Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 14, 2008

Pressing Russia? How?

So is Russia "violating the ceasefire"agreement as Bush says? The NYT says no:

Negotiating from a position of strength, the Russians demanded the fifth point, allowing their troops to act in what was termed a peacekeeping role, even outside the boundaries of the separatist enclaves where the war began, with an understanding that later an international agreement might obviate this need.

The vague language of the fifth point allows Russian peacekeepers to “implement additional security measures” while awaiting an international monitoring mechanism.

Currently the Russians are visiting Georgian military bases in Gori, Poti and Senaki to destroy or take away weapons they find and to blow up the ammunition depots. It would be too dangerous to leave those unguarded, wouldn't it?

When the Russian troops will leave in a day or two days the western part of Georgia will effectively be demilitarized. The U.S. weapon industry has reason to jubilate.

Uncharacteristically Saakashvili has not given a public peep today. Has he finally been told to shut up or is cooking up something new? Yesterday he kind of admitted that his original military attack plan failed:

Saakashvili told a group of foreign journalists in a conference call earlier on August 13, that the plan was to stop the Russian forces at the Roki Tunnel in the north of South Ossetia, which links the breakaway region with Russia’s North Ossetian Republic.

“Once they got to Tskhinvali, they could march on the capital. We tried to stop them in the mountains before Tskhinvali, but we were too late and there were too many of them,” Saakashvili said according to the transcript provided by the President’s press office.

Charles Krauthammer comes up with ideas on how to "punish" Russia. At least he acknowledges that there is no military options. But he recommends to abolish the NATO-Russia Council, bar Russia's entry to the WTO, dissolve the G-8 and to boycott the Winter Olympics at Sochi in 2014.

None of those points is likely to get implemented. When one thinks about it, Russia has more abilities to hurt the U.S. than vice versa.

  • With over $500 billion in foreign currency reserves, most of them in U.S. treasuries, Russia can notch up U.S. interest rates by simply announcing to sell a few of those.
  • Part of the NATO supplies to Afghanistan runs through Russia. Does the U.S. really want that line to be closed?
  • Russia could reduce oil production by say 10% and bring oil to $200/barrel.
  • ...

It does not make sense to pressure Russia because Russia can pressure back and unlike U.S. politicians Putin does not care what Krauthammer and other lunatics write.

But the dumbest idea Krauthammer comes up with is this:

President Bush could cash in on his close personal relationship with Putin by sending him a copy of the highly entertaining (and highly fictionalized) film "Charlie Wilson's War" to remind Vlad of our capacity to make Russia bleed. Putin would need no reminders of the Georgians' capacity and long history of doing likewise to invaders.

I am not sure that Putin would relate "Charlie Wilson's War" with "Georgians' capacity and long history of doing likewise to invaders".

You see, Georgia was annexed by Czar Paul I in 1800 and defended by Russians against Persian incursions. It was ruled by Russia until 1918. Then, during the Russian civil war, Georgia declared independence and with British help stayed independent until 1921 when it became part of the USSR. It again claimed independence in 1991 but immediately lost South Ossetia and Abkhasia. So out of 200 years Georgia was partly independent for about 12 years. That and the lousy performance of its troops last week indeed tells you something about "Georgians' capacity and long history" of making invaders bleed.

But Putin while watching "Charlie Wilson's War" might indeed get the idea that an occupation force in Afghanistan can be beaten and dislodged by supplying the Taliban with money and anti-air missiles. He may even thank Krauthammer for that fabulous idea.

Posted by b on August 14, 2008 at 14:02 UTC | Permalink


i read the krauthammer link with alabama's post & the just offer more & more convincing evidence of their madness

Posted by: | Aug 14 2008 14:27 utc | 1


Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 14 2008 14:28 utc | 2

I don't hear Bush saying "bring it on" anymore. Does Cheney see any dead enders?

Posted by: D. Mathews | Aug 14 2008 14:40 utc | 3

Putin just needs to make a convincing case before the UN that Saakaschvili was implementing a program to produce WMD's. And count on his higly independent intelligence agencies to provide supporting proof.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Aug 14 2008 14:42 utc | 4

with it all in pretty pictures of powerpoint, ralphieboy

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 14 2008 14:57 utc | 5

DM: I'm smelling more than a few "last throes" around these days... I wonder whose they might be?

B-- another great post!

Posted by: Helena | Aug 14 2008 14:58 utc | 6

The magic words of the fifth point:

...a peacekeeping role, even outside the boundaries of the separatist enclaves where the war began...

Posted by: Ensley | Aug 14 2008 15:03 utc | 7

With over $500 billion in foreign currency reserves, most of them in U.S. treasuries, Russia can notch up U.S. interest rates by simply announcing to sell a few of those.

They would be cutting off their nose to spite their face. Interest rates would only go up (by definition) if Russia's sales managed to move all bond prices lower, devaluing the balance of their holdings. So this is incoherent.

Russia could reduce oil production by say 10% and bring oil to $200/barrel.

More nose-cutting. This presumes you can just shut off an oil well (which you can't, not without damaging it forever.) And Russia isn't about to forego a penny of oil income in a plummeting market.

NATO supplies its troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan, not Russia.

Posted by: R Bob Vega | Aug 14 2008 16:04 utc | 8

The impotent rage of the American neocons is wonderful to behold. Lieberman is going to Georgia, no doubt to bask in the results of all that American and Israeli military training.

The neocons will work themselves into an apoplexy over Old Europe. Get ready for tears, gnashng of teeth, foot stamping tantrums, and eventually...a return to their usual pose, sulky thumbsucking punctuated by the occasional squal.

Putin has put their two feet into one shoe. Iraq has bled the States both economically and morally, and the whole world understands this. The last thing the Europeans who count want is to make an enemy of a resurgent, energy soaked Russia, since they understand, as the Yeltsin neocon nostalgics don't, that they're not dealing with a drunken buffoon, hell bent on dismantling Russia under the aegis of New York and Harvard "advisors".

Ah, for the good old days.

Posted by: Thrasyboulos | Aug 14 2008 16:10 utc | 9


i hope you have read khlebnikov's book on rupert murdoch & blair's pal boris berezovky - 'the godather of the kremlin' - in which he outlines how deeply comprimised yeltsin was by the oligarchs - who for the most part now are living in london, tel aviv or are in jail. he tells us how russia was turned into a bloodbath - even though khlebnikov was a journalist for fortune - he exposes u s complicity in the crimes of the oligarchy - unfortunately this young man was assassinated in the streets of moscow by the very hoods he wrote about

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 14 2008 16:39 utc | 10

Gates just said there is no need for US forces in Georgia.
It certainly is difficult to understand what is going on in this hapless administration, but it looks like the realist wing just took over again, at least for the time being.
But the Cheney/neo-con mole will soon pop up from another hole, just you wait!

Posted by: Dick Durata | Aug 14 2008 16:49 utc | 11

@R Bob Vega -

Threatening to sell treasuries
They would be cutting off their nose to spite their face. Interest rates would only go up (by definition) if Russia's sales managed to move all bond prices lower, devaluing the balance of their holdings. So this is incoherent.

So what - it's only paper. The move could be much cheaper than a war and might get the U.S. to think twice about "punishing".

More nose-cutting. This presumes you can just shut off an oil well (which you can't, not without damaging it forever.) And Russia isn't about to forego a penny of oil income in a plummeting market.

You can shut down most wells, you also can store oil. 10 million barrels sold at $100/bl is also less profitable than 9 million barrels at $120/bl. If they really want to squeeze they can and they can even make it profitable.

NATO supplies its troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan, not Russia.

You obviously missed some news:Russia, NATO seal land transit agreement

Updated: 2008-04-05 10:03

Russia agreed on Friday to allow NATO to use Russian land to deliver non-lethal supplies to alliance troops in Afghanistan, but not troops or air transit arrangements as initially sought by NATO.

With the line of communication through Karachi and the Kyber pass endangered, any commander would hesitate to give up the Russian line.

Posted by: b | Aug 14 2008 16:55 utc | 13

In case this hasn't been linked. Paul Craig Roberts is Hot.

Posted by: beq | Aug 14 2008 16:57 utc | 14


No, I haven't read Khlebnikov's book. But I've read some stuff about him He was the American born Russian editor of Forbes. He'd written a book about the "oligarchs", and he was about to either write, or publish, a book on Berezovsky. Not much in the western media about him. I'm puzzled by that, of course ;-)k

Posted by: Thrasyboulos | Aug 14 2008 17:04 utc | 15


just when i think i'm feeling feverish along comes paul craig roberts - in all hiis blessed fury - to think this old reagite goes much further than the spokepeople of the 'left' - he's been so resolute in his opposition to bush & this article is certainly amongst his best & clearest

nothing like a conservative who's been mugged by reality

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 14 2008 17:12 utc | 16


were you aware of the - shut up, bush editiorial in pravda - perhaps some of their writers visit here now & then

more menace today by rice & gates but it was interesting to note that the army fellow besides gates - sd very clearly that the russians had retreated to positions from where they could move back, surely - offering a counterpoint to the hysteria of gates - tho it seems gates was clear about the impossibility of 'zrmed force'

we shall see - the empire like its predecessor mad king leopold of belgium are quite capable or even more reckless adventures

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 14 2008 17:18 utc | 17

again we witness aljazeera's taking its orders from washington - their coverage differs only in details from cnn. again & again we witness melodrama even when they are contradicted by the facts they are showing before our eyes

tired beyond belief by their incessant ignomoniy

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 14 2008 17:28 utc | 18

Ok the pressure has started. Russia WILL pressure back. More UN sanctions on Iran - forget it. US, Poland agree to missile defense deal

WARSAW, Poland - The Polish prime minister says that Poland and the United States have reached an agreement that will see a battery of American missiles established inside Poland, a plan that has infuriated Russia and raised the specter of an escalation of tension with the country.

Posted by: b | Aug 14 2008 17:53 utc | 19

You'll not read this in the 'western' press: Russian troops down Georgian drone over S. Ossetia

MOSCOW, August 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russian peacekeepers shot down a Georgian unmanned reconnaissance plane over the capital of breakaway South Ossetia on Wednesday, a Defense Ministry official said.

"Despite Georgia's assurances that it would end military action, a Georgian unmanned drone was detected over Tskhinvali on Wednesday. ... Russian peacekeepers shot it down," the official said.

The spokesman said the drone was downed around 17:30 [13:30 GMT] and was the second reconnaissance aircraft to be shot down over the region since last night.

So why are the Georgians (or more likely, the Israeli drone technicians) still flying drones over Tskhinvali?

Posted by: b | Aug 14 2008 17:55 utc | 20

ignominy, surely

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 14 2008 18:00 utc | 21

@ b in 19.

I suppose that was going to happen eventually anyway, though I guess the war has sped up the pace.

But I mean to ask; how will this (U.S. Eastern European relations) be viewed in Germany/France, etc? Do you see Western Europe drifting away from NATO to be replaced by New Europe? I have always believed America prefers alliances with dependent nations, not independent ones. Poland, Czeck Republic, Bulgaria fit that mold (somewhat) better that Germany or France.

Posted by: Lysander | Aug 14 2008 18:51 utc | 22

the u s empire prefers subservient nations, completely subservient - in terms of the east they learnt all their lessons from reinhard heydrich & lidice

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 14 2008 19:00 utc | 23

@r bob vega

russia holds mainly agency debt (fannie, freddie). are you aware this week freddie sold debt and paid 120bps over treasuries whereas last year the spread was only 60bps? this comes after the full and faith government guarantee, right? foreign central banks need only to hold off purchases, no need to sell anything.

Posted by: master of none | Aug 14 2008 19:25 utc | 24


your Paul Craig Roberts link makes an overlooked point in discussing the recent conflict: What is the real justificiation for the continued existence (and expansion) of NATO?

It was created as a counterweight to the Warsaw Pact, which in the meantime has gone the way of the dodo.

If there is a need for a political/military alliance in Western/Central Europe, then can the nations involved not found a new one that is not just an extension of US hegemony, and one that does not raise Russia's hackles?

Posted by: ralphieboy | Aug 14 2008 20:20 utc | 25

Those are some harsh concessions. Maybe it would have been better the 'west' would have agreed to the U.N. resolution Russia asked for in the first place?

Rice offering Georgia imperfect peace plan

PARIS - Choosing expediency over principle, the United States and its allies are pushing Georgia's pro-Western government to accept major concessions in a cease-fire with Russia.
The draft document also does not commit Russia to respecting Georgia's "territorial integrity" but rather refers to Georgian "independence" and "sovereignty," meaning Moscow does not necessarily accept that South Ossetia and another disputed region, Abkhazia, are Georgian.
If agreed, the cease-fire would allow the Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia to stay and henceforth be permitted to patrol in a strip up to 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) outside the area, the U.S. officials said.
Russian patrols outside South Ossetia proper would stop once a new international peacekeeping and monitoring force is in place, one U.S. official said, adding that the Russians would not be allowed to use the 6.2-mile band "to impede legitimate Georgian movement."

However, the Russians' rules of engagement in the band have not been determined and it was not clear when a new international force could be raised to monitor the situation and keep the peace.

The cease-fire also would allow Russian peacekeepers to remain in Abkhazia, the second, and larger, disputed province. Those forces would not be given the expanded patrol rights, officials said.

Posted by: b | Aug 15 2008 8:49 utc | 26

What would have been welcomed as peace almost anywhere else looked to Americans like an

enemy shortage.

Posted by: denk | Aug 15 2008 9:07 utc | 27

Gruesome warpics form South Ossetia

Posted by: b | Aug 15 2008 11:20 utc | 28

You can shut down most wells

You can shut down ALL wells, and in every case you'll reduce the well's yield PERMANENTLY (due to wellbore damage). This is why storm related shut ins impact production years later.

Plus there's a real limit on the amount of crude storage available to russia. they can't "use oil as a weapon" any more than the US could use a boycott as a weapon.

Posted by: R. Bob vega | Aug 15 2008 13:19 utc | 29

this comes after the full and faith government guarantee, right?

WRONG GSEs arent treasuries. they have no formal government guarantee, or there wouldn't be ANY spread to treasuries at all (duh!)

Posted by: r. bob vega | Aug 15 2008 13:22 utc | 30

How to press Russia?

Discord With Russia a Worry for NASA

Because the American fleet of space shuttles will be retired in 2010 and the United States won't have a replacement ready until at least 2015, NASA wants to negotiate a contract this year to have Russia's Soyuz spacecraft transport all astronauts traveling to and from the station during the gap.

But first, Congress has to pass a waiver to a 2000 law forbidding government contracts with nations that help Iran and North Korea with their nuclear programs, as Russia has done. Even before the Georgia incursion, the bill faced strong opposition, and key members said this week that the chances of granting a waiver now are slim.

So no more Americans in space?

Posted by: b | Aug 15 2008 16:03 utc | 31

The Bushies have finished off our manned space projects; this cutoff of access to Soyuz is just the icing on the cake. Talk years ago about return to the Moon and missions to Mars were just another instance of the monkey showing his rump.

Posted by: Copeland | Aug 15 2008 16:20 utc | 32

re the warpics, about a third of the way down there is a photo of a dead soldier who appears to be black. I never heard of black caucasians so this guy must have been an import. The canteens he is wearing look exactly like the ones use by the US military as does the flack jacket but I can't be sure.

I wish these pictures would be in the newspapers and on the teevee. a lot of young guys like to think that war is a wonderful exciting thing that makes your dick hard. maybe some of these pictures might sober them up.

Posted by: dan of steele | Aug 15 2008 18:41 utc | 33

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