Tag Archives: cold war

Medvedev the Marginal Man

Hero journalist Pavel Felgenhauer, writing for the Jamestown Foundation:

Russia has been hit by a number of manmade disasters. The worst is the sinking on July 10, of an old Bulgaria riverboat on the Volga River in Tatarstan. The Bulgaria was built in Czechoslovakia in 1955 and was rundown by age and neglect with one of its two main engines out of order during its last voyage as it took families on a one-night stopover weekend tour from the Tatar capital Kazan down the Volga River to the countryside. Tickets were cheap and the Bulgaria was returning to Kazan on July 10 overloaded with some 208 people on board. The official capacity of the Bulgaria was 140, there were 148 registered passengers, 25 unregistered and 35 crew: 99 women, 66 men and 43 children. The boat sunk in broad daylight, suddenly going down in three minutes without warning. Only 79 survived: 29 women, 39 men and 11 children. Divers had by July 14 recovered 105 bodies from the Bulgaria that is on the riverbed 18 meters deep – trapped in the hull, since there was no time for any orderly evacuation. The captain of the Bulgaria, Alexander Ostrovsky, went down with the ship (RIA Novosti, July 13).

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EDITORIAL: A Scary Postcard from the Front Lines of the New Cold War with Russia


A Scary Postcard from the Front Lines
of the New Cold War with Russia

Two events last week, viewed in juxtaposition, are extremely disturbing.

First, Russian “president” Dima Medvedev ominously called upon Russia’s wealthy to “pay off moral debts” they owe to the state.  He stated: “Nowhere in the world perhaps has the development of entrepreneurship in recent times happened as quickly as in our country.  People simply have been getting very rich in a very short time.  Now it is time pay off debts, moral debts because the crisis is a test of maturity.”

How we ask you, dear reader, is Medvedev’s rhetoric any different from that heard at the time of the Bolshevik revolution? What does he plan to do with those recalcitrant folks who don’t want to simply hand over their wealth voluntarily to the state?  Will they be “asked” to pay in the way that Mikhail Khodorkovsky is paying, Mr. Medvedev.

But pathetic hapless fools like Gary Hart were not listening. 

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The Missiles of November

Vasko Kohlmayer, writing on Frontpagemag.com:

On November 5th – less than 24 hours after the victory of Barack Obama in the US presidential race – Russian President Dmitri Medvedev announced that his country would install short-range semiballistic missiles in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.

The deployment is part of Russia’s bid to halt the construction of the Ballistic Missile Defense Shield in Europe, a project virulently opposed by the Kremlin. Medvedev’s statement is a clear indication that after months of threats and intimidation, the Russian leadership has finally settled on a definitive course of action. The sheer audacity of their plan will become obvious once we take a closer look at the details of the proposed move.

Kaliningrad Oblast, the region that will host the missiles, is one of Russia’s most strategically important pieces of real estate. Roughly the size of Connecticut and not territorially contiguous with Russia proper, Kaliningrad is located some 350 kilometers west of Russia’s border. Situated on the coast of the Baltic Sea, it is bounded by Lithuania to the north and Poland to the south.

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Latynina Rips Putin a New One

Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:

At the World Policy Conference in Evian, France, President Dmitry Medvedev laid out his vision for overcoming the global financial crisis. The president called on Europe to create a new world order in which the role of the United States would be reduced to a minimum.

While Russian analysts were commenting on how skillfully Medvedev was driving a wedge between Europe and the United States, an interesting little incident occurred. At precisely 7 a.m. in Washington, the U.S. Federal Reserve and all European central banks simultaneously lowered their bank discount rate. Russia learned about this coordinated action from the daily news.

At about the same time, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said, “Faith in the United States as the leader of the free world and the market economy and faith in Wall Street as the center of that trust has been undermined forever.”

Following this statement — as if to spite Putin — the dollar immediately gained sharply against the ruble. This clearly shows that, although Russians trust Putin much more than they do U.S. President George W. Bush, they — and the rest of the world — still have much more faith in the dollar than in the ruble.

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Edward Lucas: “I told you so.”

Edward Lucas, writing in the Financial Times:

When I first published The New Cold War last February, many contested my title. But what once seemed eccentric now looks mainstream. Relations between the west and Russia have entered a period of extraordinary mistrust and mutual disdain. Indeed, after the conflict in Georgia, the description “cold war” risks looking like an understatement. Russia has shown that it is prepared to use military force against another country; the west has shown that it will not fight and will merely respond with a token protest. Some in the European Union, such as Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, may see the Kremlin-dictated truce that stopped the fighting (though not the ethnic cleansing, which continues apace) as a triumph. From Russia’s point of view, the lesson of the Georgian adventure is simple: we got away with it.

News last week that a Russian nuclear bomber simulated an attack on a city in northern England, combined with the biggest military manoeuvres since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the dispatch of a Russian naval squadron to the Caribbean, raise two pressing questions: what is Russia up to and what should we do in response?

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Felgenhauer on the new Cold War

Writing on the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor, the always brilliant Pavel Felgenhauer describes Medvedev’s participation in Russia’s provocation of a new cold war with NATO, and a new arms race:

At the end of August President Dmitry Medvedev announced five foreign policy priorities. The first and third points are benign: Russia will “recognize the fundamental principles of international law” and “does not want confrontation with any other country” nor does it intend to isolate itself. The other three state, first, that Russia does not accept the current world order, which Medvedev calls “single-pole,” as it is “unstable and threatened by conflict.” Medvedev declared, “The world must be multi-polar.” Second, Russia claimed the right as an “unquestionable priority” to “protect the lives and dignity of our citizens” as well as its interests “wherever they may be.” Finally, Medvedev claimed, “there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests,” an apparent reference to a geographically unspecified sphere of interests, that obviously includes Georgia, Ukraine, and other neighboring nations in Europe and Asia (www.kremlin.ru, August 31).

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EDITORIAL: Standing up to Russia


Standing up to Russia

We noted last week in an editorial on the Stalinification of Russia that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had caved in to Russian pressure and refused to eject the Russian delegation from its ranks even though Russia’s military action against Georgia violated its most fundamental precepts and rendered Russian membership a sham.

But that wasn’t the whole story, disappointing though it was.  There were in fact some courageous leaders who stepped forward and demanded justice.  Swiss delegate Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin, for example, declared angrily: “Putin is trying to return his country to the USSR. He is challenging the entire world community and he will continue to do so as long as everyone tolerates it, until someone says, ‘Enough!’”  Olga Gerasimyuk, the delegate from the Our Ukraine faction, roared:  “The tanks passed through Tbilisi and came here to Strasbourg. Now the aggressor is sitting at the table with us and contending for the role of host. Soon we will hear from the Russian delegation here that the Russian army is coming to defend Crimean children. Then there will be more children waiting their turn!”

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The Russian Bear, Rampaging

Writing on Pajamas Media Hans A. von Spakovsky, a visiting scholar at the Heritage Foundation and formerly a commissioner on the Federal Election Commission and counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Justice bemoans the world’s cowardice when faced with the ramaging Russian bear:

The Russian invasion of Georgia came up in the first presidential debate and both candidates expressed their support for Georgia.  Obama said we must “affirm all the fledgling democracies in that region” and give them money to “rebuild” their economy, while McCain said that “we need to bolster our friends and allies.”  Both of them mentioned Georgian membership in NATO, but neither Barack Obama nor John McCain made any serious proposals to punish the Russians now through economic and diplomatic sanctions — like expelling them from the G8 — or by providing active military support to the Georgians.

The Russian dictatorship is destroying and occupying a country that had established a budding democracy.  Yet we are doing almost nothing to stop it — other than sending humanitarian and economic aid — and the presidential debate shows that is not likely to change.

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The Enemy Within

Writing in Commentary magazine (one of our family of commenters tipped us to the piece) Arthur Herman, the author most recently of Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age, blows away the neo-Chamberlainian cowards who recklessly seek to rationalize Russian aggression in Georgia.  There’s much more to the extended piece, click the link to read the rest. The critical point is that we here in the West have people are are willing to take Russia’s side in this dispute, and who can do so in the most lofty public venues.  But where are the Russians who are able to take Georgia’s side in the mainstream Russian media? You will not find them, because they are censored and because they would be killed if they were not and dared to speak. Thus, Russia like the USSR before it languishes in ignorance, unable to reform and doomed to failure.

On September 1, the leaders of the European Union, having already warned Moscow several times of its obligation to meet the terms of the cease-fire agreement with Georgia, held an emergency meeting in Brussels and decided to—issue another warning. If Russia continues its non-compliance, the leaders threatened, another warning may yet follow.

Such are the pitiful realities of international diplomacy, and of an all too familiar Western pattern of response to acts of blatant aggression by powerful dictators. It is embarrassing enough when governments, with responsibility for the security of millions, resort to such hand-wringing hesitancy. It is worse when analysts and critics who are free to speak their minds on everything under the sun start looking for reasons to avoid placing blame for aggression squarely where it belongs—on the aggressors—and instead strive conspicuously to spread it around among the bystanders and even the victims.

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Russia Initiates a New Nuclear Arms Race

Reuters reports (hat tip: TakeYourCross):

Russia hopes to deploy a new nuclear missile next year designed to penetrate anti-missile defenses and will build eight submarines to carry it, defense officials said on Thursday.

The latest statements underline Moscow’s determination to upgrade its nuclear strike forces on land, sea and air. They are regarded by Russian commanders as the cornerstone of the country’s defenses.

Colonel-General Vladimir Popovkin, head of armaments for the Russian armed forces, told the Defense Ministry newspaper “Red Star” that Russia’s recent war with Georgia “compels us to rethink the current state of the armed forces and how they should develop further.”

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EDITORIAL: Annals of Russian Hypocrisy


Annals of Russian Hypocrisy

It’s the kind of thing that can only emerge from Russia.

On the same day, the media reported on Russia complaining that the U.S. was “stonewalling” a nuclear arms reduction negotiation and also that Russia had announced plans to help Venezulea develop nuclear technology, just as it has done for Iran (which, thanks to Russia, experts now report is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons — an event which could cause the tinderbox of the Middle East to go up in flames — and which Russia is aggressively shielding from Western sanctions).

We have a separate category in our sidebar devoted to recording instances of breathtaking Russian hypocrisy, and it’s already loaded with material.  But this one is something special, it may just take the cake.

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The Polish President on Naked Russian Aggression

Newsweek interviews the President of Poland:

During the war between Georgia and Russia, no European leader denounced Russia as strongly as Poland’s president, Lech Kaczynski. He has also been a fervent backer of U.S. plans to deploy 10 interceptor missiles on Polish territory. U.S. and Polish officials signed the agreement for the missile shield soon after Russian troops crossed into Georgian territory. While visiting the United Nations last week, he talked with Andrew Nagorski, a former NEWSWEEK senior editor and now director of public policy at the EastWest Institute. Excerpts:

NAGORSKI: What lessons did we learn from the conflict between Russia and Georgia?

KACZYNSKI: First, Russia wanted to carry out an annexation of two provinces. Second, there was an attempt to topple the government. The West was capable of one thing: not allowing this toppling of the government. Third, this has huge strategic importance for Europe. I’ve been pushing for years for building alternative routes for oil and natural gas on a big scale from Azerbaijan—and, maybe in the future, from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan—that would bypass Russia. The attack on Georgia has made this more difficult.

NAGORSKI: You ‘ re convinced the Russians wanted to depose the Georgian government?

KACZYNSKI: Yes. My intervention and that of the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and some engagement of the United States, forcing the engagement of NATO and, the least willingly, the European Union caused the Russians to not go for that. They always act with different options in mind, and that was the optimal one for them. They left the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to occupy part of Georgia. The Russians showed a certain helplessness on the part of the West. That’s terrible because the West is much stronger than they are.

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Condi on Pooty

What do you see when you look into HER eyes, Mr. Putin?

What do you see when you look into HER eyes, Mr. Putin?

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, writing on the Polish website Gazeta:

For much of the past month, the world’s focus has turned to Russia. We took up the urgent, initial challenge of supporting Georgia after the Russian attack – a challenge that Poland was instrumental in meeting. The main question going forward – which I addressed at length in a speech last Thursday – is, what do the events of the past month mean for Russia’s relationship with the world, especially the United States and Europe?

The circumstances surrounding last month’s conflict are well-known. Mistakes were made on both sides, but the response of Russia’s leaders – invading a sovereign state across an internationally-recognized border, and then seeking to dismember it by recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia – was disproportionate. And the responsibility for this behavior lies not with Russia’s neighbors, not with NATO enlargement, and not with the United States, but with Russia’s leaders.

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EDITORIAL: Democracy, Russian Style


Democracy, Russian Style

Lord only knows where the Western world’s understanding of Russia would be without the brilliant reporting of the Jamestown Foundation’s tireless Russia analyst Vladimir Socor.  This knight in academic armor labors thanklessly on a daily basis to document the atrocities occurring in neo-Soviet Russia, and we cannot praise him highly enough.  History will record his proper place among Russia journalists.

One of his most recent reports dealt with Russia’s truly obscene behavior before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (“PACE”), where “a motion is pending to ‘reconsider the Russian delegation’s credentials, on grounds of serious violations of the basic principles of the Council of Europe.'”  In other words, they are thinking of booting Russia out, or sanctioning it in some other manner for its barbaric aggression against tiny Georgia.

Russia’s response?  It’s “diplomats” say that if PACE dares to vote any negative measure against Russia regarding Georgia, it will simply withdraw from the organization and take its $30 million per year annual funding with it. It’s also threatening to launch retaliatory attack on Georgia’s credentials and drag the whole council into a bureaucratic standstill.

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EDITORIAL: Russia’s Fist in America’s Belly


Russia’s Fist in America’s Belly

The major Russian daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda has opened a valuable window into Russian society by creating an English-language version of its website.  A recent article entitled “Russia’s Fist in America’s Belly” (in Russian “«Русский кулак» под брюхом Америки“) goes a long way in illustrating just how seriously we can take the Kremlin’s claims that it wants a peaceful, cooperative relationship with the West.

For the uninitiated, the newspaper Pravda (“Truth”) was of course one of the basic propaganda organs of the USSR.  Along with its counterpart Izvestia (“Information”), these two papers continue operating to this day, without so much as a name change.  That alone should tell you quite a lot about how much has really changed in Russia (an old Soviet joke ran:  “There’s no information in ‘Truth’ and no truth in ‘Information'”).  and Komsomolskaya Pravda is an even more politicized name, since the “komsomol” was the youth indoctrination forum of the Communist Party. It’s as if Germany were still publishing a magazine called “Hitler Youth Life” two decades after the collapse of the Nazi regime.

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Ode to Putin

Blogger Susan Katz Keating offers an ode to Putin:

My favorite international strongman, Vladimir (“I’m in charge here”) Putin, is surely a man of great spirit. I detect in him not just an inner Soviet, but also a Tsarist dreamer, who whiles away his idle hours crafting great visions of renewed empire. What, oh what, could Vlady have in mind now? Perhaps music, in the tradition of Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky or others from the Great Five Russian nationalist composers? In fact, I believe I hear the distant strains of a work in progress: Voyage From Murmansk, in which orchestral tribute is paid to the Russian warships now sailing for Venezuela, accompanied by antisubmarine planes and nuclear subs loaded with live weapons.

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A “Third Way” on Russia?

Dominique Moïsi, a founder and senior adviser at Ifri (French Institute for International Relations) and currently a Professor at the College of Europe in Natolin, Warsaw, writing on European Voice, argues for a “third way” of confronting neo-Soviet Russia. By no means are we suggesting we fully (or even partially) agree with him.  Just food for thought.

“Let’s engage Russia if we can, but contain it if we must.” These two alternatives defined Western strategy toward Russia in the mid-1990s. Since then, Russia may have changed dramatically, but not our questions about it. What do you do when your big neighbour widens the gap that exists between its culture, which is European, and its political system, which is becoming increasingly ‘Asian’, at least in the bad old sense of ‘Oriental despotism’?

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Putin: Racist, Aggressive, Deluded, Scary

Writing on USA Today‘s blog Ralph Peters of the newspaper’s Board of Contributors argues that we should be scared by the racist evil that is Vladimir Putin:

Why Putin should scare us

He’s an ethnic nationalist with a mystical sense of Russian destiny.
Cold and pragmatic, he won’t play by the world’s rules.

Possessing a clear vision of where he wants to go and the ruthlessness to get there, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the world’s most effective national leader in power. He also might be the most misunderstood.

Grasping what Putin’s about means recognizing what he isn’t about: Despite his KGB past and his remark that the Soviet Union’s dissolution was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, Putin isn’t nostalgic for communism. By the time he joined the KGB in the mid-1970s, the organization was purely about preserving the power structure — not upholding abstract philosophies.

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EDITORIAL: Neo-Soviet Russia, Unhinged


Neo-Soviet Russia, Unhinged

Russia’s crazed unilateral escalation of the new cold war continues apace.  One might have thought that a civilized country would refrain from taking such provocative actions at least until its stock market had stopped collapsing, but then the world now begins to see that Russia is not, in fact, a civilized country. Look what Russia has done in just the past few days:

  • First, Russia announced a massive new escalation in its military budget.  The United States, of course, and its NATO allies will respond in kind, and a new arms race will be born.
  • Then, ignoring the concerted opinion of the entire civilized world, Russia inked formal treaties of mutual defense with the breakaway Georgian regions of Ossetia and Abkhazia.  Russia’s neighbors in Asia strongly condemned the move, as did all the Western democracies.  America and her NATO allies can now do likewise in regard to Russia’s breakaway regions, Ingushetia and Chechnya, just for instance.   
  • Still not content, Russia initiated another frenzied drive towards seizing the fossil fuels of the Arctic region.  A whole new facet of cold war arms racing will thus be born in the frozen north.
  • As if that were not enough, Russia threatened to instigate a second Cuban missile crisis.  Is the U.S. now free to install a space program in Kazakhstan? It appears so.
  • And finally, Russia sent nuclear bombers into the Carribean.  Naturally, the U.S. and its NATO allies will now feel themselves free to circulate their own nuclear bombers in places like Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltics.

All in just one week! Russia took all these actions in an utterly unilateral manner, without the support of even one other major nation of the world and flouting the clear opposition of most.

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EDITORIAL: Here’s Looking at You, Russia


Here’s Looking at You, Russia

The latest news is Georgia’s revelation of Ossetian radio transmissions showing Russian armor moving into Ossetia, Georgian territory, without authorization a full day before Georgian forces moved against Ossetia’s capital, making a boldfaced liar and naked aggressor out of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.  Meanwhile, Robert Amsterdam reports that China, supposedly Russia’s ally, has joined the rebuilding effort in Georgia in a big way.

Now that the United States and Russia are again at each other’s throats again, let’s talk war  movies.

If you were to ask the average American citizen what was the greatest movie ever made, quite likely the answer you’d get would be 1942’s Casablanca by Michael Curtiz, a film very few Russians are aware of and which fewer still can even begin to understand.  And therein lies America’s greatest advantage in the new cold war.

Casablanca starred Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Bergman was a foreigner, and spoke English with a thick Swedish accent.  You’ll look long and hard trying to find a counterpart to Bergman in the annals of Russian film, indeed to find any Russian films, much less national treasures, where the Russian language is spoken with a thick accent by anyone, much less the hero(ine).  That is an expression of Russian xenophobia, leading to ignorance, leading to failure in battle — a problem compounded by the lack of press information self-examination through opposition politics.  A large number of other examples can be found on the American side, however, and not just in American film generally but in Casablanca itself:  co-stars Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre all spoke thickly accented English (Greenstreet and Lorre co-starred again with Bogie in the classic Maltese Falcon).  In a great modern example, Arnold Schwartzenegger, perhaps the most thickly-accented Hollywood actor in history, not only became a titanic star but governor of California.  Such a thing is not only unheard of but starkly inconceivable in barbaric, benighted, paranoid Russia.

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EDITORIAL: Getting Tough with Russia


Getting Tough with Russia

On Monday morning, Russians woke to news that all 26 ambassadors of NATO, and its Secretary General, were in Tbilisi conferencing with Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili, who their president has called a “criminal.”  Guess that makes all the leaders of the NATO countries criminals too, huh Vlad?  The NATO chief explained the purpose of the visit: “We want to show our support for Georgia after what we have seen from the Russian side.”  The meeting comes in advance of a NATO summit in December which could result in Ukraine and Georgia both being given formalized NATO status.  It seems the world is finally waking up and getting tough with Russia.

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Palin on Russia

Commenter “Kolchak” points us to a recent interview of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Governor of Alasks, with ABC’s Charles Gibson, where she discusses Russia. Uh-oh, Mr. Putin. Uh-oh, lying dumbocrats.  Palin gets Russia, to a “T”.  T as in “trillion,” the amount the corrupt Russian stock market nearly has lost in the past few months.  And let’s not forget, Palin wasn’t even hired for her foreign policy knowledge, but for her experience as an elected executive, which is far greater than any other candidate in the field. Barack Obama has none, and by hiring Joe Biden as his vice presidential running mate, he has admitted what is obvious — that he has no foreign policy experience either.  John McCain, on the other hand, has more foreign policy experience than all the other three candidates put together. Go McCain! Go Palin!  (NOTE:  ABC controversially edited many of Palin’s remarks and, while published on their website, didn’t air them on TV; some suggest this was done to make Palin look ignorant or bellicose, an act of partisanship we condemn if it occurred.  The full remarks are published below.).

GIBSON: Let’s start, because we are near Russia, let’s start with Russia and Georgia. The administration has said we’ve got to maintain the territorial integrity of Georgia. Do you believe the United States should try to restore Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia?

PALIN: First off, we’re going to continue good relations with Saakashvili there. I was able to speak with him the other day and giving him my commitment, as John McCain’s running mate, that we will be committed to Georgia. And we’ve got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable and we have to keep…

GIBSON: You believe unprovoked.

PALIN: I do believe unprovoked and we have got to keep our eyes on Russia, under the leadership there. I think it was unfortunate. That manifestation that we saw with that invasion of Georgia shows us some steps backwards that Russia has recently taken away from the race toward a more democratic nation with democratic ideals.That’s why we have to keep an eye on Russia. And, Charlie, you’re in Alaska. We have that very narrow maritime border between the United States, and the 49th state, Alaska, and Russia. They are our next door neighbors.We need to have a good relationship with them. They’re very, very important to us and they are our next door neighbor.

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EDITORIAL: The Cold War, Part II


The Cold War, Part II

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

The Holy Bible; Proverbs 16:18

In 1964, a Stanley Kubrick film called Dr. Strangelove: How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb was nominated for four Academy Awards. It’s a film about how America screws up and allows a rogue general to instigate a global thermonuclear apocalypse. Can you name the Russian counterpart of this film, where the Russians express similar doubts about their government’s ability to manage their nuclear weapons programs? No? We didn’t think so. That’s because there isn’t one. And that, as much as anything else, explains why America beat Russia in the first cold war.

And now, it’s starting all over again.

At the beginning of August, Russian forces crossed the boundary of Georgia’s breakaway province of Ossetia and stormed into Georgia proper, bombing civilian targets in the city of Gori.

At the beginning of September, the United States retaliated by sending an armada of warships into the Black Sea to provide humanitarian aid to Georgia, and disregarding Russian protests.

Russia then replied by scheduling anti-U.S. war games in cooperation with Venezuela. “President” Medvedev stated: “I wonder how they would like it if we sent humanitarian assistance using our navy to countries of the Caribbean that have suffered from the recent hurricanes.”

It’s predictable, then, that NATO will now schedule anti-Russian war games in places like Poland, Estona, Ukraine and Georgia. Russia will retaliate, and soon the two sides will realize that the games might become quite real at a moment’s notice. This will compel them to boost their military capacities, leading to a new arms race.

Sound familiar?

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Aslund on Economic Cold Warfare

Writing in the Moscow Times Anders Aslund, a senior fellow of the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the author of Russia’s Capitalist Revolution: Why Market Reform Succeeded and Democracy Failed, gives Russians the bad news about their economic future under the dictator Vladimir Putin, a proud KGB spy with no economic training who has never run a business.  Following, a second piece from Aslund in which he explains how Russian economic weakness can be exploited in the new cold war to the West’s advantage.

Aug. 8 stands out as a fateful day for Russia. It marks Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s greatest strategic blunder. In one blow, he wiped out half a trillion dollars of stock market value, stalled all domestic reforms and isolated Russia from the outside world. Russia’s attack on its small democratic neighbor was bad enough, but its recognition of two conquered protectorates as independent states has been supported only by Hamas, Belarus, Venezuela and Cuba. Putin is turning Russia into a rogue state.

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Europe Doing its Best on Georgia?

Transitions Online, via Business Week, says that Europe is being much tougher than some perceive on Russia’s Georgia atrocity. But is it tough enough?

Even allowing for the difficulty of the situation, the European Union’s reply on 1 September to Russia’s aggression against Georgia might seem weak and meager. Suspending talks on the EU-Russia framework agreement—which weren’t going anywhere anyway—unless Moscow does something it had already promised to do—withdraw its army to pre-conflict positions—is really very little.

There is little that can be done. The war is over, Georgia has been humiliated, and it’s not as if anyone’s going to send tanks to dislodge the Red, sorry, Russian army from its positions in the faraway Caucasus. Certainly not the EU, for it hasn’t any. Frankly, the Russians have won and it’s too late to do anything about it.

Actually, the EU’s reaction, agreed at a special summit of its leaders, may amount to a bit more than we were led to expect. For one thing, there was a special summit. That happens very rarely; the last one was in 2003 on the eve of the Iraq war. That in itself shows that Europe, as a whole, takes the matter seriously, something that hadn’t always been clear.

For another thing, based on the pre-summit newspaper reports, which ranged from cynical to hysterical, on the “deep split” among members, the bellicose and the “appeasers,” one might have expected there was never going to be a common position at all. That the EU, too, would be left humiliated, its pretense to a common foreign policy—and to being a great power—in shambles again.

That didn’t happen. There did emerge a common position, perhaps not as strong as the hawks in Eastern Europe and Britain would have liked. But strong enough to momentarily satisfy them and to contain the seeds of further escalation if Russia doesn’t comply. Much stronger, also, than the draft circulated by the French EU presidency before the summit, thanks primarily to the Baltic states and Poland. These are the countries that are the most concerned, understandably, about the bellicose new Russia.

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