Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 12, 2007

Russia Is Back!

With Putin's speech at the Munich Security Policy conference, Russia is back.

One wonders what took it so long. Yes, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the catastrophic neoliberal privatization of the Yeltzin years had taken their toll. But under Putin the oligarchs were finally told to behave and rule of law was restored. Increasing commodity prices allowed paying off Russia's international debt.

Still during the recent years little could be seen of Russia's international aura. Western financed NGOs stage managed one color revolution after the other. The EU swallowed the economic realm and in its steps, and against all past promises, NATO followed.

Now Russia said "'nuff". The last drop in the bucket were the U.S. plans to install parts of its missile defense system in eastern Europe. This neither makes sense to protect Europe, nor is it geographically relevant against (nonexistent) missiles from Iran or North Korea. The only plausible reason for these new weapons is to break the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) balance that protected against a nuclear exchange during the cold war.

This and the accusations of human rights violations and autocratic behavior, of the U.S. imperialists and Abu Ghraib torturers, brought Russia back to the international scene.

Putin made clear that from now on, the rules are different and further unilateral behavior of the U.S. will not be condoned:

[W]hat is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to one type of situation, namely one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making.

It is world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.

And this certainly has nothing in common with democracy. Because, as you know, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority.

Incidentally, Russia – we – are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves.

I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. And this is not only because if there was individual leadership in today’s – and precisely in today’s – world, then the military, political and economic resources would not suffice. What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilisation.
In conclusion I would like to note the following. We very often – and personally, I very often – hear appeals by our partners, including our European partners, to the effect that Russia should play an increasingly active role in world affairs.

In connection with this I would allow myself to make one small remark. It is hardly necessary to incite us to do so. Russia is a country with a history that spans more than a thousand years and has practically always used the privilege to carry out an independent foreign policy.

We are not going to change this tradition today. At the same time, we are well aware of how the world has changed and we have a realistic sense of our own opportunities and potential. And of course we would like to interact with responsible and independent partners with whom we could work together in constructing a fair and democratic world order that would ensure security and prosperity not only for a select few, but for all.

This new assertiveness has immediate influence on possible Kosovo solutions, on the war on Iran and any roadmap non-steps in Palestine.

I for one welcome this development and hope especially that European countries will again recognize where their real interests are.

PS: I recommend to read the speech in full. It's good.

Posted by b on February 12, 2007 at 01:59 PM | Permalink


I'm amazed -- but also not a little bit scared.

If I read this right, Pootie-Poot is, between the lines, telling the Codpiece to back off on this hegemony nightmare/dream in general and Iran in particular.

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Feb 12, 2007 3:38:24 PM | 1

He has drawn a line in the sand about Iran; it's in his back yard, he warns the US not to move without his approval.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Feb 12, 2007 3:45:34 PM | 2


Sowjet Union: is that like pigs on the wing? I think you want "Soviet".

Posted by: ralphieboy | Feb 12, 2007 3:48:54 PM | 3

He's in Saudi Arabia at the moment. Expect Gas Opec happening very soon.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Feb 12, 2007 4:03:26 PM | 4

@rb - sorry - that was the German (and Russian) diction ...

Posted by: b | Feb 12, 2007 4:10:50 PM | 5

I also noted that after launching his new foreign policy he went to the Saudis. Russia and Saudiarabia are the worlds biggest producers of oil and gas right?

Could the Saudis switch the US for Russia in terms of mighty protector and arms deliverer? Or just diversify?

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Feb 12, 2007 5:12:44 PM | 6

Snippet from Stratfor:

On Sunday, Putin flew to Saudi Arabia -- becoming the first-ever Russian head of state to visit the kingdom -- and was received at the Riyadh airport by King Abdullah. During the visit, Putin -- who brought dozens of Russian businessmen along on the trip -- will discuss increased political and economic cooperation as well as military assistance to the Saudis. The issues of Iraq, Iran's nuclear program, the Lebanese political crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were also high on the agenda.

Other stops on the regional tour will include visits with Jordanian King Abdullah II and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, as well as a trip to Qatar. Though Russia long has had strong ties to Middle Eastern states like Syria, Iraq and Yemen, Putin's current tour is notable in that he will be visiting countries that historically have been well within Washington's sphere of influence -- rather than Moscow's. Such a move, particularly following the remarks in Europe, can be viewed as a direct Russian challenge to the United States in yet another region that Washington considers vital.

Putin has also pledged to help Saudi Arabia develop nuclear power; which somewhat undermines the "Iran doesn't need nuclear power with all that oil" meme.

I, too, welcome Russia's more assertive stance. It is not that I trust Putin overmuch, but I simply because I see them as one of the many lesser weevils at this point. Putin must feel that his engagement with Europe (and production of oil & gas) is now such that the US cannot isolate Russia economically and politically as it once was able.

The US scares me.

Posted by: PeeDee | Feb 12, 2007 5:14:55 PM | 7

I thought these comments by Putin - made during the Q&A period - were particularly interesting and chilling:

"Yes, the United States is ostensibly not developing an offensive weapon. In any case, the public does not know about this. Even though they are certainly developing them. But we aren’t even going to ask about this now. We know that these developments are proceeding. But we pretend that we don’t know, so we say that they aren’t developing new weapons. But what do we know? That the United States is actively developing and already strengthening an anti-missile defence system. Today this system is ineffective but we do not know exactly whether it will one day be effective. But in theory it is being created for that purpose. So hypothetically we recognise that when this moment arrives, the possible threat from our nuclear forces will be completely neutralised. Russia’s present nuclear capabilities, that is. The balance of powers will be absolutely destroyed and one of the parties will benefit from the feeling of complete security. This means that its hands will be free not only in local but eventually also in global conflicts.

We are discussing this with you now. I would not want anyone to suspect any aggressive intentions on our part. But the system of international relations is just like mathematics. There are no personal dimensions. And of course we should react to this. How? Either the same as you and therefore by building a multi-billion dollar anti-missile system or, in view of our present economic and financial possibilities, by developing an asymmetrical answer. So that everybody can understand that the anti-missile defence system is useless against Russia because we have certain weapons that easily overcome it. And we are proceeding in this direction. It is cheaper for us. And this is in no way directed against the United States themselves."

Posted by: NickM | Feb 12, 2007 5:26:01 PM | 8

AT LONG LAST! Someone said it, and it is Putin. Now, no one will be able to hide this fact, or to make as if it was just lunacy.
I've said it for years, a missile shield as a defensive tool makes no sense at all. It's only use is as an offensive weapon, which ensures that you can nuke the other guy without any possible serious retaliation. In fact, were I a Russian or Chinese leader, if it looked like the shield would actually be effective and would be activated very soon, I'd seriously ponder if I should launch a first nuclear strike on the US before the shield works - so that, even if my side loses, the other would be unable to win anything.

Beside, don't forget that the Chinese are working on ways to kill satellites, which is an obvious counterweapon to the missile shield - disable and detroy the satellites monitoring the launches and trajectories.

I've seen many people saying Putin is an old-school middle-rank KGB guy with a commie mindset, not too bright, and the like (heck, even the recently assassinated Russian journalise - forgot her name - said so). Well, if you look for a role model for Putin, don't look at Stalin. Rather, look for instance at Peter the Great, and then most of his internal and foreign moves will make more sense.

Concerning his trip in Middle East, he's one of the main support of Iran. My guess is that he's going there to tell them he doesn't want an Arab/Iran war, or a Sunni/Shia war, and he'll try to limit Iranian expansionist tendencies, as long as the Sunni Arab monarchies don't push the US to fuck with Iran.
Unless all this is one more step in the big Russian/Chinese conspiracy to bring down the US might by pushing them toward war with Iran - and the demise of a massive chunk of the Army (in Iranq) and of the Navy (sunk in the Gulf). But I'm not sure they're ready yet to bet the house on that.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Feb 12, 2007 5:57:34 PM | 9

It seems likely that Putin informed the Saudis, at the very least, that Russia will be stiffening their support of Iran to match the increasing aggressiveness of the American neocons.

Letting the Sunni nations surrounding Iraq know that they are just going to have to learn to live with Iran as it is, rather than encourage the Americans to bomb it back into the 19th Century, is the kind of message you want to deliver in person.

Russia is simply filling the great, gaping vacuum left where America's reputation, strength, and promise used to be.

Bush pissed all that away.

Posted by: Antifa | Feb 12, 2007 8:29:55 PM | 10

Hopefully Putin can provide some kind of counter balance to the crazies that now run the US.

Posted by: Ben | Feb 12, 2007 10:14:45 PM | 11

The chess board is rather multi-faceted right now with a number of players: China, Russia, US, in the main but closely overviewed by India, Europe, Japanese energy concerns, African energy potentials.

Russia, China and India growing and in fairly good positions, but significant if not staggering domestic problems, Africa in chaos, Latin America starting to find focus, Middle East in chaos, US position is very exposed.

Russia and China are consumate and skilled players. Current US administration are rather in-adept cowboys and likely to lose the Grand Game. Inserting Aircraft Carriers is a case in-point of bluffing and bluster.

Think of it as football strategy. We've had Carriers for about 3 generations now. Lots of time to think about the most effective way of using them offensively; similar amount of time to devise counter-measures. Simply another exposed piece on the chess board.

Russia and China are talking to people; US is threating people. Putin is showing a lot more smarts than Condi. Secty. Gates is trying but he has an awful lot of baggage to unload. Maybe an impossible amount.

Expect more countervailing voices in the next while. Putin has opened the door.

Posted by: Allen | Feb 12, 2007 11:52:30 PM | 12

CJ wrote:

Beside, don't forget that the Chinese are working on ways to kill satellites, which is an obvious counterweapon to the missile shield - disable and detroy the satellites monitoring the launches and trajectories.

It's far more than that. Communications satellites enable the world now. Knock them out & everything comes to a screeching halt. Sanity would slowly begin returning, as a handful of guys couldn't even dream of running the world.

Posted by: jj | Feb 13, 2007 12:03:36 AM | 13

I have a laundry list, and English is not my firs language. So, all spelling mistakes can be forgiven; I hope.

Japan, why we need to send F22's,mmmmm, someone promess that will defent them no matter what. As long as you dont build a army.

Nigeria, why is it that we care, and why is it there is CIA operatives on the ground.

Venenzuela, Bolivia, and Honduras why is it that we care, and why is it there is CIA operatives on the ground.

Colombia, why is it that we don't care, and there is no talk about the millions of dollars invested in there. Where the money go?

Mexico, with druglords running the North States, and the costal cities. And a inefficient central goverment as well as corruption beyond the levels of what you can call normal. Why is it that we don't care.

Cuba, from where are we supposed to have the man power to invade them when Castro finally dies. And also why we care and why are we so interested in them.

North Korea, why is it that we care, or not care. I know we have enaff bombs, but is worth to have China mad at us.

China, they need oil, and they needed more then we do. Plus, why is it that we are borrowing money from them. Are they not supposed to be the enemy.

India, needs water, has a nice nuclear program, and we dont care. I wonder why, because Pakistan does care. Oh, wait, China has water, we are selling them techonology, and they borrowing there brains for mimmum wage and the prospetery of their country.

Russia, they can not do nothing to us, we are bigger and stronger, mmmm, I wonder what will happen if all those free republics decide to join in a common wealth. Oh wait, already happen once.......

Germany, someone needs to check the young movement of neo-nazis to see if they are on our side. And believe or not, they are doctors, nurses, local politicias etc... you get me.

France, I dont think we are getting a christmas car anytime soon.

Ok, enaff, e-mail, answers,

Posted by: JTR | Feb 13, 2007 4:19:00 AM | 14

Russia seeks closer Saudi ties

Putin listed the "development of atomic energy" as one of the potential areas of cooperation between Moscow and Riyadh, a key US ally, according to an Arabic interpretation of his remarks in Russian.
Saudi Arabia, a staunch Cold War ally of Washington, rolled out the red carpet for Putin, whose country's oil output is exceeded only by the Islamic kingdom's.

King Abdullah on Sunday hailed him as "a statesman, a man of peace, a man of justice".

He told businessmen in Riyadh that Russia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country where Christians and Muslims coexist peacefully, and that the country had experience in promoting co-operation between ethnic groups and religions.

"Russia is bent on pursuing this approach in all regions, including the Middle East and the Arab Gulf," he said.
Putin brought along Mintimir Shaimiyev, the leader of the mostly Muslim region of Tatarstan, who received from Abdullah the King Faisal International Award for Service to Islam, an annual prize worth $200,000.
A diplomatic source has said that Putin's talks are expected to lead to a "verbal understanding" on the sale of about 150 Russian T-90 battle tanks to Riyadh, which is seeking to diversify its defence systems.

King Abdullah stressed the importance of the world's two top oil producers cooperating to keep world markets stable after prices soared late last year only to drop back sharply.

The GM and GE lobbyists in Washington will fume over this ... too bad for them that Bush screwed up ...

Posted by: b | Feb 13, 2007 5:06:58 AM | 15

Upps - The LA Times editors agree with me. "One wonders what took it so long".

Putin's NATO beef

These reasons have less to do with Iraq than with U.S. moves in the last decade to expand NATO to the east, in violation of what Russians felt was an implicit, if not explicit, deal: That in the twilight of the Soviet era, Moscow would allow for German reunification and pull its forces out of Eastern Europe as long as Washington didn't stab the Kremlin in the back by enlarging NATO to Russia's borders.

That is precisely what followed. A typical NATO communique in the aftermath of the unexpectedly peaceful conclusion of the Cold War stated: "Consistent with the purely defensive nature of our alliance, we will neither seek unilateral advantage from the changed situation in Europe nor threaten the legitimate interests of any state." But within a few years, the U.S. turned vindictive victor in the eyes of Russia, allowing former Warsaw Pact members into NATO, including the formerly Soviet Baltic republics. The humiliation, and seeming encirclement, of Russia continues relentlessly to this day, with talk of someday bringing Georgia and Ukraine into the club.

NATO enlargement a decade ago was largely shrugged off in this country (though it was rightly opposed by this page), but Americans need to start realizing the extent to which this historical blunder drives how Russians interpret U.S. actions around the world. It helps explain why a hard-line nationalist such as Putin, despite his anti-democratic tendencies, remains hugely popular at home. The only surprise about his angry speech is that it took him this long to deliver it.

Posted by: b | Feb 13, 2007 7:39:40 AM | 16

C'mon, now, it's in no one's interest for Russia and the US to be at odds. It only gives the autocrats on both sides another stick to beat their subjects with - a big one. Shame on this board for endorsing Putin, the butcher of Grozny.

For my part I don't believe that PEACE is a euphemism for neoliberalism.

Posted by: Jack | Feb 13, 2007 12:40:00 PM | 17

Two-thirds of Germans back Putin's U.S. criticisms

BERLIN (Reuters) - Around two in three Germans support Russian President Vladimir Putin's view that the United States is on a mission to become the world's "one single master," according to a poll released on Tuesday.

A survey of 1,000 Germans showed 68 percent supported the attack made by Putin on Washington at a high-profile Munich security conference over the weekend, the poll by Emnid for N24 television showed.

Twenty-two percent of those surveyed disagreed with Putin's accusation that the United States was making the world a more dangerous place by pursuing policies aimed at making it the sole superpower.
The Emnid poll also showed 62 percent of Germans were not concerned about stronger Russian military might.

Posted by: b | Feb 14, 2007 11:47:16 AM | 18

Putin came out strong, it was to be expected. Putin is, as a leader, rather exceptional: he has the support of more than 70% of his people (compare with Bush and Chirac - OK the structure, the history are different); second, his calculations, his speeches, are like three levels above those of many other dopes. He can do the proper accent, he can do repartee, he can make the cynical joke, and his thesis was about - oil. I have heard that he writes his own speeches.

Russia is a huge powerful country, it holds an energy card; Putin is facing broken promises, from the oligarchs, from the US, and in a way from Europe as well.

Europeans seem to be set on a deathly atlanticism...Merkel is a good example.

That said, Russia is in very bad shape: public health and education are absolute disasters, the previous system completely destroyed, not built up again or differently in any way; small businesses find it hard to flourish; tax collection is random; gangsterism is rampant; research and development expenditure is close to 0%; Science is basically dead (brain drain, to the US amongst others, no funding at all, a catastrophe); social imbalance or strife, eg. Russia today has 15% more adult women than men; half the women in Russia are single; the media have become ‘western’ type thrash, worse than one can imagine; Putin controls (indirectly?) much of it; poor pensioners are still dying like flies; agriculture I do not know about and will go and look up soon.

Moscow is packed with millionaires and starving whores...

Putin is right to make the most of the clout he has got; it is of course hard to judge what he could do or should have done internally; what could have been accomplished, and how; the disaster that struck was so dire. Still. Still.

Posted by: Noirette | Feb 14, 2007 2:13:30 PM | 19

An overlooked downside to Russia dev. closer ties to Saudi Arabia, is that Saudis will have leverage to prevent Russia from using the oil card against Europe should Europeans insanely back xUS move against Iran.

Posted by: jj | Feb 14, 2007 2:20:56 PM | 20

@jj - that's a bit wrong - the crucial point on Russian energy to Europe is natural gas, lots of it, and not oil. There is no nat-gas pipeline from SA to Europe.

@Noirette - it is of course hard to judge what he could do or should have done internally; what could have been accomplished, and how; the disaster that struck was so dire.

WaPo's Ignatius, a "moderate" imperialists writes from Moscow today:

By Russian standards, this is something of a golden age. Putin recently touted some of the country's achievements: Russian average incomes increased 10 percent in 2006 over the previous year; the economy grew by about 6.7 percent; inflation was in single digits for the first time in many years. Russia's currency reserves rose to $303 billion, the third-largest in the world, and its "stabilization fund" of energy profits was nearly $100 billion. All this in a nation that in 1998, on the eve of Putin's presidency, was essentially bankrupt.
He has made quite a difference in his time, but as he will leave in a year, there is only so much he could and still can do. It will depend on his successor to go further.

Posted by: b | Feb 14, 2007 2:52:45 PM | 21

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