English Politics Russia USA USA 2008

McCain’s Strategist Agrees With Putin

Political statements do sound truer if they come identical from actual or potential enemies. Is there therefore a high chance that Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia a month ago, has been “encouraged” by people trying to support McCain, as Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin has recently suggested to CNN (Aug 28)?

In an interview in the Black Sea city of Sochi on Thursday, Putin said the U.S. had encouraged Georgia to attack the autonomous region of South Ossetia.

Putin said his defense officials had told him it was done to benefit a presidential candidate — Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama are competing to succeed George W. Bush — although he presented no evidence to back it up.

“U.S. citizens were indeed in the area in conflict,” Putin said. “They were acting in implementing those orders doing as they were ordered, and the only one who can give such orders is their leader.”

Just listen now to Thomas Rath, “leading Republican strategist in the swing state of New Hampshire” according to Bloomberg news and the IHT (Sep 7):

“If in October we’re talking about Russia and national defense and who can manage America in a difficult world, John McCain will be president,” predicts Thomas Rath, the leading Republican strategist in the swing state of New Hampshire. “If we’re talking largely about domestic issues and health care, Barack Obama probably will be president.”

In other words, as explained by article’s author Albert R Hunt:

If Russia invades another country on Oct. 20 or Iran detonates a nuclear weapon, advantage McCain; if there’s another Bear Stearns meltdown, or a stock market crash, put a few points on the Obama side.

A similar point is made rather more forcefully by leftist Tony Wood in the pages of the London Review of Book (Sep 11):

So why would the US approve a military adventure it had no intention of materially supporting? Not every development is part of an infernal neocon conspiracy, but it is nonetheless clear that the White House would make palpable gains from the Georgian crisis, whatever the outcome. If Saakashvili succeeded in retaking South Ossetia, he would have faced down Russia and demonstrated Georgia’s increasing readiness for Nato membership. If, on the other hand, Russia defeated Georgia, it would re-emphasise to Eastern Europe the need for US security guarantees. Sure enough, within two days of the start of fighting in Tskhinvali, Poland and the US finally reached agreement on the missile shield. Georgia itself appears all the more in need of US backing, and several politicians and commentators have suggested that the crisis is grounds for the country’s immediate admission to Nato. It could also justify the US increasing its military presence in Georgia, from a mere 100 Special Forces troops to, say, a long-term base. Moreover, the war has created ample opportunity for ramping up the discourse of a New Cold War – considerably improving the electoral prospects of John McCain, whose foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann worked for Saakashvili until May this year. All this, in exchange for a short war the US didn’t have to fight.

“All this, in exchange for a short war the US didn’t have to fight”.

America Guerra Italiano Politica UE USA

Georgia e Russia: A Che Punto Siamo?

E’ passato un mese dall’attacco georgiano contro la popolazione civile nell’Ossezia del Sud. A che punto siamo? Ecco un breve sunto ricavato da varie fonti (Il Sole 24 Ore, The Economist, International Herald Tribune/The New York Times, Spiked Online, Il Corriere della Sera, Il Riformista, The Globe and Mail):

  1. La Russia: e’ debole, e insicura. Ha “bisogno” di dimostrare di non essere tale, ma poi manda i soldati a combattere senza neanche un paio di stivali decenti. Con i suoi forti problemi interni, e un deciso complesso di inferiorita’, e’ sostanzialmente isolata, costantemente con soli due passi di vantaggio rispetto alla crisi piu’ nera. Per quanto?
  2. La Georgia: forse e’ una democrazia, forse no. Sicuramente, non e’ una democrazia solida. C’e’ troppa voglia di “menare le mani”. Mutatis mutandis, e’ la Russia del Caucaso: stessa debolezza, stesso complesso di inferiorita’, etc etc
  3. La UE: ha fatto una ottima figura con la diplomazia del cessate-il-fuoco, solo per poi ritornare alla stupida normalita’ degli interessi nazionali. La sua somma e’ decisamente minore delle parti, rendendola vulnerabile e dipendente, nonostante le sue dimensioni e ricchezza.
  4. Gli USA: la dipendenza da petrolio ha ridotto l’unica Superpotenza a uno stanco fallimento. Troppi nelle stanze dei bottoni pensano di giocare alla Guerra Fredda, e di vendicarsene venti anni dopo che e’ finita.
  5. Il Resto del Mondo: orfani di una politica USA seria, tentennano aspettandone le conseguenze, tutte da vedere.
  6. Svariati commentatori: tutti impegnati nel gioco al rilancio nello sport dell’equivalenza storica. Chi dice che e’ il 1968, chi il 1956, chi il 1938. Io propendo per il 1919. In ogni caso, circolano pericolose e perniciose idee interventiste, in un caos di ideali senza fini.
English EU Politics USA War

Georgia and Russia: Where Are We?

It’s been a month since the first Georgian attack against the civilian population of South Ossetia. Where are we? Here a brief summary, based on various sources (Il Sole 24 Ore, The Economist, International Herald Tribune / The New York Times, Spiked Online, Il Corriere della Sera, Il Riformista, The Globe and Mail):

  1. Russia: weak and insecure. It “needs” to prove itself otherwise, but then fighting soldiers don’t even have a decent pair of boots. With its strong internal problems, and a strong inferiority complex, it is pretty much isolated, constantly just two steps ahead of a crisis. For how long?
  2. Georgia: maybe a democracy, maybe not. Surely, it is not a solid democracy. There is too much desire for a fight. It is like a “Russia of the Caucasus”: same weakness, same inferiority complex, etc. etc.
  3. The EU: it has done well with its cease-fire diplomacy, only to revert to type and to its abundancy of stupid national interests. The whole is less than the sum of the parts indeed, making it vulnerable and dependent, despite its size and wealth.
  4. The USA: its own dependency on oil has reduced the one and only Superpower to a tired, failed has-been. Too many people in the control rooms still play like in the Cold War, and still think of revenge despite having won twenty years ago.
  5. The Rest of the World: orphans of a serious U.S. policy, they move back and forth waiting to see what the consequences will be.
  6. Several commentators: all involved in the game of historical equivalence. Some say it’s 1968 all over again, some point 1956, others to 1938. I say it’s 1919. In any case, I have read quite a few pernicious, interventionist ideas, in a chaos of ideals without purpose.
English Politics Russia

Litvinenko: Case Closed?

In these days of heavy anti-Russia statements from most of the EU, and from the USA, how strange to read that the case of poisoned ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London on 23 Nov 2006, is still pretty much a mystery…

[…] Today, despite the popular misconception that the case has been solved, little, if any, forensic evidence has emerged that explains how, or even when, Litvinenko was exposed to Polonium 210. […]

In the Litvinenko case, the coroner’s report has never been completed. The crucial autopsy data has been denied not only to journalists and Litvinenko’s family on the grounds that it is part of an ongoing investigation, but also to Britain’s erstwhile partner in the investigation, Russia. While there may be good reason to keep an autopsy report secret from the public, keeping it secret from its investigative partner is mystifying. […]

This medical stone-walling left unanswered why British doctors repeatedly misdiagnosed Litvinenko, and, despite his symptoms of radiation exposure, did not test his urine specimens for alpha as well as gamma radiation, and never gave him the antidote Dimercaprol, which might have saved his life. When I examined the British police report sent to Moscow in June 2006 in support of its extradition request, I was stunned to see that without the medical reports, there was an almost total evidentiary vacuum, at least in terms of conventional evidence. The report cited no eye-witnesses, surveillance videotapes, fingerprints, Polonium container, or smoking teapot. Instead, the police report made it clear that the case was based on radiation traces. What made this kind of unconventional evidence vulnerable to misinterpretation, if it could be introduced in court at all, is that almost all the crime scenes at which the radiation was found were compromised. […]

I won’t be surprised if the Litvinenko case will be turned on its head in a few years’ time…

ps Is this blog turning into a pro-Russia platform, I wonder…

English Journalism Politics Russia

Will Putin’s CNN Interview Herald a New Era of Media-Savvy International Leaders?

Matthew Chance of CNN writes about his interview with Vladimir Putin, some 7 years after the last one for the American news channel:

Putin […] was constantly watching CNN to see how the conflict was being reported. And he didn’t like it. He hated it […] there was no one on TV putting across the Russian version of events.

Why was there no one? Because there is no access in Russia, we were not allowed to go to the Russian side of the conflict zone. No Russian officials were available to talk to us, as usual. Georgia played the media game, Russia did not.

A decision was taken then to change tack, to engage with the Western media, to aggressively argue Russia’s side. The Kremlin, which constantly complains of a bad press, could have learned this lesson years ago. But hopefully they see the value of us now. Doesn’t mean we agree with them, or that appearing on CNN will convert the West to Russia’s line.

Putin has made a few allegations, some of them ringing more true than others. But their truthness is not as important as the fact that they have been heard by many people that until yesterday could only get their own Government’s propaganda. Now they can see an actual “foreign” and “enemy” leader speak his mind in front of the cameras, a person and not just a communique’.

Anyway, the simple fact that the American and Russian versions of events cannot be both right at the same time, could and should encourage a little more critical thinkings…and that cannot be bad.

Interestingly, the lesson of how to avoid a bad press has been recently learned by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China too.

Next in line should be Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and Mohammed Ahmadinejad of Iran. For some reason neither of them has realized his potential in terms of worldwide media coverage. Perhaps Putin’s experience will change that: they do look like great TV material and if only they’d abandon the more hard-to-digest bits of their ideologies, many more people would watch (and listen) to them.

English Politics USA

Russia Bashing And The Game of Historical Equivalence

(Letter sent to the International Herald Tribune)

It is the international political game for August 2008 to find an equivalent for the situation between Russia and Georgia after the recent conflict. For example, William Kristol has referred to the 1924 Georgian uprising against the USSR (“Will Russia get away with it?“, IHT, Aug 11).

President Mikhail Saakashvili has not been the only one comparing Georgia with Czechoslovakia in 1938 (James Traub’s “Between Georgia and Russia, tinder is lit“, IHT, Aug 10) although he has gone as far as mentioning Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939, the Soviet crackdown in Prague in 1968 and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 (AP’s “Georgian President’s Russia claims raise eyebrows“, IHT, Aug 14).

Today, Gunnar Hökmark, European Parliamentarian, and Johnny Munkhammar, both of the European Enterprise Institute, suggest “the paralles with Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968” may be “not that far-fetched” (Letters, IHT, Aug 25), whilst Simon Sebag Montefiore makes some eery references to that greatest Russian of Georgian origin, Iosif Dzhugashvili (also known as Stalin) (“In the Shadow of the Red Czar“, Aug 25),


I am afraid most of these commentaries suffer from the tunnel vision that afflicts the victims of their own propaganda.

The root crisis in Georgia has been lasting since 1991, and it is about defining the borders of a newly-minted independent State irrespectfully of the ethnic composition of its regions.

The real parallel should therefore be with the Versailles conference of 1919, that literally re-drew the map of the world after World War I, nominally in the name of peoples’ self-determination but practically in light of narrow-minded goals mostly by France and the United Kingdom.

Far from being given the freedom and the new world order promised by US President Woodrow Wilson, many peoples found themselves the losers in the great game of the Powers, including the Chinese, what are now VietNam and Laos, the Kurds, the Palestinians, the vast majority of Africans. Others (such as the Albanians) were luckier, and got to get or keep their independence, again due to mere geopolitical calculations and not out of the liberal values purportedly championed by the West.

Once again, in 2008 in the democratic minds of US and European Union politicians some populations are “in” (eg the Kosovars, the Georgians) and others are “out” (the Ossetians, the Abkhazians).

If anybody can find any logic behind that, apart from political machinations between Powers, it would be nice to hear.

And by the way…Mr Sebag Montefiore sees Putin as the heir of Stalin, with the latter’s ghost almost trying “to get out” of his tomb. Why no mention of the real culprit then, the man that has done most to inspire Russia to become a World Power?

And not, I do not mean Czar Peter the Great, rather his enemy of 1709, that King Charles XII of Sweden that managed to lose his own Empire, against Peter, at the Battle of Poltava, thereby kick-starting almost overnight the dream of an Imperial Russia.

Italiano Politica

E’ Il Momento di Invitare la Russia Nella NATO

Corre voce che Putin e la Russia di oggi siano come Hitler e la Germania del 1938, al tempo dell’annessione dei Sudeti preludio alla Seconda Guerra Mondiale. Si sottintende quindi che l’unico modo per procedere sia un muro-contro-muro per “fermare la Russia”.

Confesso che anche se capisco quel punto di vista, pur tuttavia ne sono alquanto spaventato. Su due fronti.

Prima di tutto mi sembra di rivedere per l’ennesima volta quanto e’ capitato e capita con l’Iran, con la Cina, e appunto con la Russia: fior di commentatori che cadono vittime della propaganda, ma di quella che esiste anche in una democrazia (figuriamoci in Italia) e da cui e’ molto difficile sganciarsi. Propaganda che trasforma un po’ tutti in delle macchiette: Ahmadinejad il fanatico, i Cinesi gialli da far paura, il Dalai Lama un angelo del Paradiso, e Putin appunto un ambizioso spione e paranoico.

Il richiamo alla Germania nazista e’ un motivo ricorrente di tale propaganda. Finanche il Primo Ministro Eden nel 1956 tentava di dipingere Nasser come un novello Adolf, per giustificare l’occupazione del canale di Suez.

Il paragone con Putin e’ forse piu’ solido. Ma si potrebbero anche elencare tutte le differenze fra il 1938 e il 2008.

In Russia non c’e’ un apparato di partito dai connotati terroristici contro la propria stessa popolazione; non c’e’ un’ideologia da “odio di stato” contro un particolare gruppo etnico o religioso; non c’e’ la glorificazione della guerra, non ci sono migliaia di prigionieri politici, e i cittadini non sono vessati con sanzioni punitive se non seguono pedissequamente quanto a loro richiesto

(c’e’ una descrizione di tutto cio’ riguardo il Nazismo in questo saggio di Richard J. Evans “How Willing Were They?” dalla New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 11 · June 26, 2008 – chi fosse interessato al testo completo me lo chieda pure)

Il revanchismo post-sovietico non si e’ manifestato finora in maniera violenta, fuori dai confini, tant’e’ che finche’ Saakashvili non ha tirato i missili contro i peacekeepers russi a Tskhinvali, le truppe russe appunto non erano state impegnate in azioni militari.

E’ probabile che la Russia fosse ben pronta a rispondere come ha fatto, e non impossibile che qualche agente russo a Tbilisi abbia fatto in modo che Saakashvili agisse in maniera cosi’ improvvida.

Ricordiamo pero’ che rispetto al passato, il casus belli del 7 agosto 2008 e’ praticamente chiaro come il sole e limpido come l’acqua. Niente a che vedere con l’ingigantito incidente del Golfo del Tonkin nel 1964, o l’oscura discussione fra Cattolici e Ortodossi riguardo la Chiesa della Nativita’, che precipito’ la Guerra di Crimea nel 1854.

C’e’ poi un’altra interpretazione alle azioni russe, e si rifa’ alla geopolitica (che davvero non cambia mai). Cosi’ come Kennedy non poteva tollerare missili nucleari a Cuba, Putin/Medvedev non potevano tollerare di perdere contro un idiota come il Presidente georgiano.

Da una parte avevano la scelta di intervenire, e vincere alla grande su tutti i fronti, non solo quelli militari, diventando anche popolarissimi. Dall’altra avevano la scelta di non fare niente, e precipitare se stessi e il Paese in una vergogna totale e completa.

Perche’ fare paragoni con Hitler se la scelta e’ cosi’ ovvia?


Il secondo fronte che mi spaventa e’ questa “voglia di menare le mani” che forse dopo 9/11 ha invaso un po’ tutti. Siamo alla sfiducia totale nella diplomazia?


In effetti, esiste un’alternativa.

Dopo una vittoria russa cosi’ completa e’ bambinesco e pericoloso fare i dispettosi come gli USA e gran parte dell’Europa/ NATO hanno deciso di fare. Anche perche’ la politica di accerchiamento della Russia, pensata da Clinton e continuata da Bush, non e’ sostenibile visti i risultati che ha portato.

Occorre invece aprire un nuovo capitolo, se non altro per riprendere le redini della situazione.

Invece di peggiorare la situazione, dobbiamo avere il coraggio di proporre l’ingresso della Russia nella NATO.

English Politics War

Hypothesis Russia

More details are coming out about the reasons behind the war in South Ossetia between Georgia and Russia. Beyond the rhetoric (here’s a shameful commentary by The New York Times), it appears clear that Saakashvili wanted a fight, but Putin/Medvedev were also fully ready for war.

Anyway I look at it though, I can only think of one way to explain the whole situation…and that involves having one or more Russian agents in the upper echelons of the Tbilisi government.

The Russian victory on all fronts, military, political, diplomatic is so complete, it can only have been carefully prepared for months in the past.

I was kidding when suggesting that Saakashvili be a friend of Russia. Or was I?


By the way…from Wikipedia, a map of ethnic groups in the Caucasus. Looks like more than one border should be redrawn…

Guerra Italiano Politica

In Georgia, la Russia Vince a Mani Basse

E se il Presidente Mikheil Saakashvili della Georgia, fosse un agente russo?

Sicuramente con la sua ancora inspiegabile decisione di muovere le truppe nella Ossezia del Sud proprio nel giorno dei giochi olimpici, Saakashvili e’ diventato la cosa migliore che sia accaduta alla Russia dal giorno in cui il prezzo del petrolio ha cominciato a salire. Quale amico di Putin e Medvedev sarebbe mai stato capace di realizzare una serie cosi’ impressionante di risultati pro-russi:

  • Dimostrare che la Russia è la Potenza che comanda nel Caucaso
  • Dimostrare che, nonostante i paroloni, gli Stati Uniti e la NATO non hanno alcun desiderio di aiutare un qualsiasi “alleato” che si trovi nella situazione sbagliata contro la Russia
  • Ripristinate l’orgoglio militare russo, con una rapida e completa vittoria, inclusa una apparentemente inarrestabile invasione della parte della Georgia nominalmente controllata da Tbilisi
  • Permettere al Governo di Mosca di risplendere di gloria diplomatica e magnanimità, rifiutandosi di portare il conflitto alla sua logica conclusione (la occupazione di Tbilisi)

Ora che Saakashvili ha raggiunto i suoi obiettivi, forse potra’ farsi da parte e permettere a un nuovo governo filo-russo di inaugurare una costituzione federale per la Georgia / Abkhazia / Ossezia meridionale…

English Politics War

In Georgia, Game, Set and Match for Russia

Is President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia a Russian agent?

Surely with his still-unexplained decision to move troops into South Ossetia on the day of the Olympics, he’s become the best thing that happened to Russia since the day oil prices started going up. What friend of Putin and Medvedev would ever be able to accomplish such an impressive series of pro-Russian feats:

  • Demonstrating that Russia is the Power in charge in the Caucasus
  • Showing that for all its rhetoric, the USA and NATO have no willingness to help whatever “ally” finds itself in the wrong situation against Russia
  • Restoring Russian pride in its military, with a swift and comprehensive victory, including a seemingly-unstoppable invasion of Tbilisi-controlled Georgia
  • Allowing the Moscow government to bask in diplomatic glory and magnanimity, refusing to bring the conflict to its logical conclusion (the occupation of Tbilisi)

Now that Saakashvili has achieved its aims, perhaps he should just gracefully step down and let a new, pro-Russian government draft a federal constitution for Georgia/Abkhazia/South Ossetia.