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Bush vs Putin – Cold War or Hot Air?

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This week has seen tensions between Russia and the U.S. escalate over the proposed U.S. missile “defense” shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. As Bush, Putin and other leaders of the world's eight largest economies (G8) were gathered in Germany to focus on climate change, I wondered if they could cool the rising temperature of trans-Atlantic rhetoric.

The current bout of rhetoric between the two former Cold War foes and world superpowers has descended into a clash of immature sociopathic titans, but is there any real danger?

For instance, when Putin threatened on June 3 to retarget his missiles at Europe should the defense shield go ahead, he said:

"We disclaim responsibility for our retaliatory steps, because (he started it) – it is not we who are the initiators of the new arms race, which is undoubtedly brewing in Europe."

Bush responded by disregarding Putin's threat, saying: "Russia's not going to attack Europe." He also said that Putin had "derailed" democratic reforms in Russia, – no doubt further inflaming Putin's anger – before attempting to make Russia look like the (bad guys) who are out to escalate the situation, by saying that the U.S. would not respond militarily to Putin's threat:

"Russia is not an enemy. There needs to be no military response because we're not at war with Russia…Russia is not a threat. Nor is the missile defense we're proposing a threat to Russia."

To be fair, Putin is right, Russia did not start the current chain of events, but they have played their part in its arriving at this point.

The “War on Terror” has now become a battle for the world's dwindling but increasingly valuable resources. The U.S. was first to seize the moment and begin attempting to take control of some of the world's largest oil reserves. Let's not forget that Russia has its own oil and gas reserves, whereas the U.S. has less by comparison.

In seeking to rectify this, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, partly to force Al Qaeda from their Taliban ruled haven, but also to ensure that the U.S. would harness Afghanistan's potential for a massively profitable pipeline between the vast resources of the Caucasus and financially wealthy but resource-hungry Asia. No doubt Russia's intention when the U.S. was instrumental in their Afghan invasion failing in the 80's.

So, the U.S. succeeded where Russia failed: they took control of Afghanistan's massive resource revenue potential, and they did so without Russia noticing – under the cover of destroying the perpetrators of 9/11. Russia awoke when the Afghan invasion was quickly followed by the U.S. taking control of some of the world's largest oil reserves in Iraq.

So, when it seemed like America was going to use Iran's fledgling nuclear program as justification to take control of their massive reserves next, and by monopolizing the world's remaining resources, Russia decided to take their stand by supporting Iran.

They did this by vetoing U.N. resolutions against Iran, supported by China. When the U.S. was hiking up the rhetoric about Iran needing to stop Uranium enrichment or that an attack was on the table, Russia began assisting  them in building a nuclear reactor. And when talk of U.S. or Israeli air strikes against Iran being imminent was circling the globe, Russia sold Tor-M1 missile defense systems to Iran. Systems specifically designed to target and destroy American missiles – bought and used by Israel – before they reach their target.

When the U.S. slapped its own sanctions on Russia over the arm sales to Iran, economically fragile Russia was forced to become a little more cooperative, and we saw the first U.N. sanctions against Iran.

But by that time the deliveries had been made. Russia had equipped Iran with advanced technology and crippled the effectiveness of any potential U.S. air campaign against Iran.

In the western world, readers of the mainstream media still thought that the U.S. and Russia were allies, with differences over Iran. Away from the mainstream media in strategic planning rooms in the White House and the Pentagon, in supporting Iran, Putin had shown that Russia knew the inevitable war for resources had begun and was ready and willing to fight for its share.

Next came the proposal for a U.S. missile defense shield right on Russia's doorstep: With satellites in space and radar systems in the Czech Republic to detect and target incoming missiles, and interceptor missiles in Poland to destroy them.

The project is being presented as protection against a missile attack from rogue states like Iran and North Korea. But Iran is far from having missiles capable of reaching Israel, let alone America, and North Korea would almost certainly attack over the shorter Pacific route. So there is no need for a shield for the given reasons.

The U.S. asked Russia to take part in the project, and maintain that it is not designed to threaten Russia. But in the behind-the-scenes climate of the resource war, with U.S. knowledge that Russia is unhappy to relinquish its hold on the former Soviet satellite states, and Russia's understandable doubts about the given reasons for the shield, there is no way Russia will let the project go ahead without a fight.

The real question is: with rhetoric returning to Cold War levels, should we stock up on supplies and start building our fallout shelters? My answer is no.

The Cold War was an uncomfortable and deeply frightening time for all involved. Every country with nuclear capabilities sides knew that if an attack was launched, not much would be left by the time the radioactive dust settled. Everyone was on constantly heightened alert, nerves shattered and trigger fingers shaking on every dispute – false alarms and a general fear that Armageddon could be just around the corner. Neither side wanted a war but feared the other could attack at any minute.

The same basis remains. Both sides know the consequences of an all-out nuclear war between them, and it is still safe to say that neither side wants that. So it is also safe to say that neither country wants to return to Cold War status.
But neither will Putin nor any Russian premier allow such a U.S. defense shield in two former Soviet states. So, under a megalomaniac with the mind of a child that is Bush, who seems unwilling to give up on his imperialistic dreams of the New American Century, the U.S. will continue on this path towards calling Russia's bluff: installing missiles on their doorstep and allowing the U.S. to return to the real job of gaining control of the world's resources.

The reason why I am not building my shelter just yet, is that it is unlikely that Bush will be in the White House for long enough for this conflagration to reach critical levels. And it is likely whoever replaces Bush will be forced to take a more liberal approach in order to restore the U.S. image in the eyes of the world, which is important to most Americans and most U.S. Presidents.

If, God forbid, whoever becomes the next U.S. President continues on the same path as Bush, we might all need to begin preparing for the next Cold War.

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About Liam Bailey

  • Graham McKnight

    There won’t be a next Cold War for the simple reason that Russia is no longer the superpower that it once was. The prestige and authority that came with heading up the USSR disolved along with the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the break down of the Warsaw Pact.

    During the Cold War America undermined Soviet authority with its massive economic advantage, the same applies today but to the power of ten. Russia no longer has the Eastern bloc or ideological sympathisers in Asia. Eastern Europe prefers to embrace American investment rather than Russian sanctions and decrees (as was the case with the Ukranian gas pipes fiasco).

    In short Liam, I agree with your conclusion but Russia has so much more to lose today than those of us living outside of the Kremlin’s grasp (which includes each and every one of Russia’s old Cold War allies that have now turned to America for much of their economic aid and investment).

  • Alex

    “There won’t be a next Cold War for the simple reason that Russia is no longer the superpower that it once was. The prestige and authority that came with heading up the USSR disolved along with the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the break down of the Warsaw Pact.”

    That’s a pretty ignorant thing to say. Russia is well-known for its ability to quickly transform and recover when it needs to. They rebuilt themselves in ten years after WWII despite suffering more destruction at the hands of the Nazis then pretty much all allies combined. They were able to advance from a wooden plow to an atomic bomb in 30 years, from 1919 to 1949 – Churchill’s words, not mine. If Russia gets fed up with the way its being treated, and things seem to be going that way, it is entirely possible for them to come back. They have more territory and resources than anyone in the world, and they pretty much ran their economy on willpower from 1950 to 1990. Their jump under Putin has been astronomical – they’ve advanced far more than any other nation in the same time frame.

    “During the Cold War America undermined Soviet authority with its massive economic advantage, the same applies today but to the power of ten. Russia no longer has the Eastern bloc or ideological sympathisers in Asia. Eastern Europe prefers to embrace American investment rather than Russian sanctions and decrees (as was the case with the Ukranian gas pipes fiasco).”

    That’s also wrong. Russia is providing the most important things to the eastern bloc – resources and a large market for their goods. They can embrace American investors but they still hugely rely on Russia whether they like it or not. Also, Russia hardly needs ideological sympathizers – it was at its weakest when it did have them. Right now they are being strictly business, just like the US always have been. Instead of valueless ideology they circulate currency. Russia is China’s and India’s number one weapons provider, and soon China will become far more dependent on their energy than American investors.

    And Russia doesn’t actually have that much to lose. They’ve lost everything after the US helped prop up Yeltsin and drive their infrastructure and economy into the pit of hell back when they actually trusted that the world would respect and embrace them now that they weren’t communist. There’s a very good reason there’s so much resentment towards the West in Russia, and propaganda isn’t half of it.

  • Graham McKnight

    Alex, thank you for the criticsm, I especially appreciate the Churchill quote.

    American hegemony over the world’s trade and finance is at its peak today, however. As such, Putin will find it hard to gather international support against this shield programme that the Americans are setting up in Europe.

    I noticed however that during Bush’s speeches to a number of Eastern European delegations and audiences that he was adopting a lot of Cold War rhetoric (as Liam alludes to in his article). The delegates and the audiences clapped enthusiastically. I’m not suggesting that this is an accurate measurement of the support that America enjoys from the ex-bloc states (Bush was preaching to the converted), but it does tell us that the governments of these ex-bloc nations favour American guidance rather than Russian.

    If Russia were to halt the trade between itself and these Eastern European dependents that you speak of Alex, America would simply apply preasure to it through the UN as it has done in the recent past.

    To be frank, I would be more worried about the power and influence that China has acquired, not Russia.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/clavos Clavos

    “To be frank, I would be more worried about the power and influence that China has acquired, not Russia.”

    Dead on. And US is enthusiastically helping them along by trading with them,although that may well co-opt any hegemonic aims the Chinese leadership harbors.

    As the Chinese people become increasingly wealthy, and as its economy becomes more and more intertwined with the US and other G8 (and second and third tier) economies as trading partners, they’re likely to become less aggressive militarily.

  • Alec

    Liam, interesting stuff, but I think in a couple of places your rhetoric has outrun the facts.

    RE: So, the U.S. succeeded where Russia failed: they took control of Afghanistan’s massive resource revenue potential .. [and] … by the U.S. taking control of some of the world’s largest oil reserves in Iraq.

    There is no operating pipeline in Afghanistan, and the country outside of Kabul is still and unstable mess, with the Taleban fighting back to impose their regime. Similarly, the oil flowing from Iraq is nowhere near pre-war levels, and is constantly interrupted because of sabotage. Oddly enough, few mention that the Saudis are the main beneficiaries of the political instability that has kept large quantities of Iraqi oil from the world markets.

    The US does not control Iraq’s oil reserves simply because it does not control Iraq itself in any meaningful way.

    While I agree that Russia’s support of Iran and other political decisions has checked American efforts, in the end this does little for Russia as a nation, but helps a narrow group of oligarchs who have no coherent world view or political or economic objectives.

    RE: In the western world, readers of the mainstream media still thought that the U.S. and Russia were allies, with differences over Iran. Away from the mainstream media in strategic planning rooms in the White House and the Pentagon, in supporting Iran, Putin had shown that Russia knew the inevitable war for resources had begun and was ready and willing to fight for its share.

    I agree with much of this. Conservatives, in particular, seem labor under the delusion that the US is the sole superpower, and that countries like the UK and Russia will always defer to American national interests instead of pursuing their own political and economic objectives.

    RE: The same basis remains. Both sides know the consequences of an all-out nuclear war between them, and it is still safe to say that neither side wants that. So it is also safe to say that neither country wants to return to Cold War status.

    The problem is that it is now no longer a matter between “both sides,” that is, the US and Russia. It is unclear whether new and potential nuclear powers, namely Pakistan, India, North Korea, and Iran among others, fear the consequences of a nuclear war or foolishly under-estimate the damage that would be unleashed after a nuclear war. And it is not clear at all that either the US or Russia has any real influence over their supposed allies. The Cold War paradigm of the US, the Soviet Union and China, along with their coterie of pliant client states, just does not work anymore.

    RE: The reason why I am not building my shelter just yet, is that it is unlikely that Bush will be in the White House for long enough for this conflagration to reach critical levels. And it is likely whoever replaces Bush will be forced to take a more liberal approach in order to restore the U.S. image in the eyes of the world, which is important to most Americans and most U.S. Presidents.

    Unfortunately, the top-running Republican candidates show every hint of being willing to continue the bone-headed military policies of the Bush Administration.

    On the other hand, if Democrats make restoring the US image a higher priority than realistically and credibly addressing American security issues, they will ensure their total defeat in the upcoming presidential elections.

  • Zedd

    Actually China and Russia are demonstrating a trend towards a significant alliance. They are courting non industrialized nations and actually helping them developed. They are micro lending and building work compounds for families in under developed countries. They are looking to the future and understand that these are the last frontier. They have aligned with Chavez, a regional power…. All this being done without a single beat of the chest.

    The response to either of their attempts to establish stability and respect for themselves on the world stage should not be worry.

  • Graham McKnight

    A good insight there Zedd, I am rather distrustful of one-party nations however.

  • Daniel Rodd

    Holy mother of God, this is Cold War Reloaded, did you just name Chavez, India, North Korea, China, I know the way things move around the world involving history, and damn that’s exactly how ww1 & 2 took place. I knew those twingo towers were a sign of 3rd WW.

    It’s the end of the world as we know it.

    I just want to see USA get torned apart in pieces and Russia joining the Big European Force.

    MF americans produce more polution and corruption than any other country.

  • Cormac

    thank you to the person that correctd the first guy comments. He really had shit all of an idea wat he talkn about.It really is amazing to to Russia now considering all those images we saw on Tv when soviet union fell.Putin has definatly had hand in bring Russia bck 2 near Super power status. He not there yet but hell get there lest not 4get. Russia #1 weopeons supplyer to world , #1 natural gas supplyers to world and largest Nuke Stock pile. I doubt we c WW3 but somethink has 2 b done about America. 9/11 was inside job.

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