February 19, 2009 |  22 comments |  Print this Article  Your Opinion  

Andreas  Umland

NATO-Russia War: A Possible Scenario

Andreas Umland: In Russia, a virulent form of anti-Americanism is becoming a constituent part of public opinion and foreign policy thinking. Should the current dominant trend in political discourse continue, in the future the world may witness more than a new cold war.

A regularly employed analyst runs a certain risk when publicly speaking about the possibility of humanity being destroyed in the foreseeable future. "Professional myopia" or "immaturity in judgment" may be among the less denigrating - "unprofessional hysteria" or "irresponsible conduct" the more damning - reactions by colleagues. However, a plain extrapolation of recent political developments in Russia into the future should lead one to regard outright war with NATO as a still improbable, yet nonetheless possible scenario. It is not unlikely that Russian public discourse will, during the coming years, continue to move in the same direction in which it has been evolving since 2000. In such a scenario, what is in store for the world is not only a new "cold" but also possibly a "hot" and perhaps even nuclear war.

This assessment sounds not only apocalyptic but also "unmodern," if not anachronistic. Aren't the real challenges of the 21st century global warming, financial regulation, the North-South divide, international migration etc.? Isn't that enough to worry about, and should we really be distracting ourselves from solving these real problems? Hasn't the age of East-West confrontation been over for several years now? Do we really want to go back to the nightmarish visions of the horrible 20th century? A sober look at Russia suggests that we better do just that: prudence may decrease the probability that a worst-case scenario ever materializes.

Such a scenario has become feasible again as Russian public opinion and elite discourse have - until August 2008, largely unnoticed in the West - made a fundamental shift, during the last years. The 1990s began with Russia's enthusiastic embrace of the Western value system and partnership; they ended with Russian scepticism and bitterness towards the West. This was less the result of NATO's expansion or bombing of Yugoslavia per se than an outcome of Moscow's peculiar interpretation of these actions.

In the early 1990s, Yeltsin failed to remove many of the Soviet Union's elites from their positions of power and influence. This gave the ancien régime's representatives an opportunity to impregnate post-Soviet political discourse with a reformulated, yet again fundamentally dualistic, world-view in which Russia and the US remain arch enemies fighting not only for control of the former Russian empire, but also deciding the future fate of humanity.

Initially marginal interpretations such as these were already making inroads into Russian mainstream discourse in the 1990s. With the beginning of Vladimir Putin's rise in 1999, however, they started to slowly but steadily move into the political center. Whereas Europe's recent scepticism towards the US has been, in many cases, an anti-Bushism, the Russian aversion towards America and NATO goes deeper. Today, the idea that the Western (or at least Anglo-Saxon) political leaders are virulently Russo-phobic is commonplace on TV talks show and in academic conferences. That events like the Orange Revolution in Ukraine or Georgian attack on South Ossetia were fundamentally inspired, if not directly organized by the CIA is, in Russia today, a truism. That the CIA or another Western secret service is behind 9/11 or the Beslan tragedy are respected assessments frequently discussed in mainstream Moscow mass media. That the current behaviour of the West and its puppets in Eastern Europe has much in common with Nazi Germany's policies is an opinion with which many Russians would readily agree.

Such collective paranoia is not only regrettable, but also dangerous. The nation that is beholden to these bizarre views still has a weapons arsenal large enough to eradicate humanity several times. Until August 2008, it appeared that Dmitry Medvedev's rise might usher in a new stage in Russian-Western relations -- a prospect that, after the Russian-Georgian war and the disciplining effect it had on the new President, has become unlikely again. Today, there is little ground for hope that the deep contamination of Russian public discourse could be reversed, or at least its further evolution be stopped, in the nearer future. Unless something fundamentally changes in Russian-Western relations, we will -- as the Russian-Georgian war illustrated -- continue to live on the brink of an armed confrontation between two nuclear super-powers.

Dr. Andreas Umland teaches at the Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Upper Bavaria and is a member of the Atlantic Community. He edits the book series "Soviet and Post-­Soviet Politics and Society" and compiles the biweekly Russian Nationalism Bulletin.

Related materials from the Atlantic Community:

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Andrey  Chubyk

February 19, 2009

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Dear Mr. Umland,

Russia doesn't need to confrontate with nuclear weapons and armed forces. It receives step by step victories of another kind - economical. It is a war providing with Energy weapon – complex system of use energy and infrastructure potentials of one country (corporation) with the aim to deliver economical destruction to a potential enemy and/or to get these or other preferences from him and/or cessions political, economical and another character.

It should be remembered, that Energy Strategy of Russia officially proclaimed the goal «to strengthen its presense on internal energy markets of foreign states, joint ownership over distribution network of energy sources and objects of energy infrastructure in these countries».

So Russia will not destroy economics of other countries directly, but for sure take control over their development, what include also possibilities for political pressure and influence.

The best possibilities are provided by so-called Infrastructural weapon – systematic use of energy infrastructure by one country (corporation) with the aim of energy flows’ reorientation to bypass another country for economical or political pressure and receipt of some preferences and cessions. Examples - Nord Stream and South Stream, where everything will depends of Russia because of lack storage facilities.

Those kinds of weaon are already in use and will be used by Russia in the future as prime tools to achieve desired goals.

 
Donald  Stadler

February 19, 2009

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I would like to dismiss Dr. Umland's thesis out of hand but cannot. Normally one coud assert that Russia should not be a threat to the countries comprising NATO, but in two respects NATO is no longer what it once was.

A fissure has appeared in the midst of NATO, and the Russians are not stupid - they see it as well as anyone else can. Central Europe no longer wishes to defend itself, that is the first major change to NATO. It now relies upon increasingly despised allies such as the US and the UK to provide the defense which it refuses to do any longer.

That brings me to the second NATO problem, the political fissure within NATO. Central Europe not only wishes to 'study war no more', it increasingly despises those of it's allies who do. Not surprisingly many in the US no longer see the point of defending countries who not only refuse to show adequate effort at self-defense, but publically excoriate those who do. As if being defended by an alliance of others whom you often despise is some kind of natural human right!

Very little attention has been paid to making NATO a rewarding association for the allies doing the heavy lifting, and that must change soon or NATO will be no more than a hollow alliance. Europeans must ask themselves what support thay have given to the US and Canada, and whether that support is enough for their allies to consider sacrificing a generation of their young for Europe.
 
Michael j Barry

February 19, 2009

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Historically if you look at the US Expansion and occupation of countries around the world over the last 60 years. Very few are now free of their occupation. In Europe only France managed to remove American bases. Countries like Poland after nearly twenty years of independence are know being invaded by American armed forces with bases of occupation planed to be built in the next couple of years. I see little difference between US forces and Nato in the sense that Nato is an extension of American Policy. Run by pro American pro Military Americans and Europeans and not directly accountable to the peoples of Europe. It has stepped beyond its original mandate of being a defence force and become a force of invasion and occupation (Afghanistan, Balkans etc.. ).
I Would love to know the types of threats the US used with Germany to force it into participating in the invasion of Afghanistan. Since prior to this the German constitution forbade invasion of foreign countries. Perhaps something along the lines of the dialogues used with Pakistan ("We will bomb you back into the dark ages" if you don't allow us to use your country in the pursuit of our goals).
Andrey Chubyk's points are interesting in the sense that American companies and Government have been doing this sort of thing for years.
So perhaps the question's that should be asked is can today's politicians reign in the military. After over 60 years of military occupation of Germany is it not now time to start phasing out US and British military bases perhaps over ten to thirty years so that the areas that have become economically dependant can readjust there economies to peacetime. Perhaps turning the bases into International Universities.
 
Sonja  Davidovic

February 19, 2009

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I can assure you that the general tone in Washington D.C. has not been very Russia-friendly either. Some people might find it useful to invest time in figuring out who started first, but we will be better served if we tried to come up with ideas on how to end this spiral of mutual accusations and resentment.

As Andreas rightly points out the real global challenges of the 21st century require us to intensify our cooperation efforts. A focus on the Eurasian continent makes this necessity all too obvious. We might have points of disagreement with Russia such as the need of diversifying Europe's gas supplies, NATO enlargement or the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Yet it is important to understand that there is nothing wrong about disagreements. On the contrary, it is disagreement and constructive criticism that can help us widen our horizons and develop mutually beneficial and sustainable terms of cohabitation and cooperation. If there was no disagreement and contention, there would be no need for parliaments, courts, universities, scholarly research, innovation and progress. In fact, the democratic order would cease to exist.

Yet before directing the attention on the points of disagreement, we should identify common positions or the least common denominator on issues of mutual relevance such as the missile defense shield, nuclear non-proliferation and the fight against terrorism. And there is no better time than now for engaging in that kind of constructive and civilized dialogue. It is critical that we seize the positive momentum induced by the Obama administration to create a turning point in the strained relations between Russia and the West.

The great power can prove its greatness by reaching out to is adversaries and enemies, by listening and engaging in a dialogue among equal partners. It looks to me as if President Obama and the members of his cabinet including U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates (http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-02-19-voa8.cfm) have more optimism and hope than the civil society members debating on this platform - people who are supposed to fill official policies with life. This is far more regrettable than anything else.

It is only through cooperation and engagement that the contaminated public discourse can be reversed. Or do you think that the Russian public opinion would continue its same harsh criticism if the US became a partner in joint efforts to combat terrorism, climate change or the spread of nuclear weapons? I believe that reaching out to adversaries is a strategy worth pursuing. Just yesterday Medvedev acknowledged “mistakes in Russia's energy policies” and “admitted the need of a stronger dialogue with important partners such as the U.S. and Europe” (http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/ausland/europa/Medwedew-raeumt-Fehler-i...)

I thoroughly disagree with the assumption that there is deep-rooted hatred against America in the Russian society. If this was the case, how come the US is by far the most favorite destination of Russian immigrants as the Swiss Tagesanzeiger reports on February 15th? It is not hatred against America that drives Russian public opinion and official policies, it is the feeling of inferiority, the feeling of being excluded from important foreign policy decisions, especially with regard to the design of a European security structure. Russia wants to be taken seriously, so it does everything possible to get the West's attention.

America has shown its greatness by electing a man who pledged to finally start taking its friends and foes seriously. So let us not complain and meet trouble halfway, but let us figure out how we can contribute.
 
Unregistered User

February 20, 2009

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Research Paper on Sources of Anti-Western sentiments among Kyrgyz students
Carole van Eyll on December 3, 2008 - 6:25pm.

EXTRACT
Since Kyrgyzstan has become a home of two competing airbases – of USA and of Russia – it has a potential to burst a geopolitical debates and quickly turn into a dangerous hotspot of the Earth. In fact, it is already a home of Islamic extremism, illicit drags from Afghanistan, and political instabilities. It has always been the clashing place of the West and the East - from the time of Alexander the Great, Nestorians, Muhammad, China, Russia, and now America. I admit that globalization may stop here due to differing values of the biggest gamers, which may clash with each their soon. At the same time, I can see that many guiding decisions depend on Central Asians too. Take Uzbekistan, which had closed the American air base a few years ago. This may happen in Kyrgyzstan.
Therefore, many things depend on attitudes of Central Asians towards democracy and the West. And, attitudes need to be investigated and directed towards democracy. Unfortunately, this job is not being done sufficiently among young Kyrgyz students, whose worldviews today are deeply different than those of 15 years ago. As a professor I can say, that in comparison with my generation, today's students are much more religious, non tolerant towards freedom of choice of religion, and anti-western, especially anti-American.

Anti-American moods in Kyrgyzstan are mostly prompted by partial mass media and state policy. The main participants of the research are KSU students. As the research shows, students of Kyrgyzstan rather support pro-Russian views and trust Russia much more than the U.S. Domination of anti-western moods in Kyrgyzstan may be caused by limited access to alternative sources of information, as few speak and understand English. However, despite generally negative attitude to the West, most of the respondents would like to study or live in the U.S. or Europe.

Askarbek Mambetaliev

URL: http://eurodialogue.org/node/25
----
NATO presence crucial for Kyrgyzstan to prevent fascist regimes in Central Asia
17/11-2008 10:44, Bishkek – News Agency “24.kg”, By Daniyar KARIMOV

“Taking into consideration the fact that Central Asia is highly threatened by possible
spread of fascist regimes, NATO and the U.S. presence in Central Asia is crucial, as it
is only them who remain to be the activists for the liberal values and human rights
nowadays, “Askarbek Mambetaliev, a Kyrgyz political scientist said to the Open.kg.

“Freedom - is choice and alternatives. That is why every country’s policy should be
multivetor. Winston Churchill said ones, “England has neither everlasting friends nor
everlasting enemies, but has eternal interests,” Mambetaliev said.

“The state is not a human being who has to be loyal to somebody. All wise states in
the world run a multivetor policy. Look for example at the United States of America:
they are friends with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait because of oil, with Israel and Europe -
because of spiritual closeness, with Japan and South Korea- because of politics, with
Kyrgyzstan - because of democracy and stability. Take the policy of any developed state,
which works for its nation - all of them are multivector. Even Russia, which hosts a lot
of NATO programs and educational projects of Europe and the U.S.,” Mambetaliev said.

“In 1990s it was Russia’s initiative to “break up” with Kyrgyzstan. Russian authorities
themselves cooperate with the West, but when our politicians want to do the same, they
become jealous and start promoting anti-West moods. Kyrgyzstan should focus on the economic interests. The borders for the economy and commerce are transparent, only if they are kept open,” the political scientist added.

“For the sake of historical relationships Russia could have offered Kyrgyzstan a good
example of building a new society, good for everybody. Before I considered help only as
financial aspect, but now I believe that poverty is not a flaw. The worse evil is the
violence of the satisfied. For example, the money of the World Bank, UN and other donors did not do well for the Kyrgyz nation. On the contrary, they helped to raise the fascistic dictators, who want to take away the basic human freedoms – to believe and talk. That is why the whole world has to work on the democratization of Russia, so that Kyrgyzstan would have a secure and reliable neighbor, who respects good values,” Mambetaliev concluded.

URL: http://eng.24.kg/community/2008/11/17/6499.html
 
Goran  Radakovic

February 20, 2009

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Mr Umland,

I think that the assessment of the state of Russian affairs is exaggerated as far as it is based on assumptions that do not reflect Russia of the 21th century.

I think that Russia, it its post-Soviet era, has gone through some very difficult periods. The economic reforms, introduced in early 1990's, have dramatically altered Russia's former position as a superpower, not to say that these economic changes have plunged Russia into one of the deepest crisis in the second part of the 20th century. Along with the "enthusiastic embrace of the Western value system and partnership'", came a terrible economic/existential crisis that the Russian socity endured. The Russian Government to a large extent lost control of its economic resources (through dubious privatisation) and the possibility to rebuild a society through a rearrangment of its economic and budgetory capabilities. As well as the economic crisis, the political crisis that marred the Russian society had permanently established instability and weakness into the core of the Russian state. An internally weak Russia was not able to find a formula that would break with the Soviet past on the one hand, and allow Russia to become a strong capitalist state on the other.

Only recently has Russia been able to create a system that attracts significant foreign investment, improve its trade balance and invest internationally. That has been to a large extent a consequence of the Putin Government. Maybe Putin's 'managed democracy' was the best possible solution for Russia given the circumpstances.

I agree with Sonja's argument that more international cooperation is needed, and I think that the issues of national interest for Russia are always going to be difficult to handle because they often collide with other major powers' interests.
 
Ilyas M. Mohsin

February 20, 2009

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Mr.Umland has given a qualified assessment of the objective realities whereby he indictaes that a nuclear war is 'possible' between Russia/EU.
While nody would, generally, disagree with Sonja' paradigm, the fact remains that some tension has built up in the concerned zone. The causes thereof may be debatable. To my mind, the following factors figure heavily in defining the prevailing situation. First, George W' Administartion alienated even allies/well-wishers of US. It destroyed US' power/credibility/image at the Global level besides ruining its own envied democracy. Surely Gitmo, Abu Ghuraib, Bagram, European unlawful prisons, The Patriot Act and Killing of about 2 million people in the countries under-occupation besides their destruction can't win goodwill among humans. Second, many people in Asia also tend to believe that 9/11 was stage-managed by the neo-cons to embark on their 'dream' of 'The American Century'. Many also believe that empire-complex in respect of Afghanistan/Iraq etc is the outcome of the lust for oil and particularly the the Caspian Resources which would arouse hostility in Russia, Iran etc. Third as the US position slumped comprehensively, Russia made great gains out of energy supplies which gave it new confidence. Four, Europe' dependence on Russian energy has, for the time being, made the latter' cooperation indispensable wherein US can't help. The Europeans know which side their Gas-tap opens in biting cold and in the absence of cold war etc they are more worried about maintaining normal supplies to their people
since none of them can easily occupy energy-rich countries on their own.
Fifth, Rusians may like to study in US and also migrate if possible but that, generally, would not make Russia like Britain. The Afghan war which cost Russia the Soviet Empire ended only 20 years ago and some hostility is bound to remain despite all diplomatic posturing.
I recently attended a Conference in Sweden and found the Russian delegation very conscious of maintaining an independent stance. The missile defence, expansion of NATO, the Georgian melodrama would keep the pot boiling; more so when Russian economy is recovering somewhat while the US is down in the dumps.
 
Unregistered User

February 20, 2009

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Still want to finish what your ancestors with the help of their Ukranian SS assistants failed to do in 1941-1943? Eh?
The idea of strong, sovereign, independent Russia robs you of sleep?
Still think, that the best possible way for the development of democracy in Russia is through the foreign occupation and installment of Saakashvili-type puppet gevernment?
Still claim that that the "coloured revolutions" in Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia were inspired by the people wish to live in democracy and not by the US Embassies?

Well you have to learn really a lot than and Taras Shevchenko University is not the best school for that.

Best regards,
Alexandr Nikoforov
 
Unregistered User

February 21, 2009

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My opinion regarding america is that it was is and probably will continue to beaTyrante nation
as many of us know their settlers started killing millions of Natives of this Land then they Plundered and control central and South America depriving their people of any rights and
subjecting them to absolute poverty,and doing about the same across the entire world.
The leaders of this brute nation always needed and depended on their superior guns to do
the reasoning for them and in the name of freedom and democracy went through the World
preaching and Imposing democracy by Plundering Oppressing and Enslaving its inhabitants.
Today as in the past they continue with their hegemony but with a democratic alliance I choose
to call ZIONNATO Imperial Alliance and together plane to take over the World and become
the only Masters of it and the Masters of Humanity.This Imperial Nato Alliance continues
not because is needed but because their Fascist Masters want to take over Russia and all
surrounding Nations in order to Exploit Oppress Humiliate and Enslave all its People and the rest of Humanity.I know there are plenty of those that agree with the Fascist Propaganda and believing in it go on in life repeating daily the learned lessons. But there are also those that
seek the thrue find it and defend it.I hope and wish as in the past Russia will be able to deal
with the Imposed treats and if needed use any available means to stop any Adventure by this
Arrogant Imperial Alliance that are the true TERROR OF HUMANITY

Best Regards
Manuel
 
Member deleted

February 22, 2009

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Mr. Umland makes a qualified yet exaggerated assessment of the US-Russian relations. The notion that Russia is increasingly becoming aggressive is particularly premature yet pernicious, since it has been gaining traction in the western media since the war in South Ossetia of August 2008. If Mr. Umland's rhetoric are accepted at face value, and allowed to inform foreign policy, it may only hasten the so-called "war scenario" that may not necessarily hold true. This pessimistic evaluation of the two countries' future prospects is not as bleak as it may sound. He is right, possibility does not equal probability. But, it is important to note that the gap between the two remains to be immense, and that the path from one step to the other is not a straight one either. Tensions are simply just that -- and Mr. Umland seems to have forgotten to make the caveat that there are ways to exploit the gap between probability and possibility such that the future outcome of US-Russian insecurities can be made positive.

There is no denying that Russia is trying to regain ground and that there are genuine sources of agitation between the two - both old and new. But it does not necessarily mean that they are catalysts for a major war to come. This is because it disregards two things: the role played by the European Union bloc in the assessing the strategic equilibrium as well as a nuanced characterization of Russian elite's relationship with ordinary people.

First of all, it has become impossible to simply talk about the relationship between US and Russia without bringing into the picture the role that the European bloc has played so far in the past years. Russia and Europe have been reluctant partners - but partners nonetheless. Let us take for instance the issue of energy dependency. According to the European Commission External Relations, EU's effort to integrate Russia into the global trading system has resulted in the creation of a strategically critical trade relationship (¤83 billion) . The European Union remains to be Russia's most important trading partner (40% of its trade) European Commission External Relations Website .

But beyond trade, this pattern of complementarity is also evident in life style services that Europe offers to Russian middle class. This "limited" complementarity between the two has resulted to integration short of absorption of Russia in certain EU institutions (i.e. the European Court of Human Rights that made the country abolish its death penalty). As a concerned neighbor, EU is has a unique platform to offer in dampening to some extent the tone of agitation echoing between Washington and Kremlin. Sonja's recommendation that international cooperation is all the more a necessary and appealing strategy is critical at this stage.

Secondly, there seems to be a mis-characterization of the actual relationship between the Russian political elite and ordinary Russians. Mr. Umland seems to be concerned that because there is growing support for Putin's economic "successes" and open defiance of Bush's strident unilateralism, that anti-western sentiments have deeply contaminated public opinion. This is however not quite accurate. It may come as a shock to you that alot of ordinary Russians do not necessarily have strong political views, or ascribe to one party or another. Many refuse to even talk about politics. Their TVs are not all the time glued on stations that cover World News but often glued to entertainment networks. The government may own certain media outlet but so many other kinds of newspapers exists out there that has almost no mention of domestic or international politics but of TV programming and theater schedules –which need not any government intervention. The so-called stabilization that Putin brought is indeed self-reassuring to many but not enough to propel the ordinary citizens to be political activists. It just gives them more room to go about their immediate and everyday needs. The feedback loop between elite perceptions and the masses is still questionable. Therefore, what comes out of the mouth of political elites is not necessarily an echo of the public opinion. There may be some, of course, but it certainly does not amount to "collective paranoia". "Contamination" is not the word to describe public discourse, if ever such a thing exists in Russia today, but rather, "amorphous".



 
Florian  Kuhne

February 23, 2009

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Mr. Umland,

I like your analysis as far as you coin the situation in Russia as tensed concerning foreign powers. But I have to make two points.

First, how much do you think the popular opinion is made up by Kremlin-influenced newspapers, tv-shows or else? I just cannot imagine that the majority of the Russians, who live under bad and every day getting worse conditions, really has got the time or the desire to think about the "bad foreigners" and how they can be fought, especially in the wide Russian hinterland. I mean, how deeply are "Western" analysts and the Russian population manipulated by the Kremlin and their Public Relations? Isnt there a development over the past years that the Russian leadership tries to present itself as strong and sometimes battlesome? Maybe this development influences the "normal guy" in Russia and it is true that we witness more and more xenophobic attacks, but is the political atmosphere as bad as near to emotional outbreak of a great part of the population?

The second point goes one step further: As far as I got the message of your text, you say that this atmosphere of tension and maybe "falsely attacked" feelings may lead to a new war. I can hardly follow that argument. Maybe this is the first step of a broad effort to try to bring back Russia in the elite of the International Community and this effort accepts being dragged into conflicts and wars, but I can not see a connection between this degree of the Russian public opinion and its will to carry out a war.

Thats what I wanted to say except one more point: Mr Nikofirov: Be very careful with statements like yours, its disgusting to accuse someone of sharing the point of the few die-hard Nazis.
 
Marek  Swierczynski

February 23, 2009

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Technically a short armed confrontation of low intensity between Russia and a NATO-country (because I do not think that article 5 clause would be applied) is something that may happen. But politically it is hard to imagine, as Russia has effective alternative means to crush any adversary in her sphere of influence (roughly covering the former Soviet Union and satellite countries) – for example by using energy supplies as a weapon (as demonstrated earlier this year). Strategically, for Russia it is much better to “make friends” with the bulk of the EU, ignore the smaller Russophobes or appease the bigger ones with matters of no real importance, and slowly but surely gain ground in places like Brussels and Strasbourg, which is already happening. Any military incident provoked by Russia and involving a NATO or EU member would turn this strategy into ruins, and the guys at the Kremlin are much too wise to allow that to happen. Russia knows well that in 50 or 100 years time it could only face China in alliance or union with the West. The West is a bit luckier, as it has a buffer-zone called Russia, the question is whether it will be used that way.

I do agree that Mr Nikiforov should be banned from this forum. A 3-stage warning system may help - the third insultive comment would be the last and a profile of such user should be deleted.
 
Unregistered User

February 23, 2009

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Whu should I be banned from the forum? For telling the truth? For explaining, why Mr.Umland says what he says? I have a test. Are you - Mr.Umland, Mr.Swierczynski and Ms.Knox - redy to raise a toast for 'great Russin people"? If ready, I am withdrawing my comments.

Best regards,

 
Marek  Swierczynski

February 23, 2009

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I'd gladly raised a glass for any great nation in the world, Russians including, but only when accompanied by decent people and over a decent debate. Not sure, you've withstood that test, dear Mr Nikiforov or Sasha if you please... Red wine in my glass to you!
 
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February 24, 2009

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What makes me an indecent person? A tendency to tell the truth without the "norms" of political correctness? An urge to demask the person, who advocates launching a war against my country? Potato vodka in my glass for you!
 
Ilyas M. Mohsin

February 25, 2009

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It is best to stay objective as far as possible. A forum like this would lose its status if comments are too emotional or personalised despite some provocative insinuations.
 
Andreas  Umland

February 25, 2009

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Dear colleagues at "Atlantic Community,"

Many thanks for your kind attention and valuable comments. A few short replies:

1. The article's version published here is an abridged an somewhat edited text with which I am not entirely happy. The full version can be found here: http://acus.org/new_atlanticist/nato-russia-war-scenario . A slightly cut Russian version was just published here: http://glavred.info/archive/2009/02/23/182544-1.html . For further discussion of the article see: http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/2009-19-49.cfm .

2. Mr. Nikiforov's comments like Mr. Akishkin's texts on "Atlantic Community" before are valuable in that they illustrates the point of my article: Western and Russian public opinion on crucial issues in the assessment of the contemporary world have drifted so far apart that a new Cold War seems possible. (Of course, such a new Cold War would be different from the classical one, but, perhaps, not less dangerous. One may also add that the concept of "cold war" is far older than the confrontation of 1945-1987, and goes back to ancient times.)

3. The main problem that I seem to have in communicating, in the West, my point about the viciousness of anti-Westernism in today Russia is, apparently, that many Western international affairs analysts do not know Russian or/and do not watch Russian state-controlled TV. They, perhaps, watch only the English-language "Russia Today" channel the news reporting and analysis of which is different, in tone, style and substance, from the massive political propaganda transmitted around the clock by the major Russian TV channels ORT and RTR. Many Westerners tend to mainly communicate with the doubtlessly existing pro-Western sections of Russia's elite. They pay inordinate attention to such outlets as "Novaia gazeta" or "Ekho Mosky" that reach an only limited audience, Russia. As a result, these observers have – such is my impression – no full picture of what is today happening in Russian mass media, on a daily basis. For years now, the Western and especially the US political as well as intellectual elites have been portrayed by Russian journalists, pseudo-scholars, pundits etc. as a bunch of scoundrels whose every word needs to be understood as a purposeful lie, and whose only craving is to destroy, rip apart, or, at least, humiliate Russia. (Would you agree, Mr. Nikiforov?). I suspect, therefore, that many of my critics would – after two weeks of watching Russian news and political shows at ORT and RTR – more or less agree with my worries about the future of Russian-Western relations.

4. International wars do not necessarily, like in the case of World War II, happen because one or several countries expressly want to go to war, at the outset. As the pre-history of the Crimean War of 1853-1856 (once described as the first "modern" conflict) illustrates, wars can also come about because of an escalation of tensions between countries that, originally, were not planning to fight each other. I am afraid that the beautiful peninsula of Crimea could, in the near future, again become the subject of such an escalation between Russia and the West (as well as, of course, Ukraine). For the background, see for instance the publications of Taras Kuzio on this issue, in his book on Crimea (http://www.amazon.com/Ukraine-Triangle-Conflict-Post-Soviet-Politic... ) and recent analysis for "Jane's Intelligence Review" at http://www.lucorg.com/luc/news.php?id=3501&newlang=eng&from=0&query= .

5. Obviously, my speculation about World War III was meant to be a provocation. As I see it, I have, however, merely spoken out aloud what many or, at least, some Russia-watchers who spare the time to watch Russian TV may have been thinking too, for some time now. As Nikolai Berdiaev once wrote, the prediction of a "prophet" (which is, of course, not a term I would like to be associated with) does not necessarily have to come true – it only warns about a possible future.

6. Contrary to the impression that some readers may have gotten, I think NATO bears some responsibility for the current problems, in Russian-Western relations. I have outlined my assessment of the decision to preserve and expand NATO a few years ago in German in a review article available at: http://ku-eichstaett.academia.edu/AndreasUmland/Papers/85678/Die-Re...
I am, obviously, also not a fan of the Bush, Jr. administration and its policies in Eastern Europe, as documented, for instance, here: http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_andreas__080403_the_pseudo_... .

7. I am not sure that the frequent economic turn in Western discussions of Russia's interest and policies – above all, of issues in her export of energy – is that helpful. Perhaps, it even reflects a Eurocentric, economistic bias in these commentators' view of the world. My impression during the last conflicts that Russia had with Ukraine, Georgia and other countries is that purely commercial considerations play an only limited role in the formation and conduct of Moscow's international behaviour. During the last stand-off with Ukraine, Russia lost apparently millions of dollars and a lot of trust in Central and Eastern Europe. For an adequate explanation for such apparently unconstructive policies, one would seem to need more than economic analysis. See, for instance, the important accounts, in "Eurasia Daily Monitor" (vol. 6, no. 10, 16 January 2008), of Roman Kupchinsky at http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=34... and of Taras Kuzio at http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=34... . My own comment on the January 2009 Russian-Ukrainian gas conflict was re-published by the "Kyiv Post" here: http://www.kyivpost.com/opinion/33264 . Something similar can be said about Russia's August 2008 Georgia adventure. See http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/75203 .

I look forward to further comments and rebuttals.
 
Andreas  Umland

February 25, 2009

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Here is a comment, in Russian, from an East Ukrainian blogger:

руховец 25/02/09 01:04 (Ukraine, Kharkiv)

Российская элита переполнена маразматическими советскими генералами,которым не дали "довоевать" с американцами и НАТО, а также бывшими партийными идеологами, которые "недоборолись" с американским империализмом. Хотя есть и добровольцы-любители типа Задорнова,его вариации на тему тупых американцев давно перешли порог приличия.Ну да бог с ними, в обозримом будущем братья-китайцы чьи-то больно горячие головы охладят. Для России единственный шанс избежать неумолимо приближающейся разборки с Китаем - это до самозабвения дружить с темы, кого действительно тупые головы в России именуют пиндосами.Российский народ мудр, у него есть замечательная пословица: "Не плюй в колодец..." Жалко,что за дурное воспитание "встающих с колен патриотов" расплачиваться придется этому мудрому народу.

http://www.glavred.com/archive/2009/02/23/182544-1.html
Tags: | Russia | anti-Americanism |
 
Donald  Stadler

February 26, 2009

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Another Crimean War, Dr. Umland? It is possible because Russia has become angry at Ukraine. But the problem is it takes two to tango. I doubt if the US would be willing to take Russia on alone in a war so far from the US, no matter what people in Europe may think.

At the same time Russia may find Urkaine a very large morsel to swallow, and the diplomatic price of a Russian conquest of Ukraine in terms of diplomatic isolation and causing other countries to draw together against the common threat may be too much to pay. I think Putin wants influence, not conquest, and he may get it after the next election in Ukraine.
 
Ilyas M. Mohsin

February 27, 2009

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Russia appears to have recovered from the nightmares haunting following the breakup of the Soviet Empire, thanks to Putin' deft handling despite his 'professional' approach. It was greatly helped by the disaster which struck the US in the last seven years in the form of a noe-con Administartion headed by a Preisdent whio did not know where Iraq was till he was obliged to visit the troops staying there as a free lunch for the Iraqis, as claimed. The havoc wreaked by George w at the Global level, as well as the US, allowed Putin to benefit vastly from the eneregy-boom. So Russia is now much better off despite despite the economic crisis the world-over.
Russia now feels confident of being able to defend its backyard and also to confront the US on missile defence etc. It is now, almost, like the US, as Matthew Arnold said, " wnadering between two worlds, one dead; the other powerless to be born".
 
Unregistered User

March 5, 2009

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Here Umland goes again -

The main problem with Herr Umland is not that he is a Russophobe (in fact he is a rabid one) but that he is a liar. One thing that he genuinely fails to grasp in his pseudoanalysis of events in the former Soviet Union and his tireless dissections of ethnic and racially motivated fantasies, is that unlike post-Soviet ethnic statelets in the Baltics or artificial “country” of Ukraine (at least how the current ethnic junta wants it to be), Russia is not an ethnic state. In that respect Russia is much closer to France or Austria, than it is to Germany never mind expressly ethnic entities on the map like Croatia. Let’s put it that way – a German, Pole, Frenchman, Little Russian or Finn by ancestry can easily be Russian but someone who is Russian (no matter what ethnicity) can never hope to be proper Latvian (at least as the concept of nationality evolved in that post-Soviet statelet). This is the cause of philosophical and existential chasm between Russia and newly emerged nationalist ethnic entities on its periphery. Russia finds itself much closer (spiritually and otherwise) to France or Italy than to some of the new ethnic and tribal statelets in its historic neighborhood (and in some cases on its own historic territory). This could have been an honest mistake on the part of crypto-Nazi Umland and as any mistake is excusable.

What is inexcusable is the lie that he put forth that supposedly Russian media and public are anti-Western (whatever that means. Russia is certainly no less Western, in relation to Christendom versus other parts of the world than is Germany). True, modern Russian media and public have a propensity to exhibit some anti-American and anti-British attitudes for obvious and explainable reasons but Russians also tend to be extremely pro-Western (by West I mean Western Europe). In fact according to the latest opinion polls (http://www.treli.ru/newstext.mhtml?Part=1&PubID=16990&Page=0, http://www.newsru.com/russia/30aug2007/opros.html) Russians ranked Germany ahead of Belarus in terms of friendliness and cultural affinity. Considering two world wars, genocide and a host despicable crimes committed by Germany against Russia in this century alone the opinion poll represents a case of historical amnesia and of genuine willingness to forget and get along. After Germany and China, Russian public ranked France third as the world’s friendliest country (toward Russian and Russians). Both Russian media and public exhibit extremely favorable, warm attitudes toward Italy, Spain, Austria – in fact toward what anyone would call the West. Russians do obviously dislike the United States and its most subservient vassals. But the baddies here – the US, the UK, Georgia and three Baltic statelets hardly merit the monopoly of representing the entire West.

Yet again, Herr Umland put up a grotesque lie in a belief that no one would notice.
 
Andreas  Umland

March 16, 2009

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Final Notes on the Discussion of "The Unpopular Prospect of World War III: The 20th Century Is Not Over Yet" (http://www.americanchronicle.com/authors/view/2885 )

RE: Ivanov (JRL 2009-#21)/RE: Umland (JRL 2009-#19)/RE: Ivanov (JRL 2009-#12) -- see the APPENDIX below.

Dear Mr Ivanov

I have re-read the debate, in JRL, on your blog "The Ivanov Report" and on "Russia: Other Points of View," of my article "The Unpopular Prospect of World War III: The 20th Century Is Not Over Yet." This entire discussion is now documented in an Addendum to "The Russian Nationalism Bulletin", Vol. 3, No. 5(47), 16 March 2009, at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/russian_nationalism/messages/412?thre...

Five more notes that refer to your last text at JRL 2009-#21 (see the APPENDIX below) and partly repeat what I have written before:

1. Debating polling numbers is, with regard to foreign policy issues, such as Russian-American relations, only of limited relevance. Foreign affairs are usually conducted by a country's elite, and constitute one of those policy fields least influenced by the broad public. It is the Russian elite's obsession with speculating about the "real" purposes of this or that US policy in Europe or Asia (democracy promotion, missile defence, humanitarian intervention etc.) what constitutes the main problem, and, arguably, could become a threat to international security, in the case of an escalation, on the Caucasus, on Crimea, or in another region.

2. Whereas you had intimated, in your initial critique in JRL 2009-#12, that I am paranoid and a liar, in JRL 2009-#21 (see APPENDIX below), you are now refusing "to engage in a discussion" whether I am "a paranoid liar," and leave "such decisions" to me. You even count me among "[i]ntelligent people." Thanks.

3. Still, in JRL 2009-#21 (see APPENDIX below), you accuse me once more of "cherry-picking" polling data. You quote again the government-controlled VTsIOM agency, and state that "Pew pollsters" have found that only "37%" of Russians had a favourable view of the US "in 2000." I wish you had done neither to spare us the continuation of a bizarre pseudo-debate about, as you ask, whether or not I "have evidence that Pew pollsters were under the Kremlin's 'stricter control'." Was that necessary?
First, I was puzzled indeed because, in my article that you initially criticized, I had quoted the Levada Center's 69% of favourable views of the US by Russians in 2000. How could it be that two reputed polling agencies were reporting two starkly different numbers for Russian public opinion on the US in 2000: 69%, in the case of the Levada Center, and 37%, in the case of Pew?
The solution came only recently when I cared to check the source of your number. The 2000 data that you ascribe to "Pew pollsters" has, apparently, not been collected by Pew in 2000. It is taken from, as Pew's table says, "1999/2000 survey trends provided by the Office of Research, U.S. Deparment of State" (http://pewglobal.org/commentary/display.php?AnalysisID=1019).
What is important here is less the exact source of the data (I trust the State Department as much as Pew) than the question of when exactly it was collected. I could not find the poll that Pew refers to. But the idea suggests itself that these "37%" of the "1999/2000 survey trends" which you ascribed to the year 2000, is actually data from 1999. In that year, NATO bombed Serbia which, as all polling agencies reported, led to a steep drop of pro-Western feelings among Russians. What was remarkable about this episode in Russian-US relations, however, was not the drop in the first half of 1999, but the fast recovery of pro-Western positions among the Russian population at large, once the bombing had stopped. In distinction to this recovery among the general public of the RF, attitudes towards the US among the Russian elites never fully recovered from their decline in 1999. After several years, Russia's elite seems, by now, to have succeeded impregnating most ordinary Russians with an aversion towards the West, in general, and the US, in particular.
4. Since our debate in January-February 2009, among other articles corroborating my worries, the following analysis has appeared on "Open Democracy" at http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/email/russians-don-t-much-like... .
Although I stand accused of being Russophobic and wanting to hinder a rapprochement between Moscow and Washington (http://www.atlantic-community.org/index/Open_Think_Tank_Article/NAT... ), I hope, as we all do, that the current détente between Russia and the US will last, and, perhaps, even lead to a new Russian-Western partnership. Yet, Obama and Medvedev are walking on thin ice. As both Russia's elite and population do not trust the US, even a minor incident could return us on the path towards a new Cold War.
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APPENDIX
Ivanov's rebuttal to my reply to his critique of my article
(see: http://www.nationalinterest.org/Article.aspx?id=20584 , http://www.russiaprofile.org/page.php?pageid=CDI+Russia+Profile+Lis... , http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/88068 , http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/89320 )

RE: Umland (JRL 2009-#19)/RE: Ivanov (JRL 2009-#12)
From: Eugene Ivanov (eugene_ivanov@comcast.net)
Published in: Johnson's Russia List (JRL) 2009-#21, 30 January 2009

First of all, I'd like to thank Andreas Umland for his thorough comments on my blogpost.

At the core of Umland's response lies his explanation that due to indiscriminate cutting and editing, at the hands of TNI editors, his position has been severely distorted. To restore the truth, Umland has provided us with a fuller version of his article posted to the American Chronicle. He has also suggested that I should have first read this AC version before writing on my blog.

I disagree. I'm not a scholar studying Umland's writings and I'm not obliged to read everything he publishes. I came across the TNI article and commented on what I read there. If Umland believes that his views were misrepresented, he should blame the TNI editorial office, not me.

Besides, and that is a key point, although the AC version of the article is arguably a better piece of literature, both are conceptually similar in claiming that anti-Americanism is rising in Russia; both invoke the same polling data to support that claim. Speaking of polling data, I was somewhat surprised by Umland's confession that polling data were submitted to his TNI article "only after TNI's explicit request." What is that supposed to mean? That Umland originally claimed rising anti-Americanism in Russia without providing any data?

Now, having met "TNI's explicit request" to provide polling numbers and having shared with me a reference to a Levada poll, Umland seems to believe that his job is done. No, it's not. In the center of our discussion is Umland's assertion (articulated in both versions of his article) that "[w]ith the beginning of Vladimir Putin's rise in 1999…Russians' views of the United States were deteriorating continuously." Has Umland supplied us with any reliable data to support this assertion (except for his expert advice to watch, "for a week or two", Russian TV)?

The truth is that no such data exist. Tellingly, Umland dismisses a VCIOM study I mentioned in my post, which was directly contradicting to what he says. Sure, when Umland likes a polling number, he writes that the poll was conducted by "Russia's leading sociological survey agency." When he doesn't like a number, this number was obtained by an agency that "has been put under stricter governmental control." How convenient! (I could understand why VCIOM pollsters would feel pressured to inflate, say, Medvedev/Putin's rating numbers or to downgrade concerns about the economy. But why would they tamper with numbers on U.S. favorability in Russia? Beats me.)

And what about this Pew report (http://pewglobal.org/commentary/display.php?AnalysisID=1019), which I also mentioned in my post and which found that over the period of time Umland is talking about, favorable opinions of the United States have actually increased in Russia: from 37% in 2000 to 43% in 2006. Does Umland have any evidence that Pew pollsters were under the Kremlin's "stricter control"?

That's what I call "cherry-picking" polling data: present data that support your position and ignore those that don't.

Absent the data on U.S. favorability, what else does Umland have? Nothing. He frets over the fact that in mid-August 2008, 48% of Russians opined that "[t]he U.S. leadership wants to extend its influence on Russia's neighboring states." This is ridiculous. A political scientist, as he is, Umland must understand the difference between negative views of foreign policy of the Bush administration and negative views of the United States as a country. He's also concerned that many Russians believe that the cold war is still going on. So what? Has he ever heard about a guy named Edward Lucas? Lucas not only believes, too, that the cold war still continues; he's written a book about it. Will Umland accuse Lucas of rampant anti-Americanism?

I'm puzzled with the amount of attention Umland pays to the nature of my relations with Russia Profile. True, occasionally, I contribute to Vladimir Frolov's weekly expert panel, but I have never submitted anything directly to RP. I know that almost every piece of mine that appears in JRL is later re-published by RP. I guess this is because of some, unknown to me, agreement between JRL and RP. Yet I cannot have any responsibility for the format RP uses to reproduce my pieces (even if I cared).

The rest of Umland's comments are noise, a smokescreen aimed at hiding the fact that he has nothing to say on the substance of my critique. I'm obviously not going to discuss the Russian-Ukrainian gas conflict: I didn't touch this subject. Nor am I going to engage in a discussion of who Umland should consider himself: a suicidal or a paranoid liar. Intelligent people, and I definitely count Umland as one, must make such decisions by themselves.

Oh, yes, there is one thing Umland and I completely agree upon: I'm indeed cautiously optimistic about the future of U.S.-Russia relations. And yes, I consider talks about a nuclear war between the two countries deliberately provocative.
----------------------

For further Russian and Ukrainian comments, see:
http://www.newsland.ru/News/Detail/id/343304/cat/42/
http://www.glavred.com/archive/2009/02/23/182544-1.html
http://blogs.korrespondent.net/celebrities/blog/forum2004/a8634
http://smi.liga.net/articles/IT091046.html
http://www.delfi.ua/news/exclusive/interview/article.php?id=349466&...
 

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