[With Peak Oil as the backdrop, the U.S. has set Russia in its sights once more “aiming directly at unipolar, uncontested American global dominance” to which the Great Bear has responded with burgeoning alliances with China and India—setting the stage for what is likely to become organized, formidable resistance to the Empire.—CB]
INDIA TAKES THE STAGE - Part IV
FTW Military/Veterans Affairs Editor
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Shanghai & New Delhi
September 5th 2006, 11:26 AM [PST] - The long-term secular trends we can observe using empirical calculations already demonstrate the inevitability -- all other variable remaining the same -- of a global conflict over one of the world system’s most essential material substrates: fossil energy. It is this struggle between states that has landed the US in a military and political quagmire in Iraq, and thereby ignited a quiet panic among fractions of the US ruling class that are beginning to understand exactly how reckless the Bush administration and its New Centurion advisors really are.
Fixed like deer in the headlights by their own failure to appreciate the variant logics of territorial power and the atmospheric dynamics of geopolitical maneuvering, they approach the 2006 elections -- Republican and Democrat alike -- tied together by a Gordian knot of irrelevance and inertia.
In May 1, 2001, before September 11 had so dramatically changed the political weather, George W. Bush, still suffering a very serious crisis of legitimacy in the wake of the 2000 elections, delivered a speech to the National Defense University.
I need to quote this speech at length here, because it is as rich with retrospective insights for the reader as it is with irony.
Today, the sun comes up on a vastly different world. The Wall is gone, and so is the Soviet Union. Today's Russia is not yesterday's Soviet Union.
Its government is no longer communist. Its president is elected. Today's Russia is not our enemy, but a country in transition with an opportunity to emerge as a great nation, democratic, at peace with itself and its neighbors.
The Iron Curtain no longer exists. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are free nations, and they are now our allies in NATO, together with a reunited Germany. Yet, this is still a dangerous world; a less certain, a less predictable one.
More nations have nuclear weapons and still more have nuclear aspirations. Many have chemical and biological weapons. Some already have developed a ballistic missile technology that would allow them to deliver weapons of mass destruction at long distances and incredible speeds, and a number of these countries are spreading these technologies around the world.
Most troubling of all, the list of these countries includes some of the world's least-responsible states. Unlike the Cold War, today's most urgent threat stems not from thousands of ballistic missiles in the Soviet hands, but from a small number of missiles in the hands of these states -- states for whom terror and blackmail are a way of life.
They seek weapons of mass destruction to intimidate their neighbors, and to keep the United States and other responsible nations from helping allies and friends in strategic parts of the world. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the world joined forces to turn him back. But the international community would have faced a very different situation had Hussein been able to blackmail with nuclear weapons.
Like Saddam Hussein, some of today's tyrants are gripped by an implacable hatred of the United States of America.
They hate our friends. They hate our values. They hate democracy and freedom, and individual liberty. Many care little for the lives of their own people. In such a world, Cold War deterrence is no longer enough to maintain peace, to protect our own citizens and our own allies and friends.
We must seek security based on more than the grim premise that we can destroy those who seek to destroy us. This is an important opportunity for the world to rethink the unthinkable and to find new ways to keep the peace. Today's world requires a new policy, a broad strategy of active nonproliferation, counter-proliferation and defenses.
We must work together with other like-minded nations to deny weapons of terror from those seeking to acquire them.
We must work with allies and friends who wish to join with us to defend against the harm they can inflict. And together, we must deter anyone who would contemplate their use.
We need new concepts of deterrence that rely on both offensive and defensive forces. Deterrence can no longer be based solely on the threat of nuclear retaliation. Defenses can strengthen deterrence by reducing the incentive for proliferation.
We need a new framework that allows us to build missile defenses to counter the different threats of today's world. To do so, we must move beyond the constraints of the 30-year-old ABM Treaty. This treaty does not recognize the present or point us to the future. It enshrines the past.
No treaty that prevents us from addressing today's threats, that prohibits us from pursuing promising technology to defend ourselves, our friends and our allies is in our interests or in the interests of world peace.
This new framework must encourage still further cuts in nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons still have a vital role to play in our security and that of our allies.
We can and will change the size, the composition, the character of our nuclear forces in a way that reflects the reality that the Cold War is over. I'm committed to achieving a credible deterrent with the lowest possible number of nuclear weapons consistent with our national security needs, including our obligations to our allies.
The very next day, the normally circumspect Xinhua News Agency, echoing the sentiments of Chinese leadership, was uncharacteristically blunt:
“The U.S. missile defense plan has violated the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, will destroy the balance of international security forces and could cause a new arms race,” it stated.
Russia, cited repeatedly by Bush’s speechwriter, was conciliatory in its rhetoric, but on June 11 launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile that was widely interpreted by the diplomatic corps as a warning to Bush. Ten days later, India and Russia issued a joint statement denouncing the abrogation of the ABM Treaty.
During a summit between Bush and Putin in July, Putin failed to convince Bush to replace whatever was abandoned with a US-Russian bilateral agreement on nuclear weapons, but the door was left open.
Both China and Russia saw, well before September 11th, that the Bush administration and its coterie were aiming directly at unipolar, uncontested American global dominance. A group of loosely affiliated nations with common border issues pre-figuring the resolution of standing tensions between Russia and China, called the Shanghai Five, formally re-named themselves in June that year as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). They originally included China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, adding Uzbekistan when they re-founded, and between them they controlled the majority of the world’s natural gas supplies.
As evidenced by the May Day Bush speech, the hubristic herd that was now directing the US Executive Branch, had convinced themselves of their own un-stopability, and they had already begun the story-development for an attack on and occupation of Iraq. They were dismissive of the SCO, believing -- as many of the wonks did -- that the tensions between China and Russia would constitute firm limits on the SCO’s capacity to function as an Asian counter-US bloc.
The historical irony that would emerge on September 11th was that the common defense concerns that first brought the Shanghai Five together were based on the large number of Muslim separatist groups who had been strengthened initially by the US-sponsored anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan, inaugurated under the Clinton administration… one alumnus of which was the intense heir of a fabulously wealthy Saudi business magnate: Osama bin Laden.
In the long term, it is China’s thirst for energy that will confront both China and the US with a dangerous political dilemma. In the near term, however, while US foreign policy has been cognizant of China, the real target of US foreign policy has been Russia.
Former National Security Advisor and current Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is often cited by the uni-dimensionistas of wonkery for having served on the board of an oil company and having a tanker named after her. What is seldom mentioned is the fact that she was an extremely precocious student, entering college at 15 and earning a Masters Degree by the time she was 21. Her Poli-Sci PhD was awarded in 1981 from the University of Denver… on “the politics of East-Central Europe, the former Soviet Union and international security policy.” The preoccupation with Russia has existed since the breakup of the USSR during the Reagan administration. Rice inherited the developments since then, and with these developments a traumatized, shattered nation trying to find its way back on the world stage under the leadership of Vladimir Putin -- an ex-KGB operative who has inspired so many wildly varying interpretations of him that he appears a multiple personality.
Putin keeps his own counsel, and no country has been more buffeted by history over the last two decades than Russia. For his dour and confident leadership style, which demands respect, Putins’ actually-existing Russia I still a deeply traumatized and weakened country. The country was looted after the fall of the USSR, its economy in tatters, and its financial system melted down in 1998. Civil society was replaced by some of the most ruthless Mafiosi on the planet. The population fell by over 11 million, as life expectancies tumbled and people quit having children, seeing no hope in the future.
Putin seized the opportunities offered up by September 11 as eagerly as the Bush administration, seeing it as a possible way to secure a compact with the Americans to advance the US-Russia common interest in breaking OPEC, and reassert Russia as a world power by joining hands with the US to effectively encircle China.
Mark Jones, a historian of the USSR, writing a month after the October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, speculated on where this impossible alliance would eventually lead:
Inevitably… the most pronounced aspects of any new Russo-American realignment will not be any inherent capacity for renewed growth and progress, but on the contrary will be intensified repression, obscurantism and black reaction. It is a recipe for the further militarisation of imperialism, for the shrinking of civil society, for creating societies of total surveillance and lockdown, for intensified racism and social intolerance. This is the era of Exterminism, the highest stage of imperialism. It is also the age of Panopticon. Here too, Afghanistan is a foretaste of the future.
This prescience would be qualified by emergent realities, however, that would reveal US intentions to Putin. It was Russia that was to be first encircled and decisively subordinated within the US neoliberal order.
In December 2001, after Putin had facilitated the entry of US bases into former Republics of the USSR, Bush spat on him with the formal abrogation of the ABM Treaty. Putin, however, was in no position, internationally or domestically, to assert himself, and he took the blow with equanimity. His KGB training had taught him nothing if it wasn’t rapid recognition of the temporal reality of power.
In the same month, Seymour Hersh, writing for the New Yorker, wrote one of two rarely erroneous stories. The second erroneous story was the alarm that the US would attack Iran this summer (which might still be proven wrong, but I doubt it). The first was the one noted above, wherein he claimed that Iran was on the brink of acquiring nuclear weapons. (Hersh needs to seriously reconsider the reliability of whomever is his source on Iran stories.)
Planting such a story may have reflected alarm at the fact that Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council, announced an accelerated nuclear research and development program which would be facilitated by… Russia. Putin was not prone to talk overmuch, but his actions spoke volumes.
The west still had its powerful allies inside Putin’s camp -- the gangster oligarchs -- and Russia was still incapacitated internationally by the devastating legacy of Yeltsin. The power of Putin’s central government was fractured, and Putin was proceeding in cautious, well-considered phases to restore it -- a process that will not be detailed here, except to say that a nodal point was the arrest of American favorite, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
On March 26, 2004, Cali Ruchala wrote (“American Oligarch, the Selling of Mikhail Khodorkovsky,” Sobaka):
For more than a decade, they were above the law, rigging auctions and using the media and even the police as extensions of vast corporate empires. The 1990s were the glory days for this small but highly publicized clique of Russian businessmen - popularly known as “Oligarchs” - who bought, stole, or simply took over Russia's national wealth for pennies on the dollar.
But as a wonderfully colourful Japanese proverb has it, even the mighty shall be brought down low, “like an evening dream in springtime.” One by one the Oligarchs have been shaken from their slumbers and dragged before the courts for their misdeeds. Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky, subjected to corruption probes by Russian state prosecutors since 1999, fled rather than stand trial. The target of a similar probe, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was arrested on October 25, 2003 and is currently cooling his heels in a Russian prison.
These measures were wildly popular with the Russian public, appalled at both the oligarchs’ violence and conspicuous consumption. And Putin had largely recaptured the political prerogatives of the Russian central government.
As a newly empowered Putin surveyed the geopolitical landscape, he recognized the criticality of India immediately. He also recognized how both India and Russia were positioned within the contradictory web of recent history. India’s volatile relationship to Pakistan and China’s longstanding mistrust of India (as well as border disputes) were intersected by the tactical alliance between the US and Pakistan. And this is just a first glance.
Alarmed by the implications of what it was observing in Russia, the Bush administration mobilized the notorious National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a covert ops front foundation designed to topple foreign governments by financing and training “oppositions,” aiming this weapon at the Russian trading partners of the former Soviet Union. The very real flaws, including autocratic methods and corruption, of the leaders in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, facilitated this installment of neo-liberal-friendly comprador “democrats,” whose main role (designated by their US sponsors) was to reorient these nations away from Russia and toward the US. Between 2003-2005, all three pro-Russian leaders were gone.
George W. Bush, who’d once declared he could see Putin’s soul somewhere near his retinas, had declared war on Russia.
In December 2004, Putin was accompanied to India by an extremely high-powered delegation from Russia for the New Delhi Summit with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Included in the delegation were Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, and the Director General of the Russian Atomic Agency. Before Putin returned to Moscow, he had in his briefcase a joint declaration of strategic partnership, a Russia-India joint space exploration agreement, a Russia-India energy cooperation agreement, and a host of new weapons sales. Manmohan Singh had Russia’s solemn promise to push for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council with full veto power.
Putin, like everyone else, knew that the button to push with the Indian political establishment was called “Great Nation status.” At home, Putin was in the process of nationalizing Yukos, the largest oil producing company in Russia. Shortly thereafter, Russia sold minority interests in Yukos to China and India, two oil-thirsty emerging giants.
The bald attempt by the United States to establish its permanent bases in Iraq no matter the costs, and it’s art-deco “revolutions” in the former Soviet states, had served as a Joshuan trumpet, and the walls impeding the rise of some future Asian bloc were indeed tumbling down.