Thursday, December 25, 2008

Vladimir PUTIN effectively "Checkmates" all of USA's 18 squabbling Intelligence agencies...


The THIRD Man !

When the Republican dream was replaced with the American Dream for the few...,The annihilation of the middle-class in USA and the "western world" ensues, and it is a direct result of the policies of the utterly greedy "Power behind the power in USA" since the 1900s...!!!

Vladimir PUTIN effectively "Checkmates" all of USA's 18 squabbling Intelligence agencies...

Sense is returning to East-West relations, despite the US and NATO, who are still fighting their endless Turf Battles....

2008 will be remembered as a turning point in Russia’s relations with the West. It was a tumultuous year, with Kosovo, missiles in Europe and NATO’s seemingly relentless march eastward like thunderclouds gathering on Russia’s horizon, which finally burst 8 August over South Ossetia, bringing tragedy to Georgians, triumph and tragedy to Ossetians and Russians, as the Russian army stopped short of Tbilisi in their defense of the plucky Ossetians.

Poland, in a tizzy, quickly signed up for US Patriot missiles; the EU and NATO, in a snit, suspended relations with Russia and did their best to undermine Russia’s fragile economy. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made a grand tour of countries supposedly threatened by Russia (in addition to visiting his new friends in Kosovo), though only the woe-begone Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili bothered meeting him at the airport. This darling of the West – and Israel – suddenly found himself friendless after his disastrous altercation with his neighbor. Even Israel pulled in its horns, cutting off its lucrative arms sales out of fear of Russia.

Little more than a month later, the storm clouds over Russia seem to have dispersed. Europe again began improving relations, with a Euro-Russia summit in November, followed by renewed negotiations on a strategic partnership and a renewal of Russian-NATO dialogue in December. The Bush administration was not amused, but then lame-duck President George W Bush has about as many friends these days as Saakashvili.

It was amusing watching NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer jumping through hoops, so to speak, in early December after a NATO foreign ministers meeting, as he explained the alliance’s decision to begin “a conditional and graduated re-engagement” with Moscow, despite strident disapproval from Washington, not to mention Moscow’s own strident disapproval of NATO moves to absorb Ukraine and Georgia, and after its spectacular assertion of authority in its “near abroad” with the recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Hoop argued, “Russia is such an important factor in geopolitical terms that there is no alternative for NATO than to engage Russia.” He innocently claimed he had no idea why Russia felt “victimized, not to be taken seriously, but if that is the perception, we have to discuss it, because I have to try to convince them that democracy and the rule of law coming closer to Russia’s borders – why should that be a problem?”

As if he actually believes that NATO is about the tired clichés of democracy and freedom that are used to justify this Cold War relic, and not about US empire and its attempt to end any residual opposition, especially in the oil-rich Eurasian space, which Russia just happens to control.

So why the sudden courtship of the Russian ogre? De Hoop said it was because of Afghanistan, fighting terrorism and narcotics. We could add the financial crisis as well. But towering over even that is the very frightening specter of another arms race between the two – yes two – superpowers which Europe is uncomfortably sandwiched between.

It’s as if Don Juan realized too late that his latest flame – his true love this time – was wise to him and had decided the jig was up. Defying the US, de Hoop Scheffer and his Euro diplomats realized their place was the tried and true middle path between the two big guys. He did his best to pretend that nothing really was wrong, but no one was fooled. “I’m basically an engager,” de Hoop Scheffer said. “But engagement can’t take place in the context of spheres of influence. We have to see if Georgia is a watershed or not. I hope not, and I’ll do my best that it will not be.” Sorry, de Hoop. You closed the barn door too late. Your beloved has bolted.

The emissary of the spurned lover, Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitri Rogozin, welcomed the decision to resume informal talks with Russia, saying, with not a little sarcasm, “I personally do not see the difference between formal and informal sittings, except that you don’t have coffee in an informal meeting but you still can order one.” Rogozin also said that the decision not to give a formal action plan to Georgia and Ukraine showed that relations with Russia were more important to NATO than either applicant. He predicted that NATO would retreat from admitting Georgia and Ukraine, a prospect that “does not cheer anyone in the alliance.” Rogozin said that “there is an open split within NATO, and it will widen if NATO tries to expand further. The schemes of those who adopted a frozen approach to Russia have been destroyed.” Words that left Don Juan apoplectic. The Hoop shot back that Rogozin could say what he liked, and American officials dismissed his comments as bluster aimed at a domestic audience.

Upping the ante, in the NATO meeting’s final communiqué, which went through 22 drafts, the foreign ministers gave their unanimous support to the planned deployment in Europe of US missile defenses, which Washington continues to say are for protection from Iran, not Russia. Reading from a script retrieved from history’s dustbin, the ministers called the missile system “a substantial contribution” to defense and encouraged Russia to take up US proposals for cooperation on missile defense, oblivious to US president-elect Obama’s own skepticism about the system, or the comments last month by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the missile defense would “bring nothing to security” but “would complicate things and make them move backward,” or Russia’s threat to install short-range missiles of its own in Kaliningrad.

As for Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s proposed talks on a new “security architecture” for Europe – which Sarkozy agreed to in November – de Hoop Scheffer said that NATO members were “quite happy with the security structure as it exists in Europe. There is not a shimmer of a chance that NATO could or would be negotiated away.” The Euro fans of America and foes of Russia see the Russian president’s proposals as a direct attempt to undermine NATO. And so what? The only way to make peace with Russia is to do what should have been done 17 years ago, when the Warsaw Pact was disbanded: dismantle its twin and build a European partnership from the Atlantic to the Pacific, minus the US and Canada. There is something called the United Nations where everyone can get together. The EU and Russia are already working together on peacekeeping – through the UN – as seen with the current EUFOR mission in Chad, which includes 320 Russians. I repeat: Who needs NATO to police the world?

De Hoop drew his line in the sand at a news conference with Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili. She expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting, in which ministers reconfirmed that Georgia and Ukraine would eventually become members of NATO and said NATO would accelerate cooperative reform programmes with both countries through existing NATO commissions. Don’t hold your breath, Eka. A lot can happen between now and “eventually”. The US and Germany are at odds over how further expansion of NATO can proceed, with Germany insisting on a MAP (Membership Action Plan) and Bush’s team arguing that “MAP has been fetishised”. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried said that this “is not the only way to get there,” wherever “there” is. Instead of a MAP, he has in mind the NATO-Georgia Commission established hurriedly after 8 August, modeled after the NATO-Ukraine Commission established in 1997 – “MAP without MAP”, as the German fetishists drolly put it.

But the bottom line on Georgia is that it can’t join NATO if it is not at peace with its neighbors, as this would oblige NATO to go to war to “defend” it. This argument could even encourage Russia to make a move on Crimea, putting Ukraine in the same predicament, making it, too, ineligible. How ironic this would be, given NATO’s pretensions to be a bastion of peace.

As the Hoop performed his verbal acrobatics, the EU was performing its own highwire act with Russia, renewing negotiations on a new strategic partnership. But with a nod to US desires to keep moving eastward come hell or high water, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso also outlined to the press the EU’s proposed new “Eastern Partnership” with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus, the latest move into the ex-Soviet bloc since the EU expanded in 2004 and 2007 to embrace the Baltic's and all the former Warsaw Pact nations. The partnership offers free trade deals, closer energy ties, easier access to visas and financial assistance programmes worth a total of €600 million over two years. To their bitter disappointment, EU-member hopefuls Ukraine and Moldova were lumped together with the others, indicating that their applications were on hold.

Interesting, the supposed rush to get Ukraine and Georgia into NATO and the procrastination over them joining the much more important economic organization. The Eastern Partnership was a response to Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Union, bringing all the Mediterranean countries together with the EU in a loose economic club, and was put on fast track after the war in Georgia in August. Barroso denied suggestions that the EU was seeking to establish itself as an alternative power centre to Moscow. “The Cold War is over,” said Barroso, “and where there is no Cold War, there should be no spheres of interest.” Who does he think he’s kidding?

But Russia has no beef with EU expansion, which can only benefit Moscow in the long run. In fact, it is not inconceivable that Russia itself could join this economic pact, which clearly benefits one and all, at least economically. This cannot be said of NATO. De Hoop Scheffer understandably wants to keep his prestige (and pension), but this is one endangered species that deserves extinction.

As NATO prepares the fireworks for its big 60th anniversary, its plans for Georgia and Ukraine are in disarray and its war in Afghanistan is a nightmare which could tear the organization apart in 2009. Happy anniversary.

I would only add one small thing : the OSCE is also going through some painful realizations of their own. Check out the idiotic article the BBC published yesterday (for a Russian take on the same issue, check out this article by Russia Today). It just seems that the OSCE fails to understand a basic fact: Russia has absolutely no interest in letting the OSCE continue to be the arrogant and useless actor which it has shown itself to be this year. Never mind that the OSCE observers had prior knowledge of the attack, that the OSCE has been hopelessly committed to the US/Israeli/Georgian propaganda.... and that it has persisted against all common sense in pretending that somehow South Ossetia and Abkhazia would be "de-recognized" by Russia and "returned" to Georgia. To paraphrase Lanyard Skynyrd, the OSCE should "remember, the Russians don't need them around, anyhow!".

Over the past months, the Brits have changed their tune and now speak of possible Georgian war crimes, NATO has calmed down, the OSCE is getting the boot, Europe is pitifully "investigating" which side actually started the war, and the NYT advises Obama to renege on Dubya's missile plans for Europe to get the Russians to help with the Iran thing....

Welcome to the real world guys! Imperial hubris only can take you that far and even though you are all waking up with an ugly hangover, it's good to see that you are returning to the real world!

Russia checkmates USA on the road to Afghanistan...

Precise, quick, deadly - the skills of a soldier are modest. But then, US Central Command chief General David Petraeus is more than a soldier. The world is getting used to him as somewhere more than halfway down the road to becoming a statesman. Sure, there may be warfare's seduction over him still, but he is expected to be aware of the political realities of the two wars he conducts, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That is why he tripped last Tuesday when he said while on a visit to Pakistan that the American military had secured agreements to move supplies to Afghanistan from the north, easing the heavy reliance on the transit route through Pakistan. "There have been agreements reached, and there are transit lines now and transit
agreements for commercial goods and services in particular that include several countries in the Central Asian states and Russia," Petraeus said...

He was needlessly precise - like a soldier. Maybe he needed to impress on the tough Pakistani generals that they wouldn't hold the US forces in Afghanistan by their jugular veins for long. Or, he felt simply exasperated about the doublespeak of Janus-faced southwest Asian generals.

The shocking intelligence assessment shared by Moscow reveals that almost half of the US supplies passing through Pakistan is pilfered by motley groups of Taliban militants, petty traders and plain thieves. The US Army is getting burgled in broad daylight and can't do much about it. Almost 80% of all supplies for Afghanistan pass through Pakistan. The Peshawar bazaar is doing a roaring business hawking stolen US military ware, as in the 1980s during the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union. This volume of business will register a quantum jump following the doubling of the US troop level in Afghanistan to 60,000. Wars are essentially tragedies, but can be comical, too.

Moscow disclaims transit route

At any rate, within a day of Petraeus' remark, Moscow corrected him. Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Maslov told Itar-Tass, “No official documents were submitted to Russia's permanent mission in NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] certifying that Russia had authorized the United States and NATO to transport military supplies across the country."

A day later, Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, added from Brussels, "We know nothing of Russia's alleged agreement of military transit of Americans or NATO at large. There had been suggestions of the sort, but they were not formalized." And, with a touch of irony, Rogozin insisted Russia wanted the military alliance to succeed in Afghanistan.

"I can responsibly say that in the event of NATO's defeat in Afghanistan, fundamentalists who are inspired by this victory will set their eyes on the north. First they will hit Tajikistan, then they will try to break into Uzbekistan ... If things turn out badly, in about 10 years, our boys will have to fight well-armed and well-organized Islamists somewhere in Kazakhstan," the popular Moscow-politician turned diplomat added.

Russian experts have let it be known that Moscow views with disquiet the US's recent overtures to Central Asian countries regarding bilateral transit treaties with them which exclude Russia. Agreements have been reached with Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Moscow feels the US is pressing ahead with a new Caspian transit route which involves the dispatch of shipments via Georgia to Azerbaijan and thereon to the Kazakh harbor of Aktau and across the Uzbek territory to Amu Darya and northern Afghanistan.

Russian experts estimate that the proposed Caspian transit route could eventually become an energy transportation route in reverse direction, which would mean a strategic setback for Russia in the decade-long struggle for the region's hydrocarbon reserves.

Russia presses for role in Kabul

Indeed, Uzbekistan is the key Central Asian country in the great game over the northern transit route to Afghanistan. Thus, during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Tashkent last week, Afghanistan figured as a key topic. Medvedev characterized Russian-Uzbek relations as a "strategic partnership and alliance" and said that on matters relating to Afghanistan, Moscow's cooperation with Tashkent assumed an "exceptional importance".
He said he and Uzbek President Islam Karimov agreed that there could be no "unilateral solution" to the Afghan problem and "nothing can be resolved without taking into account the collective opinion of states which have an interest in the resolution of the situation".

Most significantly, Medvedev underlined Russia had no objections about US President Barack Obama's idea of linking the Afghanistan and Pakistan problems, but for an entirely different reason, as "it is not possible to examine the establishment and development of a modern political system in Afghanistan in isolation from the context of normalizing relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan in their border regions, setting up the appropriate international mechanisms and so on".

Moscow rarely touches on the sensitive Durand Line question, that is, the controversial line that separates Afghanistan and Pakistan. Medvedev underscored that Russia remained an interested party, as there was a "need to ensure that these issues are resolved on a collective basis".

Second, Medvedev made it clear Moscow would resist US attempts to expand its military and political presence in the Central Asian and Caspian regions. He asserted, "This is a key region, a region in which diverse processes are taking place and in which Russia has crucially important work to do to coordinate our positions with our colleagues and help to find common solutions to the most complex problems."

Plainly put, Moscow will not allow a replay of the US's tactic after September 11, 2002, when it sought a military presence in Central Asia as a temporary measure and then coolly proceeded to put it on a long-term footing.

Karzai reaches out to Moscow

Interestingly, Medvedev's remarks coincide with reports that Washington is cutting Afghan President Hamid Karzai adrift and is planning to install a new "dream team" in Kabul.

Medvedev had written to Karzai offering military aid. Karzai apparently accepted the Russian offer, ignoring the US objection that in terms of secret US-Afghan agreements, Kabul needed Washington's prior consent for such dealings with third countries.

A statement from the Kremlin last Monday said Russia was "ready to provide broad assistance for an independent and democratic country [Afghanistan] that lives in a peaceful atmosphere with its neighbors. Cooperation in the defense sector ... will be effective for establishing peace in the region". It makes sense for Kabul to make military procurements from Russia since the Afghan armed forces use Soviet weaponry. But Washington doesn't want a Russian "presence" in Kabul.

Quite obviously, Moscow and Kabul have challenged the US's secret veto power over Afghanistan's external relations. Last Friday, Russian and Afghan diplomats met in Moscow and "pledged to continue developing Russian-Afghan cooperation in politics, trade and economics as well as in the humanitarian sphere". Significantly, they also "noted the importance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization [SCO]" that is dominated by Russia and China.

SCO seeks Afghan role

Washington cannot openly censure Karzai from edging close to Russia (and China) since Afghanistan is notionally a sovereign country. Meanwhile, Moscow is intervening in Kabul's assertion of independence. Moscow has stepped up its efforts to hold an international conference on Afghanistan under the aegis of the SCO. The US doesn't want Karzai to legitimize a SCO role in the Afghan problem. Now a flashpoint arises.

A meeting of deputy foreign ministers from the SCO member countries (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) met in Moscow on January 14. The Russian Foreign Ministry subsequently announced that a conference would take place in late March. The Russian initiative received a big boost with Iran and India's decision to participate in the conference.

New Delhi has welcomed an enhanced role for itself as a SCO observer and seeks "greater participation" in the organization's activities. In particular, New Delhi has "expressed interest in participating in the activities" of the SCO contact group on Afghanistan.

The big question is whether Karzai will seize these regional trends and respond to the SCO overture, which will enable Kabul to get out of Washington's stranglehold? To be sure, Washington is racing against time in bringing about a "regime change" in Kabul.

The point is, more and more countries in the region are finding it difficult to accept the US monopoly on conflict-resolution in Afghanistan. Washington will be hard-pressed to dissociate from the forthcoming SCO conference in March and, ideally, would have wished that Karzai also stayed away, despite it being a full-fledged regional initiative that includes all of Afghanistan's neighbors.

The SCO is sure to list Afghanistan as a major agenda item at its annual summit meeting scheduled to be held in August in Yekaterinburg, Russia. It seems Washington cannot stop the SCO in its tracks at this stage, except by genuinely broad-basing the search for an Afghan settlement and allowing regional powers with legitimate interests to fully participate.

The current US thinking, on the other hand, is to strike "grand bargains" with regional powers bilaterally and to keep them apart from collectively coordinating with each other on the basis of shared concerns. But the regional powers see through the US game plan for what it is - a smart move of divide-and-rule.

Moscow spurns selective engagement

No doubt, these diplomatic maneuverings also reveal the trust deficit in Russian-American relations. Moscow voices optimism that Obama will constructively address the problems that have accumulated in the US-Russia relationship. But Russia figured neither in Obama's inaugural address nor in the foreign policy document spelling out his agenda.

Last Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov summed up Moscow's minimal expectations: "I hope the controversial problems in our relations, such as missile defense, the expediency of NATO expansion ... will be resolved on the basis of pragmatism, without the ideological assessment the outgoing administration had ... We have noticed that ... Obama was willing to take a break on the issue of missile defense ... and to evaluate its effectiveness and cost efficiency."

But Russia is not among the new US administration's priorities. Besides, as the influential newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta noted last week, "A considerable number of [US] congressmen from both parties believe Russia needs a good talking-to." The current Russian priority will be to organize an early meeting between Lavrov and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and until such a meeting takes place, matters are on hold - including the vexed issue of the transit route for Afghanistan.

Thus, while talking to the media in Tashkent, Medvedev agreed in principle to grant permission to the US to use a transit route to Afghanistan via Russian territory, but at once qualified it saying, "This cooperation should be full-fledged and on an equal basis." He reminded Obama that the "surge" strategy in Afghanistan might not work. "We hope the new administration will be more successful than its predecessor on the issues surrounding Afghanistan," Medvedev said.

Evidently, Petraeus overlooked that the US's needless obduracy to keep the Hindu Kush as its exclusive geopolitical turf right in the middle of Asia has become a contentious issue. No matter the fine rhetoric, the Obama administration will find it difficult to sustain the myth that the Afghan war is all about fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban to the finish.