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Blowback Diplomacy: How the US was Locked Out of the Caspian

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It has been almost one year since the IV Caspian Summit in Astrakhan, Russia, where the presidents of the five Caspian states signed a political declaration that denied any foreign military presence in the Caspian Sea.

This means that possible future deployment of NATO forces in the area will not be allowed. According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, this declaration “sets out a fundamental principle for guaranteeing stability and security, namely, that only the Caspian littoral states have the right to have their armed forces present on the Caspian.” While this is a threat to the United States, the decision may not have been as much of a shock. It may have been US policies that pushed this decision to the forefront.

Looking back to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States was careful not to make it seem as though it was siding with the new states in their efforts to achieve independence from Russia. This was important because the United States did not want to give the impression that a “cordon sanitaire” was being created around Russia in order to isolate it from Europe. The new states and Russia were given the opportunity to create arrangements amongst themselves that were acceptable to both sides. The United States was to basically stay out of it. This policy was a way to allow the United States to slowly and strategically become involved in these new states in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union without bothering or irritating or worrying Russia.

After giving the newly independent states some time, the United States became increasingly active in its diplomatic efforts in the region. It started out with official visits, first by the leaders of the region to the United States: President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan visited the White House in 1996; President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia, President Heidar Aliyev of Azerbaijan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan in 1997; and President Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan in 1998.   These visits were then followed by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright touring the region in 2000.

To add to this, possibly one of the most significant US policy decisions in the Caspian region, the Clinton Administration appointed a “special envoy”, or a special inter-agency working group, which focused on Caspian policy. This was interesting because so much focus was placed on this remote region, even though there was no significant trade relationship between the Caspian littorals and the United States, no real threat of major war, and no immediate threat to regional or international peace and stability. The United States military also began to pay attention to the region. Many training sessions and programs were conducted in the area and between 1992 and 1999. The United States also provided the Caspian area with nearly $1.9 billion under the Freedom Support Act to promote democratization, market reforms, health care, and housing.

However, not all good deeds go unpunished. While supporting the region, the United States also addressed the importance of Central Asia and the Caucasus. A mistake the United States may have made in addressing the importance of this region was emphasizing the region’s oil and gas wealth. In an address before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Foreign Operations Subcommittee, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright noted that it was of national interest to support states in the Caspian Basin because they were strategically located and energy-rich. This may have planted a seed of suspicion in Russia toward US motives in the area, which could have led long-term to the decision to lock them out of the region militarily in last year’s summit.

Thus, the very policy that was meant to help the United States gain the littoral states’ trust and future access to the Caspian’s resources and strategic location may have backfired. The US invested so much time, money, and energy working to build the navies and strengthen the military in Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan. However, all of that training and arms supplied were ultimately manipulated by Russia and Iran, cajoling the states that they could protect their interests themselves without more direct foreign military aid and involvement. The littoral states bought into the idea that their bolstered militaries, along with Russia and Iran’s supplementally pledged military support, would be enough to protect themselves. It seems apparent that the idea of needing protection from Russia and Iran in the future was not considered a relevant threat. This concept is something loudly crowed about in the West but these decisions show it is not shared by the ‘lesser’ Caspian littorals.

Another policy of the United States that may have contributed to this lockout decision was the imposition of sanctions on Russia and Iran. Russia not only has soft power influence throughout the region, many of the littoral states are fearful of a belligerent Iran. The United States imposed sanctions on Russia in response to the annexation of Crimea and subsequent involvement in the war in Ukraine. The sanctions have caused severe economic harm to Russia causing food prices to soar, the exchange rate to weaken, inflation to increase, and incomes to decrease. The United States also imposed further sanctions on Iran due to its illicit nuclear activities. Like in Russia, the sanctions severely affected Iran’s economy, causing incredibly high inflation, unemployment, and food prices. Thus, Russia and Iran’s distrust and anger toward the United States, along with their own national security interests, fueled their actions to push the littoral states to agree with the lockout.

The decision to block foreign militaries from the Caspian Sea is a threat to the strategic interests of America and, to a lesser extent, the EU. Potentially, it could have negative repercussions on energy security. By removing any Western military influence in the region, Russia will be able to maintain the regional hegemony it considers its natural birthright. In addition to that, Iran will be able to ensure greater strategic flexibility moving forward with the JCPOA nuclear accord. It is now clear that there were policy decisions made by the US that negatively affected its relationship with Russia and Iran and fueled the push for the military lockout. Additionally, the United States’ discussion of the strategic location and energy wealth of the Caspian Basin undoubtedly caused an air of doubt by the ‘greater’ Caspian littorals and clearly motivated them to improve their relations with Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan enough so that those three could legitimately believe in the wisdom and efficacy of relying on their own regional securitization. In short, the biggest decision that came from the IV Caspian Summit was the product of a long and gradual process of ‘blowback diplomacy,’ where the United States was forced to reap a bitter harvest from its earlier sowing season.

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Eastern Europe

Stephen Cohen’s Misrepresentations about the 2014 Coup in Ukraine

Eric Zuesse

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The restoration of the Cold War now, between Russia and the United States, is based on frauds by the United States, as will be documented here; and one of the biggest responsibilities that historians have, is to state this publicly — to acknowledge it publicly and clearly — so that the necessary public pressure can finally come to be brought upon the U.S. Government, to acknowledge that it has been wrong about this matter, which is a matter increasingly threatening the entire planet with World War III, a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, the war that would end the world.

Most historians fail this fundamental professional obligation to truthfulness especially about important matters such as this, and don’t even acknowledge publicly that the overthrow in February 2014 of Ukraine’s democratically elected President was a “coup” instead of a ‘revolution’ (which the U.S. Government and its foreign allies call it), but even most of the historians who do call it a “coup” do not say that it was perpetrated by the U.S. Government upon, and greatly harmed, the people of Ukraine; and, so, their admission fails to apply any pressure at all upon the U.S. Government, to stop its constant lying about this.

Wars do not result merely from force of arms, but even more fundamentlly, they result from force of lies. In the present matter, those lies can have a world-ending consequence; so, at least the biggest of these lies need to be addressed in public, by historians.

Dr. Stephen C. Cohen, the prominent Russia-specialist now retired from Princeton and NYU, has said on at least two occasions, that the February 2014 overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych was a “coup.” Cohen has never said, like the founder and head of the ‘private CIA’ firm Stratfor, Dr. George Friedman, once admitted, that it was “the most blatant coup in history”, but he did call it some kind of “coup”; and yet he has persistently refused to call it a coup that started in and was perpetrated by the U.S. Government — started in the Obama Administration, long before the coup’s culmination-period, 20-26 February 2014, when the EU finally became shocked on February 26th to discover that it had been a coup. I don’t understand why Dr. Cohen constantly presents it in that false way — as something it wasn’t. The following note is therefore intended specifically to correct Dr. Cohen’s false account that it had started elsewhere than inside the Obama Administration:

On May 9th, at an event co-sponsored by Columbia University’s Harriman Institute and New York University’s Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia, Cohen stated (at 28:45 in the video) that it was “a coup, an unusual coup, it originated in the streets.”

It did not  originate in the streets. It originated in offices, specifically in U.S. Government offices, and assisted by other entities, including private entities, which worked closely with the U.S. Government, in order to plan it, and to carry it out.

I thus asked him, on May 17th, via email,

You think it originated in the streets, in November 2013 — really, it didn’t originate on 1 March 2013 when the U.S. Embassy started its CIA-run training-sessions for organizing the Maidan demonstrations? It didn’t originate in, or at least by, June 2011, when Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen visited Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, in order to deceive him into revealing the tricks he’d use to organize such a mass-movement (the public cover behind which the coup would be perpetrated) — fooled him into thinking that they were on his side, the pro-democracy side — certainly not on the side of coups and other “regime-change” operations? As I pointed out in that just-linked-to article, “Only in retrospect did Assange come to recognize that, as he headlined in October 2014, “Google Is Not What It Seems”. That’s when he noted, “Jared Cohen could be wryly named Google’s ‘director of regime change’.” He recognized too late, that they were manipulating him, using him, to help in overthrowing both Assad and Yanukovych — to help in their and Obama’s fascism.

Dr. Cohen replied,

“Obama’s fascism”? Do you even know what it is?

I answered,

Ask these people what “Obama’s fascism” is. They experienced it, through his agents — the people he installed to run their country (and Obama never criticized those stooges for doing his dirty-work, not even for doing it in such a blatantly “fascist” way).

Cohen didn’t reply, though perhaps he will, some day. If he will, then I shall welcome his response, because, if I am wrong, then I want to know in what way I am wrong; and if I am right, then not only is Dr. Cohen wrong, but our entire U.S. foreign-policy Establishment is wrong and has been lying pervasively about how the “restored Cold War” happened. Did Putin seize Crimea? Or, instead, did Obama seize Ukraine (via this coup)?

Like I, Professor Cohen — according to his own testimony, and mine — voted for Obama, both in 2008 and in 2012. I would do it again, against Hillary Clinton and John McCain, and against Mitt Romney, because those opponents of his, were even more fascist than Obama turned out to be; but this is the type of electoral choice that remains to the people, in today’s American ‘democracy’. That’s what it is: choices between ‘public’ representatives such as that.

Until the United States Government, and American academics such as Professor Cohen, publicly acknowledge the reality, that Obama lies, and that Trump lies, to allege that Russia ‘seized’ Crimea and that America didn’t seize Ukraine in a prior coup, a coup which has even been publicly admitted by some of the coup’s own actual participants — a coup that shortly thereafter was followed by an ethnic-cleansing campaign to get rid of enough people who had voted for the democratically elected Ukrainian President whom Obama overthrew, an ethnic-cleansing so as to stave off a subsequent electoral victory in Ukraine for restoration of a neutralist Ukrainian Government similar to the Government that was overthrown — as long as they instead hide the fact, that this was an American coup, against Ukraine, in order to grab Ukraine on Russia’s very doorstep, so as to make it a NATO member — there can be no constructive settlement of the ‘new Cold War’, because the fact is: it’s a war that the U.S. has been secretly waging against Russia, ever since at least 24 February 1990.

The termination of this war between the U.S. and Russia cannot be achieved by continuing the lies about what is behind it. This has been a decades-long war to eliminate Russia’s friends and allies, to turn the European ones into NATO members, to surround Russia with our missiles and nukes being positioned just five minutes’ striking-time from Moscow, and then to issue an ultimatum for Russia’s surrender, so as to achieve the world’s first global and all-encompassing Empire.

Continued lies just cannot do the job that the entire world needs to be done: the U.S. (the most dangerous country in the world) must terminate its obsession to expand its empire to an all-encompassing scope, and must cease-and-desist its continuing war against the sovereign nation of Russia, and against all other nations that have continued to resist America’s all-grasping aristocracy’s reach for the ultimate Empire.

The Big Lie today is that “Putin stole Crimea” not “Obama stole Ukraine.” The Big Truth today is that Obama stole Ukraine, not Putin stole Crimea.

If Dr. Cohen has any objections to the factuality of any of the allegations that I have made here, or to any of the documentation that I have linked to as the sources for these allegations, then I publicly welcome him to state what those objections are. Otherwise, I shall continue to take strong exception to Dr. Cohen’s account of these matters.

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Hard way to Westphalia: Ukraine on the brink of new Thirty-Year War?

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Does Petro Poroshenko see the red line drawn 370 years ago in Westphalia and will the leaders of the democratic world remind him of it again?

The President of Ukraine has declared his intention to unite several largest Ukrainian Orthodox confessions into one Church. Wow… Even the first sentence was too much for me. It’s hard for a modern European to imagine it. It’s too strange. It’s too unbelievable. Nevertheless, it clearly depicts the complicated religious situation in Ukraine.

Let me do it this way: The President of Ukraine has declared his intention to unite several largest Ukrainian Orthodox confessions into one Church to defend against the hybrid aggression from Russia and to provide an ideological independence of the state. Yes, this is how the Ukrainian authorities justify their involvement in Church affairs. This is a matter of national security, preserving the unity of the state and nation.

Of course, the process is also aimed at boosting the president’s popularity. Next year, Ukraine is to witness presidential elections. The role of religion in Ukrainian society is highly important, polls show. The Ukrainian authorities may have preferred the nation to be less religious: being a dimension of the social life, faith introduces additional divisions and nuances that not always comply with the economic and political ones. This makes ruling the country more complicated.

The Ukrainian Orthodox communities (the UOC MP (Moscow Patriarchate), the UOC KP (Kyiv Patriarchate) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC)) are divided by the issue of the Moscow Patriarchate’s jurisdiction. After the beginning of war in Donbas in 2014, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate compromised itself by its pro-Russian position. Tolerating it means supporting the aggressor. President Poroshenko was elected as a European democratic leader and peacemaker who promised to end the war in two weeks after his inauguration. That’s why the Ukrainian authorities are eager to get rid of the Moscow Patriarchate by forming a new national Church based in Kyiv and securing for it an independent status (autocephaly) bestowed by the Constantinople Patriarchate, to which the Orthodox Ukraine had been subject to until the 17th century.

No one asks for the Moscow Patriarchate’s opinion: the new Church will be formed of the UOC KP and UAOC. However, without the UOC MP, the goal of Poroshenko’s church project cannot be reached. Which means it will be forced to join the new religious organization. The Primate of the competing confession, UOC KP, Patriarch of Kyiv and all Rus-Ukraine Filaret stated at one of European Parliament events that “there is only one Church in Ukraine”, the UOC MP will lose its status and name and that the biggest monastery of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine will be handed over to the new Ukrainian Church, that is the one created by Poroshenko.

The UOC MP’s rivals claim that this process won’t be difficult as, according to polls, it is not popular among the faithful. Maybe the numbers are objective but once even Protestants seemed to be minority in Europe. If there are no faithful, who then maintains each of 12,000 UOC MP parishes in Ukraine? Putin and Russian oligarchs? According to the national statistics, it’s more than all largest Ukrainian Churches have altogether! For comparison, the Kyiv Patriarchate controls just 3640 congregations, and others even less.

According to the Ministry of Culture, only 70 UOC MP communities joined the Kyiv Patriarchate since 2014. But these conversions often caused the restraint of those who opposed them.

The Moscow Patriarchate’s faithful quickly and smartly get organized to act together, as shown by numerous religious marches and protests in recent years. Ukrainian experts admit that no political power in Ukraine can immediately take so many people out to the streets. Among UOC MP members are also those who can make resistance, and maybe even radicals.

However, the Administration of the President of Ukraine, Verkhovna Rada and government keep acting like they’ve not seen it and are not aware of it. It’s unclear why the authorities are so blind and what they count on in the upcoming conflict, which can be provoked by the new Single Local Church. The Greek Catholics have declared their neutrality. The only way the balance of powers can be affected is the involvement of law enforcers and radical nationalists acting under their cover. But what will be the consequences then?

The nationalists’ leader Oleg Tyahnybok urges the authorities to act instead of waiting for the autocephaly from Constantinople: “We believe the Ukrainian authorities can do a lot more without Constantinople. For instance, to seize the relics captured by the Moscow Patriarchate, which in fact belong to the Ukrainian people. We shouldn’t ask for Bartholomew’s permission. Hand over Kiev Pachersk Lavra, Pochayiv Lavra to the Ukrainian Church. Any problems?”

Indeed, there is only one problem – the start of the election race. Petro Poroshenko seems to be blind to other issues. The question is whether Washington and Brussels see them.

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Eastern Europe

Who makes Expenses Plan for the Baltic States?

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The Baltic states today are no more a clean sheet of paper waiting for somebody to write something on. During almost 30 years of independence from the USSR the authorities have been cleaning the countries from the Soviet-era’s hangover and are writing new history by themselves. And the results of their activity are various and often disputable.

On the one hand the idea of gaining independence which was in the air for long time had been realized. But unfortunately this is the only great thing that happened to the Baltic states.

The first years of independent existence were marked by national enthusiasm. It seemed as if there were no unrealizable goals for strong in spirit Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians. The three peoples were ready to move mountains. Almost thirty years have passed. And only now it becomes clear, that those who were given the power to decide for the whole nations did not always make right political and economic decisions. And they continue to be in error.

People’s interests are no longer in the list of priorities. The authorities very often forget that they were chosen by people, they are not Lords but they are servants for people’s good.

This fact is proved by the increasing immigration rate. The reality is that Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are losing people. According to U.N. statistics, “in 2000 Latvia’s population stood at 2.38 million. At the start of this year, it was only 1.95 million. No other country has had a more precipitous fall in population — 18.2 percent. Only Latvia’s similarly fast-shriveling neighbor, Lithuania, is with a 17.5 percent decrease.” The officials’ explanation of such catastrophic statistics arouses surprise and even resentment. Do they really think that young people leave because “borders are open, information about life in other prosperous EU states is available and they just go to see the world.” NO! They do not just want to see the world, they just want to live in prosperous countries, because Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are poor! Young generation even does not see any perspective at home. No enthusiasm is left, no more trust to the authorities exists. Who is to blame?

But now it is not so important to find those who are guilty, the question “what to do to stop loosing people” is on the agenda.

The scenario of a fairy tale when a hero comes and saves the country does not work in reality. It is time to stop choosing such heroes. Russia, US, NATO or the EU are not those who can make the Baltic states prosperous. It is enough to rely on their decisions and advice. What have the Baltic states achieved since gaining independence? They became a place for possible war conflict. Paradoxically, they took over this status of their own free will. First of all they permitted foreign troops deploying in their territories which irritates neighboring Russia and locals. The authorities allowed to build military warehouses, these steps aren’t also attractive for local population. The matter is foreign military activity is to some extend occupation even if it is conducted for the important purpose. Do the Baltic states really need foreign troops? They need foreign investments, foreign tourists, foreign goods, but not troops and old military vehicles that pollute their soil, air and water. The worst thing is the countries loose self-sufficiency and can’t exist without the so called “donors.” These “generous” countries feel free not only to advice, but to decide for the Baltic states.

One of such examples is the assessment of the Baltic states railways condition made by Modern War Institute at West Point in April 2018. According to the report, “currently, the Baltic states operate Russian-gauge railroad tracks, while other European NATO members utilize a standard European gauge. Such differences impose a big problem for NATO’s Logistics in Northeastern Europe. This incompatibility means that trains “carrying military equipment and supplies from larger NATO bases in Germany or Poland would have to transfer their cargo to Russian-gauge trains or proceed via ground convoys to their destinations. Not only are both options time-consuming, they require trained personnel and significant military resources (e.g., heavy equipment transporter systems, military police and security elements), as well as proficiency and familiarity in conducting such operations.” The documents of such type “advice” to rebuild Baltic rail infrastructure. By the way this will demand huge amount of money. Who will pay for new railway? Most likely the NATO problem once again will become the Baltic states’ problem. As well as the decommissioning of Lithuania’s Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant has become purely Lithuanian problem. Thus strengthening its Western flank NATO automatically makes the Baltic states poorer and weaker.

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