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Posted on on September 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Some EU states to hold back on Georgia mission: EU foreign ministers are today to adopt the mandate, composition and financing of the bloc’s mission to Georgia,   says Elitsa Vucheva from brussels, the EUobserver, September 15, 2008.

EU ministers will on Monday (15 September) gather in Brussels to decide the composition of the bloc’s peace mission to Georgia, while a question mark remains over where exactly the EU force will be deployed.

France and Germany are expected to contribute the largest number of troops, with Berlin saying it would contribute “around one-fifth” of the 200-member mission and a French defence ministry source telling the AFP news agency that France could send around 70 people.
The UK will on Monday announce “substantial numbers” to join the EU mission, reports the Telegraph. Poland has signaled it wants to play a large role. Romania plans to send 20 personnel, while most other EU states are expected to commit “between two and 20 people” each.

Some countries, on the other hand, have expressed less enthusiasm. Belgian foreign minister Karel De Gucht told daily La Libre Belgique that his country would like to delay its participation to “the first changeover, within six months” in order to first see where exactly the mission will be deployed.

“Nicolas Sarkozy has said that [EU troops] will be deployed in a dismembered Georgia, but that they could go to South Ossetia and Abkhazia as well. However, Russian [foreign] minister Lavrov says this is out of the question,” Mr De Gucht said.

“If Europeans can only deploy in the security zone, that gives me a bad feeling, as, basically, we will have to protect borders which we have not recognised,” he added, referring to the borders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which earlier proclaimed independence from Georgia.

Deploy where?

Speaking to journalists in Brussels on Friday (12 September), a French EU presidency source said that the long-term goal would be to deploy the EU mission across the entire Georgian territory “as recognised by international law.”

However, he stressed, the priority is to deploy in the zones adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia first and to make sure that Russia withdraws from Georgia by 10 October, as earlier agreed. Russian troops started to pull out from Georgia proper over the weekend, international media report.

But Russia – which has recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – has rejected the presence of EU troops in the breakaway regions.

“South Ossetia and Abkhazia are now sovereign states. The governments of these two countries must agree in order for international observers to be sent on their territories,” Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Le Figaro.

The EU monitoring mission is expected to be deployed before 1 October.

The bloc’s foreign mnisters are also to discuss who will be appointed EU special representative for Georgia, as agreed earlier in September, with Pierre Morel – currently the EU special representative for Central Asia – the front-runner for the job, an EU official told EUobserver.


Posted on on September 12th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

UN’s Ban Avoids Questions of New Cold War, U.S. War on Terror, Excluded Journalists Speak. Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis. UNITED NATIONS, September 11 — A new Cold War is how many have described recent dynamics in the UN Security Council. Things came to a boil when American criticized Russian military and political moves with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, breaking away from Georgia. Russia countered by citing the precedent of Kosovo, not only the recognition of its break-away from Serbia earlier this year by the U.S. and most of the European Union, but also NATO’s bombing of Belgrade in 1999. Russia vetoed a draft resolution to impose sanctions on Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, along the China, put Iran sanctions on the slow boat thereto, and asked the U.S. whether it had found the weapons of mass destruction it had claimed were in Iraq. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was largely invisible during these fights. On September 11 he finally held a press conference, and began by apologizing for what he called his summer absence, promise to henceforth do monthly question and answer sessions. Inner City Press asked about what’s called the new Cold War, what Ban thinks and is trying to do about it. Video here, from Minute 14:28. (see the site) *** After reading from notes about humanitarian aid to Georgia, Ban did not answer the question. So Inner City Press repeated it, linking the rift not only to Georgia but also Kosovo and Zimbabwe and asking if Ban is seeking to be an impartial mediator between the U.S. and Russia. “As Secretary-General, I really try to avoid your question,” Ban said. “I do not want to think of that kind of possibility.” Video here, form Minute 19:33. This candidly admitted attempt to avoid questions was repeated in the balance of the press conference. Ban was asked twice to comment on U.S. military incursions into Pakistan in search of insurgents. First he said he was not ready for the question, then that he did not want to answer it. *** A journalist from Lebanon asked about Ban’s previous envoy to Beirut, Johan Verbecke, who as Inner City Press reported left his assignment due to death threats. Ban called these “unavoidable circumstances,” adding that “I do not wish to discuss [them] with you publicly.” Ban was asked, is Kim Jong Il of North Korea dead? “I am not in the position to have any independent source of information to confirm” that, he said. Some of Inner City Press’ sources opine that the North Korean military may have moved against Kim Jong Il, finding him too conciliatory to the West, and then moved to restart North Korea’s nuclear program. Surprisingly, Ban did not raise and no one asked about either Iran or Sudan. The latter can be ascribed to Ban himself. He described Darfur and climate change as his two signature issues. Now things are going so badly in Darfur — even the U.S. contractor to which Ban’s UN gave a $250 million no-bid contract, Lockheed Martin, is leaving in failure — that Ban has dropped the issue. The press corps shouldn’t. *** Speaking of failure, Inner City Press asked Ban about the trip of his envoy Ibrahim Gambari to Mynamar without having met with democracy leader Aung San Soo Kyi or military strongman Than Shwe. “I do not like to characterize it as failure,” Ban said. “Video here, from Minute 14:50. Ban also took issue with press reports, presumably including this one, that focused on a speech he gave to or at his managers in Turin, Italy. Ban said he was misunderstood, that he is flexible, that if anything he was criticizing senior officials, not lower level staff. He was not asked to example the phrase, “I tried to lead by example. Nobody followed.” That line is more and more repeated in the UN and now beyond. How to avert a Cold War, in the UN and more importantly the wider world? While there were on September 11 more responses than before, which must be noted here, no real answered were advanced. Footnote: After the press conference, there were complaints about perceived bias in the way questions were allocated. James Bone, who among other things famously questioned Kofi Annan about the financing and whereabouts of his son Kojo’s Mercedes until being called “an overgrown school boy,” told Inner City Press he has not been called on for a question since. Nizar Abboud, representing both a television station and a newspaper in the Middle East, was again not called on. He told Inner City Press, on the record, that he asked Ban’s Spokesperson why he hadn’t been called on. The Spokesperson in turn asked, “Remember when you walked out of the briefing?” Abboud did remember, it had been in protest of not being called on. “Well it was wrong,” the Spokesperson said. Abboud comments that this shows the arbitrary basis of exclusion, which is also inconsistent because Ban personally is nothing but polite with Abboud and others. Abboud notes that another correspondent more favorable to the U.S. position on Lebanon was called on for three questions. Another long-time correspondent, who asked for anonymity in order to retain access, said that everything Ban does is in favor of the U.S.. But that analysis can wait for another day. To be charitable, Ban was better on September 11 than in previous press conferences. His offer to come at least once a month is welcome. Whether anything will be accomplished is another question, the results of which will be reported on this site.


Posted on on September 12th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


Politics Sticks In My Throat Too…

September 10th, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin


…I’d rather


romances for you –

more profit in it

and more charm.

–V.V Mayakovsky

I am sick of this whole Georgia thing.

I’ve had enough of politics, international relations, diplomatic intrigue!

I hate how news has to be about events.

Who cares about events?

When was the last time an event even happened to you or anyone you know?

I don’t know about you, but nothing ever happens to me. Does that make me a dull boy? I mean, aren’t all events, with a capital E, imaginary, anyway?

So from now on, I’m just going to put up links to interesting events stories and and as long a description/summation as I can stomach before vomiting over the keyboard.

For example:

1. Starting this week, The Economist is debating the West’s response to renewed Russian assertiveness for two-weeks as part of an ongoing, Oxford-style Online Debate Series. The proposition is, “This house believes the West must be bolder in its response to a newly assertive Russia.”

It involves Dmitry Trenin and Marshall Goldman, a professor I greatly respect for his honest and indignant account of privatisation in his book The Piratisation of Russia. The debate promises to be lively and intriguing!


As of now, 53% to 47% disagree that the west should be bolder! Go fellow travellers!!

2. In today’s Moscow Times, Harvard’s Joseph Nye pens a clear-headed analysis contrasting Chinese soft power during the Olympics with Russia’s hard power in Georgia.

Without jumping to conclusions or offering reflexive condemnation of Russia’s fisticuffs, Nye observes that the most effective foreign policy strategy artfully weaves soft and hard power.

3. A lot has been written about Russia’s stock market plunge. Especially flimsy, not to mention disingenuous, were the shyster-economist Anders Aslund’s attempts to link the recent economic troubles to the war in Georgia.

There are myriad reasons not to respect Aslund; this article adds yet another drop to his overflowing chalice of intellectual dishonesty and increasing irrelevance.

Here is the sensational way his article begins:

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.

Anders is himself clearly aware of the improbability that a Russian person could ever accomplish that much in a single day before succombing to drink, fatigue or the oppresive weight of the human predicament, because he never re-visits this bizarre claim.

When he finally gets down to a bullet point list of reasons for Russia’s economic ills, the Georgia war doesn’t get a single mention; its inclusion in the lead paragraph was purely for cheap titillation.

Incidentally, the points themselves were mostly sensible and apolitical, and reveal a half-decent, if supply-side, economist groaning from underneath all that reactionary, Russophobic trash-talk.

In a measured and grown up article about the credit crisis, the FT’s Charles Clover and Catherine Belton note Medvedev’s unprecedented injection of $10 bn into the banking system:

“The market hasn’t reacted to Medvedev’s comments. However, [it] should,” said Roland Nash, head of research at Renaissance Capital, the investment bank.

He said the president’s comments may signal fresh investor-friendly policies, but were chiefly a “charm offensive”. He added: “This is the first time in history that the Kremlin has reached out to the investor community. It is fairly unprecedented.”

4. Some have been making hysterical noises about Russia’s military exercises with Venezuela. Instead, might I suggest listening to the Pentagon itself:

“We exercise all around the globe and have joint exercises with countries all over the world. So do many other nations,” said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.


I’ll leave you with a nice short story:

An Encounter

by Daniil Kharms

On one occasion a man went off to work and on the way he met another man who, having bought a loaf of Polish bread, was going his way home.
And that’s just about all there is to it.


Putin, Uri Geller, and Long Knives in Munich

September 9th, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin


Dans le monde réellement renversé, le vrai est un moment du faux

(In a world which really is topsy-turvy, the true is a moment of the false)

-Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle

Every so often comes an event so bizarre that it provides a lucid glimpse into the dark inner workings of everyday life, usually obscured by their very banality.

In art, the Russian formalist Shklovsky pronounced such a technique ostranenie, or ‘making strange’; Brecht called it Verfremdungseffekt – the ‘distancing effect’.

Of course, in modern Russia’s looking glass world, truth is stranger than literary theory.

Thus it was that on August 29 , in front of a live audience on Russian state TV, a trashy talk show called The Phenomenon (Fenomen) laid bare the device.

The premise of the programme was simple enough. Alexander, a TV magician badly impersonating Hercule Poirot, accompanied by fugitive spoon-bending fraudster Geller, uses audience interaction to ‘compose’ a murder mystery, on live TV, that he had already written and placed in a safe.


He picks three members of the audience, each of whom contributes a word as he attempts to ‘psychically manipulate’ their replies so that they match his narrative. Each of the said words is written down on a blackboard by another audience member.

The magician calls on a young woman and asks her for her favourite kitchen utensil; she says, ‘knife’.

(Man on stage writes K-N-I-F-E on blackboard)


He then asks a football hooligan-looking man which place he’d most like to travel to; man replies, “Munich”.


Finally, he prompts a third member of the audience to name a celebrity who was not in the room. After some initial hesitation, the man cries, “Putin!”

What followed could have been an exquisite corpse composition written by Dario Fo, Brecht and Daniil Kharms:

The man on the stage hesitates. Nervous laughter buzzes through the hall. “Alexander, should I write it?” asks the man, shaking his quavering marker over the board.

“Write it: Pu-tin” replies the presenter.

P-U-T-I-N is obediently inscribed, thus completing the cryptic trilogy of




on the blackboard.


Immediately, the hitherto unseen presenter of the show, clearly agitated, jumps on stage to announce:

“Right, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to replace that name. I’ve been informed that it needs to be changed. Try again”. And exits.


From off stage, he continues:

“It’s just not appropriate”

The magician begins to mumble something to the effect of, “I think that” when he is interrupted by the voice of the presenter : “I think that the management…”. Before he could finish, magician interjects: “I was thinking only of the first name! [to man at blackboard]: Why don’t you write just the first name. Erase it, please”.

Blackboard man: Give me something to erase it with!

He looks around the board, in bewilderment, for an eraser.

He can’t find one.

Magician: Just write below the name that’s there.

B-M: Of that same person?

M: Yes.

Disembodied voice of presenter: Let’s…uh, could you please erase the surname. Everyone here is getting nervous. Let’s just erase it and start again.

He comes back on stage, even more briskly.

B-M: there’s nothing to erase it with!

Presenter: Can we get the assistants to help erase this, please?

A girl enters, attempts to vigorously rub out the word “PUTIN”.

Presenter: [to audience] “You see, live broadcasts are never without unexpected moments!”

Girl can’t get the name to go away.

Presenter: Just add it underneath, then! [storms off].

Magician: Can we write the first name?

Presenter [off stage]: Yes, of course, of course. Write just the name, not the surname.

[B-M is seen scrawling V-L-A-D-I-M-I-R underneath “Putin”.

Presenter: Excellent.

Magician: Now I can ask the audience to sit down. Knife, Munich…Vladimir. A strange set, but I think nothing extraordinary.

After this, audience correctly guesses the time of the ‘crime’ (6:30) to finish the narrative. Magician opens safe with manuscript to reveal that his original plot does indeed involve a stabbing committed by a Vladimir in Munich at 6:30. Uri Geller compliments Magician.


I first read about this incident in an article by Oleg Kozyrev in, an independent newspaper.

In his Swiftian piece, Kozyrev focuses on the absurdist image of a girl frantically and ultimately unsuccessfully rubbing out Putin’s name in front of a national audience.

Viewers “were expecting light entertainment”, he writes. “Instead, the prime minister’s name had to be rubbed out in front of millions of their countrymen, who were doubtless thinking: what happened in Munich, anyway?

“And why are they rubbing Putin?

“That was the day I began to respect Uri Geller. Say what you will, but the whole country saw these people bend over. Just because of one name. From the mention of just one name, they bent like no aluminium spoon ever could.

“I don’t believe that the state of the country has anything to do with it. It was just a Phenomenon”.

Of course, we know exactly what happened in Munich, exactly 73 years and 11 months before the show aired.

Moreover, despite the apparent consternation of Magician, Presenter and audience, Russia’s current media climate makes the spontaneity of what transpired on stage inconceivable.

There is no way that the show would have remained on the air for even a second longer had the management really been nervous about its proceedings. No one at home would have batted an eyelid; after all, Russian TV brims with technical difficulties.


Which leads inevitably to ask: why did it occur?

Who had written the script, and who was its real intended audience?

Why did state television consider it necessary to show the words “Knife”, “Munich” and “Putin, Vladimir” together on a blackboard for minutes of airtime, the memory of which would be reinforced further by the manufactured commotion/controversy?

The possibilities are tantalising.

1. We have a strong visual of a young girl trying unsuccessfully to erase Vladimir Putin’s name.

Was this a message to the young Medvedev? ie. “if you’re getting any ideas, drop them right now! You couldn’t rub me out, even if you tried”.

2. We have a TV presenter publicly censoring his own show, saying that Putin’s name is inappropriate and that ‘management’ are ‘getting nervous’, without any attempt to hide it.

Was this a staged show of force to the media, and the public, that the state emphatically reserves the right to control what is shown on TV?

Was it an FYI to journalists that Putin’s name is now officially out of bounds?

3. We have an undeniable reference to Hitler’s night of the long knives, the ruthless and surprise purge, on June 30th 1934, of the SA storm troopers led by Ernst Rohm.

Was it yet another signal to the West that Russia is prepared to attack Poland and the Czech Republic over the US missile defence shield?

Was it a threat to Nashi, the crypto-paramilitary youth organisation headed by Vasili Yakemenko? (That seems unlikely, as Nashi are already looking like a spent force, and Yakemenko harbours little ambition).

Was it another ‘subtle’ piece of advice for Medvedev, whose personal proximity to Putin strongly parallels that of Rohm to Hitler, to remember his place?

Was it, like the Night of the Long Knives, an announcement of the return of extra-judicial killings at the highest level?

A premonition of a ruthless cabinet purge, or even Putin’s return to the presidency?

Only Uri Geller knows for certain.


Russia Challenges US Hegemony…In Inmates Per Capita

September 4th, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin


In his hysterical editorial in today’s Guardian, Edward Lucas calls Russia “deeply corrupt and lawless”.

Unfortunately, exactly the opposite is true: Russia is so saturated with laws and its legal system so harsh that “more than one in 10 of the country’s citizens have been convicted of crimes over the past 15 years“, reports the Moscow Times, quoting a retired Supreme Court judge.

Maybe it’s true what all those cold warriors said about never trusting a Russian: after all, there’s a 10% chance that he’s a felon!

Moreover, contrary to the view that Russia is heading in “the wrong direction” and moving away from the West, the country is actually on track to match America, at least in terms of police efficiency:

In the US, more than 30% of the population are estimated to have a criminal record.

Forget great power rivalry and Eastern European geopolitics: the new cold war competition is unfolding in exactly this sphere.

While the US continues to “incarcerate more people than any other nation, far ahead of more populous China with 1.5 million people behind bars…and [remains] the leader in inmates per capita (750 per 100,000 people)”, Russia is not far behind and rapidly closing the gap (628 per 100,000).

We will bury you yet!

193 Years Back To the Future!

September 3rd, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin


Whatever one thinks of his foppish red socks or penchant for Prime Ministerial underwear, famous Iraq whistleblower Sir Christopher Meyer is a sound chap when it comes to foreign policy.

So when the UK’s former ambassador to the US writes that “a return to 1815 is the way forward for Europe: the Congress of Vienna divided the continent into spheres of influence[and] similar rules are needed for the 21st century”, we should listen.

His provocative essay, published in the Times, argues that globalisation and the end of the cold war have actually strengthened nationalism around the world:

It is useless to say that nationalism and ethnic tribalism have no place in the international relations of the 21st century. If anything the spread of Western-style democracy has amplified their appeal and resonance.

He issues a stinging rebuke to the now fashionable conception of the national interest, and spheres of interest, as anachronistic. Speaking of Russia and Iran, Meyer states:

You don’t have to like or approve of these regimes. But not to understand their histories is not to understand the mainspring of their external policies – in Russia’s case its determination to rebuild its greatness, dismantled, as millions of Russians see it, by Mikhail Gorbachev and his Georgian Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, aided and abetted by the West.

I would bet a sackful of roubles that Russian foreign policy would not be one jot different if it were a fully functioning democracy of the kind that we appear keen to spread around the globe.

This last passage is so important because it pierces the misguided notion of ideological primacy in international relations so peddled by the Bush and Blair administrations. Whether a regime is democratic or not ultimately bears little relation to its definition of geopolitical self-interest.

Sir Chris calls on “Russia and the West…to draw up rules of the road for the 21st century” similar ot the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

Something similar is needed today, based again on spheres of influence. Nato must renounce the provocative folly of being open to Georgian or, worse, Ukrainian membership. This strikes at the heart of the Russian national interest and offers no enhanced security to either Tbilisi or Kiev. As for Russia, it must be made unambiguously clear where any revanchist lunge westwards would provoke a military response by Nato.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Putin Shoots Tiger, Misses Journalists

September 1st, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin


In a refreshing turn of events, Vladimir Putin has reportedly saved the lives of several journalists during a trip to a Siberian conservation area for the endangered Amur tiger (in accordance with the LomonosovLavoisier Law of Conservation of Media, an opposition website owner in secessionist Ingushetia was ordered killed shortly afterwards).

When a tiger escaped from a trap and ran in the direction of the press pack, Putin is said to have shot it with a tranquiliser gun. Then, in a clear signal to Nato and Georgia, the Prime Minister stripped down to his camouflage underwear and proceeded to tear out and eat its still beating heart.

Well, not exactly; but he might as well have done, judging by the British headlines:

“Putin shoots a tiger as Europe grapples with Russian aggression” screams the Guardian, and then asks: “Was it an openly hostile signal of power play to the west? Or just another incarnation of Putin’s oft-demonstrated masculinity?”

“Vladimir Putin ‘shoots’ tiger, dismisses EU leaders”, declares the Times, adding that “the Russian Prime Minister – shown in new macho-style pictures apparently tranquilising a tiger – said that any attempts at severing relations would be hampered by the self-interest of European nations”.

In fact, histrionics aside, this has been a big week for Russian diplomacy: President Medvedev spelt out the 5 principles of his new foreign policy vision. The following is the BBC’s Paul Reynolds’s fine summary; his article is also worth reading for its good commentary.

1. International law

“Russia recognises the primacy of the basic principles of international law, which define relations between civilised nations. It is in the framework of these principles, of this concept of international law, that we will develop our relations with other states.”

2. Multi-polar world

“The world should be multi-polar. Unipolarity is unacceptable, domination is impermissible. We cannot accept a world order in which all decisions are taken by one country, even such a serious and authoritative country as the United States of America. This kind of world is unstable and fraught with conflict.”

3. No isolation

“Russia does not want confrontation with any country; Russia has no intention of isolating itself. We will develop, as far as possible, friendly relations both with Europe and with the United State of America, as well as with other countries of the world.”

4. Protect citizens

“Our unquestionable priority is to protect the life and dignity of our citizens, wherever they are. We will also proceed from this in pursuing our foreign policy. We will also protect the interest of our business community abroad. And it should be clear to everyone that if someone makes aggressive forays, he will get a response.”

5. Spheres of influence

“Russia, just like other countries in the world, has regions where it has its privileged interests. In these regions, there are countries with which we have traditionally had friendly cordial relations, historically special relations. We will work very attentively in these regions and develop these friendly relations with these states, with our close neighbours.”

Asked if these “priority regions” were those that bordered on Russia he replied: “Certainly the regions bordering [on Russia], but not only them.”

And he stated: “As regards the future, it depends not just on us. It also depends on our friends, our partners in the international community. They have a choice.”

Of course, these postulates are nothing new. The principles of Multipolarity and the idea of Russia’s Monroe Doctrine in the so-called Near Abroad (the former Soviet republics) were first advanced about a decade ago by Yevgueny Primakov. At the time, around the allied bombing of Yugoslavia, Russia made a lot of bluster regarding Nato encroachment, but couldn’t deliver. The difference is that now Russia appears for the first time able to put its tanks where its mouth is.

Fall Guy: Has Medvedev Been Set Up?

August 27th, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin


After his heady nights of rough and tumble in the Caucusus, Putin has left Medvedev holding the baby.

That is the argument of at least one Russian commentator, writing in the popular mainstream web newspaper Gazeta ru.

Vladimir Milov believes that Putin has avoided any public spotlight since his high profile control over the war in its first days; getting praise for the successfully fighting off the Georgians but leaving Medvedev the harrowing task of cleaning up the ensuing mess.

“Putin, realising that his ‘blitzkrieg’ in Georgia had failed, decided to detach himself from the operation and retreat into the shadows. When the West understood that deposing Saakashvili may be Russia’s ultimate goal, it created a 24 hour human shield around Tbilisi consisting of high profile officials. This made any ‘march on Tbilisi’ unrealistic. As there was no longer any reason to continue the war, Putin tasked Medvedev with sorting out the highly unpleasant political fall-out from the crisis and facing up to the international community.

If that is indeed what happened, then the relationship between Medvedev and Putin must have suffered an inevitable crack: a dual-presidency is only possible in a time of calm. During a crisis, all bets are off.

Putin’s desire to take control of the situation without accepting any of the responsibility could turn him into a serious enemy in Medvedev’s eyes. It is possible that the relationship between the two men could change much sooner than they had both anticipated.

It’s hard not to take this rather chilling prognosis seriously. After all, Putin’s own accession followed very similar lines. But if Medvedev is in fact out to bury his mentor, could we expect the same sort of radical policy U-turn that Putin engineered after he took over from Yeltsin?

It’s unlikely. Contrary to the common yet simplistic and misleading interpretation, there is not really any clear palace struggle between the siloviki (Putin’s strong men and KGB veterans) and the liberals (the Westernisers and pro-marketers, like Medvedev).

In a probing article from several months ago, Mark Ames wisely reminds us that Putin is as much a liberal as Medvedev, or Nemtsov for that matter:

Just as Georgia’s leader Mikhail Saakashvili is a liberal, even though he sent his shock troops wilding on opposition protestors, exiled his political opponents and shut down the opposition media. All of this talk of “liberals” on the ascendant or on the decline in the Putin Era is nonsense. Liberals are the Putin Era. And so are the siloviki, who still constitute the same 70-percent of the Russian elite today as they did last week, before their supposed decline. The reason they’re in power isn’t because of some deep ideological desire to create a neo-Fascist state, but rather, because that’s who Putin grew up with, and Putin rules a country steeped in clan culture.

If this sounds too much like a scene out of Boris Godunov, it’s worth remembering that such situations are not unique to Russia at all, or even to ‘authoritarian states’. Who can seriously argue that there was any real ideological difference between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, or between David Miliband and Brown today?

(What really infuriated the Russian in me most about those English leadership squabbles was how often the word ‘coup’ was thrown about. As in, oooh! X is plotting a coup against Y! These effete, decadent morons not only manage to have coups over nothing, but ones in which no one dies, and no government buildings are bombed! Call that a coup? Now THIS is a coup!)


So, to get a sense of Russia’s current squalid, bloodless succession crisis devoid of any Orientalist gloss, think of the difference between Putin’s silovikism and Medvedev’s liberalism as that between Brown’s Old Labour and Miliband’s New Labour. And who says Russia isn’t becoming more like the West?

C’est la politique qui prime!

Russia Crosses The Rubicon

August 26th, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin


Russia’s recognition of Ossetia and Abkhazia baffled me. On this blog, I have frequently tried to show alternative, Russian perspectives on matters that seem otherwise to be common sense, above debate, to Western audiences. But I just cannot see any benefits this move will bring. On the contrary, by uniting the traditionally friendly OSCE, pragmatic EU and hostile NATO in opposition, it threatens to increase Russia’s international isolation, and heighten the very encirclement that Putin had so anxiously tried to roll back with his Caucasian gambit.

In an interview with Russia Today, Medvedev raised the stakes further still:

“We are not afraid of anything, including the possibility of a new cold war. But of course, we don’t desire it”.

Not one other country has recognised the breakaway republics.

Indeed, while “it would be an exaggeration to say that Russia finds itself in international isolation, writes the Russian political scientist Fyodor Lukyanov, “Russia has clearly found itself in a vacuum. No one has supported Moscow’s actions, although for various reasons”.

In his illuminating and clear-headed essay for Radio Liberty, Lukyanov goes on to state that:

“Russia has demonstrated that it is able and willing to use force outside its borders in order to defend its national interests. This leaves neighboring countries faced with the question of how to ensure their own security…And Russia has to answer an equally important question: What are the criteria for determining those genuinely essential national interests in the name of which it is justified to use military force?

Very important questions, which should have been answered BEFORE any shots were fired. Yet perhaps Lukyanov’s most important observation is that Russia and the US appear to have “incompatible strategic horizons”.

Russia is a global power with regional ambitions. That is, it is ready to exchange its opportunities in distant regions like Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and the Far East in exchange for its interests in the regions that border it — Europe and Eurasia. That is, Moscow has a clear hierarchy of its priorities.

The United States is a superpower with global ambitions. A global leader does not have secondary interests. It isn’t possible to sacrifice anything or make trades because if something starts to totter in one place, it could trigger a domino effect. Therefore, everyone else must be pushed back as much as possible. As a result, no constructive dialogue is possible.

Whether or not one endorses the rather bleak conclusion, it is undeniable that a new relationship must be negotiated between Russia and the US-led West.

All my friends have been asking me: why does Russia just not seem to care what other countries think of it? Surely there could have been more conciliatory, diplomatic things that Medvedev could have said etc? The truth is, I’m not sure how useful that would have been. George HW Bush famously said that the USA does not apologise to anyone. It is very doubtful that ‘politeness’ achieves anything in relations with other countries, whose ties are based on shared interests, not good vibrations. But it could cost you domestically. Just think of how Obama’s foreign trip was interpreted by the right wing press as ‘pandering to France’ and ‘apologising for America’. Leaders have every incentive to sound tough, and the tougher, the better. Does anyone really believe that if Medvedev had been more balanced and understanding that Bush and NATO would have changed their Caucasus policy in his favour?

In fact, that is precisely what Gorbachev did in the late 1980s, and the near-universal perception in Russia is that the West royally took advantage of that to beat Russia while it was down. Gorbachev made a very big deal of sharing Western values, of transcending the old politics of division, of believing in universal human rights and individual free choice. And the West loved him back. But did all that Gorbymania stop America and West Germany from wresting concession after concession from the spluttering USSR? Nothing personal, just business!

So now it’s no more Mr Nice Guy, goes the thinking, because Russia’s learnt the hard way exactly where they finish.

The Gnome Goes to Georgia: Private Eye Takes on Putin

August 25th, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin


The latest edition of Private Eye, the finest satirical/investigative journal in the English language, is all about Russia & Georgia, with an Olympic flavour:

Let’s have a look, shall we?


And the party-political angle:


WTO? WTF! Russia Doesn’t Want to Play With You Anymore, Anyway!

August 22nd, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin


Western retaliation against Russia for its actions in Georgia will do it more good than harm, according to the academic and actvist Boris Kagarlitsky.

As Russian troops finally begin to withdraw from Georgia, the US and Nato are pondering the best punishment for its earlier invasion.

The respected International Crisis group suggested that “the West should deliver a firm message to Russia that if it does not respect the ceasefire deal and cooperate in implementing the international peacekeeping mission, it will be met with a serious response, including suspension of its Moscow’s World Trade Organisation application”.

Even Barack Obama is now calling to review the Russian WTO application.

But Kagarlitsky astutely notes that:

what Washington thinks is punishment for Moscow may in fact turn out to be a blessing. For example, the United States believes that blocking Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization is one way to retaliate. But for Russia’s domestic industries — particularly when there is a global economic downturn — entry into WTO would be a death sentence. Therefore, if this sentence will be postponed, the Kremlin can only thank the United States and Georgia.

As if that wasn’t enough, the other sanctions considered would reduce corruption, improve civil society, and even protect the environment!

Washington and London are threatening to investigate the bank accounts of senior Russian officials that are held abroad. It’s surprising that this wasn’t done earlier. Russians can only benefit if the United States leads a new fight against money laundering, particularly when it involves top officials from the Russian government. Moreover, NATO is threatening to suspend joint military exercises with Russia. That means Russia will save a nice amount of money and fuel. Finally, in light of the increased tension, liberal opposition groups in Moscow will receive more active help from the West. This is also beneficial because new financing will mean the creation of new media outlets, new nongovernmental organizations and new jobs.

You don’t have to be Max Moseley to enjoy this kind of ‘slap-down’!

Medvedev’s War Bump

August 20th, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin

Every happy president is happy in his own way; all unhappy presidents resemble one another, by going to war to boost their approval ratings.


(Medvedev approval rating courtesy of Levada Center poll, quoted in “Reiting Voennogo Vremeni”,, 20 Aug 2008).


Posted on on September 12th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Palin says war with Russia could be NATO option: Republican vice-presidential candiate Sarah Palin has outlined her hawkish views on Russia and the Caucasus.

VALENTINA POP, EUobserver, September 12, 2008.

US Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has backed Georgia’s NATO membership in a television interview, while leaving open the option of war with Russia if it were to attack a NATO ally.

In an interview with ABC News, Ms Palin was asked whether the United States would have to go to war with Russia if it invaded Georgia, and the country was part of NATO, Ms Palin said: “Perhaps so.”

“I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally – if another country is attacked, you’re going to be expected to be called upon and help,” she explained in her first television interview since becoming Republican John McCain’s running mate two weeks ago.

Ms Palin, currently governor of Alaska, said she supported NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia – a move Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin strongly opposes. It was America’s responsibility to be “vigilant” against a larger power invading smaller democracies, she said, while stressing: “We will not repeat a Cold War.”


NATO-Georgia Commission on Monday

Georgia is currently a NATO partner, but was not granted a Membership Action Plan (MAP) – as official membership candidate status is termed – at this year’s NATO summit in Bucharest.

However, following the Russian invasion, NATO decided on 19 August to establish a new NATO-Georgia Commission, which will inaugurate its work in Tbilisi on Monday with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and ambassadors from the 26 Alliance’s member states.

“We won’t supply arms to the Georgians, but we will help them develop their own military potential,” NATO spokesperson James Appathurai said, Gazeta Wyborcza reports, adding that the ambassadors will fly there using a Polish government plane.

Russian threats against Europe

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned on Thursday (11 September) in Sochi that tensions between Russia and the EU may well worsen if the planned US missile defense shield is deployed in Poland, threatening yet once more to point Russian missiles at European targets.

On the same day, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov met his Polish counterpart in Warsaw, saying that “Poland is not a threat to Russia, but we can’t ignore the fact it’s an integral part of the US strategic system.”

Mr Putin fiercely defended Russia’s invasion of Georgia, accusing the West of “anti-Russian hysteria” and saying that if this military operation had not been carried out, it would have been like Russia “getting a bloody nose and hanging its head down.”

Russia wanted a constructive relationship with the European Union, but only if the new “realities” were taken into account, he said.

Mr Putin accused the Bush administration of “not doing anything about stopping the conflict,” a feeling he got when speaking to the US president at the Olympic Games in China and which prompted him to send tanks into Georgia.

In Beijing, he had already raised the question of Russia recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent territories with the Chinese government, and told them Russia did not expect Chinese support, which suggests Moscow was already planning to recognise the two enclaves, the BBC reports.

Putin also made clear that Russia could easily have occupied the Georgian capital and toppled its president, Mikhail Saakashvili, despite earlier claims of the Russian army being close to the Georgian capital as an exaggeration in the Western media.

“Our forces were 15 kilometres from Tbilisi. It would have taken four hours to capture Tbilisi. We didn’t have that goal,” he said.


Posted on on September 6th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Chinese company wants to buy Brussels Airlines and its Airport.
VALENTINA POP, September 5, 2008.

Chinese airline Hainan may challenge a bid by Lufthansa to buy Brussels Airlines, with the Asian firm already in talks to snap up Belgium’s Charleroi airport.

German carrier Lufthansa remains the favourite bidder for Brussels Airlines, but some shareholders in the Belgian company believe the offer is too low and are looking at other partners, such as British Airways and Hainan, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday (5 September).

Late last week, Lufthansa said it was in “constructive negotiations” to acquire a 45 percent stake in Brussels Airlines for €65 million, expecting to close the deal within the next few weeks. The remaining stake was then to be taken over after two years.

But shareholders in Brussels Airlines believe the carrier is worth at least €200 million. Brussels Airlines is the heir to the bankrupt Sabena, with a 30 percent share having been taken over in 2006 by Richard Branson’s Virgin Express.

Hainan’s interest in Brussels Airlines is fortified by its bid for Charleroi airport, a low-cost hub 46 km south of the Belgian capital.

Hainan is among the three companies shortlisted to buy up the currently publicly owned Charleroi airport, with the Chinese company saying it is one of their priorities and promising further developments of the low cost terminal, La Libre Belgique reported on Tuesday.

The move has sparked internal competition between Charleroi and the main Brussels airport, Zaventem, out of which Hainan operates a number of flights. Unidentified sources close to the deal told the Belgian newspaper that the managers of Zaventem had launched a “sabotage and denigration campaign” of Charleroi airport, in order to distract the Chinese.

La Libre Belgique also reported that the Flemish region and the Brussels Airport Company (BAC) who manages Zaventem gave Hainan Airlines financial advantages worth €1.5 million.

The newspaper draws a comparison with the aid offered by the Charleroi airport and the Walloon region to the Irish carrier Ryanair, aid deemed illegal by the European Commission in 2004.

After having read the newspaper report, the Walloon minister for transportation, Andre Antoine, said: “Nobody is stupid. The aim of the manoeuvre is to attract the Chinese to Zaventem, not Charleroi.”

Zaventem is Brussel’s main international airport.

In return, BAC said it didn’t understand the minister’s reaction and didn’t see any problems with the €1.5 million contract it signed two years ago with the Chinese company, in order to promote the Flemish region in Shanghai and Beijing. The contract does not involve directly neither BAC, nor Hainan Airlines, a press spokesman for BAC said.

La Libre Belgique reported that the contract involved some €400,000 being payed to Hainan for “marketing support” and €200,000 for language training for the pilots of the company. Only €900,000 were allocated to promoting the region in China, the newspaper says.


[Comment / Opinion on EUobserver] After Georgia: is Ukraine next?
ANDREW WILSON, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, September 5, 2008.

EUOBSERVER / COMMENT – The war in Georgia began by exposing the security vacuum in the surrounding region. Now it has claimed its first collateral victim, after the fall of the Ukrainian government on 2 September.

The crisis has been brewing over the summer recess, but came to a head in late August after President Yushchenko’s administration accused Prime Minister Tymoshenko of trading her relative silence over Georgia for Russian support in a campaign to supplant him as president.

Ukraine president Viktor Yushchenko – the 2004 Orange Revolution feels a long time ago (Photo:

When parliament reassembled, Tymoshenko joined forces with the east Ukrainian-based Party of Regions, ramming through a law to reduce presidential power, and apparently repositioning herself as a more pro-Russian candidate in the presidential race.

Parliament was also unable to agree any of several diametrically opposed resolutions on Georgia, ranging from outright condemnation of Russia to recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The crisis comes in between the emergency EU summit on Russia-Georgia in Brussels on 1 September and the regular EU-Ukraine summit on 9 September in Evian, France.

The EU therefore has an ideal opportunity to push back against Russia’s attempts to dominate the European neighbourhood by starting with Ukraine, which is also the linchpin for the whole region.


War of words:

Many Ukrainians now hear domestic echoes of the lead-up to war in Georgia. Ukraine has its own potentially separatist region in Crimea, and the country’s Russian minority numbers some 8.3 million (the largest minority in Europe).

Half of Ukraine’s population of just over 46 million are Russian-speaking in various degrees. Although the Ukrainian constitution bans dual citizenship, the government has launched an inquiry into alleged covert Russian passport-holding in the Crimean city of Sevastopol.

Some Ukrainians note that Russia justified its invasion of Georgia, as the Nazis once justified their dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, as being necessary to “protect” a minority to whom they had just given citizenship.

Russia has begun a war of words over Ukraine’s alleged supply of arms to Georgia. And the conflict itself has shown that the Russian Black Sea Fleet, based in Sevastopol, can operate with impunity, whether Ukraine likes it or not.

Based on its analysis of Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” as a foreign-backed “NGO coup,” Russia has also been quietly building its own network of Russia-friendly NGOs in Ukraine since 2004.

Ukrainians also talk of an otkat ekonomiya (“kickback economy”), in which Russian money percolates throughout the Ukrainian elite.


A strategy for Ukraine:

What should the EU therefore offer in Evian? The European Neighborhood Policy is a worthy enough technical process, but it does not address pressing political concerns about maintaining and securing Ukraine’s independence.

Many member states will worry about leaping straight to the contentious issue of ultimate membership for Ukraine, but the EU already recognizes Ukraine’s theoretical right to join once it has met the Copenhagen criteria; and it cannot be beyond EU leaders’ verbal dexterity to play up the prospect.

What Ukraine would value and needs most is a real sense that it is being treated distinctly in its own right. The key words are “association” and “partnership,” in whatever order or combination.

The EU has greater scope for short-term measures, which should be designed to deliver a multi-dimensional solidarity strategy for Ukraine.

The EU’s foreign ministers should invite their Ukrainian counterpart to give a briefing on Ukraine-Russia relations at their next meeting.

Ukraine should be offered a road map for visa-free travel, as well as ensuring that member states deliver on current visa facilitation measures. The new EU-Ukraine agreement should include a beefed-up solidarity clause, building on the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, whereby the EU would consult and assist Ukraine in case of challenges to its territorial integrity and sovereignty. And the EU should back Ukraine if it insists that the Russian Black Sea Fleet leaves on schedule in 2017.

The EU should also launch a comprehensive study of all aspects of Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies, including transit, energy security and conservation, supply diversification, and the impact of “bypass” pipelines like Nordstream and South Stream.

It should consider linking the opening of the Nordstream pipeline, which would allow Russia to cut off gas to Poland and Ukraine while maintaining deliveries to Germany, to the opening of the proposed “White Stream” pipeline to bring gas from Azerbaijan directly to Ukraine via Georgia, bypassing Russia.

The EU could even play a part in keeping the 2012 European Championship football finals on track. The decision to appoint Ukraine and Poland as co-hosts was a powerful symbol of European unity across the current EU border (Poland is a member, Ukraine is not).

UEFA is unhappy with Ukraine’s progress in building the necessary infrastructure, but Ukraine should be given time to get its act together.

Where appropriate, the EU should extend these measures to Moldova, which is now calling Ukraine a “strategic shelter,” most probably after the elections in March 2009.

Ukraine faces a crucial presidential election in 2009 or 2010. After getting its fingers badly burned at the last election in 2004, Russia is clearly tempted to intervene again. The “Russian factor” will strongly influence the campaign.

Greater Western engagement is needed to ensure that the “Europe factor” is equally prominent.


Posted on on September 3rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (



Op-Ed Columnist Thomas Friedman, The New York Times, September 3, 2008 (written September 2, 2008)

As we emerge from Labor Day, college students are gathering back on campuses not only to start the fall semester, but also, in some cases, to vote for the first time in a presidential election.

There is no bigger issue on campuses these days than environment/energy. Going into this election, I thought that — for the first time — we would have a choice between two “green” candidates.

That view is no longer operative — and college students (and everyone else) need to understand that.

With his choice of Sarah Palin — the Alaska governor who has advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and does not believe mankind is playing any role in climate change — for vice president, John McCain has completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil.


Given the fact that Senator McCain deliberately avoided voting on all eight attempts to pass a bill extending the vital tax credits and production subsidies to expand our wind and solar industries, and given his support for lowering the gasoline tax in a reckless giveaway that would only promote more gasoline consumption and intensify our addiction to oil, and given his desire to make more oil-drilling, not innovation around renewable energy, the centerpiece of his energy policy — in an effort to mislead voters that support for drilling today would translate into lower prices at the pump today — McCain has forfeited any claim to be a green candidate.

So please, students, when McCain comes to your campus and flashes a few posters of wind turbines and solar panels, ask him why he has been AWOL when it came to Congress supporting these new technologies.


“Back in June, the Republican Party had a round-up,” said Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club. “One of the unbranded cattle — a wizened old maverick name John McCain — finally got roped. Then they branded him with a big ‘Lazy O’ — George Bush’s brand, where the O stands for oil. No more maverick.

“One of McCain’s last independent policies putting him at odds with Bush was his opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” added Pope, “yet he has now picked a running mate who has opposed holding big oil accountable and been dismissive of alternative energy while focusing her work on more oil drilling in a wildlife refuge and off of our coasts. While the northern edge of her state literally falls into the rising Arctic Ocean, Sarah Palin says, ‘The jury is still out on global warming.’ She’s the one hanging the jury — and John McCain is going to let her.”

Indeed, Palin’s much ballyhooed confrontations with the oil industry have all been about who should get more of the windfall profits, not how to end our addiction.


Barack Obama should be doing more to promote his green agenda, but at least he had the courage, in the heat of a Democratic primary, not to pander to voters by calling for a lifting of the gasoline tax. And while he has come out for a limited expansion of offshore drilling, he has refrained from misleading voters that this is in any way a solution to our energy problems.

I am not against a limited expansion of off-shore drilling now. But it is a complete sideshow. By constantly pounding into voters that his energy focus is to “drill, drill, drill,” McCain is diverting attention from what should be one of the central issues in this election: who has the better plan to promote massive innovation around clean power technologies and energy efficiency.

Why? Because renewable energy technologies — what I call “E.T.” — are going to constitute the next great global industry. They will rival and probably surpass “I.T.” — information technology. The country that spawns the most E.T. companies will enjoy more economic power, strategic advantage and rising standards of living. We need to make sure that is America. Big oil and OPEC want to make sure it is not.


Palin’s nomination for vice president and her desire to allow drilling in the Alaskan wilderness “reminded me of a lunch I had three and half years ago with one of the Russian trade attachés,” global trade consultant Edward Goldberg said to me. “After much wine, this gentleman told me that his country was very pleased that the Bush administration wanted to drill in the Alaskan wilderness. In his opinion, the amount of product one could actually derive from there was negligible in terms of needs. However, it signified that the Bush administration was not planning to do anything to create alternative energy, which of course would threaten the economic growth of Russia.”

So, college students, don’t let anyone tell you that on the issue of green, this election is not important. It is vitally important, and the alternatives could not be more black and white.


Posted on on September 2nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Russian Offensive Hailed in Mideast.

By Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, August 30, 2008.

CAIRO — For some in the Middle East, the images of Russian tanks rolling into Georgia in defiance of U.S. opposition have revived warm memories of the Cold War.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s influential son, echoed the delight expressed in much of the Arab news media. “What happened in Georgia is a good sign, one that means America is no longer the sole world power setting the rules of the game,” the younger Gaddafi was quoted as telling the Russian daily Kommersant. “There is a balance in the world now. Russia is resurging, which is good for us, for the entire Middle East.”

In Turkey, an American and European ally that obtains more than two-thirds of its natural gas from Russia, the reaction was more complex. Turks watched as the United States, NATO and a divided European Union hesitated in the face of Russian military assertiveness, leaving them more doubtful than they already were about depending on the West to secure U.S.-backed alternative oil and gas supply lines.

“This Russian invasion of Georgia is a turning point in the relations of the Atlantic community with Russia, including, of course, Turkey,” Ozden Sanberk, a former Turkish ambassador to Britain, said by telephone from Turkey. “There is a change in the paradigm, a change in assessment.”


Since Aug. 8, when Russia sent troops and tanks across its southern border in a confrontation with Georgia’s pro-Western government, many Turkish newspapers have urged the Turkish government to improve relations with Russia, in pragmatic acceptance of the possibility that Russia could directly or indirectly control most oil and gas supplies from Central Asia to Europe.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the past two weeks has sought to persuade leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia to put their political differences aside in the interest of keeping oil and gas flowing.

Russian leaders, angry at Turkish military aid to Georgia, repeatedly refused to take Erdogan’s calls, Turkish news media reported.

Russia has been paying closer attention to the needs of the United States’ least favorite Middle East countries, Syria and Iran.

Russia’s ambassador in Tehran, Alexander Sadovnikov, told Iranian news media this week that Russia was committed to helping Iran finish work on its Bushehr nuclear plant as soon as possible. At the same time, Iran’s oil minister declared his country’s eagerness to do more business with Russia’s main energy company, Gazprom.

The United States has tried to discourage European countries and Turkey from turning to Iran for oil and gas. With Russia demonstrating its ability to control supplies through Georgia and the rest of the Caucasus, Iran’s supplies are going to look more attractive to U.S. allies in Europe, analysts noted.

And with the United States and Russia at odds, Iran also can expect more help from Russia in blocking U.S. efforts at the U.N. Security Council and other international bodies to sanction Iran over its nuclear program, said Flynt Leverett, a former Bush administration Middle East policy director and now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington.

Especially with Assad’s visit to Moscow, Russians are signaling that there is more they can do to undermine U.S. policies, Leverett said.

Syrian officials this week denied reports in Russian news media that Assad had sought Russian ballistic missiles on his visit to Moscow and had offered to host a Russian naval post again, as Syria did in the Cold War to ward off any attack by Israel.

Iranian officials, mindful of a possible U.S. or Israeli strike, also have voiced hopes of obtaining Russia’s most advanced antiaircraft missile systems.

In Israel and the United States, there is “definitely rising concern Russia may go ahead and deliver those systems as a way of further indicating how unhappy it is with U.S. policy,” Leverett said.

Russia, however, also has been building relations and trade with Israel, and has denied selling its most advanced systems to Syria or Iran. Syria itself is in indirect peace talks with Israel. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that Russia was ready to sell Syria arms of a “defensive character that do not violate the strategic balance of power in the Middle East.”

Israel said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert planned to travel to Russia to discuss any Syria-Russia arms deals, amid statements from Israeli officials that the arms could be used to bolster Syrian ally Hezbollah.

Middle East governments have experience with Russian-made weapons, which haven’t worked so well, said Abdel-Moneim Said, director of the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. Egyptians still blame their defeats in wars against Israel partly on their Russian-supplied weapons.

Many Arab analysts initially cheered Russia’s flexing of its military muscles. An opinion piece in the United Arab Emirates-based Gulf News called it “long overdue.” Editorials in some Arab news media this week and last expressed second thoughts, questioning whether Russia has the stability, surety of purpose or strength to be a leader among countries.

“All that ended up to be a kind of nostalgia, or looking for a new kind of Cold War, when there was not only one, single power dominating the world, the United States, and its ally, Israel,” Said said.

Now, “there’s a realization that Russia has a lot of interests with the West. Also that Russia is still a limited power,” he said. “It’s no match. There is no new Cold War coming.”


Posted on on September 1st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament Declared September 1, 2008, that:
Georgia-Russia: Dialogue must remain open.


The European Parliament is debating the crisis in Georgia this evening in Brussels in parallel to an emergency summit of the European Council on the same topic.

Liberals and Democrats have welcomed the quick initial response of the French Presidency and urged the European Union to speak with one distinctive voice.

Graham Watson MEP, Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, said:
“Dialogue and engagement will defuse tensions more effectively than isolation. That is the lesson of the cold war.

“The EU should now take three firm measures moving forward:

there should be a crisis management and Reconstruction Fund and the rapid deployment of international humanitarian assistance,

the Council should designate an EU representative to Georgia who will make both sides listen,

and the EU should explore the possibility of sending an ESDP mission with a pro-active role in mediating between the two sides.


“One problem the Union must fix immediately is the glaring anomaly whereby Georgian citizens who take up the offer of Russian passports are given freer access to Europe than those who do not.”


Marco Cappato (IT, Radicale), who is negotiating the text of the resolution on behalf of ALDE added:
“For many years Georgia has been expressing its dream of being part of the European family, but the EU has been incapable of offering a European federal strategy. In so doing, the EU has reinforced nationalism in the Caucasus and played into the hands of the Russian regime.”

Lydie Polfer MEP (DP, Luxembourg) was responsible for drafting the European Parliament’s report on the South Caucasus earlier this year in which she warned of the potential for conflict due to the unresolved border disputes in the region:

“It is unacceptable and in breach of international commitments for two Member countries of the OSCE and Council of Europe to resort to military means against each other. Both Russia and Georgia bear responsibility for the escalation of the recent violence in the South Caucasus.”

“I am however encouraged by the speed and willingness of the European Union to engage in brokering a peaceful end to the dispute which augurs well for the future development of the common foreign and security policy. But more needs to be done to build lasting stability in the region and preventing further outbreaks of violence”.

Link to Polfer report adopted 17 January 2008:….


Posted on on August 29th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Spats over who gets to go to EU summit break out in Poland, Finland.
LEIGH PHILLIPS, August 29, 2008.

The emergency European summit called to tackle the Georgian crisis and forge a common European position on the issue is itself causing divisions – but over who gets to go to the extraordinary meeting of EU leaders.

The Polish prime minister and president are scrapping over who gets to attend the meeting, while the decision by the Finnish president to go has pushed aside the country’s foreign minister, Alexander Stubb, who is also the current chair of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

EU leaders to meet in Brussels on Monday 1 September.

Meanwhile, in the Czech Republic, although there is no tussle over who gets to attend, President Vaclav Klaus nonetheless has an opposing view to his prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, as to who is responsible for the Georgian conflict.

Conservative Polish president Lech Kaczynski has demanded he be the one to head to Brussels for the summit, rather than the more liberal prime minister, Donald Tusk.

Speaking on Polish radio, the president’s aide, Piotr Kownacki, on Thursday (28 August) said: ” If the president is in the Polish delegation, it is obvious that he lead it due to his office,” according to AFP.

The previous day, the deputy prime minister, Grzegorz Schetyna, had said that if the president attended, it “was not going to help matters,” the French news agency also reported.

Moreover, the two leaders have a slightly differing perspective on the crisis. The president has attacked the peace plan between Russia and Georgia negotiated by French President Nicholas Sarkozy for making no mention of Georgia’s right to territorial integrity.

Mr Tusk, for his part, has not criticised the plan, although he hopes to see a strong position taken by the EU on Russia’s actions.

Mssrs Tusk and Kaczynski are to meet on Friday to attempt to resolve the disagreement.

Over in Finland, President Tarja Halonen has announced she is to attend the summit, meaning that foreign minister Alexander Stubb would have to wait outside while the president and prime minister talk with other EU leaders.

The bumping of the foreign minister this time is causing a bit of a headache for the delegation, as Mr Stubb is also the current chairperson of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), with which the EU has been closely working on the Georgian crisis. The foreign minister and former MEP also played a key role in the negotiation of the Sarkozy peace plan as chair of the OSCE.

President Halonen’s chief of staff said on Wednesday that the “starting point” is that the OSCE chairperson will attend and that Finland would have a third seat in the meeting, instead of the normal two, the Helsingin Sanomat reported.

However, Brussels officials have all said that a third seat is “impossible,” according to the Finnish daily.

Mr Stubb may yet be invited to attend separately in his capacity of OSCE chair, but in which case, he would only be able to participate for the length of his presentation.

Elsewhere, although Czech President Vaclav Klaus has been invited, he will not be heading to the summit, with prime minister Mirek Topolánek attending instead, alongside the foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg.

The Czech leaders have diametrically opposed views on the conflict, with President Klaus of the opinion that Georgia is responsible for starting the war, while the prime minister blames Russia.

Mr Schwarzenberg said that such differences are nothing unusual in the government of a democratic state. The main thing, he said, is that it is the government that determines foreign policy, reports the Prague Post.


Germany and Russia threaten EU-Ukraine relations.

28.08.2008 EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Germany’s close relations with Russia are the main obstacle to signing a major EU-Ukraine treaty at the upcoming EU-Ukraine summit in France, Ukraine diplomats say, warning that failure to seal the deal will signal to Moscow that it can veto EU policy on post-Soviet states.

“There are maybe two or three countries who are strong opposers, strong sceptics,” Ukrainian deputy foreign minister Konstantin Yeliseyev said in Brussels on Thursday (28 August), commenting on EU reluctance to state clearly that “the future of Ukraine lies in the European Union” in the preamble to the new treaty.

“In this regard, we count very much on the leadership of Germany, which is the engine of EU integration and a very powerful country, we count very much on their courage,” he added, saying EU explanations – such as lack of formal consensus among the 27 states or public enlargement fatigue – are “not sincere.”

“Some other countries like Belgium are also opposed. But Berlin is the key,” another Ukraine official said, with just 12 days left to go before the summit in Evian, France. “They are telling us the chancellory is talking to the foreign ministry and so forth, but no matter what they say, the real problem is Russia.”

Germany and Russia have historically close relations, with former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder currently working to help build a new Germany-Russia gas pipeline and with the current chancellor, Angela Merkel, opposing EU diplomatic sanctions against Russia despite Russia’s actions in Georgia.

The statement on EU enlargement is a deal-breaker for Ukraine, which says that if Germany’s preferred wording – that the new treaty “does not prejudge future relations” – is used, it will effectively rule out any Ukraine moves toward EU accession for the next 10 to 15 years, when the pact is due to expire.

Ukraine is also pressing for NATO countries to offer it a Membership Action Plan in December, with Germany also leading opposition at NATO-level to such a move. Mr Yeliseyev warned that lack of a clear political commitment by the West to Ukraine will be seen by Moscow as a green light to expand influence in the east.

“If the [EU-Ukraine] summit is not successful … it will send encouragement to Russia that it can influence EU policy and EU strategy,” he said. “If NATO members don’t take this decision, it will show Russia that by using force, they can influence the process of enlargement and obtain a kind of domination of the post-Soviet states.”

The deputy minister underlined that Ukraine sees the EU as a guardian of economic and political stability, in contrast to NATO’s hard security role. “We consider NATO as a father and the EU as a mother. With a father it’s mostly physical protection, security protection. With a mother it is mostly economic protection,” he said.

Mr Yeliseyev explained that the Russia-Georgia war has raised security concerns in Ukraine due to the situation in Crimea, where 60 percent of inhabitants are ethnically Russian and where Russia keeps its Black Sea fleet, which was used against Georgia, making Ukraine a “third party to this conflict.”

“If Ukrainian security detorirated, it would not be a Georgia scenario, it would be a more dangerous scenario,” he said, with the 50 million-strong, former nuclear power currently controlling most of Russia’s natural gas exports to the EU.


EU fears Russian action in Ukraine and Moldova: A peace mural in Stepanakert, Azerbaijan: Russia’s action have emboldened separatists across eastern Europe.

French and UK foreign ministers have voiced fears Russia may be planning Georgia-type scenarios in EU neighbours Ukraine and Moldova, amid rising tension between Ukraine and Russia and fresh calls for independence by Moldovan rebels.

“I repeat, it [Russia’s action in Georgia] is very dangerous, and there are other objectives that one can suppose are objectives for Russia, in particular the Crimea, Ukraine and Moldova,” France’s Bernard Kouchner said on Europe 1 radio on Wednesday (27 August).

The remark comes after Russia this week formally recognised two rebel enclaves in Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – as independent states, following a Georgian attack on South Ossetian capital Tskinvali, to which Russia responded with a military incursion into Georgia.

Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova all broke away from Russia’s sphere of influence in the past five years to seek integration with NATO and the EU.

But in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, 58 percent of people are ethnically Russian and hundreds of thousands hold Russian passports, with some groups calling for the territory to split from Ukraine. Crimea is also home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

In Moldova, the Russophone Transniestria region gained de facto independence after a civil war in 1992. The strip of land still houses 1,300 Russian troops.

UK foreign minister David Miliband on a visit to Ukraine on Wednesday shared Mr Kouchner’s concern, urging Kiev “not to provide any pretext for Russian actions because, of course, the Russians have used those pretexts in the Georgian case.”

The British foreign secretary said the war in Georgia marked “the end of the post Cold War period of growing geopolitical calm in and around Europe.”

“Ukraine could be the next target of political pressure by Russia,” EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn told a meeting of Finnish ambassadors in Helsinki the same day, AFP reports. “It is important from a stability point of view that the EU sends a clear political signal that Ukraine’s integration into the [European] Union is possible.”


Crimean confrontation:

Ukraine-Russia relations worsened on Wednesday as President Viktor Yushchenko condemned Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and revealed plans to raise the price for the Russian navy’s land lease in the Crimea port of Sevastopol.

Violation of Georgia’s territorial integrity “fuels tensions, not only in the Caucasus,” he said, Interfax reports. “Fundamental agreements and principles of trust … can be lost via thoughtless steps, when diplomacy and the policy of peaceful settlement are replaced with a policy of force.”

The Sevastopol lease move comes after Mr Yushchenko earlier threatened to ban Russian ships used in the war against Georgia from returning to port. Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Wednesday warned the president against enflaming pro-Russian feeling on the peninsula by targeting the fleet.

“If we don’t change the position on Crimea, if we don’t harmonise relations with the Black Sea fleet, we will be in for very serious problems,” she said.


Transnistria next?

Russia’s recognition of the two regions also raised the temperature in Moldova on Wednesday, with Transnistria separatists predicting their turn will come next.

“As regards the recognition of Transnistria, this is a matter of time,” the rebels’ military chief Vladimir Atamaniuc told Russian newswires. “It is Moldova that should be the first to recognise us,” said Oleg Gudymo, a member of the internationally unrecognised Transnistrian parliament. “If they want to live in peace with us they have no other option.”

Earlier this week, Russia’s ambassador to Moldova, Valeri Kuzmin, also used threatening language on the frozen conflict. “Moldova should draw its own positive conclusions after the conflict in South Ossetia,” he said. “I believe [Moldovan] leaders will use their wisdom … to not allow such a bloody and catastrophic trend of events”


Stepanakert statement:

While Russia is still waiting for any of its allies to join it in recognising the Georgian separatists, the Russian-backed breakaway republic of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan yesterday gave its support.

“This fully meets the principle of the self-determination of nations and fundamental norms of international law,” the Nagorno-Karabakh “foreign ministry” in Stepanakert said, warning Azerbaijan that any use of force would end in a Georgia-like “humanitarian catastrophe.”

EU and US-ally Azerbaijan is a growing exporter of oil to Europe via a pipeline bypassing Russia and aims to ship natural gas to the west through the EU’s future Nabucco pipeline as well.


EU sanctions would be ‘grave mistake,’ Russia says

August 29, 2008, EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS

As the European Union considers imposing sanctions against Russia over its recognition of independence for Georgia’s rebel regions, Moscow has said that any punitive measures would be a “grave mistake,” harming the 27-nation bloc as much as Russia itself.

“First of all, I highly doubt that [sanctions] might ever happen, but hypothetically speaking, this would be to the detriment of the European Union as much, if not more, than to Russia,” Russia’s ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said on Thursday (28 August).

France has called an emergency EU summit on 1 September to reassess relations with Russia.

The comment comes shortly ahead of an emergency EU summit scheduled for 1 September in order to reassess the union’s ties with Moscow in the face of its actions in the South Caucasus.

France, the current EU president, has warned that “sanctions are being considered and many other means as well” – words that were quickly denounced by Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who said the idea showed the workings of a “sick imagination.”

In practice, just a few countries – mainly the UK, Sweden, Poland and three Baltic EU states – are pushing for a tough line against Russia.

Even if achieved, punitive measures could be limited to no more than suspension of visa-free travel talks or postponement of negotiations on a new EU-Russia treaty, currently scheduled for 16 September, EU diplomats said.

“I can only express the wish that European leaders will be able to rise above the emotions of the day and consider seriously and without prejudice the perspectives of strategic partnership with their important partner, the Russian Federation,” ambassador Chizhov told journalists in Brussels.

“We need the new agreement as much as the EU does – not less, not more,” he concluded.

The French EU presidency itself will not table punitive measures, while Germany – which is heavily reliant on Russian oil and gas – also has little appetite for punishing Moscow.

“We are strongly committed to keeping open channels to Russia. We have to look at who will be hurt by sanctions, what will be the costs and benefits,” one senior German official was cited as saying by the Financial Times.

German Socialist MEP Martin Schulz told Financial Times Deutschland: “[Sanctions] would play into the hands of radical elements in Moscow, who want an escalation of the conflict.”

An isolated Russia?

Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – widely seen as the man driving Kremlin policy – has accused Washington of playing a role in the current conflict in Georgia to benefit one of the US presidential candidates.

“The suspicion arises that someone in the United States especially created this conflict with the aim of making the situation more tense and creating a competitive advantage for one of the candidates fighting for the post of US president,” Mr Putin said in a CNN interview on Thursday (28 August).

He explained that US citizens had been present in the area during hostilities, following direct orders from Washington, which also trained and supplied the Georgian army.

The White House dismissed the allegations by describing them as “not rational” and “patently false.”

Another round of verbal attacks took place at the United Nations last night (28 August), with Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin accusing the US of hypocrisy. He cited the US-led invasion of Iraq and Kosovo’s unilateral secession from Serbia, backed by major Western powers, as examples.

“I would like to ask the distinguished representative of the United States [about] weapons of mass destruction. Have you found them yet in Iraq or are you still looking for them?” Mr Churkin said, according to Reuters.

So far, no country has followed Russia in recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, although Moscow’s Ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, said he expected a “number of countries” to do so, with Belarus suggesting it may take the step before the weekend.

Virtual integrity

Mr Chizhov referred to Georgia’s territorial integrity as a “virtual concept” rather than reality, even arguing that Russia’s moves are justified under the peace plan brokered two weeks ago by French leader Nicolas Sarkozy – a deal seen as too vague and too Russia-friendly.

“Let me refer to the six-point plan of Presidents Medvedev and Sarkozy, which does not include a reference of territorial integrity and it’s not a mistake … it was deliberate I would say,” the Russian diplomat said.

But Russia has failed to win backing from its allies within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, comprising China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, whose leaders limited themselves to supporting Russia’s “active role in promoting peace” in the post-conflict phase.


France accuses Russia of ethnic cleansing: Kouchner in Georgia during the five-day war.
PHILIPPA RUNNER, 27.08.2008.

Talk of “war” and “ethnic cleansing” hit European TV channels on Tuesday (26 August) as France and Russia debated Moscow’s hard backing of rebel groups in Georgia. But plans for next week’s EU summit and new EU-Russia energy links remain unaltered for now.

“We fear a war and we don’t want one,” French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said on the France 2 television station, after Russia gave formal recognition to Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions earlier in the day. “If it’s hot, we don’t want it.”

The minister showed a map of South Ossetia and pointed to the town of Akhalgori, saying: “Tonight, Russian troops are sweeping through it, pushing Georgians out and over the border. It’s ethnic cleansing.”

In a separate interview on France’s LCI channel, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev dared the EU to impose diplomatic sanctions at next week’s EU summit. “If they want a degradation of relations, they will get it,” he said. “The ball is in the European camp.”

“We are not afraid of anything, including the prospect of a new Cold War,” the president also said on the Russia Today TV channel. On the Arabic Al-Jazeera network he spoke of using “military means” against a future US missile base in Poland.

Meanwhile, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov accused NATO members of rearming Georgia. “They are even starting to supply new types of weapons, restoring the military infrastructure that was used in the aggression,” he said, Ria Novosti reports.

The rhetoric coming from Poland and Georgia was no less harsh, with Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski telling Polish daily Dziennik Russia will “again lose” in a confrontation with the “10 times richer” West.

“The end of the revival of Russia’s imperialism has started,” Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said, calling for Europe to impose a travel ban on Russian leaders and their families, while claiming he has “serious signals” that the crisis will speed up Georgia’s integration with NATO and the EU.

Business as usual?

Germany continued to sound a calmer note throughout the day, however, indicating that suspension of EU-Russia treaty talks is still not on the cards. “We will not solve conflicts if we do not talk to each other,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said on a visit to Lithuania, DPA reports.

Ms Merkel’s trip to the Baltic states and Sweden is aimed at promoting a new Germany-Russia gas pipeline – Nord Stream – which Germany calls a “strategic European project,” but which the former-communist EU states fear will strengthen Russia’s energy leverage against eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, French EU presidency officials quietly brushed aside a joint proposal by Poland, Sweden and the Baltic countries to invite the fiery Mr Saakashvili to the EU summit on Monday. “The idea did not meet with much enthusiasm,” a Polish diplomat told PAP.

Russia’s recognition of the rebel enclaves will make the EU meeting more “complicated,” Dutch Green MEP Joost Lagendijk commented. “With this, it will be more difficult for the moderates to say: ‘We should not alienate Russia’,” he told AFP.

Kosovo parallel:

With Russia continuing to draw parallels between South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Kosovo – which has been recognised 46 countries worldwide – individual Belarusian MPs were the only non-Russian entities to back Moscow in its recognition of the two rebel regions so far.

“I’m sure that Belarus will become one of the first countries to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Belarus lower house delegate Aleksei Ostrovsky said, BelaPAN reports.

But Minsk remained quiet on Wednesday morning, with EU diplomats noting that President Alexander Lukashenko is currently trying to improve relations with Brussels to offset Russia’s influence on his eonomically-fragile dictatorship.

The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation [China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan security alliance] is to meet in Tajikistan to discuss the Georgia issue on Thursday.

But Moscow’s traditional allies have also taken a back seat in the conflict for now, amid an EU push to offer Central Asia new ways of breaking Russia’s monopoly on its transit of oil and gas to Europe.


Bulgaria makes case for Nabucco pipeline.

Bulgaria has called on the EU to throw all its weight behind the Nabucco energy corridor, a pipeline designed to lessen the bloc’s dependency on Russian gas.

“Finding enough supplies is the big problem and it cannot be solved just by the efforts of the companies in the Nabucco consortium … Without a political deal, this case cannot be solved,” Bulgarian economy minister Petar Dimitrov said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday (27 August).

The Nabucco project – connecting Turkey with Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary – should enable the transportation of Caspian energy resources to the European market, but it remains unclear how to feed the pipeline.

Earlier this year, Turkmenistan agreed to supply 10 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas to the European Union each year. In addition, the union hopes the bulk of the supplies could come from countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Egypt or Iraq.

In order to address this very point, Mr Dimitrov suggested a high level political meeting take place between the EU and potential suppliers as well as transiting countries.

“Russia is holding political talks to buy out the available gas from the Caspian region … I believe the EU should also hold such political talks and not narrow it all down to just principal support for the Nabucco project,” the Bulgarian minister told Reuters.

According to Forbes, Russia’s state-run gas monopoly, Gazprom, offered to buy all of Azerbaijan’s gas exports earlier this month.

Demand for energy is sharply rising in the European Union and it is expected to import at least 360 bcm – out of 500 bcm consumed – from countries beyond the 27-country bloc by 2020. At the same time, the EU has been trying to diversify its energy supplies away from Russia.

The Nabucco project’s capacity amounts to 31 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year. The EU hopes construction will begin in 2010.

The route of the Nabucco pipeline (Photo: Nagorno-Karabakh foreign ministry)


Posted on on August 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (



Posted on on August 26th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

EU – save Ukraine from Russia, The European Foreign Policy Council (ECFR) NGO says.

Philippa Runner, from Brussels for the EUobserver, August 25, 2008.

The European Union should formally recognise Ukraine’s right to join the EU and offer it a “solidarity clause” to help prevent Russia from undermining Kiev’s pro-democratic government in the wake of the Georgia conflict, a European foreign affairs think-tank has said.

“The next focal point for security tensions – although not for war – might be Ukraine,” the European Foreign Policy Council (ECFR) warned in a flash report on Monday (25 August), urging Brussels to make a strong show of friendship with Ukraine at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on 5 September and the EU-Ukraine summit on 9 September.

Russian cruiser – the Black Sea fleet has been stationed in Crimea since 1783.

In the “mid-term,” the ECFR advised the EU to make a political declaration endorsing Ukraine’s EU perspective, draft a road-map for a visa-free travel deal, and help Ukraine to ready itself for NATO membership and the ejection of Russia’s Black Sea fleet from its old home in Crimea. thinks this is a very raw idea – not even half backed. We have seen Sevastopol and neighboring towns and waters. They are filled with old and newer Russian warships and the people in the towns are mainly Russian. Talking of the people – also in the Eastern part of Ukraine most people are Russian transplants, they speak Russian and feel they want to be part of Russia. We said this many times – to save Ukraine from Russia, the solution is an amicable divorce – so the best the EU could do is to advise the Ukraine to go for their own good to a marriage/divorce councillor and promise them the EU membership if they agree to severance from some of the heavily Russian territories. Surely, the EU can say to the Russian Prime-Minister that moving in with force will be dealt with in economic terms, but we all know that if ,and when, these statements are put to test, the EU will not go to war because of the Ukraine. Further, in the Ukraine case there is not even an argument like we had for Ossetia, where we said that if one opts for independence – this should lead to an Ossetia State that includes both – South and North Ossetia. There is no similar condition in the case of The Ukraine.}
A new bilateral EU-Ukraine treaty – currently under negotiation – should also legally oblige the EU to “consult and assist Ukraine in case of challenges to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.”

The ECFR study sees Russia’s assault on Georgia as part of a wider plan to rebuild the old Soviet sphere of influence, noting that some pro-Kremlin analysts such as Sergei Markov recently floated the idea of a Russia-led “East European Union,” which would mimic EU integration and include countries such as Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

“What matters here is Russia’s drive to become the centre (and the sheriff) of a pole of influence in a multi-polar world and a bipolar Europe,” the ECFR said.


Tensions flare:

Russia-Ukraine tensions flared in recent weeks after Moscow accused Kiev of supplying arms to Georgia, and Kiev tried to limit Russia’s use of its Crimea-stationed warships against Georgia.

Inside Ukraine, pro-western President Viktor Yushchenko’s senior aide, Andriy Kyslynskiy, last week accused Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko of striking a secret deal with the Kremlin in return for Russia’s support when she runs in the next Ukrainian presidential elections in 2010.

Mr Kyslynskiy also said political “interference” by pro-Kremlin elements in the Ukrainian establishment has reached levels unseen since the run-up to the 2004 Orange Revolution, adding that Russian intelligence is funding and steering Crimean separatist groups.

Some 60 percent of the 2 million people who live in Crimea are ethnically Russian, hundreds of thousands of whom secretly hold Russian passports, the ECFR says.

Crimea was historically Russian and has been home to the Black Sea fleet since 1783. It became part of Ukraine when Ukraine won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, with the Russian fleet set to leave by 2017 under a bilateral deal.

In the wider Ukraine, about 25 percent of the 50 million-strong population are Russophone, most of whom live in the east of the country and many of whom oppose Ukraine’s integration with NATO and the EU.


Warning shots already fired:

On 22 August, some 2,500 people held an anti-Georgia rally in the eastern Ukrainian town of Donetsk. The same day, 50 people in Simferopol in Crimea called for the peninsula to rejoin Russia, with the crowd nonetheless gaining coverage in Russian state media.

In late July, anti-NATO protestors in Crimea threw stones at Ukrainian police, who fired warning shots in the air. A second group used small boats to try and block NATO warships leave the port of Odessa to take part in a naval drill.

“[Russia] is likely to play on deep rifts within Ukraine on the ‘Russia question’ to try and influence the country’s future,” the ECFR said. “[The EU] must demonstrate that an escalation of tensions in the post-Soviet space will be met with more, not less, engagement in the Eastern neighbourhood.”


Georgian rebels in Abkhazia seek greater EU recognition.

Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia, on the Black Sea – is a once a popular holiday spot for Russian elite.

The Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia is keen to get EU recognition as an independent country, after the Russian parliament passed a resolution urging the Russian president to endorse Georgian rebels’ ambitions of statehood.

“We are not interested in only Russia recognising us,” Abkhaz deputy foreign minister, Maxim Gunjia, told EUobserver on Monday (25 August), adding that he expects Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to shortly back the pro-independence vote by Russian MPs.

“We want the European Union and all states to recognise our independence. This is a very positive moment for the EU – it could follow Russia’s example and also recognise Abkhazia. It is the only way to preserve stability and peace in the region.”

“We recognise that full recognition is a very big demand of Abkhazia for the EU at the moment,” Mr Gunja added, indicating that Abkhazia would also be interested in other ways of increasing its presence on the international stage.

“The EU could instead give a voice to Abkhazia in various European forums and institutions,” he said. “Only Georgia is invited to such forums while discussing the Caucasus, which is why the information the EU is receiving is biased, and why the conflict became possible.”


The lower house and the upper house of the Russian parliament on Monday both unanimously voted through a resolution urging Mr Medvedev to recognise Abkhazia and a second Georgian rebel territory, South Ossetia, as independent states.

The resolution has a largely symbolic value so far, as the legal decision resides solely with the Russian president, with some western experts doubting the Kremlin will follow through.

“The game is completely open, but it would be much more reasonable for Medvedev not to do so. If he doesn’t, he holds onto a very powerful bargaining chip with regards to the EU and US, and Georgia itself,” conflict prevention think-tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), analyst, Alain Deletroz, said.

“If he wants to turn a military victory into a diplomatic victory, he will not recognise [the rebel enclaves], because it will then become extremely difficult for the EU to keep an open dialogue with Moscow,” Mr Deletroz explained. “What Russia wanted was a division within NATO. If they go too far, they will only achieve the opposite – a unification within the alliance.”


The China angle:

“Even for the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation [the China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan security alliance], recognition would create problems. For the same reasons that China was not happy with the West’s recognition of Kosovo, Beijing would also not be happy with Russian recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” the ICG expert added, pointing to China’s discomfort over its own separatist problems, such as Taiwan.

The European Commission was reluctant to issue any reaction to the Russian parliamentary vote ahead of next week’s extraordinary summit on EU-Russia relations, but the EU has repeatedly said it supports Georgia’s “territorial integrity.”

“The debate is ongoing in Russia, and we will not react as long as the debate is ongoing,” European Commission spokesperson, Ton Van Lierop, told reporters in Brussels.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Tbilisi in civil wars in the 1990s, setting up de facto states with their own mini-parliaments and paramilitary forces within Georgia’s internationally-recognised borders during a tense, 15-year long ceasefire that erupted into open conflict on 7 August.

Tbilisi has accused Russia of giving the rebels financial and political backing, as well as arms, in order to keep NATO and EU-aspirant Georgia divided. It also accuses the separatist and Russian forces of “ethnic cleansing” in pushing out the last remaining ethnic Georgians from the two territories during the recent war.


UNDP Releases Information on a UN Angle:

Please see –…

It seems that Inner City Press came up with information, acknowledged by UNDP, that together with the George Soros Open Society International, and the Swedish Government, there was a very modest supplemental funding of Georgian officials, including the President, to make it possible for them to run a rather non-corrupt government in the National interest of Georgia, and perhaps also in the interest of the oil buyers of the West.

Above link leads to an article that starts:

UN’s Engagement with Saakashvili Included $1500 a Month, Soros and Sweden Also Paid.

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, August 25 — Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was paid $1500 a month by the UN Development Program earlier this decade, on top of his official presidential salary, UNDP has told Inner City Press. UNDP says the goals of these payments, in which the Swedish government and financier George Soros joined, were to allow the Georgian “government to recruit the staff it needed and also to help remove incentives for corruption.”

  While receiving these $1500 monthly payment, Saakashvili committed to increase tax collection in Georgia. Deals were signed with , among others, British Petroleum, for the Baku – Tbilisi – Ceyhan oil pipeline. UNDP, and presumably its two co-funders, applauded this development.


This last article mentions also the old UNDP problem with having helped with injecting hard currency to North Korea that, as the claim goes, has helped them finance the acquisition of nuclear know-how. So, UNDP is a tool for covert actions and not just a victim of side effects in what they consider to be development work? In the tape attached to the article, Matthew Russell Lee points out at the unevenness of the way, North Korea, Sudan, and Zimbabwe were dealt with, and surfaces the idea that the treatment is in relation to the interest of internal politics in the US. So back to our posting, how will the UN be used in the case of the Ukraine – which is rather more of an EU then a US problem?


Posted on on August 22nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The following was published on Japan Times online and we think it is either very naive or somewhere partisan and misleading.

 The UN, when it come to disputes – means the UN Security Council – the only UN body that can decide on matters of war. The Veto-Power system turns there the P5 into plain untouchables. How does Ramesh Thakur expects a UN position on Georgia when Russia holds a veto vote? Then, does he really believe that the other 4 Veto Powers will take decisions that are contrary to their self interests or perceived alliances?

Is it possible that Russia took positions on Kosovo, so they van prepare the base for their positions on South Ossetia and Abkhazia? Then, what kind of Russians are the people of South Ossetia? Do they really want back under a Russian roof, or actually they would prefer to have their own State for the Ossetians – North and South United?

We can only pray that the Japanese readers will be better informed then Mr. Thakur and those that gave him the ACUNS 2008 Award for the best recent book on the United Nations system think.

Payback time for Russia by Ramesh Thakur, Saturday, August 23, 2008.

You have to admire the chutzpah of the neocons for their castigation of Russia for attacking another country and emulating, in the Caucasus, NATO’s behavior in the Balkans. Who does Vladimir Putin think he is — U.S. President George W. Bush?

It was U.S. and NATO actions that set the precedent for flouting the rule of international law and violating long-settled collective norms of the international community against unilateral military interventions. Those who challenge or evade the authority of the United Nations as the sole legitimate guardian of international peace and security in specific instances undermine the principle of a world order based on international law and universal norms under U.N. authority.

If U.N. authorization is not a necessary condition for waging war lawfully and legitimately, then we must accept the resulting international anarchy and the law of the jungle in world affairs.

We no longer cede the right to any one state to use massive force within its borders free of external scrutiny or criticism. Claims for reversing the progressive restrictions on the right to interstate armed violence will be met with even more skepticism. To argue that NATO alone has the right to determine whether military intervention, by itself or any other coalition, is justified against others outside the coalition, is a claim to unilateralism and exceptionalism that will never be conceded by the “international community.” The claim that NATO should be set up as the final arbiter of military intervention by itself and every other coalition is breathtakingly arrogant.

In justification, Russia has pointed to Georgian complicity in killing thousands of South Ossetians, the fact that many of these are Russian citizens, the responsibility of Russia to protect its nationals, and the responsibility of the international community to protect South Ossetians from genocidal attacks by Georgia. Moscow is wrong to invoke the norm in this case, but no more so than the Americans and British were wrong in Iraq five years ago. Both actions prove the risks of unilateral interpretations and actions and the wisdom of channeling action through the U.N. Otherwise, the only certain end result is vigilante justice, which is no justice at all.

The U.N. Charter encapsulates the international moral code and best-practice international behavior. The urge to “humanitarian intervention” by powerful states, coalitions of the willing or regional organizations outside their own area of operations must be bridled by the legitimizing authority of the U.N. as our only available international organization for this purpose.

The second problem is the opposite one — of behaving as if geopolitics and realism belong on history’s shelf and have no relevance or applicability anymore. As Henry Kissinger is reported to have said after the Argentine invasion of the Falklands that roused the slumbering British lion into action to retake the islands by force, “a great power does not retreat forever.”

The end of the Cold War saw a very rare phenomenon in human history. Russia acknowledged its defeat and the new world order that came out of it. But instead of demonstrating grace in victory and some sensitivity to Russia’s legitimate fears, interests and national dignity, the West has repeatedly rubbed Russian noses in the dirt of their historic Cold War defeat.

Kosovo was detached from Russia’s Serbian ally and its declaration of independence readily recognized earlier this year. Instead of being dismantled with victory in the Cold War, NATO, an alliance in search of a role and mission, has progressively expanded its borders and reach steadily closer to Russia, slowly but surely encroaching on some areas that are part and parcel of Russian historical soul and identity.

Great powers have core vital interests that they will defend. Repeated warnings from Russia of red lines that must not be crossed were serially dismissed as the angry growls of a Russian bear in deep and permanent hibernation.

Russia has been encircled by Western bases, missiles and allies, while alternately taunted, ignored and dismissed. Champion chess players that they are, the Russians bided their time before checkmating the West brutally but brilliantly in South Ossetia and firing a warning shot across the bows of other former parts of the now forgotten Soviet empire.

No two situations are exactly alike. Still, much as most Westerners dismiss any analogy between Russia’s actions to pry South Ossetia and Abkhazia away from Georgia and NATO actions to detach Kosovo from Serbia, most others do accept the basic parallel.

Those who wish to back rebel movements and internationalize a crisis by intervening militarily had better be prepared for payback time in other places and conflicts. And for the moral hazards to come home to roost.

The wreckage of Georgia’s towns and countryside proclaim the ruins of the Bush administration’s foreign policy that has so recklessly squandered the hard won fruits of the Cold War in terms of both moral authority and geopolitical gains.

Ramesh Thakur is distinguished fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Canada. His book “The United Nations, Peace and Security” recently won the ACUNS 2008 Award for the best recent book on the United Nations system.


Posted on on August 21st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

ICC Prosecutor Visits Colombia.

The Hague, 21 August 2008

From 25 to 27 August, the ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, will conduct an official visit to Bogota at the invitation of the Government of Colombia and the country’s Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Prosecutor paid an earlier visit to Colombia in October 2007.
Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo will participate in the opening session of the seminar “Reflections on Judicial Investigations in Colombia from an International Perspective” organised for prosecutors and judges. He will also meet with senior officials from the Government, the Prosecutor’s Office and the Supreme Court of Justice as well as representatives of Colombian civil society in the context of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s ongoing analysis of the situation in Colombia. During his stay in the country, he will also pay tribute to the victims and accompany the Public Prosecutor’s Office on an exhumation in Urabá.

In accordance with the Rome Statute, Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo and his team will continue the ongoing examination of the investigations and proceedings in Colombia, focusing particularly on the people who may be considered among those most responsible for crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

As stated by the Prosecutor during his last visit: “With the International Criminal Court, there is a new law under which impunity is no longer an option. Either the national courts must do it or we will.”

The Prosecutor will seek further information on the investigations and proceedings being conducted in Columbia against soldiers and politicians   – members of Congress among them – allegedly involved in crimes committed by paramilitaries and guerillas. In this context, he will seek further information on the extradition of 15 former paramilitaries being tried under the Justice and Peace Law to the United States of America in May 2008.

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor is also looking into allegations on the existence of international support networks assisting armed groups committing crimes within Colombia that potentially fall within the jurisdiction of the Court. Letters requesting information have been sent to Colombia’s neighbours, to other States and to international and regional organisations.

The International Criminal Court is an independent, permanent court that investigates and prosecutes persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes if national authorities with jurisdiction are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely. The Office of the Prosecutor is currently investigating in four situations: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Northern Uganda, the Darfur region of Sudan, and the Central African Republic, all of which are still engulfed in various degrees of conflict with victims in urgent need of protection.


International Criminal Court monitoring events in Georgia, Prosecutor says Luis Moreno-Ocampo International Criminal Court Prosecutor.
20 August 2008 – The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court confirmed today that his Office is analysing information related to alleged crimes committed in Georgia in recent weeks that fall under the Court’s jurisdiction. Heavy fighting began earlier this month in South Ossetia between Georgian and South Ossetian forces, with Russian forces becoming involved there and in the separate region of Abkhazia and other parts of Georgia in the following days. The violence has uprooted almost 160,000 people in recent weeks.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said today that his Office is analying information alleging attacks on civilians in Georgia, which is a State Party to the Rome Statute that established the Court.

“My Office considers carefully all information relating to alleged crimes within its jurisdiction – war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide – committed on the territory of States Parties or by nationals of States Parties, regardless of the individuals or groups alleged to have committed the crimes,” he said.

The Office has been closely monitoring all information on the situation in Georgia since the outbreak of violence, including information from public sources, according to a news release from the ICC.

In addition, both the Georgian and Russian Governments have offered information to the Court on the situation. “The Office will proceed to seek further information from all actors concerned,” the news release added.

Other situations under analysis by the Office of the Prosecutor include Colombia, Afghanistan, Chad, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire.

The Office is currently conducting investigations in four situations – the Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Uganda, the Darfur region of Sudan, and the Central African Republic.

The ICC is the first independent, permanent court to investigate and prosecute persons accused of the most serious crimes, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, if national authorities with jurisdiction are unwilling or unable to do so.


Posted on on August 20th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (



Posted on on August 20th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

[Comment] Winning the peace in Georgia
NICU POPESCU AND ANDREW WILSON, The authors are research fellows at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Brussels, August 20, 2008, as an EUOBSERVER COMMENT:

The European Union’s frenetic diplomacy around Georgia’s war with Russia is in stark contrast with its reluctance to engage just a few months ago. After years of blockage, delays and hesitation the EU will have to act. The question is how to get it right this time.

After the launch of the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2003, the EU made all the right noises about its potential contribution to conflict resolution in the South Caucasus. It appointed an EU Special Representative (in 2002), launched a rule of law mission to Tbilisi in 2004, deployed a 12-person EU border support team and significantly increased its financial contribution to the rehabilitation of the conflict zones in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

But – “Many in the EU have developed Georgia fatigue”

Since 2006 the EU has been the biggest international donor to the conflict regions (not counting Russia’s non-transparent assistance). The EU has financed civil society, the reconstruction of schools, hospitals, electricity generation and water sewage systems in the conflict zones.

But the EU has performed less well on the political issues. In a constantly degenerating security environment of increasing tension between Russia and Georgia, the long-term focus of the European neighbourhood policy has been increasingly out of touch with the pressing realities on the ground.

The EU has found it hard to muster the political will to even ask Russia some tough questions about its role in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, let alone push the transformation of the negotiation formats and the peacekeeping operations in the region. The OSCE’s five military observers in Tskhinvali were regularly reporting persistent breaches of the security regime in South Ossetia and excessive militarisation of the region, but such reports have rarely been taken off their shelves in the OSCE headquarters in Vienna. The EU never had the political will to discuss the topic with Russia other than pro-forma.

In 2005 Russia terminated a 150-person strong OSCE Border Monitoring Mission on the Russian-Georgian border, and Georgia invited the EU to take over. The EU response was to send three persons (later extended to 12) to help Georgia reform its border management system. In January 2007 the EU sent a fact-finding mission to the conflict region that suggested a number of small steps for EU engagement in the conflict zones.

These included relatively uncontroversial proposals such as offering greater support and financing for civil society and youth support in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and greater support for institution-building in Georgia’s customs service; the opening of European Information Centres in Abkhazia and South Ossetia; the appointment of two EU police officers to work with the secessionist authorities; and the possibility for two EU border experts to develop a dialogue on border-control issues in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

However minimalist, even such measures have had to be dragged through EU decision-making mechanisms, blocked and delayed by a minority (sometimes only one) of Russia-friendly member states. As the EU was debating sending two more persons on the ground, Russia was introducing hundreds of armed “peacekeepers” into Abkhazia.

Learning from the Balkan wars:

Worse, in response to frequent visits by Georgian ministers to Brussels demanding a greater EU role in conflict settlement, many in the EU have developed a “Georgia fatigue.” Georgia itself developed a sense of disappointment with Brussels: the EU’s offers of deep free trade and visa facilitation were not very attractive, and the EU’s reluctance to engage encouraged unilateral action.

It is now time for the EU to relearn one of the central lessons of the Balkan wars: that the best way to keep the peace is to get involved, rather than standing on the sidelines.

The EU now needs to rescue what it can from a terrible situation. It has already become Russia’s main negotiator for the post-conflict arrangements. Now is the time to reform the dysfunctional peace support arrangements that enabled the conflict, i.e. the supposedly “trilateral” Georgian-Russian-North-Ossetian joint peacekeeping force supervised by a Joint Constitutional Commission where Georgia was de facto completely outnumbered by South Ossetia, North Ossetia and Russia. The EU now has three options.

The first is to offer greater support to the OSCE and the UN in South Ossetia and Abkhazia by providing additional monitors.

Second, the EU could send armed peacekeepers. But either of these options would mean double dependence on Russia, requiring approval in the UN Security Council, and Russian cooperation on the ground. EU peacekeeping from a position of weakness might end up conferring greater legitimacy on Russian forces on the ground, while contributing little to any political settlement (like the UN peacekeepers in Cyprus).

The third, and the most desirable, option for the EU is to deploy a comprehensive EU Reconstruction Mission covering humanitarian, reconstruction and political aspects. Its functions would include monitoring the security situation and the peacekeeping operation, but also dealing with return of internally displaced persons, conflict-mediation, confidence-building measures, as well as disarmament, demobilization, and the reintegration of former combatants. Such a mission would come in response to Georgia’s invitation, and would not need UN approval.

The EU should also set up a Contact Group that would meet every six months at ministerial level, with monthly meetings for their Political Directors, to oversee the progress of the peace plan and discuss issues that may impede implementation.

The EU has taken the lead in finding an immediate ceasefire solution. But without longer-term engagement in the South Caucasus violent solutions to territorial problems might remain the default solution for years, if not decades to come.


Pentagon, White House at odds over aid to Georgia.

By Nancy A. Youssef | McClatchy Newspapers, posted on Tuesday, August 19, 2008
WASHINGTON — The Bush White House and the Pentagon are at odds over whether to station a Navy ship in the Black Sea to demonstrate U.S. support for the embattled Georgian military and government, two defense officials told McClatchy Tuesday.

The White House thinks that deploying a vessel such as the hospital ship USNS Comfort would showcase the Bush administration’s support for Georgia and signal U.S. concern that Russia has sparked a humanitarian crisis in Georgia.

The Pentagon officials, who both spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss internal policy deliberations, said the move is unnecessary. Last week, the U.S. military sent a 12-member assessment team to determine how much humanitarian aid Georgians need.

Air Force and Navy aircraft are sending supplies daily and military officials don’t think Georgia requires much additional assistance.

The Comfort, which is based in Baltimore, could be ready to leave as early as Friday but would take five weeks to arrive, and the two military officials said they believe that air support is sufficient.

“That is all they need right now,” one senior defense official said.

Moreover, to send the Comfort, a destroyer or any other major naval vessel, the Bush administration would need to obtain permission from Turkey under the Montreux Convention, an international treaty that regulates naval passage in the Black Sea. So far, Turkey, which controls the Bosporus and the Dardanelles that link the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, has refused, the Pentagon officials told McClatchy.

The White House is frustrated, the officials said, but the Pentagon is unperturbed.

Last week, McClatchy reported that President Bush publicly declared that U.S. “naval forces” would assist Georgia before his administration had consulted Turkey or the Pentagon has planned a naval operation.

Throughout the Georgia conflict, Pentagon officials have resisted using U.S. weapons, troops or ships to send political messages to Russia. The Marine Corps would like to withdraw 17 Marines who were in Georgia to train Georgian troops for duty in Iraq, but the White House has insisted that the trainers remain in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, to head off any chance that the administration would be seen to be abandoning an ally.

Earlier this year, Turkey, a member of the NATO alliance, approved a U.S. military plan to send the destroyer USS McFaul and the USS Dallas, a submarine, to the Black Sea for a training exercise. The military is stocking those ships with humanitarian aid in case defense officials decide to proceed with the training exercise, naval officials said. For now, however, the two ships remain docked in Greece.

The McClutchen papers, August 20, 2008


Posted on on August 19th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The article in the New York Sun is based on a posting by Brad Setser on a Council of Foreign Relations (New York City) site that shows that since the 4th quarter of 2004 the autocracies’ wealth increases drastically, and the wealth of the liberal democracies that are dependent on oil imports has actually decreased in the first half of 2008 by 40% compared to the 4th quarter of 2007. The correlation with the price of oil is obvious – so is obvious the future lack of political independence of a country that depends on borrowing money from the rich autocracies that buy into its paper debt. Losing the will to react against its lenders will predictably turn the US into a paper tiger. Is that why those countries continue to invest in its paper debt? I have never seen a better justification for the need of the US to go for an Apollo-type project to beat its addiction on oil imports. The US independence is depending on this!




Posted on on August 18th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

This weekend, as expected, the TV was plastered with the Russians in Georgia and the Beijing Olympics.

President Bush and Secretary Condaleezza Rice said that Russia will not get away with this like it happened in Hungary.

On CNN, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the man with the Kosovo and Bosnia experience, said this was not Kosovo. The Russians were ready to stage this action already two years ago. It happened now because there was a Russian provocation and there has been indeed a real ethnic cleansing going on in Ossetia and in Abkhazia that caused many thousands of refugees pouring continuously into Georgia. The US says the number is 150,000 displaced people.

Holbrooke looks back into history and thinks of Budapest of 19956, Prag of 1966, Afghanistan of 1968 – so this is the invasion of Georgia that was executed in similar methodology.

Dmitry Simes, President of the Washington DC Nixon Center, and Rose Gottemoeller, Director of Carnegie, Moscow, agree to the above and say that the fact that this happened again at the time of the Olympics, just shows the Putin self confidence and that Putin does not worry that this will harm Russia’s Sochi Winter Olympics of 2014. That area is in fact just across the border from were fighting was going on now.

Governor Bill Richardson stressed that this is not time for high US talk, simply, “we have no leverage on Russia,” so we have to engage them and not isolate them. He knows the area, problems, has been there – all as part of his UN Ambassadorship.

Georgia was incorporated into Russia in 1801 and stayed under Russian rule for 190 years. They re-emerged as an independent state only in 1991. The Ossentians always considered themselves different from the Georgians – and also not similar to the Russians. The same goes for Abkhazia and Azaria as per Rick Stengel, editor of Time Magazine, who was this Sunday’s coordinator of the GPS program that is usually brought out by Fareed Zakaria.

So, can one ostracize Russia from world business? Will this bring about a renewal of the Cold War?

He does not think that Russia has become a revisionist State and that it is fighting for a larger Russia. His idea is that the area is specially complicated – something like the Balkans, and that there were many reasons to what went on.






Cold Friends, Wrapped in Mink and Medals.

Published in The New York Times August 16, 2008

Writing in The Financial Times last week, Chrystia Freeland recalled Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay “The End of History?,” which trumpeted the definitive triumph of liberal democracy. The great nightmare tyrannies of last century — the Evil Empire, Red China — had been left behind by those inseparable twins, freedom and prosperity. Civilization had chosen, and it chose us.

Russia Marches, Neighbors Check Their Cards (The New York Times, August 17, 2008)
Specter of Arrest Deters Demonstrators in China (The New York Tines, August 14, 2008)

Chrystia Freeland’s Article: The New Age of Authoritarianism August 12, 2008)

So much for that thesis. Surveying the Russian military rout of neighboring Georgia and the spectacle of China’s Olympics, Ms. Freeland, editor of The Financial Times’s American edition and a journalist who started her career covering Russia and Ukraine, proclaimed that a new Age of Authoritarianism was upon us.

If it is not yet an age, it is at least a season: Springtime for autocrats, and not just the minor-league monsters of Zimbabwe and the like, but the giant regimes that seemed so surely bound for the ash heap in 1989.

The Chinese have made their Olympics an exultant display of athletic prowess and global prestige without having to temper their impulse to suppress and control. From the dazzling locksteps of that opening ceremony, to the kowtowing international V.I.P.’s, to the carefully policed absence of protest, this was an Olympics largely free of democratic mess.

Individualism has been confined between lane markers. The pre-Olympics promises that attention would be paid to international norms of behavior went unredeemed. The New York Times’s Andrew Jacobs followed one citizen who decided to take up the government’s Olympic offer of designated protest zones for aggrieved parties who had filed the proper paperwork. Zhang Wei applied for the requisite license and was promptly arrested for “disturbing social order.” Take that, International Olympic Committee.

The striking thing about Russia’s subjugation of uppity Georgia was not the ease or audacity but the swagger of it. This was not just about a couple of obscure border enclaves, nor even, really, about Georgia. This was existential payback.

It turns out that if 1989 was an end — the end of the Wall, the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire, if not in fact the end of history — it was also a beginning.

It gave birth to a bitter resentment in the humiliated soul of Russia, and no one nursed the grudge so fiercely as Vladimir V. Putin. He watched the empire he had spied for disbanded. He endured the belittling lectures of a rich and self-righteous West. He watched the United States charm away his neighbors, invade his allies in Iraq, and, in his view, play God with the political map of Europe.

Mr. Putin is, in this sense of grievance, a man of his people, as visitors to the New York Times Web site can see in the sampling of breast-beating commentary from Russian bloggers. It is safe to assume that Mr. Putin’s already stratospheric popularity at home has grown to Phelpsian proportions, not least among the long-suffering military.

In China, 1989 was the year that a spark of liberal aspiration flickered on Tiananmen Square, and was decisively extinguished. That was another beginning, or at least a renewal: of Chinese resolve. In May of that year, in the midst of the Tiananmen euphoria, Mikhail S. Gorbachev visited Beijing, and two visions of a new communism stared each other in the face.

The protesters on the Chinese pavilion held banners welcoming Mr. Gorbachev as a champion of the greater freedom they sought. Meanwhile, the visiting Russian delegation marveled at the abundance in Chinese stores, the bounty of a policy that chose economic liberalization without political dissent.

The Chinese and Russians scorned each other’s neo-Communist models, but in some ways they have evolved toward one another. Both countries now tolerate a measure of entrepreneurship and social license, as long as neither threatens the dominion of the state. Both countries have calculated that you can buy a measure of domestic stability if you combine a little opportunity with an appeal to national pride. (The Chinese “street” felt no more sympathy for restive Tibetans than the Russian blogosphere felt for Georgia.) And both have discovered that if you are rich the world is less likely to get in your way.

President Bush was mocked from both sides for his seeming impotence. Neoconservatives were appalled by photos of President Bush sharing a laugh with Mr. Putin in Beijing while Russian armor gathered at the Georgian border. For a president who has made the export of democracy his signature doctrine, that looked to the stand-tough crowd like a “Pet Goat” moment.

Others argued that this was a crisis Mr. Bush tacitly encouraged by talking up Georgia’s rambunctious president as a friend and NATO candidate. By midweek, possibly goaded by the wailing of neoconservatives and the aggressively anti-Putin rhetoric of Senator John McCain, Mr. Bush had abruptly amped up his opprobrium and dispatched an American airlift of humanitarian aid. And by the weekend there was a cold war chill in the air.

But Mr. Bush’s predicament is not just his. The question of how to deal with these reinvigorated autocracies bedevils the Europeans and will surely rank high among the legacy issues that confound Mr. Bush’s successor.

This time it is not — or not yet — the threat of nuclear apocalypse that limits the West’s options toward our emboldened Eastern rivals. The Chinese, in fact, are acting as if they have gotten past the saber-rattling stage of emerging-power status; they lavish diplomacy on Taiwan and Japan, and deploy the might of capital instead. The Russians may be in a more adolescent, table-pounding stage of development, but Mr. Putin, too, prefers to work the economic levers, bullying with petroleum.

The United States, meanwhile, is mired in Iraq and Afghanistan, estranged from much of the world, and bled by serial economic crises.

History, it seems, is back, and not so obviously on our side.

Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times, covered the last years of the Soviet Union for the newspaper.



The New Age of Authoritarianism.
By Chrystia Freeland
Published: August 12 2008 in The Financial Times.

In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, democracy was on the march and we declared the End of History. Nearly two decades later, a neo-imperialist Russia is at war with Georgia, Communist China is proudly hosting the Olympics, and we find that, instead, we have entered the Age of Authoritarianism.

It is worth recalling how different we thought the future would be in the immediate, happy aftermath of the end of the cold war. Remember Francis Fukuyama’s ringing assertion: “The triumph of the west, of the western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to western liberalism.”

Even in the heady days of 1989, that declaration of universal – and possibly eternal – ideological victory seemed a little hubristic to Professor Fukuyama’s many critics. Yet his essay made such an impact because it captured the scale, and the enormous benefits, of the change sweeping through the world. Not only was the stifling Soviet – which was really the Russian – suzerainty over central and eastern Europe and central Asia coming to an end but, even more importantly, the very idea of a one-party state, ruthlessly presiding over a centrally planned economy, seemed to be discredited, if not forever, then surely for our lifetimes.

That collapse brought freedom and prosperity to millions of people who had lived under Soviet rule. Moreover, the implosion of Soviet communism inspired hundreds of millions of others around the world to embrace freer markets and demand more responsive governments. The great global economic boom of the past 20 years, which has brought more people out of poverty more quickly than at any other time in human history, would not have been possible had the Soviet way of ordering the world not been discredited first.

Yet today, in much of the world, the spread of freedom is being checked by an authoritarian revanche. That shift has been most obvious in the petro-states, where oil is casting its usual curse. From Latin America to Africa to the Middle East, the black-gold bonanza has given authoritarian regimes the currency to buy off or to repress their subjects. In Russia, oil has fuelled an economic boom that prime minister Vladimir Putin, and some of his foreign admirers, mistakenly attribute to his careful demolition of the chaotic democracy of the 1990s.

For Russians, that argument is strengthened by the fact that the rising economic power of the moment – China – is unashamedly sticking to its faith in one-party rule. The end of the cold war made it tempting to believe that as countries opened up their markets, and became richer in the process, they would inevitably open up their societies, too. George W. Bush, US president, reiterated that hopeful thesis on his Asia tour last week, insisting: “Young people who grow up with the freedom to trade goods will ultimately demand the freedom to trade ideas.”

But the Chinese mandarins and the Russian siloviki are taking a different view – and acting on it. As China scholar David Shambaugh recounts in his new book, China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation , the CCP studied the collapse of Soviet communism with great care. And rather than seeing it as proof of the inevitable, global triumph of western liberalism, the Chinese comrades treated the Russian example as a textbook case of what a ruling Communist party ought not to do.

In this version of history, sinologist Andrew Nathan tells me, 1989 is also a turning point, but not because that was when communism’s most notorious wall came down. Instead, the key event of that year was the bloody suppression of protesters in Tiananmen Square: “As a propaganda position they have put it out that we had a crackdown in 1989 and we saved the party and we saved the country,” he says. “We didn’t have a failure of will like the Russians. Without that, we wouldn’t have been a great, modern power.” That’s a point of view Mr Putin has embraced, too, describing the collapse of the Soviet Union as a tragedy and his own reconstruction of a neo-authoritarian state as the only way to restore Russian “greatness”.

The west has been remarkably sanguine about this resurgence of authoritarianism, and one reason is that, this time, the comrades have money. Even as the Kremlin repeatedly confiscates the assets not just of its own businesspeople but of foreign ones, too, investment bankers, and plain old investors, are flocking to a Moscow flush with petro-roubles. The same is true of the Gulf states. China, on a path to become the world’s largest economy, is the most attractive of all.

But the Age of Authoritarianism is bad news for all of us, not just the human rights campaigners that businesspeople and practitioners of realpolitik love to dismiss. Like all overly rigid objects, authoritarian regimes conceal a tremendous fragility in their apparent strength – and their leaders know it. It is this realisation that has driven Mr Putin’s systematic destruction of all forms of civil society – an eminently pragmatic measure, although it has mystified some outside observers, who wonder why so popular a leader needs to be so heavy-handed. China’s chiefs have figured this out, too, hence their anxiety about everything from the Muslim Uighurs to the internet to the former Soviet Union’s “colour revolutions”.

Of course, another way to ensure popular support for your authoritarian regime is by playing up nationalist sentiment. We are more tolerant of our home-grown bullies if we think we need them to fight our enemies abroad – as even democratic America has demonstrated in recent years. Mr Putin has understood this all along, launching a brutal attack on Chechnya even before his coronation as president in 2000.

Russia’s expert taunting of the hotheads in Georgia, followed by immediate and massive retaliation the moment Tbilisi took the bait, is the latest evidence that, for the Kremlin, neo-imperialism is an essential bulwark of neo-authoritarianism. Bringing down the walls really did make the world safer. Now that so many leaders are building them back up again, figuring out how to contain the 21st century’s monied authoritarians is our most pressing foreign policy dilemma.

 chrystia.freeland at




Posted on on August 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Russian-Georgian War: Implications for the Middle East – Ariel Cohen (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Moscow formulated far-reaching goals when it carefully prepared – over a period of at least two and a half years – for a land invasion of Georgia. These goals included: expelling Georgian troops and effectively terminating Georgian sovereignty in South Ossetia and Abkhazia; bringing down President Mikheil Saakashvili and installing a more pro-Russian leadership in Tbilisi; and preventing Georgia from joining NATO.
Russia’s long-term strategic goals include increasing its control of the Caucasus, especially over strategic energy pipelines. If a pro-Russian regime is established in Georgia, it will bring the strategic Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Erzurum (Turkey) gas pipeline under Moscow’s control.
In recent years, Moscow granted the majority of Abkhazs and South Ossetians Russian citizenship. Use of Russian citizenship to create a “protected” population residing in a neighboring state to undermine its sovereignty is a slippery slope which is now leading to a redrawing of the former Soviet borders.
Russian continental power is on the rise. Israel should understand it and not provoke Moscow unnecessarily, while defending its own national security interests staunchly. Small states need to treat nuclear armed great powers with respect.
U.S. intelligence-gathering and analysis on the Russian threat to Georgia failed. So did U.S. military assistance to Georgia, worth around $2 billion over the last 15 years. This is something to remember when looking at recent American intelligence assessments of the Iranian nuclear threat or the unsuccessful training of Palestinian Authority security forces against Hamas.

The writer is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Security at The Heritage Foundation.

Jerusalem Issue Briefs –   The Russian-Georgian War: Implications for the Middle East
by   Ariel Cohen,   Published August 2008.

Vol. 8, No. 6       15 August 2008

 The Russian-Georgian War: Implications for the Middle East – by Ariel Cohen.

Moscow formulated far-reaching goals when it carefully prepared – over a period of at least two and a half years – for a land invasion of Georgia. These goals included: expelling Georgian troops and effectively terminating Georgian sovereignty in South Ossetia and Abkhazia; bringing down President Mikheil Saakashvili and installing a more pro-Russian leadership in Tbilisi; and preventing Georgia from joining NATO.
Russia’s long-term strategic goals include increasing its control of the Caucasus, especially over strategic energy pipelines. If a pro-Russian regime is established in Georgia, it will bring the strategic Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Erzurum (Turkey) gas pipeline under Moscow’s control.
In recent years, Moscow granted the majority of Abkhazs and South Ossetians Russian citizenship. Use of Russian citizenship to create a “protected” population residing in a neighboring state to undermine its sovereignty is a slippery slope which is now leading to a redrawing of the former Soviet borders.
Russian continental power is on the rise. Israel should understand it and not provoke Moscow unnecessarily, while defending its own national security interests staunchly. Small states need to treat nuclear armed great powers with respect.
U.S. intelligence-gathering and analysis on the Russian threat to Georgia failed. So did U.S. military assistance to Georgia, worth around $2 billion over the last 15 years. This is something to remember when looking at recent American intelligence assessments of the Iranian nuclear threat or the unsuccessful training of Palestinian Authority security forces against Hamas.
The long-term outcomes of the current Russian-Georgian war will be felt far and wide, from Afghanistan to Iran, and from the Caspian to the Mediterranean. The war is a mid-sized earthquake which indicates that the geopolitical tectonic plates are shifting, and nations in the Middle East, including Israel, need to take notice.

Russia’s Goals:

Moscow formulated far-reaching goals when it carefully prepared – over a period of at least two and a half years – for a land invasion of Georgia, as this author warned.1 These goals included:

Expelling Georgian troops and effectively terminating Georgian sovereignty in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia is preparing the ground for independence and eventual annexation of these separatist territories. Thus, these goals seem to be on track to be successfully achieved.
“Regime change” – bringing down President Mikheil Saakashvili and installing a more pro-Russian leadership in Tbilisi. Russia seems to have given up on the immediate toppling of Saakashvili, and is likely counting on the Georgian people to do the job once the dust settles. Russia, for its part, will pursue a criminal case against him for genocide and war crimes in South Ossetia, trying to turn him into another Slobodan Milosevic/Radovan Karadzic. This is part of psychological operations against the Georgian leader, of which more later.
Preventing Georgia from joining NATO and sending a strong message to Ukraine that its insistence on NATO membership may lead to war and/or its dismemberment. Russia succeeded in attacking a state that has been regarded as a potential candidate for NATO membership since April 2008. The Russian assault undoubtedly erodes the NATO umbrella in the international community, even though Georgia is not yet formally a member, especially if it emerges that Moscow can use force against its neighbors with impunity. While it remains to be seen whether Georgia ultimately is fully accepted into NATO, some voices in Europe, especially in Germany, will see in the war a vindication of their opposition to such membership. Georgia’s chances will decrease further if the next U.S. president is noncommittal on the conflict. Ukraine is standing tall in solidarity with Georgia for the time being, and has taken a strong step to limit the movements of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, but has little domestic support for NATO membership.
Russia’s long-term strategic goals include:

Increasing its control of the Caucasus, especially over strategic energy pipelines.2 If a pro-Russian regime is established in Georgia, it will bring the strategic Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Erzurum (Turkey) gas pipeline under Moscow’s control. Israel receives some of its oil from Ceyhan, and has a stake in the smooth flow of oil from the Caspian.
Russian control over Georgia would outflank Azerbaijan, denying the U.S. any basing and intelligence options there in case of a confrontation with Iran. This kind of control would also undermine any options for pro-Western orientations in Azerbaijan and Armenia, along with any chance of resolving their conflict based on diplomacy and Western-style cooperation.

Recreating a nineteenth-century-style sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union and beyond, if necessary by use of force. Here, the intended addressees included all former Soviet republics, including the Baltic States. The message may have backfired as the presidents of Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania came to Tbilisi and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Saakashvili. However, without Western European and U.S. support, “New Europe” alone cannot stand up to Moscow.

Russian Proxies Inside Georgia:

Russian relations with Georgia were the worst among the post-Soviet states. In addition to fanning the flames of separatism in South Ossetia since 1990, Russia militarily supported separatists in Abkhazia (1992-1993), which is also a part of Georgian territory, to undermine Georgia’s independence and assert its control over the strategically important South Caucasus.3

Despite claims about oppressed minority status, the separatist South Ossetian leadership is mostly ethnic Russians, many of whom served in the KGB, the Soviet secret police; the Russian military; or in the Soviet communist party. Abkhazia and South Ossetia have become Russia’s wholly-owned subsidiaries, their population largely militarized and subsisting on smuggling operations.

This use of small, ethnically-based proxies is similar to Iran’s use of Hizbullah and Hamas to continuously attack Israel. Tbilisi tried for years to deal with these militias by offering a negotiated solution, including full autonomy within Georgia.

In recent years, Moscow granted the majority of Abkhazs and South Ossetians Russian citizenship and moved to establish close economic and bureaucratic ties with the two separatist republics, effectively enacting a creeping annexation of both territories. Use of Russian citizenship to create a “protected” population residing in a neighboring state to undermine its sovereignty is a slippery slope which is now leading to a redrawing of the former Soviet borders.

On August 7, after yet another Russian-backed South Ossetian military provocation, Saakashvili attacked South Ossetian targets with artillery and armor. Yet, Tbilisi was stunned by the ferocity of the Russian response. It shouldn’t have been, nor should Americans be surprised. The writing was on the wall, but Washington failed to read it, despite repeated warning from allied intelligence services and a massive presence of diplomats and military trainers on the ground. The results for Georgia are much more disastrous than for Israel in summer 2006.

“Kill the Chicken to Scare the Monkey:”

Aggression against Georgia also sends a strong signal to Ukraine and to Europe. Russia is playing a chess game of offense and intimidation. Former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spoke last spring about Russia “dismembering” Ukraine, another NATO candidate, and detaching the Crimea, a peninsula which was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954, when both were integral parts of the Soviet Union.

Today, up to 50 percent of Ukrainian citizens speak Russian as their first language and ethnic Russians comprise around one-fifth of Ukraine’s population. With encouragement from Moscow, these people may be induced to follow South Ossetia and Abkhazia to Mother Russia’s bosom. Yet, Ukraine’s pro-Western leaders, such as President Victor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, have expressed a desire to join NATO, while the pro-Moscow Ukrainian Party of Regions effectively opposes membership. NATO opponents in Ukraine are greatly encouraged by Russia’s action against Georgia.

In the near future, Russia is likely to beef up the Black Sea Fleet, which has bases in Tartus and Latakia in Syria, and used to have an anchorage in Libya. For over two hundred years the navy has been the principal tool of Russian power projection in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.

Beyond this, Russia is demonstrating that it can sabotage American and EU declarations about integrating the Commonwealth of Independent States members into Western structures such as NATO.

By attempting to accomplish regime change in Georgia, Moscow is also trying to gain control of the energy and transportation corridor which connects Central Asia and Azerbaijan with the Black Sea and ocean routes overseas – for oil, gas and other commodities. Back in 1999, Western companies reached an agreement with Central Asian states to create the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. So far, this has allowed Azerbaijan to bypass Russia completely and transport its oil from the Caspian Sea basin straight through Georgia and Turkey, without crossing Russian territory. The growing output of the newly independent Central Asian states has been increasingly competing with Russian oil. By 2018, the Caspian basin, including Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, is supposed to export up to 4 million barrels of oil a day, as well as a significant amount of natural gas. Russia would clearly like to restore its hegemony over hydrocarbon export routes that would considerably diminish sovereignty and diplomatic freedom of maneuver in these new independent states.

A Russian S-300 Anti-Aircraft Shield for Iran?

Russia’s Georgian adventure also emboldens Iran by securing its northern tier through denial of bases, airfields, electronic facilities and other cooperation in Georgia and Azerbaijan to the U.S. and possibly Israel. At the same time, in March 2009, Russia is likely to deploy modern S-300 long-range anti-aircraft missiles in Iran. By June 2009 they will become fully operational, as Iranian teams finish training provided by their Russian instructors, according to a high-level Russian source who requested anonymity.4

The deployment of the anti-aircraft shield next spring, if it occurs, effectively limits the window in which Israel or the United States could conduct an effective aerial campaign aimed at destroying, delaying or crippling the Iranian nuclear program.

The Islamic Republic will use the long-range anti-aircraft system, in addition to the point-defense TOR M-1 short-range Russian-made system, to protect its nuclear infrastructure, including suspected nuclear weapons facilities, from a potential U.S. or Israeli preventive strike.

The S-300 system, which has a radius of over 90 miles and effective altitudes of about 90,000 feet, is capable of tracking up to 100 targets simultaneously. It is considered one of the best in the world and is amazingly versatile. It is capable of shooting down aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missile warheads.5 The S-300 complements the Tor-M1 air defense missile system, also supplied by Russia. In 2007 Russia delivered 29 Tor-M1s to Iran worth $700 million.

Israel has been very effective in electronic warfare (EW) against Soviet- and Russian-built technologies, including anti-aircraft batteries. In 1982, Israeli Air Force F-16s smashed the Syrian anti-aircraft missiles in the Beka’a Valley and within Syria, allowing Israel full air superiority over Syria and Lebanon. As a result, Syria lost over 80 planes, one-third of its air force, in two days, while Israel lost one obsolete ground support A-4 Skyhawk to ground fire.

In 1981, Israeli F-15s and F-16s flew undetected over Jordan and Saudi Arabia on their mission to destroy Saddam Hussein‘s Osirak reactor. More recently, the Israeli Air Force surprised the Syrians when they destroyed an alleged nuclear facility in the northeast of the country in September 2007, apparently flying undetected to and from the mission.

However, a mission over Iran, if and when decided upon, is very different than operations over neighboring Syria. First, if Israel waits until March 2009, there may be a president in the White House who emphasizes diplomacy over military operations. Even if the George W. Bush Administration allows Israel over-flight of Iraqi air space and aerial refueling, a future administration might not, opting for an “aggressive diplomacy” approach instead – especially with an emboldened and truculent Russia as a geopolitical counter-balance.

Second, Israel, military experts say, does not have long-range bomber capacity, such as the Cold War-era U.S. B-1 heavy supersonic bomber, or the B-2 stealth bomber. Israel, a Russian source estimated, can hit 20 targets simultaneously, while the Iranian nuclear program may have as many as 100. Many of the Iranian targets are fortified, and will require bunker busters.

Operational challenges abound. Israel’s EW planes, needed to suppress anti-aircraft batteries, are slow and unarmed, and could become a target for Iranian anti-aircraft missiles or even fighter sorties. But the most important question analysts are asking is whether the current Israeli leadership has the knowledge and the gumption to pull it off. After all, the results of the 2006 mini-war against Hizbullah were disastrous for Israel, and the Israel Defense Forces have exposed numerous flaws in its preparedness, supply chain, and command, control, communications and intelligence.

The Need to Defang Tehran:

Nevertheless, the need to preemptively defang Tehran may prove decisive in view of Tehran’s hatred and intransigence.

As noted by Professor Stephen Blank of the U.S. Army War College:

When one is dealing with a national leadership which is motivated by ethnic and religious hatred, one needs to remember that such a leadership becomes obsessed and loses its ability to calculate things. They may risk war rather than seek accommodation. This was not only the case with Nazi Germany, but also with the antebellum American South of the 1840s and 1850s, where racial hatred of the slave owners cause them to lose sight of what was at stake.

Blank goes on to conclude that the Iranian leadership believes that Russia and China will provide them with protection, of which the S-300 is an important component, and that the sanctions are not effective.

Under the circumstances, an Israel-only preventive bombing campaign – without the United States – might be too risky to pull off. If the United States sits this crisis out, Israel could possibly settle for deterring Iran by taking its cities and main oil facilities hostage.

This was known during the Cold War as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), brought to you courtesy of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad. Going MAD would make the Middle East even more fragile than it already is, and would make the life of its inhabitants ever more difficult and tragic.

Clearly, with the renewal of East-West tensions as a result of Russia’s moves against Georgia, it will be much more difficult to obtain Moscow’s agreement to enhance sanctions and international pressures on Iran. The struggle to diplomatically halt its nuclear program will become far more difficult.

Lessons from the War:

Lessons for the Middle East and Israel from the Russian-Georgian War abound, and apply both to military operations, cyber-warfare, and strategic information operations. The most important of these are:

Watch Out for the Bear – and Other Beasts! Russian continental power is on the rise. Israel should understand it and not provoke Moscow unnecessarily, while defending its own national security interests staunchly. Small states need to treat nuclear armed great powers with respect. Provoking a militarily strong adversary, such as Iran, is worthwhile only if you are confident of victory, and even then there may be bitter surprises. Just ask Saakashvili.
Strategic Self-Reliance. U.S. expressions of support of the kind provided to Georgia – short of an explicit mutual defense pact – may or may not result in military assistance if/when Israel is under attack, especially when the attacker has an effective deterrent, such as nuclear arms deliverable against U.S. targets. In the future, such an attacker could be Iran or an Arab country armed with atomic weapons. Israel can and should rely on its own deterrent – a massive survivable second-strike capability.
Intelligence Failure. U.S. intelligence-gathering and analysis on the Russian threat to Georgia failed. So did U.S. military assistance to Georgia, worth around $2 billion over the last 15 years. This is something to remember when looking at recent American intelligence assessments of the Iranian nuclear threat or the unsuccessful training of Palestinian Authority security forces against Hamas. Both are deeply flawed. There is no substitute for high-quality human intelligence.
Air Power Is Not Sufficient. Russia used air, armor, the Black Sea Fleet, special forces, and allied militias. Clausewitzian lessons still apply: the use of overwhelming force in the war’s center of gravity by implementing a combined air-land-sea operation may be twentieth century, but it does work.6 Israel should have been taught this lesson after the last war with Hizbullah.
Surprise and Speed of Operations Still Matter – as they have for the four thousand years of the recorded history of warfare. To be successful, wars have to have limited and achievable goals. Russia achieved most of its goals between Friday and Monday, while the world, including President George W. Bush, was busy watching the Olympics and parliaments were on vacation.
Do Not Cringe – within reason – from taking military casualties and inflicting overwhelming military and civilian casualties at a level unacceptable to the enemy. Georgia lost some 100-200 soldiers and effectively capitulated. A tougher enemy, like the Japanese or the Germans, or even Hizbullah, could well suffer a proportionally higher rate of casualties and keep on fighting.
Information and Psychological Warfare Is Paramount. So is cyber-security. It looks like the Russians conducted repeated denial of service attacks against Georgia (and in 2007 against Estonia), shutting down key websites. Russia was ready with accusations and footage of alleged Georgian atrocities in South Ossetia, shifting the information operation playing field from “aggressor-victim” to “saving Ossetian civilians from barbaric Georgians.” These operations also matter domestically, to shore up support and boost morale at home.


The Russian-Georgian war indicates that the balance of power in western Eurasia has shifted, and that U.S. power may be deteriorating in the face of its lengthy and open-ended commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Global War on Terror, which are leading to a global overstretch.

While the Middle East, and especially the Persian Gulf, will remain a top priority in U.S. foreign policy regardless of who wins the White House, Israel is heading towards a strategic environment in which Russia may play a more important role, especially in its southern tier, from the Black Sea to Afghanistan and western China. Twenty-first century geopolitics is presenting significant survival challenges to the Jewish state and the region.


1. Ariel Cohen, “Springtime Is for War?” The Heritage Foundation press commentary, originally published by TechCentralStation (TCSDaily), March 31, 2006,…, August 13, 2008.

2. Melik Kaylan, “Welcome Back to the Great Game: Failing to Stand Up to Russia Would Jeopardize Every International Gain Since the Cold War,” Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2008.

3. Simon Sebag Montfiore, “Another Battle in the 1,000-Year Russia-Georgia Grudge Match,” The Times of London, August 12, 2008.

4. Personal interview with the author, Washington, D.C., August 2008.

5. Dave Majumdar, “Israel’s Red Line: The S-300 Missile System,”…, August 13, 2008.

6. Martin Sieff, “Defense Focus: Underestimating Russia. Russian Army Shocks West in Georgia Ops,” United Press International 20080812-002422-8913, August 12, 2008.

*         *         *

Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Security at The Heritage Foundation. He is a member of the Board of Advisers of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

JCPA, Beit Milken, 13 Tel Hai St., Jerusalem 92107, Israel, Tel: 972-2-5619281 Fax: 972-2-5619112,  jcpa at


Posted on on August 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Effigies of the G8 leaders on holiday by
Oxfam International (CC).

COMMENTARY: The Global Leadership Vacuum

By Jeffrey Sachs

The world needs global solutions for global problems, but the G8 leaders clearly aren’t up to the task. A dose of basic management logic could help them establish goals, mobilize financing, and identify the scientific expertise and organizations best suited to implement solutions.

The Global Leadership Vacuum
By Jeffrey Sachs

August 1, 2008

The G8 Summit in Japan last month was a painful demonstration of the pitiful state of global cooperation. The world is in deepening crisis. Food prices are soaring. Oil prices are at historic highs. The leading economies are entering a recession. Climate change negotiations are going around in circles. Aid to the poorest countries is stagnant, despite years of promised increases. And yet in this gathering storm it was hard to find a single real accomplishment by the world’s leaders.

The world needs global solutions for global problems, but the G8 leaders clearly cannot provide them. Because virtually all of the political leaders that went to the summit are deeply unpopular at home, few offer any global leadership. They are weak individually, and even weaker when they get together and display to the world their inability to mobilize real action.

There are four deep problems. The first is the incoherence of American leadership. While we are well past the time when the United States alone could solve any global problems, it does not even try to find shared global solutions. The will to global cooperation was weak even in the Clinton administration, but it has disappeared entirely during the Bush administration.

The second problem is the lack of global financing. The hunger crisis can be overcome in poor countries if they get help to grow more food. The global energy and climate crises can be overcome if the world invests together to develop new energy technologies. Diseases such as malaria can be overcome through globally coordinated investments in disease control. The oceans, rainforests, and air can be kept safe through pooled investments in environmental protection.

Global solutions are not expensive, but they are not free, either. Global solutions to poverty, food production, and development of new clean energy technology will require annual investments of roughly $350 billion, or 1 percent of GNP of the rich world. This is obviously affordable, and is modest compared to military spending, but is far above the pittance that the G8 actually brings to the table to solve these urgent challenges. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has made a valiant effort to get the rest of Europe to honor the modest aid pledges made at the G8 Summit in 2005, but it has been a tough fight, and one that hasn’t been won.

The third problem is the disconnection between global scientific expertise and politicians. Scientists and engineers have developed many powerful ways to address today’s challenges, whether growing food, controlling diseases, or protecting the environment. And these methods have become even more powerful in recent years with advances in information and communications technology, which make global solutions easier to identify and implement than ever before.

The fourth problem is that the G8 ignores the very international institutions—notably the United Nations and the World Bank—that offer the best hope to implement global solutions. These institutions are often deprived of political backing, underfinanced, and then blamed by the G8 when global problems aren’t solved. Instead, they should be given clear authority and responsibilities, and then held accountable for their performance.

President Bush may be too unaware to recognize that his historically high 70 percent disapproval rating among U.S. voters is related to the fact that his government turned its back on the international community—and thereby got trapped in war and economic crisis. The other G8 leaders presumably can see that their own unpopularity at home is strongly related to high food and energy prices, and an increasingly unstable global climate and global economy, none of which they can address on their own.

Starting in January 2009 with the new U.S. president, politicians should take the best chance for their own political survival, and of course for their countries’ well-being, by reinvigorating global cooperation. They should agree to address shared global goals, including the fight against poverty, hunger, and disease (the Millennium Development Goals), as well as climate change and environmental destruction.

To achieve these goals, the G8 should set clear timetables for action, and transparent agreements on how to fund it. The smartest move would be to agree that each country tax its CO2 emissions in order to reduce climate change, and then devote a fixed amount of the proceeds to global problem solving. With the funding assured, the G8 would suddenly move from empty promises to real policies.

Backed by adequate funding, the world’s political leaders should turn to the expert scientific community and international organizations to help implement a truly global effort. Rather than regarding the UN and its agencies as competitors or threats to national sovereignty, they should recognize that working with the UN agencies is in fact the only way to solve global problems, and therefore is the key to their own political survival.

These steps—agreeing on global goals, mobilizing the financing needed to meet them, and identifying the scientific expertise and organizations needed to implement solutions—are basic management logic. Some may scoff that this approach is impossible at the global level, because all politics are local. Yet today, all politicians depend on global solutions for their own political survival. That by itself could make solutions that now seem out of reach commonplace in the future.

Time is short, since global problems are mounting rapidly. The world is passing through the greatest economic crisis in decades. It’s time to say to the G8 leaders, “Get your act together, or don’t even bother to meet next year.” It’s too embarrassing to watch grown men and women gather for empty photo opportunities.


Posted on on August 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Georgia and the Ukraine made moves to get closer to the West – they applied to become members of NATO. Georgia also worked with Western Europe in order to help the EU with access to Azerbaijan and Central Asia petroleum and gas. Russia clearly did not regard this bypassing of its traditional authority over what it considers as its brood. At the UN they still are bunched as former CIS and other Eastern bloc friends. Georgia had to be punished and Ukraine had to be thought that its future may be of the same sort.

Now, did the Georgians think that the US will be more then a paper tiger? Lots of promise, social help – but militarily? Then – it really is not direct US interests, but rather EU interests. So, why would Russia not say to itself that showing the EU that the US is a paper tiger – nu – that is something that can also help loosen further the EU-US ties.

Will the US react by telling the Russians that their economy does not justify their being members of the G8? That would be a reasonable game-play, but who will pick this up in the US Presidential contests?

Aha! so here we go. Bush looked into Putin’s eyes and saw honesty. Perhaps he was right of sorts and Putin has now provided a pay-back. Russia’s moves strengthen McCain in his competition with Obama.

Was this move intended to help the Republican’s in the Presidential competition, and a sign of an oil-hungry party in charge, that barks but does not bite, rather then a new force that would make the world less dependent on oil – and oil these days is indeed the only thing going for the present version of a degraded Russia. The future is bleak for Russia in a world that will be dominated by China and India with the billion-plus people, and their booming internal economies that by now whistle at Russia as there is very little except brute nuclear power that this country has to offer them. Oil – yes – but the oil to China and India will arrive by ship rather then by pipe – and if it is a pipe – that pipe will come from Central Asia and not Russia.

Do we think that National borders are holly? No! But then South Ossetia belongs together with North Ossetia to one Free Ossetia State – and that is clearly not what Russia wants. They did not let go of Chechnia either. So the question here is whose ox is being gored – and the ox will suffer just the same under this or another regime. The South Ossetians of Georgia had at least a chance at a new and better life. By playing the Russian cards they blew it and that is why the civilized world is on Georgia’s side. If this sort of game digs deep into the Ukraine, our best advise to the Ukraine government is to take the Czech example of friendly divorce, and let go of those eastern territories that want some more Russian punishment. Ukraine will then soon find out that they are better thereof – and the Russian Ukrainians will just be set back and have to start their lives anew.