Provoking Russian nationalism

September 29, 2008

Gareth Porter discusses US hawkishness in the Caucasus with Real News Network's Senior Editor Paul Jay. As the US and NATO pursue their containment policy, the threat of a new cold war emerges.

Gareth Porter discusses US hawkishness in the Caucasus with Real News Network's Senior Editor Paul Jay. As the US and NATO pursue their containment policy, the threat of a new cold war emerges.



garethportersept23pt3

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to the next segment of our series of interviews with investigative historian and journalist Gareth Porter. Welcome, Gareth.

GARETH PORTER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST AND HISTORIAN: Thank you, Paul.

JAY: In President Bush’s speech to the United Nations, he talked about the victories of democracy around the world. Here’s an example.

~~~

GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: Over the past seven years, Afghanistan and Iraq have been transformed from regimes that actively sponsored terror to democracies that fight terror. Libya has renounced its support for terror and its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are actively pursuing the terrorists.

~~~

Several of his examples are the Orange revolutions and the various new, elected, what he calls "democracies" in Ukraine and Georgia and other places in former Eastern Europe. And then particularly he zeros in on Georgia and Russia, and here is what he has to say.

~~~

BUSH: The United Nations charter sets forth the equal rights of nations large and small. Russia’s invasion of Georgia was a violation of those words. Young democracies around the world are watching to see how we respond to this test.

~~~

I will refrain from any comment whatsoever about George Bush talking about the equality of nations large and small and invading other places. Others, I’m sure, can come to those conclusions without me saying anything. But what about this focus on Georgia and now Russia as the new enemy? We certainly hear a lot about it from McCain.

PORTER: Well, of course, the interesting thing about Georgia in the context of this clip that you’ve showed is that this is not just a case of a small, plucky nation on the edge of the former Soviet Union and now Russia which wishes to be independent of that larger country; it’s also a case of a small country which has within its present borders a breakaway minority region, which was very clear at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union that it preferred to be part of Russia, of the Russian Federation, rather than part of Georgia, for historical, cultural, and social reasons.

JAY: And we’re talking South Ossetia here primarily.

PORTER: South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Exactly. And it’s interesting that the former secretary of state James Baker, in the recent discussion with the former secretaries of state, singled out this historical fact, which he was very well aware of at that time when he was secretary of state, as a key fact which has been simply ignored in the rush to demonize Russia in the context of this issue. And he pointed out that the Russians at the time and since then have repeatedly warned that the reality here needs to be taken into account and that this reality was in fact ignored, both by the Georgian regime of Saakashvili, of course, and by the Bush administration.

JAY: This policy of making use of what they call these new, young democracies, the former republics of the Soviet Union that are now independent, right from Reagan on through Clinton, on through Bush I, and so on, this sort of circling of Russia with these new "democracies," quote-unquote, and encouraging them to join NATO, it’s been a fundamental pillar of American policy. Has the Russian’s strong position on South Ossetia and Georgia, is it breaking the back of this policy? Or is this just one blip along the way?

PORTER: Well, if you judge from the tenor and substance of the speeches that have been made by the Bush administration and by Democratic foes of the Bush administration and the Republicans, the answer is no. I mean, it appears that the policy of NATO expansion right up to the border of the Russian Federation, and particularly with regard to Georgia and Ukraine, the two most difficult problems from the point of view of the Russian government, you know, this is a policy that is rolling right along without any hesitation, despite the fact that it was in fact the cause—the indirect cause, at least—of this crisis over Georgia, because it was clearly the reason that Saakashvili made the decision that he did to take the offensive against South Ossetia militarily and take the very high risk that the Russians were going to respond and roll right into Georgia.

JAY: So why play this game? Russia has countered with talking about putting weapons of a fairly higher caliber in Syria. They’ve just sent some planes, and there’s ships, I think, to Venezuela. You know, Russia said, "Listen, we can go back to the geopolitical Cold War game if you want, and as long as oil stays at this price, we’re not in such bad shape, plus we’ve got lots of nuclear weapons." So why now? And what is this game about?

PORTER: Well, that’s a very, very good question, Paul, and I think the answer to what appears to be sort of a mystery as to why the United States should prod and poke at the bear in such a way as to bring about an entirely predictable result—and there were plenty of people, believe me, who were predicting this, specialists not only on Russia but specialists on Georgia as well—I think the answer is sort of summarized in the phrase that the hawks always win. They always win, because if the Russians were to be more accommodating, then they can show that a provocative policy is successful, because the Russians backed down. If the Russians are not accommodating and they respond by taking their own initiatives, then the hawks win because their tough policy is basically strengthened by the willingness of political leaders in the United States to support a tougher policy toward Russia. And, of course, that plays into the hands of the Cheneys and the other hawks in the US system.

JAY: In the next segment of our interview, let’s just discuss a little bit how much this geopolitical sticking in the eye of the bear also has to do with the coming economic meltdown. There’s nothing like a good threat of war at the time of a deepening recession. Please join us for the next segment of our interview with Gareth Porter.

DISCLAIMER:

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