Posts Tagged ‘U.S.-Russian relations’

′Deep Space Gateway′ planned by Russia and US

October 2, 2017

Click to enlarage.  Source: Popular Mechanics

Despite geopolitical conflicts, the United States and the Russian Federation are still working together on  space exploration, as this news item indicates.

Work on a joint US-Russia space station orbiting the Moon is to begin in the mid 2020s. The base is intended to serve as a launching point for manned missions to Mars.Deep Space Gateway (NASA)

The station would be serviced by craft such as the Orion space vessel.

The US and Russia on Wednesday [Sept. 27] announced plans to cooperatively build the first lunar space station.

Roscosmos and NASA, Russia and America’s space agencies, said they had signed a cooperation agreement at an astronautical congress in Adelaide.

The agreement brings Russia onboard to the Deep Space Gateway project announced by NASA earlier this year, which aims to send humans to Mars via a lunar station.

The proposed station would serve as a base for lunar exploration for humans and robots, and as a stopover for spacecraft. 

While the Deep Space Gateway is still in concept formulation, NASA is pleased to see growing international interest in moving into cislunar space (between Earth and the Moon) as the next step for advancing human space exploration,” said Robert Lightfoot, acting administrator at NASA headquarters in Washington.  [snip]

Roscosmos and NASA have already agreed on standards for a docking unit of the future station,” the Russian space agency said.

“Taking into account the country’s extensive experience in developing docking units, the station’s future elements — as well as standards for life-support systems — will be created using Russian designs.”

Source: DW

The International Space Station is a joint project of the USA and Russia, and many of the spacecraft visits to the ISS are launched from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

I hope this new project bears fruit.  It shows that the United States and the Russian Federation have more to gain through cooperation than ramping up a new Cold War.

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A propaganda war is not really a war

March 1, 2017

newyorker-1488286188

The New Yorker ran a long article about Russian propaganda and how the Russian government sees propaganda as a weapon of war.

The article, though one-sided, contains interesting information.  My problem with it is that the writers treat propaganda—including truthful propaganda—as the equivalent of war.

The U.S. government during the past 15 years has waged war by means of aerial bombardment, targeted assassinations, economic sanctions, arming terrorists and warlords and actual invasions of  foreign countries that do not threaten us.  Russia has done some of the same things, although on a smaller scale.

There is a strong possibility of a military confrontation between Russia and the United States that could risk a nuclear war.

Russian attempts to influence American and European public opinion seem fairly benign in contrast.

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Hillary Clinton and the danger of nuclear war

July 14, 2016

The worst thing that an American President could do is to provoke a nuclear war with Russia.

I think that, based on her record and rhetoric, Hillary Clinton would put the USA at greater risk of nuclear war than her predecessors.

As adviser to her husband in the 1990s and as Secretary of State, she was a voice for war.  Her campaign web site is about her credentials as a war hawk.  It is no coincidence that so war hawks of the George W. Bush support her for President.

Victoria Nuland

Victoria Nuland

Her protege, Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, promotes economic warfare and covert warfare against Russia, while promoting regime change in Ukraine and attempting to draw Ukraine and Georgia into an anti-Russian alliance.  This is as dangerous as Khrushchev’s placing missiles in Cuba in 1962.

Pro-Russian news sources predict war if Hillary Clinton is elected.  I think Russian fears are significant because they could be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you think somebody is poised to attack you, you’re going to be ready to strike at them before they do.

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The nuclear temptation

April 28, 2016

B61-12nukedt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls

The Obama administration is preparing a new generation of tactical weapons that supposedly would give the U.S. the power to fight and win a war against Russia or China.

The weapon is called the B61 Model 12.  It is a precision-guided atomic missile, with a computer that can guide it to its target and a “dial-a-yield” feature that would control the size of the explosion.  It could be launched from bombers that also drop conventional bombs, creating uncertainty in the targeted enemy.

The argument for such weapons is that, being precise, they would be more effective militarily and result in loss of less innocent life.   The argument against is that, for this very reason, there is a greater danger they would be used.

The U.S. government and its allies are increasing their forces along the borders of both Russia and China, but it is unlikely that they were be a match for larger Russian and Chinese forces fighting in their own neighborhood.  But deployment of tactical nuclear weapons would not necessarily change that equation, because the Russian and Chinese military have their own weapons.

Both Russia and the USA are currently undergoing modernizations of their nuclear forces.  Modernization is estimated to cost the U.S. more than $30 billion a year—$1 trillion over 30 years.

Modernization does not, in and of itself, increase the threat of nuclear war.  If there are to be nuclear weapons at all, the machinery needs to be updated and replaced to avert the danger of an accidental explosion or accidental launch.

The development of battlefield-capable weapons, however, does increase the scope and likelihood of war.  But the greater mistake is a military buildup along the borders of Russia and China—two powerful nations that are not threatening the United States, but may be provoked into doing so.

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Putin’s Russia is playing defense, not offense

December 23, 2015

vladimir-putin-riding-bearI don’t see Russia’s Vladimir Putin as a threat.  He has been backed into a difficult corner.

Russia’s economy suffers under economic sanctions, the Russian intervention in Syria isn’t going as well as hoped, and the Russian governmental structure is riddled with corruption.

But Russia has a nuclear force second only to the USA.  Russia is the only national in the world with the power to bring about the mutual destruction of itself and the USA.

It is a bad idea to back Vladimir Putin into a corner in which he thinks Russia is threatened, over matters in which the United States has no vital interests.

President Obama says Putin is an aggressor.   If so, he is a highly unsuccessful aggressor.

Russia’s position is much weaker than it was five years ago.  Back then, Russia had good relations with Ukraine and it was integrated into Russia’s economy.  Now the best Putin can hope for is continued Russian occupation of Crimea, a devastated eastern Ukraine friendly to Russia and a hostile western Ukraine.

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Don’t back Russia into a desperate corner

December 22, 2014

Bank+exposure+to+Russia

It is a grave mistake to put President Vladimir Putin or the leader of any nation with nuclear weapons into a situation in which they think they have nothing to lose.

I wrote a post Wednesday on the danger of nuclear war with Russia.  Pepe Escobar pointed out that Russia has other means of Mutually Assured Destruction.

eruopeanbankexposuretorussia pmOne would be to default on Russia’s debts, or even suspend payment on the debts, pending the end of the current emergency.  This would threaten major banks in Western Europe that have extended credit to Russia.

Another would be to cut off gas exports to Ukraine and the countries of the European Union.

Either of these things would hurt Russia as much as it hurts Russia’s enemies.  Russia needs credit, and Russia needs foreign markets.

But if the country has been brought to the brink of collapse anyway, then its leaders have nothing left to lose by striking back.

gassuppliedbyrussia (more…)

Russia’s economic crisis and the danger of war

December 17, 2014

Russia is in an economic crisis—the result of U.S.-led sanctions, the Saudi attack on oil prices and the underlying weakness of the Russian economy.

With the collapse of the Russian ruble, Vladimir Putin has been backed into a corner with few options—all of them bad.

World-Nuke-Graph-with-Info-082814

Click to enlarge.

My question is:  Is it a good idea to deliberately bring about a crisis in a nation with 8,000 nuclear weapons?

Only a small fraction of Russia’s nuclear arsenal would be needed to reduce American cities to rubble.   Yet the U.S. government treats Russia with less caution than it does North Korea.

I do not think that Vladimir Putin would intentionally launch a nuclear war, any more than Barack Obama would.  But I think their policies bring about a situation in which an unintentional nuclear war is highly possible.

I think President Obama is more to blame for this than President Putin.  For the United States, the stakes are geopolitical advantage.  For the Russian Federation, the stakes are the independence of the nation.

The United States command and control systems are much more lax than they were in the era of Curtis LeMay and the Strategic Air Command.  I don’t know about the Russian Federation, but it wouldn’t surprise me if things were just as bad or even worse over there.

Nuclear war was narrowly averted several times during the Cold War through good luck and cool heads both on the US and Soviet sides.  The world can’t count on being lucky forever.

And even if the worst is averted—this time—the world will never be safe until the world’s nuclear powers disarm, starting with Russia and the USA.   The current crisis has eliminated the possibility of disarmament for at least a generation.

President Putin is a tough and ruthless statesman, but a sane one.  If he is driven from power as a result of the crisis, his replacement may not be so sane.

I do not think that President Putin would throw his nation on the mercy of the US-dominated International Monetary Fund for a financial bailout.  The history of IMF bailouts shows that they involve a loss of national independence, and public sacrifice in order to pay off international creditors.

I think it far more likely that he would throw Russia on the mercy of China.  This would throw open Russia as well as Central Asia to be hinterlands of natural resources to support China’s growing industrial power.

President Putin some years back, which he was seeking recognition of Russia as a respected great power, proposed an integrated European market stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.   That’s no longer on the table.   Now the most likely prospect is a Chinese-dominated integrated Eurasian market stretching from Beijing to Berlin.

∞∞∞

Russia Tries Emergency Steps for Second Day to Stem Ruble Plunge by Ksenia Galouchko, Vladimir Kuznetsov and Olga Tamas for Boomberg News.

It’s Not Just Oil and Sanctions Killing Russia’s Economy: It’s Putin by James Miller for The Interpreter.

The bleakest winter by Ed Conway for Medium.  The six downward steps in a typical currency crisis.  Russia is at step four.

Eurasian Integration vs. the Empire of Chaos by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.  (via the Unz Review)

Never start a fight you’re not prepared to finish

May 5, 2014

obama-putin_16

During the past 35 years, the U.S. government has invaded many countries (Grenada, Panama, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya) and come in conflict with others (Iran, North Korea, Syria), but it always has avoided conflict with nations equally powerful.  Until now.

Dmitry Orlov, a Russian-born American citizen, described some of the consequences of the Obama administration’s support for an unelected, anti-Russian takeover of Ukraine.

Those who thought they were in control have just suffered a major defeat. On Ukraine so far, it’s Russia 1, US Oligarchy 0: Crimea is once again Russian, the transfer of sovereignty happened peacefully and in accordance with the internationally recognized principle of self-determination, and this defeat is so embarrassing that nobody even wants to talk about Crimea any more. It’s a done deal.

More defeats follow, as the boomerang effect of sanctions imposed on Russia. The US will not be able to withdraw from Afghanistan via the safe northern route that runs through Russia; instead, the endless convoys will have to run the gauntlet through Pakistan where the locals, incensed by endless drone attacks on their weddings and funerals, will do their best to blow them up.  The US will not be able to launch military satellites, because the Atlas V rockets won’t fly without the Russian-built RD-180 engines, for which there is no replacement. Nor is it likely that, as things escalate, US astronauts will still be able to get up to the International Space Station, since that requires a trip on the Russian Soyuz.

Not that the Russians have a lot of time for this nonsense. They are busy negotiating deals, like the oil barter deal with Iran which neatly circumvents the sanctions; like the long-term natural gas supply deal with China; and quite a few others. For example, Russia and China agreed to build a canal through Nicaragua, which will supplant the Pentagon-controlled Panama canal. Nicaragua will also get a GLONASS ground station (Russian-Indian replacement for the Pentagon-controlled GPS system), plus a Russian military base, to make sure that the US doesn’t decide that it can do something about any of this. Nearby, Russia forgave $90 billion worth of Soviet-era Cuban debt, re-establishing relations between Russia and Cuba and opening up Cuba to large-scale Russian investments.  Russian companies will be developing Cuba’s offshore oil and gas fields.

No doubt, the US would love to counter these moves, but it can’t because it doesn’t have the talent. Most of the experienced, professional diplomats quit in disgust during Bush Jr.’s reign, when they were forced to continually lie to the whole world about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now the diplomatic corps is loaded with incompetents whose only credentials are that they raised lots of money for Obama’s election campaigns. At the next changing of the guard they will be replaced with the next crop of amateurs. It is little wonder that they are losing.

But these people are unaccustomed to being defeated, and defeat makes them livid and hysterical, and then they go and wax apoplectic in public, yelling and screeching and spraying saliva. You can tell that their minds have snapped when they start comparing everyone to Adolf Hitler. And you can see it all right on television. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the population in the US is perplexed.  Except for the Lost Plane Channel formerly known as CNN, commentators on all the major news channels, even the super-blockheaded Fox News, are wondering aloud: “What the hell are we doing in Ukraine?”   Well, we are trying to safeguard the interests of the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds [1], to be sure, but how does knowing that help you?

“How well is that going?” you might ask. Well by now all of eastern and southern Ukraine is in open revolt against the US-appointed junta in Kiev. The neo-Nazi “Right Sector” initially supported the junta and helped with the putsch that overthrew the democratically elected government. But then one of the “Right Sector” leaders, Sashko Bily got shot, most likely for opposing a plan to import a trainload of nuclear waste from the EU and dump it on the ground near Chernobyl. That train is still stuck on the Ukrainian border. Now the junta leaders are shaking in their boots because the “Right Sector” could stage another coup, this time against them.

via ClubOrlov: Statecraft or Witchcraft?.

I think there is a real danger of war with Russia if the United States sends troops, even mercenaries who work for private contractors, to Ukraine.   Imagine how Washington would react if there was a political crisis in Canada or Mexico, followed by seizure of power by unelected Russian-backed anti-American revolutionaries.

Even if war can be avoided, a global struggle between the United States and Russia is not in the interest of either country.  It would likely mean that the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement, encompassing Russia, China and the nations of central Asia, would become a NATO-like military alliance, perhaps including Iran as well.  It would likely mean these nations would form an economic bloc independent of the U.S. dollar.   Germany and other western European nations, which depend on Russia and central Asia for oil and gas, would not necessarily support the United States in this conflict.

The least bad choice for the Obama administration would be to back down, because there is nothing at stake in Ukraine that is of vital interest to the American people.  But it may be that it is too late for this, that we are committed to global struggle with Russia — not so much a new Cold War and a new version of the 19th century Great Game between the British and Russian empires.

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The Ukraine crisis: Links & comments 3/30/14

March 30, 2014
Crimean Tatar women protest breakup of Ukraine

Crimean Tatar women protest breakup of Ukraine

Elections are scheduled in Ukraine for May 25.   I don’t know how free and fair the elections will be or whether Ukrainians will have meaningful choices.  But it matters little, because the present unelected government of Ukraine has committed the nation to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund that no elected government would ever agree to.  It is an example of Naomi Klein’s “shock doctrine” in action.

http://www.ianwelsh.net/ukraines-unelected-government-imposes-imf-austerity/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/10728149/Windfall-for-hedge-funds-and-Russian-banks-as-IMF-rescues-Ukraine.html

https://philebersole.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/the-shock-doctrine-in-ukraine/

The Ukraine government will sell off national assets at bargain prices, raise gas prices and cut public services as a condition for its loans to foreign banks to be paid off.  Yet I don’t read anything meaningful about this aspect in the national press.  Here are summaries of what is going on in Ukraine that are better than anything Americans are likely to read in their local newspapers or see on their local TV news programs.

http://consortiumnews.com/2014/03/27/the-danger-of-false-narrative/

http://pando.com/2014/03/17/the-war-nerd-everything-you-know-about-crimea-is-wrong-er/

Another important aspect of the situation is the desire of certain neo-conservatives in the U.S. government to draw Ukraine into an anti-Russian alliance.   Vladimir Putin could not more tolerate the possibility of nuclear-armed American warships docking in Crimea than John F. Kennedy could tolerate Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/a-coup-in-crimea-or-in-russia/

http://nationalinterest.org/print/commentary/the-democratic-values-stake-ukraine-10069

Economic sanctions against Russia have a price that some countries – for example, Germany – may not be willing to pay..

http://www.dw.de/germanys-russian-energy-dilemma/a-17529685

That doesn’t mean that Ukrainians, including Russian speakers and ethnic Russians, necessarily want to be “rescued” by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117122/donetsk-letter-ukrainian-russians-dont-all-want-putin-protection

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n06/james-meek/putins-counter-revolution

http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/genocide/ukraine_famine.htm

Dmitry Orlov gives a Russian perspective on his ClubOrlov blog.

http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-madness-of-president-putin.html

http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2014/03/reichstag-fire-in-kiev.html

Pepe Escobar of Asia Times has sharp commentary on the geopolitical implications of the Ukraine crisis.   Read his articles to get an idea of how U.S. policy seems to the outside world.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/CEN-02-270314.html

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/CEN-01-250314.html

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/CEN-02-200314.html

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/CEN-01-170314.html

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/CEN-01-120314.html

There are links to the latest from Ian Welsh, Pepe Escobar and Dmitry Orlov on my Blogs I Like page.

The shock doctrine in Ukraine

March 6, 2014

Naomi Klein, in her book, The Shock Doctrine, told how the global banking system took advantage of crises, and sometimes created crises, in order to force national leaders to accept policies against their will.   This seems to be what is going on in Ukraine.

Ukraine has beem in gave financial difficulties.  Last fall the International Monetary Fund offered Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich a bailout, under conditions that reportedly included a doubling of prices for gas and electricity to industry and homes, the lifting of a ban on private sale of Ukraine’s rich agricultural lands, a sale of state assets, a devaluation of the currency and cuts in funding for schools and pensions to balance the budget.  In return, Ukraine would have got a $4 billion loan, a small fraction of what was needed.

Then the Russian Federation offered a $15 billion loan and a 30 percent cut in gas export prices.  Naturally Prime Minister Yanukovich accepted.  Then all hell broke loose.

Arseny Yatsenyuk

Arseny Yatsenyuk

A mysterious sniper killed peaceful demonstrators in Maidan square in Kiev and, as has happened with mysterious sniper attacks in Venezuela, Thailand and other countries, the killings sparked a violent uprising.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said in a leaked telephone conversation with the Ukraine ambassador that “we” want the former banker, Arseny Yatsenyuk, installed at Yanukovich’s replacement, rather than some more popular politician.  And that’s what happened.

Yatsenyuk said he will do whatever it takes to get IMF financing, even though this probably will make him the most unpopular prime minister in Ukraine history.  He in fact has little choice.  The Russian offer has understandably been withdrawn, and Ukraine is in a much more desperate plight than it was six months ago.

Elections are scheduled for May, but that’s plenty of time for Ukraine to be locked into binding commitments to the IMF.

Ukraine is a country rich in natural resources but poor in money — an inviting target for financial speculators.   Based on what has happened in other countries in like situations, I look for Ukraine’s resources and assets to be sold off at bargain prices.

I don’t see what business a U.S. Assistant Secretary of State has trying to name the head of a foreign government, or how this in any way benefits the American people.  It seems to be an example of the workings of Wall Street as a component of Michael Lofgren’s deep state.

LINKS

The shock doctrine

Washington’s Man Yatsenyuk Setting Ukraine Up for Ruin by Kenneth Rapoza for Forbes.

The Rape of Ukraine: Phase Two Begins by F. William Engdahl for World News Daily Information Clearing House.

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Russia’s stake in Ukraine

February 22, 2014

3 Gas pipelines west

gaspipelines.russia.europe

I try to resist the American tendency to choose sides in foreign conflicts I don’t understand.   But I can’t help but sympathize with Ukrainians who want their country to be free of Russian influence.

I know the history of how Joseph Stalin killed millions of Ukrainians, including targeted killings and deportations of prosperous farmers (kulaks) and an intentional famine to force Ukrainians into government-controlled collective farms.  I remember the happiness of my Ukrainian-American acquaintances in Rochester, NY, when the Soviet Union broke up and Ukraine became a sovereign nation.

But the maps above show why the Russian government would not tolerate a hostile Ukraine.   Russia cannot compete as an industrial nation with the advanced economies of Europe, North America and the Far East.   Its economy is dependent on exports of oil and gas from Siberia and Central Asia.  The maps show how many of Russia’s vital gas pipelines to Russia go through Ukraine.

I believe that, as a general rule with very few exceptions, the United States government should not interfere in the internal conflicts of foreign nations.  I think interference in the Ukrainian conflict would be especially unwise because it would be a challenge to the vital interests of the only country in the world that, because of its nuclear arsenal, has the capability of destroying the United States.

My father always used to say that you should never start a fight you weren’t prepared to finish.  There’s something worse than that, which is to encourage others to start fights they can’t finish in the false expectation that you will help them.  I remember how in 1956 the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe encouraged the Hungarians to rise up against their Soviet occupiers (I was in basic training in the U.S. Army at the time) when the U.S. government had no intention of coming to their aid and risking a nuclear confrontation with the USSR.

I thought then that it was shameful to give the Hungarian Freedom Fighters the false hope that Americans would come to their aid.  I think it would be equally shameful to give the same false hope to any of the Ukrainian factions.

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I think blog posts by Rod Dreher and Daniel Larison of The American Conservative (both of them Eastern Orthodox Christians, by the way) show good sense.  Dreher is noteworthy, too, for the excellent comment threads on his posts.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/ukraine-dying-in-vain-freedom/

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/the-dangerous-desire-to-take-sides-in-other-nations-conflicts/

Were the U.S. and Russia at the brink of war?

October 31, 2013
Naval standoff in September, 2013.  Source: Zero Hedge

Naval standoff as of Sept. 9, 2013. Source: Zero Hedge

An independent journalist named Israel Shamir claims that, just as in the Cuban missile crisis, the United States and Russia were eyeball-to-eyeball over Syria.  But this time it was the United States that blinked.

The most dramatic event of September 2013 was the high-noon stand-off near the Levantine shore, with five US destroyers pointing their Tomahawks towards Damascus and facing them – the Russian flotilla of eleven ships led by the carrier-killer Missile Cruiser Moskva and supported by Chinese warships.  Apparently, two missiles were launched towards the Syrian coast, and both failed to reach their destination.

It was claimed by a Lebanese newspaper quoting diplomatic sources that the missiles were launched from a NATO air base in Spain and they were shot down by the Russian ship-based sea-to-air defense system.  Another explanation proposed by the Asia Times says the Russians employed their cheap and powerful GPS jammers to render the expensive Tomahawks helpless, by disorienting them and causing them to fail.  Yet another version attributed the launch to the Israelis, whether they were trying to jump-start the shoot-out or just observed the clouds, as they claim.

Whatever the reason, after this strange incident, the pending shoot-out did not commence, as President Obama stood down and holstered his guns.

via Israel Shamir: American Hegemony is Over

Exactly what happened is highly uncertain.  Shamir’s account rests on highly circumstantial evidence, which could be wrong.  But what is known is that Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian fleet to the Mediterranean and there also were Chinese ships there.  The downing of the Tomahawk missiles has been reported by two different sources.

There was a very real danger of armed conflict between Russian and U.S. forces, and Russia’s nuclear arms make it the only country in the world that could be an actual threat to the United States.  I give President Obama credit for having enough realism to not push things to the brink.

There was a period, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, when the United States was so dominant that our leaders did not have to take the views of other nations’ leaders into consideration.  Not only is that era coming to an end, but the consequences of U.S. government actions during that time are starting to catch up with us.

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The best article I’ve read on the Syrian crisis

September 17, 2013

syria-ethnic-map-400x300

If you’re at all interested in the Syrian situation, you should read the article Syria: What Now? by William R. Polk, which is reproduced on James Fallows‘ web log in The Atlantic.

Here are the highlights of what I got out of the article.

  • Sarin has been only a minor factor in Syria’s civil war, accounting for 1 percent or less of casualties.  The reason Syria is stockpiling poison gas is to deter attack from other nations, especially Israel.  The government of Israel not only possesses nuclear weapons, but is believed to have a “robust” program of chemical and biological warfare manufacturing and training.
  • President Assad would never agree to dismantling of poison gas weapons without a Russian guarantee of protection against attack.  Any dismantling would have be under the supervision of Russian experts.  This would benefit the Syrian government because it would be a deterrent to attack by the United States.
  • Overthrow of the Assad government would lead to the balkanization of Syria into its various ethnic and religious groups and likely result in massacres of Syrian Christians and Alawite Muslims.  Such conflicts could spread to Lebanon and other neighboring countries.
  • The stability of Syria is a vital national interest to Russia, and not just for reasons of prestige.  One in six citizens of the Russian Federation is Muslim, and the Russian government has been fighting for years against rebels in the majority-Muslim province of Chechnya.  Overthrow of Assad could create a base for supplying the Chechen fighters.

I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

Syria, unlike Saddam’s Iraq, has strong allies

September 4, 2013

crisis3

Attacking Syria will not be like intervening in Bosnia or Kosovo, invading Iraq or overthrowing the government of Libya.  In all these cases, the United States attacked countries that were small, weak and isolated.

This is not the case with Syria, whose government is supported by Iran and Russia.  It is more like North Vietnam, which had allies that supplied it with modern weapons.  Attacking Syria also would be like bombing North Vietnam in the sense that it would risk a direct confrontation with Russia.

It would be embarrassing from President Obama to step back after drawing a “red line” against President Assad using poison gas, and then saying he knows for sure that Assad did use poison gas.  But it will be even more embarrassing if Obama has to back down after ordering missile strikes into Syria, and downright humiliating if he has to order U.S. troops withdrawn after failing to achieve his goal.

What President Obama would have to do in order to make me favor a declaration of war against Syria is to show me an objective that is worth the sacrifice and risk, and to convince me that he has a realistic strategy for achieving that objective.

“Punishing Syria” is not an objective.  “Getting rid of Assad” is not a worthwhile objective unless you have some reason to think that what comes after Assad will be better.  And please don’t say that nothing could be worse than Assad.  That’s what many of us thought about Saddam, and how wrong we were!

President Putin’s statements about Syria have been restrained.  He evidently doesn’t want to back President Obama into a corner.  But I don’t think he will stand idly by while Obama orders an attack on a Russian ally.

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