Busy. Busy. Busy. When it comes to conjuring new enemies, this administration never sleeps. If you thought taking on the non-Israeli portion of the Middle East is a lot to put on our plate, then you haven’t got a clue as to the appetites of the Bush regime. Not only do they want to start a new cold war with the Muslim world, they want to re-ignite the old cold war with Russia.
Speaking in Vilnius at a summit of Baltic and Black Sea officials – in effect, a concordance of America’s very own Warsaw Pact, which now encircles the former Soviet Union – Cheney brayed: “No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation.”
This is a reference to the dispute between Ukraine, with its newly installed, Washington-loyal satrap Viktor Yushchenko at the helm, and the Russians over the price of oil and natural gas. During the bad old days of the Soviet empire, Ukraine was considered such a loyal Soviet sycophant that the Kremlin gladly subsidized the cost of oil and natural gas, exporting it at below cost to Ukrainian consumers. That’s precisely the sort of uneconomic feature of empire-building that leads to imperial decay, and, in the case of the Soviet Union, contributed to its downfall. In any event, after the implosion of Communism and the demise of the Warsaw Pact, Ukraine broke away from the Soviet Union, and that was a bitter blow to the formerly high-and-mighty lords of the Kremlin. The seizure of the Ukrainian government by Washington’s allies in Kiev meant Moscow itself was but a few minutes by missile from the nearest NATO outpost. (Yes, technically, Ukraine is still not a formal member of NATO, but that’s on the agenda if the Americans can keep their local hirelings in the saddle.)
So what is this “blackmail” Cheney is talking about? It is the Russians abandoning the doctrine of socialist internationalism and putting good old capitalist theory into practice. Instead of continuing to offer oil and natural gas to Ukraine at below-market prices, they insist on charging the price set by the international market. To Cheney, this is “blackmail”: an economist would call it capitalism.
I don’t know if this signifies Cheney’s formal conversion to Marxism, but surely it ought to dispel the myth that our Vice President believes in anything approaching the free market. Or, perhaps, he believes that capitalism is a system reserved for the U.S. Whatever is going on here, the brazen hypocrisy of Cheney’s remarks are hard to take: here, after all, is the vice president of a nation that imposes draconian economic sanctions on countries that fail to kowtow to its every edict, making accusations of “blackmail”! Here is a nation whose president refuses to take the nuking of Iran off the table as a distinct possibility – and it’s the Russians who are the blackmailers. Go figure!
Cheney, however, was just getting started. Russia, he insisted, harbors dreams of revanchism: “No one can justify actions that undermine the territorial integrity of a neighbor.” Coming from Cheney, these words must have struck at the heart of every Russian nationalist, including those in the Kremlin, cutting them to the quick. Because there Russian President Vladimir Putin sits amid the ruins of a shattered empire, like a quadruple-amputee victim of a major car accident with the shards still lodged in the bleeding sides of his torso. Cheney’s words rubbed salt in some pretty sore wounds: That this was his intention is hard not to believe.
What did he hope to accomplish by it? Certainly he could not have thought it would have any effect other than to ratchet up anti-American sentiment and reinforce rising Russian nationalism. The vice president may be evil, but he’s no dummy: this was a provocation, pure and simple.
The reference to Russia’s alleged subversion of its neighbors’ “territorial integrity” is code for the disputes over separatism that have broken out in the nations ruled by Cheney’s audience. The president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, was present and must have smiled (albeit inwardly) as he recalled his brutal suppression of pro-Russian ethnic minorities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, who seek independence from their ethnic Georgian overlords. In Kosovo, the Albanian Kosovars were supported by the U.S. in their struggle to achieve de facto independence, but in Georgia separatism is opposed. The one consistent strain in this policy is to oppose Slavic interests wherever they may dare raise their heads: there is to be no quarter in the civilizational war with the (now vastly diminished) Byzantine East, just as there is to be no retreat in the global war on Islam. The American strategy is a simple one: regime change all ’round!
The series of “peaceful” regime changes effected in Russia’s “near abroad” – Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova – were all bought and paid for by the U.S., and now, in the cases of Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, we are seeing some blowback, a nationalist reaction to the overweening arrogance of the American hegemon. An effort to pull off a self-styled “denim revolution” in Belarus failed miserably, in part on account of the disunity (and sheer dizziness) of the “democratic” opposition, but mostly because Eastern Europeans are wising up to the Americans’ game. Having only just recently left one Warsaw Pact, they are no longer quite so eager to join another.
The recent election held in Belarus, won handily by President Lukashenko, is routinely denounced as fraudulent by European Union commissioners. This charge has got to establish some sort of record for sheer gall, coming as it does from officials of a political entity that repeats referenda until the politically correct results are achieved, in this case “yes” votes for the Euro and the adoption of the EU “constitution” in recalcitrant states like Denmark and Switzerland. In the EU, they just keep voting until they get it “right.” This makes the electoral process of a Soviet-era relic like Belarus seem positively liberal by comparison.
Anyone seeking a principled consistency in American foreign policy is bound to be disappointed: separatism is good for the Kosovars and the southern Sudanese, but bad for the South Ossetians and the Russian-speakers of Moldova and the Baltics. Nukes are good in the hands of the Israelis and the Pakistanis, not to mention the Indians, but bad if they’re acquired by the Iranians, who have no right to deter nuclear blackmail. No nation may invade or occupy the territory of another – not because it is an act of unprovoked aggression, but because such acts are privileges reserved for the exclusive enjoyment of American government officials.
Facing off against the U.S. in a rematch, post-Communist Russia sees a funhouse mirror reflection of its old self, a Sovietized America at the head of a “global democratic revolution,” as our Great Leader puts it. With Washington at the center of an international web of servile “pro-American” parties and propaganda outlets, all trained to bark and bite on command, the anti-Russian “Putin = Stalin” chorus is rising loud and fast. The reason has little to do with his alleged authoritarian proclivities. It is because no one else has unified the Russian people behind an independent agenda – and an independent foreign policy.
Standing up to America on the Iranian question, selling arms to Syria, forbidding the dissemination of American taxpayer dollars to Russian “opposition” politicians – Putin has incurred the wrath of the neoconservatives, who see in him a prime candidate for the new “Hitler.” This demonization campaign will accelerate if and when Putin moves to run for another term. The Russian constitution forbids him from running again, but that can always be changed by a Putin-loyal Duma. The irony is that the “human rights” activists accuse the Russian president of harboring “antidemocratic” tendencies precisely because he is supported by the overwhelming majority of Russians, who would gladly elect him to a third and even a fourth term, just like the Americans supported Franklin Roosevelt.
The idea that the U.S. is trying to spread its system of “democracy” is just a cover for a program that is essentially the opposite. As evidenced by Cheney’s denunciation of Russia’s newfound devotion to the free market – at least when it comes to un-fixing oil and natural gas prices – the Americans are not intent on spreading free-market ideology. What they are spreading is American control: of key military bases and access to oil. The U.S. drive to achieve what the neocons call “benevolent global hegemony” is relentless, and Putin is an obstacle in their path: there can be little doubt that the regime-changers of Washington have him in their sights.