At the garbage dump
You know that scene in “The Getaway” when Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw make their escape in a garbage truck? It saved their lives but you can tell from the disgusted look on their face that it was no fun to dig the fish bones and cigarette butts out of their hair and pockets. That’s the way I feel about a day’s worth of Facebook references to NATO’s closing in on Russia using Ukraine as a battering ram.
Were these people born in 2008 or something? There’s so much evidence of lovey-dovey relations between the White House and the Kremlin that I am led to believe so. Let’s start with Yeltsin’s war on Chechnya that was only consummated with Putin’s scorched earth policy that left around 10 percent of its population dead. Some “anti-imperialists” at the time rallied around Putin in the same way that they are rallying around Bashar al-Assad today, who is clearly adopting Grozny type mass murder tactics to Aleppo, Homs and elsewhere.
Here’s what President Clinton said at a press conference on April 21, 1996:
Let me make two brief points. First of all, I think the record will reflect that the United States has consistently supported a political solution to the Chechnya crisis and offered its support for that. And when President Yeltsin made his announcement on March 31st, we supported that.
You say that there are some who say we should have been more openly critical. I think it depends upon your first premise; do you believe that Chechnya is a part of Russia or not? I would remind you that we once had a Civil War in our country in which we lost on a percapita basis far more people than we lost in any of the wars of the 20th century over the proposition that Abraham Lincoln gave his life for, that no State had a right to withdraw from our Union.
That’s really rich. Boris Yeltsin as Russia’s Abe Lincoln. Pardon me while I vomit all over my Macbook.
And then after 2001, the USA invades Afghanistan to supposedly gain control over oil pipelines according once again to our pinheaded anti-imperialists. Didn’t they realize that Russia bought in entirely to that war on the border of former Soviet republics based on the evidence of its willingness to fuel it—literally?
Twenty years ago, it would have been inconceivable for a U.S. war effort to rely exclusively on Russia and its allies for one of America’s most sought-after resources. In 2013, it is a reality.
Almost every drop of fuel used by U.S. forces in Afghanistan comes from Russia and other former Soviet countries, most of which Russia still has considerable sway. The U.S. purchased roughly 22 million gallons of fuel for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in June alone, which officials say was an average month.
Since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, the Russian government invaded neighboring Georgia, endured a string of domestic terrorist attacks, helped investigate Chechen links to the alleged Boston bombers, and chose to provide asylum to the source of one of America’s greatest breaches in intelligence. Amid all of this, the gas kept coming.
You can also read all about Putin’s desire that the USA maintain its bases in Afghanistan from the Moscow Times:
On May 9, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced he would allow the U.S. to keep nine military bases in Afghanistan after direct U.S. participation in the Afghan war ends in 2014. How has President Vladimir Putin responded to the possibility that Afghanistan may turn into “one giant U.S. aircraft carrier,” as Kremlin-friendly political analyst Yury Krupnov recently put it?
After Karzai’s announcement, you might have expected the Kremlin to offer its usual bluster about how the U.S. and NATO are trying to create a suffocating “Anaconda ring” around Russia — from the Baltic states, Poland, Romania, Georgia and Turkey to Afghanistan, South Korea and Japan. You might even have expected a dose of the anti-U.S. demagoguery about the U.S. government using Afghan bases to run a lucrative narcotics-export business, including daily flights of U.S. cargo aircraft filled with heroin destined for Russia and Europe. Or that U.S. bases in Afghanistan could be used for an attack on Russia. After all, Yury Krupnov and other conservative, pro-Kremlin analysts are particularly fond of reminding Russians that a U.S. nuclear missile could reach Moscow from the U.S. airbase in Bagram, Afghanistan, in less than 20 minutes.
Instead Putin said: “We have a strong interest in our southern borders being calm,” Putin said. “We need to help them [U.S. and coalition forces]. Let them fight. … This is in Russia’s national interests.” It made a lot of sense for him to state this since the same fear and hatred of Muslims on Russia’s southern flanks explains the murderous attack on Chechnya that was a counterpart to what Bush and Obama have been doing in Afghanistan and more recently in Waziristan.
Speaking of Bush, how can anybody forget the Bromance between him and Putin? From the May 23, 2002 BBC:
Analysis: Bush and Putin on nickname terms
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President George W Bush meet in Crawford Texas
The leaders presented an old pals’ act last time they met
By Paul Reynolds
George W Bush likes to give people nicknames. It is nice for those who receive them – especially journalists and politicians, as it gives them the sense that they are on the inside track.
Those who do not get them, dismiss them as a sign that parts of Dubya – his name for himself – never really grew up.
Mr Bush has given Vladimir Putin, the steely-faced son of the KGB and now President of Russia, a nickname. It is Pootie-Poot.
It is not known if Pootie-Poot will respond with his own offering.
But all this indicates that relations between Mr Bush and Mr Putin are good. And it has been growing for some time. Remember last June, when Mr Bush surprised the world by declaring after a meeting with Mr Putin in Slovenia: “I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul.”
This rang rather true. George Bush does like to look people in the eye. He has a habit of pausing between sentences (which are usually more lucid in private than in public), cocking his head and waiting for a response.
It is an improbable relationship. On the one hand, there is the chirpy Texan, and on the other, the stern apparatchik. One cannot imagine that dinner table talk is a bundle of fun.
But it is a balance of interests. It is based on a belief by Mr Bush that Mr Putin is genuinely trying to bring Russia into line with the Western world.
Mr Putin has not made big issues out of the policies which Mr Bush has favoured – especially the missile defence system.
And they have just reached agreement on a new Nato-Russia consultation mechanism and on reducing deployed missile warheads from some 6000 to 2,200 each.
Russia, therefore, is ceasing to be a threat to the West, in deed as well as in word. A historian might say – Russia blinked first.
From Mr Putin’s point of view, Mr Bush has not caused trouble over Russia’s own backyard problem – Chechnya. This is a trade-off for Russian support in the US-led war on terrorism which was declared after the 11 September attacks.
Mr Putin also needs American support for Russian economic ambitions. Without a strong economy, Russia cannot be strong again.
It was summed up in a comment to Time magazine by Mr Bush’s National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice, a Russian specialist who also worked for George Bush senior.
She said: “To see the kind of relationship that Presidents Bush and Putin have developed and to see Russia firmly anchored in the West – that’s really a dream of 300 years, not just of the post-Cold War era.”
Six years later the Bromance cooled off when Georgia fought Russia over some disputed territory, a one-sided war if there ever was one. Like today, Putin blamed the USA for instigating the conflict but that was probably more as a way to shift blame for the conflict from himself (not that the Georgian government was entirely innocent.) Given the opportunity to intervene on behalf of George Soros, Western banks, NATO, and the IMF, George W. Bush showed a diffident side never on display when it came to Iraq or Afghanistan.
All he did was make a statement, about the same thing basically as Obama is doing now.
Russia has stated that changing the government of Georgia is not its goal. The United States and the world expect Russia to honor that commitment. Russia has also stated that it has halted military operations and agreed to a provisional cease-fire. Unfortunately, we’re receiving reports of Russian actions that are inconsistent with these statements. We’re concerned about reports that Russian units have taken up positions on the east side of the city of Gori, which allows them to block the East-West Highway, divide the country, and threaten the capital of Tbilisi.
Ouch, that must have really hurt.
Since the same sorts of people who have stood up for Bashar al-Assad are now backing Putin in the Ukraine, it should not come as a surprise that the same kind of “sky is falling” WWIII hysteria is cropping up again just as it did after Obama’s empty “red line” bluffing. Here, if anything, is a reminder of where things stood toward the end of 2013 as Obama calibrated his relationship with Russia—not that it ever had anything to do with the Cold War to begin with. Here’s Fred Weir, one of the sharper minds on Russia:
Secretary of State John Kerry huddled in the Kremlin for several hours with President Vladimir Putin Tuesday, in what US officials described as an effort to “intensify” US-Russia dialogue and inject some fresh juice into a bilateral relationship that’s been stumbling aimlessly, amid growing acrimony, for over a year.
More urgently, he told Mr. Putin that Russia and the United States must try harder to forge a common position on the fast-deteriorating situation in Syria, where conflicting charges of chemical weapons usage have alarmed the big powers, and a series of Israeli airstrikes in recent days have raised the specter of a much wider war.
“The United States believes that we share some very significant common interests with respect to Syria,” Mr. Kerry told Putin.
Those mutual interests include promoting stability in the region, blocking extremists from gaining power, and working together to broker a peaceful political transition for the civil war-wracked country, he added.
Let me conclude by saying that “blocking extremists from gaining power” likely means anybody who yells “Alluah Akbar” after shooting down a Baathist helicopter.