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Re: After Iraq?
by Boris Stremlin
08 April 2003 17:39 UTC
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The EU will indeed have to provide Russia with political cover in order to
tip the scales.  Putin sits on the fence until he sees an opening.  Right
now, he is saying that it is not in Russia's economic and
political interests for the US to lose in Iraq.  Of course, US victory
seems pretty certain at this point.  He is supported in this by the
Russian "liberal media", most of which comes out of institutions set up by
US money, and which has been pushing the line that a US defeat will hurt
Russia economically and bring about the rise of China (which they see as a
worse alternative).  The argument rests on the belief that US primacy, not
only military but economic, is unprecedented, and that the US holds the
key to Russia's integration into the global economic structures (WTO,

On the other hand, Putin also said that he expects the UN to take a
leading role in Iraq's reconstruction, and he has had the two Ivanovs (the
foreign and defense ministers) adopt a more aggressive stance toward the
US.  The majority of the population supported Iraq in the war, and the
generals seem to have prevailed on the Kremlin to increase military
spending and to raise its profile in Central Asia.  Elections are coming
up, and surprisingly enough, the Communists (recently described as "the
best opposition money can buy", though I suppose the US Democrats have
been giving them competition in this regard lately) are showing fairly
strong numbers.  Putin's parliamentary party will have to look tough for
the domestic audience.

Of course, Russia has been military involved with Syria, North Korea and
Iran for some time, but it will take greater support from the other world
powers for them to step it up enough to seriously challenge the US (and it
is difficult to see what, short of helping Iran develop its nukes, they
can do).  Condi Rice was just in Moscow offering Russia a few economic
concessions in Iraq in order to get Putin to fall into line.  He is now
waiting for what the EU will offer.  Chechnya has just held a
Kremlin-sponsored election where Kadyrov was essentially awarded
dictatorial power in return for renouncing the drive for independence.
Perhaps this will take Chechnya out of the news eventually, and make
allying with Russia more palatable for the EU.  At the same time
however, the Europeans have announced plans for setting up a Chechnya war
crimes tribunal, which, needless to say, has the Kremlin seeing red.  It
will have to reach an understanding with the EU on this matter before it
can afford to cut loose of the US.  In the long term, however, the
argument that the US is economically helpful to Russia seems to me quite
specious.  Not only have pundits overestimated US economic strength
globally, but thus far, Russia has seen little benefit from its post 9/11
relationship with the US - little progress on WTO, Jackson-Vanik is still
in effect, etc.  And of course, given the composition of the Bush team, it
is fairly unlikely that it will really forgive Russia for its stance on
Iraq, and moreover, other military conflicts along Russia's periphery will
make Putin seek alternatives in the not-too-distant future.

On Tue, 8 Apr 2003, n0705590 wrote:

> For as much as I would wish to see the emergence of a multipolar world, I just
> don't think this can happen without EU leadership.  Sadly, I believe the EU
> and the Euro are the only factors that can end the US dollar hegemony, upon
> which the mighty Pentagon also rests.  Russia is not even being allowed to
> join OPEC, īt is humiliated and it is in no state of going around planet earth
> provoking the US.  Europe and Japan are vital for the US insofar they
> partially cover for the massive US trade deficit through FDI and US Treasury
> Bonds.  Besides, I really wonder to what extent the Russian military apparatus
> would be able to stand up to the hyper technological US armed forces.
> >===== Original Message From Threehegemons@aol.com =====
> >I've been thinking lately about the prospects that the Russian military will
> be dragged into the mess the Americans are making.  Consider:
> >
> >Russia has been uneasy about all US military interventions in
> South/East/Central Asia.  Whereas European liberals welcomed the bombing of
> Belgrade, Russia consistently denounced this policy, because of historic ties
> to the Serbs, and, I suspect, strategic interests its difficult to quickly
> identify.  Before the US bombing of Afghanistan, the northern alliance was
> seen as a Russian sponsored project. Now it is installed in Kabul, but the
> Americans are still there. Its hard to determine exactly what's going on in
> Afghanistan today--certainly Russia still has concrete reasons to be uneasy
> about chaos on its Southern border.   Rumsfield has accused Russia of offering
> modest assistance to Iraq. Russia can't possibly be happy about the prospect
> of the US strengthening ties to some of the former Soviet republics in the
> South so it can fight more wars in the region. I have also heard rumors that a
> popular Russian internet site offering military analysis may be a pipeline for
> Iraqi p!
> > ropaganda.
> >
> >Consider also:  The US has made it clear it plans to deepen its intervention
> in the region, as  noted in the article Khaldoun posted. No conventional army
> stands in the US' way.  If Iran were to announce tommorrow that it is testing
> a nuke, this would impede the US, but it seems unlikely.  'Terrorist' attacks
> on US troops or even on US soil seem unlikely, in the short term, to reverse
> US involvement in the region.
> >
> >Russia, unlike Western Europe (but like the US), still has a vital
> militaristic culture.  In the short, perhaps even medium term, Europe is out
> of ideas as to how to stop the US.  The UN isn't effective, and Western Europe
> probably doesn't want to iniatate economic warfare (although it may be pushed
> in this direction through popular pressure).  Could Russia begin to emerge as
> the military arm of Europe, offering arms, and perhaps even troops, to Syria
> or Iran to defend themselves? Russia may plausibly believe that the US would
> worry about the Russian military in a way it does not worry about Iraq, Syria,
> etc.  Could a messy game of 'chicken' ensue?
> >
> >BTW, just so I don't clutter your mailbox with extra posts, my problem with
> the War for the Dollar theory is timing--the US/Britain broke off and began
> bombing Iraq in 1998 (I believe, haven't looked up the date recently).  Iraq
> went to the Euro in 1999.  Certainly the Euro is one element in the declining
> ability of the US to control Europe  and the semiperiphery.
> >
> >Steven Sherman
> Damian Popolo
> PhD candidate
> Newcastle University
> Department of Politics
> Room 301

Boris Stremlin

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