Tuesday, July 07, 2009
There was a time when Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin could shape the world in one meeting. Those days are over. The world is more complex today.A comment I made last week (and published over the weekend):
The president doesn't have the freedom that an FDR or a Churchill had in the middle of World War II to be able to do these sweeping kinds of arrangements about geopolitical divisions of influence.
Obama has not taken his own point. What he appears to think is that it is within his power to have a kind of spheres of influence agreement, in which the whole of Georgia and the Ukraine are included in an American sphere of influence, and Russia has no influence whatsoever outside its territorial borders.
Moreover, he seems to think that he can achieve this, while securing Russian cooperation on issues of far greater concern to Americans than to Russians -- in particular, preventing Iran acquiring the kind of nuclear capabilities which mean a subsequent 'breakout' and acquisition of a weapons capability cannot be prevented.
Such delusions of omnipotence would never have been held by Roosevelt -- or indeed Churchill.
As a result of assuming that he can get his way on everything, Obama is likely to end up in blind alleys on issues which really matter to the U.S.
It is clearly in the interests of the U.S. to reduce the dependence of Europe on supplies of hydrocarbons controlled by Russia. So far however the main achievements of the strategy to find routes bypassing Russia appear to be 1. a failed attempt by Georgia to reintegrate the breakaway regions by force, which has put paid to hopes for their reintegration for the foreseeable future, and 2. the encouragement of serious moves to reorientate oil and gas flows in Eurasia from the West to the East.
As you yourself wrote two months ago:
'European colleagues were assuring me only a few short years ago that Russia was "locked in" to dependence on Western European energy markets; perhaps that confidence is not as sure today.'
Meanwhile, Obama is trying to curb Iran's nuclear programme, without a viable military option. The route he is going down is highly likely to leave the U.S. with a choice between a resort to war even more catastrophic than the resort to war against Iraq, and being seen as a paper tiger. If it is out of the question to contemplate any significant concessions to Russia to get support on Iran, so be it. But it will be the U.S. which suffers -- and Israel.
What makes all this yet sillier, moreover, is that the common Western image of plucky democratic Georgia being attacked by brutal imperialist authoritarian Russia has turned out to have, to put it rather mildly, rather scant relation to reality. His responsibility for starting last August's war is now clear.
And as to the notion that Saakashvili represents 'good governance', the evidence of his complicity in an attempt to steal the estate of his great political rival, the Georgian oligarch Arkadi 'Badri' Patarkatsishvili is unambiguous.
(On this, see two posts my Italian collaborator and I have put up on the European Tribune site -- see http://www.eurotrib.com/user/uid:1857/diary.)
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