In a post which among other things assesses Obama’s Russia, Middle East and China policy in the light of historical precedents, Ted Lipien looks back at another U.S. president who, in all good faith, tried to “reset” East-West relations. He also has some words of advice for Hillary Clinton, after her Moscow visit:
Appeasing the Kremlin and the Chinese communists in the hope of winning concessions makes such concessions far less likely, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found out during her humilating visit to Moscow last week. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and President Medvedev couldn’t be more brutal in telling her that putting pressure on Iran to end its nuclear programs was not in Russia’s national interest, when in fact they meant their own interest. Prime Minister Putin went to China and was not around to receive her.
In fact any Russian scholar with a good sense of realism could have told President Obama that the current leaders in Russia want the U.S. out of Eastern Europe but don’t believe that they owe America anything if the Americans leave. They will also continue to rely on anti-Americanism to consolidate their power internally. They want oil prices to be as high as possible, and therefore want tensions to be high in the Middle East. For that reason, they want the United States to be bogged down both in Afghanistan and in Iraq. The only thing that the Obama Administration should expect from the Kremlin are Russian concessions that would allow the U.S. to continue and expand military operations in these two Muslim nations.
In the Moscow Times, Lilia Shevtsova writes about the efforts of Russia’s elite to separate itself from the mass of the country’s citizenry and establish its own private relationship of the privileged and wealthy with the United States and the West, while cutting the rest of the population off from Western influences by means of an orchestrated campaign of anti-Western and anti-American propaganda. Shevtsova sees this as a danger for President Obama – she suggests that when he visits Moscow next month, he may be walking into a carefully-prepared trap:
The White House has little chance of being able to cooperate with the Kremlin without making some concessions to the Russian elite. However, such cooperation promises to promote the current Russian system, which functions with the “besieged fortress” mentality in which Russia is surrounded by enemies. If Obama takes a value-based approach, his opportunities on security will be limited.
Scotland’s opportunistic nationalist party leader Alex Salmond is currently pitching for the support of young, disaffected Scots whose anger is diffused between issues like the banking crisis and the Middle East, and is trying to steal some of George Galloway’s thunder. The results are worth pondering. In an extraordinary analysis published at Harry’s Place, Tom Gallagher dissects the wide-ranging peculiarities of Salmond’s new attempt to dismember the United Kingdom by means of an all-out assault essentially based in nihilism. Excerpt :
Salmond hopes to acquire leverage on Capitol Hill that will prove useful in any power-struggle with London over the terms of independence if the SNP’s vision blossoms despite the current polar economic climate. At the same time, he is reaching out to regimes in the Muslim world and looking for an injection of cash for infrastructure projects that will enable him to bypass Whitehall. First Qatar was approached in the hope that an investment fund controlled by its rulers could be persuaded to build bridges and schools in Scotland on a supposedly not-for-profit basis. In the last year, visits by Salmond to Qatar have been described as imminent but they have fallen through perhaps owing to the economic problems now faced by the United Arab emirates. Malaysia is now in the Nationalists’ sights. The Scotsman newspaper on 16 March reported that Osama Saeed, the First Minister’s chief adviser on Islamic issues had made contacts with sovereign wealth funds in Malaysia in the hope that they could be lured to Scotland. He is only recently back from the World Economic Islamic Forum in Jakarta which he attended with other luminaries of his pressure group, the Scottish Islamic Foundation. Osama Saeed does not bother to hide his contacts with Muslim Brotherhood organizations and personalities based in Britain. He has convinced not a few movers and shakers in the tight Scottish political establishment that as someone who disavows violence, he is the acceptable face of radical Islam.
Update: the results of all this are beginning to make the headlines.
It’s interesting to see the waves of hyperbolic indignation that are currently sweeping sections of the Western liberal media in connection with the banning from the United Kingdom of Dutch MP Geert Wilders. In the Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash compares the UK to East Germany and Burma, and writes that in Britain civil liberty is “facing death by a thousand cuts”. In the FT, Larry Siedentop argues that for civil liberty to work in the UK, it must be extended universally, as an absolute principle, for otherwise the Muslim migrants will see themselves as discriminated against.
These are blind and wrongheaded arguments, which above all make the victim into the culprit. For it’s precisely the aim of demagogues like Wilders to undermine civil liberty and increase social and inter-ethnic tension. The British authorities were therefore quite justified in excluding him. A central tenet of our Western democracy is that free speech is not an absolute and universal right, but a privilege that must be earned by responsible speech and behaviour. Critics of the Home Secretary’s decision refer to a “moral decline” in British political life which they claim is evidenced by the Wilders banning, and they particularly point to what they say is a similar “decline” in the United States.
The fact that the United States and United Kingdom are conducting a courageous and difficult fight against a surge of international terrorism sponsored at least in part by despotic rogue states that include Iran, Syria and Russia seems to escape the advocates of this spurious notion of liberty. Personally, I see the moral decline in those critics of the U.S. and Israel who are currently generating dangerous currents of Western public opinion that are redolent of the 1930s.
At LGF, a further report on a prolonged dispute between U.S. web sites throws light on the Internet activity of pro-Putin and pro-Serb nationalist lobbyists who seek to exploit the Western public’s fears of terrorism in order to gain credibility for their views.
As an LGF commenters points out, perhaps one of the most succinct analyses of this phenomenon was given by a former lieutenant colonel in the Soviet KGB, who in 2007 wrote, among other things:
Americans generally believe that Russia is afraid of Islamic terrorism as much as the U.S.A. They are reminded of the war in Chechnya, the hostage crisis at the Beslan School in 2004 and at the Moscow Theater in 2002, and of the apartment house blasts in Moscow in 1999, where over 200 people were killed. It is clear that Russians are also targets of terrorism today.
But in all these events, the participation of the FSB, Federal Security Service, inheritor to the KGB, is also clear. Their involvement in the Moscow blasts has been proven by lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin, a former FSB Colonel. For this he was illegally imprisoned, and is now suffering torture and deprivation of medical assistance, from which he is not likely to survive.
A key distinction between Russian and American attitudes towards Islamic terrorism is that while for America terrorism is largely seen as an exterior menace, Russia uses terrorism as an object as a tool of the state for manipulation in and outside the home country. Islamic terrorism is only part of the world of terrorism. Long before Islamic terrorism became a global threat, the KGB had used terrorism to facilitate the victory of world Communism.
In the Observer, a graphic demonstration – if any further proof were needed – that the internal anti-Israel bias among BBC staff and correspondents is so strong that the corporation’s decision to reject the broadcasting of a one-sided “charity appeal” is the only one possible if the BBC’s charter is to be saved from ridicule and contempt. A former BBC Middle East correspondent expresses his antipathy to Israel in terms that are truly disturbing:
The big question that remains is this: what are the suits scared of? Why do BBC managers try to second-guess our government and even outreach it in grovelling to the United States and Israel?