20 August 2008
Russia is following a course “horrifyingly similar to that taken by Stalin and Hitler in the 1930s.” — Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s former national security adviser
The other night I went to a meeting on the situation in Georgia organized by the Stop the War Coalition at which one of the speakers was Boris Kargalitsky, a Russian leftie of long-standing, who made some interesting observations on the Russian government’s actions and reactions to the Georgian attack on Southern Ossetia. There are two, if not three, distinct stories to tell about the events that unfolded from 7 August. On the one hand there is the central role played by the US in orchestrating the attack and subsequent destabilization of the situation in the Caucasus, a part of the US strategy of “full spectrum dominance” of key resources and regions around the planet. And on the other there is the Russian response to ‘Darth Vader’ directly inserting itself into Russia’s backyard via its proxy, Georgia. Thirdly, there is the role played by the Western media in orchestrating the events for public consumption, a campaign that tapped into generations of anti-Soviet, anti-Russion propaganda, utilizing all the usual stereotypes; the ‘Russian bear’, Russian expansionism, all of it dosed with the predictable racist sub-text.
“Neoconservative commentator Robert Kagan compared the Russian attack on Georgia with the Nazi grab of the Sudetenland in 1938.”
Predictable neo-Cold War rhetoric no doubt from the neo-con camp and largely meaningless but it does reveal just how surprised the US was by the Russian response. After all, Russia is seen as a has-been, dependent on Western largesse and not in any kind of position to challenge US hegemony. However, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men gang astray’ as they say. Russia has a powerful military equipped with nuclear weapons, it’s no defenceless, developing country and in all likelihood, the Russian response was not the one the US/NATO expected.
Everything is in flux
It’s less than twenty years since the Soviet Union fell apart and for much of that time the Western powers, led by the US and the UK/EU have largely determined the nature of the ‘new’ Russia, at least they have tried to, trusting that once the Russians got a taste of the ‘free market’ they’d be easy pickings for the pirates. The principle US objectives can be summed up as follows:
1) To open up the vast Russian market to foreign capital and products;
2) Remove Russia as an economic competitor to the US by neutralizing its ability to compete in the world’s markets, in other words reduce it to a third world country;
3) Remove and/or neutralize Russia as a military power to rival its own;
4) Destabilize the situation in the Caucasus/West Asian region as it attempts to extend its control eastwards — onwards and upwards toward China.
Unlike Kargalitsky’s English counterparts, who focused pretty much on telling us what we already knew (as well as the usual exhortations as to what we should do), Kargalitsky gave us an insight into how the Russian leadership responded to the US-engineered crisis and also how the Russians themselves reacted. He pointed out that to describe the Russian response as one of “intra-imperialist rivalries” was a complete misreading of the situation. This is not a war over markets but over strategic assets, of which Georgia is but the latest acquisition by the US. But at the same time Kargalitsky is under no illusions about the Russian response, it’s no move leftward. That said, it nevertheless represents a watershed in post-Soviet US-Russian relations, a throwing down of the gauntlet by the Russian state, a move not without its risks to be sure, but one that the US and NATO can do little about except make a lot of threatening noises about ‘repercussions’. Indeed, the members of NATO can’t even agree what the ‘repercussions’ should consist of.
It is within this context that we must view the vital role of the corporate media in orchestrating events for public consumption of which the timing of the Georgian attack was crucial, when the world’s media was focused on the opening of the Beijing Olympics. The degree to which the media has ignored the unprovoked attack on Southern Ossetia by Georgia is staggering; it simply ceased to exist, to be replaced by “a war between Russia and Georgia” at best and “naked aggression” by Russia at its worst. There can be no clearer indication of the role of the corporate/state media in selling the Empire’s objectives than the way this, the latest disaster has been presented. But it should be pointed out that there is a growing gap between what the public is really concerned about and the all-out propaganda campaign about the ‘aggressive Russian Bear’ rearing its furry shoulders above all those repossessed houses.
Russia: “We’ll nuke Poland!” goes the headline in the Sun on 14 August, 2008. But what the Russian General Nogovitsyn really said was, “Poland, by deploying [the system] is exposing itself to a strike – 100 per cent,” which is nothing less than the truth as Poland has placed itself in the frontline should a war break out. Who knows what the US promised the Poles (or what arms were twisted) but its actions over Georgia should be a lesson to the Polish government that no promise made by the US can be relied upon. And, upon reflection as simplistic as it may appear to be, it occurs to me that the US ‘encouraged’ Saakashvili to invade South Ossetia in order to panic the Poles into accepting the alleged missile defence system.
Georgia is yet another move in a game of chess; strike where you perceive your enemy to have weaknesses. So the Autonomous Region of South Ossetia (to give it its real name) has been simmering since 1994, held in check by the Russian presence, who find themselves sandwiched between Georgian and South Ossetian nationalists. It doesn’t take much to light the fire; make a promise (not kept of course) that you’ll back Saakashvili (or at least give Georgia the ‘nod’). Remember Saddam and Kuwait in 1990? Or, to go back further, US promises to Hungary in 1956. Thus as far as the US is concerned, Georgia is an expendable ‘asset’, a mere pawn in its game of expansion. Thus threat and counter-threat will no doubt flow from the outcome of Saakashvili being sacrificed on the alter of US capital and a world even more destabilized than it is already as a result of US/UK/NATO actions.