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So. What to do with Russia?

by Jerome a Paris Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 02:46:35 PM EST

US president George W. Bush on Friday warned Russia that ‘bullying and intimidation’ would not be tolerated as diplomatic efforts to resolve the week-old crisis in Georgia intensified.

The Georgian crisis is fast turning into an opportunity to engage into a large-scale diplomatic/political campaign against Russia. The question is - does this make any sense? If the goal is to make Russia change its behavior, what can the West do to actually make that happen? More generally, what do we want from Russia, and does it make sense?

Some attempts at answers below.


Given how this all started, the first goal would seem to be to keep Russia from interfering in the internal affairs of neighboring countries. This is a worthy and legitimate goal, and one that rightly preoccupies a number of countries near it.

A second goal, it would appear, seems also quite important (given how it is accused of interfering with the first one): to keep receiving energy supplies (oil & natural gas) from Russia. This is a goal which is said to preoccupy continental Europe (as the main buyers of Russian gas) and worries the UK and the US (apparently out of concern about the "energy weapon", and also precisely because of how it it is blamed for Old Europe's weakness towards Russia). A secondary goal linked to this one is the ability for Western energy companies to invest in the Russian oil&gas sector.

A third goal is to get Russian cooperation in the diplomatic battle with Iran about its nuclear programme, and more generally to be a friendly or neutral participant in various other diplomatic endeavors of the West around the world (one can mention North Korea, the Middle East, but also Afghanistan.

Another, often forgotten goal, is to continue with nuclear (as well as traditional) disarmament, and with efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and even nuclear material and technology around the world.

All of these goals are rational and worthy. Protecting democracy and freedom in countries that have long lived under direct or indirect Soviet domination is indeed something that we should care about; securing the supplies of oil & gas that we need also seems to be an important thing to worry about; and similarly, diplomatic manoeuvers towards countries like Iran, North Korea, Syria or others will certainly be more effective if Russia helps out rather than stands out or even actively intereferes by supporting the other side. And with nuclear, given that Russia is the main holder of nuclear weapons alongside the USA, and one of the few countries to fully control the technology, its participation seems indispensable.

So how can these goals be reached? In other words, what levers do we have against/with Russia? What carrots, and what sticks, can we use?

  • we can go to war, or threaten to go to war, with Russia (which is what is supposed to happen should Russia attack a NATO country); extending NATO can thus be seen about making that threat more credible - or giving it new "triggers" related to the countries brought in, thus supposedly protecting them from Russian interference;

  • we can shame Russia (by kicking it out of the G8, withholding its WTO membership, and calling it out as a bully);

  • we can ignore its diplomatic presence by going round the UN (where its veto at the Security Council is one of the most obvious instruments of its diplomatic influence) or by simply not involving Russia in some of these international conflicts
  • conversely, we can make it more welcome it to the "international community" by involving it in more multilateral activities, getting (and recognising) its participation in international crises and taking its interests into account;
  • we can make its "energy weapon" less relevant by making ourselves less dependent on its resources, ie by threatening to withhold spending our money on Russian oil or gas, by finding alternative sources or using less altogether.
But let's look at these in turn:

  • the threat of war. This is the most potent argument, and it will certainly give pause to Russia if proffered. The question, if Russia is genuinely imperialistic, is how credible that threat is. While it seems rather clear that we'd go to war to support Poland or the Baltic countries, all EU countries, it is not quite clear how we'd be in any meaningful position to actually support Georgia or Ukraine should they become members. If Georgia had been a NATO member this time round, what would we have done? We have minimal military capacity in the region. Would we have declared war on Russia? As much as many seem to believe that NATO membership would have dissuaded Russia from attacking, it seems highly unlikely, given that nothing could actually have been done, beyond actually going for all-out war with Russia. This would not have been a likely - nor indeed reasonable - choice given how the conflict broke out (ie Georgia trying to use force against an irredentist province, in the context of a long-running feud). And from the Russians' perspective, calling the West's bluff and decredibilising NATO would have been a great outcome, whereas gaining the West's hostility is not something they seem to care about much.

    Conversely, it should be noted here that we have actually used a war posture in the past 15 years, by bringing into NATO countries that were formerly in the Warsaw Pact and even former Soviet Republics, by putting military bases there, right on Russia's borders, by denouncing previous treaties like the ABM, by putting anti-missile bases in Central Europe on flimsy pretexts, by aggressively supporting vocally anti-Russian leaders in neighboring countries, and by adopting, over the past several years, a highly bellicose tone towards Russia on a wide range of topics. Just look up how often there has been talk of a "second cold war" in the past couple years - and it is NOT the Russians that started it. The results of that posture have been, logically, an increasingly hostile and assertive Russia, which has fed the tension (oand of course given pretext to Cheney at al. to further raise the stakes and use Russia's overreactions as legitimizing excuses for the initial aggressivity.

  • shaming, ignoring, welcoming Russia. Russia cares about its status on the world stage, and wants to be taken as a great power. Denying that to them can influence their behavior, and this is indeed what is threatened today by John McCain and others. But this is a much more effective policy when used as a carrot, than as a stick (of withdrawing the carrot). When the Russians cared about being integrated in the West, in the 90s, it was denied to them until much too late; now that they no longer need that recognition, denying it is just petty and hostile, but certainly not a very effective incentive.

    The threat of ignoring them and showing them that we simply don't care about what they think or do might make them reconsider, simply to be taken seriously. This is what we did for a good part of the last decade, Kosovo being the most blatant example: we did not get UN approval for the intervention because of Russian hostility, and we went in anyway, on the basis that NATO unanimity was good enough legitimacy) and, again, it worked only in so far as Russia could indeed be ignored. But that threat is now completely hollow. In places like Georgia, or when discussing the Iranian nuclear programme, or talking about energy, we cannot ignore Russia, because it is able to (or chooses to) create facts on the ground whether we like it or not. That ship has sailed. Thanks to energy revenues and the re-centralisation of power driven by Putin, the Kremlin is able to deploy again its diplomats, army and technology exports to weigh in in various places around the world. We don't have to like it, but we have to deal with it.

    On the other hand, actually listen to Russia, and taking care not to necessarily provoke them might still work. It would certainly deny them a great excuse they have to go on with their own provocations or belligerance - while the West may ignore that this is a bilateral shouting match and blame Russia alone, others are certainly aware of it.

    The reality is that of a Russia both willing and able to make its presence felt and heard; we can choose to acknowledge it or not, and use it or not to our advantage, but ignoring it won't make it go away, and is likely to seriously annoy Russia

  • the energy weapon. There are really two debates here: one about the very existence of the energy weapon, and a second one about what we should do if we accept the notion that Russia has power over us from the fact that it exports oil&gas.

    Here are a few facts to ponder: (i) Russia sends 100% of its gas exports to Europe, whereas Europe gets only 25% of its gas imports from Russia; (ii) Russia has never cut its gas deliveries in 40 years to a customer paying market or contracted prices; (iii) Europe's current energy policies encourage the rapid development of gas consumption (because gas-fired power plants are the easiest to finance and the safest to build in a setting where prices of electricity are market driven); (iv) Russia cannot export its oil or its gas elsewhere than to Europe, because that's where the existing infrastructure goes - and it's busy trying to build more pipelines going to Europe; (v) Russia derives half of its hard currency income (and even three quarters if you count various metal exports for which the energy input is a major component, like steel or aluminum) from energy income, and probably 25% of both its GDP and its budget income.

    The reality is that there is a mutual dependency between Europe as a whole and Russia on the energy front: we want the energy, they want the cash, we share the pipelines. Now some countries are more dependent in that they can only get gas from Russia, but as it were, these are also the countries that sit on the pipelines going to the rest of Europe, which means that they cannot be cut off without the rest of Europe being cut off to, if they so choose - and, as Ukraine amply demonstrated, Russia has ALWAYS chosen to forego revenues from these transit countries rather than compromise its deliveries to the rest of Europe, and has always blinked first in these confrontations.

    Thus, talk by the West of looking for alternatives is both threatening to Russia (because it threatens to reduce the purchases by their only client) and stupid when underlying policies suggest that we really want to continue on burning gas without worrying where it comes from. If we actually worried about energy use, we'd start having policies that work to cut our use of oil& natural gas, instead of policies that let it grow. That would be threatening to Russia, as noted above, but at least it would make the mutual dependency smaller.

    In the meantime, policies that seem to focus only on BP or Shell getting more Russian gas on their balance sheet are incredibly shortsighted (the gas is still on Russian territory and thus fully controlled by the Russian government; any confrontation on this topic may benefit oil majors but not energy consumers) and stand no chance of success anyway: why on earth would Russia willingly give away to us the rent embedded in the oil & gas under its territory? Why? The argument that they need the foreign investment and expertise is laughable when you know that Gazprom produces more gas, in much tougher conditions, than all the Western majors put together and has always exported as much gas as Europe would buy from it (it's always been Europeans that have limited their purchases rather than Russia ever limiting their sales.)

    With all that said, the current discourse is a noisy one that of Russia threatening our lifeblood without any evidence (and please do NOT bring up the 2006 crisis with Ukraine, please go read this (pdf) first), a simultaneous discourse which is hostile to entities like Gaz de France, Ruhrgas (now E.On) or Snam (ENI) that have run integrated import policies that have successfully managed Russia as one gas supplier amongst others for the past 30+ years (but no, they are outdated and inefficient State-driven dinosaurs), and a persistent market ideology that pretends that Russia would gain anything by opening up to foreign ownership of its resources - and at no point any perception of the fact that if we want to control our energy without controlling our demand, we stand to have to deal with suppliers able to impose their terms on us.

So far, nothing in what we've seen towards Russia lately makes any kind of sense. Bluster. Sanctimonious bullshit. Mindless invocation of long trashed concepts like "freedom" and "democracy". Needless provocation. Threats that cannot be backed by anything real. Appeals to higher sentiments. And, above everything, appalling double standards and breathtaking hypocrisy.

And no hint of any kind of effective realpolitik, even if we can't get consistency with our professed values.

But, as this recent interview with Wesley Clark makes clear, what is at stake is not really Russia, but it is Europe's subservience to the USA. NATO used to be about "keeping America in, Russia out, and Germany down"; now it seems to be about "keeping America in, Russia down and Europe out" - in the sense that any independent assertion of its national interests by Russia is not tolerated, and any strengthening of European unity is actively fought.

Today's conflict shows the exact same divisions as the Iraq War, with "Old Europe" on one side, willing to see Georgia's responsibility in the crisis and keen not to criticize Russia too much, and the US, UK and "New Europe" on the other, on a hard anti-Russian line. It also shows that Americans are united, by large, behind these policies, and that there is no Republican vs Democrats divide here. Obama has been on a similarly hard line against Russia, effectively calling for NATO membership for Georgia.

So, given that these policies have no visible way to influence Russia or make it care and, if anything, will make it more hostile, it is hard not to ask if this is not yet another shot at keeping Europe divided and impotent.

Oh sure, we don't need much help in that respect, with our wannabe important leaders out-petty-ing one another and caring more about (i) grandstanding opportunities and (ii) sucking up to Washington opportunities than about actual policies - and they all got legitimately elected.

But still, with Russia our neighbor, maybe they'd think we actually need a policy, even if the US does not?

Display:
but Guns of August anyone?

Ukraine vows to implement orders on Russia fleet

I am not really feeling up to snuff, it seems there are the irrational forces of nationalism at work again to sabotage the forces of reality and rationalism Jerome writes of here.

So, punk me, I'd rather be punked than on to something

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 02:54:59 PM EST
Make it go away.

I know.  Not a productive comment.  But I've just written a bazillion page diatribe on pretty much the same thing, and you know, that did not feel productive either.  

I mean, is there anything anyone of us in this room can do to ensure the steps taken as this - whatever the hell it is - moves forward are sane and constructive?      

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 03:22:39 PM EST
"So. What to do with Russia?"

Well, depends on who you are talking to, and what the goals of that individual person/group really are.  I'm a self-proclaimed nobody, I'll do absolutely nothing, and spectate.  Offer the occasional unfunny jest the way I do.

But what about someone who does count, candidate McCain?  Rumor has it that this crisis actually favors him over Obama so the longer it drags on, the worse it gets, increases his shot of actually getting into the White House.  This is from the same playbook that gave us changing terrorist color codes 4 years ago whenever things were going well for Kerry.  

So how do you Europeans like having your politics screwed with, YOUR CIVILIANS MURDERED, for the sake of US politics?

This should be fun.

The good news ... it's only a life sentence. You eventually leave this planet of idiots.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 03:32:32 PM EST
Interdependence looks something like this.

Europe gets gas.  Russia gets money.

After that.

Europe burns gas.  Russian invests that money abroad.

Russian capitalism has found a home in the City of London that Soviet communists could only have dreamed of.

Why not use that as a tool to temper Russian action?

Why not taked limited actions to prevent the purchase of Western stocks and Bonds by the Russians?

Better yet, why not place export restrictions on luxury goods headed to Russia, and limit visas for Russians to official travel?

Of course this will never happen, becuase it would cost the City of London (and all the other financial centers in the West) money, but it sort of demonstrates the hypocrisy in crying about the energy weapon.

On the other hand, the EU has it fully within its powers to pursue a coordinated energy policy that bans the use of natural gas for electric production in 5 years, and provides subsidies for the construction of renewable energy sources to replace that.

Further, supply diversification through the construction of gas pipelines from North Africa and the Middle East could create a situation is which Russia is a supplier, but alternate suppliers have sufficient reserve production to limit the effect of any cut in Russian supplies.

All this costs money, though, and of course the complaint about Russia and gas isn't about supply, it's about demand, and more specifically the curious effects of price as a rationing mechanism.

Europe wants Russian to supply gas as though this were a full market, but the don't want the price for that gas to fluctuate as occurs in real markets....

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 03:38:55 PM EST
at conferences on European energy by saying that European energy policy can be summarised in two sentences:

"What is our gas doing under your toundra?"
"our current energy policy is a jobs programme for investment bankers in the City"

ie, we want our gas cheap and plentiful, no questions asked, and we want to be able to trade it and hedge it and swap it and waste it to our heart's content once it's over here.

I wish I were joking. It usually wakes up people, though.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 04:44:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"What is our gas doing under your toundra?"

I guess that the US should ask Canada the same question.

We are told by neoliberals that interdependence brings peace, because it makes war to costly to fight.

Yet, we have counterevidence in what's happening with Russia and "Europe."

I happen to be off the opinion that its best for nations to have control over the means to provide their most basic needs.  

Which means that the nation that most resort to trade for the means to eat, be clothed, or not freeze to death must realize that in doing this is renders control over its destiny to foreigners.

And either nation can use that link to wreak hell on the other, and that suggests to me that autarky in essential econonomic activities is more likely to result in peace that the show of dueling pistols that interdependence often turns out to be.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 11:09:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All of this assumes that "the nation" is the ideal organisational unit for all human affairs and that the economic independence for each which you advocate is possible in a very unequal and rapidly diminishing world in terms of the resources needed to support rapidly growing populations.

More likely it is a strategy for the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer.  The US doesn't "!need" to control the 100+ countries it has stationed its forces in - however that is the means its elite have chosen to promote their interests - which involves the ever increasing accumulation of wealth/power for its own sake.

The reality is that small nations are in no position to resist this - hence rendition flights.  We need strong supra national organisations - and the promotion of supranational self interests - to enhance the ability of smaller nations to promote their own self interest.

There is nothing natural about the "Nation state" as the unit for anything, and the more the world integrates, the more unnatural it becomes.

It's time I got out of this game....

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 07:39:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All this costs money, though,

But at least with wind, tidal, etc. it is money invested in providing clean, secure, necessary energy that does not contribute to global warming.  This actually helps the economy in the long run.  Perhaps the problem is that it does not serve as quite so grand a source of fees for the City as do financial scams.  But then at least one could not say that the capital had been destroyed by having been betrayed into hopelessly unproductive uses, as John Stuart Mill would have styled it.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 05:12:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
if I don't respond to everything. I am posting from deep in the French countryside, on dialup, and it's not working very well.

Further reading:
The west shares the blame for Georgia by Anatol Lieven
Russians losing propaganda war (BBC)

I have posted this on DailyKos:
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/8/16/162535/287/572/568966


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 04:40:50 PM EST
The Lieven article should be shared far and wide.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 04:45:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One problem for the Russians is that they have not yet learned how to play the media game. Their authoritarian government might never do so.

Right! They did not learned how to lie, make false assumptions, put fake photos, press people minds with constantly putting same false pictures of destructions, refugees...like CNN, BBC and other western media.
But truth is slowly appearing anyway...truth about USA , western Europe , NATO and others actions. No one else believes western media. People are turning to Al Jazzira to learn truth. They may even turn to Russia today as time goes...


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein

by vbo on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 10:24:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They [the Russians] did not learned how to lie, make false assumptions, put fake photos, press people minds with constantly putting same false pictures of destructions, refugees..

I hope this is snark...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 08:32:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No it's not.
Did you actually followed what was happening with west media at least last 15 or so years???
Even western people with a grain of brain DO NOT TRUST their own media any more...It's NO better then Soviet media from communist era...it's even worse propaganda. And World knows it!It's all "naked" today!

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 07:17:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't answer my comment. I was not saying the "western" media are credible. I just find laughable the claim that Russian media "did not learn to lie, make false assumptions..."

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 04:18:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well we all had perception that Soviet media is totally non credible and actually pure propaganda and that western media is FREE and truthful.
I just wanted to make clear that this perception is now exposed to be wrong.
Neither Russia is USSR any more, nor western media is free or truthful (if it ever had been). Actually it looks like they changed places. Of course Russian media is biased at least in international affairs but there is a big difference between being biased (but still cling to the facts) and "fabricating" favorable reality,  ignoring facts or making them irrelevant.


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 07:24:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The so-called "western media" aren't an homogenous ensemble. Many media in France, Germany and probably elsewhere provided a balanced view of the Georgia conflict. Indeed some of them were very critical towards the US.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 09:08:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As poemles already said before we are talking here about big names that most of the people get their news from. It's really pitiful and this has been exposed now to the world. World did not realize this during NATO aggression on Serbia or events leading to it during decomposition of ex -YU , but with war in Iraq it was much more obvious. Now it's a definite truth and world see it clearly. Even West world (people or at least a lot of them)...Propaganda masters  underestimated their own people's thinking capability. And of course we should all thank God for Internet...without it, it will be very dark around western hemisphere.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 09:35:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
She spoke about the press written in English, that is not equivalent with big names that most of the people get their news from.
In Europe there are both more native French and more native German speaking people than English speaking people. The articles MarekNYC translated from Polish showed a wide variety, and were all from major Polish news sources.
I really don't understand, why you portray the non-English press as irrelevant. Have you realised, that the main acting international organisations were the EU and the OSCE in the conflict, not NATO, not a coalition of the willing?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 10:04:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes I can only talk about English language media because I can only follow them and some of the others that emit on English (like DW that looks some better to me then CNN and BBC ) and are available broadly.
I can not guaranty what is happening elsewhere in West but I have a gut feeling that most of the others are following (copying) in BBC and CNN foot steps. Prove me wrong where ever you can...


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 08:34:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a gut feeling that most of the others are following (copying) in BBC and CNN foot steps. Prove me wrong where ever you can...

Well, I tell you it's not the case for the French media, Martin tells you it's not the case for the German media, MarekNYC showed it's not the case for the Polish media, so your "gut feeling" is wrong. I also think we would find it is the same for the Italian and Spanish media.

I will not waste time to "prove" you wrong. Either you believe us or our dialogue is useless and you can stick to your prejudices.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 10:23:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok.I will believe you...please follow as much as you can with translation of the articles from your papers.
But what is the case with TV around rest of the Europe? And I am asking about "big names"...people are mostly informed through TV nowadays, I suppose...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Tue Aug 19th, 2008 at 01:53:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you mean only English-speaking media matter?
I must remind you that, in Europe, only 65 million out of 500 million have English as a native or official language (including Ireland, Cyprus and Malta)...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 10:28:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.moonofalabama.org/2008/08/superpower-hypo.html#comments
The opinion of the european people, that may be less blinded by the propaganda to follow and support a unlimited endless war, doesn't matter a bit right now. As in the US you can just choice between two faces for the same policies. There is no choice between policies in the western democracies. And in the coming years as the european media becomes less free and even more controlled by the same interest groups than the US media any remaining oposition or doubts will disappear.


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 07:57:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's amusing is to see the leg humpers huff and puff that they are something other than neocon propaganda apparatchiks. In totalitarian states/times, there was no need. In the West, particularly in the AngloAmerican sphere, media lickspittles feel find it necessary to pretend they are anything but servants, hence the hypocrisy.


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 09:53:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe's problems are somewhat similar to the root problem that paralyzes US politics.  MONEY.  Most US citizens would rather let willing donors with strong self interests pay for the political campaigns rather than paying for them themselves.  Too few Europeans see a need to develop and pay for their own integrated military force when the US would rather do it for them.

In both cases the respective citizens end up paying a far higher price by letting others pay for the "service" than it would cost them were they to insist on doing it themselves.  The fault is not in our politicians, but in ourselves.  The USA gets to be looted by an elected cleptocracy in the service of business and banking.  Europe gets to be jerked around by senseless conflicts generated by sociopathic US administrations for domestic political ends.

For its own security and future I believe Europe needs to develop its own integrated military forces and then either pull out of NATO or downgrade and reign in the US influence in NATO.  Creating such a force would, of itself, immediately transform NATO into an alliance of equals.  Doing so would be doing a big favor to the true interests of the USA, though it would be fought by the current administration, and possibly resisted by any successor administration.

It may be that this can only be accomplished by starting with a subset of EU members, such as the original members, who agree to coordinate and integrate their military forces and to add capabilities to them as required so that those forces can be brought to bear so as to deter any potential threat from Russia or the USA, even should such scenarios seem unlikely.  That would put Europe in control of its own security, rather than playing the Seven Dwarfs to the US's Snow White.


As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 05:43:11 PM EST
Europe spends on the military an amount which is not quite as much as the US, but is not that far away. But it's still mostly oriented towards land war against the Warsaw Pact (a fight, btw, that would have been fought essentially by European armies with minor US participation, should it have ever taken place).

Today, we have to get rid of the notion that the US military protects us in any way. All it does is create, inflame and perpetuate enemies on our doorstep, ie it actively endangers us.

We don't do war, we do stupid bureaucratic fights. It may sound silly, but it actually works for two things: (i) peace and (ii) economies not completely dominated by big business.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 06:17:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Today, we have to get rid of the notion that the US military protects us in any way. All it does is create, inflame and perpetuate enemies on our doorstep, ie it actively endangers us.

Looked at on a purely military basis, could the EU prevail, without any US involvement, in any conceivable conflict with Russia? If that be the case, why do you put up with NATO?  Are your leaders under some evil spell?  Or is it that you are so fragmented that this power cannot be effectively brought to bear?  Is adequacy of European military power the general perception of the European population?  How is it that Europe does not more effectively thwart insane US activities that are detrimental to your own interests?

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 07:22:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If that be the case, why do you put up with NATO?

habit? sentiment for bygone days?

both?

the premise that the evil bear would eat europe for breakfast is long gone, we're their cash cow, why eat your milk supply?

great diary, J.

we are very fortunate russia's leaders have cool heads, considering the abuse they've put up with from our idiotically patronising attitudes.

 we are almost as bad as the yanks when it comes to illusions of entitlement, sigh...

and as for georgia, we should not be trying to take too much responsibility for their fate, especially if they are so foolish as to poke a sullen bear.

 U.S. posturing is, as usual, unhelpful, even damaging to all interests.

the west has betrayed russia, we owe an apology, and we should be grateful to them for treating us correctly.

their first affair with capitalism brought organised crime and social anarchy, that was america's contribution...

one window of opportunity, for russia to emulate a more democratic system, lying in shards on the ground.

now it's our turn as europeans, we would be wise not to repeat the same mistakes, especially the hypocrisy of pretending we know better than they do how to run their country, or even where to place their borders. we should be feting medvedev, for example, as a pro-western, moderate leader, thereby encouraging him to be more so, instead of winding him up like a clock.

 very. very. dumb. indeed...

let's treat our own minorities with more dignity, then politely ask russia to observe and share better values, not before.

or we risk looking even more stupid than we do now!

yes, and reduce demand, become sovereign of our own supplies of what we need, because energy is the new capital, and the sun, wind and tides will extract less rent in the long term than russia.

we have to identify, name and shame those fossil fool interests that are keeping us in thrall, and continue to raise public awareness about the vulnerability we suffer because of the narrow interests of a very few, but still powerful, bad-faith actors in this global drama.

the MSM will not be our friends in this endeavour, they will come late, if ever, kicking and screaming all the way.

so it's up to us, cheerful thought, as TBG might say!

beats 'we are so doomed' anyway...

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 01:49:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, even if we didn't have the Americans to help us out we would still need NATO to get a common military system, to coordinate our actions.

Furthermore, without the Americans we would se huge nuclear proliferation in Europe. To put it bluntly, most people don't think the French or British are as aggressive and badass as the Americans when it comes to the nuclear posture. Does anyone seriously think they'd risk Paris or London for Tallinn or Bratislava?

Europe would not be a safer place with Hungarian, Polish, Swedish and German nuclear weapons.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 05:07:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you really think that the US would risk nuclear war with Russia more than France if a European country were attacked?

If you take a narrow view of national interests, then neither will. If you ask which one is the most likely to act, I'd still say France, today.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 11:55:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I do. That's what NATO was all about for almost 50 years.

France isn't even a full member of NATO. This does create a certain image when it comes to solidarity.

Of course Sweden is even worse, but we don't claim to protect anyone else with our non-existant nuclear weapons.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Aug 19th, 2008 at 05:55:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the point is NOT to look at purely military basis as the first and only solution to any conflict.  

That seems to be the USG single-source (tank) thinking because it guarantees their mil/ind friends permanent source of income:  They spread fear daily through the media, interfering everywhere and causing unnecessary threats that otherwise would not exist.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 07:00:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the lesson from the past fifty years is pretty clear: If you try to occupy someone else's turf, you usually lose. Viet Nam, Vietraq, Afghanistan (twice), Grenada, Cuba, what did I forget? Chechnya? Tibet is a counterexample, but I can't find many more.

'Course, the locals whose turf you occupy usually lose even more. But that's beside the point from a Grand Chessboard perspective.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 04:16:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe money is really a secondary issue here. The primary issue is political.

Because the EU is egalitarian, there is a strong political inertia which prevents going forward on practically all issues. Pick any topic you like, and you'll find some states willing to go forward, yet other states within the EU will block the move.

The solution has been known and opposed for many years: break up the egalitarian constraint, and introduce a multi-speed Europe. Let some countries integrate more quickly, and thereby become stronger and more influential than others as a consequence. The differential will break the balance, and allow some policies, any policies, to be followed.

Note that I'm not suggesting Franco-German hegemony over Europe, which is the obvious fear for some. I'm rather suggesting a kind of break-up of the EU into a small handful of larger groupings, and each of those groupings splitting again into smaller groupings, down to the level of individual states. The point is that policies are always easier to implement or to try out in smaller groups, and it is more efficient to coordinate and argue among a few larger hierarchical groupings, than among many equal and atomic states. This is no different than the way individual countries are structured.

I see the NATO issue similarly. With the exception of the US, which can impose its will for obvious reasons, NATO has no clear hierarchical structure, which is funny for a military organization. There are no countries which are more important than others, and therefore there is no credible policy direction other than US policy to follow.

The first step should be to elevate some countries in NATO as senior members, with power over junior members, and the ability to control local and global policy to various extents. How seniority is computed is not clear. Article 5 has got to go, replaced by a gradated response which favours the senior members over the junior members (salami tactics), just like in a real military structure.

Again, the point isn't to make some more equal than others for racist or nationalist reasons, but rather the point is to break the egalitarian deadlock among non-US states, to allow the organization's policies to be shaped by members in ways which fit their own aims better.

Needless to say, both these ideas would lead to making various members rethink whether they truly want to remain in these organizations, and

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 09:24:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Breaking up the EU in this way would, in practice, break up the EU.  More important would be to devolve increasing powers to EU institutions - as attempted, in a small way, in the Lisbon Treaty.

The reason many European still like the EU is that it isn't very effective or efficient as a superpower - it can't really play the superpower game - and they don't want it to be able to - in much the same way as Switzerland isn't an actual player on the world stage in the military sense, but still quite influential all the same.

Most Europeans don't want to compete with the US, or with Russia, in military terms.  Neither do we want to get caught between them.  Hence the utter stupidity of Georgia's actions.

It's time I got out of this game....

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 10:08:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you mean re breaking up the EU? The model I'm outlining seems (to me at least) very close to a regional structuring, which is commonly used in one form or another in every country in Europe already (except for the really small ones).

Is Germany considered broken into pieces because the Laender have some independence? Even France has regional level structures, it is not just a hundred different departments, wouldn't you say?

You have an excellent point about the issue of superpower status. That's something the people of Europe as a whole need to sort out. I myself (as a frenchman) am not sure what direction I'd like to see, but I do believe that the world is not going to wait until organizational issues can be settled. And unfortunately the old Roman dictum si vis pacem, para bellum appears to still be valid. Europe does not have the kind of natural geographical protections that Switzerland enjoys.

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 11:20:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i am really enjoying your presence here at ET martingale, but your sig is doing a good job of mystifying me. care to illuminate?

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 01:53:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe it's a definition of martingale, taken from TeX file.
by Sargon on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 03:33:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've had that sig on other scoop sites, before they had picture embedding macros, and I've kept it for sentimental reasons :)

It's a piece of LaTeX which represents the defining property of a martingale.

The simplest example of a martingale in this sense is a double or nothing gambling strategy in certain games of chance(*), but a better way of understanding them is that they are purely random processes, which cannot be predicted based on historical observations: if you try to predict their future, your best guess is to duplicate the present, regardless of what you've seen in the past.

(*)wherein one proves that double or nothing fails to help one win: when the strategy has no statistical trend, then there is no advantage from using it.

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 03:44:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
um, thanks, clear as day

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 05:06:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.  You learn something new every day.  Presumably the political analogy is that you should escalate a conflict unless you have the means to win at the escalated level - something Putin seems to understand rather well.

It's time I got out of this game....
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 07:19:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, international games of diplomacy are a lot more difficult to analyze than simple gambles with well defined rules. Yet the neocons do seem to behave like addicted gamblers on a losing streak of late, don't they?

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$
by martingale on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 08:15:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You read French, and you are interested in game theory - you just HAVE to read my PhD dissertation on the independence of Ukraine (long title: "the independence of a country: what game theory can tell us and the exemple of Ukraine"

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 06:09:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did you even publish a journal paper based on the thesis?
by Sargon on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 06:54:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sadly, no. My jury professors disagreed between themselves, and the one that ran publications was not happy that I had, according to him, pledged allegiance to a rival school of thought, and he thus vetoed any publication.

As I was not staying in academia, I did not really care and did not fight this. Thus the dissertation was never published anywhere and was quickly forgotten.

I had done an executive summary in English but can no longer find the file; I'd need to draft it again; it's probably worth it...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 07:12:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds very interesting. Do you have the document on the web or someplace I can download it?

Sinon, tu peux aussi m'envoyer le fichier par email, l'addresse que j'ai indiquee sur ET lors de l'enregistrement est bidon, mais fonctionne.

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 09:30:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hence the utter stupidity of Georgia's actions.

Saakashvili is a tool in several of the common senses and, it would appear, a very naive one at that. He does have GWB standing behind him, way behind him, all the way back in Crawford, on vacation.  But the problem was that he had a very different agenda than the older members of the EU.  He thought that he could parlay his US backing, purchased in part with $800,000 from the Georgian treasury to his US lobyist, into neo-cold war glory by reasserting control over South Ossetia.  

He failed to appreciate that the $800,000 only purchased the ringing endorsements, not any effective military assistance come the crunch.  His goal was not irrational, but his means were rash and he walked right in to a trap set by Putin.  What the EU needs is to realize that they have to more forcefully repudiate putative future members of the EU and NATO which Washington would like to arrange for them.

The EU might be spending about as much, per capita, as the USA on military forces, but, as suggested by others above, it is not getting similar bang for the buck. The existing arrangement can only really be directed by the US.  The US abuses this arrangement to suit the needs of domestic politics, as with Georgia.  The US is very unlikely to abandon that ability voluntarily.  The arrangement has the potential to become an attractive nuisance, like an unfenced swimming pool, but one that can start WWIII, just so that one US political party can gain an electoral advantage.  If this nuisance is ever to be adequately fenced, it must be done by Europeans.  Doing so would be a service to the entire world.  

The only one to come out of this with any advantage is Putin and possibly McCain.  Should this ploy work for McCain it could be much more difficult for the EU to ever get control of its own foreign agenda.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 12:14:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I mostly agree, but the EU doesn't by far spend as much on defence as the US does. The Americans spend about $1900 per capita, the EU about $600. Furthermore, the US gets huge economies of scale because they have one military (even though with huge inter-service rivalries) instead of 27 different militaries.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 05:15:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was accepting Jerome's assertion, (Except this is not even true,) at face value.  Your figure is closer to what I recalled, along with the fragmentation of forces into so many pieces and a command structure tailor made for US use only.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 10:15:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe Jerome was referring to European NATO members (including Turkey), however, the EU has more people, so the lower per capita spending isn't equivalent with equally lower total spending. I have read something like Europe is spending 70% of the US, but that was before the most recent increases in the US, while e.g. in Germany military spending probably didn't even increase with inflation.

But what is the use of higher military spending? Alone France and Germany for sure are spending a similar amount of money as Russia. There is just no way how Russia could win a conventional war against the EU, even if the US would stay out completely. Even during the cold war, most likely the Warsaw pact would have lost a conventional war in Europe. Now the Baltics, Poland, eastern Germany,.... have joined the west. If at all our defending capabilities against an conventional land strike are unecessary big, not too small.
Furthermore it is possible, that Russia is especially suspicious of NATO enlargement, because NATO is already so strong. One can reasonably ask, as a non-NATO member, what are these guys preparing for with all their weaponry? Who is spending so much money he could spend for other things on defense, if he doesn't want to do provocative things?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 05:27:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is an argument, one I am not comfortable with, that it is in "Europe's" interest for McCain to win - thus keeping the Bush regime's economic, political, diplomatic and military US impoverishment process intact.  

The logic is  - the stupider the US Government - riven by internal dissension, driven by narrow special interests etc. - the more other powers - and even the EU will gain by comparison - especially if they are effectively led in terms of their own national interest - as Russia, China, India etc. seem to be now.

My major concern with that scenario is that:

  1. The US could behave even more irrationally in decline, and start an even worse Iraq type war with Iran or Russia -0 or possibly even a World War.

  2.  In the absence of very strong global governance and enforceable international law provisions (which the neo-cons have also done their best to destroy) such an emergent "multi-polar" political system will be as dangerous and unstable as that which existed prior to WW1.

  3.  I like most American's, even if many seem politically naive, and hate to see them and their country dragged through the mud.

Could they really elect McCain?

It's time I got out of this game....
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 07:14:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Electing McCain is all too possible, especially with the effective use of NATIONAL SECURITY.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 10:18:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And how, within the terms of the US political psyche, does provoking Russia and antagonising friends around the world improve US national security?

It's time I got out of this game....
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 10:35:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It quite obviously doesn't.  Unfortunately NATIONAL SECURITY has little to do with national security.  While we calculate national security in terms of real assets, real threats and alliances, NATIONAL SECURITY is calculated in terms of the degree to which blind passion is aroused in the "minds" of the masses.  There is a threat to the troop!  All young males go running off towards the perceived threat vocalizing loudly. WHOO, WHOO WHOO!  The senior males hope to use this response to their advantage.  They usually succeed.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 12:11:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This phenomenon was not unknown in Europe prior to WW2, in the Balkans, and in some third world countries.  How does it come to pass in the most advanced democracy in the world?

It's time I got out of this game....
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 01:14:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At this point it's Europe and not the US which is closer to being the most advanced democracy in the world.

The last couple of election cycles in the US really haven't been anything special in US history. Vote stealing, gerrymandering, a jingoistic press and an electorate - or parts of same - with the cognitive skills of dead sheep have been standard issue in US politics since the end of the Civil War.

What changed - partly as a result of wishful thinking - was the realisation that better choices were possible. The earlier labour movements were powerful but reactive. The DFHs were proactive but not nearly as powerful. Even so - there was an understanding that a better reality was possible.

That's still around, but it's been marginalised as an extremist view in the US.

Given what's likely to happen next, I wouldn't be surprised if there were parts of the US where it's about to become mainstream again.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 01:44:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...the most advanced democracy in the world.

How can this phrase be made to drip with sufficient irony, sarcasm and venom to convey the pathetic standard which it describes?

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 02:36:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a vivid mental image of a canned-food billboard ad with the line "contains the most advanced democracy in the world!"

What?? Why're you looking at me like that? It does sound like an empty slogan, and I've just been travelling for seven hours straight...

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 04:29:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Amen.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Sat Aug 16th, 2008 at 10:00:19 PM EST
The answer is extremely simple: leave talk of values for domestic consumption, and engage with Russia on basis of interests - anyway, Russia already believes that 'values' are just a hypocritical cover for 'interests', so the switch would be easy.

You would be amazed how many specialists in game theory Russia has, and how well - but honestly - they could play games with clearly defined rules. On the other hand, hearing that 'e2-e4' is disproportionate this morning but was OK yesterday once too often, might lead to the aggrieved side leaving the table and moving to another board and another game.

Russia would be really, really, loath to do so, but that's what would happen if its interests are not taken into account because European values prevent it.

by Sargon on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 03:43:30 AM EST

hearing that 'e2-e4' is disproportionate this morning but was OK yesterday

An excellent summary of our current "Russia policies"

Your advice is spot on. Thankfully, I think that "Old Europe", starting with Germany, does follow it to a good extent.

The question becomes, once again, how much Europe is made to follow the US's policies against its own interests.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 06:21:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"is made?"  How is Europe "is made" to blindly follow US actions so obviously to their detriment?

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 12:15:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
who seem to care more about pleasing the White House than their own citizens (but don't seem to lose enough votes because of that - or the alternatives are on the same line, as in the UK)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 01:22:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By leaders who are purchased by the same type of self-interested, wealthy as in the US I suppose.  Same disastrous "economy" of letting others pay for what we should be insisting on paying for ourselves?

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 02:31:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
sorry, what is meant by e2-e4? I would like to be able to follow your conversation. Thanks.
by mimi on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 06:49:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
standard opening move in chess - moving a central pawn two spaces forward

It's time I got out of this game....
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 06:58:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Tom Clancy over-estimated Russia's capabilities, but certainly got the scenario right in this PlayStation Game...



"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 05:55:20 AM EST
It would appear that the REAL 2008 counterparts of the unit shown in the video are even more ghostly.  I think Georgia would be low on NATO's priority list in such a scenario.  Had special forces been able to have planted and timely detonated well placed explosives at either end of a certain tunnel opening into South Ossetia, we might be well on our way to WW III.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 10:28:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We need to get into the video game biz. Seriously. There's virtually no limit to how much propagandistic bullcrap gamers will swallow if it comes packaged with a nice interface, flashy graphics and a good storyline.

Even more insidiously, the basic, underlying logic of many, if not most, current games teaches some very wrong lessons: That infrastructure should be run for profit, that it's easier and cheaper to clean up pollution than to prevent it, that social spending is wasteful, that war is an easy, predictable, fun and profitable enterprise and a whole host of other Very Bad Ideas.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 04:39:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is an unstated assumption in all of this that the world leaders are intelligent and competent. Recent events would tend to indicate otherwise.

We have a group of leaders who have no idea what to do in foreign affairs. Conflicts have been breaking out for several decades in Africa, the Balkans, the former SSR's and elsewhere.

In every case there was much diplomatic posturing by western leaders but nothing was done to solve the situation. Some of the conflicts have mostly petered out as all the players became exhausted (Congo, Nigeria), but others persist (Darfur, Somalia, Kosovo).

Some situations don't want to get fixed (Israel and the neighboring states) because the international tensions distract the local populations from domestic issues of corruption and authoritarian regimes.

In addition the leaders have to keep one (both?) eye on their own population. This makes them say things that are pure bluster. Bush and Putin are both good at this sort of thing.

The danger with incompetent leaders is that events will spiral out of control and then escalate before the grownups can step in. The issue in Georgia, for example, is unfixable. There is no settlement that will leave the Russians, the Ossetians and the Georgians all happy. Either the territory will be subsumed back into George which will leave the first two groups angry, or it will be absorbed into Russia which will leave the latter two groups angry, or will become "independent" which will leave everybody angry.

I heard a wise thing said by conductor Daniel Barenboim about Palestine, that both sides want the same bit of land and that neither military nor diplomatic efforts can work, only accommodation by the people themselves can bring about a resolution. This is the case in most of these conflict regions.

It is in the interests of the big powers to keep these sorts of antagonisms going, and if the people allow themselves to be manipulated this way then they are doomed. If the Irish could work something out, then others can develop the will to do it.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 10:13:43 AM EST
The biggest danger is not that leaders have no idea what to do, but rather that most are not even interested in a real solution.  Instead, they just play these situations for domestic political advantage with little thought for the consequences of their actions.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 10:31:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the Republicans are dancing in their dens right now. Certainly McCain was delighted to be able to look fierce, talk tough, and garner applause in his interview last night. Cold War is what they do best.
by greatferm (greatferm-at-email.com) on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 02:51:37 PM EST
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=66757&sectionid=3510302

People in the world need to understand that the regime in Washington is the most dangerous regime that has ever existed, it is capable of anything. Here we have a regime who has invaded two countries, a regime that has been bullying Iran and the President of the United States announcing that bullying and using intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.

What has he been doing all these years? We had Condi Rice say the same stupid things and John McCain the Republican nominee for president say that in the 21st century nations do not invade other nations.

Well the United States has just invaded two nations and has oppressed them for six years and they talk this way. This has got to be insanity, this is disconnected from all reality. What they mean is that no one but the United States can invade other nations.  



Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Sun Aug 17th, 2008 at 08:52:00 PM EST
Here is one vote for simply ignoring and staying out of Russia.

Let's start with the basics: the idea that Russia constitutes some sort of threat to Europe/USA or vice versa is absurd. The mini-conflicts Russia has with its neighbours are driven by internal politics, Chechnya was nothing but a Putin election drive to give the most worrying example.

The recent Estonian - Russian posturing was for domestic audience, at both sides. Georgia pretty much the same thing.

Economically and politically, the Russians make their own problems and there is very little we can do about it, and I doubt whether we should we even try.

As an example, the recent row with Finland and Sweden about forest exports. Russians say that exporting wood to Finland/Sweden that is then refined into products like paper is colonial. Maybe so. And now Russians are to impose export tariffs, the idea being that then forest companies would build factories in Russia and would export paper and other products instead of raw materials.

The problem with this idea is that pulp factories are multi-billion long term investments that require a lot of infrastructure. Which is the reason why there isn't a rush to build them in Russia, no infrastructure, dubious property rights, etc. The risk premiums such investments would entail are just not there, especially given overprodcution of said products in Europe as it is, and these are highly automated facilities so lower labor costs are not that big a saving. That Russians don't have much of a forest industry is entirely their own doing.

All the tariffs will do is effectively devalue a natural resource making Russian forests less valuable, and cost thousands of jobs at the Russian side. A Finnish politician was stupid enough to say this out aloud, which the Russian press then spinned as a threat that Finns will kill the livelyhood of Russian lumberjacks and truckers.

BTW, some sort of trade war between Finland, maybe Sweden and Russia seems likely. NordStream gas pipeline could be the victim of it.

By all means, let's trade gas and whatever with Russia. But the Russians are simply too paranoid about western co-operation to make it work, growing the mutual dependence of Europe and Russia is asking for trouble.

Still, wind farms in Kola Peninsula are a very attractive idea. Maybe in some other decade.

by teme on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 03:50:56 AM EST
the Russians are simply too paranoid about western co-operation to make it work, growing the mutual dependence of Europe and Russia is asking for trouble.

Some big names don't agree, Renault among them. We'll see how this turns out.

by balbuz on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 10:49:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry for a quick post, don't have much time here in VA. But you seem to be confusing Europe with France and like minded countries. The Poles and the Balts are not about 'keeping Europe out' but rather for them a strong Atlanticist posture and rejection of any Russian rights in its neighbours are a sine qua non of Europe existing. As I've said before, from a Polish perspective Russia has as much right to object to US bases or NATO membership as Poland does to tell Russia to shutdown it's own bases in Russia, or to draw down its military. You need to make up your mind - is preventing Russian interference in its neighbours a legit objective as you say at one point, or is it not, as you say at another.

And to repeat myself some more. You can have a Europe independent of the US, you can have a good relationship with Russia, you can have a functioning EU. You can't have all three. Your policy means much closer security ties between Poland and the US, probably including Polish pressure for a large scale US military presence, a significant growth in Polish euroskepticism - hamstringing EU integration, and poorer relations between Poland and Russia.

All policies have costs, and those costs may or may not be worth it. What worries me is that you and most of the others here who share your views seem unwilling to try to grapple with those costs and risks of your preferred policies in any sort of serious fashion.

by MarekNYC on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 12:16:26 PM EST
Well, therefore the actual old Europe policy is, to posture somewhat for Georgia in the hope this will be enough to please eastern Europe without pissing off the Russia too much and keeping institutions like NATO alive,  but responding very halfheartedly to troop demands from NATO.

So given your comment is right, the policy done by current old Europe's leaders maybe even the best we can get at all, and all the talk about dividing more agressive from the US is not doable in the real world..., because a functioning EU would be priority #1 on my list.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 09:58:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I  agree. The way I see it the present uneasy balancing act has the best cost/benefit ratio for the Western European powers. The kind of radical changes Jerome and most others call for here are a very high risk strategy - one that may have benefits from a certain perspective, but Jerome does not seem to be at all cognizant of the dangers it entails for the Western Europeans.
by MarekNYC on Mon Aug 18th, 2008 at 11:33:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
from a Polish perspective Russia has as much right to object to US bases or NATO membership as Poland does to tell Russia to shutdown it's own bases in Russia, or to draw down its military.

That assumes that Russia poses a credible threat to the security and/or legitimate interests of Poland and the Baltics. There is precious little evidence for this.

On the other hand, there is rather a lot of evidence that the US (and by extension NATO) poses a credible threat to legitimate Russian interests, including not having failed states in their immediate vicinity, and not having strategic weapons deployed less than a day's tank drive from Moscow.

If this analysis is wrong, then I'd like to see some evidence for that fact.

Other than that, I think that your analysis is generally sound, at least in the short term. I draw a rather different conclusion from it, though. Given that I don't consider Russia a credible threat to any EU country or to legitimate EU interests, I think that the EU can do without Polish and Baltic posturing. And if that means doing without Poland and the Baltics altogether, then that's just tough luck. We'll survive without them, but we won't survive without political independence from Washington and a functioning union.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 04:56:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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