Britain’s opposition leader David Cameron has suggested that, in protest against Russia’s actions in the Caucasus, the Russian elite should be barred from shopping in Britain. In other words, if someone like Roman Abramovich wants to buy another soccer club or (God save the Queen!) a palace from an impoverished lord, he will not be allowed to. Then, according to Cameron, the members of this elite, unable to satisfy its hedonistic needs, will force the Kremlin to think twice before invading another country.
Cameron’s comical suggestion, which he offered in all seriousness, shows that the West is not only confused, but does not have even a shadow of a concerted response to Russia’s real positioning as the second pole in the world.
RUSSIA: 1, NATO: 0?
Moscow’s termination of its cooperation with NATO will deal a blow to NATO, first of all, as far as the transit of NATO supplies to Afghanistan across Russian territory is concerned. Russia has long said that it does not get any benefits from this. Retired general Ivashov, who planned the Russian landing operation in Kosovo’s Pristina in 1999 and is a sworn opponent of Washington (dubbed “Evilshov” by Americans), has repeatedly and sarcastically demanded to see at least one terrorist who has been caught thanks to the NATO-Russia terrorism control program.
Ivashov maintains that thanks to detailed Russian reports, NATO has been accumulating important military and political information on Russia even from the joint workshops that Brussels has been holding in the North Caucasus. Paradoxically, NATO is bound to continue doing thankless work for Russia in Afghanistan by opposing the Taliban. Eight years ago, Vladimir Zhirinovsky addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, hysterically urging the West to thank Russia for its 201st division, which was “shedding blood in Tajikistan to prevent Islamists from entering your European greenhouse.”
The UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband flew to Kyiv with the slogan of “a coalition to counter Russia’s aggression.” And although he heard what he wanted to hear from his Kyiv hosts-above all, from President Yushchenko-at the final press conference Miliband not only said nothing about the much-hyped coalition, but even failed to state clearly that Britain would support giving Ukraine the MAP in December.
His French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, announced that Ukraine and Moldova would be Russia’s next targets. But immediately afterwards, his boss, President Nicolas Sarkozy, declared that the old yardstick should not be applied to the new realities and that there is no longer a unipolar world because US military and political domination was coming to an end. Tellingly, the French president decided not to invite President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia to the summit. This will at least preserve ostensible unity now that Slovakia and the Czech Republic have openly sided with Russia in the conflict with Georgia. How many countries have chosen to keep silent?
SAAKASHVILI: A STRANGER AMONG HIS OWN PEOPLE?
Saakashvili keeps trumpeting far and wide about a war between Russia and the West. He also expressed disappointment that so far Western countries have only offered moral support. Georgia’s Minister for Reintegration, Timur Yakobishvili, even accused Israel of betraying Georgia. President Saakashvili himself emphasized Israel’s crucial role in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Maariv on Aug. 14: “Two of our ministers – defense and reintegration – have Israeli citizenship. The questions of war and peace are in the hands of Jewish Israelis.”
These words were supposed to move not so much Israel, which is known to have won Russia’s gratitude for its decision to discontinue arms supplies to Georgia, as the United States – in the hopes that Washington would be so touched that it would raise the status of Georgia to that of a “second Israel,” an ally for which it will be prepared to fight down to the last American.
It is also Georgia’s tragedy that the world regards it not as a sovereign state but – perhaps not so contemptuously as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov put it (“a virtual project”) – as a US client state. Hence the overt scorn from the leader of the Lebanese movement Hezbollah that Georgia’s operation in South Ossetia was planned at the Americans’ request by the same Israeli generals who botched the war in Lebanon two years ago. This led to the undisguised irritation of many in Washington because Saakashvili’s fiasco only strengthened Iran’s position, which is now closer than ever to Russia. Furthermore, the construction of a Russian naval base in Tartus at Syria’s proposal (Russia can allegedly relocate its Black Sea Fleet there from Sevastopil) will put an end to the domination of the US 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean.
Soon one can expect American television channels to broadcast a new video message from Osama bin Laden, in which he will support Russia and urge Americans to vote for Barack Obama. Saakashvili’s military and political defeat can really help the US neocons to bring John McCain to the presidency.
UKRAINE: A PROSPECTIVE BRIDE AGAIN?
The main problem of the Ukrainian powers-that-be is sincerity and consistency, especially when it is as easy to accuse someone of “betraying national interests” as it is to blow your nose. At least President Yushchenko looks both sincere and consistent when he sides completely with Saakashvili and calls for Ukraine’s accession to NATO. Still, his behavior also clearly shows his personal interest and hopes that Washington will support his re-election.
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is demonstrating a balanced approach to events, although it is not so easy to forget her article “Containing Russia,” which was published in the US journal Foreign Affairs in May 2007. This piece was full of cliches, so pleasing to the ears of American neocons, about Russia’s imperial ambitions inherited from the Soviet Union and plans to conquer its neighbors.
Meanwhile, on the heels of the Russian parliament’s decision, Ukraine’s opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych called for recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, while fellow party member Raisa Bohatyriova is now in Washington on an official invitation to attend the Democratic Party convention. It is clear that the reason why she left her Kyiv office for a week was not just so that she could observe a showy and utterly empty extravaganza. It may well be that she is playing the role of intermediary between Kyiv and Washington in order to implement a year-old plan to forge a coalition between Our Ukraine and the Party of Regions. (Some sources reported a year ago that Washington had offered to open its stock markets to Rinat Akhmetov in exchange for this broad coalition.)
US Vice-president Dick Cheney is expected to arrive in Kyiv in early September with some concrete proposals in hand. The scenario is very interesting: President Yushchenko wants to make a 30-minute-long extraordinary appearance in parliament on Sept. 2, and Cheney arrives the next day.
As for the EU summit on Sept. 1, owing to the above-mentioned confusion and lack of time, the participants of this gathering are unlikely to approve a decision that analysts have long been suggesting: to switch to “passive aggression in the East” – by means of commercial, investment, political, diplomatic, and institutional sanctions or, to put it simply, through money and visa-free treatment. Even Zbigniew Brzezinski (now Obama’s adviser) suggested the other day tempting Ukraine with EU admission negotiations rather than with NATO membership prospects, at the same time assuring Russia that one day it too will be invited.
France’s foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said last Friday that the European Union may impose sanctions against Russia on Sept. 1 at the EU summit in Brussels. There are two tentative draft resolutions: a mild one chiefly lobbied by Italy and a very tough one, on which Poland insists. The mild draft contains a demand for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgian territory, including Poti and the buffer zones that were established recently by the Russian General Staff. According to this document, the EU will demand that Russia guarantee that its current pattern of behavior with respect to Georgia will not be applied to other countries.
The tough draft is about imposing financial and economic sanctions. The European Union may advise big business to reduce its investments in Russia and pronounce the Russian market unstable and full of risks. Another proposal is to introduce restrictions on certain goods imported from Russia (steel, aluminum, fertilizers). In addition, the EU may advise European banks not to re-credit Russian banks and companies.