Monday, February 16, 2009

Europe Needs an Independent Approach to Russia

At the international security conference on February 7th 2009, Vice President Biden was calling for improved relations with Russia which is an encouraging sign, but he also stated that "the United States rejects the notion that NATO's gain is Russia's loss, or that Russia's strength is NATO's weakness. American imperial expansion at the expense of Russia's security is the fundamental of the conflict, so if United States is content with the current path of NATO then this might just be another PR stunt bearing in mind that words mean little in geopolitics. Europe can by separating their voice and policy from United States, and coming up with a independent approach to Russia make sure that this is not a strategic temporary peace treaty, but a fundamental change in policy.

Georgia's attack on South Ossetia in August 2008 had a greater geopolitical significance, the war could have been prevented if Europe would have made a break from America's Russian policy and formed an independent policy towards Russia based on a common security system and consistent rules of international law.

As soon as Russia intervened in the Georgian assault on the civilian population in South Ossetia, the Western media reports differentiated strongly from the facts on the ground. The story was of an aggressive and authoritative Russia that attacked and invaded a small peace-loving democracy, Georgia, whose only crime was to want freedom, democracy and a close relationship with the West. Russia, motivated by a desire to re-establish its power and influence in previous Soviet space was a threat to the whole region and perhaps the world as she was on a mission to fight democracy and freedom. Armed with petro-dollars and nuclear weapons Russia would through invasion reclaim their lost empire and once again be fared and respected as a superpower. The West instantly exited the vague and failing "war on terror", and entered Cold War 2, where the United States as the champion of freedom and democracy would rally up an alliance and build a front against this threat.

This absurd presentation of the conflict did not only fail to place the conflict into a larger context, but it did also not explain United States role in this war and why America would be willing to risk an all-out war against Russia, except for the selfless dedication to defend "a small struggling democracy" that most Americans would probably not be able to find on a map. Somehow this manufactured story which was pushed by the US government prevailed in the Western media, not surprisingly seeing that Russia is probably the most demonised country in the world and still carries a strong "enemy label" in the Western world. However, when the intervention came to a quick end, it became clear that Russia was not planning to either occupy Georgia or implement a forced regime change. The events presented by the "free and unbiased" western media proved to be false and when the truth surfaced about how Georgia started the war and America's involvement, the media lost interest quickly.

With a lack of facts supporting their claims, the media and politicians instead kept drawing comparisons to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia and other Soviet conflicts which had no relevance and even the Czech President rejected this comparison. Russia was downgraded from the aggressor to simply using "disproportionate force" as Condoleeza Rice put it. In Russia the irony was definitely not lost with the United States lecturing about "disproportionate force", but the West was still condemning Russia and were surprised by the actions taken. Russia had however been warning of this collision course for years, but with few Western nations listening to Russia's security concerns, such a conflict was unavoidable and should certainly not have been a surprise.

When Russia dissolved the Soviet Union they believed that it would end the Cold War and open an opportunity for partnership and integration with the West to support real world peace based on international law which was preached so enthusiastically in the West. As NATO, a defensive alliance, would no longer require defence from the Soviet Union it should have been dismantled as well to reduce the threat against Russia and rather build a common security system. Regrettably it soon became clear that the Cold War was not over for United States, and the promise not to expand NATO to the east was almost immediately broken. The perception in Russia is that taking their guard down had been exploited and an opportunity for unity and sustainable peace had been lost in favour of US domination. In regards to the first NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, Gorbachev wrote in March 1999: "The issue is not just whether Czechs, Hungarians and Poles join NATO. The problem is more serious: the rejection of the strategy for a new, common European system agreed to by myself and all the Western leaders when we ended the Cold War, I feel betrayed by the West. The opportunity we seized on behalf of peace has been lost. The whole idea of a new world order has been completely abandoned.'"
NATO effectively converted form a defensive alliance and found its new purpose in the world as an aggressive extension of US military power used to pursue a permanent hegemony. After breaking up Yugoslavia, attacking Serbia and the occupation of Kosovo to create obedient client states, it became obvious how corrupt international institutions were given that NATO and United States were not able to be held responsible in the World Court for their war crimes against Yugoslavia under the pre-text of humanitarian intervention. Despite ignoring Russian objections to the illegal war, Putin still spoke warmly about their American partners in 2002, but Russia later took a huge shift in policy and the relationship went cold. In United States this inconsistency is explained by Russia being over-confident due to the newly acquired petro-dollar power, becoming more authoritative and moving away from the international community. Russia however, had realised that being a part of the "international community" means simply to obey the American Empire, international law and its institutions is not relevant except when serving US interests.

NATO apparently had an even greater appetite with obvious American intentions to expand even further towards Russia's borders and completing the encirclement of Russia. The next step in NATO's expansion was the US staged Rose Revolution in Georgia in (2003), the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004, and the failed colour coded revolutions/coups in Belarus and Uzbekistan. This imperial expansion was done in the name of democracy as United States interfered in their elections through so called "democratic NGOs", the American "Freedom House" with close ties to the CIA being one of them. United States had their candidates placed in government and the political climate rapidly became anti-Russian as US influence got a hold on their countries.

US presence in Georgia was designed to give United States dominant influence in the Caucasus and over the vast amount of energy resources located there. The American coup in Ukraine was a blow to Russian trade, security and influence in a country with an enormous ethnic Russian minority and thereby isolating Russia, limiting the power and drawing a new iron curtain which cuts Russia away from Europe. According to Stratfor, the secession of Ukraine does not only weaken Russia, but also "without Ukraine, Russia's political, economic and military survivability are called into question". Ukraine with a divided population, the eastern half close to Russia and the western half close to Europe, should have maintained a balance and be a bridge between Europe and Russia, this is not in America's interest which converted this bridge into a wall and prevents interdependence and mutual influence between Europe and Russia.
United States prides itself on their struggle to "help" Ukraine join NATO despite Russian attempt to prevent it, but Washington choose to ignore the fact that an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians do not want to be a part of NATO, which is viewed by many as an aggressive military alliance used as a weapon against Russia to expand US influence in the region. As the new US leadership in Georgia and Ukraine have no democratic fundamentals, one should question whether United States uses its power to increase democracy or uses democracy to increase its power. Democracy, freedom, terrorism, human rights and proliferation are all important issues for the stability of the world, but most evidence would support the allegation that it is exploited by United States to pursue its own geopolitical goals. The latest attempt by United States to form a "League of Democracies" which would reduce the significance of the UN is also aimed at dividing the world in two, those who do as United States say, and those who do not comply. Europe has to some extent rejected this new definition of democracy (that it is not enough to have an election, but one must vote for the "right" candidate) and Europe consequently avoided a new polarisation of the world.

Obama's foreign policy advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, wrote in "The Grand Chessboard" that "the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia" and "America's global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effectively its preponderance on the Eurasian continent is sustained." The sustainability of American world dominance is therefore at stake, so "It is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America."

In September 2002 this strategy was made official when the National Security Strategy announced that "our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States."
For Russia to prosper and become powerful and influential is therefore a threat alone to United States because the emergence of Russia as a regional power reduces US global dominance. Closer relationship, further integration and more trust with Russia is in Europe's interest, but mutual dependency also increases Russia's influence in Europe, which is at the expense of US influence. Russia has rejected America's demand for the world to stop seeing the UN and international law as the centre of international relations and rather change to one based on identification and compliance with Washington's vision.

Russian influence and integration in Europe, their power in the Caucasus, cooperation with China, trade with Middle Eastern countries and Latin America is a nightmare for Washington, just as China's entry to Africa and South America because it represent emerging powers loosing dependency and challenging US supremacy. The US propaganda over the dangers of European dependency on Russian energy is another America reaction from loosing control over the empire. Gazprom has already accused Washington of pulling the strings in the gas crisis that was caused by Ukraine's failure to transfer gas to Europe. The accusation was based on the strategic partnership deal that was signed between US and Ukraine a month before, which included the delivery of gas, this was described it as "pretty strange" since Ukraine "didn't produce gas". The US presence in Middle East and control over the energy resources was meant to give "veto power" over Europe and Asia, this potential power is also reduced as Russia can offer "non-colonial" source of energy. The strategy to isolate and contain to get a defeated and obedient Russia is in strong conflict with Europe's interest, which should be to integrate for mutual benefits. Brzezinski's view of Europe as a "launching pad" for US influence eastwards was apparently meant only to work as a one way street.

What the Western press fail to report is the extent of control Washington has over Georgia and Ukraine. Georgia's army is heavily US funded and since 2002 Georgia's military budget has gone up more than 40 times from US$18 million in 2002 to US$780 million in 2008. The funding and training of the Georgian army happened while Saakashvili was pledging to "take back" South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the assault on South Ossetia's civilian population happened only weeks after a joint military exercise between US and Georgia in Georgia. Considering United States dedication to bring Georgia into NATO, it is very unlikely that with such a an influence over Georgia that President Saakashvili would have launched such an aggressive attack on South Ossetia without a "green light" given from Washington. Georgia and United States apparently believed that no country would stand up against Washington and that NATO would support Georgia if Russia intervened. This assumption ignored that Russia who is in danger of being completely cut off from their neighbours had not many options left but to make a stand by defending themselves as they have been pushed into a corner, with possibly the survival of the Russian state as stake in the final stages of the encirclement of Russia.

Even though South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been ruled independently since the Soviet Union broke up, it was still very important for United States to see those seemingly unimportant territories come under Georgian control. First, to qualify for NATO membership a country can not have any border disputes unsettled. Second, Washington must show Europe that another aggressive expansion of NATO at the expense of Russia's security is feasible and Russia can be contained and objections managed. Third, with the area "cleared" of Russian peacekeepers and the Russian presence removed by a Georgian offensive, the US army could enter and dominate the Caucasus and the energy resources located there. With Azerbaijan aware that United States control the region the Baku pipeline would be under US control.

Another US project in the encirclement of Russia which brings polarisation, conflict and war to Europe is the missile "defence" system that will be placed in Czech Republic and Poland. Such a system does not only let United States spy deep within Russian territory, but it can also neutralise Russia's nuclear deterrence and thus get first-strike capabilities so that Russia will have to surrender unconditionally and submit to the American demands. Democracy is yet again ignored as about 70% of Czechs do not want a US missile shield in their country, and prior to the war about 80% of Poles were against having US missiles places in their country as well. Washington insists that the missile shield is meant for Iran, but has dismissed Russia's offer to build it in Azerbaijan. Hence, United States is willing to provoke Russia with possible nuclear war, apparently to protect America from Iran which does not have nuclear weapons, missiles to carry them that far or even the technology to produce them. After a year of negotiation with Poland, due to their high demands for allowing United States to place missiles in their country, United States suddenly accepted the Polish terms during the Georgian war which should have been the last nail in the coffin of Washington's credibility.

Russia have already threatened to place nuclear missiles in Kaliningrad in response to this American aggression and as United States attempt to launch its new cold war it is becoming obvious that in this new cold war the battlefield is Europe. Europe had the luxury of being able to follow America's geopolitical strategy during the 90's at the expense of Russia's security as Russia were to weak to defend itself. The war in Georgia was a clear message to the West that this time had come to an end, Russia is back and further encirclement of Russia will not be permitted. As long as Europe does not break free of Washington and follow an independent approach to Russia, the existing policies and institutions will continue on collision course with Russia's basic need of security and sovereignty.

At the Munich security policy conference in 2006, Putin rejected the unipolar world by describing it as a system with "one single centre of power, one single centre of force and one single master", and that this led to "greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law" and went on further to warn the lack of sustainability as "this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within".

Russia has previously been invaded by both Napoleon and Hitler, and defeated both. The situation today with American and NATO forces building up along their borders bear a painful similarity, Putin commented that "NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernization of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended?". These warnings were dismissed by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as "disappointing and not helpful", and the media covered it as an increasingly authoritative Russia that needed to let off some steam due to the frustration over its diminished world status.

In Russia however, NATO is perceived to be the biggest threat and Russia has no intention of keep behaving like a defeated Wehrmacht. The demand to be treated as an equal partner is not a desire to divide the world between US and Russia, but rather to create a multipolar world without containment and isolation where international law is in focus and not only US interests. If United States really wanted Russia to join the West then there must be room for them where Russian progress is not a threat to United States, and the policies of humiliation, intimidation and containment could cease.

After the war in Georgia, Russia recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia despite the strong condemnation from the West. Because the West had had ignored Russian objections for the illegal independence for Kosovo, the hypocritical criticism again echoed the current world order of "one set of rules for United States and another set of rules for the rest". Russia made little effort to pursue recognition through traditional institutions, which show how little faith Russia has in the current US dominated world order where Russia could never win through playing by America's rules.

Hard power is sadly the only currency that is respected in the West, and not until Russia placed force behind their words did the West listen to Russian demand for security and fair treatment. The necessity of using force to be heard is dangerous and Medvedev stresses the need to change the current world order where international law and institutions are disregarded for American intimidation to secure a sustainable unipolar world.

Medvedev laid out a doctrine to clarify Russia's intentions so that their future actions would not take anyone by surprise again. The five principles of the Medvedev doctrine recognise international law as the fundamental of international relations and rejecting the current unipolar world. Furthermore, Russia do not need or want any confrontation with other countries, but will protect their citizens "wherever they may be" and business communities abroad. By responding to any aggression Russia are giving a clear confirmation that Russia will not permit to have their influence, trade and international relations cut off and to be isolated. In a country like Ukraine there is a huge ethnic Russian minority and a majority in Crimea, the main country as a trading partner is Russia and most of their modern history has been connected as Ukraine has in the last 200 years either been a part of Russia or the Soviet Union. Russia's promise to preserve and further develop friendly ties with countries of special historical relationship is a final warning that Russia will not allow stabilising and productive bonds be broken by a US coup, installing a hostile regime, expand NATO, set up US military bases or any other means of "containing" and encircling Russia.

Medvedev's solution is a call for a common security system to bring Russia closer to Europe and thereby avoid their interest and security to be on a permanent collision course. By achieving this NATO's gain is not Russia's loss, and Russia's strength is not NATO's weakness, Vice President Biden statement would thereby become a reality instead of a mere PR stunt. However, achieving this would reduce the power of NATO which is a blow to US hegemony, and there is no evidence that United States intends to step down from the throne in the favour of international law and stability.

The current financial crisis is a chance to do what should have been done in the early 90's, to reform the world order. As Putin put it, "the entire economic growth system, where one regional centre prints money without respite and consumes material wealth, while another regional centre manufactures inexpensive goods and saves money printed by other governments, has suffered a major setback". Due to America's massive trade deficit, the dollar is loosing its status as the reserve currency which will put an end to the funding of American empire. When United States realise that their unipolar empire is unsustainable, it is important that Europe see the consequences of the US policies. The rejection of a partnership with Russia is pushing Russia to seek partnership with China, Iran and others. Rejection of Russia's demand for security is forcing Moscow to achieve this through "their own NATO", CSTO and SCO. If the West will continue to threaten and treat Russia as an enemy, Russia will obtain several "bargaining chips" to defend their interest, such as nuclear missiles in Kaliningrad, military presence in South America, reduced cooperation in Afghanistan and influence over Western adversaries. In the Middle East, United States has in 2008 alone continued occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, bombed Pakistan and Syria, and given "green light" for Israel's war crimes. For protection against American aggression, Syria and Libya has offered naval bases to Russia as the Russian presence is a deterrent. Iran is receiving most of their weapons and nuclear cooperation from Russia and United States will have their military base in Kyrgyzstan shut down on Russia's order, thus Russia will have enough influence in the region which is required to be respected by the West. While threatening to neutralise Russia's nuclear deterrence, Russia are developing better missiles and responding to counter the threat. Even though United States won the media war in Georgia, Russia will surely also develop their media influence to compete with the American propaganda machine.

Americas attempt to take control of Ukraine has already brought de-stability and disaster for the country, Russia's close historical ties with Ukraine the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea will make it impossible to convert it into a truly functional anti-Russian client state for America. Europe has through NATO and support of the American hegemony lost much of its moral high ground, but has an opportunity to restore this by responding positively to the peaceful multipolar Medvedev doctrine and abandon the alternative of an American global dictatorship. United States have been successful in dividing Europe when building a front against Russia because Poland's and the Baltic's historical mistrust to Russia was exploited and UK will also follow as they get their post-imperial claim to power as the American "anchor" in Europe.
In order to get a strong and united EU, Europe should do the opposite, to promote democracy in the Baltic's by giving the same human rights such as citizenship and voting rights to all the Russian minorities in Latvia and Estonia and thereby re-building mutual respect and trust. Germany and France should remember what happened when they opposed the American empire by objecting to an invasion of Iraq and Washington responded by the ridiculous attempt to divide Europe into an old- and new Europe. "Old Europe" was the countries that listened to the overwhelming majority of their population being against the war and thereby respected democracy and international law, and "new Europe" was the countries that ignored the overwhelming majority of their population that was against the war and rather took their orders from Washington.

There has been progress in Europe, confirmed by France and Germany's reluctance to embark on a new Cold War with United States against Russia, and Italy even suggested bringing Russia into the EU. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has pursued a real partnership and integration with Europe. Despite what is portrayed through the propaganda in the Western media, Medvedev and Putin still want a partnership with the West, only not on the hegemonic terms. Europe cannot afford to let United States be the spokesperson for "the West" and the window of opportunities is now closing as Russia can not sacrifice more of their security. A positive response to Medvedev's proposed common security system is the best policy in response to the emerging multipolar world and Europe's relation with Russia.

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