at Alexander Litvinenko five years ago. So much for the
Kremlin’s ridiculous lie that nobody in Russia knew
or cared about him! Truly, one picture
is worth a thousand screams.
In the wake of “President” Putin’s insane tirade in Munich, Aftenposten reports, Norway has wisely decided to reclassify Russia as a military threat to their nation:
Relations between Russia and Norway have been strained of late, over incidents ranging from illegal fishing in the Barents to collapsed investment prospects in Russian gas fields to Russian restrictions on salmon imports.
At the same time, Russia has been asserting itself all over Europe, often in unpopular ways. It has cut off gas supplies to countries that don’t agree to its terms, it has refused entry to top officials traveling to Russia on business, and it has rekindled Russian nationalism to a degree that worries human rights activists. Suspicious murders of government critics also have sparked widespread international concern.
Newspaper Aftenposten has gone through a series of recent speeches and reports written by Norwegian defense officials, and documented use of descriptions of Russia that reflect the recent tensions. The most revealing was a fresh report from the defense institute FFI (Forsvarets forsvarsinstitutt) that analyzed threats against Norway. In the report, which sets the premises for the Defense Ministry from 2009 to 2012, Russia is identified as a “military threat.” There’s no fear of invasion, but rather a “limited, military action.”
The report notes that the institute may be criticized for its classification of Russia, but even Defense Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen has altered her word usage of late. She has stressed that Russia isn’t likely to exert power, but notes that its military build-up can’t be overlooked. “We must be aware that developments can take another direction than we want and expect,” Strøm-Erichsen said in a recent speech before the defense group Oslo Militære Samfund.
‘Demand for attention’
Espen Barth Eide, state secretary attached to the Defense Ministry, says Russia has consciously positioned itself as an “international player with a demand for attention and influence.” Oil income and foreign currency reserves have helped give the country new economic clout that it lacked when the Soviet Union fell apart.
Barth Eide also rejects any talk of a new Cold War, but notes that Russia “is back on the international stage.” Its president, Vladimir Putin, is working hard to keep it there, and boost Russian self-confidence. “It’s more important than ever that we continue our policies based on dialogue and concrete cooperation, both multilaterally and bilaterally,” Barth Eide told Aftenposten.
Meawhile, Jurnalo reports that Sweden is having similar thoughts:
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Wednesday expressed disappointment over certain developments in neighbouring Russia during a foreign policy debate in parliament. During the presentation of the government’s foreign policy, Bildt praised increased “business activity and human contacts” with Russia but noted some “steps backwards. “
“The political climate and the media climate (in Russia) alike have become less free. Sometimes we have seen examples of the language of force being used against neighbouring states that have led us to react. We are still seeing breaches of human rights in Chechnya,” Bildt said. He also mentioned the unsolved murders of Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya and former agent Alexander Litvinenko.
The wide-ranging statement underlined Sweden’s commitment to the European Union and that the bloc should remain “open to all European democracies that meet the requirements of membership. ” Bildt noted that Sweden would also increase its bilateral ties with the Ukraine and criticized “the lack of democracy and civil liberties and rights in Belarus”. The foreign minister said Sweden remained committed to free trade and believed it would also benefit developing countries.
Check out La Russophobe’s latest installment on Publius Pundit, where she exposes the shocking hypocrisy and lack of good judgment shown by “President” Putin in his recent speech at the Munich conference. Feel free to add your thoughts as to how the West can best deal with this direct challenge by a fully revealed neo-Soviet despot clearly bent on continuing the Cold War.
Robert Amsterdam has posted an excerpt of an article from the Wall Street Journal which gives various examples of “naglost” (hypocrisy) on the part of Russian “President” Vladmir Putin:
The nearest equivalent the Russian language has for the word chutzpah is naglost. In you, Vladimir Putin, the Russian nation has found the embodiment of naglost.
Naglost: During the question-and-answer session following your speech on Saturday to the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy, you were asked about the Oct. 7 murder (your birthday, Mr. President) of muckraking journalist Anna Politkovskaya. You never quite got around to uttering her name. But you did helpfully point out that in the past 18 months “the largest number of journalists were killed in Iraq.”
Truth: True. But Moscow is not a war zone.
Naglost: Your speech in Munich contained a curious broadside against the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which you denounced for “imposing a regime that determines how these states should live and develop.”
Truth: That may not have been the most eye-catching of your comments, but it was the most revealing. Among its other benign functions, the OSCE bureaucracy monitors elections among its 56 members. That never raised an eyebrow until the OSCE raised a red flag over the Ukrainian election of November 2004, which had been rigged in favor of your preferred candidate, Viktor Yanukovych. The OSCE’s verdict was crucial to having the results overturned and a new election called. You’ve never forgiven it. Since then, the OSCE’s election-monitoring office has come under a relentless barrage of criticism from your foreign ministry and from other former Soviet republics with questionable democratic credentials, all with the view to putting the monitors under your political control.
Naglost: “In the energy sector Russia intends to create uniform market principles and transparent conditions for all,” you said on Saturday. “It is obvious that energy prices must be determined by the market instead of being the subject of political speculation, economic pressure or blackmail.”
Truth: Perhaps you define the words “market principles,” “transparent” and “blackmail” differently in Russia than we do in the West. In December, the Russian government offered transparently phony environmental reasons — “unauthorized tree felling” — to force Royal Dutch Shell to relinquish control of its $20 billion Sakhalin-2 oil-and-gas project. In January, state-owned Gazprom used the threat of supply disruptions to gain control over Belarus’s gas-pipeline network. This month, state prosecutors filed new charges against former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky that will keep him in a Siberian gulag past the 2008 elections. Could you tell us just what might be in store for March?
Writing in Human Events Aril Cohen, a senior research fellow in Russian and Eurasian studies and international energy security at the Allison Institute, a division of the Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage Foundation, explains the underlying neo-Soviet pathology of Putin’s crazed declaration of cold war at Munich, and calls for America to form ties with opposition groups to avoid the creation of an anti-American, neo-Soviet bloc:
The cold shower that Russian President Vladimir Putin unleashed on the United States at the international security conference in Munich last weekend should not have come as a surprise. After all, Putin himself and a host of other senior spokesmen, including Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov (one of the “official” heirs-apparent) and military Chief of Staff General Yuri Baluevsky, have said as much in the past.
The list of grievances that Putin lodged against the United States and the West is long. The main complaint is that the American “hyper power” is pursuing its own unilateral foreign, defense, cultural and economic policy, disregarding international law, and ignoring the U.N. (where Russia has a veto). French President Jacques Chirac would be proud. However, Russia takes its opposition much further.
Putin accused the U.S. of expanding NATO to Russia’s borders and deploying “five thousand bayonets” each in forward bases in Romania and Bulgaria. He blasted the plans for U.S. missile defense bases in Central Europe, possibly in Poland or the Czech Republic, mocking the stated goal of such installations as defenses against missile launches from Iran or North Korea. Putin clearly stated that the missile defenses are aimed to neutralize Russian retaliatory nuclear strike capability — a destabilizing factor in the Russian nuclear playbook.
He further accused Washington of not meeting its obligations on nuclear disarmament treaties and trying to hide hundreds of nuclear weapons in warehouses, “under the blanket and under the pillow.”
Adding to the rhetorical overkill, Putin blamed U.S. policies for the failure of nuclear non-proliferation, implying justification for North Korean and Iranian efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Putin lambasted NATO members that refuse to ratify the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty; criticized the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for democracy promotion; warned against Kosovo’s independence; and rejected Western criticisms of Russia’s track record in human rights. Putin waxed nostalgic about the bi-polar world in which the U.S. and the USSR checked each other’s ambition through a balance of nuclear terror known as Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). Many Russian and Western experts perceive Putin’s speech as a declaration of a new Cold War.
Back to the Future?
Putin’s speech has a number of domestic and international “drivers,” which add up to a picture of Russia craving strategic parity with the United States and defining its national identity in opposition to the West.
While Russians enthusiastically embraced private business, designer brands, and Costa-del-Sol Spanish vacations, they were slow to internalize pluralistic values, support freedom of speech and press, and defend human rights. The rule of law in Russia is a far cry from Western standards.
Several years of increasingly loud anti-American and anti-Western propaganda in pro-government and nationalist media have nurtured a generation of Russians who are ethno-centric, and reject liberal values. Some 60 percent in a recent poll supported the slogan “Russia for Russians.”
Sustained nationalist and anti-American brainwashing bridged the gap between the Soviet superpower chauvinism and the new Russian assertiveness, fueled by massive oil revenues and nationalism.
The “America-as-the-enemy” construct bolsters the legitimacy of the current regime, headed largely by former KGB officers, as the defender of Mother Russia. It rejects fully integrating Russia into the global economic and political community, as the other official “heir-apparent,” Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, suggested in his January 2007 speech at the Davos World Economic Forum.
Russia is planning to spend $189 billion in the next five years for a rapid military modernization. Announced on February 8 by Defense Minister Ivanov, the program includes new nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, a fleet of TU-160 supersonic strategic bombers, and development of a fifth-generation fighter jet. Such a program is clearly aimed at balancing U.S. military power, not fighting terrorists in the Caucasus mountains. It needs the U.S. as “glavny protivnik” — the principal adversary.
Russia is also trying to corner the market in weapons sales, especially to rogue- and semi-rogue states. Russia is the largest arms supplier to China and Iran; it signed a $3 billion arms deal with Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela over U.S. objections, and is courting Middle Eastern buyers.
Russia is happy to play into the Arab and Muslim street’s anti-Americanism and to signal that the U.S., which is facing severe difficulties in Iraq, does not exercise exclusive strategic dominance in the Persian Gulf and in the Middle East. Moscow is back — with a vengeance — in the most important energy depot of the world. It is no accident that the speech was delivered on the eve of Putin’s historic visit to Saudi Arabia, the first for any Russian or Soviet leader, and to Qatar and Jordan, America’s allies in the Middle East.
Where Are We Going From Here?
From Washington’s perspective, the timing of Putin’s speech couldn’ t be worse. With Iraq in limbo, and Iran remaining truculent, the chances for Russian cooperation in taming Teheran’ s nuclear ambitions are dwindling. Russia was recalcitrant in providing necessary pressure on Iran during the December 2006 negotiations on U.N. Security Council Resolution 1737, and may refuse to do so when the Security Council revisits the Iranian dossier in a few weeks.
Moreover, Putin is signaling that Russia is willing to be the vanguard of the anti-American camp in Europe and the Middle East, and from Caracas to Beijing. Russia is putting not just military might behind its rhetoric, but economic muscle as well: Putin publicly approved of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s idea of creating an OPEC-style cartel for natural gas. Whether such a coalition materializes, and whether it might translate itself into a military alliance, remains to be seen.
What Should Washington Do?
The image of a new Cold War may be too simplistic to describe the emerging global world architecture. Clearly, the post-communist honeymoon is over, dead, and buried. A realistic reassessment of the relationship is in order.
The United States should avoid a rhetorical confrontation with Moscow. Deeds, not words, are necessary to send a message to the Kremlin that the U.S. and its allies will not be bullied, but that Washington is not interested in renewed hostility.
The U.S. should continue cooperation with Russia on matters of mutual concern, such as energy, non-proliferation, and space.
It is also time to build bridges to potential Russian allies to prevent the emergence of anti-American blocs. The U.S. should also appeal to its traditional allies in Europe and elsewhere to recognize the changing geo-strategic balance in the Eastern hemisphere, to boost mutual defenses, to coordinate energy policy, and cooperate on energy security among the consumers.
This is hardly the end of history, but rather continuation of an old and taxing game.