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Reheating the Cold War

Mike Whitney

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Putin has seen enough of Bush?s ?war on terror? to know that it?s time to draw a line in the sand.
Should we thank President Bush for rekindling the Cold War now, or wait until the bombs start falling? The Associated Press is reporting that “Russia?s nuclear forces are preparing their largest maneuvers in two decades, an exercise involving the test firing of missals and flights by dozens of bombers in a massive simulation of an all-out nuclear war”; a scenario much like the type of Biblical Armageddon that we expected when George the Apostle first took office.

The maneuvers will also involve the test firing of cruise missals over the northern Atlantic and near the Caspian Basin, as well as launching several intercontinental ballistic missals from both land and sea. “Analysts describe the exercise as an imitation of a nuclear attack on the United States” (Associated Press).

This seemingly provocative action on the part of the Putin Government will come as no surprise to those who have been keeping a close watch on the expansionist tendencies of the present administration. The Bush Administration has used the War in Afghanistan to establish military bases throughout the region, surrounding Russia in those areas that used to be part of the old Soviet Union.

America now has bases in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan, signaling that it intends to be a key player in developing the bountiful resources of the area. More important to Putin, however, is way in which Bush and Co. are demonstrating their ambitions in neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia. The recent elections in Azerbaijan were widely discredited as fraudulent, although that hasn?t stopped the Bush Administration from cozying up to the brutal thugs in office (Azerbaijan received special recognition recently from Amnesty International for its scandalous human rights record).

The country is critical for its strategic military value, but even more important for its access to Caspian oil via the projected Baku pipeline. This pipeline has factored in heavily in the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld “grand plans” for dominating the world?s resources (plans that date back to the early 1990?s).

Shevardnadze isn't going quietly. More will probably come out, as the year progresses, on the USA-sponsored coup in Georgia.

Shevardnadze isn’t going quietly. More will probably come out, as the year progresses, on the USA-sponsored coup in Georgia.

The second leg of that pipeline is Georgia, which just underwent a non-violent coup that removed the unreliable Shevardnadze from office. Shevardnadze, was replaced by western educated, Mikhail Saakashvilli, who has promised “close cooperation with the US” and guaranteed to make Georgia more “efficient and investment friendly”. Obedience and “open markets” are the basic components of any lasting relationship with Washington, and Sakashvilli looks as though he was well chosen for his present task.

Watching these events unfold from the Kremlin must be mesmerizing. It?s doubtful that anyone surrounding Putin truly believes that the coup or the phoney elections occurred without outside influence. Perhaps, they even know to what extent the US was involved. Regardless, many must feel as though their worst fears about US intrusiveness and intervention are materializing before their very eyes. It certainly looks that way.

Two days after the coup that deposed the wayward Shevardnadze, Donald Rumsfeld met with Saakashvilli and his lieutenants in a closed door meeting that lasted only a few short hours (this was before Saakashvilli had even been elected). From the reports, however, agreements were solidified about the prospective Baku pipeline and assisting Georgia in the “war on terror”.

This would involve the removal of six Soviet era (Russian) bases, and the building of three US bases. The Putin government considers this a “dagger pointed at the heart of Moscow”, and they have registered their unhappiness with the developments. Just last week, Colin Powell was sent to the region to smooth things over and to assure Putin that the US has no such plans. You can be sure that no one in the Duma is buying Powell?s sad-sack story. His credibility has suffered greatly since his dubious presentation on Iraq?s WMD?s at the UN.

The Bush Administration has tipped its hand and allowed the Russians to see what they?re up to, which has undoubtedly strengthened the position of the “hard-liners” in the government. This is one of the reasons why we will be seeing a display of military prowess in the months to come.

But there is another reason for the maneuvers, as well, and it relates to the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Khodorkovsky is the majority shareholder of Yukos oil, Russia?s largest oil corporation. He has supposedly been thrown in jail for fraud and tax evasion, but the real motives are much more oblique.

The plan to control, with money and stealth, a state that would be too costly to defeat militarily, was averted (temporarily) with Khodorkovsky's arrest.

The plan to control, with money and stealth, a state that would be too costly to defeat militarily, was averted (temporarily) with Khodorkovsky’s arrest.

The oil magnate was using his wealth to marshal political opposition to Putin, hoping to move Russia in a different direction. More significantly, however, he was considering selling a majority share of his oil business to Exxon-Mobile. Putin saw this as a direct challenge to Russian sovereignty over its own resources and had Khodorkovsky incarcerated. When asked if he was concerned that his move might be considered undemocratic, Putin responded, “If by democracy you mean the dissolution of the state, then we don?t want it”.

Putin has made a wise decision by nixing a deal that would put Russia?s largest asset in the hands of a transnational corporation, but the move surely puts him at loggerheads with Washington. The present cast of characters at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is not likely to be dissuaded from their mission of trying to monopolize the world?s oil reserves, any more than they are they likely to stop trying to dismantle whatever WMD are not under their direct control. They probably consider the Khodorkovsky affair just a bump in the road.

After three years, we are beginning to see signs that various leaders are waking up to the transparent policy objectives of the Bush Administration. Notwithstanding, the propaganda that has deluged the world since 9-11, those objectives have been easily decipherable; control the oil and disarm any potential threat. In the long run this means disarming “big fish” like Russia and China as well as “small fries” like Libya and Iraq.

These policy goals will not change. The Bush Administration?s strategic tango in Central Asia should be seen for what it is; a way of projecting its power to the farthest corner of the empire, securing the regional assets, and neutralizing any potential adversary. It?s clear by Russia?s saber-rattling exercises that they are reading Washington?s message “loud and clear”, and don?t intend to go quietly.

Published Monday, February 2nd, 2004 - 08:26am GMT

Article courtesy of Al-Jazeerah

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