October 19, 2008
Georgia 08/08/08 is the date when headlines in Western mainstream media started to tell how big, bad aggressive Russia attacked to tiny, democratic, good Georgia. After that the West continued accusations about occupation a free sovereign state started rethink enforcing its frontlines around Russian border in new cold war era. Al this despite the fact, that day earlier 7th August 2008 Georgia had started the moths before planned war against its separatist province (look my article “OSCE report fault Georgia – one trivial statement more from EU summit” 4th Sept.2008 from my BlogArchive). All this despite he fact, that USA had already showed the way how to break international law e.g. by bombing Kosovo and orchestrating the quasi-independence of that separatist province.
While speaking about new confrontation between East and West the (mostly western) political commentators have used first nice, warm words like freedom, democracy, sovereignty, humanitarian catastrophe to justify their planned harder actions to response Russia’s aggression. However if we scrub the soft spoke for dummies – sorry for public – we can find the hard reality and bigger game behind recent headlines of Caucasus or Balkan events. I try next to highlight few aspects with this power play.
First element I would like to mention is energy. Georgia is part of a NATO military alliance (GUAM) signed in April 1999 at the very outset of the war on Yugoslavia. It also has a bilateral military cooperation agreement with the US. These underlying military agreements have served to protect Anglo-American oil interests in the Caspian Sea basin as well as pipeline routes. (The alliance was initially entitled GUUAM, Uzbekistan subsequently withdrew and the name was changed to GUAM: Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Moldova). More you may find from my article 9th Sep.2008 “War on Pipes: Transport corridors as core of US-Russia confrontation” where is write about GUUAM and SRS (Silk Road Strategy Act). Article one may find from my BlogArchive.
To reduce reliance on Persian Gulf oil, the Bush Administration has sought to strengthen relations with other non-OPEC, oil-rich countries. For example when (then) Defense Secretary Rumsfeld visited Kazakhstan, his main agenda was to promise security assistance for Kazakhstan’s oil pipelines and facilities on the Caspian Sea, where an estimated 7-9 billion barrels of oil were recently discovered (the largest oil discovery anywhere in 30 years). Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey recently signed a U.S.-backed deal to build an oil pipeline to bring that oil to ports on the Mediterranean. The U.S. has military ties with each. U.S. oil demand is huge and increasing.
Today, the U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it consumes more than 25 percent of global oil production-about 20 million barrels per day (mbd). Oil is the dominant fuel in the U.S. energy market, meeting almost 40 percent of total U.S. energy needs. Most of this is consumed by the transportation sector. If current U.S. oil demand trends continue, by 2025, the US. will be consuming over 29 mbd. More larger and heavier cars and trucks- with bigger engines, driven more miles each year- will account for most of this growth. All tolled, today, the world is consuming a little over 80 mbd (30 billion barrels per year). By 2030, global demand is expected to grow by 50 percent to 120 mbd (45 billion barrels per year).
After August events in Georgia everything did not happen according US plan. Russia could warm its relationship with Azerbaijan which was clearly to seen when Dick Cheney made his travel around Caucasia and came back empty hands. Also the situation in Ukraine developed away from US hopes.
Paul Goble concludes in his “Window on Eurasia” Sep. 5th 2008 following: “With Iran’s declaration that it opposes the construction of any undersea pipelines in the Caspian on “ecological grounds” and thus will block any delimitation of the seabed that allows for them and Baku’s decision not to back the West’s push NABUCCO project, Moscow can claim its first major political victory from its invasion of Georgia.” (Source)
These actions mean that the Russian government will now have full and uncontested control over pipelines between the Caspian basin and the West which pass through Russian territory and will be able either directly or through its clients like the PKK to disrupt the only routes such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan that bypass the Russian Federation.
Second let me mention “military-industrial complex”. When Russia’s invading forces choked roads into Georgia with columns of armoured vehicles and struck targets from the air, it instantly bolstered the case being made by some that the Defence Department isn’t taking the threat from Russia and China seriously enough. It was said that “Christmas Comes Early For the Military Industrial Complex”.
The Military-industrial Complex has been one of the biggest players in US foreign policy since President Eisenhower. Details about Iraq killing Iranians with US-supplied chemical and biological weapons significantly deepens our understanding of the current hypocrisy. It began with “Iraq-gate” — when US policy makers, financiers, arms-suppliers and makers, made massive profits from sales to Iraq of myriad chemical, biological, conventional weapons, and the equipment to make nuclear weapons. Reporter Russ Baker noted, for example, that, “on July 3, 1991, the Financial Times reported that a Florida company run by an Iraqi national had produced cyanide — some of which went to Iraq for use in chemical weapons — and had shipped it via a CIA contractor.” This was just the tip of a mountain of scandals.
A PBS Frontline episode, “The Arming of Iraq” (1990) detailed much of the conventional and so-called “dual-use” weapons sold to Iraq. The public learned from other sources that at least since mid-1980s the US was selling chemical and biological material for weapons to Iraq and orchestrating private sales. These sales began soon after current Secretary of State, Donald Rumsfeld travelled to Baghdad in 1985 and met with Saddam Hussein as a private businessman on behalf of the Reagan administration. In the last major battle of the Iran-Iraq war, some 65,000 Iranians were killed, many by gas.Coming back to present days one could easily find out how the US government borrows heavily to cover its off-the-charts defence spending—$587 billion this year. Spending in Iraq and Afghanistan is from 2.9 – 5.0 bn$ per week or 280.000 – 500.000 $ per minute.
The five largest American Defence contractors are Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics. They are being followed by Honeywell, Halliburton, BAE Systems and thousands of smaller defence companies and subcontractors. Some, like Lockheed Martin in Bethesda (Maryland) and Raytheon in Waltham (Massachusetts) draw close to 100 percent of their business from defence contracts. Some others, like Honeywell in Morristown (New Jersey), have important consumer goods divisions. All, however, stand to profit when expenditures on weapons procurements increase. In fact, U.S. defence contractors have been enjoying big Pentagon budgets since March 2003, i.e. since the onset of the Iraq war. As a result, they have posted sizable increases in total shareholder returns, ranging from 68 percent (Northrop Grumman) to 164 percent (General Dynamics), from March ’03 to September ’06.
For war profiteers, soldiers returning maimed or in caskets, and an over $500 billion Pentagon budget paid for by the taxes of ordinary citizens, are externalities — costs and consequences borne by others.
NATO became even more threatening to Russia because, at the same time, the alliance shifted its mission from defending the soil of member countries to offensive missions outside the treaty area – for example, bombing Bosnia, Kosovo, and Serbia.
The trend toward autocracy in Russia is maybe horrible for some Russian interest groups, but it is little threat to the United States. Even autocracies have legitimate security concerns, and Russia has been invaded several times through Eastern Europe, which is why the Russians are worried about a hostile alliance on its borders. Empirical evidence shows that authoritarian regimes aren’t necessarily externally aggressive – for example, the dictators in Burma – and that democracies are no less belligerent than autocracies in their foreign policies. In fact, data show that the most aggressive nation on the planet after World War II has been the United States – not the Soviet Union – with more than 100 military or covert interventions in other countries.
If we make contrast to today’s’ financial turmoil one should remember following. Wall Street analysts concur that “war is good for business” particularly during a period of “economic slowdown”. The top five U.S. defence contractors generated almost $129 billion in revenues and $8 billion in profits in 2006, double the revenue and profits in 2000 when George Bush became President. I bet that they want this to continue.
Third there are lobbyists. Their business turnover is minimal compared two above mentioned elements but they are important glue between business and public affairs. Lobbyists can channel business money as donations or bribes to political figures or parties who then can facilitate the needs of donors.
In Georgia case most famous is Randy Scheuneman. Top McCain foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheuneman, was paid $200,000 recently by Georgia for consulting services, about one day before McCain issued a policy statement backing and emboldening the Republic of Georgia in its grab for disputed regions. And it now appears that McCain may have signalled that the US would essentially have Georgia’s back if it tried to assert possession of the territories. Since 2004 Scheuneman got $900.000 from Georgia. Recently US promised over 1 bn$ taxpayers money to Georgia – god investment I must say, for Georgians.
In the mid-1990s at the stint of the Clinton administration the United States launched the process of involving “former Soviet satellite nations” into both the European Union and NATO with an eye at securing a more efficient control over their political activities. The rapid expansion of the North Atlantic alliance was a part of the strategy of a “new American age” worked out by R.Cheney and his team. In 1996, Bruce Jackson, one of Cheney’s close friends and a top manager of the military-industrial corporation “Lockheed–Martin” took the reins of the influential lobbyist organisation “American Committee on NATO Expansion”. Bruce Jackson was appointed as head of the US Committee on NATO by President Clinton and put in charge of integrating the Eastern European countries into NATO in spite of assurances that had been given to Soviet leader Mikhael Gorbachev that this would not be done. This integration involved selling US weapons systems to these countries so that they would be compatible with ours.
Lobbying can have also win-win effect to players. E.g. Bruce Jackson founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq in 2002, a few months after retiring from Lockheed Martin. One can image, as the war in Iraq grinds on at a cost of some $250-400 million per day, and another contractor-heavy organization, the Iran Policy Committee, calls for a pre-emptive strike against Iran, how US Foreign politics is guided.
The New Defence Agenda (NDA) is part of Brussels growing military-industrial complex. Set up in 2003, it is funded by arms producers Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems in order to promote higher European military spending. Others arms industry lobby groups include the European Association of Aerospace Industries (AECMA) and the European Defence Industries Group (EDIG). The arms industry is also using the Lisbon Agenda and competitiveness to argue their case for increasing the EU?s current defence spending of about 3 percent of GDP to the US level of 6 percent.
New and Old Europe
Discussing about transatlantic relationship with Russia I can see a triangle drama with “western” camp. US has found stalwart allies from “New Europe” Polish-Lithuanian tandem as its spearhead, who are serving as America’s watchmen on Europe’s periphery as well cannon fodder in demanding theatres. The tandem with some wingmen (Estonia, Latvia) have their role in expanding Western military ties to East Europe and checking Russia’s energy grip on Europe.
We have “Old Europe” like Germany, Italy some cases Spain and France also, who are more interesting about strategic political and business partnership with Russia. Old Europe countries are also developing bilateral cooperation with Russia when they see its advantages.
While some “New Europe” countries still have some post-Soviet trauma, US is tied to her self-caused conflicts and “Old Europe” is wondering how the Union will look in future, it is demanding task to find a common approach to relationship with Russia. While Russia also considers its options I can only hope that some neutral forum for dialogue could be found.
Yes I hope that one or more forums can accommodate different dialogs. Europe schizophrenia will be cured either in some common forum or with two rail development where new and old Europe maybe are going with different speeds and maybe also different directions – the trauma symptoms maybe are similar in new and old Europe countries but the cause/motivations differ. Post-Soviet new ones maybe have more emotional cause for their actions, US maybe have more economical priorities as well some old EU states.
More my articles about Balkan and Caucasus politics one may find from my BalkanBlog