The West Lost Russia - 2007

The West Lost Russia

2007

In contrast to the purported global warming, Russian-Western relations are undergoing a real cooling. The mounting frigidity in the relationship was symbolized in Moscow's surprise rush to the Arctic. The aim of this expedition was to gather scientific evidence to support a legal territorial claim to the Lomonosov Ridge. But this was just one salvo in a summer flurry that underscored a new, resurgent Russia. Others include:

• A diplomatic offensive across the Middle East and Asia that included hints of forming a natural gas cartel.

• President Vladimir Putin's moves to withdraw from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

• The resumption of long-range strategic bomber flights that will patrol areas bordering European and U.S. airspace.

• An announcement to expand the Navy's global presence, including basing once again some of its forces in the Mediterranean Sea.

• The militarization of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as members and Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia as observers.

In short, Russia is back as a global player, and it is no longer a starry-eyed admirer of the United States. These are the bitter fruits of the West's -- and in particular the United States' -- mistaken policies toward Russia since the end of the Cold War. Instead of treating Moscow magnanimously, as historian Richard Pipes once urged, the West declared victory. Unlike the victory in World War II over Nazi Germany, however, no Marshall Plan was forthcoming. Instead, the West promised but did not deliver timely economic assistance in the early 1990s. It also backed a disastrous and broadly unpopular privatization and economic reform program. Worst of all, it alienated the entire Russian elite by expanding NATO to include Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Baltic states. Further rounds of expansion may very well bring Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance. The NATO and European Union expansion, which did not include a substantive role for Russia, effectively locked Moscow out of a Western orbit that the Kremlin thought it was joining.

Early on, U.S. President Bill Clinton wondered aloud to his top Russia hand, Undersecretary of State Strobe Talbott, about how long they could continue to shove things down Moscow's throat. U.S. President George W. Bush followed Clinton's lead by declaring initially that Russia was no longer a major player in global affairs or a major focus of U.S. foreign policy. Shortly thereafter, Bush announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the expansion of NATO closer to Russia's borders. Now Moscow's bitter disappointment with the West has taken the form of harsh anti-Americanism. It has also translated into a burning desire among the Russian elite and public to finally show the West that it would regret its policies once Russia "got up from its knees." That time has surely come. Some analysts warned that this would be the inevitable result of NATO expansion and other flawed U.S. and Western policies. Only a partnership with Russia and a firm policy of drawing it into the West would prevent Moscow's turn to the East. This also would have prevented the revival of traditional Russian suspicion -- if not outright antagonism -- toward the West. Finally, a closer cooperation with Russia may have prevented Moscow's disenchantment with democracy, which it has interpreted as being no more than an insidious and cynical Western ploy to weaken Russia. The cost of NATO expansion is that Russia has been lost in the medium term -- and perhaps in the long term as well -- as a powerful, committed democracy and Western ally. Moreover, the West has pushed Russia closer to China and Iran.

If these are the costs of NATO expansion, what are the advantages? Few, if any. The alliance received from its new member states: a few thousand additional troops that are stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, a three-jet Latvian air force and five Estonian nurses. Compare these benefits to Russia's vast military and intelligence resources and experience -- particularly in Afghanistan. Moreover, Moscow has helped to track down global jihadists, prevent the proliferation of weapons and materials of mass destruction and reconstruct Afghanistan. As a true ally, Russia could contribute much more to the Western alliance than the small new NATO members. All opinion polls now show that a plurality or majority of Russians regard the United States as the greatest threat to Russia and the world. Putin has repeatedly decried the U.S. impetus for a "unipolar" international structure -- which is to say, global hegemony. The Russian elite's consensus is even harsher. Alexander Solzhenitsyn recently said the United States seeks to encircle and weaken Russia. This statement is highly symbolic, coming from the esteemed writer who once took refuge in the United States as a political refugee from the Soviet state. It also underscores how cold U.S.-Russian relations have become. One hopes the next U.S. administration will not repeat Clinton and Bush's mistakes of insulting and underestimating Moscow. Even in the best of circumstances, the next U.S. president and his or her Western allies will face the daunting task of piercing through the unfortunate and unforgiving perceptual lens through which resurgent Moscow views the West, especially Washington.

Source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/storie...08/29/006.html

In related news:

Russia bolsters ties with Iran


Relations between Russia and the United States will be put to the severe test in the coming weeks as there are growing signs that the US has decided, or has almost decided, to launch a military strike against Iran. Russian observers do not rule out that the administration of US President George W Bush is yet to think through its policy on Iran, and the spate of media "leaks" keeps Tehran and the world community guessing. They analyze that a US military intervention would become inevitable unless Iran relented in its regional policy in Iraq. It is inconceivable for the US to leave its Arab allies in the region to face Iran single-handed.

But then, Russian experts do not visualize that the US has reached anywhere near the point where it can claim the security situation has been stabilized and political reconciliation achieved, which would allow a complete withdrawal of troops. On the contrary, they see the situation in Iraq continuing to deteriorate. Moscow would weigh that the real US agenda is aimed at "regime change" in Iran. Washington has more or less ensured that all military equipment (three aircraft-carrier battle groups) necessary for an air and sea strike against Iran are already in position in the Persian Gulf. The Bush administration has launched a concerted campaign for mobilizing domestic opinion in the US for an attack on Iran.

Bush has a new xxxxiness about him, and Moscow wouldn't be the only capital to notice. He has certainly lost his fear of the Democrat-dominated Congress on Capitol Hill. To be sure, he is step-by-step making a case for war. Commentator Patrick Buchanan wrote recently, "Confident of victory this fall on the Hill, Bush is now moving into Phase III in his 'war on terror': first Afghanistan, then Iraq, then Iran." In Moscow's perception, therefore, the next two to three months will be most critical, even as Iran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) enters a crucial phase. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to go ahead with his visit to Tehran on October 16, much to the chagrin of Washington. The visit is in connection with the summit of the Caspian states (Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Iran) that is to take place in Iran, but Putin is scheduled to hold "bilaterals" as well with the Iranian leadership. This will be Putin's first visit to Iran.

Russian stance unchanged

At a joint press conference with visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Moscow on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained the Russian position on the Iran nuclear issue. He made it clear at the outset that Moscow is second to none in insisting on preventing the nuclear non-proliferation regime from being violated by Iran. In other words, Russia wouldn't countenance a "nuclear Iran". But having said that, Lavrov added that the problem has to be solved in accordance with international law. In other words, Moscow will reject any "unilateralism" on the part of Washington. Second, Lavrov argued that the steps taken by the international community so far - in the direction of the IAEA board of governors' decisions and the United Nations Security Council decisions - have proved "effective". This is borne out by the fact that last month Iran and the IAEA agreed to address outstanding issues conclusively; the two sides elaborated their agreement in an appropriate document. Lavrov said that in Moscow's estimation, the implementation of this document is proceeding satisfactorily and "we want this process to conclude unimpeded".

Third, Lavrov spoke in strong support of the IAEA's professional capabilities and asserted, "We will rely upon the professional assessments of the experts from the IAEA." He added a punch line: "We remember well what ignoring the professional opinion of this agency [IAEA] led to in the situation vis-a-vis Iraq four years ago." He virtually anticipated the US strategy, which aims at discrediting the IAEA and sidelining it on the Iran issue, if not elbowing it out of altogether, so that the UN Security Council gets into the driving seat. Fourth, Lavrov spoke emphatically against any military attack on Iran and instead stressed the "necessity to conduct negotiations in a persistent and consistent manner". Fifth, what was most interesting about Lavrov's statement was that he revisited the big-power discussions last year leading to the creation of the so-called Five Plus One format. (This comprises the five permanent members of the Security Council - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US - plus Germany.)

He recalled the understanding given by Washington at that time to Moscow and Beijing to the effect that the Security Council's involvement on the Iran issue would be with "a sole objective - to back the IAEA and ensure Iran's compliance with the IAEA". Lavrov's message to the Bush administration was plain: "Do not arbitrarily shift the goalposts now." Lavrov continued, "We remain committed to this original agreement on the understanding that the Security Council will not be forced to go beyond support of the IAEA." And, "The IAEA is now satisfied with the way Iran is implementing the accords on closing the outstanding issues on its nuclear file."

Lavrov in effect said nyet to Washington's latest move for tightening up the sanctions against Iran via yet another Security Council resolution. This echoed the statement attributed to an unnamed "senior Kremlin official in Moscow" a week earlier, who told The Financial Times of London, "As far as Iran's nuclear program is concerned, we have passed resolutions in the UN. So far, it's enough." Finally, Lavrov criticized the move by the US and the European Union to impose unilateral sanctions against Iran. He reminded the Western capitals that the original understanding while forming the Five Plus One was to develop a comprehensive dialogue with Iran "not only resolving all aspects of Iran's nuclear program, but also on economic and commercial affairs and on regional security".

Lavrov added, "It was this kind of comprehensive approach that helped to unlock the situation surrounding the Korean nuclear program." (Under the February agreement, in exchange for North Korea's denuclearization and information on all its nuclear programs, the reclusive state will receive 950,000 tonnes of fuel oil for its thermal power-generating plants in addition to the 50,000 tonnes already delivered by South Korea for the closure of its only operational nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. If Kouchner's visit to Moscow was to persuade Russia to fall in line with the US move to introduce a new Security Council resolution, things didn't quite work that way. (Kouchner was scheduled to arrive in Washington on Friday; French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due to visit Moscow on October 11-12.)

Russia couldn't be unaware that France is playing a double game. On the one hand, Sarkozy is closing ranks with the Bush administration's policies toward Iran. On the other hand, France is using US-French rapprochement to share the spoils of Iraq's oil wealth with US oil interests. France's Total and the United States' Chevron have agreed to collaborate on the Majnoon oilfields in Iraq. The San Francisco Chronicle recently wrote, "The building of a US-French consensus on Iraq is largely the result of the willingness of US oil interests to share the spoils with their European counterparts in exchange for their military and military backing of Washington's foreign policy in the Middle East." In the coming period, Moscow will have to factor the "trans-Atlantic partnership" in dealing with the Iran nuclear issue.

Moscow backs ElBaradei

Moscow is determined not to be party to Washington's attempt to discredit the IAEA's credentials in handling the Iran problem. Washington launched a similar offensive against the IAEA in the run-up to the Iraq war. Lavrov made it clear Russia's sympathy lies with IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Tuesday, "The IAEA is not in the business of diplomacy. The IAEA is a technical agency ... It is not up to anybody to diminish or to begin to cut back on the obligations that the Iranians have been ordered to take" by the Security Council. In effect, she meant that ElBaradei was freelancing where he didn't belong.

Russia doesn't want to see ElBaradei being bullied. Russia would like the agency's inspectors to report back without fear at the end of the year on the Iran file. Russia finds itself in complete agreement with ElBaradei's approach, which is to encourage Tehran to move forward in terms of the roadmap with the IAEA so that by November or December, a definitive assessment becomes possible as to whether the Iranians would keep their promises, and a peaceful solution emerges. Moscow goes along agrees ElBaradei's view that there are hopeful and positive signs. Moscow would have no quarrels either with ElBaradei's conclusion that "We [IAEA] consistently searched for evidence that Iran intends to build nuclear weapons. We found suspicious signs, but no smoking guns. We could now make some progress in settings aside these suspicions ... It's important to exert pressure. But in addition to sanctions, we must also have incentives to encourage Iran to take a new direction ... If we turn up the heat too high, the pot could explode around our ears."

[...]

Source: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/II22Ag01.html

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