Wednesday, December 29

With Apologies to Ayn Rand: Whereupon Pundita discovers the World Socialist Website is a good source for news on State's doings in former USSR

Capitalist readers of Pundita's blog mustn't worry for our safety; Pundita always takes the precaution of squirting demon repellent along the floor moldings and door jambs before visiting a socialist website.

But stop and think: who better than the socialists to keep close tabs on the doings in Russia and USSR regions? The World Socialist Web Site writers dislike Putin as much as they dislike the European and American Imperialists. That gives them, if not exactly an unbiased opinion, at least an attention to news stories that American news media have studiously ignored since the Soviet Union dissolved.

After reading through 10 reports on the WSWS page , which posts news from Russia and the former USSR, the light dawned. Pundita now glimpses the reason for the state department's mysterious belligerence toward Russia and why the state department and George Soros were so anxious to be rid of Bush. I hasten to add that Pundita's observations are not explicitly stated in the reports on the WSWS; they are the result of rumination and discussion with our foreign policy team. Without further introduction:

During the Clinton era, State's idea was to isolate Russia militarily by bringing as many former Soviet republics into NATO as they could manage. It's doubtful State came up with the idea on their own; the EU Big Three (Germany, France, Britain) saw the writing on the wall surely even before Gorbachev dissolved the Soviet Union.

After the Warsaw Pact collapsed, the US would eventually make deep cuts in troops stationed in Europe. That would leave Europe, with no military to speak of and with no nukes, to face the prospect of a nuclear-armed ultra-nationalist Russia. And a Russia with a crumbled infrastructure and a military in disarray, and yet still wielding great influence on former vassal states.

But how could West Europe bring the former vassals into the NATO sphere without risking the wrath of Russian generals? Here I recall one of Dr. Stephen Cohen's crash courses last year on recent Russian history for John Batchelor's audience. Vladimir Putin was set in power by the very oligarchs he's now battling. One of the WSWS reports supports Cohen's observation. I think the general idea was to first weaken the Russian military's influence in Russia. This was done by offering the oligarchs very lucrative Euro Big Three/US trade and banking-loan deals. Once the oligarchs' hold on power in Russia was strengthened, a pliant national leader would be set in place in Russia.

At the same time, the Big Three and the US would pour aid money and low-cost development loans into former Soviet republics that were closest to Europe.

The next step was to engineer the rise of politicians in the former Soviet republics who would lean toward joining NATO.

Surprisingly (given the Western media's demonizing of him since the Ukraine election), Kuchma was our Man in Ukraine for years. It was Kuchma, with US and EU backing, who initiated a drive to lead Ukraine into the European Union and NATO. And he welcomed US aid for democracy programs in Ukraine.

But then Kuchma crossed an oligarch and by doing so got on the wrong side of the state department. Thus, State began to groom Yushchenko (the Orange candidate) for the leadership post in Ukraine.

But Kuchma dug in. After he scurried to the Kremlin for help, he held onto the support of Ukrainians who leaned toward Russia and away from joining NATO. Kuchma backed Yanukovich (the Blue Candidate) when he saw he could no longer maintain hold on power. (See the above link to Yushchenko for the skinny on Yanukovich.)

How, then, could State and the Big Three deal with that pesky obstructionist Kuchma and his toady? In the same way Georgia's Schevardnadze was dealt with: through a "peaceful" putsch designed by George Soros and backed by US and EU money, and which was crafted to seem a spontaneous uprising of the people. Ukraine's Orange Revolution is a knockoff of Georgia's Rose Revolution.

Now here is where it gets interesting. Schevardnadze was our Man in Georgia. He was pro-American. So why did the state department drop him like a hot potato and fall all over themselves to hail his EU-backed successor?

The answer is not entirely clear from the WSWS reports I read (there are scores of reports I left unread). I do know that Schevardnadze had worn out his welcome with the Georgians. Yet since when has that drawback prevented a US backed leader from remaining in power? Thus, a more likely reason for his fall from grace is that Schevardnadze didn't think the best course for Georgia was to join NATO.

With the above ruminations finished, it's plain as day why Soros and State moved heaven and earth in the effort to prevent Bush's reelection. After all those years of Soros and State slaving away to help the EU isolate Russia, the president of the world's lone superpower gave Putin a ride in his pickup and to seal the friendship, bestowed the nickname "Pooty-poo" on him. To grasp the full foreign-policy import, Bush nicknamed Jacques Chirac "Jackass Chirac."

We must also look at things from the viewpoint of the Russian oligarchs and the leaders of Germany and France to grasp their irritation with Bush. Yes, 9/11 was an unfortunate event. But in the grand scheme, the deaths of a few thousand Americans were not enough to justify an American president wheeling US foreign policy on it's heel and romancing the anti-NATO Vladimir Putin. (As for Blair, his position was very complex; we'll discuss that someday.)

To top it off, Bush's war on terror allowed Rumsfeld to order that US military bases be thrown up in some former Soviet vassal countries. This is just what Europe didn't want. They were trying to encircle Russia softly, softly. Not with anything so alarming as missiles and fighter jets perched on Russia's doorstep.

Here, the reader might ask whether Soros and the State faction aren't in the right -- at least, in their view if not their tactics. After all, we must be loyal to the NATO alliance for as long as the alliance stands. And by all accounts in the Western mainstream media, the Rose and Orange Revolutions -- even if they weren't really revolutions -- and getting rid of Milosevic are big gains for democracy.

I think the best answer is that one must be suspicious of the idea that democracy is served by a putsch masquerading as the Will of the People -- particularly if the putsch is engineered by governments and business interests from outside the country. The suspicion gathers force from the WSWS report on what has happened to democracy in Serbia and Georgia since the "People's Will" triumphed. Even though the report is biased against Running Dogs of Capitalism, it raises enough troubling points to sound a warning. Orchestrating the rise of governments that will march in lockstep with EU geopolitical designs is not necessarily the same as scoring a win on behalf of democracy.

All the above supports Stephen Cohen's observations, after Batchelor mentioned the impending announcement of joint China-Russia military exercises. Cohen enumerated reasons why Russia has come to feel encircled by the US. He finished by saying that the heavy-handed US involvement in the Ukraine election was the final straw. As Dr. Cohen put it, "It was too much."

I think Russia would have agreed to join the maneuvers in any case (reference the Shanghai Cooperative -- China's answer to Bush's Coalition of the Willing for fighting terrorism). Yet Russia's anger at the US about the Ukraine Affair probably caused Moscow to plan for much greater involvement with the maneuvers than originally planned.

And Cohen's stark summary of how Moscow would react to US involvement in Ukraine has been amply supported by recent pronouncements from Putin, which lambaste the USA. Alert readers might ask how it came to be that America was left holding the bag. That is the question, isn't it? It's well-documented that the Big Three and their go-fer countries in the EU did just as much meddling in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics as the USA and Russia. But to hear Putin tell it, it's all our fault. How did we end up in that position?

The best Pundita could do toward getting a handle on the answer was ask the crows for their opinion and brace herself for the inevitable disagreements between them, which usually only end when Pundita blows up a paper bag and pops it. However, those two members of the foreign policy team are Pundita's best source on Russian matters. They spend so much time flitting about the Russian embassy grounds in Washington that my nickname for them is Da and Nyet.

To my surprise, the crows were in perfect agreement in their reply. They strongly support the Russian embassy's policy toward free-ranging cats and evidentially anything that creeps and which could possibly be wired with a microphone.

From this, I'd surmise that we're getting the blame because Russia has an ocean between America, whereas Russia can't avoid attending EU barbecues and backyard sales. And perhaps Putin knows he can't afford to alienate all the oligarchs, particularly those who want to do big business with Europe. Another point is that Western Europe is a big buyer of Russian natural gas.

Having escaped the fate that Soros planned for him, how is our president elect dealing with the Russian frost? From his soft-pedal comments about the Ukraine election controversy, which were in sharp contrast to Powell's blunt and even rude language to Moscow, it seems he's trying to thread the camel.

One can appreciate the dilemma. Bush shouldn't alienate France, Germany and Jack Straw any more than he's already done. At the same time, he needs to find a way to reassure Putin and the Russian generals that the US doesn't want to restart the Cold War, any more than State has already helped to restart it.

I sense that Bush will delegate the problem to Condi; if so, we'll have to wait until Dr. Rice has settled into her duties at State before we can gauge whether the frost can be melted. Thank goodness she's fluent in Russian and knows more Russian history than most Russians. Also, she speaks fluent Petroleum. She probably has the planned location of every pipeline on the planet punched into her PDA. So it may be that another large check handed to Putin's government to help with oil exploration and/or pipeline building will figure somehow into smoothing ruffled feathers.

But here I recall another warning from Dr. Cohen, given many months ago. He told Batchelor's audience that throwing money at the situation won't cut it, if the Russians become truly angered at America's designs on their country. The warning makes sense. Just as we couldn't be placated with a large Saudi check after 9/11, one can presume the Russian generals -- and the Russian populace at large -- would spit on our money if it's not accompanied by a halt in what they now fear is a US attempt to bring Russia to her knees.

However, there's much more at stake for the US than cooled relations with Moscow. The US should encourage democracy movements around the globe and use our power to support and yes, even pressure nervous governments to stick with democratic reforms. But the story of State's actions in former USSR that emerges from reports posted on WSWS suggest that's not exactly what we've been doing.

To whatever extent our democracy programs have had good results in former Soviet regions, this seems to have come as a byproduct of supporting European Union geopolitics. That's putting the cart before the horse. It's also a threat to US national security interests because US support for EU strategies has been uncritical, if not blind.

From all the above, it should be clear that Americans got it somewhat backward, when we asked why France and Germany betrayed America on Iraq. They didn't betray us, from their point of view; it's just that we stopped going along with their program. That this program included selling weapons to Saddam on the eve of the US invasion -- well, such sales were not a new wrinkle.

Granted, the extent to which we'd been going along with the EU program, and exactly what we'd been doing in the process, was known only to a virtual handful of Americans inside the Beltway during the Clinton era. And because this is a representative democracy we elect people to do oversight of US government agencies for us. Yet clearly the oversight process broke down with regard to State -- and to such an extent that US defense policy took a back seat to serving Europe's geopolitical aims.

The good news is that we no longer need wonder why the Euro Three (actually, now the Euro Six) broke rank with the United States on how to deal with Tehran's nuclear weapon program. The answer is that they didn't break rank with us, we broke rank with them.

Perhaps all the above is another way of saying that we didn't have a good plan for how to proceed in relation to Russia after the Soviet Union collapsed. So we went with the European plan. Which brought us to today.

If you groan at the thought of spending hours on the World Socialist Web Site, I would urge you to at least skim the reports I hyperlinked above, and look through the two reports linked at the end of this post. One can't read back through the years of news stories on the WSWS without sensing that a huge mess is threatening to build in Eurasia. It shouldn't turn out that way -- not after all the American blood, sweat, tears, and tax dollars that went into winning the Cold War.

For those readers who would like to find a more objective assessment than the WSWS offers about US relations with Russia since the end of the Cold War, a good place to start is Stephen Cohen's cheerily titled Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia."

"Great power rivalries erupt over disputed election in Ukraine"

"US intervenes in disputed Ukraine election: Who the hell asked you, Mr. Powell?"


Anonymous said...

Looks like Rumsfeld was right when he said maybe it was time to install and American desk at the State Dept.

Pundita said...

There is an American Desk at State; see the next post.