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The Conflict We Chose

By Mark Weisbrot

Tensions between the United States and Russia have a long history, but one only need go back to the early nineties to see how our own government threw away its chance to have a better relationship with post-Communist Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In 1992, inflation in Russia was spiraling into the triple digits and the economy was collapsing. Economist Jeffrey Sachs, who was advising the government, offered a plan to get inflation under control which centered around stabilizing the exchange rate - a key element of a potentially successful anti-inflationary policy. To do this, though, it is necessary to have a good supply of foreign exchange reserves - i.e. dollars -- and Sachs thought he might get a commitment from the United States to provide these reserves. He was wrong. He didn't get the stabilization fund, nor the immediate suspension of interest payments, debt cancellation, or other aid he was seeking from the G-7.

Looking back on those events, Sachs later noted that "Richard Cheney, then the secretary of defense, and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, were drafting the controversial Defense Planning Guidance, which aimed to ensure long-term U.S. military dominance over all rivals, including Russia. . . "

"I had supposed in 1991 and 1992 that the United States would be rooting for Russia's success as it had been rooting for Poland's. With hindsight, I doubt that this was ever the case."

It seems that Washington was more interested in destroying the post-Soviet Russian economy than saving it. Whatever their intention, destroy it they did. It was one of the worst economic collapses in the world history without a war or natural disaster. The economy shrank rapidly, tens of millions fell into poverty, and life expectancy for men dropped from 65.5 years to 57.

At the end of 1998 the economy began to recover, getting a boost from the collapse of its overvalued currency and then the rise in oil prices - Russia is the world's second-largest oil exporter. This economic expansion was the basis of Vladimir Putin's political success as President from 2000 through this year, and a resurgence of Russian nationalism. Since 1999, Russia's economy has doubled in size. Despite everything that is still wrong with the Russian economy, the contrast with Washington's "shock therapy" of the 1990s was sharp.

Unfortunately Washington's political strategy for dealing with Russia has been no more intelligent or benign than its economic strategy. The expansion of NATO was a key element. The organization was created in 1949 for the stated purpose of defending against an attack on Europe from the Soviet Union, but it was not clear that it had a legitimate reason for continued existence when the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991.

Washington soon found reason to expand it to Russia's doorstep, incorporating Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary; the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia; and Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Military contractors in the U.S. played a major role in greasing the wheels for the expansion, with lobbying efforts worth tens of millions of dollars. The new NATO members were required to upgrade their weapons systems, providing what Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa - who opposed the expansion -- called "a Marshall Plan for defense contractors who are chomping at the bit to sell weapons and make profits." He wasn't exaggerating. In 2003, after lobbying for six years, Lockheed Martin got Congress to approve a $3.8 billion loan for Poland to buy 48 of its F-16 fighter jets. It was one of the largest military loans in recent memory.

The Administration's proposed placement of U.S. missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic was seen by Russia as a further provocation. One can only imagine what the U.S. response would be if Russia made an arrangement to put such bases in Canada and Mexico. Recently the Bush Administration had been working to invite Georgia into NATO as well, although this was reportedly blocked by France and Germany.

The current friction over Georgia is a culmination of this failed strategy. It appears that the Administration's building up of Georgia's military and other commitments may have encouraged the Georgian government to try and settle its dispute over South Ossetia militarily, thus provoking the Russian military response. But this was an extension of a failed long-term strategy.

The Bush Administration now pretends it can bully the Russians by threatening to kick them out of the G-8 and deny them membership in the WTO. This not only won't work, it is a dangerous delusion. Russia is, among other things, a nuclear power. Engagement and co-operation with Russia are a necessity for world security, progress on climate change, and other issues of great urgency.

It is one of the great intellectual ironies of our time that those who argue for "free trade" rely on empirically weak and often incoherent economic arguments and fail to make their strongest case: economic integration, when there is mutual benefit, can help to prevent wars and expensive arms races. The U.S.-China relationship is a good example. There is a faction of conservatives here, with allies in the military-industrial complex, that would like nothing more than a hostile relationship with China and a costly (but profitable for some) arms race. But for now, at least, they are sidelined because China is a major recipient of U.S. foreign direct investment, a huge trading partner, and in recent years has accumulated hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. treasury obligations.

The United States has relatively very little in the way of commercial relations with Russia, and therefore there are not powerful business interests here to counteract those whose primary goal is the projection of imperial power, or making money from arms sales. The Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, has been consistently bellicose towards Russia and had previously - long before the current military conflict -- called for expelling Russia from the G-8.

Eventually, our foreign policy establishment will have to adjust to the realities of the 21st century, in which Washington cannot simply tell the rest of the world what to do. They will learn to accept a multi-polar world where diplomacy, international law, and negotiations play a much larger role and military force and threats are much less significant. The question, as always, is how much Americans and the world will lose in blood and treasure before that happens.

In the meantime, the media coverage of this latest conflict shows how far we have to go before common sense can prevail. Appearing on Meet the Press on the Sunday following the eruption of armed conflict, David Broder, a Washington Post columnist who is the embodiment of inside-the-beltway conventional wisdom, said that this was "particularly a moment where John McCain can claim to have been prescient, because . . . he draws a very sharp line when it comes to Russia. ."

"Obama's basic message on foreign policy is it's better to talk to our enemies than to get ready to fight them. And here's a case where, clearly, talking did not dissuade Russia from this act of violence."

It was Broder's four-hundredth appearance on Meet the Press.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.

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vanitsky:

This article is a rarity in MSM.
When analysis is honest, objective and clear written - many things become obvious.

Just wondering how WaPo dared publishing it.

Anonymous:

welcome,russian you finally come back to the family
of Europe geat power family.Goodbye to the american
empire

praxitas:

to mike steng:

in that case it would not be russia alone that is locked in unproductive patterns of behaviour, as we appear increasingly to be similarly trapped. i am also curious to know what you consider justification since you simply dismiss russias concerns and explanations as insufficient, and if iraq, panama or grenada met these conditions, or if a chinese military presence in cuba would justify a reaction up to and including a military response, etc. there is implicit in your position an assumption that we are entitled to pursue our security and other interests while others are not, bearing in mind that 90% of the time moral framings are merely invoked as part of the public opinion aspect of the dissagreement/struggle.

mauisurfer:

Was JFK wrong to resist USSR missiles in Cuba?
Is Russia wrong to resist NATO/USA missiles in Georgia/Ukraine?

Ivan Groznii:

The article misses the basic pragmatic idea of American business: it there's money to be made, we'll be there. American business tried to gain traction in Russia after the collapse of Communism, but the Russians refused to change the system that would allow the West to operate. Western operations were not allowed to own property. Most ventures in Russia were required to be joint ventures with the Russian partner owning a substantial part of the business. When disagreements emerged, Russian courts almost unilaterally decided for the Russian partner. Many Westerners in these joint ventures were robbed of their capital investment by their Russian partners through the Russian court system.

Note that Westerners were forbidden from bidding on Russian state industries as they were privatized. Instead, they were sold for a song to the Oligarchs, who were colluding with each other to keep the price low. If these sales had been transparent and allowed for outside bidders, many of these industries would have been sold for much more money.

While it's true that NATO was formed as a military alliance to offset the Warsaw Pact, it has become much more. And NATO has been effective in its job in deterring aggression by Post-Soviet Russia. Considering Russia's history with the Baltic states, Central European states and the Central Asian states, can you really blame these countries for looking to NATO for protection? One need only look at Russia's recent heavy-handed interference in Estonian and Ukranian internal affairs in order to understand why they might seek an alliance with the West.

As Russia's power rises with the price of minerals, these nations can only expect more heavy-handed action from Russia. And to expect that international law will be there to save them from Russian adventures is "durachestvo" (foolishness). The strongest international body, the U.N. is marginal at best. If it were an effective instrument of international law, Russia would not have been allowed to install "peacekeepers" in Georgia. Instead, there would have been either Chinese or African Union peacekeepers -- true neutrals regarding this matter.

Dmitry:

Well, in general everything is reasonable, but the most important fact is not stressed. Actually Saakashvili killers exterminated more than 1500 ossetians in their homes during the night fierse shelling - this was the only reason of russian reaction. I can not imagine, if USA would react in another way. The massacre of 8/8/8 is the very same, as USA 9/11. It is impossible to change the very basic behavior of somebody - will to survive and to save innocent people. You can become our friends or become our enemies - but we were absolutely RIGHT in this case.

DS:

War with the Russians, a neocon's paradise. As a kid, I remember being taught to hide under desks and do a duck and roll if you see a bright flash (nuclear explosion). With the right people in charge, we can go back to the fears of the fifties.

kevrobb:

This article says the truth about US foreign policy. That's a rare occurrence in the Washington Post.

Shams:

Mark Weisbrot`s article is a goog piece of analysis and it`s a pity that he missed to mention the Kosovo question. Because NATO intervention in Kosovo and the process that followed was a really formative experience for Kremlin. And Stratfor is right when it speaks about one intervined crisis. Because Russia in Georgia just copied NATO strategy against Serbia. Why - just read http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/georgia_and_kosovo_single_intertwined_crisis
So I am afraid it isn`t the last crisis between Russia and NATO. Why - because both NATO and Russia behave itself like elephants among small nations. Which by the way - just look on georgians and ossetians - are not very rational or peaceful themselves and prone to stimulate these elephants to crush the enemy.

jwh:

MainStreamMedia (MSM) journalists are the lowest sort of people that walk this earth. for that reason I suggest to install an International Court of Justice to prosecute all journalists that work for MSM and have them all decapitated ASAP, and dismantle all MSM organizations starting with all american newspapers and tv stations first of all FOX and BBC of course. Dont forget to destroy European MSM sc_um as well !!

Sami:


When elephants fight the grass gets trampled says an old Indian proverb.
Watch out small nations.

jwh:

The american economy is a war economy supported by christian scu_m. So, in their opinion any conflict is welcome. Making money is more important than saving lifes. That counts for Israel and many European countries as well. The god of revenge will take care of this abuse, you can bet on that.

Dick:

Gilbert most certainly has expressed the current situation in an amicable way expressing deep insight in current affairs. Kenneth B. Smith, P.E. spells out problem to have good relations with Russian dictators and express how proud he is about the US Government by the population and a constitution of Law supervised by a Supreme Court. A. Hitler was also democratically elected in Germany like G. W. Bush in USA and both proceeded to create Concentration Camps so can not see what difference the Constitution or Supreme Court in USA can do to this fact. It is known that the wardens of the German camps was held in tight discipline and several Camp Commanders was executed by SS due to hardship they had created to a few of the inmates.

PolStrat:

I agree with much of the author's main comments about the US's failed political and economic strategy of divide and conquer.

Children learn early life that if you do not have something in common you can not make friends. Sadly one of the things that simple minded people soon discover is that it is easier to find something in common to hate then to agree on.

The last line needs more debate as much is missing. McCain clearly needs an enemy to build his political fortune in the coming November poll. n Obama knows that given the American mindset it is hard to defend Russia's position even when it is right.

The US should concentrate more on Game theory and lesson the divide and conquer option.

The expansion of NATO was designed to box-in and isolate Russia who more often then not took an independent stance to the aggressive US foreign policy of invasions and war. NATO's very existence should and structure should have been have revised by now.It is used as a US alternative to the UN,if they can not get the UN to agree they look to NATO, If NATO does not agree with US they look to the coalition of the willing, If all else fails they got along with a"strategic" alliance with an individual country.

Ask yourself why is it that the US is the one pushing to set up a "Missile Defence" base in Poland and not the EU or NATO? Is this base not design to protect the EU and NATO member states. Why is it that the EU and NATO are not managing this project?

The article rightly stated that if post soviet Russia proposed to install a "Missile defence base in Canada or Mexico what would the US administration's policy be? (Remember CUBA in the 1960's when the world came within minutes of a nuclear war?)

America's attempt to pursue a policy of isolation only serves those that make profit from division and aggression.

Having recently visited Russia was clear that the isolation and policy of hate only was not working only facing both sides apart.

The US needs to do much more about the fundamental basis of its own economy rather then spending a fortune on generating economic activity by going to war.

I cannot recall one occasion where the US was not involved or planning a war somewhere.

Little wonder why most of the world hates the US who acts more like a bully then a moderator.

Who elected the US as our supreme master?

Sadly the people of America are not the well informed and educated on international relations. If they were they wouldn't elect the governments they have.

rmorrow:

Gilbert:

Let me guess. You also think 9/11 was an inside job too, right?

Conspiracies are all aroud us. That's why I wear a tin foil hat.

Gilbert:

It seems incredible that the Western news media, a corporate monolith has decided not to cover or interview or even ask Sen. McCain about his regular phone conversations with the Georgian president. The good senator, running for office, is surely available to question. Remember it was he who announced that they had been talking-before, during, and after the assault on S.Ossetia. Are they waiting until after the election to reveal to us if this senator violated US law-interfering with US foreign . Or that he and his lobbyist-coordinated this foreign policy adventure to provide the administration with 'pausible deniabilty'. Had Russia stood by like they did during the US invasion of Iraq-who would have profited. Let's speculate a little. The Georgians would have reclaimed their breakaway republics and would have qualified for NATO membership. The administration would have had a foreign policy triumph and European countries would have no arguments over denying membership. They would have gained control and security over the only pipeline that delivers petrol through areas not under Russian sway. The administration would be able to borrow more money to give to Georgia, to give to the munitions industries. And of course Sen.McCain would have passed this '3am moment'and boosted his election chances. Did he prepare his talking points with advanced knowledge of the pending assault. Does any true democratic leader assault a sleeping city of his own cilivians with an artillery barrage?
The mainstream media has to accept responsibility for amping up public opinion to attack Iraq. They repeated the lies and distortions of the administration. They refused to investigate and ask tough questions of the principle players. The internet makes it impossible for them to monopolize the sources of information. The transparent, shameful coverup by the media reflects another victim of the fallout.

bob moses:

"It seems like usual perpetrators of all things wrong inside America and beyond in recent times, Cheney and Wolfowitz, are also guilty for letting the deeply aggrieved and humiliated Putin to invade Georgia."

Are you kidding? Do you really think that Clinton had no role in perpetuating the same strategy? Anyone rememebr the Russian opposition to the Balkan War?

Policy towards Russia has been among the most bipartisan and consistant since the end(?) of the Cold War. Pinning it on exclusively on the Republicans or Democrats demonstrates either a combination of ingnorance and gullibilty or blind mindless partisanship.

Kenneth B. Smith, P.E.:

Atten: Mark Weisbrot. Re: Your column of 08-30-08.
Your first paragraph spells out the whole problem, about our having good relations with Rusia. They are governed by a dictator, and we are governed by population and a Constitution of laws, supervised by the Supreme Court. The possibility of our having good relations with a dictatorship is remote, considering our competing interests and their imperial conduct. The best we can achieve is, hopefully, a mutual tolerance.
If we set out to protect all the countries that they might have in their gunsights, we are in for a long, protracted struggle. Since they have the A Bomb, we will need divine assistance.
Sincerely: Cyrano.

bob moses:

Hmm. Looks like there about eight years missing from this analysis.

I am horrifed by our media's inabilty to present us with any analysis that does not come from a liberal or conservative partisan.

Can't any outlet provide us with any analysis from someone who doesn't have a clear ulterior motive?

I am tired of hearing the right spin every problem into the fault of the left. I am tired of hearing the left spin every problem into the fault of the right. It is a waste of time.

mike steg - nyc:

The US definitely missed an opportunity to engage Russia in a productive way after soviet collapse (1989).

We should not kick ourselves too hard, though - the russians have collapsed a few times through American history (i.e. JPMorgan's time at the turn of the century) and the US did not fare any better handling those opportunities, either.

Regarding the russian / georgian situation - keep in mind that a country that behaves this way once (unjustified attack on a sovereign nation) will act this way again: this is human nature.

We better figure out what we will do next time the Russian's act this ways - we probably only have one or two years to figure this out before the Russian's attack again.

loulor:

Our "democracy" rhetoric in post-Soviet Europe has forever been suspect. But it didn't become delusional and irresponsible until GWB came along (God help us).

Bush repeatedly stuck out his chest and revved up people like Georgia’s Saakashvili and Ukraine's Tymoshenko with phony, bellicose pro-democracy rhetoric until both the Georgian and the Ukrainian actually thought they has concrete U.S. backing for their ill-planned push toward NATO and the European Union. Saakashvili found out differently early this month, and look what it cost the good people of Georgia.

Behind the scenes in Washington, the disparity between U.S. rhetoric and reality has become increasingly clear in the past three weeks. Why is it that Condoleezza Rice privately wanted to kill Saakashvili in the days after he ordered Georgian troops into South Ossetia August seventh? And why does she still (privately) want his head on a platter?

Because Saakashvili's move exposed the fact we don't and never did have any intention (or military capability, thank God) of intervening in any meaningful way against Russia as it reconstructs a curtain around what it believes to be its historical sphere of influence.

I got a bit clearer about the absurdity of U.S. rhetoric when I imagined a reverse scenario under which Russia urged and persuaded border-province governments in Canada and Mexico to allow Moscow to deploy missiles and/or troops. How long do you think it would take for Washington to go absolutely ballistic? (Pun intended).

Pasha:

It seems like usual perpetrators of all things wrong inside America and beyond in recent times, Cheney and Wolfowitz, are also guilty for letting the deeply aggrieved and humiliated Putin to invade Georgia. The point of departure in this bold exercise in history writing, to say the least, is the abject failure of the administration of Bush I to supply serious funds for the ruble’s stabilization at the start of President Yeltsin regime in Russia, which had just liberated itself from the trappings of the Soviet empire (it turned out not for long). The years of Russia’s deeply humiliating weakness and misery followed… The commentator’s conjecture is that “Washington [under Bush I] was more interested in destroying the post-Soviet Russian economy than saving it.” And the proof? It is economist Jeffrey Sachs, who, as we learn from Weisbrod, has failed to convince the Bush I administration to fork over the above mentioned stabilization funds. How then- Defense Secretary Cheney and his deputy had a hand in this remains utterly unclear. Various sources on the Bush administration, which are accessible at this time, do not put this pair at the top of decision-making on foreign-economic policy matters, manned largely by Treasury Secretary Brady and Secretary of State Baker under, of course, close supervision of Bush himself. What Weisbrod neglects to mention is that Mr. Sachs—who with a few other self-appointed advisors to the Russian government and whose input “over there” would be strongly contested by some top players on President Yeltsin’s economic team-- had no mandate from the U.S. government to help Russia straighten the post-Soviet mess in the economy. And we’re talking here about the same U.S. administration that stubbornly denied economic aid to Gorbachev in spite of his continuous pleas (Bush wasn’t moved even when Gorbachev twice tried to offer a collateral-a sweeping market reform plan, on both occasions, by the way, drawn with the help of Americans). It’s certainly worth mentioning here in addition, that Bush I, for whom chemistry on a personal level was of crucial importance, harbored a strong sympathy toward Gorbachev, but was no fan of Yeltsin…Anyway, one could only guess, on what grounds exactly “Sachs thought he might get a commitment from the United States to provide these reserves.” What seems also telling in Weisbrod’s account is complete omission of the Clinton administrations. Wasn’t Clinton entitled to reverse the wrongs committed on the Russians by Cheney and Co.? He had enough time for that, don’t you think?
And this NATO expansion thing: In light of the very recent events it definitely looks like a prudent strategy, if very clumsily executed.
Weisbrod’s “common sense” prescribes not “to bully the Russians” but to deal with them drawing on “diplomacy, international law, and negotiations.” And who could argue against it? Oh, wait, did you watch how the UN Security Council was handling the Georgia crisis or what came out of President of France Sarkozy’s shuttle diplomacy? It seems like it’s a bit too early to discard Sir Winston Churchill’s warning about Russians autocrats who “nothing… admire as much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness." Not that it’s an endemic Russian trait, but today’s Russia will probably have a long and difficult way to go to get rid of it.

Sander Heinsalu:

To anyone who has followed Russia’s rhetoric and actions in recent years it is no surprise that Russia is using its piecekeepers to keep pieces of Georgia for itself. The only questions the Russian invasion of Georgia posed were „Who is next?“ and „When?“ Historically Russia has never let go of territories its military has gained control over without internal armed conflict or the threat of war from strong neighbours. Since the West will help Georgia with nothing but words, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are lost until the next fall of the Russian empire.
Condemning statements made by countries and international organizations about Russia are called „applying pressure“ while a more accurate description of the activity would be „pretending to apply pressure“. International disapproval may hurt the government of a democratic country with a free press but it has become clear over the years that it does not do much to sway Russia and may even strengthen the internal support for the Russian government. To change Russia’s course real and measurable sanctions are needed such as freezing its assets abroad or denying visas to its top officials.
Many commentators have said that the Caucasus is not worth going to war over. This immediately begs the question of what is worth going to war over – Ukraine? Moldova? All Eastern Europe? History should have taught European countries at least that appeasement does not work. Based on Russian history Russia will continue to attack its neighbours until it is stopped by outside force or internal conflict.

Sun Tzu:

ADDENDUM:

I forgot to thank Mr. Mark Weisbrot for a solid piece on geo-political reality and its discontents.

Thank you very much.

Gratefully,

Sun Tzu

suntzu@volcanomail.com

Sun Tzu:

Finally.

It was about time the WaPo, a paper I never read because of its ultra-conservative, reactionary positions on everything under the sun, would publish something I consider intelligent and readable.

It is the first analysis from the US side worth my time reading too. On most important issues from around the world, I have been forced to search for news sources outside the parroting US/Europe corporate media, which stopped thinking long ago, to become upgraded versions of Fox Moooooooos.

For the untrained eye, Russia's routing of the US/UK/Israeli-trained Georgian "army" (sic!), was a tactical military defeat, when in fact it was the final blow to the already dying strategies of the Cheney/Bush gang.

In other words, it was the defeat of a strategy that originated with the desintegration of the former Soviet Union, and became official with Cheney/Bush's National Security Strategy, which precluded any other country to gain strategic parity with the empire.

The Russians are announcing, with firecrackers in Georgia, that the end of the Soviet Union didn't mean the end of Yalta, that they won't allow the US/Europe to encircle them, and to make a NATO lake out of the Black Sea. Mr. Weisbrot's article focuses more on economic realities and its consequences on the geo-political situation in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

However, the aim of US/UK/NATO, is not just to threaten Russia's underbelly, but to compete for control of, and eventually deny Russia's access to warm waters, i.e., the Mediterranean, by way of strangling Russia on the Black Sea.

We hope the new rulers of the empire will have more common sense than their predecesors, and will stop the macho-man policies of the Cheney/Bush gang, a by-product of their commitment to benefit the mil-ind complex, and the corporations they represent.

Sun Tzu

suntzu@volcanomail.com

Pete Kusnick:

Ernesto, Who's we kemosabi? Don't you political wonks have anything better to do like count angels on a pin? No, let's discuss something so out of our hands so out of control no one can fault us. Hooray for the Islamic guy. He's a real American sorta guy. No really. He's got ivy credentials and he's a smart alect and he's on all the newies posed like he's Geraldo sans mustachio.

LeszX:

One of the unanswered questions about the recent hostilities is how much did Georgia consult with NATO - and the U.S. in particular - before launching its armed incursion into South Ossetia. It would have been the height of irresponsibility for Georgia to act unilaterally, without consultation - in view of its ambition to become a member of NATO. Why would Western European NATO members want to get involved in a war with Russia over obscure but centuries-old ethnic and religious rivalries in a region not previously considered essential to their security? And would they wish to hand the decision to begin this war, over to a two-bit dictator like Saakashvili? If, on the other hand, the U.S. and other NATO allies were consulted ahead of time, then the attack can be considered a deliberate provocation against Russia. In either case, Russia appears to have won this bout, and not only militarily. Once the Western European powers return to their senses, the proposal to include Georgia in NATO will be dead, as will, most likely, the idea of Ukrainian membership in NATO.

Tom B:

In a world of unintended consequences and multipolar power relationships, its easy to see where things went wrong and very hard to know what to do next. Nations stumble into the future, blindly groping. The author states that, "Washington cannot simply tell the rest of the world what to do. They will learn to accept a multi-polar world where diplomacy, international law, and negotiations play a much larger role and military force and threats are much less significant." I assume he meant to say will HAVE TO, but that quibble aside, what about a multi-polar world in which international law and negotiations play less and less of a role? A world in which other state actors decide that military force and threats UNDERGIRD their diplomacy? If "engagement and co-operation with Russia are a necessity for world security," then aren't these two equally necessarily requisite for the Russians if they are to have 'world security'? And what if 'world security' is NOT at the top of a nation's list of priorities? (I'm struck at how similar the Russian grab for power regards Georgia resembles the actions of the American government when it launched the Mexican-American War. Was the issue of 'world security' at the top of President Polk's agenda?) I really don't see how the existence or non-existence of nuclear weapons is relevant to the discussion regards Russian-American relations. If those horrors are used, it will more likely be in nations less used to 'keeping them in the bottle' (e.g. Pakistan v. India).

Shane:

Great analysis, hitting on all of the important points. Particularly the point that somewhere along the way the US lost the ability to talk to other nations instead of just acting unilaterally: http://theendisalwaysnear.blogspot.com/2008/05/when-talking-became-bad-thing.html
There will always be a military industrial complex whose appetite and greed will lead hawks like McBush et al down the path to confrontation.
www.theendisalwaysnear.blogspot.com

Alex Norton:

Thank you, Mark
Really thoughtful article. I rarely read anything like this from the main stream american press.

Vern Johnson:

Thankyou for a thoughtful analysis. I learned a great deal. Jeffrey Sachs was absolutely correct and Cheney and Wolfowitz were dreadfully wrong even 14 long years ago.

Of course NATO should have been dissolved in 1992. The fact that it was not underlies the current Russian conviction that they are being strategically encircled by states many of which actively cooperated, in 1941, with Hitler's "Operation Barbarossa"when 6 million armed men invaded from the west in a single day across hundreds of miles of frontier. All of these states should now be neutralist and the fact that they are not demonstrates that strategic dominance has been a conscious US/UK policy for many many years. First they tried to strangle the baby in it's crib 90 years ago, and now, they want to make sure that baby never revivifies and the world will at last be safe for predatory capitalism and "free" markets, their holy cow.

Now the US has adopted "pre-emptive" war as an official policy, but it forgets that two can play at that game. Far better that Obama is elected at this historical stage because you do not want simplistic minds in control of nuclear weapons and McCain's comments about "evil" certainly demonstrates a child's convictions, not a mature and thoughtful response at all. McCain is far too reliant on the military mind-set to be trusted at this delicate stage.

Fiona:

Thank you, Mr. Weisbrot, for the truth and common sense. They are so rare these days, especially in our foreign policy.

snapplecat07:

You could say the same regarding the rise of Hitler and the german war machine. Perhaps if we were not so harsh with post ww1 germany, the likes of hitler would not have been possible. Or how about North Vietnam, perhaps if we engaged Ho Chi minh and provided aid , he would never have turned to the
Communist Chinese. Or maybe if we dumped Chang kai chek, Mao would have been our friend. Maybe if I didnt have such a nice house , I woudnt have gotten robbed ? You can blame yourself for many things and construct a pretty good argument but in this case as with the nice house, its wishful thinking...what if ....

jarob0128:

How do you form a policy with a country like Russia when it has a history like the following?

The Moskva Council of Ministers doesn't seem to have changed much over the last 500 years. First, it needed 'security' zones that stretched from Moskva to Kazan in the east and Petersburg in the west, then to Volgograd in the South. In the 1700s, the Tsar's Council of Ministers needed 'security' zones to include Minsk, Odessa, Rostov, Anadyr (Pacific Ocean), and Kupreanof (North America.) After World War II in 1940, Stalin's Council of Ministers decided that a buffer zone from Berlin, Germany to Tehran, Iran was necessary to protect Moskva. When it became apparent that these lands could no longer supply wealth to Moskva in the 1990s, they were abandoned. When the current Council discovered that control of energy wealth made Moskva more imperial, it once again begin expanding its influence, especially into other energy relevant countries like Venezuela, Iraq, Kazakhstan, the Arctic Sea, and now once again into absorbing the Georgia pipelines to the European Union.
This is very good security for the members of the Council of Ministers in Moskva, but for who else? This article goes into some detail on American actions towards Moskva, but are they just reactions to a well established history of imperialism?

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