Some hope for constructive dialogue: Putin and Psaki

October 27, 2014

Neil Buckley (FT) reports (October 24th & 26th) that President Vladimir Putin attended a meeting of foreign academics and journalists at the Valdai International Discussion Club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. This summary adds excerpts from the Associated Press report by Vladimir Isachenkov with contributions from Matt Lee in Washington.

putin at valdai sochi 

President Putin said that the US has been undermining the post-Cold War world order and stressed the need for a new system of global governance. (AP) He criticised the United States for what he called its disregard of international law and unilateral use of force.

On October 26th, Buckley added to his account of Putin’s charges: “US had repeatedly violated the rules through military action – sometimes with NATO or European allies – in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and instigating often ill-fated “coloured” revolutions. Along the way, President Putin alleged, it had even used Islamist terrorists and neo-fascists as instruments. That had made the world much more dangerous. Americans were ‘constantly fighting the consequences of their own policies, throwing all their efforts into addressing risks they themselves created’ “.

He insisted that Russia has no intention of encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbours, alleging that US support for ‘an armed coup’ against former president Viktor Yanukovich in February triggered Crimea’s breakaway from Ukraine and the current conflict. (AP) “Russia is not demanding some special, exclusive place in the world,” he said. “While respecting interests of others, we simply want our interests to be taken into account, too, and our position to be respected.”

(AP) President Putin accused the U.S. and its allies of trying to “tailor the world exclusively to their needs” since the end of the Cold War, using economic pressure and military force and often supporting extremist groups to achieve their goals. He cited the wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria as examples of flawed moves that have led to chaos and left Washington and its allies “fighting against the results of their own policy.”

A string of US-led military interventions from Kosovo to Libya was listed with the comment:

“This is the way the nouveaux riche behave when they suddenly end up with a great fortune – in this case, in the shape of world leadership and domination. Instead of managing their wealth wisely … I think they have committed many follies.”

See the Washington Post: a brief history & picture gallery of key military interventions by the United States.

us intervention

President Putin asserted that Russia was a strong country and could weather the measures. He advised the US and Russia to draw a line under recent events and sit down with other big economies to redesign the system of global governance along “multipolar” lines.

Noting that since the US had ridden roughshod over existing rules – for example when it invaded Iraq without UN Security Council backing – he suggested the UN could be “adapted to new realities”, while regional “pillars” of a new system could help to enhance security. President Putin warned that the alternative could be serious conflicts involving major countries: (AP) “hopes for peaceful and stable development will be illusory, and today’s upheavals will herald the collapse of global world order”.

Hopeful?

Alexander Rahr, a leading German expert on Russia and Putin biographer, said he believed Moscow was “not looking for confrontation”. Realpolitik might yet come into play, notably because of the crisis in the Middle East. “America needs Russia’s help in dealing with ISIS,” he said. “That might start to change things.”

Moscow was ready for “the most serious, concrete discussions on nuclear disarmament” and to discuss rules on when military intervention in third countries was permitted, President Putin said. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that the U.S. has been able to work with Russia on a range of issues and hopes to engage with Moscow again on areas of mutual concern.

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Will George Kennan’s forebodings about NATO expansion be realised?

April 21, 2014

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Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported: “Poland and the United States will announce the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Poland as part of an expansion of NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe in response to events in Ukraine.

flags presidential palace

“That was the word from Poland’s defense minister, Tomasz Siemoniak, who visited The Post Friday after meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon on Thursday.

“Siemoniak said the decision has been made on a political level and that military planners are working out details. There will also be intensified cooperation in air defense, special forces, cyberdefense and other areas. Poland will play a leading regional role, “under U.S. patronage”.

George Kennan, American adviser, diplomat, political scientist and historian, was known as “the father of containment”

george kennan 2002He opposed the Clinton administration’s war in Kosovo and its expansion of NATO (the establishment of which he had also opposed half a century earlier), expressing fears that both policies would worsen relations with Russia.He was quoted by Strobe Talbott as insisting that NATO enlargement would be a “strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions”.

In the 50s Kennan (opposite, 2002) left the Department of State and – after two ambassadorial appointments in Moscow and Yugoslavia – became a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy, opposing the building of the hydrogen bomb.

US military policies: “unthought-through, vainglorious and undesirable”.

American diplomacy coverAt the age of 98 he warned that launching an attack on Iraq would amount to waging a second war that “bears no relation to the first war against terrorism” and declared efforts by the Bush administration to link al Qaeda with Saddam Hussein were “pathetically unsupportive and unreliable” – as a Pentagon study acknowledged in 2008 – undercutting the Bush administration’s central case for war with Iraq. Kennan went on to say:

“Anyone who has ever studied the history of American diplomacy, especially military diplomacy, knows that you might start in a war with certain things on your mind as a purpose of what you are doing, but in the end, you found yourself fighting for entirely different things that you had never thought of before…. In other words, war has a momentum of its own and it carries you away from all thoughtful intentions when you get into it. Today, if we went into Iraq, like the president would like us to do, you know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end.

He urged the U.S. government to withdraw from its public advocacy of democracy and human rights, saying that the tendency to see ourselves as the center of political enlightenment and as teachers to a great part of the rest of the world struck him as being as “unthought-through, vainglorious and undesirable”.