The US has rejected Russia’s offer to cooperate on the missile shield. Kommersant reports that in the an interview with CNBC, Secretary of State Rice stated that “I think the Russians, after a period now of just saying no, no, no to what we intend to do in terms of missile defense, decided to come up with some of their own ideas. Now, we don’t agree; we believe that we still need to continue to move forward with the Czech Republic and with Poland.” The response comes in regard to the proposals Putin offered when he and Bush met in Kennebunkport. During a joint press conference Putin blindsided Bush with the following:
“We support the idea of consolidating our forces with regard to the Gabala radar station. And the idea is to achieve this through the Russia-NATO Council. But our proposal is not limited to this. We propose to establish an information exchange center in Moscow… A similar center could be established in one of the European capitals, in Brussels, for example. This could be a single system that would work in real time… In this case, there would be no need to place any more facilities in Europe – I mean, those facilities in the Czech Republic and the missile base in Poland. And if need be, we are prepared…to modernize the Gabala radar station. And if that is not enough, we would be prepared to include in this system a newly built radar station as well, an early warning system in the south of Russia.”
According to Kommersant Bush met these words by staring at Putin “in surprise and even let his smile fade for the first time throughout the entire first 15 minutes of the press conference.” It seems that Putin failed to mention any of these during their talks leaving Bush “to have been caught flat-footed again.” Bush bounced back by reasserting that Poland and Czech Republic should be part of a missile system no matter what the outcome.
Rice’s announcement is simply a reiteration of that opinion though she conceded that “U.S.-Russian cooperation could make a gigantic leap forward.”
The announcement also came on the cusp of “Sea Breeze 2007” in Odessa. The operation is the 10th of its kind. Last year’s was canceled when war broke out between Israel and Hezbollah. The U.S. and Ukraine along with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Greece, Canada, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Germany, Romania, and Turkey are staging military exercises in the Black Sea. The maneuvers feature a personnel of 2,500, 22 naval ships and numerous airplanes. The U.S. and Ukraine are providing the bulk of the personnel. About 1,000 are Ukrainian while the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are providing about 700. The exercises last until 22 July.
But Sea Breeze 2007 was met with a chill from the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine (PSPU) and the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) joined by the Black Sea Cossacks and United Fatherland. A few hundred protesters at two separate rallies voiced opposition to the presence of NATO members in Ukrainian territory. While PSPU members shouted slogans of “We Don’t Need NATO” and “NATO, get lost”, at the joint KPU, Black Sea Cossack, and United Fatherland rally speakers regaled their members with visions of inter-Slavic war. “We oppose the deployment of foreign troops on our soil, because that could lead to war between Slavic peoples,” prophesied Black Sea Cossack leader Oleg Dryanin.
The only violence was a small scuffle between police and PSPU members who refused to take down their tents despite a court order. The cops were unleashed to clear the area.
There is no doubt that tensions between the U.S. and Russia are going to make some see year’s Sea Breeze far more ominous than year’s past.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
I found a rather strange article on Eurasianet.org on how the US House and Senate passed the HR: 6911, the Stability and Democracy for Georgia Act of 2008, or STAND for Georgia, as it is also called. (Get it? STA for “stability,” N for “and,” and D for “democracy”. Rep. Howard Berman [D-CA] is so clever!) The bill which, according to section 6 of the bill will allocate $1 billion to Georgia for “urgent humanitarian needs,” “reconstruction,” “economic development,” and “governance.” The bill authorizes $470 million for the 2008 fiscal year alone.
One would think that Congress doling out $1 billion to Georgia at the same time its desperately trying to plug the capitalist bleed with $700 billion tourniquet is a bit perverse. Especially since if today’s markets are any indication, the US government’s upward redistribution of wealth doesn’t seem to be working. Perhaps the fact that one stop measure here only produces a leak elsewhere is a sure sign that capital has no center.
Thankfully, perhaps Congress isn’t that perverse. Despite Joshua Kucera’s claims that “the large spending bill that included the aid to Georgia passed the House of Representatives on September 23 and the Senate passed it four days later,” I can’t seem to find any official entry on the Congressional record to confirm it. According to govtrack.us, the bill hasn’t seen any action since September 16 when it was introduced.
The only evidence Kucera provides to the bill’s passage is a few quotes from a nameless Congressional staff member. He might want to go back and ask Nameless what s/he’s talking about.
If this bill has passed, and it’s only a question of when, I would certainly like to know if Congress is awarding Georgia for starting a war.Post Views: 888
By Sean — 10 years ago
Dmitri Medvedev announced the end of what he’s calling “peace enforcement” operations in Georgia, officially ending five days of fighting. “I have made a decision to end the operation to force Georgian authorities to peace,” he said in a meeting with his military staff. Fighting is still being reported, which isn’t surprising. War machines are easy to turn on. Turning them off requires a big wrench.
The final (preliminary) tally? Russia says about 2,000 civilians killed by the Georgian military; 18 Russian troops and 52 wounded. Russia used 9,000 troops and 350 armored vehicles. The Georgians claim 150 deaths and hundreds injured. Robert Guliye, the mayor of Tskhinvali, reports that 70% of his city’s buildings have been damaged or destroyed. Of the 30,000 residents, only half remain. So far there are no estimates on the amount of ordinance used in the conflict.
This is a big day for Dima. His first military victory as bat’ka. What no flight suit, big banner, and slogan? Surely Dima, you can squeeze some more political capital out of this?
I’m sure he will once he gets out from under Putin’s shadow. Putin, at least in the Western press, has been the face of the war, the little evil demon everyone loves to hate. A headline in the NY Times says it all, “Russia, and Putin, Assert Authority.” How does the Times come to this startling conclusion? Well, it uses a new theory to understand Russian politics: “The Rolled up Sleeves Theory.”
In recent days, Mr. Putin has appeared on television with his sleeves rolled up, mingling with refugees on the border with South Ossetia — the very picture of a man of action.
By contrast, Mr. Medvedev is shown sitting at his desk in Moscow, giving ceremonial orders to the minister of defense.
Putin looks all tough, Medvedev, always the bureaucrat, sits behind a desk. While Putin gets a firm talking to from Bush in Beijing, Medvedev cruises on the Volga. One wonders if the continued stress on Putin in the Western press is really because he is in charge or because he’s become the perfect villain, a kind of “Man of Action” action figure. Apparently, the answer is all in the rolled up sleeves.
Another way to look at the dyarchy is to wonder if balance even matters. Clearly, each man has their roles, and Dima, with his sweet smile and boyish looks, just doesn’t have the image (yet) to deal with international condemnation. Putin’s been around the block. Putting him up in front of the camera is a good PR move. I’m sure the Russians knew they were going to take all the shit no matter what they did. So why take the chance of having the new Prez get the beatdown. Dima is just too mild mannered and sensitive to deserve all that. Plus, Putin doesn’t give a rats ass about Bush and Cheney, let alone McCain and Obama. Basically, Putie’s position on all their blustering is “Save for the who gives a shit channel.”
Can you really blame the Russians? The anti-Russia propaganda machine immediately went into full swing as if all the talking points, footage, interviews and talking heads were already in the medai pipe. Black PR was already assembled. Reuters and other news outlets used staged photos in its reporting. Now CNN is being accused of using footage of wrecked tanks and blown out buildings from the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali and claiming it was Gori. Rumors and Georgian PR of Russia’s movements were swallowed throughout (even by myself). Fiction became fact. For example, there were constant reports that Russia took Gori but come to find out they didn’t. Reports are coming out about cyberattacks on media. Russia Today, the Kremlin’s English language channel, was crippled by alleged Georgian DDoS attacks (DDoS attacks were used by the Russians against Estonia during the Bronze Soldier affair) as was RT correspondent and commentator Peter Lavelle’s blog. Georgian officials also claimed that their sties were victim to Russia cyberattacks.
To get a sense of how thick the PR is take this passage from Ames’ “Georgia Gets Its War On . . McCain Gets is Brain Plaque”
The invasion was backed up by a PR offensive so layered and sophisticated that I even got an hysterical call today from a hedge fund manager in New York, screaming about an “investor call” that Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze made this morning with some fifty leading Western investment bank managers and analysts. I’ve since seen a J.P. Morgan summary of the conference call, which pretty much reflects the talking points later picked up by the US media.
These kinds of conference calls are generally conducted by the heads of companies in order to give banking analysts guidance. But as the hedge fund manager told me today, “The reason Lado did this is because he knew the enormous PR value that Georgia would gain by going to the money people and analysts, particularly since Georgia is clearly the aggressor this time.” As a former investment banker who worked in London and who used to head the Bank of Georgia, Gurgenidze knew what he was doing. “Lado is a former banker himself, so he knew that by framing the conflict for the most influential bankers and analysts in New York, that these power bankers would then write up reports and go on CNBC and argue Lado Gurgenidze’s talking points. It was brilliant, and now you’re starting to see the American media shift its coverage from calling it Georgia invading Ossetian territory, to the new spin, that it’s Russian imperial aggression against tiny little Georgia.”
The really scary thing about this investor conference call is that it suggests real planning. As the hedge fund manager told me, “These things aren’t set up on an hour’s notice.”
War is waged through imagery and propaganda mediated by the government official, the public relations agent and the investment banker. Unfortunately for Georgia, its seems that Saakashvilli’s little adventure is going to cost them. The Bank of Georgia has halted all loans and suspended online banking for fear of mass withdrawals and capital flight. Georgia’s economic future, which until a week ago looked bright, is now in question.*****
Now that the fighting is winding down, the main question is: what is to be done? What to do with Saakashvilli? Surely, things can’t go on as they did. The use of violence has essentially provided the answer: South Ossetia will split from Georgia. Permanently. It’s only a question of when. Violence has redefined the theater of politics.
Many have pointed out that the South Ossetians and Georgians lived in peace in everyday life. The same was said about the Serbs, Bosians, Kosovars, Shia, and Sunnis. But violence is an act of creation as much as destruction. Violence concretizes Identities. As Franz Fanon pointed out in a different context, violence initiates a series of acts of mutual and self recognition. It is first the recognition of the Other. “They are the Georgians, we are Ossetians.” Second, it is an act of self-recognition. “We, Ossetians, are here!” Or “We, Georgians, are here!” Lastly, violence is a strange recognition of one’s own humanity. As Sarte wrote in his “Preface” to Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, “Don’t be mistaken; it is through this mad rage, this bile and venom, their constant desire to kill us, and the permanent contradiction of powerful muscles, afraid to relax, that they become men.” Is it possible that this five day war has created a new sense of Ossetianess? Of Georgianess?
And what of Russians? The media chorus has announced that for Russia the South Ossetian War was a declaration of Russia streghten. A kind of perverted “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it!” True, the Russian leadership has been tired of America’s finger wagging and double dealing for too long. It’s quick response in South Ossetia was a statement that Russia is back. It dashed Georgia’s NATO ambitions with guns and bombs in a mere five days. The Europeans were already reluctant about letting Georgia into the gang. Now there is no way they’re going to grant NATO membership to Georgia and risk being drawn into a future military conflict with Russia. Sure, they may like Saakashvilli’s pro-Western prostrations, but at some point they become a burden.
In Russia, the war was a prime-time sensation. It captivated the nation, intrestingly not unlike Russian football. As Kommersant reports,
Indeed, the Olympics, feature films or soap operas were practically of no interest to the Russians older than 18 years. The nation was watching the news, doubling and tripling the ratings of news programs. News spots won the first five lines in Top 20, which had happened in peacetime very long ago given that it is the height of summer now.
Russia’s political parties were all towing the line in their own belligerent fashion. Duma Speaker and United Russia leader, Boris Gryzlov exhumed Hitler and declared that Saakashvilli should put in prison. “There is no other place for him,” he said. Just Russia’s Sergei Mironov also played the Hitler card. As did the Communists. Zyuganov called Saakashvilli’s actions “fascistic.” Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia was a “war crime.” There is a specter haunting Eurasia . . .
The outcry in the Duma had its populist antecedent. Andrei Bely’s Movement Against Illegal Immigration announced that it will raid places where Georgians gather in Moscow. On Monday, 500 members from the pro-Kremlin youth groups Nashi, Molodaya gvardiia, and Mestnye staged an Orthodox pray-in for God to stop Georgia’s aggression. Orthodox prayers were accompanied with the slogans, “Ossetia, we mourn with you!” and “Saakashvili is a hitman.” Unsurprisingly, Nashi has taken to the war. War, whether real or virtual, has always been truer to its calling. On its website, it echoed calls that Saakashvilli is a war criminal and demanded that Georgian athletes be expelled from the Olympics. They even demanded that the bronze medal the Georgians won in women’s shooting should be revoked. Nashi and Mestnye also staged a 300 strong rally in front of the Georgian embassy in Moscow. Perhaps commentators are right and Nashi has indeed lost its purpose. They just lack the umph of three years ago. No 50,000 or 100,000 beaming youths in red and white T-shirts on the streets. One would thinka real war would be a perfect opportunity to mobilize the masses. It just goes to show that History does indeed occur twice. The first time as tragedy and the second as farce.
As for the Russian public, poll figures provided by the Levada Center show that Russians firmly support (71%) South Ossetia in the conflict and the vast majority (80%) think that South Ossetia should join Russia (46%) or become an independent state (34%).
Finally, the peace plan drawn up between Medvedev and French President Sarkozy has been released. Its six points are as follows:
1) Non-use of force.
2) Stop all military action.
3) Free access to humanitarian aid.
4) Georgian troops return to their previous positions before the conflict.
5) Russian troops return to the lines they held before the start of the military operation. Before an international solution is worked out Russian peacekeepers are taking up an additional security role.
6) The start of an international discussion over the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
It seems that Saakashvilli will keep his job. That is of course there isn’t talk behind the scenes of him bowing out “gracefully.” It does sound like a good time for him to “spend more time with his family.”Post Views: 1,223
By Sean — 8 years ago
Back in late 2008, when Pajamas Media was still having me write articles on Russia (they’ve since stopped asking, I think, because I wasn’t anti-Russian enough), I noted that Americans and Russians long for the return of the Cold War. Those were the days when “new Cold War” books were all the rage and Russia and American were engaging in some good old proxy warfare in Georgia and Ukraine. In America, Russia was evil again and that was a good thing. In Russia, America was evil again and that was a good thing too. Americaphobes and Russophobes rejoiced in unison.
Enter Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev. Two “thaw” presidents in their respective countries looking to reform their respective kingdoms in the wake of economic calamity. The former called for a “new” America, the latter called for a “modernized” Russia. Both were simply mimicking what their forefathers had strove to do, albeit in their own rhetorical ways. On their respective domestic fronts the “new” America and the “modernized” Russia continue to look like the “old” America and the “backward” Russia.
While domestics alluded them, their tone vis-a-vis each other shifted. The “new Cold War” rhetoric of 2008 quickly went from nostalgia to melancholy with the Obama Administration’s aim to “reset” relations with Russia. The US was looking for some Russian acquiescence in dealing with Iran, and the Russians were looking for investment from the West. The lovefest, while lacking much by way of anything concrete, nevertheless provided the kindle for a warmer atmosphere. The moves made Neo-Cold Warriors look as if they were barking at the moon. Obama and Medvedev consummated their matrimony with a couple of burgers and fries.
Love was in the air. That was until 11 spies were uncovered on the Eastern seaboard. Ten were busted, one flew the coop. Their mission was to gather information that according to most could have been found in the press and on the internet. Most of all, it seemed that the scandal would set the stage for Russia and the US to return to their natural place as adversaries. The Cold War seemed to be on the verge of being back, baby. Career Russophobes like Ed Lucas were off to see how often the word “chekist” could be tweeted. The more zany clocked long hours trying to map the six degrees of separation between Anna Chapman’s Facebook friends as if they revealed some deeper conspiracy. After a brief respite, the Cold War seemed back. Bolsheviks were breeding once again, this time at our neighborhood barbecues.
Then Obama and Medvedev pissed on the parade. The spy scandal was much ado about nothing, the duo assured us; especially since the US Justice Department seemed to not have enough to even charge the ten with espionage. Even the often demonized spymaster Putin laughed off the affair as business as usual.
Nevertheless, though a Cold War redux was dashed, the two-week reality show proved once again that a cultural desire for it lingered. For most people the desire wasn’t for the real Cold War taste with all its accompanying political fats and calories, but a more processed, nay, produced version to titillate our imaginations. For the Cold War gives us something the dreaded Wahabbis never can: to quote Kramer, “The high stakes game of world diplomacy and international intrigue.” Only other white people can do that, and the Russians are just “white” enough.
For a good week it was like old school James Bond all over again. Sexy spy chicks looking to infiltrate the rich and famous, deep cover agents posing a “normal” Americans, aliases, intrigue, disappearing ink, safe drops, secret cables, and spy vs. spy lingo. The American media was overjoyed. Between rerun reporting of the BP oil spill, another Lindsay Lohan meltdown, or the LeBronathon, the spy scandal was a breath of fresh air.
Even the British were eager to jump on the bandwagon. In a desperate move to appear relevant as a nation, the British struggled to worm its way into the performance. MI5 jumped into the fray with its own investigation into the extent Anna Chapman went to honey trap British officials and elites. The security agency even dropped hints that there were at least 500 spies snooping on British soil.
The real exploiters of the spy scandal were the tabloids. They immediately latched on to Chapman transforming her from a sweet Slavic cutie who lived on Facebook and hung out in Manhattan clubs to a genuine scarlet harlot. Former lovers were coming out of the woodwork with tales of hot sex spurred on by pantyless stripteases and the sensual sounds of her Russian accent. All of this quickly culminated in the money shot: Chapman nudie pics. The Russian redhead was now an international star. Even Jay Leno and VP Joe Biden couldn’t help but mention the sexpot. The reinstalled Tonight Show host, better known for bad sickly sweet vanilla jokes, asked the VP on a recent appearance: “Are our spies this hot?” “It was not my idea to send her back. I thought they’d take Rush Limbaugh,” Biden retorted. In all, the Culture Industry couldn’t have orchestrated a better PR campaign to generate interest in Angelina Jolie’s upcoming spy thriller, Salt. A sexy “deep cover” Russian spy plotting to kill the US President? I’m there. All of it showed that almost twenty years dead, the Cold War still packed some potential entertainment punch.
As for the rest of the spy crew, after a string of articles about how the enemy lives among us, interest in them quickly faded. It turns out living a suburban life is pretty damn boring. The only thing scandalous among the suburban spies was how messed up their kids were going to be now that they found out that mommy and daddy weren’t who they said they were. To make matters worse, the US government sent the kids back to Mother Russia, which one presumes would only redouble the trauma. How things have changed! If Russia was still Communist, the young-ins would have been paraded all over the media, igniting a movement not seen since Elian Gonzalez to keep them in the righteous US . They would have been the figureheads for this century’s equivalent to the John Birch Society. But alas, in these post-Cold War times, you’re left to rot unless you’re wearing a burka, and even then you only get your fifteen minutes if an invasion of your country is in the works or a Western friendly “movement” is looking to overthrow your despotic regime.
In the end, the spy scandal had a rather twisted, metatextual but ultimately anticlimactic narrative. It was Ian Fleming, Hustler‘s “Hot Letters,” and the Coneheads all rolled into one. The script didn’t work not because of the content–all the necessary subplots and cast were in place—but because of the drama’s principle producers–the US and Russia–just didn’t pull the trigger, at least not one that would generate a captivated audience over the long term.
The trigger that was pulled was not without a Cold War “echo,” however. The best way for the US and Russia to defuse the situation, put the incident in the past, and move on was to revive a Cold War mainstay: the spy swap. There were over a dozen known spy swaps during the Cold War: actual spies, turncoats, dissidents, and missionaries were traded like baseball cards. Back then espionage was a serious and respected business with a strong code of honor and pride. The practitioners of spy trades conducted themselves cordially with a high sense of decorum, mutual respect, and even affection for each other. Former spy swapper Jeremy Smith told NPR that the negotiations between him and Wolfgang Vogel, his East German counterpart, was like a “dance of two pens” as they tapped the names on their lists of desired agents to get around the bugs in Volker’s office. Smith and Vogel developed a warm relationship despite their adversary positions. They exchanged gifts and for one Christmas, Smith even brought the tryptophan deficient Vogel Butterball turkeys because the bird was scarce in East Germany.
These echoes quickly go faint in the our world of cost-cutting, productivity and profit. There is just no time for the finesse of the past. James Bond would have been downsized a long time ago. If not, his expense account would have surely been drastically cut. Also, this week’s spy swap just had nothing substantive at stake. The integrity of both our respective civilizations was not questioned simply because we are now all part of the capitalist brotherhood. Our differences are mere quibbles compared the world historical duel of the past. The current spy scandal, therefore, was no substitute for the “real” ones of the past even if in our media laden present we are accustomed to mistaking the copy for the real.
Indeed, when it came down to it, the performance of the swap was more important than those being swapped. Just take two of the most publicly recognized figures: Anna Chapman and Igor Sutyagin, the Russian nuclear scientist convicted of spying for the US in 2004. The former turned out to be a very bad spy, while the latter was most likely not a spy at all. Nor did the exchange come amid any secrecy or setting reminiscent of the Cold War. There was no equivalent to the Glienicke Bridge. The world knew the swap was happening before it even happened. Sutyagin’s people went straight to the press when it was announced that he would be exchanged. Someone claiming to represent Chapman announced her impending release on Twitter.
It was no Cold War, though the public seemed happy to relish in the possibility. But like most media sensations the buzz was a far cry for the real thing. I even doubt that Americans and Russians really wanted the real thing. They just like the idea of Cold War. It was exciting and it made our culture, our values, and our nations more important. The world was split between us, our own personal chessboard on a global scale. So what to make of this spy scandal on a cultural level? Was there even a scandal at all? I think the answer to these questions can be surmised from what will surely become one of its iconic phrases: “99 Fake Street.”Post Views: 1,097