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Russia and the U.S.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Aug. 19, 2008 after an emergency NATO meeting on the conflict in Georgia. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Aug. 19, 2008, after an emergency meeting on the conflict in Georgia. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

What a mess on the Russian front. Russian troops in Georgia, and the West and NATO looking weak. The U.S. and Poland inking a deal to put American missiles a hundred miles from Russia’s border — and Russians warning Poland of nuclear retaliation.

In the 1990’s, Russia seemed like the world’s pet rock. Now, it’s alive with anger, oil-wealth and — in Georgia — action. The new state of affairs seems too hot to be called cold war.

This hour, we’re talking with a top architect of U.S. Russia policy in the 90s, Strobe Talbott, plus a critic of that policy and a top voice now from Moscow on where the U.S.-Russia relationship goes next.

You can join the conversation. Did the U.S. bait post-Soviet Russia with NATO expansion to its doorstep? What’s the right formula now for dealing with a resurgent, energy-rich Russia? Are Russia and the West destined to be enemies? Combatants? If we could replay the ’90s, how might we do it differently? What’s the real U.S. leverage with Russia now, if any? Do you want to hear Russia’s complaints? Or beat it back? Can’t we all just get along? Tell us what you think.

Guests:

Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution, he served as deputy secretary of state from 1994 through 2001, and for a year before that as ambassador-at-large and special adviser to the Secretary of State for the new independent states of the former Soviet Union. He’s the author of “The Great Experiment: The Story of Ancient Empires, Modern States, and the Quest for a Global Nation” (2008).

Stephen Cohen, professor of Russian studies and history at New York University and author of “Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-communist Russia” (2002). He is a contributing editor of The Nation and has written recently for the magazine about “McCain, Obama, and Russia.”

More links:

In the news this morning, Poland and the U.S. have signed a missile shield deal. Anne Penketh of The Independent (UK) covers it here.

And a couple of important opinion pieces in today’s papers:

On The New York Times op-ed page, Mikhail Gorbachev says “Russia Never Wanted a War.”

On the Wall Street Journal opinion page, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says “America Must Choose Between Georgia and Russia.”

Also in today’s New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman asks “What Did We Expect?”

There’s plenty more news and opinion on this subject, of course. What are your thoughts? And what are your “must-reads” today?

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Douglas Drummond

    “While we are chasing frivolous and wasteful dream of forcing Iraq to bend at our will, Russia has used their weaponry with the concrete aims of expanding their borderous toward lands they’ve controlled in the not-so-far past.”

    Question:

    Once we unburden ourselves from Iraq, and recover our forces, how will we stand up to the future Russian army i.e. if Russia pursues an ambitious building of forces, how will they be as adversaries vs. the US in about three years?

  • Jerry O’Sullivan

    Was Condi asleep at the switch?
    The Secretary of State speaks Russian and is an expert on the Soviet Union and Russia? Where has see been for the last 7 and half years?

  • Peter C Davis

    In three years, there might not be much difference between Russia and the U.S., as the U.S. continues its steep slide toward totalitarianism. This email, for example, is open for perusal by our government. If the President labels me a non-combatant who somehow supports terrorism, I can be held without representation, indefinitely. Finally, the U.S. has itself become a nation that supports and engages in torture as a matter of policy. This to my mind makes the U.S. a terrorist state in its own right.

  • Mark Stephenson

    I am reminded of the network of alliances that resulted in Europe, and eventually the USA, blundering into the First World War over an otherwise inconsequential assassination of a nobody official in a backwater country. Are we on the same trajectory with Russia now and does anyone seriously believe that a war with Russia would not go nuclear, either by design or intent, in fairly short order? Frankly, I no longer believe that the human species has the wisdom or intelligence to survive this century.

  • Robert Dente

    At the risk of sounding jaded and cynical, what can we really expect from American and Russian kleptocracies other than conflict? The pot calls the kettle black while the bravado of our reckless leaders [read bullies] bring us all to the brink.

    I have no doubt that John McCain will exploit the ever-present latent fear in America while it looks like we’re headed for another Cuban Missile Crisis in Poland.

    My question is: How can the Democrats counteract the the fear-based Republican appeal and exploitation that will likely ensue in our upcoming election?

  • Tex

    I can’t help but notice how the mainstream media attempts (quite successfully) to convince the American public that Russia is the enemy.

    The fact is, Georgia backed by the U.S. and N.A.T.O., engineered and carried out a sneak attack against S. Ossetia. And the coverage of even the BBC has falsely depicted Russian soldiers attacking Georgian civilians.

    It is critical to notice that the battery in Poland, the radar in the Czech Republic and the warm water port being blocked in the Ukraine, are all moves towards being Pro-West in an attempt to spark this conflict.

    Once the media and our own leaders have vilified the Russians, the domesticated, American, public will follow in step and be allowed to hate once again.

  • John Petesch

    Strobe Talbott’s thinking echoes the Bush administration’s sadly comical misunderstanding of how to apply historical wisdom in a modern context. When will these hegemorons understand that there are always serious consequences when a nation is humiliated?

    Stephen Cohen is correct in pointing out that of course Russia should be expected to react to the west with disdain after continued humiliation. We have problems with over half the world’s nations due to the administration’s arrogance, and Bush seems incapable of learning from failure after failure, much less from well documented historical examples. Almost every international antagonism is born out of national humiliation of one sort or another.

  • Dennis

    It seems to me that this conversation is very focused on the West and Russia. Missing is China, India and the Stans.

    Why aren’t we seeing the beginning of a new order that creates an alliance between these nations that moves away from the dominance of Europe and the US over the last 500 years.

    It seems to me that Russia has more cards to play than we do. And worse, it seems that we can not even imagine they hold these cards. That seems to be more poor planning on our part.

    Cheers

  • Joanna Drzewieniecki

    Here we are again. Great powers treating the countries of East European like pawns. When we treat them like pawns, of course, their governments will try to play one power against another. Meanwhile, what about the wishes and aspirations of their peoples? Don’t they matter at all? Is it really too much to hope that their wishes be taken into consideration? Isn’t there any way to get beyond this endless repetition of history? We need a third plan out there. A plan that considers both the U.S. and Russia as menaces to peace and places the peoples of East European and South Central Asia and their good at the center. The problems of countries with national minorities that have aspirations of independence (such as Georgia) are difficult to solve but when their problems are become an issues between great powers, they will never, ever be solved. And who will suffer? It won’t be Americans or Russians, it will be the people on the ground.

  • Peter Nelson

    Russia is a large oil-and-gas-rich nation with a powerful military and a nuclear arsenal. They also have seriously-wounded pride as a result of the loss of their Soviet empire and the recent independence of Kosovo. Furthermore, anyone who knows anything about Russian history (e.g., Condi Rice, a Russian scholar) knows that Russia has historically been very nervous about having potential adversaries on their border, preferring instead to have weak or compliant buffer states.

    So what did Condi and her friends in Foggy Bottom decide would be our Russian policy? Apparently to poke them with a stick! The State Department seems to have overlooked no opportunity to provoke Russia and make them feel threatened or nervous – arming and supporting Georgia, proposing NATO membership for a string of states around Russia, building missile bases around Russia, etc.

    US policy seems calculated to increase tensions and increase the risk of conflict, and I guess you could say it’s working, making it a rare “success” story for the Bush Administration, but not benefitting the citizens in the US, EU, or Russia.

    Russia has serious internal problems with a poor educational system, serious public health problems, vast crime and corruption, and a sclerotic economy based on mainly extractive industries. They need to be managed so that we can direct our attention to China, which has a much brighter future than Russia, and where lies far greater economic, geopolitical, and potentially military challenges for the US.

  • Marie Isenburg

    I listened to this show waiting for a discussion between two guests. This is not the first time on ON POINT that it never happened.

    Perhaps a one-on-one interview with Strobe Talbott would have been a more respectful and honest inquiry than the show you presented this morning.

  • Peter Nelson

    We need a third plan out there. A plan that considers both the U.S. and Russia as menaces to peace and places the peoples of East European and South Central Asia and their good at the center. The problems of countries with national minorities that have aspirations of independence (such as Georgia) are difficult to solve but when their problems are become an issues between great powers, they will never, ever be solved.

    This sounds Polly-Annish to me. Do you have a proposal?

    The fact is that Russia regards places like Georgia the same way as we regard places like the Caribbean or Mexico or Central America – their “back yard”. How would the US react if China formed a military alliance with Mexico or Panama?

    Personally I think there are strong parallels between the situation in South Ossetia and the situation in Texas prior to the US Mexican War. ( Ironically, George Bush is a former governor of Texas.) If the South Ossetians want to join North Ossetia, which is part of the Russian Federation, why shouldn’t they be allowed to?

  • Joanna Drzewieniecki

    Re Peter’s comment: it is understandably difficult for people who live in the United States to understand how people who live in smaller countries feel when giants manipulate them. My parents are from Poland and I have lived for many years in Latin America so I have observed the points of view of peoples who have suffered as a result of both Russian and American imperial ambitions. Enough already!

    Regarding the South Ossetians, of course they should decide their own fate and international law provides the framework for their doing so. Occupation by foreign powers is not the way. In general, I have no easy solutions to offer (because there aren’t any), I would just like to remind an American audience about how easily Americans fall into thinking like… there is no other way to say it…. imperialists.

  • Peter Nelson

    Regarding the South Ossetians, of course they should decide their own fate and international law provides the framework for their doing so.

    What international law are you referring to? Can you cite any successful applications of that law that did not involve military occupation?

    have lived for many years in Latin America so I have observed the points of view of peoples who have suffered as a result of both Russian and American imperial ambitions.

    They both suffer and benefit. The great powers also invest a great deal of money in infrastructure and aid to countries that they see as part of their geopolitical plans. The US has poured millions of dollars into Georgia and is helping them build their oil pipeline to the Black Sea. Before the fall of the USSR, the Soviets supplied vas amounts of aid to Cuba. One of the big complaints in Africa has been that since the end of the Cold War neither side has shown much interest in them!

    It’s also interesting to ask why the fate of places like Georgia and Cuba and Nicaragua did not also become the fate of places like Austria, or Finland who managed to avoid joining either NATO or the Warsaw Pact, but kept their societies peaceful and their economies prosperous? I contend that nations which fall victim to great power manipulation are ones that are already vulnerable because they are undemocratic and corrupt. They have no shortages of corrupt petty officials and military officers who are willing to put their own personal interests above their nation or fellow citizens. In corrupt countries where everyone is on the take it’s easy to find people who are willing to take from foreign interests. If you look at Transparency International’s index it’s interesting that Austria and Finland have very low rates of corruption (lower than the US, France, etc). So at the risk of blaming the victim, countries that become victim to great-power manipulation are often willing victims.

  • Rob Y.

    As neo-cons put it, Russia’s aggression can not be tolerated in the 21st century? So what about US itself? Bombing Afghanistan and invading/squatting in Iraq and other atrocities around the globe? It seems to me US principles do not apply to itself, but only to those who are speaking out against US interests.

  • Kathy

    One of your writers referred to the similarity of this situation with the Cuban crisis and our putting a missile site in Poland. If Russia objects, who can blame them? Lord knows I fear Russia and Putin, but this time I think they are justified in rejecting this plan.

    Also, I think the leader of Georgia is playing us for suckers. We are so thrilled to think some country likes us ( like Sally Field) that we overlook their mistakes.

    I am terrified that the Current Occupant of the White House will move troops in a threatening manner. He has looked into Putin’s eye and all of a sudden he Really saw what was there. Only 153 days until he is gone. Let’s pray that he does not go out with a bang – literally.

  • Zed Zabski

    I hope someone may have mentioned this in comments above. I haven’t had time to review them all yet.

    Referring to the Thom Hartman show on Monday, evidence seems to exist that our beloved criminal Carl Rove was “on Vacation” in Yalta last month when he was subpoenaed to be testifying in Congress.

    Guess who he was alleged to be meeting with? Yup Shavakasvili.

    And I scratch my head to wonder how it is that I did not hear anyone mention on the air that this crisis was precipitated by Georgia’s invasion of an independent protectorate of Russia.

    I yearn for the day when American criminals roving around the globe fomenting discord can be brought to international justice. Meanwhile, it begins to feel like a rash where I continue to scratch my head. I pray to God that other folks have been speaking up about this. I pray that my perception of what might well be happening is wrong. I’d rather be happy than correct.

  • Joanna Drzewieniecki

    Reply to Peter. I believe there are provisions in international law for referendums on independence. Certainly such referendums have been held under international sponsorship over the decades. On your other point: that countries that are not fully democratic or corrupt deserve what they get, I cannot agree. First, some of these countries have been interfered with by outsiders so much that it has been difficult to develop a well-functioning political system. But even when this has not been the case, I put the emphasis on peoples and on individuals and not their governments. No matter what kind of government they have, people have the right to be treated with justice. I know how complicated this is, how hard, but people of good will all over the world have a responsibility to work for justice. And such people exist in every single country of the world and some of them work for justice at great personal risk. And regarding Africa — I suggest looking up its history. It most certainly has been interfered with historically (with tragic results) and now there is full blown fight for its natural resources by China, the U.S., etc.

  • Peter Nelson

    “In three years, there might not be much difference between Russia and the U.S., as the U.S. continues its steep slide toward totalitarianism.”

    This is pure hyperbole.

    The US is LESS totalitarian now than we were at plenty of points in the 20th century. Have you forgotten the Red Scare and HUAC? Do Muslims face anything like the discrimination faced by blacks under Jim Crow, or all the restrictions in hiring, accomodations, etc, faced by Jews in the 1950′s? Are the wiretaps and investigations being done today by the FBI really any worse that anyone in the anti-war and civil rights movements faced under J Edgar Hoover? (I’m sure I have a bigger file at Justice from the 1960′s than today).

    It’s also interesting to note that GWB’s hand-picked Supreme Court has already handed him two defeats on Gitmo! (Bush is such an amazing loser – ha can’t even load up a Supreme Court competently!)

  • Peter Nelson

    “Lord knows I fear Russia and Putin, but this time I think they are justified in rejecting this plan.”

    erm . . . it’s Dmitry Medvedev.

    Granted Putin is still probably pulling the strings but we refer to President and Chief Architect of our Mess here in the US as “Bush” even if we all silently think “Cheney”.

  • Peter Nelson

    “I believe there are provisions in international law for referendums on independence. Certainly such referendums have been held under international sponsorship over the decades.”

    Can you cite any examples where some region wanted independence from whomever was currently the official owner, and achieved this through a peaceful referendum that was not underscored by the application of military force?

    I put the emphasis on peoples and on individuals and not their governments. No matter what kind of government they have, people have the right to be treated with justice. I know how complicated this is, how hard, but people of good will all over the world have a responsibility to work for justice. And such people exist in every single country of the world and some of them work for justice at great personal risk.

    That’s fine as a philosophical statement but ultimately policy has to translate into concrete facts. And the fact is that nations with cultures that tolerate corruption will always be easy marks for outsiders to manipulate, often with tragic results.

    My point about Africa was only that many African leaders have been expressing a certain nostalgia for the days when the great powers at least had Africa on their radar screens.

    Great powers using whatever leverage they can manage to manipulate lesser powers has been a permanent fact of human history from the very beginning. In a lesser way the same thing happens in any office or school – those with power and resources use their power and resources, strategically befriending, manipulating, cajoling or coercing others as necessary to strengthen themselves or isolate rivals.

    So this is a fundamental feature of human psychology and primate research suggests that chimps and bonobos may do it too. Wishing it away because it’s not nice or results in unpleasantness seems pointless. Instead we should consider how the US could do it more skillfully to minimize the risks of it escalating into much more costly military or economic conflict.

  • Carter

    What we have is the “conservatives” (or that’s what they call themselves now) in this country designed a brilliant plan to gain power, that is to combine religion, and anti-communist( some genuine) feelings into one potent force. They called it the evil-empire for a specific purpose, they knew that this is the most religious nation in the developed world, and to achieve militrization of the United States they used this as an perfect launching pad.

    I don’t think Americans will learn from what’s been happening in the world, or for the that fact Russians, that it’s a play ground for both these “super-powers” to toy with billions of lives around the world. And people like Bush are extreme manifestations of such line of thinking. We as all kinds of people have let apathy and pure laziness to let people like Bush, Putin to get away with things, and well we all have to pay for such mikstakes as well.

  • Mark Stephenson

    I posted my question prior to hearing the show on tape delay on Wisconsin Public Radio. I am now more convinced than before that human civilization, and perhaps the human species itself, will not survive the 21st century. On one issue I agree with you, Peter. We are chimps and bonobos at the core, much more intelligent but utterly bereft of wisdom. And we are armed with thousands of nuclear weapons. Our base, animal drive for power and inability to weigh long-term consequences of stupid policy decisions warped by those animal drives means that we will, in fact, ultimately destroy ourselves.

    No centuries prior to the 20th and 21st could boast this capability. It is a virtual fait accompli, magnified by the breathtaking stupidity of the present administration and the likely temper-tantrum policy decisions of the next, if the McCain Surge in the polls continues.

    I wonder how long it will be before Putin countermoves the agreement with Poland signed today by Rice by signing a similar agreement with Cuba to protect against missiles launched by rogue states such as Belize or Paraguay.

    I have never been more pessimistic about the long-term survival of our species. Unlike Strobe Talbott, I see the possibility of blundering into nuclear war as a virtual certainty if we continue on the current track. A McCain presidency would hasten the inevitable.

  • Alex

    Even the experts can’t get over the internal political rivalries. “Clinton failed to do this and Bush did that.” What’s wrong with these people?

    Stephen Cohen is pretty naive for an expert in Russian affairs. He says: let those smaller countries like Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia, Ukraine, etc. make their own piece with Russia. Is he delusional? No country in Russia’s back or front yard is capable to negotiate any serious deal with Russia on terms beneficial to them. The terms will be dictated by Russia and they will not be pretty. The question is should the US care? I think it should, but I think we desperately need leaders much smarter than those we heard on this program or those we have had in the White House for the past 8 years (or should I say 28 years?)

  • Tom

    Regarding Russia, the Cold War was a thoughtless and iditotic polciy conceived of by socioeconomic Parent Pleasers and Academic Grunts but not people who have raw intelligence. Communism is an obviously failed and futile way to run a country. Why didn’t we encourage MORE of our enemies to become Communist. I encourage Al Qaeda to become Communist. Here’s a metaphor: If I’m going to fight the Heavyweight Boxing Champ of the World in 6 months and find out he’s eating candy, smoking cigarettes non-stop, and chugging Vodka by the gallon should I encourage him to stop? Of course not. Why? Because I want to win the fight. Fighting Communism was moronic. If other countries want to commit suicide we should shouldn’t take the gun out their hands. I say let Putin and the Russians go back to their old ways. In about 80 years they will be on their last legs again once oil runs out.

  • John just outside the Ring

    Tom, What an absolutly amazing show. We needed several more hours. Perhaps I personally needed several more hours. The reports from Georgia are appaling and it sounds like it is pretty defenceless. We need to make sure whoever is calling the shots on RED Square has some reason to pause besides world opinion. However, why are we waving a flag in front of the bull. Why not do it in silence. like the russians would have done. It is over now and what positive steps can we take with the oligarch in Moskva to show we want to keep helping them dismantle nukes. May be they are accelerating their technology shipmnets to Iran. Why not get a suicidal maniac to do your dirty work? Saves face. Again thanks for the show. When I heard a promo for it I built my evening around it. Please bring these guys back. John

  • jeff

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt in an April 29, 1938 message to Congress warned that the growth of private power could lead to fascism:

    “Liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism–ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address of January 17, 1961:

    “Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime,” he said, “or indeed by the fighting men of World War II and Korea… We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions… We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications… We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

  • Peter C Davis

    Bush and Putin are scum from the same pond. Democracy is nearly dead in the U.S. Congress and the Executive are controlled by business, especially global corporations. Just grok for several minutes on the amount of money it takes to run for public office. Why in hell hasn’t Bush been impeached, and then tried for war crimes, including but certainly not limited to torture? It’s because in this country, we’re concerned about more important things: the talking snake, life after death, gay marriage, whether a candidate wears an American flag lapel pin, the quotidian Pledge of Allegiance recited by millions each day recalling numerous episodes in Orwell’s 1984.

  • http://hfa.com Andrew Holguin

    One important point that was overlooked by the guests is why Bush had to disembowel ABM treaty and continue to develop and deploy ABMs. And the reason is, is that it is not 1975 any longer. Pakistan, India, North Korea (sort of) has nuclear weapons and missiles capable of delivering those weapons and at-least Iran and probably many more questionable states may soon have them in the future. There is no MAD with mad men and the USA must protect itself from these regimes.

    Recently when North Korea fired-off some missiles toward Japan and out-to-sea the first thing the chattering classes asked was “where are our missile defenses”. Can you imagine what the public would say and how at risk we would be if these regimes are able to get nuclear tipped missiles and we did not have an effective counter to them and hadn’t done the research or deployment. Then the chattering classes would be rightly asking for their heads and this silly stuff of blaming Bush for continuing with the development and depolyment would be forgotten.

  • Alex

    To Andrew. Right. However, could Bush have done the same thing, but after consulting the Russians? I mean, you show some respect, you allow your counterparty to save face, and that will go a long way for you. Did he really have to do it unilaterally? Same goes for a lot of things Bush has done.

  • Peter Nelson

    “He says: let those smaller countries like Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia, Ukraine, etc. make their own piece with Russia. Is he delusional? No country in Russia’s back or front yard is capable to negotiate any serious deal with Russia on terms beneficial to them.

    And can countries in the US sphere of influence (Caribbean or central America) negotiate on an equal footing with the US? Have you forgotten about Grenada, Panama or Nicaragua? How equally could Prussia’s neighbors negotiate with them in the 1870′s? You can go as far back in history as you want and you’ll see that it is in the nature of geopolitics that large, powerful countries carve out spheres of interest around them. The question is not whether this “should” be so; it is how skillfully it can be managed.

  • Peter Nelson

    in this country, we’re concerned about more important things: the talking snake, life after death, gay marriage, whether a candidate wears an American flag lapel pin, the quotidian Pledge of Allegiance recited by millions each day recalling numerous episodes in Orwell’s 1984.

    Nations deserve the governments they get.

  • Peter Nelson

    To Andrew. Right. However, could Bush have done the same thing, but after consulting the Russians? I mean, you show some respect, you allow your counterparty to save face, and that will go a long way for you. Did he really have to do it unilaterally? Same goes for a lot of things Bush has done.

    Precisely.

    I don’t think anyone objects in principle to the need to develop better anti-missile systems. Whether we are talking about long-range ballistic missiles, sea-skimming antiship missiles, or short-and-medium range tactical missiles of the sort used against Israel from Lebanon a couple of years ago, anti-missile defense is one of the most challenging problems in military technology. Imagine how the situation around Israel would be altererd if they actually had a solid, reliable antimissile system. Unfortunately the technology is a long way from being up to the task.

    But as the above poster says, there are many means and choices when it comes to deploying and presenting antimissile systems, and even the most naive and novice observer can clearly see that some choices will have the effect of raising the level of tension, and those seem to be the ones that Bush and Rice prefer.

  • Alex

    Great. Now I read in the news that Russia is going to sell arms to Syria. Looks like we are in for another round of proxy wars. And I know Russia is using the same conduct on the part of the US and Israel as justification. Does anybody has an answer as to how the US should deal with this new pressure, though? ‘Cause Russia is not going to stop until it has the last drop of oil left in its veins.

  • http://www.pnArt.com Peter Nelson

    “Great. Now I read in the news that Russia is going to sell arms to Syria. Looks like we are in for another round of proxy wars. And I know Russia is using the same conduct on the part of the US and Israel as justification. Does anybody has an answer as to how the US should deal with this new pressure, though? ‘Cause Russia is not going to stop until it has the last drop of oil left in its veins.”

    The US is still by far the world’s largest arms exporter, so we’re really in no position to complain there. It’s sort of like Iraq, Grenada, Panama, etc – we are in no position to criticize Russia without looking like hypocrites. In my opinion the US needs to make sure that it really does occupy the moral high ground first – this will give our criticism of Russia and others more weight.

    WRT oil – the US won the cold war on the basis of its economic strength. The USSR simply could not match our arms spending and still provide a decent standard of living at home – communism simply cannot compete with capitalism in generating prosperity. But now the shoe is on the other foot – the US economy is imploding and we’re up to our ears in debt; our jobs are fleeing, our workers are dumbing-down and meanwhile Russia is rolling in money thanks to ever-rising oil and natural gas prices. They’re looking for a rematch because they think they can win it this time.

    If we want to defy that plan we need to fix our economic mess.

  • Beth-Anne M.

    Stephen Cohen and Strobe Talbott

    Brillant show Tom-this was the most intelligent and fair presentation of the current situation. It gives the public a three dimensional view of both the Russian and Georgian sides as well as our historical role.

    I greatly enjoyed listening to the pros and cons of each solution posed. The 3rd option of Georgia dealing directly with Russia without NATO intervention is an interesting idea. Mikheil Saakashvili’s recklessness and irrational behavior is concerning. He could lead us to WWIII

    I agree that the U.S. and Russia should move towards self dependent economically.

  • Sam Chaney

    What continues to frustrate me is that none of the public discussions of this situation spend much time on the following points.

    1. NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization — and is made up primarily of countries in Europe. The purpose of NATO was to ensure the freedom of the western-minded, democratic societies belonging to the organization.

    2. When it comes time to react to situations, such as this one with Russia and Georgia, the countries with the most at stake, and the most to lose, come to the table with the least committment, both fiscal and human.

    The fact is that the Germans, the French, and eventually all Europeans face the greatest threat, should Russia decide to expand its force into Poland, Hungary, and what is next, perhaps Berlin???

    It is high time that the United States demand that our supposed Allies step up to the plate.

  • Sam Chaney

    After further reading some the comments posted, I have a few more to make.

    Regarding Georgia’s supposed unprovoked aggression into South Ossetia, it was not unprovoked. It has been documented that South Ossetian activists were using Russian supplied arms to fire rocket bombs at Georgian targets prior to Georgia moving troops into South Osetia. I think the Souuth Ossetians took lessons from the Iranians in Lebanon– or perhaps both have been well schooled by the Russians on how to provoke your enemy and make the resulting conflict look like it was their fault.

    Regarding the United States supposed unprovoked aggression on Iraq — Although the media and others would like us to believe that the sole reason for “invading” Iraq was false reports of WMD, the real reason was that despite at least 10 requests, Sadam Hussein refused to comply the the UN resolutions he agreed to at the end of the 1991 Gulf War, which WAS the result of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Although we could have continued down the path of pleading with Hussein to comply, while Kofi Anan, the French and the Germans were secretly trading with Iraq behind our backs, Bush had the guts to actually do something about an area of the world that had the potential to lead to more serious attacks like 9/11.

    Again, the Europeans are more than happy to hide behind the skirts of U.S. supplied arms and protection from threats on all fronts, meanwhile sniping at us behind our backs.

    The sad fact is that most of the U.S. population is also more than content to simply gather their limited information for their uninformed views, from the mass media that pervades our market, and remain a very colloquial society with little understanding of what really is going on in the world around them.

  • Peter Nelson

    Although the media and others would like us to believe that the sole reason for “invading” Iraq was false reports of WMD, the real reason was that despite at least 10 requests, Sadam Hussein refused to comply the the UN resolutions he agreed to at the end of the 1991 Gulf War, which WAS the result of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

    This doesn’t make any sense, since the UN said it would NOT endorse an invasion of Iraq by the US. It doesn’t make any sense to say we were acting on behalf of the UN if the UN itself refused to endorse such action! There is nothing in the UN charter that obligates member states to use military force to enforce UN sanctions; they may volunteer to do so only if requested by the Security Council, which was not the cae here.

    Neither the UN, nor anyone else, gave us a police badge and made us the world’s policeman. Iraq is an artificial “nation” resulting from British bureaurats drawing arbitrary lines on a map a century ago. The religious extremists, crooks, tribal-fighters, and others who populate that land will never form a functioning, stable democracy. 50 years from now they still won’t be as stable as even Labanon or Pakistan is today. When the US leaves they’ll either break up into separate tribal ministates, or be taken over by a dictator. Iraq isn’t worth one drop of US blood or one penny of our Treasury.

  • Sam Chaney

    “This doesn’t make any sense, since the UN said it would NOT endorse an invasion of Iraq by the US. It doesn’t make any sense to say we were acting on behalf of the UN if the UN itself refused to endorse such action! There is nothing in the UN charter that obligates member states to use military force to enforce UN sanctions; they may volunteer to do so only if requested by the Security Council, which was not the cae here.”

    Of course the UN would NOT endorse an invasion of Iraq by the US. The key members including France, Germany and Kofi Annan were too busy making money by UNSANCTIONED trades with Iraq, and exploiting the supposed “oil for food” provisions.

    Could the actions of the United States be considered by some to be imperialistic — sure. There has not been a major governmental entity in the known history of our planet that has not been imperialistic. The Greeks, the Romans, the British, the Chinese, the Japanese, right on down the line, have all been imperialistic in nature at one point or another. Which of these would I most want to live under if I was in the country being annexed? Without a question, ours. Do I want to sit back and wait while Russia, China and the Iranians decide how they want to split up the world — I don’t think so.

    Do I think that Iraq has a chance to become a democratic society — yes, I do. Maybe not like we would like, but there is a chance. With Saddam Hussein there was no chance. At the end of the day, it really is not that important. The blood of our soldiers is not being shed simply for the liberation of Iraq. Iraq is only a footprint in the sand of a very big desert. If you think that footprint is not important, you are short sighted and gravely uninformed.

  • Alex

    “Bush had the guts to actually do something about an area of the world that had the potential to lead to more serious attacks like 9/11.”

    We need the next president to have some brains in addition to the guts. To have the US military get stuck in a country thousands of miles away from our shores without any good exit strategy is just criminal. Bush is stubborn, I’ll give him that. But guts? How much of that do you need to send soldjers to die while sitting in his Ranch in TX? Let him go there as a US ambassador or an adviser of some kind after his terms runs out. That would be gutsy.

    “In my opinion the US needs to make sure that it really does occupy the moral high ground first – this will give our criticism of Russia and others more weight.”

    I think the moral high ground is very nice to have with respect to all issues and at all times. However, as it stands right now, we just might have to do without it. Besides, the moral high ground is a fleeting thing. The US is a villain and a world policeman until a bigger villain enters the stage. The argument that the US is being hypocritical simply will not hold water when other countries experience Russia’s pushy ways of doing things.

    One thing that gives me comfort is I read in the latest Economist that the US’s GDP is ten times that of Russia plus it spends seven times more than Russia on defense. Again, we have enough power, what we need is brains.

    Thanks

  • Mike

    @Peter Nelson
    With due respect your post dated Aug 20th is incorrect.
    You make Russia out to be an educational basket case, where are your facts ?
    My relatives are Russian, and having visited Russia over 15 times and talking to many people, I find them very well educated, cultured and well informed.
    Compare this to Australia (where I live), where just recently 20% of students in grade 3, 5 & 7 failed to meet standards in reading, writing and mathematics.
    We have lived in England, U.S. and Australia, and I can tell you that the educational systems in these countries are quite poor.
    So instead of having an overally high opinion of your countries educational system, yes you infer this, as you mock Russia’s, why not do some research, you will be most suprised. Things are not so rosy in your neck of the woods.
    By the way, I have a B.Sc, APplied Chemistry, and only was made aware of the Periodic Table of elements when I studied at University in Australia, my wife, who studied Architecture/Arts, studied Period Table in high school.
    You go figure.

  • Mike

    @Alex
    Your jingonistic bravado makes you feel “safe”, but again your post infers that Russia is evil and should be treated differently, why is this so ?
    I am suprised that you feel so strongly that the U.S needs to take the moral high ground when dealing with Russia, what is your justification in such an outrageous statement ? I can (but I won’t, as all intelligent people already know) how may countries the U.S. has invaded either directly, or via proxy in the past 50 odd years.
    Make a list, you will soon see the U.S, easily beats the USSR/Russia in countries invaded, destroyed, subverted etc. Go on, I dare you, or are you too scared ?
    Afraid of the thruth I bet.
    Yes U.S, economy is much larger, but not 10 times as you stated, go to the CIA website and you will see that the Russian GDP (purchasing power) is about 15% of U.S. not 10% as you stated. And this was in 2007. Most leading economists predict Russia to be in the top 5 by 2020.
    You compare GDP and military spending, fine, lets compare natural resources, you will see that Russia is far more wealthier than U.S. in natural resources.
    Given time and a favourable world situation, Russia would be a economic super power in the bext 30 years, just as Chine has progressed in a similar duration of time. This is what the U.S. is afraid of, and fills the neocons and the military with nightmares. A resurgent Russia, a colossol in energy and resources, and armed to the teeth with advanced nuclear weponary.
    To paraphase you, I will be glad when Russia overtakes the evil U.S.

  • Mike

    @Peter Nelson post dated Aug 22nd.
    Interesting comments, Russia lost the last cold war due to its inherent disadvantage, a very poor economic model (communism) and a legacy of a country severly crippled after the 2nd world war, with no help offered from the outside, unlike Germany and Japan. Its economy in tatters and 27 million dead.
    It rose from its knees, but could not sustain the long term struggle against its foe, the U.S.
    However this time things are different, the Russian leadership have realised that to beat the U.S. it needs to fight it at economically.
    I think they are doing a great job, that is why the U.S. is starting to fight Russia by proxy, first by encircling it with NATO bases, and then via Georgia.
    The U.S. now realises it is in a death struggle with Russia, sure the western media will win on the media propoganda front, I would be suprised if they didn’t, as they own and control it.
    There is a lot of jousting and noise comming from both camps, and like a playground fight, kids lining up behind their friends.
    Sure Russia does not have many, but can you blame her ?
    Remember U.S. won 2nd world war, although they always fail to own up and tell the truth that 70% of the German military was focused in the USSR theatre of war.
    USSR and now Russia are painted as evil.
    But who cares ? We all know its a pack of lies.
    My question is will U.S. fight one-on-one against Russia ?
    Do they have the proverbal balls for it ?
    I don’t think so, just look at Iraq and Afghanistan, when the U.S. soldiers get into a fire fight, they call in the airforce.
    The U.S. doesn’t have the stomach in defending some distant people, as is livid proof of their helpimng their own poor African-Americans in New Orleans.
    What is happening now is a seismic shift in world politics, and things will only get worse, and all caused by the U.S., and they cannot accept anybody else being their equal. One thing I can vouch is that Vlad Putin is already shifting more advanced IEDs to Iraq and Afghanistan via Iran and other means.
    Also Israel is in his sights as they actively supplied and trained Georgian military, expect more tank killing missles (the same ones that were so successful last time in Lebanon) to be shipped to the Islamic rebels.
    One thing a Russian understands is revenge, I don’t think that several hundred to thousand Russians killed by proxy by U.S. will go unanswered.
    Just get your company that makes body bags to ramp up production real quick.
    A country that has lost untold millions in many wars is not afraid of sacrifices and has it built in in the DNA, the U.S. just doesn’t have this, and that is why Russia will win in the end.
    The U.S. economy is a basket case, and with the increased hurricanes, will be slowly bled dry. It will have to make a choice, increased spending on it’s people, or keep up the totally our of all proportion spending on it’s military.
    Just like the USSR that was bled dry, the same will befall the U.S.
    But Russia has the natural resources, much greater than the U.S. has, plus the nukes to defend itself. I can’t see how the U.S. is going to survive, unless it takes the whole world with it, a final acto defiance, which is quite possible with those religious zealots occupying the White House.
    My predictions:
    1) Russia will weather the current global economic slump
    2) Russia to shift more of it’s oil and gas exports to Asia
    3) Russia to increase significantly its subversive proxy fight against U.S. interests
    4) Russia to possibly forge a mutual friendship treaty with Iran, especially if U.S.
    continues to escalate proxy subversion of Russia, economically and militarialy
    5) Russia to switch off gas and oil during the bleakest winter period, western
    governments in chaos, with mass deaths and rioting
    This will be a demonstration of Russia’s power, if it is backd into a corner
    At the end of the day guys, the U.S. started all of this, and has greatly underestimated Russia’s response and capacity to react.
    Hooray for a multi-polar world, one where the evil U.S. cannot slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocent women, children and men with inpunity.
    Iraq spings to mind boys.

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