Daily Archives: August 31, 2008

medvedev rather flat and to the point

Medvedev spells out five principles of Russian foreign policy
BOCHAROV RUCHEI (Sochi), August 31 (Itar-Tass)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has declared five principles of the Russian foreign policy following the recognition of independent South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Medvedev had come to Sochi for a number of domestic and international meetings. He told three Russian television channels at his Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi on Sunday:

While implementing the Russian foreign policy, I will be guided with five principles,

  • First of all, Russia recognizes the supremacy of international legal fundamentals, which define relations between civilized nations.
  • Secondly, the world must be multi-polar. Single polarity is unacceptable. Russia cannot accept a world order, in which any decisions will be made by a sole nation, even such a serious one as the United States. Such a world order will be unstable and fraught with conflicts.
  • Thirdly, Russia does not want a confrontation with any country. Russia does not want isolation. We will develop as much as possible friendly relations with Europe, the United States and other countries of the world.
  • Fourthly, the protection of life and dignity of Russian citizens no matter where they live is an absolute priority. We will also stand up for the interests of our business community abroad. Everyone must know that an aggression will be deterred.
  • The fifth principle is Russia’s interests in friendly regions. The same as other countries, Russia has areas of privileged interests. These areas house countries to which we are linked with friendly ties, and I am not only speaking of neighboring countries. As for the future development of diplomatic relations, that will depend not only on Russia but also on our friends, partners and the international community at large. They have a choice.
  • from deep within the spin cycle

    Hindus get Kashmir land despite Muslim protests
    Reuters via World Bulletin

    On Sunday, officials and Hindu protesters reached an agreement to use the Kashmir forest land Muslims oppose to build temporary shelters, ending protests in Jammu city. Hindus in Kashmir called off their two-month protest after the government allowed them temporary use of Muslim land at the centre of a row for an annual pilgrimage, officials said on Sunday. The dispute began when India tried to give Kashmiri forest land to Hindus, then snowballed into some of the biggest pro-independence demonstrations in Kashmir since a battle against Indian occupation broke out in 1989. Authorities relaxed a curfew in Srinagar, the summer capital on Sunday. Muslims have vowed to continue their campaign. Indian troops have been criticised by Kashmiris and international human rights groups for using excessive force. On Sunday, officials and Hindu protesters reached an agreement to use the Kashmir forest land Muslims oppose to build temporary shelters, ending protests in Jammu city. “We are temporarily suspending our strike,” Leela Karan Sharma, a Hindu protest leader said, as Hindus burst fire crackers in the streets to celebrate the agreement. Authorities imposed a curfew in Jammu city. In the past three weeks, Indian police shot dead at least 30 protesters and more than 600 were wounded in clashes. India has also intensified pressures against Muslims and detained at least five leaders, including a top woman leader. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Kashmir because of Indian occupation.

    Hindus say deal struck on Kashmir shrine

    In Kashmir, plans to donate the land where the shrine is situated to the Shri Amarnthji Shrine Board sparked huge demonstrations by Muslims who believed that the federal government wanted to change the demographics of the area. The decision was reversed in July, prompting Hindus to block the main highway and impose an economic blockade on the valley. Under the new deal, the 40 hectares of land will be available to the board every year but only temporarily. Any tents and shops can only be set up by Kashmiris. In Orissa state, which has been rocked by Hindu-Christian violence after the killing of a Hindu-nationalist preacher, two people were injured when police fired on rioters in Koraput district late Saturday. Violence in the Kandhamal district, where it has been most intense, is reported to have declined. Thousands of people, mainly Christians, have fled to the jungle or government shelters after their houses were burnt down. In West Bengal, thousands of protesters again stopped construction of a factory which is due to produce Tata motors’ Nano car. A team of Japanese experts helping the company went home after work was suspended. In Bihar, officials say that more than 300,000 people trapped in India’s worst floods in 50 years have been rescued but nearly double that number remain stranded without food or water. About 60 people have died and three million have been affected since the Kosi river breached its banks earlier this month on the border with Nepal and changed course.

    laughland, always pretty sensible

    Russia and the West: A Dialogue of the Deaf
    John Laughland, Brussels Journal, Aug 27 2008

    Perhaps the most revealing remark made during the crisis over South Ossetia was that by the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who attacked Russia in very strong terms for having reverted to “a 19th century approach to politics”. Milliband’s hatred of Russia is built into his political DNA. His grandfather, Samuel Miliband, was a Warsaw-born Communist who famously fought in the Red Army but who then left the Soviet Union for Belgium when Stalin became top dog in Moscow. As a lifelong Trotskyite and supporter of world revolution, Miliband was disgusted by Stalin’s decision to create socialism in one country alone and by his de facto restoration of Great Russian nationalism. Samuel’s son, Ralph, the Foreign Secretary’s father (born in Brussels), became a noted Marxist political scientist. His son David’s embrace now of the neo-conservative project of creating a unipolar world based on American power and the ideology of human rights is therefore a typical illustration of something of which I have written on many occasions in the past, namely the way in which true Marxists find their natural political home in the project of “global democratic revolution” proselytised by George W. Bush.

    Indeed, the Foreign Secretary’s remark about Russia reveals more about the speaker than about the matter in hand. Of course the remark is notable for its hypocrisy. Miliband, after all, is a member of a government which has invaded two countries which have in the past been classic destinations for the British troops in the heyday of Empire, Afghanistan and Iraq, and which has also energetically pursued the extension of Western influence into another part of the world famous for being the focus of Great Power rivalry in the 19th century, the Balkans. But the remark is mainly notable for the mindset it reveals. From Miliband’s point of view, Western policy over the last fifteen years has not been a matter of brute force. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the bombing attack on Yugoslavia have not been military invasions, but instead selfless acts inspired by a desire to promote democracy and human rights, and therefore not even political acts in the classic sense of that term. Instead, they are (he believes) acts carried out in the service of humanity, acts which no reasonable person could oppose. Anyone who does oppose them is probably an enemy of humanity itself.

    By contrast, continues his reasoning, Russia’s decision to protect South Ossetia from the Georgian attack on the night of 8 August is a cynical exercise of brute force designed solely to extend Russian power into the Caucasus. Indeed, although Moscow actually did react to human rights abuses and war crimes committed by the Georgians when they attacked Tskinvali, the language coming out of the Russian capital has tended to focus more on the country’s national interests and security, and less on appeals to universal principles of human rights. This is what Miliband cannot stand. When George W. Bush gave the order to invade Iraq, by contrast, there was of course a certain amount of talk about America’s need to protect herself from external attack (a threat which was purely invented). But the centre of gravity of the American arguments in favour of that war lay in universalist and unpolitical claims about democratising the Middle East and advancing the global democratic revolution.

    The great and controversial German jurist, Carl Schmitt, famously adopted Proudhon’s dictum that “Whoever speaks about humanity is trying to deceive.” It’s a good one-liner but the remark is incorrect. Precisely the danger of the Miliband-Bush vision of politics is that it is not based on a conscious desire to deceive others but instead on self-deception – on a genuine belief in the rightness of the universalist and almost Messianic mission which they embrace. Like the liberal imperialists of the, er, 19th century, these people do really believe that what they are doing is selfless and essentially non-political. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union – an artificial political creation based on a negation of Russian history and reality, on bogus internationalism, and on an allegedly universalist political creed which was supposed to embrace the whole of humanity – Russian politicians have long since abandoned any pretence that their own country has any such universal vocation. When I met President Putin last September, he specifically said that Russia had suffered greatly from having adopted Lenin’s universalist creed of communism. (“Vladimir Ilyich Lenin-Ulyanov said at one point: Russia matters nothing to me; what matters is to achieve world socialist revolution.”)

    Not so the United States and Britain. The neo-conservative project of creating a unipolar world based on human rights and democracy (embraced energetically on both the Left and the Right of the American political spectrum, as the recent nomination of Joe Biden as Barack Obama’s running-mate sadly emphasises) does require brute force to implement it. Developments like the “independence” of Kosovo grow only out of the barrel of a gun. But the project is supported in London and Washington by people who have utterly deluded themselves about its truly political nature. It is because the West still deceives itself on this matter, and because post-Soviet Russia no longer does, that East-West relations are a dialogue of the deaf. Both sides are speaking a language the other does not want to hear. The Western vision, based on self-deceit, is extremely dangerous; the Russian vision of politics is far more realistic. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the reassertion of a Russian presence on the international stage will force the Milibands of this world, obviously against their will, to realise a basic fact about the human condition. It is that the world has been divided into different states ever since the collapse of the Tower of Babel, and that politics consists therefore not in fantastic projects to construct a new tower in its place, but instead in making the best job one can out of the bricks which remain.

    she sure sounds qualified to run usa inc

    Troopergate in Alaska (extract)
    Dave Lindorff, CounterPunch

    […] The evidence suggests that Gov. Palin may have abused her power as governor of Alaska to fire the state’s public security director, after he blocked her efforts to destroy the career of a low-level state trooper who happened to be her former brother-in-law, because she wanted to avenge a sister engaged in an ugly post-divorce custody dispute. Published allegations would show that both Gov. Palin’s husband Todd Palin (who works for British Petroleum), and members of her staff, repeatedly called and harangued state Public Safety Director Walt Monegan, who says he was “pressured” to fire the brother-in-law, Officer Mike Wooten. The Palins have charged that Wooten drank beer in his patrol car, hunted moose illegally and that he once fired his taser at his 11-year-old step son—charges that Wooten has denied. They have also claimed that Wooten threatened Sarah Palin’s father—also denied by Wooten.

    Also interesting—the charges that were made against Wooten were for things that he allegedly did years before, and for which, where appropriate, he had already been disciplined or exonerated by his employer. That taser incident, if it happened, was when the stepson was 11. The boy, now 17, reportedly lives these days with the allegedly trigger-happy step dad. The alleged beer and hunting incidents also predate the divorce, which raises questions of why, if those charges warranted Wooten’s firing from the police force, the supposedly ethics-obsessed Palin would not have raised them back at the time with his superiors.

    Palin has improbably denied that she had “anything to do with” her husband’s calls to Monegan. She subsequently fired Monegan and got his successor to fire her sister’s ex from the police force. (Her pick to replace Monegan is being accused of sexual harassment!). The Republican state legislature has voted $100,000 to fund an independent investigation into the abuse of power charges against Palin, and there is talk of a possible impeachment proceeding, too. Palin has denied that she did anything wrong. The investigation, which is expected to take three months to complete, will drag on through the entire presidential election campaign.

    more palin reasoning

    Advisers say conservative ire pushed
    McCain away from picking Lieberman

    Elisabeth Bumiller & Michael Cooper, IHT, Aug 31, 2008

    For weeks, advisers close to the campaign said, McCain had wanted to name as his running mate his good friend Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the Democrat turned independent. But by the end of last weekend, the outrage from Christian conservatives over the possibility that McCain would fill out the Republican ticket with Lieberman, a supporter of abortion rights, had become too intense to be ignored. McCain began the search for a running mate shortly after he secured the Republican nomination, with some 40 names on a list. By early spring he had cut it to 20, including, a top adviser said, at least five women: Palin; Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Carleton Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard; and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas. But it was not until the last few weeks that McCain winnowed his list to five or six finalists. They included, a McCain adviser said, Pawlenty, Romney, Lieberman, Palin and Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania who also supports abortion rights. Palin, unlike the others, was barely mentioned in news media speculation.

    The finalists, including Palin, were vetted, a campaign adviser said, and McCain then asked his inner circle — Salter, Rick Davis, Steve Schmidt and Charlie Black — to provide him with assessments of each. “He said, ‘Give me plusses and minuses on each of these people,’ ” Black said. One of McCain’s closest friends, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, weighed in as well, pushing so hard for Lieberman — McCain, Graham and Lieberman are longtime traveling companions — that he vexed some of the other advisers. Others in the inner circle favored Pawlenty or Romney. Palin had no strong advocates in the group, an outside adviser said, but she had no detractors, either. Last Sunday, 24 hours after Obama announced his running mate, Senator Joseph Biden Jr. of Delaware, McCain met with his senior campaign team at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Phoenix. By then, campaign advisers said, the group had long decided that McCain’s “experience versus change” argument against Obama had run its course, to the extent that it had worked at all.

    hamas recognises south ossetia and abkhazia

    On August 26, the same day Medvedev announced Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a spokesman for the Palestinian group Hamas welcomed the move. He said that there were similarities between the situations of the Abkhazian and South Ossetian people, and the Palestinian people. The spokesman said: “We, Palestinians, also struggle to attain recognition for our rights, the main of which is the right to be an independent state. We hope that the decision of Moscow becomes the beginning of recognition of peoples which combat for freedom and justice.”

    storm scrambles shit-for-brains convention

    Storm scrambles GOP convention
    Mike Allen & Jonathan Martin, Politico, Aug 30 2008

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — Bush is unlikely to make it to the Republican National Convention, and McCain may deliver his acceptance speech via satellite because of the historically huge hurricane threatening New Orleans, top officials said. Late Saturday night, the RNC was planning to issue a release announcing the formation of a “working group of representatives from each of the states in Hurricane Gustav’s path. The group will ensure that all affected delegates have information and assistance in real time. The Affected States Working Group is led by all five state party chairs from the affected area, along with other delegation officials. The purpose of the group will be to regularly brief their delegates and convention planners, provide access to timely information and assistance, and give input on appropriate steps that can be taken from Minnesota.”

    Officials insisted that the convention, scheduled to open here on Monday, will go on — albeit in a more limited and sedate form — even if Hurricane Gustav stays on its projected path. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday after federal officials said Gustav could grow to a catastrophic Category 5 and hit Monday afternoon somewhere between eastern Texas and western Mississippi. McCain made plans to travel to a threatened area of the Gulf Coast on Sunday, accompanied by his wife, Cindy, and running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. They planned to meet Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in Jackson, Miss., aides said. McCain was scheduled to deliver his acceptance speech Thursday but now may do so from the devastation zone if the storm hits the US coast with the ferocity feared by forecasters.

    Organizers confronted a plate of unhappy options, wanting to appear in touch and sympathetic while still carrying out their necessary business of officially nominating the party’s presidential candidate. One top convention planner said Saturday night to expect a more definitive plan by mid-afternoon Sunday. The source indicated that organizers had held off on making any firm pronouncements because of the uncertainty as to when Gustav will make landfall, and because they wanted to get a better sense of its impact before making decisions. Convention planners were preparing contingencies for making the nomination official even if delegates from the threatened area were missing. Officials were considering a video link for Bush, among other possibilities that they would not specify. The Red Cross may come in to the Xcel Energy Center to mobilize the delegates in a giant service project, preparing care packages for the hurricane zone, organizers said. The White House announced that Bush on Sunday morning will visit the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a briefing by federal, state and local officials.

    Republican officials here are preparing for radical changes to every element of the convention. If the storm is as bad as feared, they will dramatically alter the tone of the speeches, cut way back on the partisan red meat, eliminate the glitzy entertainment and, if they can do so legally, use the gathering for a massive fundraising drive that may even feature a passing of buckets on the convention floor to benefit the Red Cross, according to a top GOP source. “We’ll have to acknowledge that Americans are hurting,” said this Republican. Much can be changed or altogether dropped from the convention, but it emphatically must take place in some form, because McCain needs to be nominated to be legally placed on the ballot in all 50 states. “There are no exceptions to that,” said the source. For now, though, they’re hesitant to act too quickly. But as the hours pass, the television networks, which have already invested considerable cash in the made-for-TV quadrennial ritual, are becoming increasingly impatient and are pressing party officials to firm up plans. The networks are stretched thin, in terms of both personnel and equipment, between here and the Gulf region and need to make their own decisions. But Republicans are reluctant to react too quickly under pressure. “We don’t want to be pushed into a herd mentality by the television media,” said a senior GOP source.

    a good analysis of the palin pick

    6 things Palin pick says about McCain
    Jim Vandehei & John F Harris, Politico. com, Aug 30 2008

    The selection of a running mate is among the most consequential and the most defining decisions a presidential nominee can make. John McCain’s pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin says a lot about his decision-making — and some of it is downright breathtaking. We knew McCain is a politician who relishes improvisation and likes to go with his gut. But it is remarkable that someone who has repeatedly emphasized experience in this campaign named an inexperienced governor he barely knew to be his No. 2. Whatever you think of the pick, here are six things it tells us about McCain:

    1. He’s desperate. Let’s stop pretending this race is as close as national polling suggests. The truth is McCain is essentially tied or trailing in every swing state that matters — and too close for comfort in several states, such as Indiana and Montana, that the GOP usually wins pretty easily in presidential races. On top of that, voters seem very inclined to elect Democrats in general this election — and very sick of the Bush years. McCain could easily lose in an electoral landslide. That is the private view of Democrats and Republicans alike. McCain’s pick shows he is not pretending. Politicians, even “mavericks” like McCain, play it safe when they think they are winning — or see an easy path to winning. They roll the dice only when they know that the risks of conventionality are greater than the risks of boldness. The Republican brand is a mess. McCain is reasonably concluding that it won’t work to replicate George W. Bush and Karl Rove’s electoral formula, based around national security and a big advantage among Y chromosomes, from 2004. “She’s a fresh new face in a party that’s dying for one — the antidote to boring white men,” a campaign official said. Palin, the logic goes, will prompt voters to give McCain a second look — especially women who have watched Democrats reject Hillary Rodham Clinton for Barack Obama. The risks of a backlash from choosing someone so unknown and so untested are obvious. In one swift stroke, McCain demolished what had been one of his main arguments against Obama. “I think we’re going to have to examine our tag line, ‘dangerously inexperienced,’” a top McCain official said wryly.

    2. He’s willing to gamble — bigtime. Let’s face it: This is not the pick of a self-confident candidate. It is the political equivalent of a trick play or, as some Democrats called it, a Hail Mary pass in football. McCain talks incessantly about experience, and then goes and selects a woman he hardly knows, who hardly knows foreign policy and who can hardly be seen as instantly ready for the presidency. He is smart enough to know it could work, at least politically. Many Republicans see this pick as a brilliant stroke, because it will be difficult for Democrats to run hard against a woman in the wake of the Hillary Clinton drama. Will this push those disgruntled Hillary voters McCain’s way? Perhaps. But this is hardly aimed at them: It is directed at the huge bloc of independent women who could decide this election — especially those who do not see abortion as a make-or-break issue. McCain has a history of taking dares. Palin represents his biggest one yet.

    3. He’s worried about the political implications of his age. Like a driver overcorrecting out of a swerve, he chooses someone who is two years younger than the youthful Obama and 28 years younger than he is. (He turned 72 on Friday.) The father-daughter comparison was inevitable when they appeared next to each other.

    4. He’s not worried about the actuarial implications of his age. He thinks he’s in fine fettle and Palin wouldn’t be performing the main constitutional duty of a vice president, which is standing by in case a president dies or becomes incapacitated. If he were really concerned about an inexperienced person sitting in the Oval Office, we would be writing about vice presidential nominee Mitt Romney or Tom Ridge or Condoleezza Rice. There is no plausible way McCain could say that he picked Palin, who was only elected governor in 2006 and whose most extended public service was as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (population 8,471), because she was ready to be president on Day One. Nor can McCain argue that he was looking for someone he could trust as a close adviser. Most people know the staff at the local Starbucks better than McCain knows Palin. They met for the first time last February at a National Governors Association meeting in Washington. Then, they spoke again — by phone — on Sunday while she was at the Alaska state fair and he was at home in Arizona. McCain has made a mockery out of his campaign’s longtime contention that Barack Obama is too dangerously inexperienced to be commander in chief. Now, the Democratic ticket boasts 40 years of national experience (four years for Obama and 36 years for Joe Biden of Delaware), while the Republican ticket has 26 (McCain’s four years in the House and 22 in the Senate). The McCain campaign has made a calculation that most voters don’t really care about the national experience or credentials of a vice president, and that Palin’s ebullient personality and reputation as a reformer who took on cesspool politics in Alaska matters more.

    5. He’s worried about his conservative base. If he had room to maneuver, there were lots of people McCain could have selected who would have represented a break from Washington politics as usual. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman comes to mind (and it certainly came to McCain’s throughout the process). He had no such room. GOP stalwarts were furious over trial balloons about the possibility of choosing a supporter of abortion rights, including the possibility that he would reach out to his friend. Palin is an ardent opponent of abortion who was previously scheduled to keynote the Republican National Coalition for Life’s “Life of the Party” event in the Twin Cities this week. “She’s really a perfect selection,” said Darla St. Martin, the co-director of the National Right to Life Committee. It is no secret McCain wanted to shake things up in this race — and he realized he was limited to a shake-up conservatives could stomach.

    6. At the end of the day, McCain is still McCain. People may find him a refreshing maverick or an erratic egotist. In either event, he marches to his own beat. On the upside, his team did manage to play to the media’s love of drama, fanning speculation about his possible choices and maximizing coverage of the decision. On the potential downside, the drama was evidently entirely genuine. The fact that McCain only spoke with Palin about the vice presidency for the first time on Sunday, and that he was seriously considering Lieberman until days ago, suggests just how hectic and improvisational his process was. In the end, this selection gives him a chance to reclaim the mantle of a different kind of politician intent on changing Washington. He once had a legitimate claim to this: After all, he took on his own party over campaign finance reform and immigration. He jeopardized this claim in recent months by embracing ideas he once opposed (Bush tax cuts) and ideas that appeared politically motivated (gas tax holiday). Spontaneity, with a touch of impulsiveness, is one of the traits that attract some of McCain’s admirers. Whether it’s a good calling card for a potential president will depend on the reaction in coming days to what, for the moment, looks like the most daring vice presidential selection in generations.

    goddam hippies

    […] Mohammad Ali, a 20-year-old man who was squatting in the middle of a flyblown camp rolling a lump of hashish in the palm of his hand, said he could still hear the sound of the planes and the bombing in his head. He claimed that about a dozen civilians had died in his village but that the Taliban fighters had left long before the planes arrived. He asked,

    Why didn’t they just arrest those Taliban, why were they bombarding us? We want peace, but we can not have it because of this terrorist America which orders our government to attack its own people. The Taliban are Godly people, they are Islamic, and we are happy that they send suicide bombers for revenge. If it is God’s Will, definitely I will join them now. We have to defend our villages and our religion.

    gunboat diplomacy and the mighty bear

    Between the bear and the elephant
    Dogu Ergil, Zaman, 31.08.2008

    Turkey is trying to tread a fine line of diplomacy between Russia and the West. As an American ally, Turkey has trained and partially equipped the Georgian armed forces under American guidance that aimed to encircle growing Russian power in the Caucasus. The debated NATO membership of Georgia and Ukraine, following the early examples of Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states on the western end of the continent, were all designed to contain Russia along the East-West axis for a safer Europe. Needless to say, Russia was unhappy about the whole design and was waiting for the opportune moment to retort to what it thought to be a belligerent plot against its security. That moment came when Georgia realized a military operation in the runaway statelets of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

    There is little doubt that the Georgian leadership made its move with American consent. If it did not, it is very hard to manage the unfolding crisis by such an irrational national leadership. The Russians have seen the bluff and took on the calculated risk that NATO would not respond militarily due to the rifts in the organization as well as a lack of American credibility in the alliance. Now Russia has consolidated its control over the oil and gas resources and transportation lines, leaving little opportunity to regional nations to lead an independent policy on matters related to energy. It is obvious that Russia does not want NATO close to home in this critical region for its national strategic and economic interests.

    Since the showdown between the resurgent Russia that vies for its lost superpower status and the US has begun, it was unlikely that it would remain limited to the Caucasus and Eastern Europe. The US is increasing its naval presence in the Black Sea as a show of force. In return Russia is getting ready to replicate the same act in the eastern Mediterranean. As the military action waged in Georgia was unfolding, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev invited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to visit Moscow. Damascus needs missiles and modern weaponry as well as Russian support to strengthen its hand against the West, which is pressuring it to reconcile with Israel. In return, Syria may be generous enough to let the Russian Mediterranean fleet benefit from Syrian ports and naval facilities.

    The most important beneficiary of an alliance between Russia and Syria will be Iran. Under pressure for its nuclear program and an anti-Israel stance, Iran, which is alienated from the West, may greatly benefit from Russia’s support and protection. Well, is the “West” a homogeneous body of nations that would act in concert against Russia as the US (the nominal leader of the western alliance) expects it to do?

    While NATO was a medium that provided security and political stability for Europe during the Cold War, it is now a medium of rivalry and only of relative concern. As the results of the latest American efforts to stand up firmly against Russia has demonstrated in the case of Germany, France and Italy, they have not adopted a war-like position against Russia. They even reprimanded Georgian leadership for acting irresponsibly by attacking South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Is this an indication of an independent position differing from that of the US on the part of central countries of the European Union? If so, they would not go along with adopting stringent American measures to penalize Russia. This means European cars will find the necessary gasoline and European furnaces will be ignited in the winter.

    What if the US pressures its European NATO allies to a showdown with Russia? A number of them will likely decline taking a harsher stance beyond diplomacy. No one would want a new Cold War in freezing temperatures when gas and oil lines are interrupted by the Mighty Bear. Such adverse conditions and a hard winter may even push old Soviet countries to a more impartial line rather than relying on NATO or seeking NATO membership for their security.

    These developments, in addition to the reinvention of “gunboat policy,” have increased naval traffic through the Turkish Straits, creating the danger of revising the 1936 Montreux Convention and giving the Turkish government goose bumps — if it hasn’t already, it should. This crisis must be handled carefully in order to avoid being squashed between the elephant and the bear.