PROLOGUE: I was raised in fear of “the Russians” because my mother (as a small child) was one of the thousands of German refugees who fled in the winter of 1944/ 1945 from Eastern Prussia and Pommerania when the Red Army advanced. She told me (during the Cold War) about Russian atrocities and how they had dressed up my then young grandmother as an old woman so she would not be raped…. (My grandfather died in Stalingrad). Although I was only 7 years at the time, I still remember how shocked my mother was when Soviet Tanks rolled into Prague in 1968.
I grew up adoring fake American war movie “heroes” like John Wayne and William Holden….But by growing up and understanding the historical context, perceptions change dramatically…..
There are still many Americans I admire: courageous journalists and intellectuals and thousands of ordinary Americans form high school protesters to the “Raging Grannies” who defend their open society and democratic achievements against Wall Street, the Pentagon, increasing corporate power and a bunch of insane imperalists….
The former US ambassador to Russia , Jack Matlock said in “Conversations with History” in 1997 and later in an interview with the Carnegie Council for an Ethic Foreign Policy in July 2008 that one of the most important foreign policy objectives after the cold war should be “a major effort to bring Russia into the European security system and not treat it as a defeated country, … as if they did not count any more.…”. He also warned that mishandling NATO expansion would further national chauvinism and create greater insecurity around Russia´s borders and that the West should signal that “Russia´s security is also important to us”. Matlock also stressed that without Russia´s cooperation the big problems cannot be solved (nuclear disarmament, energy policy, Middle East, relations to China, etc.) and indicated that insulting and patronizing Russia was a rather stupid thing to do…..
I share his assessment and find the media coverage of the conflict in the “Eurasian Balkans” (Brzezinski parlance), the lack of background analysis and geopolitical context rather disturbing. I also confess that I am sick and tired of the commentaries by Timothy Garton Ash, who keeps lecturing us about the noble principles of the EU, and his apologetic and incredibly naive interpretations of US actions: Encouraging Saakashvili was very likely not “characteristic incompetence” of the Bush administration but a deliberate ploy, because even if the operation failed, Russia could be portrayed as the new “threat” (Evil Empire re-loaded…) and aggressive US policy in the region as the classic “defending democracy and freedom” scam…
Joining in the ongoing demonization of Russia, he first informs us about “the ethnic cleansing” in Georgia and puts the blame on the Russian troops. On The Independent´s website a reader comments on this: “Now, knowing how Ossetians are, the looting and vendetta attacks were to be expected. Saakashvili knew it. He calculated well: either he would capture the territory, or if Russia retaliated, he could scream for help and refer to vendetta attacks as ethnic cleansing.” But of course, the author of these lines may well be one of those ignorant Europeans who “know nothing about this faraway country…”
TGA then pontificates about Russia´s “deliberate challenge to the whole late 20-century way of doing international relations that the EU represents” and admonishes us for “finding fault with the US” which he describes as “a sport at which we (Europeans) excel”.
To call the US led militarization of Eastern Europe, (provocation and isolation of Russia) “fault in Washington” or “rearranging the furniture” – in a recent editorial comment – shows how biased these comments are since this language serves to downplay reckless US actions and broken promises.
If TGA (along with Chris Patten) is shaking his head in disbelief about Europe´s failure to punish Russia for behaving “like 19 th century tsars, want(ing) a sphere of influence around their borders” then why on earth isn`t the EU doing something about their “transatlantic partner”, who in true hegemonic fashion is demanding and enforcing not only a global sphere of influence but “full spectrum dominance”?!
Why is there no outrage about “reserving the right to act unilaterally to protect vital American interests” by “convincing potential competitors that they need not …. pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests? ..about the neocon fantasy of “… a world in which there is one dominant military power whose leaders must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role…”  Seen in this context, only an idiot would not respond to the Eastern expansion of NATO and the latest US provocation in Georgia…(whose troops were trained by US and Israeli forces…)
Russia did not build more than 800 military bases around the world and claims no devine right to global dominance yet we are subjected to this ridiculous propaganda that Putin is trying to rebuild the Soviet Empire….
Then we are informed about “the New European Way of doing things” with regard to “territoral integrity”. So who is going to determine if a case is “exceptional”, if a region is allowed to secede or not? “Globocop” in Washington, I presume since the UN has now become a farce? The US supports secessionist movements in countries it cannot control to discourage anyone “from challenging our leadership” or not accepting the economic and political order of the “Washington Consensus” .
So the “How” is more important, eh? ..always by peaceful means .. like NATO (with EU support) did in Yugoslavia and Kosovo.…?! The naive notion of the EU´´s “fundamental claim” of “negotiation and consent”, with the “sanction of national and international law” – did it disappear when the US invaded Iraq? Why is the EU pretending that the war crimes of the US never happened? (see Pinter´s Nobel Prize speech) Why is Germany fighting in Afghanistan? (in violation of the German constitution) Why are there no EU sanctions against Israel? Why was there no big outrage when Russia committed atrocities in Chechnya?
Because in those days Russia was considered a “friend” of the US and too weak to compete with “US interests” in the region? Or because that was part of the US sanctioned “War on Terror” in which anything goes? Why doesn´t the EU demand that all member states must refrain from allowing permanent foreign (US) military installations or troops on their territory? We don´t need US “protection” against “rogue states”, we need protection from their arrogant foreign policy and their war of terror…..
But the most outrageous display of double standards and selective indignation is Mr. Garton Ash´s complaint about “Russia´s (alleged) message (to the EU) that the unilateral use of force in the advancement of national interests is part of what great powers do“. He does mention briefly the ridicule the US earned when lecturing Putin about adherence to international law but perpetuates the myth that it was the Iraq war that ruined US credibility when the rest of the world understands that America (its ruling class, not the thousands of honest and intelligent Americans who fight for what is left of their democracy….) had no moral authority long before 9/11 as US historian Howard Zinn recently confirmed in an interview with Al Jazeera: “The US has never been a benign power”….
If the EU is so concerned about its mulilateral, law-based order – and TGA, too – why do they not demand sanctions against the greatest violator of these principles the world has ever seen, the USA? Why call the insane and destabilizing US policies “faults”? Why don´t they see that not Russia is their enemy but US hegemony?
Garton Ash´s rant about “the ruthless great power” which wants to “establish it own 19th century style sphere of influence in the post Soviet space”, “prepared to use violence, intimidation and extortion to realise its national interests” (the hallmarks of US foreign policy!) is laughable when put in the historical and political context of US world dominance, and its successful plans to destabilize Europe`s relations with Russia and gain increasing control of Eurasian energy.
Divide et impera is still working well, and so are US plans “to prevent the emergence of European only security arrangements which would undermine NATO” 1
In my view, NATO is the Trojan Horse of the US but the EU seems to be blind to it….
The BBC rightly observed that Russia has to improve its ability to manage perceptions – here it can really learn a lot from the US, who is master of the media game: Evil Russia does “20th century style war” with tanks and the like, but the noble US does “military intervention” and in collaboration with the fawning EU, even “humanitarian intervention”, meaning heavy bombing for a “just” cause like in Kosovo or Afghanistan…. or “special operations”, – they must have “all options” available….(whereas Putin´s option is “you are free to do what we want”….)
The US (responsible for the death and mutilation of hundreds of thousands people and a new arms race) makes “mistakes” “miscalculations”, has “faults” but Russia, the “ruthless power” which is slowly being encircled by US military bases and US client states like Georgia and Ukraine, commits “crimes” and (does not stop) “ethnic cleansing” (US allies like Israel or Turkey “transfer” and kill only in self-defense of course…) and even the concept of territorial integrity is now applied very selectively…..Russia has no right to support secessionist movements in countries in which the US has “a deep and profound interest” (Cheney) although they are thousands of miles away, yet Putin is not even allowed to show the same “interest” in his neighbours…. Perhaps to make the point, he should install a “missile shield” in Cuba? “Directed at no-one”, of course… just in case same rogue state gets out of control…..
How long will this game go on? John Pilger said in one of his speeches that “professional journalism” now mostly means “amplifying and echoing the official truth instead of challenging and exposing the propaganda and lies….(see Iraq and Kosovo coverage and now Georgia?)
According to The Independent, Putin said in his latest press conference: “Please do not instigate an arms race in Europe” and that “there is no Soviet threat but they are trying to resurrect it”.
Is this the language of a would-be-21st century czar? Putin deserves criticism in several ways but this time he is not the “bad” guy…. Given US interest in the region and the insane “full spectrum dominance” strategy behind it, his assessment is a lot more credible than the constant propaganda we have been exposed to in recent weeks. In my view, Timothy Garton Ash has it completely wrong: we don´t need deterrence against Russian “aggression” and there is no “rollback of Western influence“, we are talking about a sort of self-defense against dangerous US meddling in Russia´s backyard. This is a massive threat to the national interests of Russia (the US trying to marginalize and isolate Russia in the region) – let´s imagine the roles were reverse here: “all hell would break loose”, as the Americans say…..
Russia is more our natural ally, than the (current state of the) US (as Gerhard Schröder understood). The end of the Cold War was a great chance for a new world order (not based on force) but the US, under neocon ideology, did not give it a chance and Europe, indoctrinated with US “market” ideology, did not see what was going on…..
The publication of this one-sided comment of Mr. Garton Ash reminds me of a statement by Mark Curtis: They (the media) do not yet tell us what to think, but what to think about……
Defense Planning Guidance, 1992 (excerpts printed in the NYT on March 8, 1992)