Wednesday 18 June 2014

The Origins of a Re-Taking (Lila)

MD Nalapat dtr--bw-150

Madhav Das Nalapat

The re-tak­ing of the Crimean penin­sula by Rus­sia has old ori­gins. It traces back to the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion in the US and the im­me­di­ate post-So­viet regime in Moscow led by Boris Yeltsin.
In­stead of show­ing any mag­na­nim­ity to­ward a fallen foe, the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion adopted the same ap­proach as did the Al­lied pow­ers at Ver­sailles in 1919, of seek­ing to de­grade the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion’s tech­no­log­i­cal and sci­en­tific ca­pa­bil­i­ties to a level that would crip­ple it from chal­leng­ing in fu­ture not only the US but its major part­ners in North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion (NATO) — Ger­many, France and the UK. In their ea­ger­ness to ‘slash and burn’ in­dige­nous S&T ca­pa­bil­ity in Rus­sia, and act­ing on the prin­ci­ple that, while Moscow was at the time docile, it could in fu­ture once again be­come malev­o­lent – in the US and NATO per­cep­tion – the need to de­grade its sys­tems and ca­pa­bil­i­ties once and for all be­came ur­gent.
Bill Clin­ton still en­joys world­wide pop­u­lar­ity,
but what marks did he leave on in­ter­na­tional geopol­i­tics?
While Pres­i­dent Clin­ton has re­mained im­mensely pop­u­lar in his own coun­try and in much of the rest of the globe, when ex­am­ined with a lens undis­torted by the type of pseudo-schol­ar­ship that passes for geopo­lit­i­cal analy­sis in some coun­tries, his record has been abysmal. It was, for ex­am­ple, under Bill Clin­ton’s watch that Al-Qaeda be­came a sig­nif­i­cant force dur­ing the 1990s. Rather than seek­ing to elim­i­nate the Wa­habbi fa­nat­ics who suf­fuse quasi-ter­ror­ist bod­ies such as the Tal­ibans, the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion went out of its way to as­sist them in the 1990s, qui­etly cel­e­brat­ing when they took over Kabul in 1996. A decade later, Hillary Clin­ton led the dis­as­trous pol­icy of back­ing Wa­habbi ex­trem­ists in Libya, and there­after in Syria, to over­throw dic­ta­tors who were in­deed bru­tal but truly sec­u­lar.
The ini­tial re­joic­ing over Gaddafi’s fall did not last for long
When NATO turned on Muam­mar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011, and against Bashar al-As­sad in Syria a year later, it dealt with two lead­ers who were bru­tal only in a ‘micro’ sense, tak­ing ac­tion se­lec­tively against spe­cific op­po­nents rather than against the vast swathes of the pop­u­la­tion that Wa­habbi ex­trem­ists in­vari­ably tar­get. It is the giv­ing of weapons, cash and train­ing to Wa­habbi ex­trem­ists in Libya, and there­after in Syria, which has led to the pre­sent re­vival of Al Qaeda. This in­cludes the ef­forts from off­shoots of that or­gan­i­sa­tion to take con­trol of more ter­ri­to­ries in Iraq and Syria, in ad­di­tion to what they al­ready hold as a re­sult of the back­ing given to them by cer­tain states of the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil (GCC).
quote crimea mdn 2
An­other grave error made by the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion in the 1996-2001 pe­riod was to seek to en­force terms on Moscow that would in ef­fect make it a de­pen­dency of NATO. An east­ward ex­pan­sion of the al­liance was car­ried out at the pre­cise mo­ment when its mil­i­tary jus­ti­fi­ca­tion – as a bul­wark against a So­viet in­va­sion – got re­duced to in­signif­i­cance. The con­tra­dic­tion be­tween the less­ened need for NATO and the mas­sive scale of its ex­pan­sion can be ex­plained as sim­ply an­other means of hu­mil­i­at­ing the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, much the same way as Ger­many was shamed in 1920 by the French mil­i­tary oc­cu­pa­tion of the Rhineland. Of course, with Boris Yeltsin, the al­liance had a Head of State in the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion who was a pris­oner of the mafias con­trol­ling vast por­tions of the post-So­viet econ­omy. These mafias were al­most al­ways close to in­tel­li­gence agen­cies in the NATO bloc, who ma­nip­u­lated them in order to sub­serve the Clin­ton pol­icy of steady degra­da­tion of the in­dige­nous ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion. It was only after Vladimir Putin took over from Yeltsin that the coun­try fi­nally got a leader who put Rus­sia rather than NATO first. Both Yeltsin and his pre­de­ces­sor Mikhail Gor­bachev had done the re­verse.
The in­volve­ment of NATO in US-Rus­sia re­la­tion­ships
con­tributed to the geopo­lit­i­cal weak­en­ing of the lat­ter
Ini­tially, Putin ig­nored the fact that nei­ther Ger­many nor France would allow the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion to ei­ther enter the Eu­ro­pean Union or to reach the level of pri­macy within Eu­rope that the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion’s size and ca­pa­bil­i­ties en­ti­tle it to. In fact, after two terms, Putin handed over the Pres­i­dency to a Eu­ro­peanist in much the same mould as Gor­bachev or Yeltsin: Dmitry Medvedev. But, thanks to the con­tin­u­ing dom­i­nance of Putin in the inner coun­cils of gov­ern­ment in Moscow, the dam­age done by Medvedev was not on the same scale as that which took place under Yeltsin. Nonethe­less, the Medvedev in­ter­reg­num em­bold­ened the US and its part­ners to con­tinue with the Clin­ton pol­icy of seek­ing to tether Rus­sia down, rather than to em­brace it in an equal part­ner­ship.
Rus­sia’s claim for Geor­gian lands was prob­a­bly
the first phase of a larger de­mand
quote crimea mdn 3
Fi­nally, and de­spite his sur­round­ing him­self with St Pe­ters­burg Eu­ro­peanists, Vladimir Putin un­der­stood that the US and the EU would never ac­cept a Rus­sia that was any­where close to being an equal part­ner of these two en­ti­ties. The first symp­tom of that was his takeover of a Rus­sianised seg­ment of Geor­gia. The next was the takeover of Crimea. This will be fol­lowed by the par­ti­tion of Ukraine and a pol­icy of link­ing hands with Delhi and Bei­jing in order to di­lute the im­pact of the Ver­sailles-style poli­cies pur­sued by NATO to­wards Rus­sia, since the time when Bill Clin­ton was Pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica.
Un­for­tu­nately, taken as a col­lec­tive, the NATO al­liance still re­sponds as though the globe fol­lowed a 19th cen­tury or, worse, a 20th cen­tury ma­trix. The 21st cen­tury is wit­ness­ing the re-emer­gence of Asia, and there will cer­tainly be a com­ing to­gether of the major pow­ers of the con­ti­nent rather than the in­tra-Asia con­flict pre­dicted by schol­ars in the US and the EU. Today, the ground re­al­i­ties do not per­mit the same depth, speed and range of NATO in­ter­ven­tion as in the 19th or even the first half of the 20th cen­tury. That the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion has been sub­jected to the same ef­fort to down­size any po­ten­tial chal­lenge to NATO in­di­cates ac­cep­tance of the fact that Moscow is teth­ered within Asia rather than Eu­rope – ir­re­spec­tive of what the St Pe­ters­burg in­tel­lec­tu­als say. Fol­low­ing the mind­set of past eras, the key mem­ber states of NATO refuse to ac­cept that coun­tries out­side the bloc have the chem­istry and the po­ten­tial to be equal part­ners of the al­liance, rather than re­main in a sub­sidiary po­si­tion. By seek­ing too much, the al­liance is hav­ing to set­tle for much less, as in Ukraine.

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