Thursday, April 26, 2007

Shivving A Lame Duck

I have to give Vladimir Putin credit. He sure does have his finger on the pulse of the American attention span.

Amidst all the fuff and bluster of the scrutiny of our domestic agenda, knowing full well that now that Yeltsin's funeral has passed and the spotlight is off Russia again (with the added formal bit of nostalgia for those heady days of glasnost and perestroika), he's slipped a dagger into the lame duck:
OSLO (Reuters) - A row between the United States and Russia over U.S. plans to build a missile shield in eastern Europe escalated on Thursday when President Vladimir Putin declared a moratorium on a key European arms treaty.

Putin's announcement to the Russian parliament came hours before NATO and Russian officials were due to discuss a project U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said was no threat to Moscow, dismissing such suggestions as "purely ludicrous".

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said he would ask Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to explain Putin's decision to suspend the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) and rejected Putin's accusation that NATO was ignoring it.
And all this could have been a non-issue if Bush and his administration hadn't left themselves wide open for it. By running and hiding and not taking responsibility for its errors and mistakes in the past six years, Bush has forced a long, drawn out confrontation with a hostile Congress. Putin is merely taking advantage of the distraction.

The CFE Treaty was negotiated in the months after the Cold War among the then-22 member states of NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries with the goal of achieving verifiable reductions in conventional military equipment. It was adapted in 1999 (during the Clinton administration, again showing the enormous impact that great man had).

What triggered this move on Putin's part?

Again, either out of spite for all things Clinton, or in simply the stupidest strategic move since Troy took in a wooden horse, Bush announced plans to base missile interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic, effectively negating the treaty anyway, and forcing Putin's hand.

There is a quid pro quo here, as well. Both the Czechs and Poles have contributed forces to the Coalition of the Bribed Willing, and have not announced major troop withdrawal plans. Other former Warsaw Pact countries who are now part of NATO and some who are not, have withdrawn troops (Bulgaria and Slovakia being notable amongst these) and subsequently have not been favored with US military installations (and the dollars these bring to those economies, as well as some protection from any potential hegemony by a re-forming Soviet Union.)

Putin, seeing an increased NATO and specifically, American presence on his west, really had no choice but to walk away from this treaty, honored more in the breach than in the commitment.

I'm not liking what I'm seeing. Between this move and the inroads China has made in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, we're sort of setting up this patchwork World War scenario: this country here favors that country there, while in between are two countries who are each supported by other nations.

Keep your eyes out for visits to unusual places by leaders of China and Russia. Already, Chinese premiere Hu has paid a call to South America, notably Brazil.

This is a chess game, and we're already in mid-game.