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GUAM also includes Ukraine and Moldova

Asian GUAM:


Posted on on August 12th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (


The Czar Makes Up With the Sultan 


Analysis by Hilmi Toros
ISTANBUL, Aug 12 (IPS) – Once the worst of enemies, involved in 12 wars in three centuries, Turkey and Russia have suddenly become the best of friends, forging strong bonds that could be a counterpoint to the European Union if it freezes Turkey out of full membership.

The countries call their ties “multi-dimensional co-operation,” somewhat short of a “strategic partnership”, but that too may be in the offing. 

On an eight-hour visit to Turkish capital Ankara last week, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed 20 deals with his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These are mostly commercial contracts in energy, collectively worth some 40 billion dollars. 

The two leaders also declared that rival gas pipelines Nabucco and South Stream to bring natural gas to European markets would be “complimentary” rather than “conflicting”. 

Nabucco, the 7.9 billion euro project backed by the EU and the United States, would bypass Russia in bringing gas from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iraq and potentially also from Iran to Europe via Turkey. It is due to be operational by 2014. 

The Russian proposed South Stream, to become operational by 2016, would carry gas from Russia to Europe through Turkey’s territorial waters in the Black Sea and onward to Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia to Austria. Its objective is to bypass Ukraine, currently the conduit for 80 percent of Russian gas pumped to Europe.

In the end, conflicting or complimentary, if both projects are realised, Russia and Turkey would play a major role in meeting Europe’s growing gas needs. For Europe, either an unfriendly Turkey or Russia would endanger energy security – and it would be much worse if both were ever to gang up on the EU together. 

There already are signs that Turkey, aware of its critical role as a corridor for EU energy needs, is flexing its muscles, with the rapprochement with Russia seen as a warning to the EU. 

“Turkey is not changing its foreign policy. It still gives priority to ties with the West. But the energy issue is giving a new dimension,” writes Sami Kohen, foreign affairs columnist for the daily Milliyet. “The energy equation will make Turkey’s policy more independent.” 

That translates into more national, less EU, interest. 

“If EU doesn’t want us, we won’t beg,” businessman Hasan Aydemir told IPS. “Europe has to think twice of the implications of Turkey out of its union and allied with Russia. If that happens, why not?” 

Yusuf Kanli, chief columnist for the English language daily Hurriyet, says the current Turkish-Russian closeness will in turn bring Turkey closer to EU as Europe becomes more aware of Turkey’s growing importance and critical geopolitical status. 

But Turkey within the EU is far off, if ever it will happen. Its aspiration to join the EU as the first Muslim nation is now in the 50th year since the first bid – perhaps the longest engagement on record with no marriage in sight. The accession process is faltering in the face of opposition from EU members such as France, Germany and Austria. 

Meanwhile, Turkish-Russian ties are in constant expansion. Russia will ship oil through a pipeline to a southern Turkish port and also deliver gas to Lebanon and Israel via Turkey. A Russian company will be involved in Turkey’s plans to build a nuclear power station. 

Culturally, Turkey will open Russian study institutes and cultural centres. Russians are now the second largest group after Germans visiting Turkey; they numbered about three million last year. Signs in Russian accompany those in English in resorts such as Fethiye, Antalya and Alanya. Radio stations broadcast in Russian. And there are now Russian language newspapers in Turkey. 

Turkey declared 2007 The Year of Russian Culture, and Russia reciprocated in 2008. 

Last year, trade between the two countries reached 38 billion dollars, an eight-fold increase in eight years, making Russia Turkey’s biggest partner. Trade is forecast to reach 100 billion dollars in four years. 

The combined diplomatic weight of the two countries may also help find solutions to regional conflicts, including disputes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Armenia and Turkey. They might even persuade Iran to take a more moderate stand. One or the other has solid relations with most countries involved in opposition to one another. 

The closeness may be helped by a similarity between Putin and Erdogan: both come from humble origins; both seem ready to bury historical enmities; both are seen as strong leaders firmly entrenched in power for years to come (they are in their 50s); both are dynamic and sporty (Putin excels in judo and Erdogan is a former soccer player); both are stern and all business. 

If there is the touch of a Czar in Putin, there is a Sultan in Erdogan. The Turkish leader has become a regional folk hero for his defence of Palestinians against Israeli strikes when he stormed out of a debate with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos, Switzerland, in February when the moderator attempted to cut short his anti-Israel oratory. 

The closeness contrasts sharply with the history of the two nations. The Czarist Russian and the Ottoman Turkish empires were at each other’s throats from the 17th up to the 20th centuries, when Russia eventually succeeded in wresting the Black Sea and the Balkans from Ottoman domination. 

Later, after World War II, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin eyed but failed to control the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits in Turkey for passage from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Even as late as the 1980s, Turkey was the West’s bastion against feared Soviet expansionism from the East. If that was seen as the unwelcome Soviet Bear Hug, this now is a mutual embrace. 


Posted on on August 1st, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

The following are the top 28 finalists in the Official 2009 New 7 Wonders of Nature competition – nominated from among hundreds of sites around the world that have been proposed.

see please: and you can vote – for up to 7 of the 28 list – at that link.

you can vote for your choice of 7 on line, by phone, or text message. It is expected that one billion people will vote and the winner will be announced in 2011.

A similar effort two years ago elected seven manmade wonders generated considerable publicity. We backed at that time Machu Picchu, Peru

These selections are being organized by a Swiss filmmaker and entrepreneur, Bernard Weber, and the committee that chose the 28 finalists included Federico Mayor, former chief of UNESCO, and Rex Weyler, co-founder of Greenpeace International.

Like everything else that has a UN connection, obviously such selections will be politicized beyond the simple angle of national pride – just see the country called Chinese Taipei for what most call Taiwan.

In this year of climate change we thing the Amazon will get the world’s nod, but watching in Vietnam (it is Halong Bay) how a whole country can get beyond a particular location we would have said that China could muster the vote, but will they do it for Taipei?

From among the many places on the list that we have been to – I am voting as Numero Uno for the Iguazu Falls.






























From the competition on the 7 Man-made wonders – a stamp collection from Gibraltar:

For all media inquiries and interview requests, please contact:

Tia B. Viering, Head of Communications
Mobile: +41 79-762-2784
Phone: +49 89 489 033 58 (Munich office)
Email at


Posted on on July 29th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

We found an excellent blog that specializes in the understanding of “de Facto States” in general, and in the GUAM states and their separatist outside backed generally unrecognized states. is manned by Nicu Popescu who is a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) in London, where he deals with the EU’s eastern neighborhood and Russia.

These days, with China ready to pour in $1 billion into Moldova, the East flank of the EU may become even more interesting, so good inside information will be important o Brussels and those that would like to see Europe hold together.


Posted on on July 23rd, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Russia claims a sphere of influence over its “near abroad” – a message that involves Belarus and Kazachstan with whom Russia has special trade agreements and the GUAM States – Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova that eye the European Union.

President Obama visited Moscow in order to “reset” US-Russia relations and coordinated a visit by Vice President Biden to Kiev and Tbilisi in order to reassure both Ukraine and Georgia that this reset will not sell out their interests.

For us what is of interest here is the talk in Kiev about the way the Ukraine is handling its energy sector, and we are in full agreement that the Ukrainians are totally forfeiting their independence of Russia, and by the way also endangering their own standing in their relations with Europe, all this by sticking with insane dependence on the pipelines of oil and gas – and mind you subsidizing this addiction on their own will.

The disparity between market prices and the cheap government-sold gas that arrives on the Russian pipeline, has in addition created a black market and vested interests that led to rampant corruption, economy distortions, and make it hard to solve the problem. These subsidies have strangled the economy by forcing Kiev to rely on below-market-price imports from Russia and submitted themselves to Russia’s direct influence on the Ukrainian economy, while at the same time making themselves into a handy tool for Russia disrupting supplies also  EU parts of Eastern and Central Europe.

Mr. Biden lectured publicly in Kiev: ” Your economic freedom depends more, on your energy freedom than on any other single factor,” he said. Energy efficiency will be a boon to your economy and an immeasurable benefit to your national security, he continued.


Further, Mr. Biden lectured that “Friendship requires honesty” and continued by saying that: “Mature democracies survive because they develop institutions such as free press, a truly independent court system, an effective legislature – all of which serve as a check on the corruption that fuels the cynicism and limits growth in any country, including yours.” How true! If above are looked at honestly, so will emerge the desire to decrease the dependence on outside supplies of energy by promotion of energy efficiency.


Posted on on July 20th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Turkey Gets Boost from Pipeline Politics.

by Helena Cobban

WASHINGTON, Jul 19 (IPS) – The political geography of the modern Middle East has been affected for one hundred years by the appetite of westerners and other outsiders for the region’s hydrocarbons. Last week, the region’s “pipeline politics” took another step forward with the signing in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, of an agreement to build a new, 3,300-kilometre gas pipeline called Nabucco, running between eastern Turkey and Vienna, Austria.

The project underlines the new influential role that Turkey, a majority Muslim nation of 72 million people, is playing in the Middle East, and far beyond. The new project’s name was chosen, Austrian officials said, after the Verdi opera that representatives of the five participating countries – who include Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, along with the two terminus states – saw together during an earlier round of negotiations in Vienna.

But the name also gives clues to two intriguing aspects of the project’s geopolitical significance. The theme of the opera is the liberation from bondage of slaves held by the ancient Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (‘Nabucco’) – and it is a widely discussed feature of the Nabucco project that many European nations want access to a gas source that is not under the control of Russia. Last winter, several European nations suffered severe gas shortages after Russia, locked in a tariff dispute with transit-country Ukraine, closed off the spigots completely.

But the other implication of the name is more strictly Middle Eastern. The modern-day home of Nebuchadnezzar is Iraq. Washington has given strong support to the Nabucco project – and one of the reasons U.S. officials give for this support is their hope that once Nabucco is up and running in 2015, Iraq can be one of the nations that reaps large profits by feeding gas into it. However, construction of the pipeline is estimated to cost some eight billion dollars, and many officials in the participating countries are still unclear where they will get enough gas to make it economically viable.

The Nabucco participants had been hoping that a key feeder state would be one of Turkey’s eastern neighbours, Azerbaijan. But on the eve of the project’s inauguration in Ankara, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev took the CEO of the vast Russian gas company Gazprom to Azerbaijan, where they signed a contract with the state gas company that will force Nabucco to compete hard against Gazprom for any purchase it wants to make from Azerbaijan. One fairly evident other source for Nabucco’s would be Iran, which is reported to have considerable amounts of new gas coming online in the next five years.


Posted on on February 26th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Many Muslims Reject Terror Tactics, Back Some Goals.
Jim Lobe, Terra Viva, February 26, 2009.

WASHINGTON, Feb 25 (IPS) – Strong majorities of people in predominantly Muslim countries reject terrorism but support key goals of Al Qaeda, notably expelling U.S. military forces from the Islamic world, according to a major new study of public opinion in seven nations and the Palestinian territories released here Wednesday.

Nearly 90 percent of Egyptian respondents, 65 percent of Indonesians, 62 percent of Pakistanis, and 72 percent of Moroccans said they agreed with Al Qaeda’s goal of “pushing the U.S. to remove its bases and its military forces from all Islamic countries,” according to a detailed survey carried out late last summer by the University of Maryland’s Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).

Majorities or pluralities of respondents in five of the eight countries – the Palestinian territories (90 percent), Egypt (83 percent), Jordan (72 percent) and Morocco (68 percent), and Turkey (40 percent) – said they approved of attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. Slightly lower percentages in each of those countries said they approved of attacks on U.S. military forces elsewhere in the Gulf and in Afghanistan.

“The U.S. faces a conundrum,” said Steven Kull, director of PIPA’s “U.S. efforts to fight terrorism with an expanded military presence in Muslim countries appear to have elicited a backlash and to have bred some sympathy for al Qaeda, even as most (Muslims) reject its terrorist methods.”

Indeed, only small minorities in all seven of the countries surveyed – ranging from six percent in Azerbaijan to 15 percent in Jordan – said they approved of attacks on U.S. civilians working in Islamic countries. Respondents in the Palestinian territories, however, said they approved of such attacks, although 50 percent said they opposed them, and another 18 percent said they had mixed views on the question.

But, as a general principle, majorities took a negative view toward the use of violence, such as bombings and assassinations, to achieve political or religious goals. Two-thirds of Pakistani respondents, 83 percent of Egyptians and nearly 90 percent of Indonesians said such methods could not be justified at all, according to the survey.

The survey, which was the latest in a series dating back to 2007 conducted by PIPA, was designed to gauge public opinion about al Qaeda and the United States in predominantly Muslim countries.

Because the polling took place last summer, the new study did not account for how the election of Barack Obama as U.S. president may have affected views on these issues, if at all.

“There is openness that things could change” with the new administration, Kull said Wednesday, citing post-election polls of Muslim countries, but it hasn’t happened yet, and the Islamic world is “still watching.”

PIPA and its affiliates carried out detailed face-to-face interviews with more than 1,000 respondents in each of the three countries – Egypt, Indonesia, and Pakistan – where PIPA had asked the same questions in previous polling. Additional polling was carried out in Azerbaijan, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Turkey, and predominantly Muslim regions of Nigeria.

Among the three countries that were polled in 2007, especially Pakistan, where U.S. missile attacks on al Qaeda and Taliban targets have drawn strong protests, popular support for attacks on civilians increased over the past two years, while
rejection of such tactics fell, according to the study.

At the same time, the survey found a growing belief that terrorism is ineffective. The number of Egyptian respondents who said such attacks were “hardly ever effective” rose from 35 percent two years ago to 52 percent last summer, although in Pakistan the percentage was largely unchanged.

Strong approval in all three countries of al Qaeda’s goal of forcing the U.S. to withdraw its military forces from Islamic countries was virtually unchanged from 2007.

Hostility to the U.S. military presence in the Islamic world appears related to the perception of Washington’s goals in the region, according to Kull.

“They perceive those bases as there to coerce. (To them), the bases are there as a threat,” he said.

Large majorities ranging from 65 percent in Azerbaijan to 87 percent in Egypt and the Palestinian territories said they believed that one major goal was to “weaken and divide Islam”; from 52 percent (Indonesia) to 88 percent (Palestinian territories) cited “spread(ing) Christianity”; and from 62 percent (Pakistan) to around 90 percent (Azerbaijan, Egypt, Turkey, the Palestinian Territories, and Jordan) cited “maintain(ing) control over the oil resources of the Middle East.”

Pluralities and majorities ranging from 43 percent in Azerbaijan to 96 percent in Egypt and 90 percent in the Palestinian territories also cited “expanding Israeli borders” as a U.S. goal in the region, although, remarkably, a majority of Palestinians (59 percent) said they believed that Washington also wants to create a Palestinian state.

The poll found that negative views of U.S. objectives have softened somewhat in Indonesia over the past two years but have hardened in Egypt and much more so in Pakistan.

Conversely, more benign U.S. goals, such as spreading democracy, are given little credence, with pluralities agreeing with the statement that “the U.S. favours democracy in Muslim countries, but only if the government is co-operative with the U.S.”

“These results show a reason (for the U.S.) not to promote democracy,” said Daniel Brumberg, acting director of the Muslim World Initiative, United States Institute of Peace.

On U.S. relations with the Islamic world, an average of only 12 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that Washington “mostly shows respect”. The rest were split between those who agreed that Washington’s disrespect derived from “ignorance and insensitivity” and those who said the U.S. “purposely tries to humiliate the Islamic world.”

Kull added that the people interviewed saw al Qaeda as “a balancer” to the U.S. “larger effort to achieve world domination.” He quoted one interviewee as saying “(the U.S.) wants a uni-polar system.”

However, “If you ask people generally if you think that Sharia law should be applied, there are a lot of people who say yes, but they have their own interpretations of it,” said Telhami. But if you ask them if they support a Taliban-like state, then you only get very few – less than 8 percent.

The survey also found strong support for Islamic parties being permitted to participate fully in government. Majorities ranging from 53 percent in Turkey to 83 percent in Pakistan agreed with the proposition that “all people should have the right to organise themselves into political parties and run candidates, including Islamist groups.” In Jordan, a 50 percent plurality agreed (compared to 26 percent) who disagreed, and the question was not asked in Egypt.

Shibley Telhami, an expert on Arab public opinion at the University of Maryland, said the latest survey results were consistent with his own polling in the region, which he conducts annually.

“The only apparent difference is that (the PIPA poll) suggests there is broad agreement with al Qaeda’s objective of spreading Islamic governance. But people have their own interpretation of what that means, and if you ask them if they support Taliban-like states, then the support for that is usually only five or six percent.”


Posted on on November 24th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

We post the following – an eight months old article – because of the news that Russia’s Lukhoil is intent on buying 30% of the Spain’s Repsol – this is a clear evidence that the Gideon Rachman Article still holds true.

Rachman was talking about the Natural Gas Pipelines from Russia to West and Central Europe via The Ukraine and Belarus, with potential of investment in pipelines that could bypass these countries – but he believes that the overall interest of Russian business will not make it necessary to look for these alternatives – in effect one could rather foresee that Russia would be just as reliable in its supplies as the Soviet Union was before, this because of the entanglements of international investments and business in general.




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

Who’s Next? Russia’s Cat and Mouse Game with Moldova.
William H. Hill, October 24, 2008, on Open Democracy.…

Two years ago Moldova’s president President Vladimir Voronin began a process of repairing his relations with Russia and seeking Moscow’s cooperation in negotiating a settlement with breakaway republic of Transnistria. Moldova has not yet received its payoff from improved relations with Russia and its reintegration with Transnistria has remained as uncertain as before.

Russia’s crushing use of force against Georgia last August gave rise to frenzied speculation that Moscow would mount similar military threats to other neighboring states and former Soviet republics.   However, the next major Russian initiative in the “post-Soviet space” has come in a different fashion in the miniscule Republic of Moldova.   In contrast to the Georgian case, the Russian scenario in Moldova casts President Dmitri Medvedev in the role of sage peacemaker in an internal territorial dispute left over from the days of the Soviet collapse.

A small nation of some four million, predominantly Romanian-speaking people wedged between Ukraine and Romania, Moldova sought and won its independence as the USSR disintegrated in the late 1980s.   A group of primarily Slavic Soviet political figures and enterprise managers on the east, or left bank of the Nistru (Dniestr) River in the Soviet Republic of Moldavia resisted Moldovan attempts to leave the USSR and proclaimed their small sliver of land a separate, Transnistrian Moldovan Republic.   In 1992 Moldova and Transnistria fought a brief, bitter war which the separatists won, with the assistance of a contingent of locally-based Russian troops left over from the Soviet Red Army.

During the conflict in 1992 Moldova appealed for assistance to the UN, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (now the OSCE), and various western nations.   Only Moscow heeded Chisinau’s call for mediation and brokered a cease fire that left Russian troops in place as peacekeepers.   Negotiations for a political settlement have dragged on since that time between Chisinau and Tiraspol (the separatist “capital”), with Russia, and then the OSCE and Ukraine serving as mediators.   In 2005 the U.S. and European Union formally joined the negotiations as observers.

With a population roughly the size of Luxembourg, Transnistria’s prospects as an independent state were always sketchy.   The region supported itself partially through a heavy industrial base left over from Soviet times that enjoyed surprising success in penetrating the EU and North American markets.   The left bank enclave received subsidies from Moscow, especially in the form of low-cost natural gas, running at least $30 million per year.   Finally, the region augmented its income and solidified its political position mostly by serving as a haven for smuggling and tax evasion, not only for its own residents, but also politicians and businessmen from all of the neighboring states.   “A giant off-shore” is how one Moldovan political figure characterized the region to me.

No state, including Russia, has recognized Transnistria’s independence.   Moscow’s stated policy has always been that Transnistria is a part of Moldova, and the two sides should agree voluntarily on peaceful unification of the country, with a special status for the left bank.   However, backed by influential circles in Moscow, Transnistrian leaders have been reluctant to give up their lucrative status quo for an uncertain future.   Moldova, by most statistical measurements the poorest country in Europe, has few material incentives to win over its breakaway region.   Instead Chisinau has generally pinned its hopes on intervention by a large outside power – Russia, the U.S. or the EU – to coerce Tiraspol into the Republic of Moldova.

In 2003 Moldova and Transnistria almost reached a political settlement of their conflict.   The proposed agreement, the so-called “Kozak Memorandum,” brokered by Deputy Head of the Russian Presidential Administration Dmitri Kozak, fell apart at the last minute, partially because of western objections to a provision calling for a long-term Russian troop presence.   With Kozak as point man in 2003, Moscow bypassed the existing negotiating mechanism with its broader international participation.   Swayed by promises that Moscow would overcome Transnistrian resistance and unite his country, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin went along with the gambit until the last minute.   With angry crowds gathering outside the Presidential Building and frantic calls from western leaders, only at the last moment did Voronin call Russian President Putin and tell him not to come to Chisinau to sign the Memorandum.   Putin has reportedly nursed a grudge ever since.

Five years later events are in the works that may repeat this scenario.   The leader of one of the last post-Soviet communist parties in power in the former USSR, Voronin turned toward the West after 2003 and declared a policy of European integration.   Russia retaliated by banning imports of Moldovan meat, fruit, and wine, placing grave economic pressure on the small country.   Moscow also frustrated Moldovan attempts to use Ukrainian, EU, and U.S. support to press Transnistria into a political settlement.

In late 2006, while keeping western negotiators informed of his course of action, President Voronin began a process of repairing his relations with Russia and seeking Moscow’s cooperation in negotiating a settlement with Transnistria.   There have been some modest gains from this process, but overall the results are disappointing for Chisinau.

As events in Kosovo and Georgia developed in 2008, Moldova sought to portray itself as more moderate and reasonable than Tbilisi.   Moldova did not recognize Kosovo, declared itself a neutral country (already guaranteed in the 1994 Moldovan constitution), and ostentatiously announced that it had no need to seek NATO membership.   Chisinau was rewarded in March, when after theatrical hearings the Russian Parliament advocated recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but recommended only a special status for Transnistria within Moldova.   On August 25, one day before he announced Moscow’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russian President Medvedev met with Voronin in Sochi and reaffirmed Russia’s dedication to seeking a peaceful resolution of the Transnistrian conflict.

The formal Transnistrian political settlement negotiation process goes on, although there has not been an official round of negotiations since February 28, 2006, when Moldovan negotiators walked out in protest of Transnistrian provocations.   The mediators and observers in the so called “5+2” process – Russia, Ukraine, the OSCE, the EU, and the US – continue to call regularly for resumption of the negotiations.   The latest meeting of mediators and observers took place September 8 at OSCE Headquarters in Vienna, ending with a hopeful statement.   However, a full-scale negotiating round scheduled for October 7-8 in Vienna failed to materialize.   The ostensible reason was the Transnistria’s refusal to attend, widely seen as a tactic to allow more time for Moscow’s bilateral efforts with Chisinau to bear fruit.

Meanwhile Moscow has intensified contacts with Voronin and Transnistrian leader Igor Smirnov.   Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brokered a one on one meeting between Voronin and Smirnov in April; the two had not met in person since August 2001.   Shortly after his Sochi conversation with Voronin, Medvedev also received Smirnov.   The blustery Transnistrian leader, whose line is usually that he has nothing to discuss with Voronin except bilateral relations between their two independent states, announced meekly after his talk with Medvedev that the two sides needed to meet to bring their positions closer together.

The current expectation in Moldova and Russia is that Voronin and Smirnov will get together once more, to be followed by a meeting of both of them with Medvedev.   Lavrov has floated a trial balloon in the Russian press that revival of the Kozak Memorandum might be a good basis for reaching a solution in Moldova.

However, Transnistrian leaders continue to do their utmost to deflect any settlement process and to defend their comfortable status quo.   Smirnov recently annoyed his Moldovan interlocutors and Russian patrons, ducking a widely anticipated late September meeting with Voronin in order to celebrate Abkhaz “independence” on the beaches near Sukhumi.   Moldovan negotiators, on the other hand, are increasingly frustrated by Moscow’s failure to react to a comprehensive Moldovan package proposal that has been on the table for almost two years.   Venting his irritation during a late September visit to Moldova’s largest landfill, President Voronin announced that this – a garbage dump – was the proper place for the separatist regime.

The Moldovan President is under great pressure to reach agreement now to unite his country, or give up on what has been the highest priority of his two terms in office.   National elections must be held in Moldova no later than spring 2009, when Voronin’s second and final term as president runs out.   Constitutional experts claim the sitting Moldovan Parliament must approve any settlement at least six months before the end of its term, so there are only a few weeks left before a Transnistrian settlement becomes impossible for the remainder of this legislative term.   For Voronin, who was born and raised on the left bank during Soviet times, and who desperately wishes to see his country united, it is frustrating in the extreme to watch the clock run out on his opportunity to reach a settlement.

Moscow will not go after Moldova with military means.   The small contingent of Russian troops now stationed in the Transnistrian region (around 1400) is no match in military terms for either the Moldovan or the Transnistrian armed forces.   Russian military forces in Moldova serve rather as a political symbol, tripwire, and deterrent to small-scale military adventures.   Any Russian reinforcements need to come through or over Ukraine, not a realistic possibility in current political circumstances.   Including their armies, special forces, militia, interior ministry and security troops, both Chisinau and Tiraspol can muster between 12000 to 18000 men under arms.   This is enough to deter each other (and the Russians), but probably not enough to take and hold territory.   In addition – as opposed to Georgia – no one on either side in Moldova wants to fight.   The quarrel along the Nistru is between political and economic elites, and not hostile communities, ethnic, or national groups.

Russia has already established a public posture on Moldova that implies clearly: “Here is how we deal with friendly countries that don’t join NATO and don’t use violence to settle separatist conflicts.”   Moldova has not yet received its payoff from improved relations, and Moscow appears to be stringing Chisinau along with the hope of a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.   The crucial time will come, much as it did in 2003, if and when a solution presented to Chisinau in its separate 2008 track with Moscow turns out to have a crucial catch in it, such as a bilateral agreement with significant obligations, perhaps a long-term troop presence.

In 2003 western negotiators (I was one of them) repeatedly argued with our Russian counterparts that negotiating a political settlement in Moldova was not and should not be a zero sum game.   We tried to convince Moscow that there were win-win solutions that protected and furthered the fundamental security interests of all parties in the region, indeed in the Euro-Atlantic area.   Obviously we did not succeed; Russia apparently considered primacy in the region more important than cooperation.   In 2008, with the strategic security environment much worse, Russia seems to favor the same myopic, unilateralist path.

With respect to Moldova in 2008, the absence of a solution to the Transnistrian question will be better than a bad solution that cripples the country’s chances for reform and integration into Europe as a whole.   For any settlement to succeed, Russia must be a part – but so must the rest of Europe and the North Atlantic community, i.e. the EU and US.   Commenting on US actions elsewhere in the world, the Russians are fond of proclaiming that unilateral solutions do not work.   The conflict areas like Moldova on the periphery of the former USSR are places where they ought to listen to their own advice.
The author, currently Professor of National Security Strategy at the National War College in Washington DC, served two terms between 1999 and 2006 as Head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova.   The views expressed are entirely his own.


Posted on on October 25th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

[EUobserver Comment] No easy answers to the status of Ossetia, Abkhazia and others – 24.10.2008.

The collapse last week (on the first day!) of EU backed peace talks between
Georgia and Russia to resolve the crisis in the breakaway regions of South
Ossetia and Abkhazia, with the sides unable to enter the same room, serves
merely to illustrate that there are no easy answers to the question of the
status of Ossetia, Abkhazia, and indeed many other territories in the
world, writes MEP Richard Corbett.

Strained relations between Russians, EU monitors in Georgia – 24.10.2008.

Russia is not informing the EU mission of their deployment of troops, nor
is it allowing observers to enter Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Hansjorg
Haber, the head of EU’s civilian monitoring mission to Georgia (EUMM) has

 Romania opens door to Gazprom pipeline – 24.10.2008.

Romania is open to investing in the Gazprom pipeline South Stream, not just
the EU Nabucco project, designed to reduce energy dependency on Russia,
Romanian minister of economy Varujan Vosganian said on Thursday as general
elections loom.


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

THEN ESCAP URGES the SPECA CENTRAL ASIA TO STRENGTHEN TIES WITH REST OF CONTINENT FOR GREATER SECURITY. The above has clearly political implications by bundling non-Arab Islamic States.

Greater cooperation between Central Asia and the rest of Asia is essential to achieve sustainable development for the whole continent, given the current climate of global financial instability and food and energy insecurity, a senior United Nations official, ESCAP’s Executive Director   stressed today of all places – right in Moscow.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) stands ready to facilitate technical and regional cooperation and provide a neutral forum for engaging in policy dialogue, Executive-Secretary of ESCAP Noeleen Heyzer told a gathering of senior Central Asian policymakers in Moscow.

“We are gathering here against the backdrop of a gloomy economic environment with pressing challenges in food and energy security, as well as the need for greater financial stability,” Under-Secretary-General Heyzer warned participants at the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) meeting.

“By adopting the South-South cooperation modality, SPECA can provide home-grown solutions and policy options to achieve inclusive and sustainable development,” she told officials from the seven SPECA member states – Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

SPECA aims to strengthen sub-regional cooperation, mainly in the areas of energy and water, transport, trade, technology, gender and the economy, in Central Asia, as well as its integration into the world economy with support from the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE).


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

His Excellency Manouchehr Mottaki, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran since 2005, has come now for the third time to The Asia Society during the September – October period of the UN General Assembly In New York City.

Last year I had the opportunity to ask him about about Climate Change and why Iran, with its great scientists, and people involved at the UN level, does not embark in a leadership position in the area of renewable energy rather then striving for nuclear energy incurring only indignities. Others asked him about Iran’s stand on Israel.

This year – none of the above. One question from the floor asked about Israel – but was answered in the general line of the presentation – without the question been tackled at all. The Moderator was illustrious US Career Ambassador Frank G. Wisner, who served as impeccable host, presenting lots of compliments to his guest and making sure he is very comfortable. Further, The Asia Society simply managed to put the press away in a back room, and without the Q & A period reaching out to them – that is except the literally last question which asked about the possibility for regional negotiations in the crucial Middle East problem.   And the answer to that question was then submerged under the previous line of presentation that exposed beautifully the way Iran wants to be seen. No mention was made of the name Israel also in this   answer by the Minister.

The reality is   that many in Iran like actually some of the cocoons   created via the 1980 revolution that came as a reaction to some real injustices its people incurred from the hand of the US CIA when it undid the Mohammad Mosaddeq   April 28, 1951 – August 19, 1953 regime for its nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) and reinstated the   Shah who returned   on 22 August 1953, from the brief self-imposed exile in Rome. Also, some in the US Administration feared that Mossadeq was, or would become, dependent on the pro-Soviet Tudeh Party, at a time of returning Soviet influence, and too close for comfort to have the cold War Tectonic Plates reach towards the Saudi and Iraqi oilfields.

The extent of the US role in Mossadeq’s overthrow was not formally acknowledged for many years, although the Eisenhower administration was quite vocal in its opposition to the policies of the ousted Iranian Prime Minister. In his memoirs, Eisenhower writes angrily about Mossadeq, and describes him as impractical and naive, though he stops short of admitting any overt involvement in the coup.

Eventually the CIA’s role became well-known, and caused controversy within the organization itself, and within the CIA congressional hearings of the 1970s. CIA supporters maintain that the plot against Mosaddeq was strategically necessary, and praise the efficiency of agents in carrying out the plan. Critics say the scheme was paranoid and colonial, as well as immoral.

In March 2000, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated her regret that Mosaddeq was ousted: “The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons. But the coup was clearly a setback for Iran’s political development, and it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America.” In the same year, the New York Times published a detailed report about the coup based on alleged CIA documents. For his sudden rise in popularity inside and outside of Iran, and for his defiance of the British, Mosaddeq was named as Time Magazine’s 1951 Man of the Year. Other notables considered for the title that year included Dean Acheson, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and General Douglas MacArthur.

In early 2004, the Egyptian government changed a street name in Cairo from Pahlavi to Mosaddeq, to facilitate closer relations with Iran.

 Now, these last few paragraphs, obviously, do not come from the monologue of Minister Mottaki, but I thought to bring this up because otherwise the show at the Asia Society cannot be understood, and the Ministers personality grasped.


The literally last question mentioned above, that came from the back-room filled with people from media was added when the announced “last question” that came from a lady sitting at the front-right table, clearly laudatory asked, “for those of us interested in the understanding of the history of the Middle East, when did Iran invade last one of its neighbors?”   The clear short answer was – “not in our lifetime.”


Had be given to me the opportunity to ask a question – what I had in mind was something like this:

“In light of what your excellency has said in regard to regional solutions for regional problems, and in light of justifiable aspirations by Iran to become an Asian powerhouse, what is your reaction to the Bahrain proposal at this year’s High-Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly, when Bahrain suggested the creation of a new UN organization comprising ALL STATES OF THE REGION – that wasinterpreted as meaning a Middle East organization that includes Israel?” This is exactly the most wanting direct question that was not put before our guest.


From The Speakers Profile and The Internet:

 Manouchehr Mottaki was born   May 12, 1953 in Bandar Gaz, in the northern Iranian Province of Golestan, and went to school there. Bandar-Gaz, during the Reza Shah Pahlavi rule, was an important city in the north with a national railroad and “several infrastructures.” It was considered   a transit bridge to the Soviet Union. After graduation, he joined the army and as per national plan joined the public education program by which was conducted by the government. He went to Khorasan province and established a school in a poor village around Mashhad, and taught there. After his service in the army, since he was interested in social and political issues, he decided to travel abroad both for experience and study. At that time India was a popular academic destination for young Iranians. So he traveled and studied for a few years in India, before the revolution in Iran.       He holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Bangalore University in India (1976). Mottaki also holds a master’s degree (MA) in international relations from the University of Tehran (1996).

 After the 1980 revolution, he was elected by the people of his home town and the neighboring cities as the first parliament representative and assigned by the other representatives as the head of the national security and foreign policy committee due to his politic and diplomatic talents. During his years in Majlis (Congress) and effective collaboration with the foreign ministry, he was employed then by the ministry after parliament.   Or, he made thus his career within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during 24 years of continuous presence in different positions through   the Majlis (Parliament)..

He served thus as member of parliament in the first Majlis, head of seventh political bureau of Foreign Ministry (1984),

Iran’s ambassador to Turkey (1985),

Foreign Ministry’s secretary general for Western European affairs (1989),

Deputy Foreign Minister – first for international affairs (1989) and then   for legal, consular and parliamentary affairs (1992).

 Iran’s ambassador to Japan (1994),

Advisor to foreign minister (1999),

Deputy head of Culture and Islamic Communications Organization (2001)

Chief of the Foreign Relations Committee of the 7th Majlis National Security and Foreign Relations Commission (2004).

During the 2005 presidential election, he was the campaign manager of Ali Larijani, the right-conservative candidate.

President Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad, in 2005,   appointed him to the position of Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2005.


Mottaki quotations:

“Referring the case to the Security Council would be a lose-lose game, and we would prefer that this game does not happen. We see a win-win situation, that is where the EU and international community have confidence and the Islamic Republic of Iran reaches its legitimate right.”

“The Islamic Republic pays great cost to control and prevent transfer of narcotics to West.

“We do not accept global nuclear ‘apartheid’ and scientific ‘apartheid’.

“All voluntary measures taken over the past two-and-a-half or three years have been halted and we have no further commitment to the additional protocol and other voluntary commitments.”

“We should try to cool down the situation. We do not support any violence.”

“Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned.”

“The time for using language of threats is over, it’s time for negotiation. We express our readiness for negotiations based on justice and a comprehensive compromise. We want to peacefully solve the problem.

“Nuclear weapons are not in Iran’s defense doctrine.”

“The issue is quite simple. We would like to enjoy our membership as well as the other members of the [Nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty. The country has followed the rules and regulations of the [International Atomic Energy Agency] and wants to keep its rights.”


The Foreign Minister’s Introductory Presentation Before The Asia Society, Thursday, October 2, 2008:

Mottaki started by saying that since our last meeting here (2007), we had three events:

(1) The enjoyable visit of members of this Society in Tehran – he hopes this is a start for more such exchanges. This as a better way for mutual understanding – Scholars, Tourists, Students in such exchanges create the possibility to have more realistic picture of each other.


(2) LEBANON: A solution of more then 30 months of crisis was achieved after being initiated by different parties. Foreign Minister Mottaki wants to talk about how it was achieved – because the process is as important as the results.

It was a regional-based solution for the Lebanon crisis. The decision was that it has to be a solution based on votes by a 50+ plurality of all groups in the country – all groups in the country come to the table and a consensus is built – that was the tone of the Lebanon Policy agreement.

On the second day of the negotiations in Doha, at 2:30 AM, the feeling was that it all collapsed the negotiations were locked. Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League said go ahead, but others opposed. Mottaki was in contact with Doha and Beirut and   at 9 AM they took up the issue again, and it was settled after a day of negotiations by 9 PM.

One learned that use of force should expect a reaction from the other side. Then also that territorial integrity is an integral part of any solution. These lessons apply whenever you have conflict – this clearly also in the Georgia – Russia case.


(3) GEORGIA: The areas are already affected by crisis – energy, transportation, security.

The crisis started by use of force based on wrong information and miscalculation. The latter by not expecting reaction.

The second point is territorial integrity.

Its the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia now, before it was Kosovo, Does it result from the same policies? If so, are there other areas where action led to reaction? If Yes – What are these?

On the second day of the Georgia case there was an agreement signed with Poland. If this signing of the agreement with Poland has become another step, should we look for reaction in Syria? in Venezuela?

What is NATO going to do?

Iran is a neighbor of Azerbaijan and Armenia – so there is a regional concern and Iran has to take part in the initiatives – parallel with Europe. So he went to the region and to Berlin. Is NATO moving to accept Georgia as a member?                             The interesting question is then the borders.



Now it was the turn for Ambassador Frank G. Wisner to take his position as moderator and conversation partner.

He has retired from the US Foreign Service in 1997 with the highest rank – that of a Career Ambassador, but continued to be involved in special positions like the Special US envoy for the Kosovo Final Status (December 2005 – March 2008).   Now he is in the private sector.   In his career postings he was Ambassador to India, the Philippines, Egypt, Zambia… among other appointments, he was also Under Secretary of Defence for Policy.

He started by saying that Iran is a great nation that commands and deserves respect – yet for many of us it is difficult to see how Iran chooses to challenge the international community. How do you square your requirement for respect with a confrontation attitude he then asked the Minister.

Mottaki, who made his introductory presentation in English, but now used a translator for the conversation part of the event, started to smile.

His answer was: A very nice gathering and behavior – my response – What we see is   selective dealing and approach – and double standards.

Back in the 80s we extensively talked up issues. I suggest how the first Iraq war was dealt with and the second war – the war of Saddam against Kuwait. In all   these the underlying issue is the occupation of foreign lands. {I assume he means the Iraq war against Iran as the first war and the war of Iraq on Kuwait as the second war}   Back then the heated discussion was having a cease-fire not a settlement. So the first step is a cease-fire, another first step is withdrawal. We wanted to have the an “a” inserted so that it is clear that a withdrawal comes after the cease-fire. See, using “oil-for-food” money – even now a percentage goes to Kuwait, this while for 4 years we were engaged in lengthy negotiations that were ordered by the UN. Two Assistant Secretary-Generals that dealt with this are present here – they remember those negotiations. Sometimes just to keep things going we had to put proposals on the table. We felt these were in Iraq’s favor and Iraq asked – what do you pay us to accept?

On the nuclear issue – at the end of the day – it is officials of one country … But Islamic and Sharia teachings say that atomic bombs have no place in our defense.we also contend that nuclear weapons are nomore effective. Also military powr has lost effectiveness.

I outlined new agreements for the IAEA last year. 1,5 years ago, in Madrid, we said to the Agency we will give the right answers to the IAEA questions. Then the US turned over questions to the IAEA and they posed them to us. The agency said they have other questions and we started answering them one by one. For each set of questions they sent us a written letter that they accepted the answer as adequate. What expectations should Iran have? We expect the 5+1 to thank us for these efforts to answer all questions. We expected that at the September meeting to be told by the Agency that they put aside all questions, but they provided a second US set of contentions.

They were supposed to bring up questions in one set of timetable. These questions went beyond the timetable. but we accepted.

These questions, like the previous are baseless, we will not agre to the US directed routes. I believe if we continue the negotiations we will reach a point of agreement that will lead to action.


{All the above sounded to me like a reprise of the 1001 Nights stories – this time from Tehran. I wonder how many people in the room accepted these, though, as I remarked at the beginning of this article, I am probably one of the most inclined to allow some slack to the Iranians because of past US behavior – but this story contained really too much rope. It did not inspire safety at all.}


Now Ambassador Wisner had one more short question he said. The elections in the US. “Do you see from Iran’s point of view an opportunity for dialogue? What will be the modalities for negotiation?

A. A US President will have to reach out including the Middle East. If there are changes in the White House we will intently consider them. We take note of comments made by previous Presidents, who are not in power anymore, also candidates not yet elected. Comments made, promises given by them cannot yet be seriously considered. We have to wait and see.

As for an interest section, there is only stories in news media.



Q&A from the floor:

Answer On Israel of sorts:   Iran US relations are dependent on a number of issues. Unilateral Vs. Policies in the Middle East have complicated the situation. NO MENTION OF ISRAEL IN THE ANSWER.


Answer on Nuclear In The Middle East:   Atomic weapons cannot provide security. We all heard that the US had enough to destroy Russia. It helped in the balance of fear.

Six years have passed from the day your troops have entered Iraq – they have not succeeded. Why could not atomic weapons help in Afghanistan and Iraq? This year the 13th anniversary since the Islamic revolution in Iran.

if I were to list our grievances against the US it will be a long long list. Had we a nuclear bomb, could that have changed your actions in Iraq?

In tandem with development on hardware side, the software side. The US is not lacking in modern weapons, also in its economic might (except for the present problems). No serious changes will occur in the US. The problem is – insufficient reasoning to convince the international public opinion.


Answer to the last question on the Middle East: We go about our business about our nuclear problems. We provided the answers.

if a person is asleep- how hard you knock, it will not help. The US cannot accept Iran’s peaceful proposals because once they accept they will not be able to stay in this position.

US intelligence agencies announced that Iran does not work on nuclear bomb, but the uS did not accept. I know of five different reports. I think it is high time for them to accept this.

The 15 years they were against my country. What is wrong about changing policies – and see what was wrong for their country?




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

Ted Sorenson is now blind, but he said bluntly that he has now more VISION then President George W. Bush.

It hurts to say so – but really – the audience at   the October 2, 2008, Foreign Policy Association of New York “Lecture and Book Signing Event,” held at the New York headquarters of the great Spanish Bank – Grupo Santander (The best performing bank in these days that bared the nakedness of many other banks) was clearly drinking every word that Ted said.

Chaired by Robert Miller, the President of the Foreign Policy Association, an organization mostly aligned with the Republican Party, the evening dealt with those fateful 13 days in October 1962., but it also translated to – “from one crisis to another” – that is from the Cuban Missiles Crisis to the present Wall Street Crisis and Mr. Sorensen said with confidence:



Events during the JFK administration include the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Space Race, the African American Civil Rights Movement and early events of the Vietnam War.
Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas .

 Prior to Kennedy’s election to the presidency, the Eisenhower Administration created a plan to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba. Central to such a plan, which was structured and detailed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with minimal input from the United States Department of State, was the arming of a counter-revolutionary insurgency composed of anti-Castro Cubans. U.S.-trained Cuban insurgents were to invade Cuba and instigate an uprising among the Cuban people in hopes of removing Castro from power. On April 17, 1961, Kennedy ordered the previously planned invasion of Cuba to proceed. With support from the CIA, in what is known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, 1,500 U.S.-trained Cuban exiles, called “Brigade 2506,” returned to the island in the hope of deposing Castro. However, Kennedy ordered the invasion to take place without U.S. air support. By April 19, 1961, the Cuban government had captured or killed the invading exiles, and Kennedy was forced to negotiate for the release of the 1,189 survivors. The failure of the plan originated in a lack of dialog among the military leadership, a result of which was the complete lack of naval support in the face of organized artillery troops on the island who easily incapacitated the exile force as it landed on the beach.[20] After twenty months, Cuba released the captured exiles in exchange for $53 million worth of food and medicine. Furthermore, the incident made Castro wary of the U.S. and led him to believe that another invasion would occur.

The Cuban Missile Crisis began on October 14, 1962, when American U-2 spy planes took photographs of a Soviet intermediate-range ballistic missile site under construction in Cuba. The photos were shown to Kennedy on October 16, 1962. America would soon be posed with a serious nuclear threat. Kennedy faced a dilemma: if the U.S. attacked the sites, it might lead to nuclear war with the U.S.S.R., but if the U.S. did nothing, it would endure the threat of nuclear weapons being launched from close range. Because the weapons were in such proximity, the U.S. might have been unable to retaliate if they were launched preemptively. Another consideration was that the U.S. would appear to the world as weak in its own hemisphere.

Many military officials and cabinet members pressed for an air assault on the missile sites, but Kennedy ordered a naval quarantine in which the U.S. Navy inspected all ships arriving in Cuba. He began negotiations with the Soviets and ordered the Soviets to remove all defensive material that was being built on Cuba. Without doing so, the Soviet and Cuban peoples would face naval quarantine. A week later, he and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev reached an agreement. Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles subject to U.N. inspections if the U.S. publicly promised never to invade Cuba and quietly removed US missiles stationed in Turkey. Following this crisis, which brought the world closer to nuclear war than at any point before or since, Kennedy was more cautious in confronting the Soviet Union.


Our narrative starts the morning of October 16, 1962, when Sorensen was called in by President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, shown some photos provided by the CIA has obtained two days earlier, and told of the crisis. Then, in a very systemic way he analyzed how JFK managed the crisis with a calm hand, while getting input from advisers, keeping his steady hand with all involved – including the Soviet adversaries and Cuba’s Castro. He made sure that at the time of his chosing, everyone knew what was at stake – and for a successful outcome – the cards were eventually open on the table and Khruschev agreed to withdraw those missiles in exchange for an eventual removal of NATO missiles from the Black Sea shores of Turkey that were superseded already then by technology, and replaced much more efficiently by Polaris missiles from US submarines in the Black Sea.

When the intelligence came in, Kennedy decided that nothing will happen as long as the Soviets thought the US did not know yet about those missiles – so the first thing was to go about business as usual – the continuation of the ongoing election campaign – without giving any indication that the US has other preoccupation in its official mind. JFK himself went on the 17th to Connecticut for campaign stop. He wanted to make sure that all intelligence is scrutinized – and all options considered before a decision on action or inaction is taken. He asked his advisers for all pro-s and con-s. Eventually Kennedy went ahead and had to inform the allies – this because he did not want to face them with edicts that in the end effect impact them as well.   He asked his advisers for all pro-s and con-s.

By October 22nd – Adenauer was contacted, the NATO, and De Gaul who was the most difficult. He called the Congressional leaders and told them what was discovered and what was decided. The leaders preferred bombing to passive reaction. Today we know that had we attacked, the Russians had passed the responsibility to the local officers, and tactical nuclear weapons would have been employed. The radio active fall-out would have spread globally and would have created nuclear deserts.

After that he went to the UN and presented it to the Organization of American States as the Regional Organization that endorsed a quarantine or blockade of Cuba with all, except one – voting in agreement.Now he told Dean Rusk to call in the Russian Ambassador to Washington and hand him a letter – and at the same time provide in each capital a letter via the US Ambassador to their Government heads.

Here Sorensen compared the actions with the way the US got into Iraq unilaterally.

The contacts with Khruschev he compared with the ongoing debate in the US in regard to the potential interaction with Iran – “only naive people say no to communication – no negotiation with those that do not like us.”

The analysis of options:

Obviously – the first option suggested by generals was a surgical air-strike. But Kennedy wanted to know how if this could take out all missiles which he was told that it will not be the case – so he would not go with this advice.

A second option would be to send a note to Khruschev and start negotiating – but this would project a weak America.

The third option was a “Blockade” would put the ball in Khruschev’s court – but this is an act of war. Our allies would find that sending ships to the Caribbean would see a quadrupling of insurance rates.

So the fourth option – “Quarantine” – was chosen because it is less offensive and is only against offensive weaponry – leaving also open the question about what constitutes a defensive missile.

On Friday October 26th – the 12th day – came a brimstone personal letter from Khruschev full of threats and denials, but not a closed door, then a second letter from the military that was even terser, and JFK chose to answer to the first letter.

On Saturday the 27th, the CIA reported work on the sites, a U-2 Plane was shot down. on Sunday Kennedy and wife went to church – and when they came back at 11:30 got the information that the Soviets will take home those missiles if the US gets the NATO missiles out of Turkey.

Sorensen said that a lot of Presidents prevented the cold war from heating up “by reaching out to moderates and modernists behind the curtain.” Now we made enemies of 1.3 billion Muslims without reaching out to moderates and modernists.

The CIA, in the Bay of Pigs, also projected that the Cubans will revolt and receive the Bay of Pigs invaders with open arms. It did not happen this way and it did not happen in Iraq either.

On the Georgia – Russia situation, Kennedy would not have gotten so close to Russia by working with a “superheated” Georgian leader.

On the Wall Street Crisis – there was no consultation and there was no plan – the way it was handled was no different then the way Iraq was handled.  


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:….