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Putin's Ten Blows

by Vyacheslav Tetekin


Sovetskaya Rossia, http://www.rednews.ru/index.phtml ,  10 November 2001 (Translation from Russian)

Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG),  globalresearch.ca,  27 December 2001

President Putin's recent visit to the USA has finalised a major turn around in Russian foreign policy. The latter is towards full subordination to the West. The symptoms of this major shift in foreign policy were evident right from the very outset of Mr. Putin's term in office. One may recall in this regard the ratification of the START-2 treaty that might deprive Russia of its heavy missiles - the cornerstone of our security. But presidential decisions to support US operations in Afghanistan, to close Russian bases in Vietnam and Cuba made a sharp turn in Kremlin's foreign policy evident.

It becomes clear that the intention to join NATO expressed by Mr. Putin in an offhand manner last year reflected a long matured idea of a far deeper (i.e. in relation to the posiitons previously taken by Gorbachev or Yeltsin) "integration into the world community". It fact, the intention is to squeeze Russia into the Western economic, political and military system. Even as a junior partner. Even at the price of sacrificing an independent foreign policy.

For the time being, Mr.Putin was just testing the ground. Evidently he was waiting for a pretext to make a strategic turn and to make it public. The terrorist attacks in the USA provided such a pretext.  The commitment to joint struggle against "international terrorism" signalled the move to "the other side". Of course the Kremlin will deny even the idea of dropping the pendent foreign policy. But the acts speak to the contrary.

A recent statement by a group of public and political figures referred to ten "Putin's blows" against Russia --i.e. destructive "reforms" of land, labour, education, health, housing, military, energy, transportation and other systems. Now one can talk of "Putin's ten blows" against the international interests of Russia.

1. The main threat to Russia's security originates not from "international terrorism" but from NATO expansion to the East. In November, 2002 the NATO Summit in Prague will obviously admit a number of East European countries including Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia into the Western Military Alliance. If this happens, we shall get NATO air bases close to Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other major Russian cities.  This is very dangerous. The sad experience of Yugoslavia confirms that quite convincingly.

But the Kremlin does not even show signs of real opposition to NATO expansion. More than that Mr. Putin's statements during his recent visit to Helsinki were perceived as a go ahead for NATO membership not only for the Baltic States but also for traditionally neutral Finland and Sweden.

2. The threat to Russia's security is increasingly felt from the South. And not from the Muslim world but from NATO which is penetrating a broad region  which is of vital interest to Russia, namely the Balkans, the Transcaucasus and Central Asia.  But instead of reinforcing our Southern frontiers, the Kremlin is withdrawing Russian troops from Abkhazia, Adjaria and Transnistria despite protests of the population of these regions anxious to retain the alliance with Russia. One gets the impression that the recent fighting in Abkhazia was a long-awaited pretext for the Kremlin to speed up its departure from that strategically important region.

3. Yugoslavia was Russia's only ally in Europe. Mr. Yeltsin contributed to its defeat by refusing to supply anti-aircraft weapons. Mr.Putin refused Yugoslavia political and economic support by cutting off oil supplies right before the 2000 presidential elections. Slobodan Milosevic committed to friendship with Russia landed in prison. Power in Belgrade was taken over by persons fully dependent on the West, primarily on Germany. Germany today has achieved what Hitler failed to achieve --i.e. the conquering of Yugoslavia. And then the Kremlin declares "a new stage of relations with Yugoslavia". Absurd? No. It reflects a strategy aimed at Russia's withdrawal from the Balkans.

4. In the Middle East, the Kremlin's inconsistent policy in the Arab-Israel conflict has alienated traditionally friendly Arab countries, allowing Israel to play "the Russian card" against both the Arab World and the West, which is no longer prepared to unconditionally support Israel.

5. Opening Russian air space to the US Air force and supplying intelligence information, alongside a silent agreement to allow the  recruitment of mercenaries in Russia, means that the Kremlin is direct involved  in the US-led war in Afghanistan. Washington has achieved the Kremlin's backing for the establishment of a permanent US presence in Central Asia, a  region of vital interest to Russia. In this process, Russia is being encircled by US military bases.

The premature and unconditional support by the Russian President to US retaliatory actions is a major foreign policy error. The russian President has failed to even assess the short-term consequences of this decision.  It is evident that the Muslim world is angrily protesting the US actions against their brothers and that the US'  Western allies are trying to avoid participation in the US led  "operation" by all means. Meanwhile, deliveries of narcotics  into Russia are coming  not from the "evil" Taliban but from the "friendly" Northern Alliance.

6-7. Another major blunder is Mr. Putin's intention to close the Russian Naval base in Vietnam and the Electronic Surveillance Center in Cuba. It is impossible to think of "a bigger gift" to the USA . Russian public opinion is shocked in this regard.  The damage to Russia's interests is so great that even the pro-Putin newspapers find it quite difficult to explain this decision.

8. Let's add that Mr. Putin's nearly religious desire to get Russia into the World Trade Organisation, will completely open up Russia's borders to the expansion of powerful Western corporations.  This will  totally eliminate Russian industry and agriculture, already only "half alive" as a result of the Yeltsin era economic "reforms", which have continued unabated under the Putin presidency 

9. There is no doubt that sooner or later the Kremlin will stop resisting the "revamping " of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty   Naive attempts to get a simultaneous reduction of US nuclear warheads will lead nowhere. The US is well aware of the pitiful state of Russia's nuclear arsenal. Soon or later --even without a treaty--  Russia will not be able to have more than 1,5 thousand warheads. Why should the US reduce its nuclear arsenal if the Russian arsenal will collapse by itself?

10. The Russian-Chinese relations will inevitably be spoiled as Russia previously promised China to take a firm position on NATO and ABMT. China is obviously watching with deep concern Russia surrendering these positions. China is also concerned by the presence of the US Air Force close to its borders in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyz. One does not easily forget things like that.

Everything that Mr.Putin has earned through the spectacular improvement of Russia's relations with China, India, Vietnam, Cuba and some other countries collapsed nearly overnight. What has surfaced is a primitive Gorbachev concept of "common human values" - i.e. subordination of Russia's interests to those of the West.

Recently Mr. Putin visited Germany and Belgium. We have not seen for a long time such an overt desire to please the West. It was a vintage Gorbachev -1989 when he surrendered everything to the applause of Mrs. Thatcher. The humiliating desire of the current host of the Kremlin to get acceptance of the West becomes completely shameful.

It is not yet the 19th century Sacred Alliance in the framework of which Czar Alexander the First put the interests of European monarchies above those of Russia. But when the head of the Russian state plunges into the creation of an alliance against so-called "international terrorism", one might recals  that the Sacred Alliance led to 1854 Crimean War in which Britain, France and Turkey fought against Russia.

The West readily accepts this no-loose game. The artificial flattery to the Russian leader who gets into the mousetrap allows the West to solve strategic tasks without spending an extra penny, without endangering precious lives of their soldiers. Furthermore the outflow of money from Russia to Western banks goes non-stop, with the effect of softening the effects of the economic crisis in the West.  And what does Russia get  in return? Nothing. The Kremlin seems to like to demonstrate selflessness that confuses even cynical pro-Putin journalists.

But it doesn't even smell of selflessness. It smells of a secret agenda that obviously corresponds to Mr.Putin's long-term personal interests. Of course he  has already started to think of the 2004 presidential elections. Favourable attitudes in the West will be beneficial to him.

So what is behind radical changes in Russian foreign policy? Nothing special. Mr.Putin has simply thrown away the veil of statements about protection of Russian national interests. His policy acquires a clearly expressed class character. Pragmatism, defense of national interests that Mr. Putin likes to talk about at press conferences is just for fools. In fac,  we are observing a clear shift to policy defined by the interests of the Russian oligarchs. i.e. those who are very closely connected to Western transnationals and completely dependent on their Western counterparts.

If one can privatize whole branches of industry, what prevents foreign policy from being privatised. The Land Act allowing land to be sold to foreigners and the opening of Russian air space to the US air force are part of same process, they are "links of the same chain". Having handed over the national economy to Chubais, Hodorkovsky, Friedman and Co. one can now forget about the formulation of an independent foreign policy. But the Kremlin hardly thinks about that. The outer expressions of independence (red-carpet reception, etc.) are sufficient.

Russian public opinion is clearly reluctant to recognize the West as a friend. But the Kremlin behaves as a fairy tale girl who with wonderful persistence fails to see sharp ears and even sharper teeth of the wolf that has just eaten her grandmother. Mr. Putin's main principle of running the State is  "If one mustn't do something but if one wants to do it, then it is alright to do itt". Russia will not travel far on this principle. The president should better recall the plight of his predecessor - Mr. Gorbachev who at the top of his popularity did what he wanted without any regard for the country's interests. The real hatred that the nation now feels towards Mr.Gorbachev should at least make Mr.Putin think a bit.

They say that in his youth Mr. Putin was a wrestler. He does not look like one. He is far more skilful in playing into the hands of the other side

Vyacheslav Tetekin is an author and political analyst attached to the Russian Duma.

.Copyright Vyacheslav Tetekin, 2001

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