Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sikorski with Laughrov


The New Cold war looks like this. Bit of a laugh, innit? (photo)

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov was in town today. The meeting with Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski was keenly anticipated by the media commentariat. Would Sergei the Russian Bear be taken to task by Rad the Eagle? Or was Lavrov going to roast the eagle on a spit? After all, it’s Sikorski’s signature on the anti-missile shield agreement.

Would their high-octane meeting do what that particle physics experiment could not? Create a black hole with an energy force field so strong that the Foreign Ministry building on Szucha Avenue collapses in on itself, disappearing into thin air, and taking all of Poland and Russia’s diplomats with it?

There was a time when everyone thought - because Dziennik said so - that Lavrov had cancelled his trip to Warsaw after Poland’s support for Tbilisi during the South Ossetian war.

And then it was - if he does come, should he meet President Lech ‘Caucasus Rambo’ Kaczynski as well?

In the event, Kaczynski was out of the country today, busy with urgent meetings of the Visegrad group - and you can be forgiven for never hearing of it before. The G8, it is not.

So tension was high in Warsaw’s Foreign Ministry this morning.

And then…nothing really happened.

After the two emerged from their meeting it was all rather jolly and polite. If I was on the verge of a New Cold War I wouldn’t be smiling like that. But the thing is, we are not in a New Cold War - unless we want to talk our way into one, that is.

Lavrov did complain about the anti-missile system - but he was blaming the US, for trying to build a Nato ring around Russia. He said Poland was no threat to Moscow.

Sikorski said that he “understood Russia” better now. Which is good. I hope he shares his insights with us, and often.

And they both talked about the relations that are still going on between the two countries, in terms of trade, cultural ties, and so on.

So far, so predictable, so diplomatic. It was a par for the course foreign ministry meeting.

All the time the elephant in the room - Georgia - remained virtually untouched.

The only tricky bit came when Sikorski brought up the embarrassing antics of some of Russia’s generals. They love to get in the newspapers threatening to nuke Poland from the face of the universe. Which is quite rude, isn’t it?

But all in all, this was not the hyper aggressive Russia we have seen, on occasion, recently.

The historic fear of Russia in Poland is entirely understandable. But having an ahistorical fear of them is not. Russia is in a very new place right now. It has economic power, not military. It will try to hang on to as much territory as it can. It does so because it feels threatened. It’s from weakness not strength that Moscow is authoritarian and can bully.

And we should always ask ourselves: can the US, UK etc really accuse Moscow of being the bullyboy when they have taken it upon themselves to act like the world’s policeman/humanitarian social worker - whether the ‘client’ wants it or not - since the end of the Real Cold War.?

Beware the bear with a thorn in its foot. But in the end Russia needs the West as much as the West needs Russia. All talks and disputes should take that as their starting point.

23 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

Russia could have easily stopped Georgia from invading South Osettia diplomatically. They certainly were aware of the plans. Instead they allowed Georgia to enter, and provide a rationale for Russia to show strength.

On the right and left, talking about Russia in Cold war terms is craziness. There will be you scratch my back.

Israel stopped weapon shipments to Georgia, two weeks before they invaded. Israel has been worried Russia will go into the ME, and strengthen anti-American govts as Syria. That would be an indirect threat to Israel. They dropped Georgia fast.

The Medvedev Doctrine (source www.stradfor.com) First, Russia recognizes the primacy of the fundamental principles of international law, which define the relations between civilized peoples. We will build our relations with other countries within the framework of these principles and this concept of international law.
Second, the world should be multipolar. A single-pole world is unacceptable. Domination is something we cannot allow. We cannot accept a world order in which one country makes all the decisions, even as serious and influential a country as the United States of America. Such a world is unstable and threatened by conflict.
Third, Russia does not want confrontation with any other country. Russia has no intention of isolating itself. We will develop friendly relations with Europe, the United States, and other countries, as much as is possible.
Fourth, protecting the lives and dignity of our citizens, wherever they may be, is an unquestionable priority for our country. Our foreign policy decisions will be based on this need. We will also protect the interests of our business community abroad. It should be clear to all that we will respond to any aggressive acts committed against us.
Finally, fifth, as is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests. These regions are home to countries with which we share special historical relations and are bound together as friends and good neighbors. We will pay particular attention to our work in these regions and build friendly ties with these countries, our close neighbors.


Hardly the Cold War.

ge'ez said...

BR wrote: "...the embarrassing antics of some of Russia’s generals. They love to get in the newspapers threatening to nuke Poland from the face of the universe. Which is quite rude, isn’t it?"

--> Well, now. Last night, Palin made it clear that she was ready to nuke Russia over Georgia. McCain the same, previously. And, how's that saying go? Let Poland be . . . . nuked.

beatroot said...

What palin actually said was that if a Nato country was attacked then they would attack back. That is the point of the nato thing...a mutual defence organisation. If you asked dear Obama he would say the same. maybe a look at Nato and not Palin would be a better place to start your critique.

ge'ez said...

She also said she supports Georgia's entry into NATO.

beatroot said...

that's the point. If georgia is in Nato and someone 'attacks' georgia then the US will have to defend Georgia.

Wanting georgia in nato is the Whitehouse line and has been for the last few years. This is not a radical policy statement.

ge'ez said...

I know it's the McCain line (with his senior foreign policy advisor also being a paid lobbyist for Georgia).

I'm not so sure it is the position of the Bush White House.

As an aside, the upcoming Eye on Poland CNN series on Poland looks interesting:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/09/01/poland.preview/index.html?section=cnn_latest

jannowak57 said...

Regarding the laughter:

Sikorski told Lavrov that the Poland wants to be free and independent, Lavrov broke out in hysterical laughter saying don’t worry we still have to devour the Ukraine before its your turn.

beatroot said...

Geez - Bush has been main supporter of getting Georgia and Ukraine inside Nato.

No, Jan. Sikorski has just said to Lavrov: "We are gonna have ten anti-missile interceptors pointing at Moscow...".

Lavrov, like the rest of us has a good laugh and then answers: "So what ya gonna do when we fire ELEVEN missiles at you?"

jannowak57 said...

Renegade Eye said. “The Medvedev Doctrine” and “, protecting the lives and dignity of our citizens, wherever they may be”

This sounds like something out of one of Hitler’s speeches regarding the Suddeten Germans and their need for protection. Similarly the Russians feel a need to be protecting people from evil democracy.

Renegade Eye said. “The Medvedev Doctrine” and “as is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests. These regions are home to countries with which we share special historical relations”

Translation from the Russian version, we reserve the right to empire and to act like a colonial predator as we see fit…..fuck you and the UN charter.

Renegade Eye said. “The Medvedev Doctrine” and “Second, the world should be multipolar”

Translation from the Russian, our dreams of empire and superpower status would be more quickly realized without the Western World’s meddling.

Renegade Eye said. “The Medvedev Doctrine” and “We will also protect the interests of our business community abroad.”

Translation from the Russian version, while we rob and fuck over western businessmen dumb enough to invest in Russia don’t you try and do the same to us.

Finally there is no such thing as the Medvedev Doctrine; Medvedev is a mouthpiece for the boss Putin.

jannowak57 said...

beatroot said... “No, Jan. Sikorski has just said to Lavrov: "We are gonna have ten anti-missile interceptors pointing at Moscow...".

Lavrov, like the rest of us has a good laugh and then answers: "So what ya gonna do when we fire ELEVEN missiles at you?"

The never-ending misrepresentation of the missiles even in the form of a joke, you know full well these missiles can’t hit a land target, are not aimed at Moscow and have only a small conventional explosive package. While Russia is threatening a nuclear strike on Poland in response.

beatroot said... “..the embarrassing antics of some of Russia’s generals”

There is no such possibility of a general speaking without approval and authorization from the Kremlin. A military officer would have his career ended immediately in such a situation. The Kremlin issues scripts to their generals as required when they wish to distance themselves from the more crude forms of intimidation.

ge'ez said...

So what's been the holdup about getting Georgia and Ukraine inside Nato?

beatroot said...

"these missiles can’t hit a land target, are not aimed at Moscow and have only a small conventional explosive package..."

Sound like pop guns...bang!

So they are designed to fight off the odd firework that Iran aims at the west, then?

But what if Iran fires off 11 firworks? That's going to confuse those little missiles, isnt it?

I fail to see the point of those stupid things that don;t work anyway. They have increased tension needlessly.

Geez, Germany and France have been the problem. They don;t think Saakashvili is a stable partner. They feared he might get carried away and get provoked into having a go at the Ruskis.

They were right.

So would you have georgia in nato? Do you want a war over South Ossetia?

heat_seeker said...

I think Russia should deploy their interceptor missiles right off the territorial waters of the US...let's say outside the beaches of Malibu... or better yet in Tijuana.. Do you think the Washington would be little pissed??? ...sort of like when the soviets tried to deploy their missiles in Cuba. C'mon folks! Georgia annexed Ossetia some 11 years ago and now is the time to pay the piper. The part I don't get is why would Poland willingly paint the bull's eye on it's forehead (figuratively speaking..) This is not exactly realpolitik - more like a stupidpolitik.

ge'ez said...

BR wrote: "Do you want a war over South Ossetia?"

--> Personally, I'd much rather have a war over Transdniestria.

ge'ez said...

On second thought, scratch Transdniestria, too.

On to Abkhazia!

jannowak57 said...

beatroot said: “But what if Iran fires off 11 firworks? That's going to confuse those little missiles, isnt it?”

If Iran ever got to the stage of being able to fire one nuclear tipped missile, I expect it would be removed as a treat before a launch even occurred. You really think the Israelis will be sitting on their hands or not know the precise moment the Iranians have their nuclear bomb.

heatseeker said: “why would Poland willingly paint the bull's eye on its forehead”

They don’t care about Iran or the missiles but what they want is a Nato presence in Poland (i.e. a trip wire) and security guarantees above and beyond Nato and the EU. All of a sudden Mr. Lavrov suggests Russia is prepared to accept the US anti-missile shield in Poland. Until now, Moscow threatened to respond by deploying its missiles in the direct vicinity of Polish borders and aiming its nuclear weapons at Polish military bases. Also Mr. Lavrov invites Poland to do business with Russia, provided we stop protesting the Nord Stream pipeline. He actual put this in writing to a Polish newspaper.

Guess the missiles weren’t such a big deal after all!

Ge’ez

The idea of collective defence has kept Europe at peace since 1945 and this why countries sitting out in no-man’s land wish to anchor themselves to a security system. Nato has by its existence prevented war but it must remain credible to continue doing the same, the recent events in Georgia and Afghanistan have cost it credibility.

ge'ez said...

But what if the Ossetians, Transdniestrians, and Abkhazians don't want to be anchored the way you want them to be anchored?

beatroot said...

But it isn't in the regions interests to encourage all these breakaway 'nations'...from Ossetia to Kosovo...it's a mess.

ge'ez said...

Which "region's" interests?

Who controls the "region"?

Is the "region" a mini-EU?

How do the Modolvians get along with the Georgians and the Ossetians, Transdniestrians, and Abkhazians -- and every other which way? Why can't they all get along?

And what about the Nagorno-Karabakhians? Nobody ever wants to talk about them. What's up with that? They don't do the same dances? They don't have the right kind of brass bands? What's the deal with them, huh? Sarah Palin wants to know! Should they stay or should they go with the Azerbaijanis or Armenians? Maybe there should be a west and an east Nagorno-Karabakhia. Hey, Americans really want to know and now! Should we side with the East Nagorno-Karbakhians? Or should we support the Armenians in west Nagorno-Karbakhia who want to be reunited with their brother in the east and Armenia? Tough questions. And I trust Sarah Palin to come up with the answers after she takes McCain aerial hunting for polar bears in Alaska. What was it that happened to Sikorski?

beatroot said...

And what about the Nagorno-Karabakhians? Nobody ever wants to talk about them.

I know...scandulous!

Anonymous said...

'..Russia needs the West as much as the West needs Russia.' is probably true in a deeper sense
but that does not necessarily mean we need an authoritarian Russian government. What is quite certain is that Russian authoritarian governments need the West to sell their gas and oil to. If there is no demand for them in the West Russian authoritarian government is broke. Otherwise (if we have no other sufficient sources of energy) we are becoming hostage to Russia and have to let them act in what they perceive as their 'natural spheres of interest' as they please which mostly seems to be going on now. Germany seems to have no trouble with that. They had no trouble with Chechnya and opposition "discouragement" in Russia. The message is we have no problem with bullies - we just make friends with them - it's the others fault they haven't made friends. The trouble is Germany has something to trade for - first their own riches, second their acceptance of the others being bullied. Germany cannot buy Russia's friendship with just one of these. This is European solidarity made in Germany. The German "partnership" offered to Poland is based on this kind of solidarity. Unlike Germany some other nations have only there freedom to spare in the trade with the Russian bully. Btw. are you aware that it was actually Stalin who opened Hitler the road to power? And what was his eventual aim? -wasn't it to conquer Europe and have the communist 'order' all over the place? Imagine what would happen if there had been no America to help.

beatroot said...

Btw. are you aware that it was actually Stalin who opened Hitler the road to power?

No, I am not aware. Explain.

markmac said...

Nice post, Beatroot. Please do check out my own little e-bulletin on such matters, markmackinnon.blogspot.com...

I've even written a little book about all this - one that I'd be delighted to see you review. Let me know if you'd like a copy.