Montag, August 11, 2008

Putin, Georgia and American Culpability...

So, the so-called "thinkers" of the left mainstream have already decided who is to blame for the Russian attack on Georgia.

That's right, it's the US.

Sort of expected, isn't it?

But let's take a closer look, and I think you'll be surprised what you actually find...

Let's start here with Steve Clemons of The Washington Note.

Here's the money quote:

My own view is that the U.S. has displayed a reckless disregard for Russian interests for some time. I don't like Russia's swing to greater domestic authoritarianism and worry about its stiffened posture on a number of international fronts -- but Simes convinces me in his important Foreign Affairs essay, "Losing Russia," that much of what we are seeing unfold between Russia and Georgia involves a high quotient of American culpability.

But let's go take a look at that Foreign Affairs essay: what does it really say? And what is Steve and his fellow travelers failing to say?

The Reagan and first Bush administrations understood the dangers of a crumbling superpower and managed the Soviet Union's decline with an impressive combination of empathy and toughness. They treated Gorbachev respectfully but without making substantive concessions at the expense of U.S. interests. This included promptly rejecting Gorbachev's increasingly desperate requests for massive economic assistance, because there was no good reason for the United States to help him save the Soviet empire. But when the first Bush administration rejected Soviet appeals not to launch an attack against Saddam Hussein after Iraq invaded Kuwait, the White House worked hard to pay proper heed to Gorbachev and not "rub his nose in it," as former Secretary of State James Baker put it. As a result, the United States was able to simultaneously defeat Saddam and maintain close cooperation with the Soviet Union, largely on Washington's terms.

That's how US foreign policy works when grown-ups were in charge. But why, then, have things developed so very differently from that sublime state of affairs?

The Clinton administration's greatest failure was its decision to take advantage of Russia's weakness. The administration tried to get as much as possible for the United States politically, economically, and in terms of security in Europe and the former Soviet Union before Russia recovered from the tumultuous transition. Former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott has also revealed that U.S. officials even exploited Yeltsin's excessive drinking during face-to-face negotiations. Many Russians believed that the Clinton administration was doing the same with Russia writ large. The problem was that Russia eventually did sober up, and it remembered the night before angrily and selectively.

And this is where Clemons and the mainstream left are blind, blind, blind: it wasn't "American" blundering, but rather it was the express and deliberate way that the Clinton administration dealt with the collapsing Soviet Union.

In other words, that group of "clever policy wonks" fucked up royally.

Behind the façade of friendship, Clinton administration officials expected the Kremlin to accept the United States' definition of Russia's national interests. They believed that Moscow's preferences could be safely ignored if they did not align with Washington's goals. Russia had a ruined economy and a collapsing military, and it acted like a defeated country in many ways. Unlike other European colonial empires that had withdrawn from former possessions, Moscow made no effort to negotiate for the protection of its economic and security interests in Eastern Europe or the former Soviet states on its way out. Inside Russia, meanwhile, Yeltsin's radical reformers often welcomed IMF and U.S. pressure as justification for the harsh and hugely unpopular monetary policies they had advocated on their own.

Soon, however, even Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev -- known in Russia as Mr. Yes for accommodating the West -- became frustrated with the Clinton administration's tough love. As he told Talbott, who served as ambassador at large to the newly independent states from 1993 to 1994, "It's bad enough having you people tell us what you're going to do whether we like it or not. Don't add insult to injury by also telling us that it's in our interests to obey your orders."

But such pleas fell on deaf ears in Washington, where this arrogant approach was becoming increasingly popular. Talbott and his aides referred to it as the spinach treatment: a paternalistic Uncle Sam fed Russian leaders policies that Washington deemed healthy, no matter how unappetizing these policies seemed in Moscow. As Talbott adviser Victoria Nuland put it, "The more you tell them it's good for them, the more they gag." By sending the message that Russia should not have an independent foreign policy -- or even an independent domestic one -- the Clinton administration generated much resentment. This neocolonial approach went hand in hand with IMF recommendations that most economists now agree were ill suited to Russia and so painful for the population that they could never have been implemented democratically. However, Yeltsin's radical reformers were only too happy to impose them without popular consent.

In other words: the Clinton administration fucked up relations with Russia, not because of any conflicts with Russia, but by being paternalistic and arrogant. By not bothering to listen to experts and learn what reality is, but rather to project their own reality and act on what they thought they were being so fucking cute and clever about.

And these are the folks who want to get back into the White House????

It get, as you can expect, worse:

Other aspects of the Clinton administration's foreign policy further heightened Russia's resentment. NATO expansion -- especially the first wave, which involved the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland -- was not a big problem in and of itself. Most Russians were prepared to accept NATO enlargement as an unhappy but unthreatening development -- until the 1999 Kosovo crisis. When NATO went to war against Serbia, despite strong Russian objections and without approval from the UN Security Council, the Russian elite and the Russian people quickly came to the conclusion that they had been profoundly misled and that NATO remained directed against them. Great powers -- particularly great powers in decline -- do not appreciate such demonstrations of their irrelevance.

In other words, NATO expansion wasn't the problem: it was the sheer bloody-mindedness of Clinton's foreign policy that has led us to where we are today.

Notwithstanding Russian anger over Kosovo, in late 1999, Putin, then prime minister, made a major overture to the United States just after ordering troops into Chechnya. He was troubled by Chechen connections with al Qaeda and the fact that Taliban-run Afghanistan was the only country to have established diplomatic relations with Chechnya. Motivated by these security interests, rather than any newfound love for the United States, Putin suggested that Moscow and Washington cooperate against al Qaeda and the Taliban. This initiative came after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, by which time the Clinton administration had more than enough information to understand the mortal danger the United States faced from Islamic fundamentalists.

But Clinton and his advisers, frustrated with Russian defiance in the Balkans and the removal of reformers from key posts in Moscow, ignored this overture. They increasingly saw Russia not as a potential partner but as a nostalgic, dysfunctional, financially weak power at whose expense the United States should make whatever gains it could. Thus they sought to cement the results of the Soviet Union's disintegration by bringing as many post-Soviet states as possible under Washington's wing. They pressed Georgia to participate in building the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, running from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean and bypassing Russia. They encouraged Georgia's opportunistic president, Eduard Shevardnadze, to seek NATO membership and urged U.S. embassies in Central Asia to work against Russian influence in the region. Finally, they dismissed Putin's call for U.S.-Russian counterterrorist collaboration as desperate neoimperialism and an attempt to reestablish Russia's waning influence in Central Asia. What the Clinton administration did not appreciate, however, was that it was also giving away a historic opportunity to put al Qaeda and the Taliban on the defensive, destroy their bases, and potentially disrupt their ability to launch major operations. Only after nearly 3,000 U.S. citizens were killed on September 11, 2001, did this cooperation finally begin.

In other words, the royal screw up happened almost exclusively on Clinton's watch: he blew it. Everyone involved with Clinton's foreign policy - all of the mainstream left policy wonks - bears blame for what is happening. This wasn't some accident that sort of kind of happened, but rather was the deliberate policy of the Clinton Administration.

If you're gonna blame the US, let's be accurate about it.

Clinton fucked up.

And think on this: Obama's army of supporters, his 300 experts on foreign policy, how many of them were either directly involved with the above, how many still think that Clinton's foreign policy fiascos were the cat's meow?


1 Kommentar:

Anonym hat gesagt…

I found your posts on the Russia-Georgia War very useful.