Tag Archives: НАТО

NATO and Global Policy in Rambo Style


When is viewed from a world-wide perspective, America is such something as in the language of Hollywood producers is called an ”ham” or ”over-actor”. This means an actor, not very bright and talented, but possessing with very distinctive physical features who exaggerates all the techniques he knows, from gestures to his speech, trying to be noticeable or to mask obvious faults.

The typology of such a character could be found not only in action movies like Rambo, but also in the existential DNA of the big political and military strategy of the United States.

As Christofer Layne[1] wrote in his book ”The Peace of Illusion”, the US commitment to transforming the entire world is ill-founded and self-defeating. Layne argues that the history of powerful empires shows that in the end they all fall into the trap of overextension, unnecessary military entanglements, and excessive interventionism. That is exactly the kind of approach practiced by the US during the last 40 years, but especially noticeable in the last decade. Practically, it means the ”dissuasion” strategy that plans to surround other powers at their own homes with land- and sea-based nuclear missiles, submarines, and fighter jets.

But at the same time it’s the US that claim the breach of international treaties, because a foreign military division has been moved 5 km closer to the Sea of Japan. Surprisingly, the leaders in Washington seem not to understand that there is an approach that harms the US regarding its partners and public perception. One of the world’s leading economists, Professor Michael Hudson says that ”the US-led confrontational approach of NATO to Russia is driving European countries to consider disbanding or leaving the military alliance due to increased risks to security.” So, in whose interests is it to keep up this agressive rhetoric?

Prosperity of War Industry – a Constant of Great Powers

us-military-background-fullAt the end of the World War II, the US had a military presence in Europe of approximately 1,9 million of troops and more than two million vehicles ranging from tanks to dozers to Indian brand motorcycles. It’s not too difficult to see that at this ratio of forces and resources deployment, practically one third of them could not be used because there were really no one to control them. What does it mean? It means a huge business that has moved money from pockets of American tax payers into pockets of big manufacturers operating in that period. It means huge public contracts with the American state, and while they have been implemented, some food staples for the population were limited and could be bought only with ration cards (although, apparently, many still believe that ration cards were invented on the other side of the Iron Curtain).

Of all the countries involved, the United States has spent the biggest sum in wartime being surpassed only by Japan spending approximately 341 billion dollars, of which 50 billion went for resources. That’s to say nothing about loans granted to others countries. These 341 billion were at that time a huge figure for the American industry, which at the end of the conflict has fallen dramatically somewhere below 1%. So, the enemy had been defeated and it was necessary to invent a new one, equally fierce, otherwise the business had a risk to collapse and take the entire US economy along with it.

In the spring of 1948, President Truman and his administration held secret talks in Washington D.C., to discuss the impending enlargement of the Soviet power. That was the post-war context that made five members of the Western Europe (Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom) to sign the Brussels Treaty, whereby they have decided to constitute a common system of defense. The decision seemed justified, the severe trauma left by the war persisted strongly in social mindset. And the rise of the Soviet power seemed unstoppable.

But Great Britain was at the low level of its economic strength, the rest of the countries were completely insignificant regarding their military force. Metaphorically speaking, it looked as if you were going to protect yourself against a dangerous animal attack by purchasing a rifle with pellets for starling. Evidently, something more than just the will was necessary. Thus the negotiations with the USA and Canada occured. At the same time other European countries, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, and surprisingly the ally of Nazi Germany, Italy were invited to participate in this process as well.

It was rather odd taking into account the fact that the majority of these states were on/under the ground from a military point of view and some of them, from the economic point of view also. France was a real loser since the times of Napoleon, Italy was ready to surrender at the first sign of troubles, and Iceland until this day does not have an army of its own. Great Britain had done some interesting moves in the North Africa, but that happened thanks to heroism of its soldiers; for its technical military equipment was disastrous (the Churchill and Matilda tanks, which did not sink together with the ships in the North Sea and were delivered to the USSR, were sent immediately to meltdown and recast into glorious Soviet T-34).

The US immediately felt the oppotunity and used the moment and opportunities for its own gain. That was an attitude fit to a power in the global rising. Washington accepted this new military alliance and took the role of its undisputed leader.

So, on April 4, 1949 in Washington the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – NATO[2] was established, an alliance with numerous principal discrepancies, disagreements that have brought much real harm since then until now. “To look big and to impress” seems to be quite logical basis when the leader, as I have already said, is an overplay.

According to the ”main goal of its creation”, NATO was meant to be a Meeting of NATO and Partner Chiefs of Defence - Opening of the 159th MC/CS Sessioncounter-force to the presence of the Soviet military forces in the Eastern Europe. The US had a real interest to quickly demonize the USSR thus getting the necessary and veridic enemy in the long term to support the alliance resilience. In the next few years Greece and Turkey have acceded and in 1955 Federal Germany itself joined this organization. On May 9, 1955 the decision of the governments of the United States and Western Europe to include West Germany into NATO generated a geo-political balance preserving move. The USSR decided to set up the Warsaw Pact in order to counterbalance the military force of NATO and the plan of the Western Europe military equipping worth over 6 billion dollars.

Warsaw Pact was designed to increase the international negotiating power of the Soviet Union. Another logic fact is that the Soviet Union has also used the Warsaw Pact as a way to develop new armies and train them under its military strategies. More to that, in the framework of the Warsaw Pact the USSR was the principal supplier of weapons and military equipment and technology for the member countries of the Warsaw Pact, except (for a period of time) for Romania. The great global powers have a similar constant: they have a military industrial complex which is one of the most effective businesses of the state.

The tensions between the two military blocks have led inevitably to the triggering of the Cold War and the expensive Arms Race. Both alliances were proposing ways to basically dominate the world and spread their beliefs of ideal governments. This is the context in which the US began to send a nuclear missiles all over the world. In 1947 the president Harry S. Truman authorized US aid (The Truman Doctrine) to anti-communist forces in Greece and Turkey. The policy was expanded to justify support for any nation that the US government considered to be threatened by Soviet expansionism. This policy, known as the George Kennan[3] doctrine, was aimed at holding back and restricting the spread of Communism worldwide. Containment quickly became the official US policy towards the USSR. The USSR began to be strangled from all sides. The constrictor rings of the Anaconda strategy started to tighten around the Soviet Union and the US nuclear missiles reached the neighborhood of Crimea and the Black Sea by means of placing outdated, but still dangerous PGM-19 Jupiter and PGM-17 Thor in Turkey sometime in 1960.

A move in return from the Soviet Block was predictable and justifiable. In response, the Caribbean (Cuban Missile) Crisis becomes a cold shower for the US. Americans, who until then had filled the planet with nuclear weapons knew Russia’s feeling very good and knew how it was when others come up with nuclear weapons near the borders that you thought were guarded by two huge oceans and thousands of kilometers of airspace. Both sides have learned from the Cuban Missile Crisis that risking nuclear war in pursuit of political goals is just too dangerous. It was the last time during the Cold War that either side would take this risk. After the Cuban Missile Crisis was over, the US and the USSR preferred to bring their competition onto local conflicts in other parts of the globe.

The Cold War has had a special feature: it reflected confrontation between the two blocks on the criterion of ideological purposes (Communism vs. Capitalism). Therefore, once the communist ideology was removed, a new similar confrontation in this part of the world seemed unlikely. But that was a miscalculation. Nowadays, the confrontation is more sharp, pragmatic and has a purpose of controlling the biggest part of resources of the planet. At the same time, the experts usually skip an important detail: the Cold War stopped due to the lack of a main combatant and not as a result of a bilateral agreement. Consequently, the claim of the United States and the Western block composed of allies/satellites to be the sole pole of power in the world and to establish a planetary way of life based exclusively on ideology and principles of their leadership has absolutely no grounds. The US strategy is to prevent neutrality. Europe’s economic interest is to achieve neutrality with Russia, and have economic unity so that there’s little chance of any confrontation with Russia. The result of such a rebellious is already visible and do not require detailed examples.

The Cold War Doctrine in Use Again

 By eliminating competition with the Warsaw Pact, NATO should not be competing for world domination especially when the money people pay is being used for missiles, bombs, and tanks rather than education, housing, and healthcare. But it still is! Although the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Act (July 1991), the Cold War was never over. Between the new planetary hegemon of the US and Russia, the heir to all good and bad things of the Soviet Union, the competition trend is always presented. In spite of the political statements, the US wanted a confirmation of being a unique worldwide leader. Russia wanted to get its revenge and return to the table of the global decision makers. The truce lasted for two decades, only as far as it has been necessary for Russia to regain strength.

nato_russia_flagsExhausted by the Arm and Space Race through the 1980s, the USSR gave to the North-Atlantic Alliance and the Euro-Atlantic community some signals that it intended to end up the Cold War on a unilateral basis. In other words, NATO remained without the „Enemy” which (for almost half a century) had been defining the Western politics as active confrontation to communism values. Based on the danger of the Soviet power, NATO created a geo-strategic plan of neutralization of the Soviet threat and its allies. Maybe surprised by the Soviet Union weekness, the West has got the message from Moscow as an unconditional capitulation. This was another misunderstanding.

Through the unilateral termination of the Cold War, the USSR did not mean its disadvantageous capitulation, but rather a truce through which it would get the time necessary either for lasting negotiations or for in-state reforms. It was a question of time before the „confrontation” would be restarted. Another error was that the West had not understood that the commitment, or the “deal” did not mean that the countries which were detached from the conglomerate and the sphere of the USSR influence, had no right to establish new alliances with former opponents, therefore, to integrate into structures of the Euro-Atlantic community.

 NATO – Preferred ”Weapon” of Advancing American Interests

On the one hand, NATO has pledged many times that expansion to the East will enhance security of Europe as a whole and not produce new dividing lines. On the other hand, the expansion of NATO to the East was accompanied by the colored revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia, the Arab Spring in North Africa and the conflicts triggered and supported by the US in the Middle East, deployment of troops and weapons in Romania and Poland, launch of the missile shield elements in Romania.

On the top of all that some economic sanctions against Russia were imposed. main-qimgEven at a quick glance we can observe that a set of policies and restrictive practices of the same type of is used, a new incarnation of the containment doctrine. Besides, it is clear that America is trying to force Russia to spend more as a part of its economic warfare.

The United States and its allies from NATO are trying not only to prevent Russia from its possible expansion and retrieval of its former sphere of influence. The actions of the past few years suggest a real siege, which is composed of multiple constricting rings, intended either to kneel the Russian Federation, or to induce it to react aggressively. With the same aim, the „challenges” have a huge part of mingled defiance and arrogance. Otherwise, one cannot explain how it is possible that the largest military exercises of NATO nearby the Russian borders are called „Anaconda 2016”. Especially so that the Pentagon is well known to have talented specialists with the ‚poetical’ sense when it comes to giving names for the US military operations abroad. In the 1990s, critics warned that the NATO expansion would cultivate a new cold war. It seems that they were right.

 And regarding declarations which outraged the opponents of the republican candidate for the US presidency, Donald Trump, related to the Baltic countries and Article 5[4] of the Treaty of the North Atlantic Alliance, it appears to have been right in accordance with the principles of assistance specified by Article 6 of the same Treaty:

“With the invocation of Article 5, Allies can provide any form of assistance they deem necessary to respond to a situation. This is an individual obligation on each Ally and each Ally is responsible for determining what it deems necessary in the particular circumstances. This assistance is taken forward in concert with other Allies. It is not necessarily military and depends on the material resources of each country. It is therefore left to the judgment of each individual member country to determine how it will contribute.”

It means that the North Atlantic Treaty does not impose to the US or to another state that it must defend the military attacked ally; each state which is deemed to have been under the military attack by another state shall be free to take the measures that are considered necessary.

Basically, if the United States or any other NATO member refuses to take military intervention in favor of the Baltic states and confines to assistance and provision with helmets and anti-bullet vests (as it was done in the case of Ukraine which is not NATO member), it would not breach the provisions of this Treaty. In addition, the USA has infringed enough international treaties which it had signed and ratified: the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Convention against Torture – there were breaches of the most scandalous nature, so it’s better remember the proverb about glass houses and stones.

 Article 5 has been invoked by the US and accepted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on September 11, 2001. The US is not (at least theoretically) an exception to the rule, as the right shall apply to all parties according to international laws.

flickrBut it happens only when the US interests coincide with the interests of other governments (permanent members of the UN Security Council). If the US as NATO chief declares firmly that it will render military defence to any ally, it is not because a treaty was signed in 1949, but because such a position can best serve the US foreign policy and interests at the moment. In fact, the current strategy of the West of ensuring safety by limiting the “enemy” is by far the most inefficient approach when aiming at long-term peace. It is an option when the final aim is a military conflict.

 *** Epilogue

What would happen if Russia decides to invade a member of NATO as a reply to aggressive extension of the North Atlantic alliance up to its borders? Estonia, for example, which expresses its concern in the most explicit ways? Estonia will invoke Article 5 of the Treaty of NATO and the alliance will follow the standard procedures. And what will happens if a member of NATO – Turkey, for example, will refuse to attend confrontation ? It seems nothing. It can happens that many countries – members NATO were dissapointed. Most probably because the purpose of the start – defensive alliance – has been seriously misused and has become an instrument of (re)pression in the hands of a global Rambo.” 

Original file published by ”New Defence Order. Strategy” / «Новый Оборонный Заказ. Стратегии»

2016, №4 (41), History of Defence Industry and Military History, Military and Technical Cooperation

[1] Christopher Layne is Associate Professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. He is the author of „The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present” (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2006).

[2] www.nato.int

[3] The author of the „Doctrines of Containment” was an American diplomat George Kennan, who defined the theoretical basis of this policy in 1947 for use in America’s geopolitics.

[4] www.nato.int

John Helmer – «Watch the puppet’s strings, not his mouth or nose»

  • interview with John Helmer

1. It looks like there’s going to be a hot autumn in Moscow? Or is that just an illusion due to very vocal electioneering and of course the media accompaniment?

Meteorologically, as well as politically, Moscow feels the heat in July or August. October surprises more often happen in Washington DC; and the autumn so far should cause French President Nicolas Sarkozy to sweat – at least since all US charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn were dropped, and he returned to Paris. There has been the sense under the surface of Russian politics that an accident might happen – might even be provoked with an orange or rose colouring – and have destabilizing consequences for the run-up to the December 3 national parliamentary election. But so far there is no sign of an incident, protest, or issue around which Russian opposition might mobilize. The only one sweating at the moment in Moscow is outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev.

2. Will the mystery behind the Putin – Medvedev tandem unravel at the United Russia Party Congress or must we wait until December, after the parliamentary elections? What of importance will Medvedev put in his speech (if anything)?

The tandem isn’t a mystery — Vladimir Putin owns the bicycle, picks the road, applies most of the leg muscle. The fact that Medvedev also pedals can’t change that. Also, there’s nothing mysterious about wishful thinking – Medvedev’s. His attempts to campaign for reelection by stressing his positive differences with Prime Minister Putin – Mr Modern versus Mr Authority, Mr West v Mr East, Mr Young v Mr Old – have been fatuous; they have obscured the identicality of their underlying positions. Medvedev lacks the power to decide between powerful factions on any significant, big-money policy issue, and so far in his term, he has not done so. He therefore appears to be powerful when enunciating policy to which there are no objections; or when the issues are marginal and there is little resistance. The effect is magnified by western media, which want to see him retain the presidency in 2012, even replace Putin, if he could. This too is wishful thinking.

If you believe what you read in the Financial Times, the Economist, or Wall Street Journal, you might believe that privatization is a Medvedev policy priority, while state consolidation or renationalization is the Putin strategy. This is a mistake. It’s also a familiar prejudice from the voice-boxes of has-been imperialists still hoping for a foothold in Russia. Medvedev has been hoping he could push through a privatization or two of state assets in order to reward potential supporters from among Russia’s oligarchs. At this, Medvedev and the ministers supporting him – chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin, deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov – have been a near-total failure. Naryshkin, for example, has been the closest state minister to Medvedev, but he ignored his April 2, 2011, decree removing state ministers from the boards of directors of state companies. The only privatization Naryshkin has stood for is the retention of his own seat as chairman of the board of the state-owned oil tanker company, Sovcomflot.

3. In the opposition parties can you see big changes in terms of representation and strategy? Should we talk rather of attempts to keep voters’ loyalty, and nothing more? Do you see lack of vision or a cold peace, acceptance of the dictates of political fate?

There are opposition forces, trends, individuals, sentiments, ideologies; but there are no opposition organizations complex enough to be called parties. Gennady Zyuganov sold the Communist Party to the oligarchs when Mikhail Khodorkovsky was paying his bills, and not even Khodorkovsky’s subsequent conviction and imprisonment have loosened Zyuganov’s tongue. His brain has atrophied in the meantime, and his grip on the communist party machine remains unbreakable, at least for one more parliamentary and presidential round. Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia is neither liberal, nor democratic, nor a party. The nearest thing to an opposition party in the broader European sense would be an alliance of environmental protection groups active across the country – if (it’s a big if) they could coordinate in the formation of a Green party. So far, they cannot – they haven’t.

In some theatres, it’s possible for the most wooden of puppets to convince audiences that they are their own masters and puppeteers, but turn on the lights – you can see the strings immediately. Still, the normal political equation – the inflation rate plus the unemployment rate = opposition – operates not less vigorously in Russia than elsewhere. Nut the latest economic results from the state statistics agency Rosstat suggest that this pain equation is moving against the electoral opposition, and in Putin’s favour. In August, real wages were growing at a year on year rate of 3.8%, the fastest monthly growth rate this year. Disposable income in August was up 1.4% year on year. Unemployment appears to be falling — it was 6.5% in July; in August it was 6.1%. These effects suggest that classic pork and trough politic, pump-priming and budget stimulus spending are reaching the voters — and with August retail sales up 7.8% year on year (compared to 5.7% growth in July), they are expressing their confidence by spending money. They will spend their votes the same way. In this situation, Putin is the one person and political force most Russians believe can deal effectively with the economic threats they consider priority concerns as security risks diminish. This is an empirical observation, not an ideological one. Accordingly, opposition forms within the parameters largely set by Putin. That’s also a personal achievement on his part. What he intends to achieve next is something he keeps to himself. So far.

4. But instead, look, runs more virtual noise on the Right Cause party. An oligarch – your well-known area – and a party in coma build the loyal opposition of power. But the recent scandal was surprised and creates confusion. Was it a project of the Kremlin or was a project’s Prohorov  – and he was accepted as controllable risk by the Kremlin (and when risk rised too much he was falls) ? Is Prokhorov a naïve person and he really not knows how is working political commitment?

Votes are like money in one respect, which all politicians, in Russia or elsewhere, must either understand, or go broke. They are promissory notes – tenders of support on condition the candidate who receives the votes understands that he is obligated to deliver on his promises with the power the votes ought to provide. In business, Prokhorov was already, according to those who have worked for him, famously short on attention span, long on self-absorption, and indifferent to minorities. Could he tell the difference between a buyer of shares in one of his companies – Norilsk Nickel until 2007; Rusal since 2010; Polyus Gold and Quadra (TGK-4) – and voters in an election campaign? The bare facts are these. Prokhorov claims he was invited to run the political splinter party called Right Cause during a meeting with President Medvedev in the spring. But there is no record of such a meeting with Medvedev until June 27. Two days earlier, on June 25, Prokhorov had already been voted by a party congress to head Right Cause and lead its campaign for the parliamentary election, due on December 3. At their June 27 get-together, Medvedev said: “Your ideas correspond on some points with my own views… I will think about them.” In fact, Medvedev had made a public showing that he didn’t back Prokhorov for the Right Cause post, and encouraged Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin to take the spot instead. That was on June 20, weeks after Prokhorov claims now he had gotten the nod. Back in May, it had also seemed that Prokhorov was the choice of the election advisors to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who didn’t need Prokhorov or Right Cause, so much as it seemed a good idea to ensure that Medvedev’s candidacy for a second term as president didn’t find a party platform and a national run for votes.

If that was Putin’s stratagem from the start, Prokhorov has proved to be the ideal stooge. In three months, the polls were showing that Prokhorov was good for an increment of just 1% on the Right Cause’s bedrock of between 1% and 2% of the electorate. A week ago, on September 12, Prokhorov began publicly running down a group he called “the Kremlin”. At first, he claimed he was under the gun for backing for a spot on the Right Cause ticket a man he claimed the Kremlin didn’t want – Yevgeny Roizman. The reason, Prokhorov told a newspaper interview, was he “may be…the only person in the country struggling against drugs.” Then Prokhorov intimated that his ideas were too radical, not to say democratic for “the Kremlin”. He spokes about rewriting the Constitution to give the State Duma powers to impeach government ministers, limiting the governing or majority party to 226 seats and reinstating direct elections for regional governors. According to Prokhorov, he had invested Rb 800 million ($27 million) in Right Cause, but the votes for the election list were “rigged” against him. Who had the power to say no to so much money? Prokhorov claimed there was a “puppeteer who misinforms the Russian government, putting pressure on the media, and the puppeteer’s name is Vladislav Surkov.” Also he said: “I am absolutely convinced that this is a personal initiative by Vladislav Surkov. From my experience I think that for quite a long time he has systematically misinformed the country’s leadership. And I, behold, I plan to meet with the president and the prime minister and in the first person to tell [them] how this whole process has occurred. As long as such people run the political process, politics in Russia is impossible, for my part I will do everything possible to bring Surkov down”. These were Prokhorov’s fighting words on September 15. Two days later, he announced: “there was no personal conflict with anyone″.

… In the end it was a conflict of ideologies,” Prokhorov wrote in on his blogs. “At this stage the conservatives won. I wanted change, but the system was not ready.” The prime minister’s and president’s schedules have yet to open and admit him. Prokhorov has a history of representing sentence-long slogans as public programmes or ideologies – paying for them as if they were prospectuses for outfits whose shares he controls like Polyus Gold. There is no evidence of votes sought or public endorsements issued for these “ideas”. In the only election contest Prokhorov had fought until this year – the Polyus Gold annual general meeting of shareholders in June 2008 — Prokhorov heaped vitriol on the one independent director who dared to challenge him – Lord Patrick Gillford. Prokhorov also lost the voting on that one. There is a pattern of his attacking the Russian leadership, and then retracting within 48 hours. In his relations with the French government, Prokhorov has demonstrated that he has been unable to procure either apology or acquittal and vindication on the charges that led to his brief imprisonment in January of 2007. Today, according to one of Prokhorov’s associates at his Onexim holding, the explanation for the loss of his political support was that he hadn’t had enough time. “Don’t put all the blame on him [Prokhorov], because he was given too little time to prepare the party for the elections and there was a lot of work to do, hence the party resistance he faced. Politics is a new field for him, and challenging, too. Moreover, he left all the people he trusts in his business projects, so he had practically no one to rely on inside the party.” Prokhorov himself is making the same complaint – “I had two and a half months to shake up the 83 regions. That is, in fact, less than one day for each region. I have had 20 meetings in the day, we met people, took away the best candidates, watched the party go with someone to the polls.” If Prokhorov hadn’t made a public fetish of keeping time more accurately, also more expensively than almost anyone else in Russia – wearing a Pierre Kunz Red Gold tourbillon – this calculation might be credible. Now that he’s down for the count, though, Prokhorov is the first oligarch to prove he has trouble counting whatever doesn’t belong to him.

5. Is the security strategy promoted by Medvedev a failure? After the recent signing in Washington of an agreement on placing missile systems in Romania, it seems that the missile shield in the form proposed by the US will exist with or without the consent of Moscow. Does this change the perception of the foreign policy achievements of President Medvedev? Does it predict a new type of Cold War confrontation? Or does everything depend on who will come to the Kremlin in 2012?

Medvedev made a mistake in backing the Anglo-American invasion of Libya and NATO’s regime change strategy. If he believed that move would secure a more consultative, less confrontational relationship with President Barack Obama on military strategy in Europe, around Russia’s frontiers, he started with a naive illusion and ended with a fundamental misjudgement. All the talk of button-pressing between Russia and the US has not diverted by a single iota the US Government from pursuing its military strategy in the Balkans. Of course, you might ask whether Obama has made even bigger mistakes than Medvedev, and proved to be as powerless at home, even weaker than Medvedev, since there appears to be no Obama consensus to which the US President himself holds to for long. At least Medvedev is still on his election bike – Obama fell off some time ago.

The Romanian missile case reflects the continuity of US policy, and thus the failure of both the Great Powers, Russia and the US, to change or improve on what has gone before. What the missile agreement means in terms of US intervention in Romanian internal politics has been revealed in some of the State Department cables released by Wikileaks, but I don’t presume to guess how effective the US program for regime change in Romania has been, or will be.

The Libyan War might have been a test of the so-called reset relationship, but it has not. I doubt Medvedev would have gone so public on the interventionist side,  had he not been reflecting a silent consensus among Russian officials, including Putin, that Muammar Qaddafi could no longer be supported. I don’t believe the public version, emphasizing Qaddafi’s attacks on civilian protesters, was the decisive reason for Russian policy in that case. There is a much more durable tradition in Russian policy to condemn human rights violations, but at the same time oppose intervention in the internal affairs of states. The inconsistency on this and other Russian policy positions towards Libya was made public by Russia’s Ambassador to Libya, Vladimir Chamov, whom Medvedev claimed credit for dismissing in April. In fact, Chamov was reassigned within the Foreign Ministry without being sanctioned. The Chamov episode was also unique in another respect – never had a serving ambassador publicly criticized the commander-in-chief. Perhaps Medvedev calculated that he should sacrifice Qaddafi in order to ingratiate himself as the “new look Russian”, “pro-western” presidential candidate. Perhaps Putin thought Qaddafi unreliable, erratic, potentially dangerous, and judged that if Medvedev wanted to expose himself on the western side, Putin didn’t see any disadvantage to his own interests. Medvedev has made a fool of himself  without a serious risk to the Russian state interest  – that may have suited Putin. The Libyan War is also the first time that Russia’s non-government policy establishment sided against the President on an open and explicit way. All threats Medvedev and his circle issued in reaction – for example, a threat to sack Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – came to nothing. As the Islamist and fundamentalist elements in the so-called Libyan national opposition gain in strength and take control of the country, the Russian position internationally will be – we told you so.

 6. There is already a negative perception of Russia’s attitude to Al-Asad’s regime in Syria. Medvedev makes a new mistake at this time regarding Syria? What is you opinion?

 – Regarding Syria, Medvedev has not moved an inch from the traditional Russian policy consensus. The Kremlin will not tolerate another episode of regime change in the Arab world. Medvedev has reverted to form. This is all.

 7. Finally: What is your prediction about 2012 tandem president – premier?

 – Oh, that’s easy – the outcome of the presidential race is quite clear. Putin will rule. Whoever he decides on as his running-mate, and what title the latter is assigned, will not alter the political outcome. If Dmitry Kozak, another St. Petersburg lawyer and a long-serving junior minister of state, were to replace Medvedev, that would be worse for the oligarchs, better for the country than other candidates for the second spot. These candidates are much speculated about in chat shows, but their selection or deselection is little more than a weak signal of what coursew Putin will pursue in his third and maybe fourth terms. The question of Russian politics, the question for Putin is what he intends to do with the oligarchs – those individuals  who control the principal resources of the country, and dictate theft, corruption and deceit as a way of life.

Published – Cadran Politic, no. 86, October 2011