The Russian Giant Returns - August, 2008

Some recent news reports that have caught my attention. Please read in particular Pat Buchanan's commentaries towards the bottom of this page.



The Russian Giant Returns

August, 2008

The war in Georgia provoked sharp, contrasting reactions around the world, from support for the small democratic country fighting for its survival (with a critical nod about what looks like incitement against Russia by President Mikhail Saaskashvili) to shock at the aggressive brutality of the Russian offensive. This war, above all, is a symbol of Russia's return to the playing field of the Great Powers. As is customary for Russia, whether czarist or Soviet, its policy is authoritarian to its own citizens and belligerent to the rest of the world. Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of perestroika created a dual illusion in the West, first, that Russia was on the high road to democracy, and, second, that the disintegration of the Soviet bloc and the severance of the East European countries from Communism had left Russia a weak country.

The first illusion led to dreams of Russian democracy, the second was responsible for disdain for Russia as a player in the international arena. Both proved mistaken. It turns out that unlike Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and other countries in which there really was a relatively easy transition to democracy and a market economy, that was not the case internally in Russia. In those countries there was a tradition of a civic society, volunteer organizations and autonomy of church and academic institutions. With the disappearance of Communist repression, it was possible to anchor the transition to democracy in these traditions and institutions. All that was lacking in Russia: Its pre-Communist tradition was hierarchical and authoritarian, lacking a civic society, without representative or elected frameworks. In the absence of all these, the disintegration of the Communist regime led to the anarchy and chaos of the Boris Yeltsin period. This was reflected not only in a weak and insufficiently clear president, but also in the country's disintegration. Districts and regions divorced themselves from the central government, and Soviet economic assets were stolen by those close to the government and by corrupt oligarchs.

The rise of Vladimir Putin symbolized an end to this anarchy, but an end to the dream of democracy as well. Putin must be credited with the rehabilitation of the Russian state, the subordination of local bullies to the rule of Moscow and the restoration of some assets, mainly in the field of energy, to central control. It wasn't done by persuasion, but with brutality and aggressiveness: The free press was reined in, the opposition parties were pushed aside, although not eliminated, the parliament was neutralized and moguls with political ambitions were expelled from the country or arrested. Although Russia as a country was rescued, a duplicate of the authoritarian czarist regime emerged. The brutal repression of the Chechnyan rebellion broadcast a clear warning. Even the way in which Putin bypassed the constitution to gain two terms as president is testimony to his determination and his ability to maneuver. It is no coincidence that a picture of Peter the Great hangs in his office. All this had external repercussions as well. During Yeltsin's time the West became accustomed to seeing Russia as a giant cut down to size. The European Union and NATO expanded eastward without hindrance. But this proved a passing weakness. The entanglement in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated the limits of U.S. power, while soaring oil prices gave Russia a tremendous economic advantage, as well as European dependence on Russian gas. Thus Putin began to restore Russia to the status of a great power that cannot be ignored.

There were many signs: the unwillingness to help the U.S. to curb Iran's nuclear program, to prove to America it is not omniscient; power games in the supplying of energy to Ukraine and the Czech Republic, which are looking Westward; and all accompanied by belligerent rhetoric, which is adding to Putin's popularity among a population that has felt humiliated since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The West had no strategic response to this development, and the differences of opinion between the U.S. and Europe on the issue of Iraq only made things more difficult. The Russian demonstration of force in Georgia will obligate the West to develop a new overall policy toward Moscow. It will be quite a difficult challenge for the next U.S. President. No longer will there be an asymmetrical conflict and a delusional search for Osama bin Laden in the back of beyond, but a return to traditional great power confrontations. This is not a return to the Cold War, since Putin's Russia is not the bearer of a universal ideology like the Soviet Union; however we can reasonably assume that it will attempt to establish its own regional hegemony. After Georgia, will Moscow try to teach Ukraine a similar lesson? Time will tell. But the era of ignoring Russia has come to an end. The question now centers on the West's ability to formulate a suitable response to this challenge.


Russian general says Poland open to nuclear strike

Russia's deputy chief of General Staff Col.-Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn addresses the media in Moscow. Nogovitsyn said Friday, Aug. 15, 2008 that Poland's agreement to accept a U.S. missile defense battery exposes the country to attack, pointing out that Russian military doctrine permits the use of nuclear weapons in such a situation, the Interfax news agency reported.

A senior Russian general warned Poland today that it was leaving itself open to retaliation - and possibly even a nuclear strike - by agreeing to host a US missile base. General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the Russian armed forces' deputy chief of staff, issued the extraordinary threat in an interview with Interfax, a Russian news agency. “Poland, by deploying [the system] is exposing itself to a strike - 100 per cent,” he was quoted as saying, before explaining that Russian military doctrine sanctioned the use of nuclear weapons “against the allies of countries having nuclear weapons if they in some way help them”. The bleak warning comes as tensions between Moscow and the West reached their worst state since the end of the Cold War. After a brief conflict between Russia and Georgia the international community has struggled to secure a peaceful resolution in the Caucasus. Moscow has yet to withdraw troops from its neighbour despite pressure from the European Union and United States. In a provocative move, Washington followed robust rhetoric against Russia’s foreign policy motives in the region by announcing an agreement to station US missiles in Eastern Europe. After months of negotiations American officials chose yesterday to announce that an agreement had been reached with Warsaw over a missile defence shield to be built on Polish soil.

American officials insist that the missile battery will be installed as a safeguard against rogue states such as Iran and North Korea, but Moscow says that it is being directly threatened by the deployment of weapons. President Medvedev said that the deal “absolutely clearly demonstrates what we had said earlier - the deployment has the Russian Federation as its target.” He did, however, take a far more conciliatory approach to the disagreement. At a joint press conference with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, he said: “It is sad news for all who live on this densely populated continent, but it is not dramatic.” The relatively conciliatory tone of Mr Medvedev, who succeeded Vladimir Putin three months ago, did little to ease the tension. At a press conference in Washington, President Bush denounced Russian foreign policy as “bullying and intimidation”. “The Cold War is over,” he said. “The days of satellite states and spheres of influence are behind us."

But echoes of Cold War diplomacy were clear as it emerged that the US-Polish missile agreement included a “mutual commitment” between the two nations to come to each other’s assistance “in case of trouble”. Donald Tusk, the Polish Prime Minister, hinted that the US had pledged to back Warsaw in the event of Russian aggression towards Poland. He said that he only agreed to host the US defence shield on the condition that the US agreed to help augment Poland’s defences with Patriot missiles, which are intended to ward off any threat from Russia. “We have crossed the Rubicon,” he said after agreeing the landmark deal after more than 18 months of negotiations. In the past few days, Polish leaders told a domestic audience that the fighting in Georgia has justified Warsaw’s willingness to form such a significant alliance with the US.


Russophobia: A Political Pathology

Why the new cold war with Russia?

No one ever believed the Americans' explanation of why they wanted to base interceptor missiles in Poland, of all places, some 20 years after the fall of the Soviet empire – not even the Americans. The idea, said Washington, is to defend the Poles against the alleged threat of an attack from… Iran, which has yet to exhibit any hostile intentions toward Warsaw, and in fact does not even possess the sort of missiles the new system is designed to intercept. Putin's pained response – "We are being told the anti-missile defense system is targeted against something that does not exist. Doesn't it seem funny to you, to say the least?" – showed signs of the sort of exasperation that reached a crescendo last week with the Russian counterstrike against Georgia's invasion of South Ossetia. Since Bill Clinton invaded the Balkans and severed Kosovo from the Yugoslav torso, the incredibly patient Russians had stoically endured years of abuse, insults, and increasingly open belligerence directed at the Kremlin. Yet still they tried to have normal relations with the West. The turning point was reached only recently, as the Americans defended the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia and implicitly justified the murder of a dozen Russian soldiers, who were on a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping mission.

The War Party has had a hard-on for Putin ever since the run-up to our Iraq misadventure, when the Russian leader opposed the drive to war, tried to buy time for the Iraqis via the UN, and openly mocked the lies that rationalized the whole disaster. Back in the spring of 2003, when the hunt for those famed "weapons of mass destruction" was becoming too much of an embarrassment even for the coalition of the willingly duped, Putin let loose at a London press conference with Tony Blair: "Two weeks later they still have not been found. The question is, where is Saddam Hussein? Where are those weapons of mass destruction, if they were ever in existence? Is Saddam Hussein in a bunker sitting on cases containing weapons of mass destruction, preparing to blow the whole place up?" The Times of London described Blair as standing there "grim-faced." What a lovely sight it must have been! That alone, given the British temperament, is reason never to forgive the Russian leader, but Western animus directed at Putin predates the Iraq war, and is rooted in the Russian leader's personal character.

Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, gave the West an easy time of it. Continuously drunk throughout most of his reign, the formerly minor Communist apparatchik plunged his crisis-stricken nation – still reeling from the impact of the Communist implosion – into a crash program of what might be called Bizarro economics, with predictable results. Bizarro World, as you'll recall, is an alternate universe where all natural laws are inverted and common sense is turned on its head: up is down, right is left, and the winners of auctions are the lowest bidders, not – as in our world – the highest. This last example applies directly to what occurred under Yeltsin's regime, at his direction: "auctions" of property formerly owned by the government and/or the Communist Party were won by those with the most political influence at the court of Czar Boris, not necessarily those who bid highest. Yeltsin sold off the assets of the nation cheap, often to the lowest bidder; even more often there was only one bidder. This is how control of the national assets passed from the old Communist Party to the children of the old Communist Party elite, who were now "businessmen," albeit a lot closer in type to Al Capone than to Bill Gates.

Having seized control of much of the nation's industry – the oil sector, the banks, the electrical grid, the trade in aluminum, precious metals, and big item manufactured goods, like cars – these "oligarchs," as they came to be called, became powers unto themselves. Setting up their own regional and industry-wide fiefdoms, they allied themselves with various criminal gangs, thus acquiring an army of enforcers. As Yeltsin stumbled about in a stupor, this union of the oligarchs with the Russian Mafia established a center of power that quickly came to rival the Kremlin. The country was sinking into chaos when Yeltsin finally succumbed to the ravages of his vices. Before he bowed out, however, he had one more moment of glory. Yeltsin's first such moment marked the takeoff of his career as a politician, when he stood on the barricades in front of the Russian parliament and declared that the Soviet coup-plotters – who sought the overthrow of Soviet reformer Mikhail Gorbachev – would not pass. This gesture propelled him into the presidency after Gorbachev's exit, forever after imbuing a weak leader – who presided over the most precipitous national decline seen since the sudden demise of the Aztecs – with an aura of patriotic heroism. The end of his career, too, was punctuated by Yeltsin rising to the occasion, and, in a moment of clear-eyed sobriety, actually serving the interests of his country, by designating Putin as his heir.

Perhaps it was Yeltsin's way of confessing and atoning for his crimes, because Putin immediately moved against the oligarchs, and this was his first great sin in Western eyes, the beginning of the long campaign to defame him as Stalin reborn. This, of course, is what those who want to keep Russia weak and properly compliant would say about any strong leader in the Kremlin. Yeltsin, surrounded by a host of American advisers and in a state of constant inebriation, was a pushover. Putin is anything but, and therein lies the real source of the bile directed at him by Western governments and their attendant elites, especially in the U.S. and Britain. The oligarchs found themselves hated in Russia as much as they were valorized in the Western press. With huge bank deposits overseas, where they stowed away most of their ill-gotten wealth, they fled Russia a few steps ahead of the law as their various acts of embezzlement, intimidation, and even murder were uncovered and prosecuted. Upon their arrival in the West – many fled to Britain, where they quickly gave sagging real estate values a big shot in the arm – they were hailed as brave political "dissidents" in the tradition of Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov. For the past decade or so they've been agitating for regime-change in Moscow, to which they dream of returning in triumph, regaining their "rightful" place at the pinnacle of power. The revival of the cold war is proving very useful to this crowd, which is behind much of the anti-Russian propaganda that has filled the airwaves for the past few years.

Economic factors also play a major role. The sudden resurgence of Russia on account of its status as a major oil producer has got the Americans and the Brits in a real lather, as their economies respectively plummet into the depths of what some are calling another Great Depression. Russia's prosperity sticks in their collective craw, and, in response, the Russophobes have developed an entirely novel theory of political economy, which is an outgrowth of the environmentalist fad and the extreme nationalism of our ruling elites. It is the absurd idea that any and all countries that depend on oil to generate the bulk of their national income are unnatural, inherently flawed, and even intrinsically aggressive and a threat to the security of the West. Oil-producing states are inclined, by their very nature, to authoritarianism, they argue, although somehow I don't think they mean the state of Texas. The Bizarro World "logic" of this new economic fallacy is based on the concept that oil is, somehow, not a commodity like any other, that it has some special status over and above all others, and yet this is clearly not the case. Oil – like wheat, cow's bellies, and platinum – is subject to market forces and is unevenly distributed geographically. The economic arrangements that go into the production, distribution, and sale of oil are not fundamentally different from those related to any other commodity, from bananas to high-grade steel. The U.S. has been a major oil producer, at least in the past, and that didn't distort or retard our economic and political development: quite the contrary, it fueled a new era of industrial and intellectual innovation, freeing the individual from the land and inaugurating a new era of political and economic liberalism.

Yet now we are told that oil is a curse that empowers tyrants, who can't be entrusted with such a precious commodity in any event. This is what is behind much of the buzz against Putin's Russia, flush with oil revenues, and the real source of friction between the Kremlin and the West. It is pure nonsense, economically, but, then again, like most war propaganda, it doesn't have to make sense; it only has to demonize the enemy from as many different angles as possible. Congruent with this oil-as-the-root-of-illiberalism thesis is the idea that the Russians and the Chinese, along with their clients and allies, constitute a new pole of ideological attraction, in opposition to the liberal democracy of the West. In true Bizarro World style, this gets it completely wrong. Looked at in terms of the last hundred years, or so, it is Russia – which threw off the yoke of the most oppressive regime in modern times – that is moving in the direction of freedom, and the West – where the surveillance state is a fact of modern life, and that document known as the U.S. Constitution is just a scrap of paper – that is moving toward authoritarian rule. As for China, it has progressed from the Cultural Revolution to the Beijing Olympics in less than the historical blink of an eye.

The U.S. and its allies in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus seem determined to provoke the Russian bear into a confrontation, and the crisis over South Ossetia is just the beginning. As I have warned in this space for what seems like an eternity, a new cold war between the U.S. and Russia is a project dear to the War Party's heart – and it seems to have come to full fruition in the past week or so. The War Party never sleeps – they've always got a new angle up their sleeves, a new "Hitler" who must be crushed in the name of democracy and decency, and against whom all the resources of the West must be mobilized – until a new enemy is found. The latest such enemy is Putin's Russia, specifically, Putin himself, who is now being characterized as a hybrid monster, an authoritarian admixture of Hitler and Stalin. Aside from an upsurge in the profits reaped by the makers of armaments, the revival of the cold war also means that the Kremlinologists of old will be back in fashion in Washington – and that all those doctoral dissertations on the history of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party were not written in vain. The cold war wasn't just an era, it was also an entire industry, consisting of high-level policy wonks, professional anti-Communists and domestic subversive-hunters, as well as the military-industrial complex, which generously subsidized the activities of the former. This whole network collapsed, along with international communism, back in the 1990s, but anti-Putinism will bring it back to life, thus providing employment for a certain narrow segment of the population, even if the rest of us are selling pencils in the streets.

The Western media is in truly high dudgeon, these days, inveighing against Putin and newly "authoritarian" Russia, but this narrative is belied by the facts. As one analyst writing on the blog of the Foreign Policy Association put it: "What is troubling is the U.S. media's willingness to similarly toe the party line, but in the absence of any of the coercive measures, such as the state censorship, that the Russian press endures. There have been no William Dunbars on CNN, despite the fact that every report I've seen on the channel yesterday had been framed as 'Russian invasion,' with endless clips of Saakashvili alleging Russian crimes, etc., in a loop of totally pro-Georgian coverage. Georgia is a key U.S. ally, the 3rd largest troop contingent in Iraq, and occupies a strategic, oil rich zone. The self-policing in the U.S. media, which has basically been uncritically promoting government talking points, is very disturbing. " Go read the whole piece, which is unsigned. It's about how the Russian and Western media combines reported two entirely different wars, which had very little to do with one another.

One explanation is that with Russia moving toward more freedom, in fits and starts, and we in the West moving toward much less, we're converging somewhere in midstream. Indeed, one could make the case that the Americans and their British counterparts are too well-trained to go off-message, while in Russia they still have to be constrained by formal rules and regulations. Official censorship simply isn't necessary in the West, because everyone knows what to say – and, more importantly, what not to say. Yes, it's disturbing, but at least from my vantage point, not all that surprising. Ever since 9/11, and even predating that signal event, we've been headed in this direction, with the media (in alliance with demagogic politicians) policing not only itself but the entire society to make sure no pockets of dissent exist. Which brings me back, as has been the case for the past week or so, to the subject of's survival. Yes, we're in the midst of our end-of-summer fundraising campaign, and we're having a rough time of it. I'm not surprised. Times are bad economically, for most of us, and charitable contributions are down across the board. Which is all the more reason why it's so important that you make your contribution, and make it today: our creditors are knocking on the door, and the challenges we face, in this new era of a revived cold war, are all the more onerous. The prospects for peace look darker than ever, a fact that only underscores the importance of our work and the continuity of this Web site.



Nato offers scant comfort for Georgia over conflict with Russia

Major divisions opened up between Nato members as European countries rejected an American proposal to suspend ties with Russia over its actions in Georgia.

The differences at an emergency summit in Brussels offered scant comfort for Georgia, which had hoped that its bid for Nato membership would be expedited. While the alliance agreed to create a Nato-Georgia Commission which will support the country's economic recovery, there was no mention of speeding up the membership process. The summit was expected to present a united front against what Western countries say has been an act of unconscionable aggression against an important ally. The United States had called for a formal suspension of ministerial meetings with Moscow by Nato countries, but European members made clear they favoured a much milder approach and issued a .

Even Britain, which has been broadly supportive of Washington's robust condemnation of the Kremlin, chose to side with the Europeans in rejecting a proposal to freeze the Nato-Russia council, established in 2002 to boost relations between Moscow and the West. "I am not one that believes that isolating Russia is the right answer to its misdemeanours," said David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary. "I think the right answer is hard-headed dialogue." Mr Miliband arrived in Georgia later to express Britain's support for the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili. With France and Germany, heavily dependent on Russian energy, urging caution and Italy broadly supporting the Kremlin's actions, Nato issued a watered down statement expressing "grave concern".

It told Russia that meetings could not take place while its troops remained in Georgia and said that relations could be damaged if a pull-out did not begin quickly. "The Alliance is considering seriously the implications of Russia's actions for the Nato-Russian relationship," the statement read. "We have determined that we cannot continue with business as usual." The meeting prompted a mixture of scorn and outrage in Moscow, which continued to defy international calls for a full military withdrawal from Georgia. Russia's ambassador to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, derided the summit as a "mountain that gave birth to a mouse". "All of these threats that have been raining down on Russia turned out to be empty words," he said. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, accused Nato of protecting a "criminal regime".

Russia also pulled out of a Nato exercise in the Baltic Sea and cancelled a visit by a US naval frigate to the Kamchatka peninsula. Some progress in alleviating the crisis was briefly visible after Georgia and Russia completed a prisoner-swap yesterday morning. But an hour later, Russian troops smashed their way into the port of Poti, on Georgia's Black Sea post. After blowing up the missile boat Dioskuria, the Georgian navy's most sophisticated vessel, the Russians seized 21 Georgian servicemen and took them prisoner. Blinded and handcuffed, the soldiers were then dragged to an unknown location. They also confiscated four American Humvees, used in a recent military exercise in Georgia, that were awaiting shipment back to the United States.

There was little visible evidence that a Russian withdrawal was underway, although officials in Moscow said it was and western correspondents were invited to see a small convoy of military vehicles leave the strategically important town of Gori. But nearby, Russian soldiers continued to build trenches and in other towns there were no signs of a drawdown of forces. Mr Lavrov, however, said that Russian troops could be pulled out of Georgia within three days although other officials refused to give a time frame. The UN Security Council was due to meet to discuss a new draft resolution calling for respect of Georgia's territorial integrity and the withdrawal of Russian troops.


Russian president Dmitry Medvedev vows further retribution against Georgia

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev vows further retribution against Georgia Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, said Georgian actions would not go 'unpunished' as the United States accused Moscow of deploying short-range missiles to positions within range of the Georgian capital Tbilisi. Amid few signs that the Kremlin was honouring its latest pledge to withdraw troops, Mr Medvedev also threatened to "crush" any other ex-Soviet states that attempted to follow Georgia's example by killing Russian citizens. For the first time since the conflict began 11 days ago, Mr Medvedev was allowed to stand in for Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, who has clearly been in charge of running Russia's war. Giving a passable imitation of his predecessor, the president - who has been given coaching to imitate Mr Putin's abrasive style - adopted an uncompromising position that appeared designed to defy the United States, which has solidly backed Georgia during the conflict.

"What the Georgian authorities did exceeded human understanding," he told troops at a Russian military base in Vladikavkaz, a city in the Caucasus close to the Georgian border. "Their actions cannot be explained and moreover must not go unpunished." Mr Medvedev gave no hint over what further retribution against Georgia he sought. Russia has already announced plans to launch a genocide investigation against the Georgian government, perhaps with the view to bringing war crimes charges against President Mikheil Saakashvili. Meanwhile, Pentagon officials confirmed Russia had deployed short-range SS-21 missiles inside the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, a move that is likely to unnerve Mr Saakashvili's government and undermine the already fragile ceasefire. The SS-21 was used with devastating consequences during Russia's military campaign against separatist rebels in Chechnya.

Russia claimed it had begun to pull its troops out of undisputed Georgian territory, but if it was doing so the withdrawal seemed more cosmetic than substantial. An American defence official said that Russia was actually sending more troops to South Ossetia and another pro-Russian enclave in Abkhazia. "We're seeing them solidify their positions," the official was quoted as saying. At a road junction 25 miles from Tbilisi, a confrontation brewed between Georgian policemen and Russian soldiers intent on entrenching themselves in new positions close to the capital. A Russian commander broke the impasse by ordering the column of personnel carriers that he was leading to plough their way through two police cars blocking the track in front of them. Asked where they were going, a Russian soldier on top of one of the carriers replied: "Tbilisi. Get your car out of the way before we crush it too." There was little sign of redeployment from other major towns like Kaspi, Zugdidi and Senaki that have fallen under effective Russian occupation. Six Russian checkpoints blocked the route to the strategic town of Gori where Russian officers prevented journalists from entering to monitor the withdrawal.

In recent days Gori has increasingly felt as though it has become part of Russia. Mobile phones set to roaming receive messages welcoming their owners to Russia, while car radios can pick up Russian radio stations but not Georgian ones. Despite US pleas to Mr Medvedev to keep his word after reneging on earlier promises to withdraw, there were further signs that Russia was preparing to bolster its forces in Georgia. A battalion of Russia's 76th Guards Airborne Division was moved from Pskov to Beslam, a few miles on the Russian side of the Georgian border. Several other battalions elsewhere in Russia have also been ordered to prepare for imminent deployment. Russia insisted a withdrawal had begun but gave no time frame as to when it could be completed. "I can only say we will not be leaving as fast as we came," said General Anatoly Nogovitsyn.

Mr Medvedev also sent an undisguised message to other ex-Soviet countries thinking of challenging Russia's authority. "If anyone thinks that they can kill our citizens and escape unpunished, we will never allow this," he said. "If anyone tries this again, we will come out with a crushing response. We have all the necessary resources, political, economic and military." Russia justified its invasion of Georgia in terms of defending its citizens of South Ossetia and Abkhazi - although it only gave Russian passports to the inhabitants of the two provinces five years ago. In the past week Ukrainian politicians have claimed that Russia has been doling out passports to residents of the Crimea, which has strong allegiances to Moscow, raising fears about the Kremlin's intentions in the region.


Russia army out of crisis and battle-ready-Medvedev

(President Dmitry Medvedev, left, is seen during a medal awarding ceremony for Russian troops involved in the Georgia conflict in the city of Vladikavkaz, Russia, Monday, Aug. 18, 2008. Medvedev awarded medals Monday to servicemen involved in the conflict in Georgia, calling it a peacemaking operation that will be remembered as one of the "glorious deeds" of the Russian military.)

Russia's army has recovered from a post-Soviet crisis and is ready for any peacekeeping operation, President Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday, as he warned Georgia it would be punished for its actions in South Ossetia. Medvedev, visiting the base of the army unit he sent into Georgia, handed out medals to about 30 servicemen who had taken part in fighting with Georgia and said procuring better weapons would be a priority for the army. "The armed forces have overcome the crisis of the 1990s and are now fully battle-ready to carry out any peacekeeping operation," he said in the Russian city of Vladikavkaz, near the border with South Ossetia. "There are still problems. One of them is weapons. We've done a lot recently: supply to the armed forces is better, but still not enough." Hundreds of soldiers stood to attention in a large square in Vladikavkaz as Medvedev, who last week marked his first 100 days in the Kremlin, greeted them with a loud shout of "Hello comrades!". Flags fluttered in the wind above their heads. "Russia is proud of each one of you," Medvedev, on his first visit to the region since fighting began on Aug. 7-8, told them. "Thank you for your courage, for protecting civilians, for standing in the way of those who brought death to the people of South Ossetia. ... What the Georgian authorities did is beyond human understanding and cannot be forgiven or left unpunished." Russia responded with overwhelming military force -- drawing condemnation from the United States -- after Georgia tried to recapture South Ossetia, a pro-Russian province which broke away from its control in the 1990s. Russia announced on Monday it had started a military pull-back from areas of Georgia under a ceasefire brokered by France. But the two sides continued to trade accusations even after the truce was reached. "There are political freaks who are ready to kill innocent people for their political reasons," Medvedev said in the latest in a series of bitter verbal attacks on Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Medvedev visited the barracks of the 58th army division in Vladikavkaz, sipping tea in the division's spacious headquarters. He said Georgian forces had been equipped with NATO-supplied waepons. "Only in such a situation can one see what a proper weapon is, and what yesterday's weapon is. ...Our armed forces should have weapons that are just as good to carry out their tasks." (Writing by Robin Paxton and Maria Golovnina; Editing by Robert Hart)


Report: Russia may arm Baltic fleet with nuclear warheads

New Russian threat comes in response to war in Caucasus, US-Poland deal for missile defense shield in Europe. According to Sunday Times, nuclear warheads could be supplied to submarines, cruisers and fighter bombers of Russia's Baltic fleet based between Poland and Lithuania

Cold War warming up?

Russia is considering arming its Baltic fleet with nuclear warheads for the first time since the cold war, the London-based Sunday Times has reported, quoting senior military sources. The new Russian threat comes in response to the violent conflict in the Caucasus and a deal signed between the United States and Poland for a missile defense shield in Europe. Poland agreed on Thursday to host elements of a US global anti-missile system after Washington agreed to boost Warsaw's own air defenses. According to the report, under the Russian plans nuclear warheads could be supplied to submarines, cruisers and fighter bombers of the Baltic fleet based in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania. A senior military source in Moscow admitted that the fleet had suffered from underfunding since the collapse of communism, but told The Sunday Times that “that will change now." "In view of America’s determination to set up a missile defense shield in Europe, the military is reviewing all its plans to give Washington an adequate response,” said the source.

'Russia's reaction is unfortunate'

According to the report, the proposal to bring back nuclear warheads was condemned by Kurt Volker, the US ambassador to Nato, who said he knew of the threat. “It is really unfortunate that Russia chooses to react by putting nuclear warheads in different places – if indeed it does that – when the rest of the world is not looking at some kind of old-fashioned superpower conflict,” he said. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday that Washington's deal with Poland to shows the rocket shield is really directed against his country. "This decision clearly demonstrates everything we have said recently," Medvedev said when asked about the agreement at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. A top Russian general said Friday that Poland's agreement to accept a US missile interceptor base exposes the ex-communist nation to attack, possibly by nuclear weapons, the Interfax news agency reported. The statement by General Anatoly Nogovitsyn was the strongest threat that Russia has issued against the plans to put missile defense elements in former Soviet satellite nations. "Poland, by deploying (the system) is exposing itself to a strike — 100%," Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of staff, was quoted as saying. He added, in clear reference to the agreement, that Russia's military doctrine sanctions the use of nuclear weapons "against the allies of countries having nuclear weapons if they in some way help them." That would include elements of strategic deterrence systems, he said, according to Interfax.


Blowback From Bear-Baiting

August, 2008

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Mikheil Saakashvili's decision to use the opening of the Olympic Games to cover Georgia's invasion of its breakaway province of South Ossetia must rank in stupidity with Gamal Abdel-Nasser's decision to close the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships. Nasser's blunder cost him the Sinai in the Six-Day War. Saakashvili's blunder probably means permanent loss of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. After shelling and attacking what he claims is his own country, killing scores of his own Ossetian citizens and sending tens of thousands fleeing into Russia, Saakashvili's army was whipped back into Georgia in 48 hours. Vladimir Putin took the opportunity to kick the Georgian army out of Abkhazia, as well, to bomb Tbilisi, and to seize Gori, birthplace of Stalin. Reveling in his status as an intimate of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and John McCain, and America's lone democratic ally in the Caucasus, Saakashvili thought he could get away with a lightning coup and present the world with a fait accompli. Mikheil did not reckon on the rage or resolve of the Bear. American charges of Russian aggression ring hollow. Georgia started this fight – Russia finished it. People who start wars don't get to decide how and when they end.

Russia's response was "disproportionate" and "brutal," wailed Bush. True. But did we not authorize Israel to bomb Lebanon for 35 days in response to a border skirmish where several Israel soldiers were killed and two captured? Was that not many times more "disproportionate"? Russia has invaded a sovereign country, railed Bush. But did not the United States bomb Serbia for 78 days and invade to force it to surrender a province, Kosovo, to which Serbia had a far greater historic claim than Georgia had to Abkhazia or South Ossetia, both of which prefer Moscow to Tbilisi? Is not Western hypocrisy astonishing? When the Soviet Union broke into 15 nations, we celebrated. When Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Kosovo broke from Serbia, we rejoiced. Why, then, the indignation when two provinces, whose peoples are ethnically separate from Georgians and who fought for their independence, should succeed in breaking away?

Are secessions and the dissolution of nations laudable only when they advance the agenda of the neocons, many of whom viscerally detest Russia? That Putin took the occasion of Saakashvili's provocative and stupid stunt to administer an extra dose of punishment is undeniable. But is not Russian anger understandable? For years the West has rubbed Russia's nose in her Cold War defeat and treated her like Weimar Germany. When Moscow pulled the Red Army out of Europe, closed its bases in Cuba, dissolved the evil empire, let the Soviet Union break up into 15 states, and sought friendship and alliance with the United States, what did we do? American carpetbaggers colluded with Muscovite Scalawags to loot the Russian nation. Breaking a pledge to Mikhail Gorbachev, we moved our military alliance into Eastern Europe, then onto Russia's doorstep. Six Warsaw Pact nations and three former republics of the Soviet Union are now NATO members.

Bush, Cheney, and McCain have pushed to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. This would require the United States to go to war with Russia over Stalin's birthplace and who has sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula and Sebastopol, traditional home of Russia's Black Sea fleet. When did these become U.S. vital interests, justifying war with Russia? The United States unilaterally abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty because our technology was superior, then planned to site anti-missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend against Iranian missiles, though Iran has no ICBMs and no atomic bombs. A Russian counter-offer to have us together put an antimissile system in Azerbaijan was rejected out of hand. We built a Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey to cut Russia out. Then we helped dump over regimes friendly to Moscow with democratic "revolutions" in Ukraine and Georgia, and tried to repeat it in Belarus. Americans have many fine qualities. A capacity to see ourselves as others see us is not high among them.

Imagine a world that never knew Ronald Reagan, where Europe had opted out of the Cold War after Moscow installed those SS-20 missiles east of the Elbe. And Europe had abandoned NATO, told us to go home and become subservient to Moscow. How would we have reacted if Moscow had brought Western Europe into the Warsaw Pact, established bases in Mexico and Panama, put missile defense radars and rockets in Cuba, and joined with China to build pipelines to transfer Mexican and Venezuelan oil to Pacific ports for shipment to Asia? And cut us out? If there were Russian and Chinese advisers training Latin American armies, the way we are in the former Soviet republics, how would we react? Would we look with bemusement on such Russian behavior? For a decade, some of us have warned about the folly of getting into Russia's space and getting into Russia's face. The chickens of democratic imperialism have now come home to roost – in Tbilisi.


Who Started Cold War II?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

The American people should be eternally grateful to Old Europe for having spiked the Bush-McCain plan to bring Georgia into NATO. Had Georgia been in NATO when Mikheil Saakashvili invaded South Ossetia, we would be eyeball to eyeball with Russia, facing war in the Caucasus, where Moscow's superiority is as great as U.S. superiority in the Caribbean during the Cuban missile crisis. If the Russia-Georgia war proves nothing else, it is the insanity of giving erratic hotheads in volatile nations the power to drag the United States into war. From Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, U.S. presidents have sought to avoid shooting wars with Russia, even when the Bear was at its most beastly. Truman refused to use force to break Stalin's Berlin blockade. Ike refused to intervene when the Butcher of Budapest drowned the Hungarian Revolution in blood. LBJ sat impotent as Leonid Brezhnev's tanks crushed the Prague Spring. Jimmy Carter's response to Brezhnev's invasion of Afghanistan was to boycott the Moscow Olympics. When Brezhnev ordered his Warsaw satraps to crush Solidarity and shot down a South Korean airliner killing scores of U.S. citizens, including a congressman, Reagan did – nothing.

These presidents were not cowards. They simply would not go to war when no vital U.S. interest was at risk to justify a war. Yet, had George W. Bush prevailed and were Georgia in NATO, U.S. Marines could be fighting Russian troops over whose flag should fly over a province of 70,000 South Ossetians who prefer Russians to Georgians. The arrogant folly of the architects of U.S. post-Cold War policy is today on display. By bringing three ex-Soviet republics into NATO, we have moved the U.S. red line for war from the Elbe almost to within artillery range of the old Leningrad. Should America admit Ukraine into NATO, Yalta, vacation resort of the czars, will be a NATO port and Sevastopol, traditional home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, will become a naval base for the U.S. Sixth Fleet. This is altogether a bridge too far. And can we not understand how a Russian patriot like Vladimir Putin would be incensed by this U.S. encirclement after Russia shed its empire and sought our friendship? How would Andy Jackson have reacted to such crowding by the British Empire? As of 1991, the oil of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan belonged to Moscow. Can we not understand why Putin would smolder as avaricious Yankees built pipelines to siphon the oil and gas of the Caspian Basin through breakaway Georgia to the West? For a dozen years, Putin & Co. watched as U.S. agents helped to dump over regimes in Ukraine and Georgia that were friendly to Moscow. If Cold War II is coming, who started it, if not us?

The swift and decisive action of Putin's army in running the Georgian forces out of South Ossetia in 24 hours after Saakashvili began his barrage and invasion suggests Putin knew exactly what Saakashvili was up to and dropped the hammer on him. What did we know? Did we know Georgia was about to walk into Putin's trap? Did we not see the Russians lying in wait north of the border? Did we give Saakashvili a green light? Joe Biden ought to be conducting public hearings on who caused this U.S. humiliation. The war in Georgia has exposed the dangerous overextension of U.S. power. There is no way America can fight a war with Russia in the Caucasus with our army tied down in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nor should we. Hence, it is demented to be offering, as John McCain and Barack Obama are, NATO membership to Tbilisi. The United States must decide whether it wants a partner in a flawed Russia or a second Cold War. For if we want another Cold War, we are, by cutting Russia out of the oil of the Caspian and pushing NATO into her face, going about it exactly the right way.

Vladimir Putin is no Stalin. He is a nationalist determined, as ruler of a proud and powerful country, to assert his nation's primacy in its own sphere, just as U.S. presidents from James Monroe to Bush have done on our side of the Atlantic. A resurgent Russia is no threat to any vital interests of the United States. It is a threat to an American Empire that presumes some God-given right to plant U.S. military power in the backyard or on the front porch of Mother Russia. Who rules Abkhazia and South Ossetia is none of our business. And after this madcap adventure of Saakashvili, why not let the people of these provinces decide their own future in plebiscites conducted by the United Nations or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe? As for Saakashvili, he's probably toast in Tbilisi after this stunt. Let the neocons find him an endowed chair at the American Enterprise Institute.


Should We Fight for South Ossetia?

April, 2008
By Patrick J. Buchanan

In an echo of Warren Harding's "A Return to Normalcy" speech of 1920, George Bush last week declared, "Normalcy is returning back to Iraq." The term seemed a mite ironic. For, as Bush spoke, Iraqis were dying in the hundreds in the bloodiest fighting in months in Basra, the Shia militias of Moqtada al-Sadr were engaging Iraqi and U.S. troops in Sadr City, and mortar shells were dropping into the Green Zone. One begins to understand why Gen. Petraeus wants a "pause" in the pullout of U.S. forces, and why Bush agrees. This will leave more U.S. troops in Iraq on Inauguration Day 2009 than on Election Day 2006, when the country voted the Democrats into power to bring a swift end to the war. A day before Bush went to the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, to speak of normalcy returning to Iraq, he was led down into "the Tank," a secure room at the Pentagon, to be briefed on the crisis facing the U.S. Army and Marine Corps because of the constant redeployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

As the Associated Press' Robert Burns reported, the Joint Chiefs "laid out their concerns about the health of the U.S. force." First among them is "that U.S. forces are being worn thin, compromising the Pentagon's ability to handle crises elsewhere in the world. … The U.S. has about 31,000 troops in Afghanistan and 156,000 in Iraq." "Five plus years in Iraq," the generals and admirals told Bush, "could create severe, long-term problems, particularly for the Army and Marine Corps." In short, the two long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are wearing down U.S. ground forces of fewer than 700,000, one in every six of them women, to such an extent U.S. commanders called Bush and Dick Cheney to a secret meeting to awaken them to the strategic and morale crisis. This is serious business. With the Taliban revived and the violence in Iraq rising toward pre-surge levels, the Joint Chiefs are telling the commander in chief that the U.S. Army and Marine Corps are worn out.

Crunch time is coming. And what is President Bush doing? He is flying to Bucharest, Romania, to persuade Europe to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, which means a U.S. commitment to treat any Russian attack on Kiev or Tbilisi like an attack on Kansas or Texas. Article V of the NATO treaty declares that "an armed attack against one or more [allies] shall be considered an attack against them all." Added language makes clear that the commitment to assist an ally is not unconditional. Rather, each signatory will assist the ally under attack with "such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force." Yet, it was understood during the Cold War that if a NATO ally like Norway, West Germany, or Turkey, which bordered on the Soviet Union or Warsaw Pact, were attacked, America would come to its defense.

Can any sane man believe the United States should go to war with a nuclear-armed Russia over Stalin's birthplace, Georgia? Two provinces of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, have seceded, with the backing of Russia. And there are 10 million Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east of that country, and Moscow and Kiev are at odds over which is sovereign on the Crimean Peninsula. To bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO would put America in the middle of these quarrels. We could be dragged into a confrontation with Russia over Abkhazia, or South Ossetia, or who owns Sebastopol. To bring these ex-republics of the Soviet Union into NATO would be an affront to Moscow not unlike 19th century Britain bringing the Confederate state of South Carolina under the protection of the British Empire.

How would Lincoln's Union have reacted to that? With a weary army and no NATO ally willing to fight beside us, how could we defend Georgia if Tbilisi, once in NATO, defied Moscow and invaded Abkhazia and South Ossetia – and Russia bombed the Georgian army and capital? Would we declare war? Would we send the 82nd Airborne into the Pankisi Gorge? Fortunately, Germany is prepared to veto any Bush attempt to put Ukraine or Georgia on a fast track into NATO. But President Bush is no longer the problem. John McCain is.



Russia Never Wanted a War


THE acute phase of the crisis provoked by the Georgian forces’ assault on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, is now behind us. But how can one erase from memory the horrifying scenes of the nighttime rocket attack on a peaceful town, the razing of entire city blocks, the deaths of people taking cover in basements, the destruction of ancient monuments and ancestral graves? Russia did not want this crisis. The Russian leadership is in a strong enough position domestically; it did not need a little victorious war. Russia was dragged into the fray by the recklessness of the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili. He would not have dared to attack without outside support. Once he did, Russia could not afford inaction.

The decision by the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, to now cease hostilities was the right move by a responsible leader. The Russian president acted calmly, confidently and firmly. Anyone who expected confusion in Moscow was disappointed. The planners of this campaign clearly wanted to make sure that, whatever the outcome, Russia would be blamed for worsening the situation. The West then mounted a propaganda attack against Russia, with the American news media leading the way. The news coverage has been far from fair and balanced, especially during the first days of the crisis. Tskhinvali was in smoking ruins and thousands of people were fleeing — before any Russian troops arrived. Yet Russia was already being accused of aggression; news reports were often an embarrassing recitation of the Georgian leader’s deceptive statements.

It is still not quite clear whether the West was aware of Mr. Saakashvili’s plans to invade South Ossetia, and this is a serious matter. What is clear is that Western assistance in training Georgian troops and shipping large supplies of arms had been pushing the region toward war rather than peace. If this military misadventure was a surprise for the Georgian leader’s foreign patrons, so much the worse. It looks like a classic wag-the-dog story. Mr. Saakashvili had been lavished with praise for being a staunch American ally and a real democrat — and for helping out in Iraq. Now America’s friend has wrought disorder, and all of us — the Europeans and, most important, the region’s innocent civilians — must pick up the pieces. Those who rush to judgment on what’s happening in the Caucasus, or those who seek influence there, should first have at least some idea of this region’s complexities. The Ossetians live both in Georgia and in Russia. The region is a patchwork of ethnic groups living in close proximity. Therefore, all talk of “this is our land,” “we are liberating our land,” is meaningless. We must think about the people who live on the land.

The problems of the Caucasus region cannot be solved by force. That has been tried more than once in the past two decades, and it has always boomeranged. What is needed is a legally binding agreement not to use force. Mr. Saakashvili has repeatedly refused to sign such an agreement, for reasons that have now become abundantly clear. The West would be wise to help achieve such an agreement now. If, instead, it chooses to blame Russia and re-arm Georgia, as American officials are suggesting, a new crisis will be inevitable. In that case, expect the worst. In recent days, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush have been promising to isolate Russia. Some American politicians have threatened to expel it from the Group of 8 industrialized nations, to abolish the NATO-Russia Council and to keep Russia out of the World Trade Organization. These are empty threats. For some time now, Russians have been wondering: If our opinion counts for nothing in those institutions, do we really need them? Just to sit at the nicely set dinner table and listen to lectures?

Indeed, Russia has long been told to simply accept the facts. Here’s the independence of Kosovo for you. Here’s the abrogation of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, and the American decision to place missile defenses in neighboring countries. Here’s the unending expansion of NATO. All of these moves have been set against the backdrop of sweet talk about partnership. Why would anyone put up with such a charade? There is much talk now in the United States about rethinking relations with Russia. One thing that should definitely be rethought: the habit of talking to Russia in a condescending way, without regard for its positions and interests. Our two countries could develop a serious agenda for genuine, rather than token, cooperation. Many Americans, as well as Russians, understand the need for this. But is the same true of the political leaders? A bipartisan commission led by Senator Chuck Hagel and former Senator Gary Hart has recently been established at Harvard to report on American-Russian relations to Congress and the next president. It includes serious people, and, judging by the commission’s early statements, its members understand the importance of Russia and the importance of constructive bilateral relations.

But the members of this commission should be careful. Their mandate is to present “policy recommendations for a new administration to advance America’s national interests in relations with Russia.” If that alone is the goal, then I doubt that much good will come out of it. If, however, the commission is ready to also consider the interests of the other side and of common security, it may actually help rebuild trust between Russia and the United States and allow them to start doing useful work together.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

To limit clutter in the comments section, I kindly ask all participants of this blog to please keep comments coherent and strictly relevant to the featured topic of discussion. Moreover, please realize that when there are several anonymous visitors posting comments simultaneously, it becomes very confusing (not to mention extremely annoying) trying to figure out who is who and who said what.Therefore, if you are here to engage in conversation, make an observation, express an idea or simply attack me, I ask you to at least use a moniker to identify yourself. Moreover, please appreciate the fact that I have put an enormous amount of information into this blog. In my opinion, most of my blog commentaries and articles, some going back ten-plus years, are in varying degrees relevant to this day and will remain so for a long time to come. Articles in this blog can therefore be revisited by longtime readers and new comers alike. I therefore ask the reader to treat this blog as a depository of important information relating to Eurasian geopolitics, Russian-Armenian relations and humanity's historic fight against the evils of Globalism and Westernization.

Thank you as always for reading.