The Real News Network spoke to William F. Engdahl, economist and author of Full Spectrum Dominance. Engdahl says that the NATO exercises in Georgia are provocative to Russia because of the uncovered fact that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was behind the offensive in South Ossetia last August, while he was in the process of applying for NATO membership. Engdahl also says that the NATO countries are interested in securing alternatives to the Russian stronghold over European oil and explains that the missile defense program NATO wishes to install in Eastern Europe and Georgia has less to do with Iran than Russia.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: On Thursday, May 7, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with his US counterpart, Hillary Clinton, to discuss bilateral relations. In a joint press conference, Clinton assured journalists that the two nations were cooperating smoothly.
HILLARY CLINTON, US SECRETARY OF STATE: We had serious and open exchanges about areas of common concerns and are looking forward to Moscow in July, when President Obama and President Medvedev will meet. Our negotiators are hard at work. We’re also proceeding with other initiatives to help store or stop the spread of nuclear weapons and to safeguard fissile materials.
JAY: Meanwhile, last week, NATO troops began training exercises in Georgia. Only last month, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned this decision was dangerous.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): I think that this decision is the wrong decision, because whenever a military bloc runs exercise close to those places where just recently there were high tensions and where even now everything is quite complicated it threatens to lead to all kinds of complications.
JAY: The Real News spoke to William Engdahl, economist and author of Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order. His upcoming book is titled Full Spectrum Dominance.
WILLIAM F. ENGDAHL, ECONOMIST AND AUTHOR: On May 6, NATO began something highly provocative in that hotbed situation. They started military maneuvers, joint military maneuvers, with the Georgian government, and they’ll last until June 1, just after their local elections in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two breakaway provinces that were the subject of the military conflict last August. Now, why is that provocative? First of all, you have a highly unstable head of state, the man that Washington put in there as president back in 2004, Mikheil Saakashvili. And Saakashvili, it later came out—at the time, it was blamed on Moscow, the military action in Ossetia last August—it later came out in Ukrainian parliamentary hearings that Saakashvili ordered military aggression into South Ossetia, a region that was under a joint peacekeeping protectorate at the time, and simply made an attempt, through military force, to grab the territory back. At the same time, he was applying for membership in NATO. Now, the NATO bylaws of the NATO treaty are quite explicit that if one NATO member country is attacked, then it’s the responsibility, the obligation, of all NATO member countries to join in defense of that country against the attacker. That would mean implicitly that NATO would be called on—potentially, if Georgia were to become a full member, NATO would be called on to go to war with Russia. So you have a highly unstable situation. United States lost face big-time last August when it came out that Saakashvili had initiated this, that Condoleezza Rice was in Tbilisi talking to Saakashvili days before the military action was launched by him. And I think you have some people playing with a very, very dangerous and unstable situation on the borders of Russia. It’s a complex situation, but in the end it’s very simple: NATO really is moving, step by step, right up to the door of Russia and of Moscow in a military encirclement, as the Russians see it, and that’s something that’s destabilizing to world peace. Europeans right now are very heavily tied into Russian natural gas. And the energy supplies of Western Europe are really a part of what’s being called the new great game over energy. So Georgia is right smack dab in the middle of that, and that’s why you had a regime change sponsored by Washington back in 2004 in the first place—to get someone who would be friendly to that pipeline and friendly to Washington as president of Georgia. That Baku-Tbilisi pipeline is a major strategic pipeline. The Washington policy has been to try to encourage Kazakhstan to link its offshore oil and gas flows into the Baku pipeline through Tbilisi as well. And Azerbaijan is also a source of large natural gas resources, And there’s a Nabucco pipeline project, which Washington also supports in an attempt to end-run the Russian gas provider, Gazprom, which is a state company, and bring oil—bring (excuse me) natural gas from Azerbaijan, potentially even from Iran. That makes a very interesting background to why Washington is sounding a more friendly tone with Tehran in the current administration. I think they’re trying to lock in some of that Iranian natural gas into a supply line that would end-run the Russian gas supplies. There is an organization called Shanghai Cooperation Organization that was set up by Russia and China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and several of the stands back in 2002, initially as a talking forum. And it’s now, because of Washington’s provocative actions in Iraq—and not only, but in Afghanistan as well—it’s turned more and more into kind of a mirror image of NATO in embryo, kind of, in other words, a way of creating a defensive organization of collaboration between the countries of Eurasia, and an economic organization of collaboration also on energy, also on pipelines. So, ironically, Washington policy has created what the father of British geopolitics, Halford Mackinder, more than a century ago called the worst-case scenario, and that is a cohesion of the nations of Eurasia in a common economic sphere of influence.
BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed.
ENGDAHL: As Putin pointed out in January 2007 in a conference in Munich, this is not about Iranian nuclear missile threats against United States or against Western Europe; this is a provocative preparation for a nuclear first-strike capability against Russia, because the very simple matter of missile defense is it’s not at all defensive; it’s highly offensive. If two nuclear powers—imagine you have a nuclear stalemate between Russia and the US. One of those two powers builds even a primitive missile defense. So the US can launch a preemptive first-strike against Russian missile silos and counterstrike capability. And with a missile defense in, the few missiles that would survive and be able to launch against US targets would be knocked out by the missile defense in Poland, and also aided by the radar array in the Czech Republic. So very clearly Russia sees this as not at all defensive; this is highly offensive and destabilizing to the world order. It’s madness. It’s literally madness. But there is no public debate about any of this. That’s the most incredible thing. At least during the early 80s, when Reagan proposed his version of Star Wars, there was a huge public debate about the destabilizing effects of these systems on the status quo. Today, there’s not even a peep of informed debate. The nuclear weapons scientists who’ve issued papers on this have been blocked out of the mainstream media. Where in US media has there been a rational, informed debate about how provocative this is from the side of the Pentagon? Nowhere. I’ve not seen it.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.