June 15, 2012

NEW YORK – America’s most vital national security concern is to maintain calm, productive relations with Russia.

The reason is obvious: Russia and the United States have thousands of nuclear warheads targeted on each other. Many are ready to launch in minutes. Compared to this threat, all of America’s other security issues are minor.

Avoiding confrontations with a major nuclear power is obvious. Yet the United States and Russia are ignoring such common sense in their increasingly heated war of words over Syria’s civil war.

The US and its allies have been actively trying to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria for over a year. They have been pouring arms, money, communications gear and fighters into Syria to take advantage of a popular Sunni uprising against the Alawite-dominated regime.

Washington’s intervention in Syria is driven by its obsession to undermine Iran by bringing down its most important Arab ally. Israel, which exerts enormous political pressure over US Mideast policy in an election year, sees destabilizing Syria as a triple win: a blow to its arch enemy Iran; a blow to Syria’s efforts to regain its strategic Golan Heights that Israel captured in 1967, then annexed; and wrecking the key backer of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinians.

Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose presidential ambitions are increasingly evident, accused Russia of selling MI-24 helicopter gunships to Syria. Russia angrily denied the charge and asserted that US anti-riot gear was being used against demonstrators across the Mideast.

Washington scourged Syria for attacking civilian targets. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. The same week, the US-installed president of Afghanistan pleaded with Washington to stop its air strikes that are killing many civilians. Pakistan’s feeble government begged Washington to halt its drone attacks.

The angry Russians could have added that the US has been buying rocket-armed Russian-made MI-17 combat helicopters from them for use by Afghan government forces, and using helicopter and AC-130 gunships in Afghanistan. Or citing US sales of advanced Apache attack helicopters to Israel that were used to attack civilian targets in Gaza.

Syria has long been a close ally of Moscow. US attempts to overthrow the Assad regime were sure to infuriate and alarm Moscow, which sees US plots everywhere to undermine Russia. The Kremlin must find a way to answer the US challenge or lose face.

Meanwhile, another US-Russia fracas is brewing up in the Caucasus. Relations between the two great powers are still raw due to the 2008 mini-war between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia. Washington helped overthrow the former Georgian government of Eduard Shevardnadze in the so-called “Rose Revolution,” replacing him with close US ally, Mikhail Shakashvilli.

The new Georgian leader quickly turned his small Caucasian nation into a base for US and Israel intelligence and military operations. In 2008, Shakashvilli foolishly picked a fight with Russia. US warships were moved into the Black Sea, setting of a war scare in the region before tempers cooled.

Now, the US is back playing the Great Game in the Caucasus while the Georgia feud still simmers. This time it’s in oil-rich Azerbaijan, which has become a key American and Israeli ally. The Baku regime just bought $1.6 billion worth of Israeli arms.

Azerbaijan and Armenia, a close Russian ally, have been warring for a decade over disputed Nagorno-Karabakh. This obscure conflict is heating up again as Russia and the US back opposite sides.

CIA has been busy for some time trying to stir up Azeri separatists in northern Iran. The US and Israel might use Azerbaijan as a base to attack Iran.

As if Russo-American relations were not bad enough, US Republicans demand President Barack Obama “get tough” with Moscow. Threats fly back and forth over the planned US missile defense shield in Eastern Europe that enrages the Kremlin.

Provoking or antagonizing Russia over areas that are of no vital US strategic interest is dangerous and childish. Moscow
and Washington should be seeking peaceful resolutions in Syria and the Caucasus, not playing silly Cold War games.

Hopefully, Presidents Obama and Vladimir Putin will sit down and talk some grown-up sense when they meet at a summit this week in Mexico.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2012

This post is in: International Politics, Mideast, Russia


  1. BRICS! R, I, and C have Nukes, Anybody know about B and S?

  2. Agreed, Mr Smith, sadly!

  3. George Rizk says:

    There is a video showing Russian activists employed by us against Putin collecting money from a fake rock in a Moscow park. Britain was envolved in that scheme.

    There are arrested British and French operatives in Syria. How honorable is such action against a secular nation that even helped us in the gulf war? All that reminds me of high school when the big bully gangs turn against one guy, all of a sudden, there is no help for such a guy.

  4. Your comment is awaiting moderation. Edited & corrected from 1st submission

    I don’t think most people with a self-centered, 30 second sound byte mentality realize how dangerous the game is being played in Syria. The winners may be losers and the losers winners.

    We don’t hear much about Libya anymore. In the power vacuum the West created by the undeclared war against that country, elements as brutal as the worst excesses the West portrayed about Gadaffi are still killing civilians in the struggle for power and control. The obvious unintended consequence of that war is the huge armory of weapons kept safe under lock & key by Gadaffi is now being proliferated throughout the Middle East and Syria.

    “A dangerous and volatile Witch’s brew is shaping up in Syria as many competing world powers rush in to affect the outcome not necessarily in Syria’s National interest, but with an agenda in the National interests of those foreign meddling powers. The CIA, MI6, certainly Mossad, the French, Turkey, Russia, Iran, China, Al Qeada, the Arab League and others all have a hand in stirring the pot bringing it to a boil……………………………..

    The Witch’s Brew developing in Syria Today is the Spirit of this letter activated in our Time.

    February 27, 2012

    Related material:

    March 14, 2012

    Blessed are the Peace Makers, for they shall be called the Children of God. Matthew 5

    This transcends Judaism, Christianity, Islam & Atheism

    • …from the BBC, “Protesters demanding greater autonomy for eastern Libya have ransacked the offices of Libya’s electoral authority in Benghazi, witnesses say.
      About 300 people chanting pro-autonomy slogans took ballot boxes out of the building and burnt election papers in the street, a witness told Reuters.
      Libya is to elect a new parliament on Saturday, in the first democratic polls since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.”
      Looks like it isn’t quite over, yet.

      • solum temptare possumus says:

        Do they have a constitution yet?
        Democracy in a perfect world is messy! To hear everyones input takes time but the people will learn.
        Of course we don’t know how democratic their new political system is, or will be.
        Ad iudicium

  5. Mike Smith says:

    Now the main election is over in Egypt… what now
    In the face of a battle between the newly elected President who has been saying alot of thing things I wanted to hear from him about coalition building, etc, and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces Generals. Perhaps putting a new parliament in, and writing a new constitution should be secondary objectives. Something like the Canadian charter of human rights and freedoms might prove easier to implement, and in the end most useful… particularly as a framework leading into constitutional debates.

    • Zeeshan7 says:

      The results weren’t a surprise but I never expected him to be allowed into office. He will likely mirror his Turkish counter-part Erdogan, who raised a storm amongst secularists in the army and consequently had his powers curtailed. The real power in most muslim democracies lies with the armed forces and presidential posts, Islamist or not, operate as civilian administrative figures.

      • Mike Smith says:

        The Generals hold both military and economic now… at the present

        but they will need to watch their step, and that will mean accommodating reasonable change and some power sharing.
        Failing that I am sure they are quite aware they hold the same power the Czars did in Russia, and the same vulnerabilitys.

      • solum temptare possumus says:

        It is safe to say that we really don’t know what will conspire. I hope he will aspire to his first public speech and protect all Egyptians.
        Another messy quasi-democratic institution with 80 million voices. Time is on their side if the people can remain patient. However they will probably become afficted with a technology affected Attention Span.
        I won’t speculate; my attention will be on the pragmaticism that transpires.
        Ad iudicium

  6. …and if things weren’t interesting enough, “Turkey calls Nato meeting on warplane downed by Syria
    Turkish F-4 Phantom jet (file) Syria said it engaged the aircraft in its airspace “according to the laws that govern such situations”
    Continue reading the main story
    Syria Conflict

    Turkey seeks diplomacy not war
    UN mission at crossroads
    Russia stands by Assad
    An intractable conflict?
    Turkey has called a meeting of Nato member states to discuss its response to the shooting down of one of its warplanes by Syrian forces on Friday.
    Ankara has invoked Article 4 of Nato’s charter, under which consultations can be requested when an ally feels their security is threatened, officials say.”

  7. It seems like Turkey seems to have been missed…
    From the Winnipeg Free Press, “Turkey threatens retaliation after Syria shoots down jet, saying plane violated airspace”
    They claim it strayed…
    …added info from the BBC, “Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc later said the jet had been on a reconnaissance mission, state television reported.
    Later, the Syrian military said an “unidentified air target” had penetrated Syrian airspace from the west at 11:40 local time (08:40 GMT), travelling at very low altitude and at high speed.
    It said that in line with the laws prevailing in such cases, Syrian air defences engaged the craft, and scored a direct hit about 1km (0.6 miles) from its coastline.”
    Recon mission and 1 km… it would be difficult to convince some people that this was an accidental transgression…

  8. A few weeks ago Vladamir Putin published a position paper on geo-political challenges and his perception of them. In this paper Putin describes the continued threat to national sovereignty and encroach on sovereignty by NATO and especially the US. This for Putin is the largest security threat facing the global community. A few weeks before this Russia’s PM Medvedev was speaking about the possibility of thermo-nuclear war if violations on sovereignty continue. Couple these statements with the closer relationship that the PRC and China are engaging in via the SCO and there is a making of a catastrophe of epic proportions.
    Both the US and Israel suffer from the delusion of exceptionalism and invulnerability, and that both countries share a privileged position in the globe to do as they please notwithstanding international law or the sovereign rights of other nation states. With the UN looking more and more like the League of Nations we are, in my opinion, witnessing a similar dynamic of events that lead to WWI, and WWII. For the sake of humanity, I hope that I am wrong, for the sake of the West, I am wrong. If the West continues with its bellicose attitudes and actions, I fear for the worst.
    Happy Fathers Day to all the dad’s out there. The future is in our children.

    • George Rizk says:

      The US and Israel are playing a dangerous game. Unfortunately the American public is not aware that trillions of dollars wars cost to comfort the hysterical Israelis are totally avoidable. Like most wars, built upon lies, and testosterone of selfish leaders, our current situation in Syria is going to end up in a huge destruction of another Middle East nation to help the Israeli sleep easy.

      Putin is under the impression that he is the leader of a huge nuclear nation with veto power in the Security Council? The way we have been doing things recently, we are the only superpower, and we will do whatever we want regardless what the rest of the world thinks.

  9. solum temptare possumus says:

    One might say the antithesis of Hope is Politics.
    The Electoral cycles of Russia and the USA do not correlate.
    Putin is secure with the Power to play hardball.
    Obama is insecure leading into an election he may lose. He must appear strong, or the Republicans will use the summit results against him. He will have to give good ol’spy Vladimir something that he wants or his press conference after their summit could give Romney the Presidecy.
    And we don’t know what the Republicans behind the Kremlin walls, have promised, if their man is elected; or to help get him elected?
    What we don’t know would fill volumes of Speculation.
    Written by Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli of course.
    Ad iudicium

  10. Mike Smith says:

    ” NEW YORK – America’s most vital national security concern is to maintain calm, productive relations with Russia.

    The reason is obvious: Russia and the United States have thousands of nuclear warheads targeted on each other. Many are ready to launch in minutes. Compared to this threat, all of America’s other security issues are minor. ”

    To me that says everyone needs nukes, if you don’t have them either the US will walk all over you, or try to undermine you at every turn,,,

    Sad but true,

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