The Caucasus — Washington Risks Nuclear War by Miscalculation
12-22-2008, 12:59 AM
The Caucasus — Washington Risks Nuclear War by Miscalculation
The Caucasus — Washington Risks Nuclear War by Miscalculation
By F. William Engdahl, 11 August 2008
The dramatic military attack by the military of the Republic of Georgia on South Ossetia in the last days has brought the world one major step closer to the ultimate horror of the Cold War era—a thermonuclear war between Russia and the United States—by miscalculation. What is playing out in the Caucasus is being reported in US media in an alarmingly misleading light, making Moscow appear the lone aggressor. The question is whether George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are encouraging the unstable Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili in order to force the next US President to back the NATO military agenda of the Bush Doctrine. This time Washington may have badly misjudged the possibilities, as it did in Iraq, but this time with possible nuclear consequences.
The underlying issue, as I stressed in my July 11 piece, Georgia, Washington and Moscow: a Nuclear Geopolitical Poker Game , is the fact that since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 one after another former member as well as former states of the USSR have been coaxed and in many cases bribed with false promises by Washington into joining the counter organization, NATO.
Rather than initiate discussions after the 1991 dissolution of the Warsaw Pact about a systematic dissolution of NATO, Washington has systematically converted NATO into what can only be called the military vehicle of an American global imperial rule, linked by a network of military bases from Kosovo to Poland to Turkey to Iraq and Afghanistan. In 1999, former Warsaw Pact members Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic joined NATO. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia followed suit in March 2004. Now Washington is putting immense pressure on the EU members of NATO, especially Germany and France, that they vote in December to admit Georgia and Ukraine.
The roots of the conflict
The specific conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia and Abkhazia has its roots in the following. First, the Southern Ossetes, who until 1990 formed an autonomous region of the Georgian Soviet republic, seek to unite in one state with their co -ethnics in North Ossetia, an autonomous republic of the Russian Soviet republic and now the Russian Federation. There is an historically grounded Ossete fear of violent Georgian nationalism and the experience of Georgian hatred of ethnic minorities under then Georgian leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia, which the Ossetes see again under Georgian President, Mikhel Saakashvili. Saakashvili was brought to power with US financing and US covert regime change activities in December 2003 in what was called the Rose Revolution. Now the thorns of that rose are causing blood to spill.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia—the first a traditional Black Sea resort area, the second an impoverished, sparsely populated region that borders Russia to the north—each has its own language, culture, history. When the Soviet Union collapsed, both regions sought to separate themselves from Georgia in bloody conflicts - South Ossetia in 1990-1, Abkhazia in 1992-4.
In December 1990 Georgia under Gamsakhurdia sent troops into South Ossetia after the region declared its own sovereignty. This Georgian move was defeated by Soviet Interior Ministry troops. Then Georgia declared abolition of the South Ossete autonomous region and its incorporation into Georgia proper. Both wars ended with cease-fires that were negotiated by Russia and policed by peacekeeping forces under the aegis of the recently established Commonwealth of Independent States. The situation hardened into "frozen conflicts," like that over Cyprus. By late 2005, Georgia signed an agreement that it would not use force, and the Abkhaz would allow the gradual return of 200,000-plus ethnic Georgians who had fled the violence. But the agreement collapsed in early 2006, when Saakashvili sent troops to retake the Kodori Valley in Abkhazia. Since then Saakashvili has been escalating preparations for military action.
Critical is Russia’s support for the Southern Ossetes. Russia is unwilling to see Georgia join NATO. In addition, the Ossetes are the oldest Russian allies in the Caucasus who have provided troops to the Russian army in many wars. Russia does not wish to abandon them and the Abkhaz, and fuel yet more ethnic unrest among their compatriots in the Russian North Caucasus. In a November 2006 referendum, 99 percent of South Ossetians voted for independence from Georgia, at a time when most of them had long held Russian passports. This enabled Russian President Medvedev to justify his military's counter-attack of Georgia on Friday as an effort to "protect the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, wherever they may be."
For Russia, Ossetia has been an important strategic base near the Turkish and Iranian frontiers since the days of the czars. Georgia is also an important transit country for oil being pumped from the Caspian Sea to the Turkish port of Ceyhan and a potential base for Washington efforts to encircle Tehran.
As far as the Georgians are concerned, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are simply part of their national territory, to be recovered at all costs. Promises by NATO leaders to bring Georgia into the alliance, and ostentatious declarations of support from Washington, have emboldened Saakashvili to launch his military offensive against the two provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Saakashvili and likely, Dick Cheney’s office in Washington appear to have miscalculated very badly. Russia has made it clear that it has no intention of ceding its support for South Ossetia or Abkhazia.
In March this year as Washington went ahead to recognize the independence of Kosovo in former Yugoslavia, making Kosovo a de facto NATO-run territory against the will of the UN Security Council and especially against Russian protest, Putin responded with Russian Duma hearings on recognition of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway republic in Moldova. Moscow argued that the West's logic on Kosovo should apply as well to these ethnic communities seeking to free themselves from the control of a hostile state. In mid-April, Mr. Putin held out the possibility of recognition for the breakaway republics. It was a geopolitical chess game in the strategic Caucasus for the highest stakes—the future of Russia itself.
Saakashvili called then-President Putin to demand he reverse the decision. He reminded Putin that the West had taken Georgia's side. This past April at the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, US President Bush proposed accepting Georgia into NATO’s "Action Plan for Membership," a precursor to NATO membership. To Washington’s surprise, ten NATO member states refused to support his plan, including Germany, France and Italy.
They argued that accepting the Georgians was problematic, because of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They were in reality saying that they would not be willing to back Georgia as, under Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which mandates that an armed attack against any NATO member country must be considered an attack against them all and consequently requires use of collective armed force of all NATO members, it would mean that Europe could be faced with war against Russia over the tiny Caucasus Republic of Georgia, with its incalculable dictator, Saakashvili. That would mean the troubled Caucasus would be on a hair-trigger to detonate World War III.
Russia threatens Georgia, but Georgia threatens Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia looks like a crocodile to Georgia, but Georgia looks to Russia like the cats' paw of the West. Since Saakashvili took power in late 2003 the Pentagon has been in Georgia giving military aid and training. Not only are US military personnel active in Georgia today. According to an Israeli-intelligence source, DEBKAfile, in 2007, the Georgian President Saakashvili “commissioned from private Israeli security firms several hundred military advisers, estimated at up to 1,000, to train the Georgian armed forces in commando, air, sea, armored and artillery combat tactics. They also have been giving instruction on military intelligence and security for the central regime. Tbilisi also purchased weapons, intelligence and electronic warfare systems from Israel. These advisers were undoubtedly deeply involved in the Georgian army’s preparations to conquer the South Ossetian capital Friday.”
Debkafile reported further, “Moscow has repeatedly demanded that Jerusalem halt its military assistance to Georgia, finally threatening a crisis in bilateral relations. Israel responded by saying that the only assistance rendered Tbilisi was ‘defensive.’” The Israeli news source added that Israel’s interest in Georgia has to do as well with Caspian oil pipeline geopolitics. “Jerusalem has a strong interest in having Caspian oil and gas pipelines reach the Turkish terminal port of Ceyhan, rather than the Russian network. Intense negotiations are afoot between Israel, Turkey, Georgia, Turkmenistan and Azarbaijan for pipelines to reach Turkey and thence to Israel’s oil terminal at Ashkelon and on to its Red Sea port of Eilat. From there, supertankers can carry the gas and oil to the Far East through the Indian Ocean.”
This means that the attack on South Ossetia is the first battle in a new proxy warfare between Anglo-American-Israeli led interests and Russia. The only question is whether Washington miscalculated the swiftness and intensity of the Russian response to the Georgian attacks of 8.8.08.
So far, each step in the Caucasus drama has put the conflict on a yet higher plane of danger. The next step will no longer be just about the Caucasus, or even Europe. In 1914 it was the “Guns of August” that initiated the Great War. This time the Guns of August 2008 could be the detonator of World War III and a nuclear holocaust of unspeakable horror.
Nuclear Primacy: the larger strategic danger
Most in the West are unaware how dangerous the conflict over two tiny provinces in a remote part of Eurasia has become. What is left out of most all media coverage is the strategic military security context of the Caucasus dispute.
In my recent book (in German), and also here, I describe the developments by NATO and most directly by Washington since the end of the Cold War to systematically pursue what military strategists call Nuclear Primacy. Put simply, if one of two opposing nuclear powers is able to first develop an operational anti-missile defense, even primitive, that can dramatically weaken a potential counter-strike by the opposing side’s nuclear arsenal, the side with missile defense has “won” the nuclear war.
As mad as this sounds, it has been explicit Pentagon policy through the last three Presidents from father Bush in 1990, to Clinton and most aggressively, George W. Bush. This is the issue where Russia has drawn a deep line in the sand, understandably so. The forceful US effort to push Georgia as well as Ukraine into NATO would present Russia with the spectre of NATO literally coming to its doorstep, a military threat that is aggressive in the extreme, and untenable for Russian national security.
This is what gives the seemingly obscure fight over two provinces the size of Luxemburg the potential to become the 1914 Sarajevo trigger to a new nuclear war by miscalculation. The trigger for such a war is not Georgia’s right to annex South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Rather, it is US insistence on pushing NATO and its missile defense right up to Russia’s door.
US, Ukraine risk irking Russia with strategic accord
Published: Friday December 19, 2008
The United States and Ukraine risked irking Moscow by signing a strategic accord Friday that calls for a US diplomatic post in Crimea, a Russian-speaking area where Russia's Black Sea Fleet is based.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Ogryzko signed the "charter on strategic partnership" that the State Department calls a statement of US intent to "intensify our engagement with Ukraine."
The State Department said it outlines "enhanced cooperation" in the areas of defense, security, economics and trade, energy security, democracy, and cultural exchanges.
According to a copy of the document, "Ukraine welcomes the United States' intention to establish an American diplomatic presence (American Presence Post) in Simferopol," the capital of Crimea.
Such diplomatic posts are made up of one or two diplomats who do not perform consular duties.
In announcing the plans earlier, Rice's spokesman Sean McCormack said the administration of President George W. Bush, which hands over to that of president-elect Barack Obama on January 20, did not seek to provoke Russia.
"This is about US-Ukraine bilateral relations," McCormack told reporters.
"If the Russian government chooses to be upset by... my stating that we're considering opening up... a one-person or two-person American presence post, well, there's not much I can do about that then," he added.
He did not say when a US diplomat could be sent to Simferopol but a senior State Department official said on the condition of anonymity that it will not happen before January 20.
"It will probably take more time," the official told AFP.
Questioned by the media after leaving the State Department, Ogryzko, the Ukrainian foreign minister, said a US diplomat could take up his post next year.
He also sought to play down the political significance of sending a US representative to a region which was considered Russian territory until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ceded it in 1954 to Ukraine, then a Soviet republic.
"So it is nothing special in this approach. We have foreign diplomatic presence in many cities of Ukraine: Odessa, Simferopol, Lviv," the Ukrainian chief diplomat told reporters.
Ukrainian authorities do not want to renew the lease agreement for the base of the Black Sea Fleet in the port of Sebastopol beyond 2017, the term of a 20-year agreement between the two countries concluded in 1997.
Last month French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told a Russian daily that Russia was distributing Russian passports in Crimea, as it has done since 2002 in the breakaway Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Russia invoked the need to defend its citizens in South Ossetia to justify the August 8 offensive in retaliation for Georgia's attempt to retake South Ossetia by force.
The charter on strategic cooperation signed Friday calls also for heightened military cooperation between the United States and Ukraine, especially through equipment and training programs for Ukraine's armed forces.
"The United States supports Ukraine's integration into the Euro-Atlantic structures," Rice said before signing the document.
She declined to comment on when a diplomat would be sent to Crimea.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization announced Tuesday it would deepen its cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia without actually granting them the status of official candidates to join NATO.
12-22-2008, 01:03 AM
The Caucasus — Washington Risks Nuclear War by Miscalculation
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U.S. "to set up bases" in Central Asia December 16, 2008, 18:02
U.S. "to set up bases" in Central Asia
The U.S. is planning to set up military bases in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, according to Russia's head of the General Staff. He said Washington already has forces in Bulgaria and Romania that can become operational within hours, raising concern in Moscow.
Speaking at the Academy of Military Science, General Nikolay Makarov also pointed out that the U.S. is prompting Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO.
"In this situation, it is clear that Russia is concerned by the deployment near its borders of NATO's advanced forces and bases ready to start combat operations within hours.”
The chief of the General Staff also cited U.S. president-elect Barack Obama who said that “all efforts should be consolidated to monitor democratic reforms in Russia and China."
General Makarov added that anyone hoping for policy change after Obama takes office is making a dire mistake.
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan - former Soviet republics in Central Asia - are strategically important partners for both Moscow and Washington.
The U.S. is strengthening its ties with oil-rich Kazakhstan, which in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, allowed American planes to fly over its territory during the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
Now that Washington has announced its plans to send 20,000 more troops to the war-ravaged country, the U.S., according to some Russian experts, will need more bases in neighbouring states.
The U.S. also had a military base in Uzbekistan which served as a hub for combat and humanitarian missions to Afghanistan until 2005 when the Central Asian state evicted American troops from the airbase.
But now Uzbekistan is turning its foreign policy westwards and searching for closer ties with Washington and the EU.
16/12/2008 16:52 MOSCOW, December 16 (RIA Novosti) - A senior Russian military official expressed concern on Tuesday about what he said were U.S. plans to set up military bases in the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
"American military bases are dotted throughout the world," said Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of Russia's Armed Forces. "The U.S. has opened bases in Romania and Bulgaria, and according to our information plans to establish them in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan."
Former Soviet republics in Central Asia have seen increased rivalry between Moscow and Washington of late.
The United States has recently stepped up ties with oil-rich Kazakhstan, which allowed U.S. planes to fly over its territory during the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and also contributed troops to Iraq.
Observers in Russia say that Washington will need more bases in countries neighboring Afghanistan due to president-elect Barack Obama's plans to increase the U.S. military presence in the war-ravaged country by 20,000 troops.
The U.S. has run an airbase in Kyrgyzstan since the war in Afghanistan. Uzbekistan expelled U.S. troops from its airbase in 2005, but has recently sought closer ties with the U.S. and other Western powers.
General Makarov also blamed Washington for pushing Georgia and Ukraine toward NATO membership. He said Russia had been surrounded by the military alliance's forces.
The statement came amid an ongoing dispute over Washington's plans to place a missile base in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic. Moscow opposes the plans as a threat to its national security. The U.S. says the missile defenses are needed to counter possible strikes from "rogue" states.
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