Presidents Bush and Putin concluded their brief summit in Kennebunkport, Maine without resolving any of the main issues. Bush seeks Putin’s help to pressure Iran into giving up its nuclear enrichment program and Putin wants Bush to abandon his plans to deploy the US Missile Defense System in Czechoslovakia and Poland. No progress was made on either topic.
Russia and the United States are now more politically divided than any time since the breakup of the Soviet Union. In fact, following the meeting in Maine, first deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, blasted Washington in the blistering rhetoric of the Cold War era:
“They are trying to push us into knocking heads with Europe… in order to create a new dividing line, a New Berlin Wall,” bawled Ivanov. “It is obvious that continuing with the plans and carrying them out by placing rockets in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic will present an obvious threat to Russia.”
Ivanov is right. Missile Defense poses a clear danger to Russia’s national security. It integrates the United States entire nuclear capability (including space-based operations) with systems that are inside Russia’s traditional sphere of influence. Putin summed it up like this in a press conference at the G-8 meetings:
“For the first time in history, there are 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.”
The Bush administration is trying to achieve what nuclear weapons specialist Francis A. Boyle calls the “longstanding US policy of nuclear first-strike against Russia.” By placing weapons systems and radar on Russia’s borders the US will have a critical advantage that will disrupt the essential balance of power.This is forcing Putin to restart the arms race.
The media has tried to downplay the gravity of the situation by focusing on the personal aspects of the Putin-Bush relationship. But this is intentionally misleading. Putin did not go to Kennebunkport to win back Bush’s affections or for sensitivity therapy. He went to see if he could change Bush’s mind on an issue that could quickly escalate into a nuclear standoff.
Putin has made a number of offers designed to satisfy Bush’s concerns for “enhanced security.” For example, Putin proposed a “global integrated missile shield that would protect all of Europe” and would include both the United States and European countries, including neutral ones such as Austria, Finland and Sweden. All of the participating countries in the program would have equal access to the system’s control.”
“We are proposing to create a single missile defense system for all participants with equal access to the system’s control,” Ivanov said on the state-run Russian TV.
The Russian proposal would “create missile defense data exchange centers in Moscow and Brussels, headquarters of NATO and the European Union. Ivanov also did not rule out the sharing by Russia of some of its “highly sensitive” technologies with the West as part of creating the new integrated system, in order to generate trust in thwarting rouge missile threats.” (There’s been no coverage of this offer in the western media)
Putin also reiterated his earlier offer to allow the US to use existing “early warning” radar located in Azerbaijan that can observe the launching and flight of any long-range ballistic missiles from Iran. Bush politely rejected that offer, too.
These are reasonable offers made in good faith to allay Bush’s so-called concerns about security.
But Bush is not serious about defense or security. His real intention is to force Moscow to do whatever Washington wants by putting a loaded gun to their head. Putin can’t allow this to happen.
Bush’s doggedness has already triggered a strong reaction from the Kremlin. When Putin was rebuffed by Bush at the G-8 meetings a month ago, he promptly retaliated at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg less than 24 hours later. In his address to the conference, he called for “a new architecture of economic relations requiring a completely new approach (with an) alternative global financial center that will make the ruble the reserve currency for central banks.” He said that the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the IMF are “archaic, undemocratic and inflexible” and do not “reflect the new balance of power.”
Putin’s speech is seen as a direct challenge to Washington’s global leadership and the institutions which preserve its position as the world’s only “superpower”. He rejects US hegemony” and the prevailing doctrine of “unipolar” world order.
The Kremlin reacted just as quickly after the “Lobster Summit” at Kennebunkport. Less than 10 hours after Putin’s departure from the US, deputy Prime Minister Ivanov warned that if Bush deployed Missile Defense in Eastern Europe, Russia “would place medium-range nuclear missiles in Kallingrad,” a small finger of Russian-owned territory sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland. This would put Russian-controlled nuclear weapons just a few hundred miles from the heart of Europe.
Ivanov added, “If our proposals are accepted, however, Russia would no longer need to deploy new missile systems in our European territory, including Kaliningrad.”
Putin and Ivanov apparently rehearsed this “good cop, bad cop” routine before Putin even arrived in the USA. But their point is still well taken. Putin is forcing Bush to decide whether he wants to work for regional stability or “turn Europe into a powder keg”. It’s up to Bush.
Putin knows that the Bush administration is full of Cold War militarists who deliberately sabotaged the ABM Treaty so they could expand their nuclear arsenal while surrounding Russia with American bases. He also knows that these same arm-chair warriors embrace a belligerent National Security Strategy that advocates “preemptive” first-strike attacks on rivals and which may include the use of low-yield, bunker-busting nuclear weapons. Putin”who has watched the destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan from the sidelines”knows that the threat of American aggression cannot be taken lightly. He must carefully consider the “stated goals” of the administration for global domination and prepare for the worst. He cannot allow the Missile Defense System to be deployed even if that means “unilaterally” taking it out.
But why would Bush choose to confront Russia now when American troops and resources are already stretched to the limit? What is Bush thinking?
The Bush administration and their counterparts in the far-right think tanks still believe that America can be a big player in the fight to control resources in the Caspian Basin and Central Asia. The war on terror was basically designed to conceal US geopolitical ambitions in Eurasia not Iraq. The neocons managed to expand the conflict to Iraq, but ruling elites have had serious misgivings about the invasion-occupation from the very beginning. Now the failures in Iraq are weakening the military, constraining US involvement in Central Asia and Latin America, and triggering anxiety among “old order” conservatives who think that the greater project may collapse altogether if Iraq does not wind down quickly so the US can refocus on its original goals. This may explain why the defections in the senate are beginning to snowball and why the establishment media is suddenly calling for a draw-down of troops. The situation has gotten so bad that it’s impossible for Washington to execute its broader imperial strategy.
Sunday, 15 July 2007