By Mike Whitney
-- -- -Presidents Bush and Putin concluded their brief
summit in Kennebunkport, Maine without resolving any of the
main issues. Bush seeks Putin’s help to pressure Iran into
giving up its nuclear enrichment program and Putin wants
Bush to abandon his plans to deploy the US Missile Defense
System in Czechoslovakia and Poland. No progress was made on
Russia and the United States are now more politically
divided than any time since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
In fact, following the meeting in Maine, first deputy Prime
Minister Sergei Ivanov, blasted Washington in the blistering
rhetoric of the Cold War era:
"They are trying to push us into knocking heads with
Europe... in order to create a new dividing line, a New
Berlin Wall," bawled Ivanov. “It is obvious that continuing
with the plans and carrying them out by placing rockets in
Poland and radar in the Czech Republic will present an
obvious threat to Russia."
Ivanov is right. Missile Defense poses a clear danger to
Russia’s national security. It integrates the United States
entire nuclear capability (including space-based operations)
with systems that are inside Russia’s traditional sphere of
influence. Putin summed it up like this in a press
conference at the G-8 meetings:
“For the first time in history, there are elements of the US
nuclear capability on the European continent. It simply
changes the whole configuration of international
security…..Of course, we have to respond to that.”
The Bush administration is trying to achieve what nuclear
weapons specialist, Francis A. Boyle, calls the
“longstanding US policy of nuclear first-strike against
Russia”. By placing weapons systems and radar on Russia’s
borders the US will have a critical advantage that will
disrupt the essential balance of power. This is forcing
Putin to restart the arms race.
The media has tried to downplay the gravity of the situation
by focusing on the personal aspects of the Putin-Bush
relationship. But this is intentionally misleading. Putin
did not go to Kennebunkport to win-back Bush’s affections or
for sensitivity-therapy. He went to see if he could change
Bush’s mind on an issue that could quickly escalate into a
Putin has made a number of offers designed to satisfy Bush’s
concerns for “enhanced security”. For example, Putin
proposed a “global integrated missile shield that would
protect all of Europe” and would include both the United
States and European countries, including neutral ones such
as Austria, Finland and Sweden. All of the participating
countries in the program would have equal access to the
"We are proposing to create a single missile defense system
for all participants with equal access to the system's
control," Ivanov said on the state-run Russian TV.
The Russian proposal would “create missile defense data
exchange centers in Moscow and Brussels, headquarters of
NATO and the European Union. Ivanov also did not rule out
the sharing by Russia of some of its "highly sensitive"
technologies with the West as part of creating the new
integrated system, in order to generate trust in thwarting
rouge missile threats.” (There’s been no coverage of this
offer in the western media)
Putin also reiterated his earlier offer to allow the US to
use existing “early warning” radar located in Azerbaijan
that can observe the launching and flight of any long-range
ballistic missiles from Iran. Bush politely rejected that
Bush is not serious about defense or security. His real
intention is to force Moscow to do whatever Washington wants
by putting a loaded gun to their head. Putin can’t allow
this to happen.
Bush’s doggedness has already triggered a strong reaction
from the Kremlin. When Putin was rebuffed by Bush at the G-8
meetings a month ago, he promptly retaliated at the
International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg less than 24
hours later. In his address to the conference, he called for
“a new architecture of economic relations requiring a
completely new approach (with an) alternative global
financial center that will make the ruble the reserve
currency for central banks.” He said that the World Trade
Organization, the World Bank and the IMF are ``archaic,
undemocratic and inflexible'' and do not `` reflect the new
balance of power.''
Putin’s speech is seen as a direct challenge to Washington’s
global leadership and the institutions which preserve its
position as the world’s only “superpower”. He rejects US
hegemony” and the prevailing doctrine of “unipolar” world
The Kremlin reacted just as quickly after the “Lobster
Summit” at Kennebunkport. Less than 10 hours after Putin’s
departure from the US, deputy Prime Minister Ivanov warned
that if Bush deployed Missile Defense in Eastern Europe,
Russia “would place medium-range nuclear missiles in
Kallingrad”, a small finger of Russian-owned territory
sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland. This would put
Russian-controlled nuclear weapons just a few hundred miles
from the heart of Europe.
Ivanov added, “If our proposals are accepted, however,
Russia would no longer need to deploy new missile systems in
our European territory, including Kaliningrad.”
Putin and Ivanov apparently rehearsed this “good cop, bad
cop” routine before Putin even arrived in the USA. But their
point is still well taken. Putin is forcing Bush to decide
whether he wants to work for regional stability or “turn
Europe into a powder keg”. It’s up to Bush.
Putin knows that the Bush administration is full of Cold War
militarists who deliberately sabotaged the ABM Treaty so
they could expand their nuclear arsenal while surrounding
Russia with American bases. He also knows that these same
arm-chair warriors embrace a belligerent National Security
Strategy that advocates “preemptive” first-strike attacks on
rivals and which may include the use of low-yield,
bunker-busting nuclear weapons. Putin—who has watched the
destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan from the sidelines—knows
that the threat of American aggression cannot be taken
lightly. He must carefully consider the “stated goals” of
the administration for global domination and prepare for the
worst. He cannot allow the Missile Defense System to be
deployed even if that means “unilaterally” taking it out.
But why would Bush choose to confront Russia now when
American troops and resources are already stretched to the
limit? What is Bush thinking?
The Bush administration and their counterparts in the
far-right think tanks still believe that America can be a
big player in the fight to control resources in the Caspian
Basin and Central Asia. The war on terror was basically
designed to conceal US geopolitical ambitions in Eurasia—not
Iraq. The neocons managed to expand the conflict to Iraq,
but ruling elites have had serious misgivings about the
invasion-occupation from the very beginning. Now the
failures in Iraq are weakening the military, constraining US
involvement in Central Asia and Latin America, and
triggering anxiety among “old order” conservatives who think
that the greater project may collapse altogether if Iraq
does not wind-down quickly so the US can refocus on its
original goals. This may explain why the defections in the
senate are beginning to snowball and why the establishment
media is suddenly calling for a draw-down of troops. The
situation has gotten so bad that it’s impossible for
Washington to execute its broader imperial strategy.
The personal attacks on Putin are no different than the
attacks on Iran’s Ahmadinejad or Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
Any leader who has the temerity to control his nation’s own
resources---and use them for the common good rather than
enriching privately owned corporations--is the de facto
enemy of the Empire. In truth, Putin is neither a tyrant nor
an opponent of the United States. The criticism directed at
him is mostly hot air. He’s demonized because he has used
Russia’s vast natural wealth to rebuild his country and to
improve the standard of living for the Russian people.
There’s nothing more to it.
Presently, Putin enjoys an 84% public approval rating---the
highest rating of any world leader today. He has reduced
poverty, stabilized the ruble, strengthened defense, deposed
the rapacious “oligarchs” and restored Russia’s
international prestige. He is fiercely nationalistic and the
Russian people admire him for it.
More importantly, Putin has successfully out-maneuvered
Washington in every major energy deal since Bush took office
in 2000. Even the invasion of Afghanistan-- which was
supposed to clear pipeline corridors for transporting
resources from the Caspian Sea to Pakistan--has turned out
to be a complete fiasco. The resurgent Taliban have ensured
that the safe shipment of resources will be impossible for
the foreseeable future. Also, setbacks in Afghanistan have
exacerbated divisions in NATO which are causing the European
allies to reconsider their involvement in the US-led
mission. This is a dodgy predicament for Bush and Co. If
NATO falls apart, the Transatlantic Alliance will probably
unravel leaving America friendless in a world that is
increasingly hostile to foreign adventurism.
While Bush is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, Putin has
continued to consolidate his power in Central Asia while
making impressive inroads into Europe. In fact, Russia seems
to have already won “The Great Game” of controlling
Eurasia’s massive natural resources without even clashing
with the US.
In this year alone, Russia has increased its “strategic
dominance over Europe’s energy supplies while US-led efforts
to promote energy diversity for Europe are faltering and the
EU’s policies are in disarray.” (“Escaping Putin’s Energy
Squeeze” Adrian Karatnycky)
In June, Russian energy giant Gazprom firmed up a deal with
Italy to build a gas pipeline to southern Europe via the
Black Sea sabotaging Washington’s plan for a similar project
At the same time, Putin has worked out deals with Kazakhstan
and Turkmenistan to ship natural gas to Germany via a
proposed pipeline under the Baltic Sea. And, just this week,
the Russian oil giant Gazprom put the finishing touches on
agreement with Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to
work-jointly on a gas pipeline project that will transport
natural gas along the Caspian coast.
These deals represent huge commitments of resources which
will put Washington at a disadvantage for decades to come.
The US military has proved to be a much less effective tool
in procuring dwindling resources than the “free market”.
The Bush administration has tried to exert greater control
over Central Asian resources by building pipelines from the
Black Sea to the Mediterranean. But the plan has failed
miserably. Putin’s has out-flanked Washington at every turn.
The ex-KGB alum has proved to be the superior capitalist
leaving Bush with nothing to show for his efforts except a
badly battered military.
Putin is also on friendly terms with Turkey and is pushing
for “long term energy contracts for the Black Sea states”.
The Turkish leadership shares Putin’s belief that the US
should be kept from meddling in the region. This may explain
why Dick Cheney is so mad at Putin and has even accused him
of “blackmail”. But this is just "sour grapes". In truth,
Putin is just doing what the United States used to
do---using free market competition to his best advantage.
What’s wrong with that?
An American energy specialist summarized America’s defeat in
the Eurasian Resource Wars saying:
"Western energy policies in Eurasia collapsed in May 2007.
During this month, Russia seems to have conclusively
defeated all Western-backed projects to bring oil and gas
from Central Asia directly to Europe ... Cumulatively, the
May agreements signify a strategic defeat of the decade-old
US policy to open direct access to Central Asia's oil and
gas reserves. By the same token they have nipped in the bud
the European Union's belated attempts since 2006 to
institute such a policy."
Putin’s greatest energy-coup may be the mega-deal he put
together with the Austria earlier this year. According to M
K Bhadrakumar (“A Pipeline into the Heart of Europe, Asia
“Last September, Austria entered a long-term contract with
Russia whereby Gazprom will meet 80% of Austria's gas
requirements of 9 billion cubic meters annually during the
next 20-year period.” The project will involve “a massive
gas-storage facility near Salzburg”…. “which has an overall
capacity of 2.4bcm. The facility is being built at a cost of
260 million euros (nearly US $350 million) by Gazprom and,
upon completion in 2011, will be the second-largest
underground gas-storage facility in Central Europe… (Putin
has expanded) “Austria's role as a crucial gas-supply hub
for transiting Russian gas to France, Italy and Germany in
Western Europe; to Hungary in Central Europe; and to
Slovenia and Croatia in the Balkans.”
Gazprom’s agreement with Austria is the death knell for the
Washington-backed Nabucco gas pipeline project. It will be
very difficult now for the major western energy giants to
catch up with Russia and compete head-on in the European
market. Putin caught them flat-footed once again. He has
consolidated Eurasian oil and natural gas and established a
central depot for distributing resources to consumers
Game. Set. Match.
Russia is now the cat-bird’s seat peering over all of Europe
and the Balkans as part of its energy fiefdom. Meanwhile
Bush and his legions continue to toil away aimlessly in
Mesopotamia. What a waste.
Missile Defense is an expression of Washington’s frustration
with its own failures. The Global Resource War (aka The War
on Terror) has been so badly bungled that Bush will have to
initiate “asymmetrical” strategies to counter Russia’s
economic triumphs. We can expect that US-backed NGOs will
continue funding troublemaking “pro democracy” groups inside
Russia hoping to trigger a “color-coded” revolution in
Moscow. At the same time, there will probably be a sudden
outbreak of violence in Chechnya, after rebel-separatists
have been “mysteriously” rearmed by foreign intelligence
agencies. (Guess who?) The Bush administration will also try
to strengthen their military position on Russia’s perimeter
by pushing NATO into Ukraine and Georgia.
But, will any of these plans succeed?
Bush and his fellows will do whatever it takes to disrupt
Russia’s steady march to becoming the new century’s Energy
Superpower. The “charm offensive” at Kennebunkport is just
one part of America’s guerilla war on Putin. Missile Defense
Welcome to the new Cold War.
on "comments" below to
read or post comments
Be succinct, constructive and
relevant to the story.
encourage engaging, diverse and
meaningful commentary. Do not
include personal information such
as names, addresses, phone
numbers and emails. Comments
falling outside our guidelines
those including personal
attacks and profanity are
See our complete
this link to notify us if you
have concerns about a comment.
Well promptly review and
remove any inappropriate
Send Page To a Friend
with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material
is distributed without profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational
purposes. Information Clearing House has no
affiliation whatsoever with the originator of
this article nor is Information ClearingHouse
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)