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With the signing of an agreement between Washington and Warsaw to erect a missile defence system in Poland, echoes of the cold war between Russia and the United States are hard to ignore. The agreement comes hot on the heels of the conflict between Russia and Georgia.

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ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: With the signing of an agreement between Washington and Warsaw to erect a missile defense system in Poland, echoes of the Cold War between Russia and the United States are hard to ignore. The agreement comes hot on the heels of the conflict between Russia and Georgia. To further analyze these events, Real News senior news editor Paul Jay spoke to Eric Margolis.

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Welcome to our interview with Eric Margolis on the current situation in Poland, the United States, Russia, and the new missile crisis. Eric, so we’re back in. We’re not in 1963 and the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it somehow has some of the feeling of the reverse of the same equation. How serious is the situation that’s developing in Poland?

ERIC MARGOLIS, THE REAL NEWS ANALYST: Paul, I’m getting frissons not of the ’63 missile crisis but August 1914, where you see the great powers somehow—a movement towards war, conflict, takes on its own momentum. And I’m exaggerating a little bit. Certainly what we’re seeing here is an outburst of militarism, of “I’m bigger than you are,” of chest beating, mixed with domestic politics, over issues that are totally unnecessary. And that’s what makes this so frightening, because you have rulers, and particularly leadership in the United States, which appears ready to go to the edge and to risk a major confrontation with Russia over question of missiles in Poland and over events in Georgia, which is about as obscure place as you can get.

JAY: It’s somewhat like the Cuba situation in ’63. Like, it was a totally provocative act for Khrushchev to put missiles in Cuba, and really completely unnecessary. And how could the Russians not expect Kennedy and the Americans to go crazy in response? But the same thing now: how could the Americans not expect the Russians to go nuts, putting nuclear weapons right on their border?

MARGOLIS: Paul, that’s the 64,000-ruble question. Nobody really understands it. You know, the deputy Soviet Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, an old KGB man, very tough and smart, described Georgia as an American protectorate or as an American satellite—that was the word he used.

JAY: And he should know.

MARGOLIS: And he should know a thing or two about satellites. You know, he knows a satellite when he sees one. And, sure enough, Georgia did turn into an American satellite very quickly, ever since President Saakashvili came to power in a dubious election that was hailed as democratic in the US but was questionable, certainly by his critics—questions of vote-rigging and intimidation, stuffed ballot boxes, and things like that. Anyway, Saakashvili came in, and he was probably groomed in the states by US intelligence when he was a student. He opened all the doors to the US, quickly turned Georgia into a US colony. Americans poured in American military advisers, civilian advisers. On their heels came the Israelis—Israeli military men, Mossad men. Israelis were selling millions of dollars’ worth of arms and military equipment to Georgia, and so on and so forth. Now, when Georgia, when Saakashvili planned the attack on the secessionist province of South Ossetia (and they’ve been sparring and feuding there since 1992; this was nothing new), but the massing of Georgian troops to attack had to be seen by American satellites. It had to be known to the Russians, who have very good intelligence in the area, and it had to have been approved by Washington. It’s inconceivable that it could not have been.

JAY: So the Russians essentially called an American bluff in Georgia. Georgia launches this initial attack, Russia calls the bluff, the bluff being that we’re somehow going to protect Georgia, Bush says, and clearly they don’t have the capacity to do it. So does that mean, then, so now they quickly finalize the deal with Poland to [inaudible] in theory show, “Well, we can’t be pushed around by the Russians,” except it’s an even more provocative act?

MARGOLIS: Well, that’s exactly what happened. The US has been negotiating for months and months and months with Poland, and the Poles kept asking for more and more exorbitant payments—money, anti-aircraft systems—until the point where Washington said, “To hell with you. We’re not going to pay this. This is highway robbery.” But then, soon as the US got itself looked in Georgia and made Bush look like a fool, they immediately concluded a deal with the Poles, giving them everything they want, and paying them huge amounts of money—we don’t know how much yet—and promising the Poles US anti-aircraft missile systems with some numbers of US troops.

JAY: Well, in the next segment of our interview, let’s discuss the response of the Russians. A Russian general today has already threatened Poland with being a target of nuclear attack if they accept this missile deal. Please join us for the next segment of our interview with Eric Margolis.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Eric Margolis is an internationally syndicated columnist and renowned book author. He’s a veteran Korea-watcher who specializes in north Asian military/strategic affairs. He’s been all over the DMZ and produced his documentary there last year featuring a segment from Panmunjom on the DMZ. Two special areas of focus:  1. What would a war actually look like if one erupted?  2. The geopolitics of the region – the Koreas, Japan, China, Russia, the US.  Eric was a regular columnist for Japan's Mainichi Shimbun and is a long-time member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.