Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Der Spiegel: Gorbachev & Shroeder Offer a Dose of Reality on the "New Cold War" & the Conflict in the Caucasus

Image: Salvador Dali, Geopoliticus child watching the birth of the new man

Der Spiegel: Gorbachev & Shroeder Offer a Dose of Reality on the "New Cold War" & the conflict in the Caucasus

By Richard Power

No, the agreement to place US missiles in Poland does not make either country safer. And no, it was not inevitable that Russia would become our geopolitical adversary.

The truth is that US policy toward Russia has been tragically flawed since the end of the Cold War. Poppy Bush and Bill Clinton made profound misjudgments, and the wrongness that blossomed from those profound misjudgment have been sorely exacerbated by eight years of Neo-Con insanity.

It would be good if you could rely on the US mainstream news media to provide you with insightful perspective on urgent issues of war and peace. But you can't.

You can listen to progressive talk radio, e.g., Thom Hartmann, Ring of Fire, and Peter B. Collins, you can comb the blogosphere, e.g., Buzzflash, the Washington Note and Juan Cole's Informed Comment, and you can read the world press, e.g., Asia Times, the Independent and Der Spiegel.

Here is a strong dose of reality from two enlightened leaders, Mikhail Gorbachev and Gerhard Shroeder, via Der Spiegel:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Schröder, who is at fault for the Caucasus war?
Gerhard Schröder: The hostilities undoubtedly have their historic causes, as well, and the conflict has had several historic precursors. But the moment that triggered the current armed hostilities was the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia. This should not be glossed over. ...
SPIEGEL: That may well be, but something else is now at stake: Russia has never overcome the loss of its superpower status, and in recent years it has felt cornered and humiliated by NATO. During the wars in the Balkans, the Iraq invasion by the "Coalition of the Willing" under Washington's leadership, the Kosovo declaration of independence ...
Schröder: ... don't forget the development of an American missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic ...
SPIEGEL: ... the Kremlin has been forced to look on. Isn't it possible that an economically and militarily strengthened Moscow now sees US friend Saakashvili as the best possible opportunity to retaliate against the West? And that Putin wants to assert imperial claims?
Schröder: In my view, there have indeed been serious mistakes made by the West in its policy toward Russia. Can we conclude that this bears some relationship to the recent events in the Caucasus, as Russia's response, so to speak, to the Georgian provocation? I think it's wrong to combine these two notions.
SPIEGEL: You don't share the newly erupted fear among many in the West of a "Russian threat?"
Schröder: No, not at all. There is a perception of Russia in the West that has very little to do with reality.
Der Spiegel Interview w/ former German Chancellor Gerhard Shroeder, 8-18-08

Russia did not want this crisis. The Russian leadership is in a strong enough position domestically; it did not need a little victorious war. Russia was dragged into the fray by the recklessness of the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili. He would not have dared to attack without outside support. Once he did, Russia could not afford inaction. ...
The planners of this campaign clearly wanted to make sure that, whatever the outcome, Russia would be blamed for worsening the situation. The West then mounted a propaganda attack against Russia, with the American news media leading the way.
The news coverage has been far from fair and balanced, especially during the first days of the crisis. Tskhinvali was in smoking ruins and thousands of people were fleeing -- before any Russian troops arrived. Yet Russia was already being accused of aggression; news reports were often an embarrassing recitation of the Georgian leader’s deceptive statements. ...
Mr. Saakashvili had been lavished with praise for being a staunch American ally and a real democrat — and for helping out in Iraq. Now America’s friend has wrought disorder, and all of us -- the Europeans and, most important, the region’s innocent civilians -- must pick up the pieces.
Mikhail Gorbachev, Der Spiegel, 8-18-08

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.

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