the response to George W. Bush's European tour has been
largely favorable, even amongst those European ingrates
who initially sneered and scoffed, back home liberal Democrats
are wondering what's gotten into him. The widely-reported
comment by the President that he looked into Putin's eyes,
got "a sense of his soul," and found him trustworthy was
derided on Capitol Hill by congressional Democrats, who
practically charged Bush with appeasing the Russian Bear.
Perlez, writing in the New York Times, reports
that Bush's Capitol Hill critics think the President was
too "hasty" in his judgment. We're just glad he didn't
totally f*ck it up, was the clear implication of Senator
Joe Biden's remarks: but this was just the sarcastic veneer
of a more substantive critique. Biden, as the new chairman
of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is the Democratic
foreign policy point man, and he criticized the President
from what is traditionally considered the "right." Noting
that Putin is a former KGB operative, Biden declared:
"I don't trust Mr. Putin; hopefully the President was
being stylistic rather than substantive." Senator Joseph
Lieberman, who seems to have stepped into the leadership
vacuum in the Democratic party – and won the position
by default – chimed in by dryly remarking that he was
struck at such effusiveness on Bush's part after a "first
why shouldn't we trust the Russians? They, after
all, are in no position to offer any opposition to our
European agenda. Look how supinely Putin rolled over and
warmed to the idea of NATO expansion. In
answer to a question about the prospects for NATO
enlargement and its implications for US-Russian relations,
Putin whipped out what he described as a "previously classified"
document: Russia's 1954 application for NATO membership!
(Of course, the Russian offer to join the ranks of NATO
has long been known, albeit downplayed or never even mentioned
by the historiographers of cold war mythology.)What's
more is that Putin seemed all but ready to renew it. What
is going on here?
ONLY THEY WERE ALBANIANS
the context of explaining why he did not consider NATO
an enemy, Putin launched into a long disquisition on the
injustices endured by Russian-speakers in Latvia, who
are denied citizenship: "We don't send weapons there,"
he said. "We don't call it terrorism. We don't try to
get people to rise up on the basis of national or ethnic
origin or religious feelings. We don't encourage people
to take up arms to fight against it." Yes, if only the
Latvian Russians were Albanians, then perhaps NATO would
come flying to their assistance: but perhaps Putin envisions
that NATO membership will put pressure on the Latvian
government to ameliorate its campaign to disenfranchise
and even drive out ethnic Russians. That could be the
price of Latvia's NATO membership, and one that they would
no doubt be willing to pay if it meant permanently dispelling
the fear of absorption by Russia.
he even got to Putin, however, Bush had to run the gauntlet,
so to speak, enduring various forms of abuse and derision
at the hands of the Europeans. The Swedish EU chief honcho
descried the threat of "American domination," while leftist
demonstrators mooned Bush in the streets: but when the
President finally made it to Slovenia, the picture suddenly
brightened as Bush played the Russian card against his
European tormentors. Bush correctly pointed out that NATO
is, at present, no threat to Russia, and Putin seemed
to agree. The Democrats were dumbfounded, the Europeans
thunderstuck – but this merely underscored the deftness
of his diplomatic maneuver, which effectively cut the
Europeans off at the pass. For what Putin clearly recognizes
is that the threat of war with the United States is a
relic of the cold war: the only real threat, aside from
the internal weakness of his own country, is the consolidation
of a European super-state in the West. To the extent that
NATO overrides and neutralizes the tendency of the European
entity to develop its own military and foreign policy
agenda, it is a potential boon and not a threat to Russian
in the context of a developing US-EU superpower rivalry,
Russo-American convergence makes perfect sense. As long
as Europe is restrained by the US via NATO, the prospect
of a new military threat arising on Russia's Western border
can be postponed into the indefinite future. As to whether
Putin can influence his newfound friend in the White House
to ease up on the former Yugoslavia is an interesting
question: it isn't clear whether the two leaders discussed
Kosovo (or anything all that specific) during their summit
meeting, since public statements by the governments of
both sides have been rather opaque. But Putin made a point
of his support to President Kostunica by traveling to
Belgrade and issuing a joint declaration of intent with
Yugoslavia on behalf a new regional peace initiative.
Press reports that the idea is to get the nations
of the region to all sign a document "reaffirming the
inviolability of state borders and the principle of noninterference
in the internal affairs of another country." Macedonians
will be quite relieved to hear this, and I can't wait
to hear Albania's reason for not signing. With the
landslide election of King Simeon II's liberal nationalist
party in the recent Bulgarian elections, the prospect
of a southern Balkan peace concordance, initiated by Russia
and endorsed by the US, could head off EU expansion in
LIVE THE SOUTH!
it is in the south of Europe – Austria, Italy, and the
Balkans – that resistance to the expansion of the EU has
been greatest. It is a cultural difference, as well as
a political divide, with the southern laissez-faire mentality
at war with the northern Germanic insistence on order
and regulation. The Soviet Union of the West, as Umberto
Bossi trenchantly describes the EU, is bent on extending
its influence into the Balkans – that, in part, is what
the Kosovo war was all about – and only Russian influence
stands in its way. By going to Belgrade, and meeting with
the scholar-statesman who saved Yugoslavia from conquest
and communism – which is more than President Bush
did when Kostunica came to Washington – Putin set out
an important marker.
has berated the small countries of Europe for being far
too willing to give up their sovereignty to transnational
institutions, and this reassertion of the Little Countries
of their identity against the acronymic conglomerate eating
up the whole of Europe is bound to be taken up elsewhere:
the Irish, the Danes, the Swiss, and, yes, the Padanians
and the Basques, are all potential sour notes in the great
"concert of Europe." Putin is smart enough to embrace
Kostunica, while the US still stupidly keeps its distance.
In cooperation with the Eurocrats, the US continues its
policy of pressuring Kostunica's government to recognize
the International Kangaroo Court for War Crimes in the
former Yugoslavia, which is demanding that Yugoslavia
extradite former strongman Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague.
Such a course runs directly counter to US interests, but
the rigid insistence on maintaining the Clinton administration's
unconditional support for the EU prevents US policymakers
from seeing where their true interests lie.
understand what is happening in Europe today it is necessary
to do more than merely cast off the blinders of the cold
war mentality and abandon the outdated concept of bipolarity.
In spite of the French insistence that the US is some
kind of "hyperpower," and despite the hyperbole of "unilaterialist"
neoconservatives like Charles Krauthammer, who imagine
that we live in a "unipolar" world, what we are seeing
in Europe is the interplay of nations on a multi-polar
playing field. The German-French alliance, with England
reluctantly allowing itself to be towed along, is rapidly
moving in the direction of consolidating the kind of continental
political and economic power not seen since the days of
Napoleon – and it is Russia that has the most to fear
from this Napoleonic vision.
tilting toward Russia, the Bush administration is going
in the right direction: but more (and quicker) action
is sorely needed. The Balkan question looms larger every
day, with Macedonia on the brink of dissolution and the
rampaging Albanians threatening the peace of Europe. If
George W. Bush wants to make up for Bill Clinton's war
crimes in the bombing of Yugoslavia, he can stop supporting
the witch-like Carla Del Ponte, and get her off of Kostunica's
back. That would be a good start, but there's more to
it than that. . . .
OFF YOUR DOGS
not call off the US-funded mad-dogs of the Kosovo "Liberation"
Front that have now been unleashed on Macedonia? Then,
perhaps, we wouldn't need to acquiesce in the face of
European demands for NATO intervention in Macedonia –
and Bush could undercut plaintive cries from our "allies"
for more American soldiers in the Balkans. Bush burbled
that "a Europe whole and free" is the goal of American
policy – but a United Socialist States of Europe is anything
but free, as the Austrians and the Irish and no doubt
others are discovering. When will the White House wake
up? Why not give the Europeans tit for tat and stop paying
lip service to pan-Europeanism?
that, of course, would be expecting too much of this Administration,
which seems determined to be all things to all people.
We are for the EU – Bush averred that he "enjoyed
the competition" – and for Putin, and our national
slogan seems to be "Have a nice day!" As the seeds of
renewed superpower contention are being planted, in Europe
and around the globe, the genial American cowboy struts
about on the world stage without a care in the world.
This carefree attitude reflects the mindless triumphalism
prevalent in American elite circles: the end of the cold
war is seen as the beginning of a New American Century,
the "unipolar moment" in which American hegemony ensures
the peace and all's right with the world. Some have even
theorized that we are at "the end of history," with no
more ideological or large-scale military conflict on the
horizon, and only blue skies as far as the eye can see.
But the lesson of history, as well as the trend of current
events, indicates that this is the calm before the storm.
. . .