Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Russian Rhetoric Not Well Received By Europeans

So says the IHT in this article. (This is a follow-up to this post published a week ago, Monday)

WARSAW: Despite deep differences between Europe and the United States over the Iraq war, missile defense and NATO's future, President Vladimir Putin of Russia failed in a harsh speech to widen the dispute with Washington, according to security analysts in Poland and elsewhere.

"The reason is that Putin's true colors were revealed," said Marek Ostrowski, a Polish foreign policy expert. "We Poles are used to Russia trying to split the European allies and the trans-Atlantic relationship. But this time around everyone could sense his arrogance — which is why he provoked little sympathy."

If anything, Putin's speech last weekend to the Munich Security Conference, in which he attacked the Bush administration's foreign policy and its unwillingness to treat Russia as an equal partner, hardened the resolve of the Czech government. It said it would press ahead with plans to base the radar component of a missile-defense system on its territory.


The irony is all of this (as is implied in the article) is the two nations that are most critical of Vladimir Putin's harsh tone are two former Warsaw Pact countries that Putin still feels the need to bully around, as if the Pact is still in effect. The article goes on to point out that much of Europe's leaders that have embraced Putin in some measure or degree have left office, or are about to leave in the near future:

....the European leaders who were closest to Putin have left or are about to leave the political stage.

The conservative chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, in power since late 2005, has no qualms in criticizing Putin's human rights record — unlike her Social Democratic predecessor, Gerhard Schröder. Last month, Merkel publicly reprimanded Putin for failing to notify Germany that he was cutting off energy supplies to Belarus, which in turn prevented supplies reaching Germany.

Jacques Chirac, the French president, who personally oversaw his country's Russian policy, is not expected to seek re-election this spring. Prime Minister Romano Prodi of Italy is less tolerant of Putin than his predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi.


In the past, this would look to be the light at the end of the tunnel. The leaders of these states and others are not happy with the way Putin wants to do business and have said so, in so many words. But in this, the day and age (of the EU trying to assert it's influence over the unwilling), we can see that this is not necessarily the case:

Several new EU members, particularly Poland and the Baltic states, are questioning what some have seen as a cozy relationship between the EU and Moscow.

"If you look at who is in power at the moment in Europe, a kind of middle ground with respect to Russia is emerging," said Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform in London. That new middle ground will be tested in the coming months when the EU starts negotiating a new trade, economic and political agreement with Russia.

"The member states have now heard Putin explain the new Russia," Bailes said. "The ball is in Brussels's court."


I do not recommend anyone holding their breath on this one. The EU has already shown its colors in other attempts to undermine the sovereignty of its members. Rather that work for the European nations that it represents, it clearly demonstrates time after time that it's only interest is, justifying its own existence.

But, be that as it may, this flap generated by putting defense shield missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland is proving to be the catalyst in a new era of "Cold War" relations between the west and Russia. Russia is not content to allow a purely defensive system to be installed near its borders, without a barrage of threats by Russian military officials.

(MOSCOW) — Poland and the Czech Republic risk being targeted by Russian missiles if they agree to host a proposed U.S. missile defense system, a top Russian general warned Monday. Russia has been increasingly bellicose in its response to the U.S. proposal to build the missile defense system in Eastern Europe. President Vladimir Putin has said he does not trust U.S. claims that the system would be to guard the American East Coast and Europe from missiles launched from "rogue nations" in the Middle East.

Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, head of Russia's missile forces, said the system would upset strategic stability. It would be the first such site in Europe.

"If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic take such a step ... the Strategic Missile Forces will be capable of targeting these facilities if a relevant decision is made," he said.

This begs some new questions. What are the real objectives of the Russian government? Are they planning on a new empire or are they truly scared that their threats and overall bellicosity will not be heeded in future endeavors?

And what do the Czechs say about the Russian attempts to intimidate them?

Read this:


WARSAW (Reuters) - The Czech Republic said on Tuesday it would not be intimidated by Russia over plans to site parts of a U.S. missile defense system on its territory and said attempts at "blackmail" by Moscow would backfire.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said threats by Russian officials over the plans, which would involve placing a radar system on Czech land and a missile battery in Poland, would only make Czechs more determined to defend themselves.


Sounds like someone is not afraid of the big bad wolf.

15 comments:

Greg said...

Some idiot on another blog we frequent wondered aloud some time ago why countries like Poland and Czech would follow the US (into Iraq no less). He publicly mocked them.

I mock that idiot back, b/c he doesn't see what is so obvious: the eastern European nations who are pursuing friendly relations with the US do so b/c they remember the repressive life under Soviet domination. Of course, the left-wing intelligensia in countries like France, who could admire Soviet communism from afar without suffering under it don't get it. They are the same kind of people who travelled to Moscow to meet Stalin and jointly bash the US.

So, little has changed. Old Europe adores Putin b/c he's with them in the "Peace Camp" (you know - the luminaries like Chirac, Assad & Ahmadinejad - who wanted to keep their friend Saddam in power). They risk nothing by cozying up to the fascist Putin. New Europe knows better.

Greg said...

Actually, let me remove Ahmadinejad from the Peace Camp. I don't know if he was in there. Instead, stick in Qhaddaffi. Wonderful group of people, in any case.

LASunsett said...

Greg,

//Of course, the left-wing intelligensia in countries like France, who could admire Soviet communism from afar without suffering under it don't get it.//

France has always had an affinity for Russia. See: Franco-Russian Alliance. But the French got screwed when Russia had its revolution during WWI and pulled out of the war, leaving France to fare for itself.

BEING HAD said...

Well, to me I think s obvious that Russia is trying to take as many dollars as they can. I think that they are doing this firstly because they can, at least in the gas and oil markets, and secondly because this his exactly what they have been shown as being the way to deal with foreign countries by the West and the EU. Frankly, I really don't understand how Europe and the US can be surprised or shocked. Both have continually believed that they have a right to deal with foreign countries as if they themselves were elected leaders there. Why be so surprised that Russia simply might not like the US?

I tell you, I am of the age where I can remember those pre-Gorbechov days when we all used to fear that one day there would be a mushroom cloud out there on the horizon. Well guess what, in fifteen years of alleged peace, the US has selfishly never allowed for free trade without attaching strings of control to every deal and because of this, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and all of the former USSR have been made to live in endless poverty. During this time, the US has been murderously against the Russians, Belarusians, etc, scandalizing them, making trade sanctions against them, slandering them and otherwise heaping abuse. Why should anyone be shocked to find out that there is conflict? Why should anyone be shocked that they do business with countries who are also anti-US? And with terrorists like in Iran. To me, the US is simply getting what they have been asking for: A fight to the death.

LASunsett said...

Hi Being Had,

Welcome to PYY.

//Well guess what, in fifteen years of alleged peace, the US has selfishly never allowed for free trade without attaching strings of control to every deal and because of this, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and all of the former USSR have been made to live in endless poverty. During this time, the US has been murderously against the Russians, Belarusians, etc, scandalizing them, making trade sanctions against them, slandering them and otherwise heaping abuse.//

What specifics can you offer besides accusations. Because honestly, I am not looking at this the same way. I see Russia as trying to meddle in the affairs of the former eastern bloc nations far worse, than the US could imagine.

The Ukrainian election and the poisoning of a candidate that Moscow didn't like. When has the US done anything like that?

How about bullying nations over energy? Specifically, when did the US use mafioso techniques of blackmail in order to jack up the prices exponentially, in one shot?

For fifteen years, the former Soviet nations have sought after a better relationship with western Europe and the US. For fifteen years Russia has been undermining that effort, far more so under Putin than his two immediate predecessors.

You are entitled to believe what you want, but I don't see anything remotely like what you describe.

Greg said...

Yeah, Being Had, what kinds of "strings" is the US attaching? You mean, like democratic reforms, adherence to international norms on human rights, and other awful things like that? Ask Ukranians who is oppressing them. I doubt many will say the US. The Russians brazenly use a major oil pipeline to try to extract obedience to the Kremlin. Nice! I have no patience for people who think the US is the big problem in the world today. It's a mental illness.

beinghad said...

Sorry for the delay. Firstly, thank you for your welcome. Let me try and field these one at a time, though really, I must tell you that I prefer, if possible, not to be the bulls eye. I live in Belarus, I think I understand the Belarusian perspective and I do see things a little different than the standard current western mindset. But I shall do my best.

1. The Ukrainian Elections simply proved that the people of Ukraine would prefer a stronger attachment to Russia than to the EU. This to me has to do with style of life and not wishing their money to be siphoned out of the country and into the EU. Most of the rhetoric written about those elections were written from the perspective of the west and therefore this is the view that you get. The results might not be the same in the next elections, oil and gas prices might drive people from Moscow, we'll see in the next elections.
2. The "fifteen years" is a period of time in which there were two economic collapses in Russia and correspondingly in Belarus. One in 1991, where everyone lost all their money, and there was another in 1998- same result. At the time of the fall of the wall, the Soviets believed that they could garner loans from the west to re-invigorate their economy; there were promises made. However, the actual amount sent over was very small and all of these loans came with strings attached that said that, as you say, democratization and market reforms needed to accompany them. In general, people here felt that, just as I said about Ukraine, that these strings made for a parent child relationship between west and east, as well as a rout for money to leave the country. This is especially true for Ukraine, unlike Belarus where the west was allowed to simply buy is way in. Not allowing for any carpet-bagging from the west got Mr. Lukashenka labeled a dictator. It also got him elected with 83% of the vote.
3. This from Greg's comment, the "strings" again are simply that systemic reforms needed to be made, but inevitably what this means was having the West for a master.

People in the Soviet Union, being communists, sorry iof the word hurts, wished to work as a group, for the good of all, and would prefer that their work benefit their own country rather than simply making profits for foreigners. You can sight as evidence all of the elections over the last few years and the polls which have shown that well over half of everybody here wants a return of the Union.

As a resident of Belarus I am completely unhappy with the events of this last New Years. I know we are seeing a huge price hike in all things immediately, and I fear it could get much worse, especially if and when this price hiking exceeds the ability for most Belarusians to pay. However, though this particular misery comes from Russia, the trade embargos and sanctions come from the West. If there had at least been normal market relations, there would have at least been an opportunity for Belarus to sell its tractors and potash fertilizer. Participation in the market would have let to both an increase in productivity, creativity and in the general wage base. An increase in the wage base would have bred more small, independent business and entrepreneurialism. But this didn't happen because the West, probably still thinking as I the McCarthy years, seems to think that I must be in control of foreign lands in order not to feel a "threat to its security".

I believe that the 83% Belarusian elections were real, I believe that our new "Bay of Pigs" missile issue and new threats of nuclear war all stem from the West's demands that the people bow and kneel. I believe that handing over Uranium to Iran stems from this. I believe that Belarus has been slandered over and over again by the US government the American press, and I simply do not know why the US needs to demand to be so heavy handed, but they are. They are heavy handed here, in the Middle East, in south America, etc. I particularly feel that all of this is more about energy than it is about "human rights". If it was, the US would not be apposed to a group of people who wish for, and democratically voted for, staying as a group, together and spreading the money around for all.

This was a long comment. I like your blog.
Adam
www.beinghad.com

LASunsett said...

Being Had,

//Firstly, thank you for your welcome. Let me try and field these one at a time, though really, I must tell you that I prefer, if possible, not to be the bulls eye.//

Not to worry, I do not allow commenters to make other commenters a bullseye. Your opinions expressed, however, may be taken to task and disagreed with, but you (personally) will not be attacked. I have worked very hard to make this blog a place where intelligent people can discuss the issues of the day without being called names and insulted, like some other blogs.

So, without further rambling from me, let's look at some of your response:

//The Ukrainian Elections simply proved that the people of Ukraine would prefer a stronger attachment to Russia than to the EU.//

Correct me if I am wrong here. Didn't Yanukovych represent the status quo establishment that wanted things to maintain as they were, to include maintaining close ties to Moscow? Didn't Yushchenko represent the opposition to that ideal and express the desire to align themselves more closely to the west?

That is certainly the way I have understood this. Here are some other things I have also understood:

I know that from where I sit, I watched another very divided country erupt into what could have been a very delicate situation, even to the point of splitting the nation.

I also know that the people that hit the streets were overwhelmingly "orange". At least, that's the image that was broadcast throughout the rest of the world, save (maybe) Russia.

I also know there is very strong evidence of Mr. Yushchenko being poisoned by dioxin, prior to the election. Doesn't it seem odd that this would occur, immediately prior to what was expected to be a very close election?

This is a complex set of circumstances, I know. But, now having seen the Litvinenko case unfold, coupled with the assassinations of certain Russian journalists that have been critical of Putin, I can only conclude that there is something rotten in Denmark. Mafia-style hits and poisonings are a trademark of the old KGB. And as we all know, Putin was in the KGB. So, while I may not have hard evidence in my hand, one can only rationally conclude that the Russian government is involved.

Why would that be? Because their fear is that the tide is turning against the old order.

So, I would dispute your assertion that the Ukrainian elections have demonstrated that the nation's elections were a referendum on keeping that old order intact. But I would say that the nation is as divided as any democratic nation is in the world today.

//People in the Soviet Union, being communists, sorry iof the word hurts, wished to work as a group, for the good of all, and would prefer that their work benefit their own country rather than simply making profits for foreigners. You can sight as evidence all of the elections over the last few years and the polls which have shown that well over half of everybody here wants a return of the Union.//

There is that sense, that many would like a turn backward. But I would submit that for the long-term this would be a tragic mistake. Many of the same reasons that caused the USSR to fail in the first place, would turn up again. The world is moving towards a new age of mercantilism, which has been termed "the global economy". I have mixed feelings about it and have explained why in certain posts. But the bulk of the world doesn't care what i think, and is moving towards it, anyway. With that said, for Russia and the former Soviet bloc nations to survive, without eventually collapsing into a state of anarchy, they must get with the program. But they must do it under a business model that is predicated on competition, rather than a mob mentality like that has developed in Russia since the collapse of the USSR.

In Russia, the black market was very strong at the time of the collapse. Therefore the ones that were in the best position to assume the role of entrepreneurs and businessmen, were the mobs. Today that mentality still exists in Mother Russia, now that those mobs are legit. Unfortunately, they forgot to leave their strong-armed tactics behind as they made their transition.

Again, welcome. Feel free to comment anytime.

beinghad said...

Your words of welcome are gentle and kind.

Basically, I have two thoughts. Firstly, that Ukrainian election, though divided, was not in any way a victory for the west and really, this is how lots of people saw this as the core of the argument at the time. I still think this I so. I remember the last time I was in Kiev. This was before the elections and people in the city center were extremely unhappy. Universally they were complaining that their world had been taken away from them, their lives had not become better and they were simply becoming more and more indebted to western businesses who were taking money from the country. And believe me, USSR people are realists, when I say everyone, I mean everyone.

As far as splitting the nation, Crimea has split and it is very, very possible that an east/west split could occur should the greedy Russian hierarchy ever calm down. Or maybe they are just building the bank for us all, who knows. In any case, they could easily be the linchpin in creating a new Union. If this should happen, a least the Eastern half of Ukraine would sign on the first day though my bet would be that they all would join: First ballot, first day.

And as for communism in general… let me say this: I really don't know why communism needs to be thought of as a dirty word. Why must we consider choosing socialism democratically a backwards step for Belarus or Russia or Ukraine. To them, western thinking simply means choosing to dissolve all interpersonal relationships and living an isolated life of have's and have not's. Why must this be a step forward? What makes you think that living in an economic jungle is the epoch of humanity? There must be a place for communal thought and many, many millions of people in the world believe that at least having an alternative thought, a second party if you will, balances out unchecked capitalism allows for a life more worth living. I feel it is a very natural thing to want to belong to a community, to play a role in that community. And really, why isn't participating in one's community thought of as an essential, basic, fundamental element of life? Why is this backwards thinking?

Perhaps a better way to understand Belarus is to imagine that she is simply a great big corporation with 10 million employees. Not all of the employees like being with the company, only about 83% think that this is the way to go. But what is interesting about this company is that in the minds of the employees, they are of the understanding that if the company is successful, that this is for the benefit of all and so all feel a responsibility for this. You know, like profit sharing. And please, forgive them if they like it this way, or that they believe that this is a better way to live than just thinking of what they can personally get out of it.

In my mind, I believe that the real problem with Belarus is not the "Last Dictator in Europe", but rather that Europe and the US have not allowed a place in the global market for the things that Belarus has to sell or do. I don't believe in European or American altruism at all. I mean, ok, I believe that (some) Americans and Europeans might like to feel that they are doing nice things for the world, but the fact is that their involvement is 167% self serving and detrimental to this country and a lot of others. If Belarus would be (would have been) simply be allowed to participate in the open market, sell some tractors, some potash fertilizers, so peat or do some manufacturing, this would generate much, much needed revenue. And from this rather than from stabbing each other in the back, there would be a rise in wages and from that would come entrepreneurialism, small business and the growth of the democratic individual with a vested interest in his lot.

But instead they are strangled and starved, have been starved in fact for 15 years; not by Lukashenko, but by a Europe and America that wishes to control the country's resources. And if Belarus has never accepted this "democratization for dollars" program, it is simply because they had no interest in being broken up and sold for parts.

LASunsett said...

Being Had,

//And as for communism in general… let me say this: I really don't know why communism needs to be thought of as a dirty word. Why must we consider choosing socialism democratically a backwards step for Belarus or Russia or Ukraine.//

I cannot argue with the fact that if a nation wants a socialist economy (and votes for people that want it) that it's necessarily an evil thing. If that's what they want, that's what they want. I know several people that have emigrated to the US from Belarus, the Ukraine, Slovenia, and even Russia. They tell a much different story about what communism did to, and didn't do for, them.

But if the people see nothing wrong with Russia pulling the purse strings (over and above, America and Europe) that's fine. I guess we can chalk that up to competition.

I just have trouble with the harshness that that comes with it all.

It makes a person like me (one looking from the outside in), highly suspicious of the matter. I say this because, I am seeing the political playbook that one could attribute to the unfair political system (with all of its intolerance for dissent) being used to coerce there way into the "company" ledger.

I also had a guy from Bulgaria tell me one time, that one of his relatives had been a government worker, back in the Soviet system. His crew would be allowed three days to dig up one tree, when it took only one. The first two days they did little; they ate, drank, and played cards. The third day they dug up the tree and went back for their next assignment. He said he wanted more for his life than just skating by. In essence, he was bored.

Remnants of that system may work in many of the former Soviet nations, but it cannot work here in the States or in Europe, despite the fact that there are some socialist government programs here and more socialist government programs there.

I also look to the New Harmony experiments that failed. Although it may be a noble thought to want every one equal, it was/is a Utopian concept that never succeeded on even that small of a model, much less on a larger one.

beinghad said...

Well, many of the Kibutzim in Israel succeeded and are still around and basically, they were all simply collective farms. I understand what you are saying and I know you are right in what people who have immigrated have to say. However, we also have people who have immigrated come back and say the life in America is terrible and lonely and that everything but the money was better back home. I guess the grass is always greener. Listen, I am not saying that Belarus is a utopia. Far, far from it. But I am saying that I remember a day when they made some really great people and they lived together far better than the most civilized American you could ever meet in your life. I was impressed by this, took pride that I was from here because of this and have probably stayed on here because of this as well.

Actually, I wish people would just come out and see for themselves. The rhetoric against the country is really what is harsh here. I had Robert Mayer of the Publius pundit blog for a guest for a few days. I don't think there is a more pro-democracy guy out there than Robert but he was rather taken with our little town of Pinsk. We sort of broke his heart a little. I wish more people would simply come and see. I think you'd be surprised how gentle it is. In fact, I personally am inviting you right now. Come and see for yourselves what all the fuss is about.

LASunsett said...

Being Had (From now on, BH)

//I wish more people would simply come and see. I think you'd be surprised how gentle it is.//

I have no reason to doubt your word on this. Being termed socialist does not automatically mean it's a bad thing, if that is what the majority of people that must live under it want. I am also quite sure there many good Russian people that would treat us right, if we were to visit them.

The average people are not the issue here. It is the Russian government that I am criticizing, although we did get sidetracked a bit, on Belarus and the Ukraine.

//In fact, I personally am inviting you right now. Come and see for yourselves what all the fuss is about.//

Very kind of you to invite, but with a son in college and a daughter that is threatening to go, my plans cannot include a trip to anywhere but on the North American continent right now. I simply must prepare them to survive in the dog-eat-dog and rat-race world that capitalism offers us. ;)

I lived in the former West Germany for two years and traveled all about western Europe. I stood on the border with East Germany and was depressed by what I saw. I would love to see how the former Warsaw countries have changed since the end of the Warsaw Pact, as we know it then. Maybe, someday, I will take you up on it though.

beinghad said...

It's an open invitation. And, I do believe that 83% voted to keep Lukashenka and well over 50% of all people who live in the former Soviet Union voted that they wanted to return to something like that.

I know that it has been put I the American mindset to be against the East. Bit all I have ever said is that there is something to be said for the culture. I think it made for good people. I don't want war, but I also don't want economic war. We got 6 billion people now, we grave ecological problems, we have worse social problems. I just think it is time to agree to get together.

LASunsett said...

BH,

//I know that it has been put I the American mindset to be against the East//

I have no idea how old you are, but I still remember the nuclear drills in school as a kid. The mindset has changed quite a bit, since those days. I think you'd be surprised much of that is now redirected elsewhere now.

BEING HAD said...

Duck and cover, right? I saw those films too. But you have to understand that as far as what is written about Belarus and Russia, it's all pretty dire. And I just read that England is paying for 160 missiles, something like $100 billion. This annoys me to no end because we are heading towards a potential nuclear confrontation and I don't like this one bit. I was in San Francisco during the 1989 Earthquake. I was also in Manhattan on September 11th. I have no romantic notions about either of those two events. And I guess I am pretty close to Chernobyl now, or at least I am living with the people that went through that. I have my issues with humanity but I do not wish for the human race to have to go through a nuclear exchange.