As has been shown in Georgia recently, the Russians are in no mood to take any nonsense from anyone, and are intent on once again being a power to be reckoned with. The declaration by the psychotic Dick Cheney that the recent Russian operation in the territory of South Ossetia “must not go unanswered” was silly bluster, and the remarks by Bush and Condoleezza Rice about Russian “aggression” and so forth are equally absurd.
In early August Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili, an erratic US-educated, US-backed demagogue, ordered his US-trained, US-equipped troops to rocket villages and then invade the enclave of would-be independent South Ossetia, whose largely Russian-origin inhabitants were being protected by Russian soldiers. His soldiers fired thousands of rockets from multi-barrelled launchers into villages and towns, killing hundreds of civilians. The Russian army went in and thumped the Georgians. So who does much of the West blame for the conflict? Why, Russia, of course.
The hypocrisy of Western reaction to Russia’s justifiable involvement in Georgia is ridiculous. Washington’s condemnation of Moscow is bizarre, and for Bush to state, as he did on 15 August, that “Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century” is preposterous to the point of fantasy. Bush pronounced that “We insist that Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity be respected” which is rich, coming from a man whose drones continue to violate Pakistan’s airspace to fire missiles that have killed scores of Pakistani civilians.
Because of George W Bush there is an ongoing US military occupation of Iraq, a country which posed no threat whatever to the United States and which on his orders was invaded illegally and mercilessly subjugated. His soldiers, outside the NATO command system (such as that is), have killed hundreds of Afghan civilians, resulting in futile protests by Afghanistan’s President Karzai. Sovereignty, anyone?
For the West to try to assume a lofty moral position about Russian troops moving into South Ossetia to protect civilians from the rockets and other barbarity of the Georgian leader is not just laughably hypocritical, it demonstrates a weird consistency in an essentially US-centric view of international affairs. “You are with us or against us” is the battle refrain of Bush Washington’s Crusade, and with some honourable exceptions the European Union governments (if not the peoples) are toeing the line of the lame-duck US president, pathetic in his desperation to show he is a force in international affairs.
The West ignores the fact that the US has been training and equipping Georgia’s armed forces for six years and had a considerable military presence in the country, close to the Russian border. Last week US aircraft flew Georgian troops back home from Iraq, where they had been part of the US occupation “coalition,” which needlessly provocative action will not be forgotten by Moscow.
Washington has been trying to persuade NATO members (it is inappropriate to use the word ‘partners’) that Georgia should join that obsolete military grouping, which is merely a military vehicle for US foreign strategy. Moscow sees this as deliberate provocation, mainly because the stationing of American and other foreign troops so close to its border, for whatever purpose, was and is considered by Moscow to be an open threat. (If there were Russian troops in South America or the Caribbean there would be an almighty howl of indignation from Washington, so let’s have no nonsense about “legitimate presence.”)
The machinations of the White House are regarded rightly in Moscow as meddling in affairs that have nothing whatever to do with US security. Russia was already uneasy about the increase in NATO’s presence along its borders (ten more countries enlisted in a obviously anti-Russian alliance, so far) and by creation of bases for US anti-missile missiles in Poland and supporting radar installations in the Czech republic, with both to be surrounded by US Patriot missile batteries. Moscow could not be expected to ignore this massing of hostile forces in a threatening semi-circle of US-inspired intimidation. Those Western nations which follow the American line, however reluctantly, forget or ignore the fact that there is justifiable national pride in Russia, which suffered mightily from the explosion of corrupt capitalism in the 1990s. Most Russians have no reason to be grateful to the West, and understandably resent the gloating over them after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Millions were thrust into poverty by the machinations of western-inspired mega-criminals who made billions from the suffering of ordinary people, and whose grim and clever antics were energetically supported by wily multinational companies whose contribution to world-wide suffering has been so effective. Their pursuit of profit, most of it extracted from Russia to tax-free havens abroad, involved years of economic plunder from which the country is only just recovering.
In spite of attempts by Bush to manipulate him, Prime Minister Putin has shown that he is a true Russian patriot, and the country’s President, Mr Medvedev, is equally forthright in his insistence that his nation should be accorded the courtesy and consideration that is its due. If the West resents this, then too bad. It so happens that Russia’s economic position is improving and therefore the Cheney threat concerning “serious consequences” is empty, because Europe is not going to join in lunatic schemes for sanctions or other economic measures aimed at bringing down Moscow’s government. Reports last week indicated that foreign investment in Russia had taken a downturn, but the Russian response to that is: So What? ; because it is no bad thing that greedy western corporations should cease to suck out profits from the country.
Russia is sick and tired with being regarded with condescension and disdain by the West and especially by America which it regards, justifiably, as an arrogant imperial power that obeys no laws and brooks no dissent on the international stage. But there was one hilarious comment by Bush, when he said that Russia “must” repair its relations with the United States, Europe and other nations . . .” How fascinating that he thinks “Europe,” of which Russia is part, is a nation. And as to the word “must,” which is used by Rice and Bush with arrogant condescension to other nations at every opportunity, one is reminded of Catherine the Great of Russia who to a foreigner said words to the effect that “Little man, one does not use the word “must” to Princes.” So Medvedev and Putin to Bush.
The trouble in South Ossetia had been brewing for months and there is no doubt that Moscow was waiting for the US-backed Saakashvili to take a gamble that there would be no reaction when he ordered his vicious attack. What a fool. Equally, there is no doubt that the team of Medvedev and Putin want to see Saakashvili thrown out of power. In fact this was said to Condoleezza Rice by Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, on the understanding that his statement would be subject to the normal diplomatic convention of confidentiality. Fat chance. Diplomatic decency means nothing in Bush Washington, and Mr Lavrov’s private comment was publicised at the Security Council. If Washington imagines that there will ever again be trust on the part of Moscow, then it is entirely mistaken.
Russia is going places. It is no pussy cat: it is an increasingly powerful bear, and a welcome counter to the self-righteous Imperial Eagle that so enjoys demonstrating its ferocious doctrine of Shock and Awe. Confrontation is the thrust of Washington’s foreign policy, but it has now been met with determination on the part of a proud nation that refuses to be intimidated. There is a lesson here; and it would be wise for other countries, and especially for Europe, to decide where to place their own interests.
Brian Cloughley lives in France. His website is www.briancloughley.com