Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a gritty,
straight-talking 30-minute interview with CNN this week in Russian. It was not
translated or reported on widely in the US media, which is a shame.
He charged that US military personnel were in South Ossetia
during the attack, and lectured about such topics as Ossetia�s long membership
in the Russian empire (since 1801) and Ossetians� age-old resentment of
Georgian chauvinism, especially following the 1917 Russian revolution and the
1990 declaration of Georgian independence. A South Ossetian legislator has
already mooted the possibility that it will eventually become part of the
When asked by CNN if he would stop threatening neighbours
now that the Ossetian crisis was over, he angrily dismissed the question as
preposterous, saying it was up to the US and its new Eastern European clients
to stop threatening Russia. It is the Polish and Czech missile bases and
Ukrainian and Georgian desire to join in the nuclear-tipped encirclement of
Russia that are the destabilising developments forcing Russia to batten the
hatches. The Russians see the bases as a precursor to a much larger system that
would undermine the already seriously eroded Russian nuclear deterrent.
�For the first time in history -- and I want to
emphasise this -- there will be elements of the US nuclear capability on the
European continent. It simply changes the whole configuration of international
security. Of course, we have to respond to that,� said Putin at a press
conference last year which was also not reported in the corporate US media.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov underlined Putin�s words
Monday, referring to �the reality of the post-America world� and warning that
�in the absence of a reasonable multilateral dialogue we will be forced to
react unilaterally.� Europe�s inability to produce a new collective security
system, �open for everyone and taking into account everyone�s interests,� was
to blame for the Georgia crisis. He added: �There is a feeling that NATO again
needs frontline states to justify its existence.�
As if to make his point, the Russian military carried out a
successful test of a Topol RS-12M nuclear capable stealth rocket from the
Plesetsk space centre. Analysts are already speculating that Putin (okay,
Medvedev) may well �take out� the Polish missile site.
�He has no other option. The proposed system integrates the
entire US nuclear arsenal into one operational-unit a mere 115 miles from the
Russian border. It�s no different than Khrushchev�s plan to deploy nuclear
missiles in Cuba in the 1960s,� writes Mike Whitney at Online
Journal. At the very least he �will be forced to raise
the stakes and send warplanes over the construction site. That is the logical
first-step that any responsible leader would take before removing the site
So if Cold War II keeps accelerating and something like this
happens later this year, what should we make of it? Is this Russia threatening
and even invading its neighbour, or is it a justifiable warning to the US to
back down from its attempts to instigate WWIII?
Is it possible that all this furfural is really just an
early �October Surprise,� in the US electoral tradition that both Reagan and
Bush II made such masterful use of? Recall that Ronald Reagan�s advisors
orchestrated a delay in returning US hostages from Iran in 1980, tipping the
balance in his favour in the elections that year. President George W. Bush got
a letter purportedly from Osama bin Laden weeks before the elections in 2004,
conveniently reminding Americans that he is their defender against terrorists.
This possibly was the inspiration for the 1998 movie �Wag the Dog,� where
a few weeks before the elections, a presidential advisor hires a Hollywood
producer to fabricate and market a war in an ex-socialist bloc country
(Albania) and ensure the incumbent�s re-election.
In the current �reality show� version, discretion is thrown
completely to the wind, with a certain Randy Scheunemann playing both doctor
and advisor to Republican �incumbent� Senator John McCain. Scheunemann�s
two-man Orion Strategies lobby firm has been advising Latvia since 2001 and
more recently, Georgia. Georgia hopes to following Latvia�s success in joining
NATO and -- why not? -- the European Union. It has already paid Orion
Strategies $300,000 to this end.
Putin firmly declared in his CNN interview that the attack
on Russian peacekeepers by Georgia was given the green light by US officials as
part of an US election campaign ploy. He was most likely referring to
McCain, a personal friend of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, and
Scheunemann, McCain�s chief foreign policy advisor. Or possibly Joseph Wood,
Cheney�s deputy assistant for national security affairs, who was in Georgia
shortly before the war began. Or both.
But Putin is caught between a rock and a hard place in this
US election year. Even if he�s right about Scheunemann, McCain�s advisor has
his counterpart in Senator Barack Obama�s chief foreign policy advisor,
Zbigniew Brzezinski, who while being no fan of Bush, is rubbing his hands in glee
over the Russian move to protect Ossetia. So whoever wins in November will
undoubtedly push CWII into high gear, come what may.
Will this �Wag the Dog� sequel bring in the votes for
McCain? That is far from certain considering his admiration for the
now-despised Bush, his endless gaffes and his patent lack of intelligence.
However, the key to US elections -- the Israel lobby -- is not happy with
Brzezinski, and could scuttle Obama�s candidacy, despite Obama�s choice of
self-proclaimed Zionist Senator Joe Biden as his running mate. Recall that
Brzezinski was foreign policy advisor to ex-president Jimmy Carter, whose Camp
David accords forced Israel to give the Sinai back to Egypt.
Enter Scheunemann. He has no such skeletons in his closet.
And he is a big fan of the current Middle East makeover designed to ensure
Israeli supremacy. As director of Chalabi�s Committee for the Liberation of
Iraq, he pushed for the invasion in 2003. Mission accomplished, he found his
new warrior prince in Tbilisi. Scheunemann is just one of dozens of US and
Israeli advisors to the trigger-happy Georgian president. Israel has been
actively supporting Saakashvili, eager to see the Georgian pipeline project
bypassing Russia completed. Georgian Defence Minister Davit Kezerashvili and
Minister of Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili are both Israeli citizens who
returned to Georgia to enter politics.
If in fact the US Israeli lobby has decided on McCain for
president, and passed the word on to Sheunemann, this could well account for
the green light that Saakashvili clearly thought he had to attack Russian
peacekeeping troops and Ossetia civilians, killing hundreds if not the 1,500
claimed by Russia. And what better way to force both candidates to shore up
Bush�s policy of war and death, just in case by some fluke the suspicious Obama
overcomes the many hurdles to a candidate not enjoying the full confidence
(i.e., control) of �the lobby.�
You can�t fault Obama for trying to please them, short of
firing his patron Brzezinski. Already, he has dropped his willingness to talk
to �the enemy,� which clearly means Russia these days, every bit as much as
Iran. Under him, Iraq will keep its US bases and Afghanistan will absorb any
troops who leave Iraq. Whether or not Washington succeeds in bringing Georgia
and Ukraine into NATO is the only moot point in all this, and this really
depends more on Russia than on who inhabits the White House for the next four
This is all very much like Brzezinski�s scheming as advisor
to president Carter. He now boasts that by orchestrating US funding of Islamic
extremists like bin Laden from 1979 on, he was responsible for the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union. This
did nothing to wag Carter�s dog back into power in 1980, but that is of little
consequence to these shadowy advisors, who are never without work in the higher
echelons of US politics, just as Scheunemann will not suffer in the least if
his candidate is found to have Alzheimer�s and forgets to show for his
inauguration next January. And if Obama wins, he will merely cede his White
House pass to Brzezinski and continue advising world leaders such as the
hapless Georgian president.
It�s quite possible that this ratcheting up of tensions in
the Caucasus is intentional. It clinched the Polish missile deal in a hurry and
put Russia in a bad light, giving succour to those planning to make the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline the key link in a network bypassing Russia.
But the Georgian pipeline was shut down by BP during the recent conflict, and
it is far from clear that spin doctors and tweaking the Russian bear�s nose
will bring the US any closer to cutting Russia down to size. What this episode
and Putin�s steely evaluation did was to further expose the poison at the heart
of American politics and confirm the world�s suspicions that Russia is not
afraid to stand up for itself.
Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly. You can reach him at www.geocities.com/walberg2002/.