Posts Tagged ‘Vladimir Putin’

Chechen leader ‘should testify’ at Politkoskaya trial

November 18, 2008

November 17, 2008

Russian human rights advocate, journalist and author Anna Politkovskaya


Anna Politkosvkaya was Russia’s best known investigative reporter

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The President of Chechnya should be called to give evidence in the Anna Politkovskaya murder trial, one of her lawyers said today.Ramzan Kadyrov should answer questions in the case against four men accused of involvement in the killing of the campaigning journalist, Karinna Moskalenko, who represents Ms Politkovskaya’s family, said.

She said that Chechnya’s feared strongman had not been questioned by investigators although he was repeatedly mentioned in case files and witness accounts. Ms Moskalenko added that Mr Kadyrov had “threatened Politkovskaya”.

Ms Politkovskaya repeatedly criticised the Chechen leader in her reports for Novaya Gazeta newspaper and accused militias loyal to him of carrying out acts of torture.

“Questioning him is important to the case,” said Ms Moskalenko. “The investigators also ignored the fact that the murder took place on Vladimir Putin’s birthday.”

The demand came after Moscow District Military Court ruled at the opening of the trial that the case against the defendants should be heard in public. Judge Yevgeny Zubov rejected prosecution arguments that the case should be heard in secret because one of the accused is a former agent with the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet Union’s KGB.

The decision was a surprise victory for the Politkovskaya family, who had been pressing for an open trial. Military courts normally hear cases in secret because they are presumed to involve sensitive material.

“I did not expect that this decision would be taken. With this judge there is the chance of a fair trial,” Ms Moskalenko told reporters.

The former FSB officer Pavel Ryaguzov is said to have provided the journalist’s home address to her alleged assassin. That man, Rustam Makhmudov, is not on trial, however.

He has disappeared since being accused of killing Politkovskaya and investigators believe that he has fled the country. Two of his brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, are on trial, accused of tracking Ms Politkvoskaya’s movements in the two weeks before she was gunned down in the lobby of her apartment building in Moscow.

The fourth defendant is Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former investigator with the organised crime unit of Moscow police. All four have denied the charges.

Investigators have still failed to identify who might have ordered the journalist to be killed and why. Defence lawyer Murad Mussayev dismissed the case as a trial of “two drivers and a go-between”.

He said: “We want the world to see that the goal of this trial is to show that a major crime has been solved when that is not true.”

Ms Politkovskaya was shot on Vladimir Putin’s 54th birthday in October 2006, sparking international outrage and fears that critics of the Kremlin were being silenced. Mr Putin, who was then President, initially remained silent but pledged days later that the killers would be caught, calling the journalist’s death “an unacceptable crime that cannot go unpunished.”

Ms Politkovskaya, who was 48, was a fierce critic of Mr Putin, particularly over the conduct of the war in Chechnya. She catalogued abuses committed by Russian forces and by private militias loyal by Mr Kadyrov.

In a radio interview two days before she died, Ms Politkovskaya implicated a group controlled by Mr Kadyrov in killings. She said: “I am conducting an investigation about torture today in Kadyrov’s prisons. These are people who were abducted by Kadyrovsty for completely inexplicable reasons and who died.”

Her final article in Novaya Gazeta was incomplete but detailed evidence of torture on civilians by police in Chechnya, including stills from a video showing assaults on two unidentified victims. The published material did not link Mr Kadyrov directly to the allegations, however, and he has repeatedly denied any involvement in her death.

Poison stalks trial of murdered Putin critic

October 16, 2008

By Miriam Elder in Moscow | The Independent, Thursday, 16 October 2008

Protesters mark the anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya's murder


Protesters mark the anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder

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A lawyer representing the family of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya has apparently been targeted by poisoners as the trial of three men accused of involvement in her murder was about to begin.

French police confirmed the discovery of mercury pellets in the car of Karinna Moskalenko, who suffered headaches, dizziness and nausea after getting into the vehicle.

Ms Moskalenko was taken to hospital for tests in Strasbourg on Tuesday, which prevented her from flying to Moscow for the Politkovskaya trial. The preliminary hearing opened almost exactly two years after the crusading reporter died in a hail of bullets in the entrance to her apartment block.

The three men, including a former police officer, are on trial in connection with the murder of Ms Politkovskaya, who made her name challenging Vladimir Putin’s regime. Friends and colleagues believe her killers may never be found.

Lawyers for the defendants and Ms Politkovskaya’s family have called for an open trial to provide transparency in a case charged with politics and cloaked in conspiracy. “It was made clear to us all that the hearing will likely take place behind closed doors, as the case contains secret materials,” said defence lawyer Murat Musayev.

Ms Moskalenko is a leading defender of the Kremlin’s critics, including the jailed former oil tycoon and ex-chief executive of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the chess-champion-turned opposition politician Garry Kasparov. She said that she believed the poisoning was a warning. “When we got to the car, we realised something was not normal. My husband is a chemist and the substance looked like mercury. I’m worried for my family,” she said.

Another lawyer for Mr Khodorkovsky, Robert Amsterdam, said the timing was suspicious. “This type of event gives us all pause to consider what it takes now in Russia to defend human rights. There are ongoing attacks on lawyers and journalists.”

Kremlin critics have often been the targets of poisoners. Ms Politkovskaya herself fell ill after drinking a cup of tea while on her way to cover the aftermath of the Beslan school siege in which more than 300 people died, while the former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko died in London from radiation poisoning. Scotland Yard wants to extradite his fellow ex-KGB operative, Andrei Lugovoi, to be tried for his murder. Another case of alleged mercury poisoning was reported two years ago, involving the wife of an ex-director of Yukos, Alexei Golubovich. Mr Amsterdam said: “What matters is not if it’s related to Yukos or Politkovskaya but that it’s another human rights defender that’s in this situation.”

Sergei Sokolov, the deputy editor of Ms Politkovskaya’s newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, said that Ms Moskalenko “takes part in a lot of prominent cases. It’s not necessarily directly linked to this case.” Ms Moskalenko helps Russians press claims against the government at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The trial judge reportedly refused to postpone yesterday’s preliminary hearing, which involved two ethnic Chechen brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police officer. All stand accused of aiding the killer, who remains on the run. Investigators suspect him to be Rustam Makhmudov, although investigators d do not know who ordered the murder.

Ms Politkovskaya won countless enemies through her articles and books chronicling human rights abuses and the fall of democracy in modern Russia, particularly through her scrutiny of Moscow’s brutal wars in Chechnya.

She was killed on 7 October 2006 – the then President Vladimir Putin’s birthday. He denied any Kremlin link to the killing but failed for days to comment on the death, before dismissing it as “insignificant”. Last week, hundreds commemorated the second anniversary of Ms Politkovskaya’s death. “It’s sad we don’t know, two years after the murder, who did it, who ordered it,” Vladimir Milov, a former deputy energy minister turned Putin critic, said at the rally.

The military court is due to meet again on 17 November to decide if the trial will be open to the public and the media, and to assemble a jury.

Putin: US orchestrated conflict in Georgia

August 29, 2008

Putin: US orchestrated Georgia conflict, suggests motive was to affect US president election

STEVE GUTTERMAN | AP News Aug 28, 2008 19:36 EST

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Thursday of instigating the fighting in Georgia and said he suspects a connection to the U.S. presidential campaign — a contention the White House dismissed as “patently false.”

In a decision he said was unrelated to unraveling Russia-U.S. ties, Putin also ordered that 19 American poultry producers be barred from selling their products to Russia. He said the unnamed companies ignored demands that they correct alleged deficiencies.

Putin, the former president and architect of an assertive foreign policy that has stoked East-West tension, suggested in an interview with CNN that there was an American presence amid the combat with a potential domestic U.S. political motive.

“We have serious grounds to think that there were U.S. citizens right in the combat zone” during Russia’s war with the U.S.-allied ex-Soviet republic, he said the interview broadcast on state-run Russian television. “And if that’s so, if that is confirmed, it’s very bad. It’s very dangerous.”

Putin’s acid attack on the United States came as Moscow’s bid to redraw Georgia’s borders hit an obstacle among its Asian allies who refused to recognize the two Russian-backed breakaway regions of Georgia. France, meanwhile, said the European Union is considering sanctions against Russia for its conduct in the Caucasus.

Putin said that Russia had hoped the U.S. would restrain Georgia, which Moscow accuses of starting the war by attacking South Ossetia on Aug. 7. Instead, he suggested the U.S. encouraged the nation’s leadership to try to rein in the separatist region by force.

“The American side in fact armed and trained the Georgian army,” Putin said. “Why hold years of difficult talks and seek complex compromise solutions in interethnic conflicts? It’s easier to arm one side and push it into the murder of the other side, and it’s over.

“It seems like an easy solution. In reality it turns out that it’s not always so,” he said.

The United States has close ties with the Georgian government and has trained Georgian units. The Pentagon has said that the U.S. had about 130 trainers in Georgia when the fighting erupted earlier this month, including a few dozen civilians who were all working to prepare the Georgian forces for deployment to Iraq.

But Russian officials have made statements aimed to convey the idea that Americans may have directly supported Georgia’s offensive.

At a briefing Tuesday, the deputy chief of Russian military general staff, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, showed off a color copy of what he said was a U.S. passport found in a basement in a village in South Ossetia among items that belonged to Georgian forces.


“We found a passport for Michael Lee White,” Nogovitsyn said. “He’s a Texan.”

The U.S. Embassy in Georgia said it had no information on the matter.

In an interview with France 24 to be aired Friday, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said there were no American “commanders or even advisers” in the conflict zone. He said the conflict had nothing to do with the U.S., but “the aggression of the Russians.”

Putin appeared to link claims of an American presence amid the combat with a potential domestic U.S. political motive.

“If my guesses are confirmed, then that raises the suspicion that somebody in the United States purposefully created this conflict with the aim of aggravating the situation and creating an advantage … for one of the candidates in the battle for the post of U.S. president.”

Putin did not name a party or candidate. Some pro-Kremlin Russian politicians have claimed U.S. Republicans hoped the war would help keep Democrat Barack Obama out of the White House by fomenting concern among voters over security, which some of the Russians consider to be a strong-suit of Republican candidate John McCain, a strong Kremlin critic.

White House press secretary Dana Perino called Putin’s contentions “patently false.” She said “it also sounds like his defense officials who said they believe this to be true are giving him really bad advice.”

She added: “To suggest that the United States orchestrated this on behalf of a political candidate just sounds not rational.”

Perino said Russia is facing the consequences of a diminished global reputation and that “there will be other” consequences as well. She refused to say what they would be and said there is no timetable.

The Russian leader maintained that the poultry decision was unrelated to the Georgia issue. He said that the 19 producers ignored the demands to correct the problems following inspections. He said another 29 producers would receive warnings.

“We try and keep our industry out of politics and into marketing opportunities, but sometimes it’s very difficult to separate the two,” said Jim Sumner, president of the U.S.A. Poultry & Egg Export Council. He said Russia is a major market for American producers.

U.S. producers supply nearly 75 percent of the total poultry import quota set by Russia, which stands at 1.2 million tons. Russia represented the largest export market for chicken broilers made by U.S. producers in the first half of this year, Sumner said.

Sumner said he expected the alleged plant deficiencies to be corrected within weeks or a few months and said the stoppage would not have a major impact on U.S. producers.


Russia is an important market for many poultry producers, including the nation’s largest chicken producer, Pilgrim’s Pride Inc., as well as Sanderson Farms Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc., the world’s largest meat company.


Shares of many meat producers, including top hog producer Smithfield Foods Inc., tumbled Thursday on worries about potential cuts by Russia.

“At this point if Russia were to walk back from certain agreements they have made, it would clearly delay any future aspirations they have of joining the World Trade Organization,” said Sean Spicer, spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

In Tajikistan, China and four Central Asian nations criticized the West, but wary of separatists at home, they stopped short of heeding Russia’s call to recognize the breakaway Georgia regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Moscow had appealed to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization — whose members are Russia, China, and four Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — for unanimous support of Moscow’s response to Georgia’s “aggression.”

Alexei Malashenko, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the summit highlighted Russia’s isolation.

“The Soviet Union was not so alone even in 1968,” he said on Ekho Moskvy radio, referring to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Western leaders have added condemnation of Russian recognition to their accusations that Moscow used disproportionate force in its Georgia offensive and has fallen far short of its withdrawal commitments under an EU cease-fire deal.

The EU is “trying to draw up a strong text signifying our unwillingness to accept” Russia’s stance, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Thursday. “Sanctions are being considered … and many other means as well,” Kouchner said.


The Foreign Ministry said later that France was not behind a sanctions proposal.


Associated Press Writers Peter Leonard and Olga Tutubalina in Dushanbe, Tajikistan; Jim Heintz and Misha Dzhindzhikhashvili in Tbilisi, Georgia; and Catrina Stewart, Nataliya Vasilyeva, David Nowak, Doug Birch and Mansur Mirovalev in Moscow, Natasha Metzler in Washington and business writer Emily Fredrix in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

P.J. Buchanan: Who Started Cold War II?

August 19, 2008, August 19, 2008
by Patrick J. Buchanan

The American people should be eternally grateful to Old Europe for having spiked the Bush-McCain plan to bring Georgia into NATO.

Had Georgia been in NATO when Mikheil Saakashvili invaded South Ossetia, we would be eyeball to eyeball with Russia, facing war in the Caucasus, where Moscow’s superiority is as great as U.S. superiority in the Caribbean during the Cuban missile crisis.

If the Russia-Georgia war proves nothing else, it is the insanity of giving erratic hotheads in volatile nations the power to drag the United States into war.

From Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, U.S. presidents have sought to avoid shooting wars with Russia, even when the Bear was at its most beastly.

Truman refused to use force to break Stalin’s Berlin blockade. Ike refused to intervene when the Butcher of Budapest drowned the Hungarian Revolution in blood. LBJ sat impotent as Leonid Brezhnev’s tanks crushed the Prague Spring. Jimmy Carter’s response to Brezhnev’s invasion of Afghanistan was to boycott the Moscow Olympics. When Brezhnev ordered his Warsaw satraps to crush Solidarity and shot down a South Korean airliner killing scores of U.S. citizens, including a congressman, Reagan did – nothing.

These presidents were not cowards. They simply would not go to war when no vital U.S. interest was at risk to justify a war. Yet, had George W. Bush prevailed and were Georgia in NATO, U.S. Marines could be fighting Russian troops over whose flag should fly over a province of 70,000 South Ossetians who prefer Russians to Georgians.

The arrogant folly of the architects of U.S. post-Cold War policy is today on display. By bringing three ex-Soviet republics into NATO, we have moved the U.S. red line for war from the Elbe almost to within artillery range of the old Leningrad.

Should America admit Ukraine into NATO, Yalta, vacation resort of the czars, will be a NATO port and Sevastopol, traditional home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, will become a naval base for the U.S. Sixth Fleet. This is altogether a bridge too far.

And can we not understand how a Russian patriot like Vladimir Putin would be incensed by this U.S. encirclement after Russia shed its empire and sought our friendship? How would Andy Jackson have reacted to such crowding by the British Empire?

As of 1991, the oil of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan belonged to Moscow. Can we not understand why Putin would smolder as avaricious Yankees built pipelines to siphon the oil and gas of the Caspian Basin through breakaway Georgia to the West?

For a dozen years, Putin & Co. watched as U.S. agents helped to dump over regimes in Ukraine and Georgia that were friendly to Moscow.

If Cold War II is coming, who started it, if not us?

The swift and decisive action of Putin’s army in running the Georgian forces out of South Ossetia in 24 hours after Saakashvili began his barrage and invasion suggests Putin knew exactly what Saakashvili was up to and dropped the hammer on him.

What did we know? Did we know Georgia was about to walk into Putin’s trap? Did we not see the Russians lying in wait north of the border? Did we give Saakashvili a green light?

Joe Biden ought to be conducting public hearings on who caused this U.S. humiliation.

The war in Georgia has exposed the dangerous overextension of U.S. power. There is no way America can fight a war with Russia in the Caucasus with our army tied down in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nor should we. Hence, it is demented to be offering, as John McCain and Barack Obama are, NATO membership to Tbilisi.

The United States must decide whether it wants a partner in a flawed Russia or a second Cold War. For if we want another Cold War, we are, by cutting Russia out of the oil of the Caspian and pushing NATO into her face, going about it exactly the right way.

Vladimir Putin is no Stalin. He is a nationalist determined, as ruler of a proud and powerful country, to assert his nation’s primacy in its own sphere, just as U.S. presidents from James Monroe to Bush have done on our side of the Atlantic.

A resurgent Russia is no threat to any vital interests of the United States. It is a threat to an American Empire that presumes some God-given right to plant U.S. military power in the backyard or on the front porch of Mother Russia.

Who rules Abkhazia and South Ossetia is none of our business. And after this madcap adventure of Saakashvili, why not let the people of these provinces decide their own future in plebiscites conducted by the United Nations or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe?

As for Saakashvili, he’s probably toast in Tbilisi after this stunt. Let the neocons find him an endowed chair at the American Enterprise Institute.


Geopolitical Chess: Background to a Mini-war in the Caucasus

August 16, 2008

Immanuel Wallerstein, Commentary No. 239, Aug. 15, 2009

The world has been witness this month to a mini-war in the Caucasus, and the rhetoric has been passionate, if largely irrelevant. Geopolitics is a gigantic series of two-player chess games, in which the players seek positional advantage. In these games, it is crucial to know the current rules that govern the moves. Knights are not allowed to move diagonally.

From 1945 to 1989, the principal chess game was that between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was called the Cold War, and the basic rules were called metaphorically “Yalta.” The most important rule concerned a line that divided Europe into two zones of influence. It was called by Winston Churchill the “Iron Curtain” and ran from Stettin to Trieste. The rule was that, no matter how much turmoil was instigated in Europe by the pawns, there was to be no actual warfare between the United States and the Soviet Union. And at the end of each instance of turmoil, the pieces were to be returned to where they were at the outset. This rule was observed meticulously right up to the collapse of the Communisms in 1989, which was most notably marked by the destruction of the Berlin wall.

It is perfectly true, as everyone observed at the time, that the Yalta rules were abrogated in 1989 and that the game between the United States and (as of 1991) Russia had changed radically. The major problem since then is that the United States misunderstood the new rules of the game. It proclaimed itself, and was proclaimed by many others, the lone superpower. In terms of chess rules, this was interpreted to mean that the United States was free to move about the chessboard as it saw fit, and in particular to transfer former Soviet pawns to its sphere of influence. Under Clinton, and even more spectacularly under George W. Bush, the United States proceeded to play the game this way.

There was only one problem with this: The United States was not the lone superpower; it was no longer even a superpower at all. The end of the Cold War meant that the United States had been demoted from being one of two superpowers to being one strong state in a truly multilateral distribution of real power in the interstate system. Many large countries were now able to play their own chess games without clearing their moves with one of the two erstwhile superpowers. And they began to do so.

Two major geopolitical decisions were made in the Clinton years. First, the United States pushed hard, and more or less successfully, for the incorporation of erstwhile Soviet satellites into NATO membership. These countries were themselves anxious to join, even though the key western European countries – Germany and France – were somewhat reluctant to go down this path. They saw the U.S. maneuver as one aimed in part at them, seeking to limit their newly-acquired freedom of geopolitical action.

The second key U.S. decision was to become an active player in the boundary realignments within the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This culminated in a decision to sanction, and enforce with their troops, the de facto secession of Kosovo from Serbia.

Russia, even under Yeltsin, was quite unhappy about both these U.S. actions. However, the political and economic disarray of Russia during the Yeltsin years was such that the most it could do was complain, somewhat feebly it should be added.

The coming to power of George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin was more or less simultaneous. Bush decided to push the lone superpower tactics (the United States can move its pieces as it alone decides) much further than had Clinton. First, Bush in 2001 withdrew from the 1972 U.S.-Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Then he announced that the United States would not move to ratify two new treaties signed in the Clinton years: the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the agreed changes in the SALT II nuclear disarmament treaty. Then Bush announced that the United States would move forward with its National Missile Defense system.

And of course, Bush invaded Iraq in 2003. As part of this engagement, the United States sought and obtained rights to military bases and overflight rights in the Central Asian republics that formerly were part of the Soviet Union. In addition, the United States promoted the construction of pipelines for Central Asian and Caucasian oil and natural gas that would bypass Russia. And finally, the United States entered into an agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic to establish missile defense sites, ostensibly to guard against Iranian missiles. Russia, however, regarded them as aimed at her.

Putin decided to push back much more effectually than Yeltsin. As a prudent player, however, he moved first to strengthen his home base – restoring effective central authority and reinvigorating the Russian military. At this point, the tides in the world-economy changed, and Russia suddenly became a wealthy and powerful controller not only of oil production but of the natural gas so needed by western European countries.

Putin thereupon began to act. He entered into treaty relationships with China. He maintained close relations with Iran. He began to push the United States out of its Central Asian bases. And he took a very firm stand on the further extension of NATO to two key zones – Ukraine and Georgia.

The breakup of the Soviet Union had led to ethnic secessionist movements in many former republics, including Georgia. When Georgia in 1990 sought to end the autonomous status of its non-Georgian ethnic zones, they promptly proclaimed themselves independent states. They were recognized by no one but Russia guaranteed their de facto autonomy.

The immediate spurs to the current mini-war were twofold. In February, Kosovo formally transformed its de facto autonomy to de jure independence. Its move was supported by and recognized by the United States and many western European countries. Russia warned at the time that the logic of this move applied equally to the de facto secessions in the former Soviet republics. In Georgia, Russia moved immediately, for the first time, to recognize South Ossetian de jure independence in direct response to that of Kosovo.

And in April this year, the United States proposed at the NATO meeting that Georgia and Ukraine be welcomed into a so-called Membership Action Plan. Germany, France, and the United Kingdom all opposed this action, saying it would provoke Russia.

Georgia’s neoliberal and strongly pro-American president, Mikhail Saakashvili, was now desperate. He saw the reassertion of Georgian authority in South Ossetia (and Abkhazia) receding forever. So, he chose a moment of Russian inattention (Putin at the Olympics, Medvedev on vacation) to invade South Ossetia. Of course, the puny South Ossetian military collapsed completely. Saakashvili expected that he would be forcing the hand of the United States (and indeed of Germany and France as well).

Instead, he got an immediate Russian military response, overwhelming the small Georgian army. What he got from George W. Bush was rhetoric. What, after all, could Bush do? The United States was not a superpower. Its armed forces were tied down in two losing wars in the Middle East. And, most important of all, the United States needed Russia far more than Russia needed the United States. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, pointedly noted in an op-ed in the Financial Times that Russia was a “partner with the west on…the Middle East, Iran and North Korea.”

As for western Europe, Russia essentially controls its gas supplies. It is no accident that it was President Sarkozy of France, not Condoleezza Rice, who negotiated the truce between Georgia and Russia. The truce contained two essential concessions by Georgia. Georgia committed itself to no further use of force in South Ossetia, and the agreement contained no reference to Georgian territorial integrity.

So, Russia emerged far stronger than before. Saakashvili had bet everything he has and was now geopolitically bankrupt. And, as an ironic footnote, Georgia, one of the last U.S. allies in the coalition in Iraq, withdrew all its 2000 troops from Iraq. These troops had been playing a crucial role in Shi’a areas, and would now have to be replaced by U.S. troops, which will have to be withdrawn from other areas.

If one plays geopolitical chess, it is best to know the rules, or one gets out-maneuvered.

Georgia and U.S. Strategy

August 15, 2008

Master Plan or Screw Up?

By MIKE WHITNEY | Counterpunch, August 14, 2008

The American-armed and trained Georgian army swarmed into South Ossetia last Thursday, killing an estimated 2,000 civilians, sending 40,000 South Ossetians fleeing over the Russian border, and destroying much of the capital, Tskhinvali. The attack was unprovoked and took place a full 24 hours before even ONE Russian soldier set foot in South Ossetia. Nevertheless, the vast majority of Americans still believe that the Russian army invaded Georgian territory first. The BBC, AP, NPR, the New York Times and the rest of the establishment media have consistently and deliberately misled their readers into believing that the violence in South Ossetia was initiated by the Kremlin. Let’s be clear, it wasn’t. In truth, there is NO dispute about the facts except among the people who rely the western press for their information. Despite its steady loss of credibility, the corporate media continues to operate as the propaganda-arm of the Pentagon.

Former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev gave a good summary of events in an op-ed in Monday’s Washington Post:

For some time, relative calm was maintained in South Ossetia. The peacekeeping force composed of Russians, Georgians and Ossetians fulfilled its mission, and ordinary Ossetians and Georgians, who live close to each other, found at least some common ground….What happened on the night of Aug. 7 is beyond comprehension. The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas….Mounting a military assault against innocents was a reckless decision whose tragic consequences, for thousands of people of different nationalities, are now clear. The Georgian leadership could do this only with the perceived support and encouragement of a much more powerful force. Georgian armed forces were trained by hundreds of U.S. instructors, and its sophisticated military equipment was bought in a number of countries. This, coupled with the promise of NATO membership, emboldened Georgian leaders into thinking that they could get away with a “blitzkrieg” in South Ossetia…Russia had to respond. To accuse it of aggression against “small, defenseless Georgia” is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity.”

Russia deployed its tanks and troops to South Ossetia to save the lives of civilians and to reestablish the peace. Period. It has no interest in annexing the former-Soviet country or in expanding its present borders. Now that the Georgian army has been routed, Russian president Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin have expressed a willingness to settle the dispute through normal diplomatic channels at the United Nations. Neither leader is under any illusions about Washington’s involvement in the hostilities. They know that Georgian President Mikail Saakashvili is an American stooge who came to power in a CIA-backed coup, the so-called “Rose Revolution”, and would never order a major military operation without explicit instructions from his White House puppetmasters.

Continued . . .

Putin’s war enablers: Bush and Cheney

August 15, 2008

Russia’s escalating war on Georgia reveals the consequences of the Bush administration’s long assault on the international rule of law.

By Juan Cole |, August 14, 2008

Pages 1 2

George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin

Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Vladimir Putin (right) of Russia and George W. Bush arrive at a summit on the Black Sea, April 5, 2008.

The run-up to the current chaos in the Caucasus should look quite familiar: Russia acted unilaterally rather than going through the U.N. Security Council. It used massive force against a small, weak adversary. It called for regime change in a country that had defied Moscow. It championed a separatist movement as a way of asserting dominance in a region it coveted.

Indeed, despite George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s howls of outrage at Russian aggression in Georgia and the disputed province of South Ossetia, the Bush administration set a deep precedent for Moscow’s actions — with its own systematic assault on international law over the past seven years. Now, the administration’s condemnations of Russia ring hollow.

Bush said on Monday, responding to reports that Russia might attack the Georgian capital, “It now appears that an effort may be under way to depose [Georgia’s] duly elected government. Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century.” By Wednesday, with more Russian troops on the move and a negotiated cease-fire quickly unraveling, Bush stepped up the rhetoric, announcing a sizable humanitarian-aid mission to Georgia and dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region.

While U.S. leaders have tended to back Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, there are two sides to every dispute, and in the ethnically diverse Caucasus it may be more like a hundred sides. Abkhazia and Ossetia are claimed by Georgia, but they have their own distinctive languages, cultures and national aspirations. Both fought for independence in the early 1990s, without success, though neither was Georgia able to assert its full sovereignty over them, accepting Russian mediation and peacekeeping troops.

The separatist leaders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia now speak of Saakashvili in terms reminiscent of the way separatists in Darfur speak of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Sergei Bagapsh of Abkhazia and Eduard Kokoity of South Ossetia have come out against conducting any further talks with Georgia, calling instead for Saakashvili to be tried for war crimes. Kokoity told Interfax, “There can be no talks with the organizers of genocide.” The Russian press is full of talk of putting Saakashvili on trial for ordering attacks on Ossetian civilians.

Continued . . .

Russia threatens military response to US missile defence deal

July 9, 2008

Russia threatened to retaliate by military means after a deal with the Czech Republic brought the US missile defence system in Europe a step closer.

The threat followed quickly on from the announcement that Condoleezza Rice signed a formal agreement with the Czech Republic to host the radar for the controversial project.

Moscow argues that the missile shield would severely undermine the balance of European security and regards the proposed missile shield based in two former Communist countries as a hostile move.

“We will be forced to react not with diplomatic, but with military-technical methods,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry did not detail what its response might entail.

Dr Rice, the US Secretary of State, hailed the agreement as a step forward for international security.

After 14 months of negotiations, the US is struggling to clinch agreement with its other proposed partner – Poland – where it hopes to locate the interceptor missiles designed to shoot down any incoming rockets.

Washington insists that the system will not be targeted at Russia, but will act as a safeguard for Europe against regimes such as Iran. The plan was endorsed by Nato in April.

Continued . . .

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