Reinventing the Evil Empire

By Stephen Lendman – RINF | For the West, everything changed but stayed the same, hard-wired and in place. Things just lay dormant in the shadows during the Yeltsin years, certain to reemerge once a more resolute Russian leader took over. If not Vladimir Putin, someone else little different.

Russia is back, proud and reassertive, and not about to roll over for America. Especially in Eurasia. For Washington, it’s back to the future, the new Cold War, and reinventing the Evil Empire, but this time for greater stakes and with much larger threats to world peace. Conservatives lost their influence. Neocons are weakened but still dominant. The Israeli Lobby and Christian Right drive them. Conflict is preferred over diplomacy, and most Democrats go along to look tough on “terrorism.” Notably their standard-bearer, vying with McCain to be toughest.

Ten former Warsaw Pact and Soviet Republics are part of NATO: the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary,
Poland, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. In addition, Georgia and Ukraine seek
membership. Russia is strongly opposed. And now for greater reason after Poland (on August 20) formally
agreed to allow offensive US “interceptor missiles” on its soil. A reported 96 short-range Patriot ones also
plus a permanent garrison of US troops – 110 transfered from Germany, according to some accounts.
Likely more to follow. In addition, Washington agreed to defend Poland whether or not it joins NATO, so that heightens tensions further.

The Warsaw signing followed the Czech Republic’s April
willingness to install “advanced tracking missile
defense radar” by 2012. In both instances, Russia
strongly objected, and on August 20 said it will
“react (and) not only through diplomatic protests.”
Both former Warsaw Pact countries are now targets. The
threat of nuclear war is heightened. The Bulletin of
the Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock heads closer to
midnight – meaning “catastrophic destruction.” It’s no
joking matter.

The US media downplays the threat and hails a pact
Zbigniew Brzezinski (a Polish national, former Carter
National Security Advisor, and key Obama foreign
policy strategist) calls a watershed in the two
countries’ relationship – “This changes the strategic
relationship between the US and Poland. There is a
clear and explicit understanding that if there are
negative consequences of stationing the missile
shield, the US will come to Poland’s defense.”

On the one hand, a surprising statement from a man
critical of Bush administration policies, its failure
in Iraq, and the dangers of a widened Middle East war.
He fully understands the heightened potential for
world conflict but sounds dismissive of the threat.
On the other hand, he has bigger fish to fry and
apparently willing to wage big stakes on winning. The
Iraq war and Iran are distractions by his calculus.
The real Great Game embraces all Eurasia and assuring
America comes out dominant – not Russia, not China,
nor any rival US alliance.

The major media also downplay the dangers and explain
nothing about the high stakes. Instead they beat up on
Russia and highlight comments from Secretary Rice that
missiles aren’t “aimed in any way at Russia,” or White
House spokesperson Dana Perino saying: “In no way is
the president’s plan for missile defense aimed at
Russia. (It’s to) protect our European allies from any
rogue threats” that suggests Iran, but, clearly means
Russia, according to Hauke Ritz’s recent analysis in
Germany’s influential Leaves for German and
International Politics journal.

He explained that Iran’s missiles can’t reach Europe,
and that Washington rejected Russia’s proposed
Azerbaijan-based joint US-Russian anti-missile system
– to intercept and destroy Iranian missiles on launch.
He thus concluded that Washington’s scheme is for
offense, not defense. That it targets Russia, not
Iran, with Alaskan and other installations close to
Russia as further proof. He wrote: “The strategic
significance of the system consists of intercepting
those few dozen missiles Moscow (can launch) following
a first strike. (It’s) a crucial element….to develop
a nuclear first strike capacity against Russia. The
original plan is for….ten interceptor missiles in
Poland. But once….established, their number could be
easily increased.”

According to Ritz, Washington wants a missile system
that “guarantee(s a) US (edge) to carry out nuclear
war without (risking a) counter-strike.” It can then
be used for geopolitical advantage “to implement
national interests,” but it highlights the dangers of
possible nuclear confrontation and the catastrophic
fallout if it happens.

In an August 20 Veterans of Foreign Wars convention
address, Bush was essentially on this theme in
focusing on “terrorism” and saying: “We’re at war
against determined enemies, and we must not rest until
that war is won.” Georgia “stands for freedom around
the world, now the world must stand for freedom in
Georgia” – clearly linking Russia’s response with
“terrorism” and suggesting from his September 2001
address to a joint session of Congress and the America
people that: “Every nation, in every region, now has a
decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are
with the terrorists.” Any that are “will be
regarded….as a hostile state.” Clearly, Russia is on
his mind just as Moscow is carefully evaluating his
threat.

The BBC echoed the US media, covers all the bases,
mentioned the Iranian threat, singles out Russia,
obfuscates facts about the conflict, sides with
Washington and Poland on the new missile deal, and
quoted Polish President Lech Kaczynski saying: “no one
(with) good intentions towards us and (the West)
should” fear the missiles. It also cited a miraculous
turnaround in sentiment saying two-thirds of Poles now
favor them. Astonishing since overwhelming opposition
was recently evident, so it’s hard imagining it
shifted so fast.

High-Octane Russia Bashing – The Dominant US Media

The Wall Street Journal asserted that Poles “see the
US as their strongest ally” given “two centuries of
invasions and partitioning by Russia” and other
European powers. It also highlighted Russia’s “nuclear
threat” (not Iran’s) in a Gabriel Schoenfeld article
painting Russia as an aggressor and America aiding its
European allies.

Schoenfeld (a senior editor of the hawkish,
pro-Israeli Commentary magazine) cites “Moscow’s
willingness to crush Georgia with overwhelming force
(and claims) the Kremlin has 10 times as many tactical
(short-range) warheads as the US.” The “shift in the
nuclear imbalance….helped embolden the bear.” He
ignores America’s overall nuclear superiority, but it
hardly matters as both countries combined have around
97% of these weapons (an estimated 27,000 world total)
according to experts like Helen Caldicott – more than
enough to destroy the planet many times over.

Nonetheless, Schoenfeld supports the Polish agreement
in the face of a “pugnacious Russia (determined to
acquire) economic and military power (and) not afraid
to use threats and force to get (its) way (with)
nuclear weapons central to the Russian geopolitical
calculus.” It’s reminiscent of “the dark days of
communist yore (and captures the threat of what) we
and Russia’s neighbors are up against.”

For the moment, anti-Iranian rhetoric has subsided
with Russia the new dominant villian. En route to the
NATO Brussels August 18 meeting, Secretary Rice called
Russia’s action against Georgia a “very dangerous game
and perhaps one the Russians want to reconsider.”
Russian “aggression” is the buzzword, and the media
dutifully trumpet it.

So do the presidential candidates. John McCain was
especially belligerent in denouncing “Russian
aggression” and calling on Moscow to “immediately and
unconditionally cease its military operations and
withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian
territory.” He called for emergency Security Council
and NATO meetings in hopes condemnation would follow
and “NATO (can act) to stabiliz(e) this very dangerous
situation.” He also wants Russia expelled from the G-8
nations and an end to 10 years of partnership and
cooperation.

Barak Obama first said that Russia’s “aggression” must
not stand and denounced “Russian atrocities.” He then
softened his tone somewhat with: “Now is the time for
action – not just words….Russia must halt its
violation of Georgian airspace and withdraw its ground
forces from Georgia, with international monitors to
verify that these obligations are met.” But expect
those comments to harden as Democrats meet in Denver,
and the party’s nominee will likely match his
opponent’s tough stance. Or at least try under a
slogan of “Securing America’s Future” to advance the
nation’s interests in the world. Beating up on Russia
is now fair game and made easier with lockstep media
support.

The Wall Street Journal is more hostile than most, and
practically frothed in its August 16 – 17 weekend
edition. It called for “Making Putin Pay (and) Turning
Russia’s Georgian rout into a political defeat.” It
cited Russian aggression “to remove President
Saakasvili from the office to which he was elected in
2004 (and to) overthrow a democratic government.”

It called on “western authorities (to) explore the
vulnerability of Russian assets abroad (or) at least
make life difficult for the holders of those assets.”
The Journal might remember the billions of US fixed
income and other investments Russia holds – although
the country’s Central Bank reported late July that it
pared its $100 billion in US “mortgage bonds” to $50
billion early in the year. The US Treasury reports
that Russia holds around $36 billion of Treasury
securities with considerably more in private hands.

The Journal then compared Russia to China and managed
a slap at both. It said: “In the world of global
commerce….China calculated that….staging an
Olympic extravaganza (could enhance its) ambivalent
reputation….By contrast, the Putin
government….seems to believe its power grows in sync
with its reputation as an international pariah, an
outsider state,” and George Bush added that “Russia
has damaged its credibility and its relations with the
nations of the free world” – with the Journal writer
hardly blinking at such brazen hypocrisy.

Nor did Journal editorial board member Matthew
Kaminski in his headlined piece: “Russia Is Still a
Hungry Empire” without a hint about the Soviet Union’s
bloodless 1991 dissolution now down the memory hole in
light of today’s inflammatory headlines.

Kaminski highlights “Russian tanks rolling through
Georgia (with) images of Chechnya in 1994 and ’99,
Vilnius ’91, Afghanistan ’79, Prague ’68, Hungary ’56”
and before that Poland, the Baltics and other Eastern
European states. “The war in Georgia marks an easy
return to territorial expansion and attempted regional
dominance.”

Boris Yeltsin “tried to give Russians an alternative
narrative. (He) put forward democracy as a unifying
and legitimizing idea for the new Russian state.” But
that was swept away when “Putin took over.” He’s
unresponsive to the idea of “partnership with the West
and freedom at home.” He aims to force “young
democracies around Russia….back into Moscow’s sphere
of influence….The worldview of a Russian nationalist
is hard for outsiders to comprehend,” and for Kaminski
one that mustn’t be allowed to stand.

Nor for other Journal contributors daily (in op-eds
and editorials) with some of the most outlandish
attack journalism heard since before Gorbachev. Claims
that “Kremlin capitalism is a threat to the West….by
using its market strength in oil and gas resources to
strong-arm its neighbors and outmaneuver the US and
EU.” And that Russia’s real aim “is to replace a
pro-western government with a new Russian
satellite….reminiscent of the Brezhnev doctrine.
(It’s) part of a broader campaign (to annex new
territory, expand the Russian empire, conduct) cyber
attacks against the Baltic states, (assassinate
enemies, and use) economic intimidation (through)
cutoffs of Russian oil and gas shipments to Ukraine
and the Czech Republic….It is important that Moscow
pays a concrete and tangible price for its latest
aggression, at least comparable to (what) it paid for
the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.”

The New York Times is more measured but, on August 19,
highlighted “Survivors in Georgia Tell of Ethnic
Killings” with suggestions of “ethnic cleansing” – a
practice that “haunted the borderlands of the old
Soviet bloc.” Villages were “burned and houses broken;
unburied bodies lay rotting; fresh graves were dug in
gardens and basements….most victims interviewed
(were) ethnic Georgians….(In central Georgian)
villages, some killings were carried out for
revenge….some (involved) theft (and still others)
seemed to be that the power balance was shifting, away
from ethnic Georgians to the Ossetian separatists and
their Russian backers.”

Independent reporters on the ground contradicted The
Times and similar US media accounts. One wrote:
“Georgians living in several of the villages said the
Russians occupying their land had treated them well,
done nothing to encourage them to leave and offered
the only protection available from the South Ossestian
militias they feared most” and perhaps their own army
in an effort to inflict harm and blame it on Russia.

On August 21, The Times headlined: “US Sees Much to
Fear in a Hostile Russia (by) usher(ing) in a
sustained period of renewed animosity with the
West….problems extend(ing) far beyond (arms deals
with) Syria and the mountains of Georgia.” Others with
“anti-American states like Iran and Venezuela.”
Pressuring US “military bases in Central
Asia….counterterrorism, Hamas” and numerous other
issues. Obama’s chief Russia advisor, Stanford
University professor Michael McFaul, was quoted saying
Russia appears intent on “disrupt(ing) the
international order” and can do it. They’re “the
hegemon in that region and we are not and that’s a
fact.”

“Russia has all the leverage,” according to Carnegie
Moscow Center’s Masha Lipman (with) potential for
causing headaches” if it chooses – in the region, the
UN, on Iran, Zimbabwe, and to halt “any kind of
coercive actions, like economic sanctions or anything
else,” according to former National Security Council
advisor Peter Feaver. An old post-Cold War concern is
now arisen. Russia is now “a spoiler.”

An August 21 AP report cites an example in its
headlined piece” “Russia blocks Georgia’s main (oil)
port city” of Poti and continues to hold positions
around Gori and Igoeti….30 miles west
of….Tbilisi.”

Reports from Other Sources

On August 21, Russia Today reported that “Abkhazia
rallie(d) for independence (and) the Abkhazian
Parliament has approved an official appeal to Russia
to recognize its independence.” Tens of thousands
rallied in support, and on August 23, Reuters reported
that South Ossetia did as well and its president,
Eduard Kokoity, plans to ask Russia and the
international community for recognition. Russia’s
Deputy Federation Council Speaker, Svetlana Orlova,
told the rally that “Russia is always with you and
will never leave you in the lurch.”

On August 23, The New York Times reported that “the
Kremlin is nearing formal recognition of South Ossetia
and Abkhazia, possibly as early as next week.”
Apparently likely according to Russian Regional
Development Minister, Dmitry Kozak, who told Itar-Tass
“support is likely (and) that after all the events
that have occurred, one should not expect otherwise.”

On August 21, Abkhazian President Sergey Bagapsh
“appealed to Russia and to governments of other
countries to recognize Abkhazia’s independence,” for
both his province and South Ossetia. On August 20,
Interfax reported that the Russian Federation Council
(Russia’s upper House of parliament) is prepared to
recognize both provinces’ independence if their people
“express such a will….and if the Russian president
makes a relevant decision on this score,” according to
Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov.

On August 25, Russia Today reported that (in
emergency session) the Federation Council unanimously
voted to ask President Medvedev to recognize Abkhazian
and South Ossetian independence. Both province
presidents addressed the chamber and “again said they
will never agree to remain within Georgia” and are
more entitled to independence than Kosovo. Konstantin
Zatulin, deputy head of the Duma Committee for
International Affairs in Russia’s State Duma, its
lower chamber, stated that his body “most probably”
will go along.

At the same time, tensions remain high. Both sides
continue hostile accusations. Russia maintains it’s
conducting an orderly withdrawal “in accordance with
the international agreements (to their) previous
(places) of deployment,” according to Col. Gen.
Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of Russia’s General
Staff. US military officials at first said they saw no
significant pullback. On August 22 with a clear
withdrawal underway, the International Herald Tribune
reported that the “US and France say Russia is not
complying” with the cease fire.

Russia is observing a 1999 joint Russian-S.
Ossetian-N. Ossetian-Georgian agreement prepared by
the Joint Control Commission, an international South
Ossetian monitoring body. It lets Russian troops
secure a corridor five miles beyond either side of
South Ossetia’s border that extends into Georgia. It
also allows Russian peacekeepers to operate under the
auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

On August 23, RIA Novosti reported that Nogovitsyn
said Russian forces will patrol Georgia’s Black Sea
Poti port as “envisaged in the international
agreement. Poti is outside of the security zone,” he
said, “but that does not mean we will sit behind a
fence watching them riding around in Hummers.” Nor
allow Georgia to rearm for more aggression as Russia
suspects, and that Georgia’s deputy defense minister,
Batu Kutelia, admitted doing initially. On August 22,
he told the Financial Times that his government
attacked the S. Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, and
attempted to seize it.

On August 22, Nogovitsyn heightened tensions by
claiming Georgia is now preparing for new military
action against Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “We have
registered an increase in (Georgian) reconnaissance
activities and preparations for armed actions in the
Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone.” As a result,
he said that Russia reserves the right to maintain
peacekeepers in both provinces. For its part, RIA
Novosti reports that America now refuses to
participate with Russia in “NATO’s Operation Active
Endeavour naval antiterrorism exercise,” according to
a Russian Black Sea Fleet source. The announcement
came after Russia’s NATO envoy, Dmitry Rogozin, said
his country was “temporarily suspending military
cooperation with NATO until a political decision on
relations” between the two nations had been resolved.

Also on August 22, the Israeli Ynetnews.com published
a Russian daily Kommersant interview with Washington’s
new Moscow ambassador, John Beyrle, sure to embarrass
his superiors. He called Russia’s response justified
after its troops came under attack. “Now we see
Russian forces which responded to attacks on Russian
peacekeepers in South Ossetia, legitimately….” He
went on to criticize Russia’s over-reaction and warned
about its impact on US – Russia relations as well as
investor confidence. Nonetheless, his first comment is
telling and quite contrary to everything from
Washington and biting anti-Russian media responses.

Finally on August 23, Russia Today reported that the
“local (S. Ossetian and Abkhazian) population (said)
they fear Georgia might repeat its regional
aggression. They also (want) Russian troops to stay in
the area to shield them from any possible attacks.”
Russia has set up 18 S. Ossetia peacekeeping posts and
plans a similar number in Abkhazia “to deter looters
and the transportation of arms and ammunition.”

All the News Not Fit to Print

Not a major media hint that Georgia is a US vassal
state. That its military is an extension of the
Pentagon. That its aggression was manufactured in
Washington. That it’s well-supplied and trained by
America and Israel. That pipeline geopolitics is
central. Beating up on Russia as well. Diverting
Moscow from any planned intervention against Iran.
Even enlisting Russia’s cooperation – not to sell Iran
sophisticated S-300 air defense missile systems and
agreeing to tougher sanctions in return for perhaps
Washington deferring on Georgian and Ukrainian NATO
admission and recognizing S. Ossetian and Abkhazian
independence. Perhaps more as well to put off greater
confrontation for later under a new administration.

Clearly, however, the fuse is lit. It has been for
some time. It relates to everything strategic about
this vital area with its immense energy and other
resources as well neutralizing Russia’s power as
America’s top rival and key Eurasian competitor.

Controlling the region’s oil and gas is crucial and
what Michel Chossudovsky explains in his August 22
article titled: “The Eurasian Corridor: Pipeline
Geopolitics and the New Cold War.” He calls the
Caucasus crisis “intimately related to the control
over energy pipeline and transportation corridors (and
cites) evidence that the Georgian (August 7)
attack….was carefully planned (in) High level
consultations (between) US and NATO officials” months
in advance. On August 23, RIA Novosti said a Russian
security source accused Georgia of involvement a year
ago in “coordinat(ion) with NATO’s plans to strengthen
its (Black Sea) naval presence.”

Chossudovsky discusses America’s (1999) “Silk Road
Strategy: The Trans-Eurasian Security System (as) an
essential building block of (post-Cold War) US foreign
policy.” Proposed in House legislation but never
enacted, it was for “an energy and transport corridor
network linking Western Europe to Central Asia and
eventually to the Far East.” It aims to integrate
South Caucasus and Central Asian nations “into the US
sphere of influence.” It involves “militariz(ing) the
Eurasian corridor,” much like Security and Prosperity
Partnership plans are for North America.

Efforts are largely directed against Russia, China and
Iran as well as other Eastern-allied states. It’s to
turn all Eurasia into a “free market” paradise, secure
it for capital, assure US dominance, control its
resources, exploit its people, transform all its
nations into American vassals, and likely aim to
dismantle Russia’s huge landmass if that idea ever
comes to fruition.

Russia, however, isn’t standing idle and is partnered
in two strategic alliances:

— the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) since
June 2001 along with China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Uzbekistan with Iran in observer status.
It defines its goals as: “good neighborly relations;”
promoting “effective cooperation in politics, trade
and economy, science and technology” and more as well
as “ensur(ing) peace, security and stability in the
region.” Given NATO’s potential threat, its main
purpose is military; and

— the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)
since 2003 “in close liaison with the SCO” with a
heavy emphasis on security against NATO Eurasian
expansionism; its members include: Russia, Armenia,
Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and
Uzbekistan.

The stakes are huge as both sides prepare to confront
them. All part of the new Cold War and Great Game.
Reinventing the Evil Empire and beating up on Russia
as part of it. Risking a potential nuclear
confrontation as well and what a new US president will
inherit with no assurance a Democrat will be any more
able than a Republican. And with a global economic
crisis unresolved, either one may resort to the age
old strategy of stoking fear, going to war, hoping it
will stimulate the economy, and be able to divert
public concerns away from lost jobs, home
foreclosures, and a whole array of other unaddressed
issues.

In early 2003, it worked. Will 2009 be a repeat? Will
it deepen what author Kevin Phillips calls “the global
crisis of American capitalism?” Will the Doomsday
Clock strike midnight? It moved two minutes closer on
January 17, 2007 to five minutes to the hour. It cited
27,000 nuclear weapons, 2000 ready to launch in
minutes. It said: “We stand at the brink of a second
nuclear age. Not since….Hiroshima and Nagasaki has
the world faced such perilous choices.” It said the
situation is “dire.” It called for immediate
preventive action. Its message went unheeded, and
conditions today have worsened. The high Eurasian
stakes up things further, and neither side so far is
blinking.