emissions as a Western plot against their economies.

It follows that the free world must change its paradigm and move the war against climate change to a small forum in which Beijing and Moscow do not feel isolated. Such a forum would include six members, who are collectively responsible for about three-quarters of the greenhouse effect: China, the United States, Russia, the European Union, India and Brazil.

If these six collectively build a path, the rest will follow. More importantly, once in such an intimate forum, Xi and Putin could understand what Leonid Brezhnev understood when he faced Richard Nixon: that what they were dealing with was not the longevity of their empires, but the survival of the planet.

Perhaps then Xi and Putin will understand that if they do not think universally and historically, they will lead their empires and those of everyone else to the aftermath of Isaiah’s Babylon: dethroned, silent, withdrawn into darkness and sitting in the dust.

The author’s best-seller, Mitzad Ha’ivelet Ha’yehudi (The Jewish March of Madness, Yediot Sefarim, 2019), is a revisionist story of the leadership of the Jewish people from ancient times to modernity.

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