Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Is NATO broken?

I just have to ask. NATO today emphasized it's political support for the territorial integrity of Georgia and said it would set up a commission to deepen the ties between NATO and Georgia. According to timesonline a Georgian journalist asked a very revealing question. I quote from: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article4568150.ece - When Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato Secretary-General, announced at the end of the meeting that the alliance was to set up a Nato/Georgia Commission to facilitate intensive discussions with Tbilisi, a Georgian journalist asked : “With Russian troops deep inside Georgia, murdering and raping its people, what does this new Nato/Georgia Commission do for us?” -

A very good question. If NATO is not willing to even consider military action now, not even to raise the question so as to put some fear into the Russians when they are already illegally occupying and plundering Georgia, how will a NATO pledge and membership for Georgia ever be credible. Certainly the Russians would tempt and test NATO when Georgia becomes a member.

The other question is of course whether or not Georgia should be part of NATO at all? A good argument against is that it is simply over-extension and since NATO membership means the potential to drag all of Europe and the US into some horrible war against Russia (since the Russians have decided to treat NATO as the enemy) would we ever fight an industrial war with Russia over Georgia?

An argument for is the protection of Europe, particularly former Soviet states, against Russian intimidation. By extension this also means protection of the EU as a functioning and meaningful body. It is therefor quite astonishing to me that the countries that argue most ardently for federalism and a EU army seem to harbor most skepticism towards a meaningful response towards Russia. If Russia can intimidate Georgia into submission, then she will surely use the same tactic to tear the EU apart by intimidating Poland, the Baltics and the rest of Central-Eastern Europe.

I am not so sure the power to activate article five should be awarded to Georgia. After all not every scenario involving a military invasion by Russia in Georgia is worth a general war. However Russia clearly needs to be stopped now, and this is what NATO, and most likely it is the Europeans who are to blame, does not seem to comprehend. By ratcheting up meaningful pressure on Russia, that is raising the possibility of military support for Georgia should the Russians take the capital or linger we would put actions behind our words now when the risks for war are much smaller than should something similar happen once Georgia is a member. After all NATO has decided that Georgia, and Ukraine, should become a member and part of Europe so now is the time we demonstrate our commitment. Europe will only extend as far as Europe credibly extends its security umbrella.

NATO must put military muscle behind its words. NATO is not the peace-corp! Nor is it the UN. It is a collective security and defense organization and it is only credible as long as it demonstrates the willingness to use force to protect its members. It does not mean going to war with Russia, but it means sending a signal now, that will help us avoid the most horrible of all things. Awarding Georgia a membership which isn't credible. That will mean that a Russian test will force NATO to choose between extremes. War with Russia or NATO's death. Such a situation might force us to war with Russia over something so meaningless as a legal principle or 70 000 unhappy south-ossetians.

We must deny Russia strategic victory. Put actions behind words by sending in navy ships into the black sea, French, British and American. When the Russian bear is scared off we must find some way to incorporate Georgia and Ukraine, but not so that we will automatically go to war with Russia should the Russians do something stupid.

Monday, August 18, 2008

West and Russia in tense standoff

This is probably the worst crisis to hit West-Russia relations since the Cuban missile crisis. If Russia indeed intends to stay in Georgia this problem is very serious for Ukraine, Poland, Finland, the Baltics and the EU.

I never thought I'd see something as serious as this, it is in fact much more serious than both Iraq and Afghanistan put together due to the uncertainties that now seem to exist about who is in charge in Moscow. One could almost believe they had a coup!

Turkey has denied US naval ships to enter through its straits, which I believe is a mistake as it could in fact prolong the tensions as the West will be unable to clearly demonstrate its seriousness towards Russia's behavior.

Hopefully this will change at the NATO meeting tomorrow.

Russia keeps digging

The Russian army seems to be digging in Georgia and also placing SS-21 (NATO term) short-range rockets in northern Georgia.

This is obviously in blatant defiance of the intent and wording of the plan drawn up by Nicholas Sarkozy. It seems the Russian leadership is intent on wrecking their relationship with the EU to and adding a personal insult to Sarkozy by blaming "language problems" on their own very "nuanced" interpretation of the word "pullback" supposedly used by the French president on the phone.

The statements coming out of Moscow become more and more absurd. Who is in charge? And what is Medveded doing? He goes from promising complete withdrawal to making bellicose and threatening statements today against basically everyone in the world. At the same time his generals simultaneously come up with different versions of what is happening. One says they are withdrawing, the other say they are staying, while the soldiers seem to have been told they are to lounge around in Georgia and wait for news/orders.

At the end of the day actions speak louder than words.

Russia seems intent to stay in Georgia. What an awful strategy Putin and his puppets have chosen. They are ruining Russia's relations with Europe and the US and at the same time worsening their own security by literally chasing its former vassals into the arms of NATO. To think that NATO has even said that Russia could eventually join were it to become truly democratic and peaceful. That is of course out of the question now.

What lessons should we draw?

Lesson 1: Russia's strategy seems to be to intimidate its neighbors away from NATO. This is a very awful strategy. It seems the Kremlin has not studied the diplomacy of the German Kaiser before WW1. He tried to scare Britain into realizing it had to ally with Germany. We know what happened. After initial consultations the British, rightly, decided to initiate a warming of relations with France. We are already seeing the same happening in Ukraine, Poland and the rest of the former soviet republics who are now free countries and part of the west. What do we do? We must contain and engage. Russia must understand, and feel, the costs of this strategy it is now embarking on.

Lesson 2: Russia's words cannot really be trusted. This is nothing inherent with Russians, but seems to be part due to the unhealthy setup of its top leadership. Medveded is not really in charge and unable to really effect outcomes.

Lesson 3: The west MUST insure a free Georgia; it makes sense morally, legally and last but not least strategically. It would be foolish for Europe to let the only non-Russian energy transit line from central Asia to fall under Russian imperial/feudal control when we have seen how the Kremlin uses energy to send messages to other countries about how they ought to behave.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Russia allowed war-crimes in South Ossetia

According to the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/15/AR2008081503319.html) the leader of the Ossetian irregular forces admitted to forcing Georgians living in South Ossetia to leave the area and he admitted that he did not intend to allow them to return. Such a policy can probably be classified as a war-crime.

Where is the west's, and particularly, European outrage?
So quick are they to codemn Israel's fence or US mistakes in Iraq, but eager enough to accomodate the autocracy in the Kremlin. Only the British, Swedes and the former soviet dominated countries of Europe seem to understand the seriousness of the act comitted and allowed by Russia.

Might makes right it seems in Berlin, and mighty Russia can thrash tiny and democratic Georgia with Merkel laughing and smiling in Moscow. On top of that Sarcozy's peace plan seem to allow Russia to permenantly occupy northern Georgia for "security purposes".

What will the Europeans do if Russia threatens Ukraine or seizes the Crimea? Excuse and accomodate? Blame the Ukranians for making the bear angry by wishing to protect their democracy by joining NATO? It is time Europeans stopped being so damn cynical and help their eastern friends by helping protect their democracies from the autocracy of Putin's Russia. If Russia is allowed to increase its international with its current behavior democracy in eastern europe as well as russia is on the line.


NATO must be expanded

Some good links to opinions on Russias aggression

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/015/426usidf.asp?pg=2

http://www.economist.com/opinion/displayStory.cfm?source=hptextfeature&story_id=11920701


and a very good quote from http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=but_what_does_it_mean_for_nato
" While a Russia that felt more secure might feel less need to coerce, I'm not at all convinced that assuring Russia of its capability to violate norms of sovereignty and territorial integrity in certain areas is conducive toward winning eventual Russian acceptance of those norms."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Russia continues pushing the crisis - undermining its influence

The Russians are still occupying Georgia and acting in defiance of the West. They might seem powerful, and in military terms they are compared to Georgia, but they are behaving like a more brutal and aggressive version of the German Kaiser before WW1 trying to scare the British into understanding that they must ally with Germany. Russia is now trying to scare Ukraine, the Baltic states into accommodating its overreaching desires. At the same time it is trying to irk Poland away from the missile defense - which Poland answered today by signing the agreement with the US. Russia has really dug itself in a whole this time, because the likely result is a bunch of former soviet republics terrifies off this heedless bear at their borders and it will probably give them more of a reason to associate with the west, join NATO and fully integrate with the western world community.

The US Navy now has a chance to teach the Russians a lesson and send a signal to the Russians. In addition the British and French navy should join too, delivering aid, but also sending a clear signal to the Russians that we are not afraid of them, and that we too have military hardware. That the alliance stands strong. It would also prevent any confrontation between Ukraine and Russia that now seems to be brewing by reassuring Ukraine that we do not intend to leave them alone in their attempt to rid themselves of a resurgent and revanchist Russian madman.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Russia intends to win back its satellites

It is clear that Russia has perceived the West as weak and divided. It has seen the weak response to Iran's nuclear ambitions and it has perceived a change to teach it's neighbor's a lesson about aspiring for independence, democracy and freedom to live without fear of their great neighbor. Russia is not only "enforcing peace" in Georgia, Putin-Style, but sending a pretty clear message to Ukraine. Aspire for NATO membership and suffer the consequences.

At the same time, almost as a bonus, but probably very much in the forefront of Putin's Stalinesque foreign policy,he is showing us all how weak NATO and the West ist. Preoccupied and bickering over technicalities about who will fight in southern Afghanistan and who will not. The Georgian president has it completely right. What is at stake is not only Georgia, but the next 50 years of Western-Russian relations. The US and the EU must respond immediately. They should all leave the Olympics and immediately convene in at NATO HG and heads of state levels to discuss the situation.

The reaction should include, but not be limited, to the following.
Immediate diplomatic protest
Possibly recalling EU ambassadors to Russia.
Immediate promise of aid to Georgia - including indirect military aid.

What absolutely must be done, and should have been done long ago, is kicking Russia out of the G8. Russia does not understand how to act like a G8 country, neither in its actual behavior during the meetings, nor in the treatment of its neighbors. The idea that kicking Russia out will makes things more difficult is absolutely backwards. If we do not exact some cost on Russia now for this out-of-proportion act we will not be taken seriously later.

A failure to respond forcefully could lead inevitably, through the next crises that will surely come, move us to a new cold-war style relationship with Russia. Russia has already shown it considers the UN dead, NATO on it's death-bed and the West the distracted and weak.

The time for bickering is past us, now is the time to show the Russians that they can't do as they please in the Caucasus and that we mean it when we say no more military intimidation in Europe.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A press conference by Dubya on Iraq

Ah, just listened to W's press conference. And it was frustrating to listen to. It seems he has no policy or strategy to complete anything in Iraq! On a question from a reporter why he had claimed earlier that they could be out by years end Bush said that "at that time that was what the generals were telling me" This is revealing.

It seems to me that we have no real proactive policy, but are just reacting to events as they come unable to affect the outcome in Iraq in the long run.
It also seems to me that Bush is not "in charge" of the operation, and is basically just going whichever way the wind in Iraq blows. Neither him nor the generals know how to turn Iraq around. They are clinging to Iraq for the time being, but have no real strategy to tunr Iraq around. There is no connection between policy goals and what they are actually doing.

Which means that whoever follows Bush in 2008 will be stuck with the bill. Bush says he would not keep the soldiers in Iraq if he didn't believe they could suceed. Well Bush, if your strategy is based on hope, but little else, it doens't matter how brave the soldiers are. Why? because they are not being used the way they ought to, or in connection to a broader strategy. They are just trying to stay alive while the Iraqis have their little civil war.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ahmadinejads Letter - The Iranian Letter

After reading the letter that the Iranian president has sent too George W. Bush I believe that it is all the more a reason to stand firm against Irans games. The Iranian leader is clearly delusional if this letter reflects how he sees the world. He contradicts himself. He makes irrelevant points, and above all the letter does not adress any specifics. If he thinks the way this letter makes it look like he does, there is good reason to make sure Iran never gets nuclear technology with this leader in charge.

Ahmadinejad is delusional and dangerous. He is a sort of Hitler.

Read the letter at : http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-727571,36-769886,0.html