Bush’s two-element strategy

Agency WPS
What the Papers Say. Part A (Russia)
August 27, 2004, Friday


SOURCE: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, August 26, 2004, p. 5

by Alexei Bogaturov

Four key circumstances define the international environment in which
the United States is planning another round of reforms to the
security structure of the Old World. Firstly, in light of Mideast
events, American politicians have started tacitly acknowledging that
there are some fundamental contradictions between the United States
and the Arab-Muslim world, and they have become afraid of being
dependent on the Arab-Muslim world. Secondly, US economic security
priorities have required a partial shift in energy consumption
towards deliveries from the depths of Eurasia: the Trans-Caspian
region and Russia. Thirdly, Russia’s influence over the global energy
situation has increased; at the same time, Russia has moved to a more
active foreign policy and defense policy. Fourthly, American views of
real threats to US security are decreasing their focus on the
possibility of conflicts in East-Central Europe.

The Americans have realized the inadequacy of the “expanding
democracy” strategy formulated back in 1993. That strategy is based
on “new democracies” arising in place of the erstwhile socialist
bloc: from Hungary and the Czech Republic in the west to Russia and
Kazakhstan in the east. None of these “newly democratic” nations,
save for Belarus, is opposing the West; almost all of them are saying
they want a closer relationship with the West. All the same, the
orientation towards the United States and the European Union is not
absolute for all these countries – only for the Eastern European
countries along the border of the former USSR, and the Baltic states.

Ukraine is acting more cautiously. It periodically declares (as it
recently did) that striving for friendship with the US and the EU is
equally important for Kiev as the wish to cooperate with Russia.
Although such avowals should not be believed without reservation,
it’s still good to see that Ukraine’s leaders have enough common
sense to moderate their pro-Western gestures to a reasonable level,
given the importance of Ukraine’s proximity to Russia and its degree
of economic dependence on Russia. Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan
are maneuvering in a similar way (though not as successfully as
Ukraine). The nations of Central Asia are even more inclined to
emphasize the diversity of their foreign policy orientations; they
say that China is important for them, as well as Russia. Moscow
itself also speaks of a multilateral foreign policy. Although
relations with the US (and the EU) essentially play a determining
role for Russia, there is no reason to underestimate the “China

In theory, the countries of Central Asia have always had multilateral
foreign policies. But while Russia was mired in its economic crisis
and shaken by the threat of separatism everywhere (in the Yeltsin
era), no one took the “Russia factor” seriously. Although everyone
expected a “Russian revival,” in principle, no one thought it would
happen soon, nor that it would be due to oil – it’s the oil factor
that enables Russia to act on the advantages of its unique position
as a “nuclear oil state.”

These shifts are taking place at an unfavorable time for the US
administration: the war in Iraq isn’t going well for the Americans,
and in domestic politics the Democrats are trying to paint the Bush
administration’s actions in the murkiest possible tones. It would
seem that this is no time for the American president to ponder global
strategy prospects. That makes it all the more remarkable that he is
thinking about them.

The redeployment of American bases and troops abroad is the second
stage (after the democratization of Eastern Europe, and NATO’s
eastward expansion) of a great reconstruction of the system of
America’s political-strategic presence in Eurasia.

Moreover, an important new element has appeared in America’s
strategy. The strategy is ceasing to be anti-Russian in the
traditional sense; it is losing its overt orientation against Russian
interests. Over the past 15 years – despite all the confrontations,
reciprocal grievances, and irritations – Russia and the United States
have made so much progress towards building the foundations of
partnership that the American elite has started to view relations
with Moscow in in a context that’s not so much about renewed
confrontation as it’s about opportunities for cooperation with Russia
– even if this is on terms primarily favorable for Washington. The
intention of the United States to firmly establish itself along the
Ukraine-Georgia-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan belt does not seem
like a simple act of squeezing Russia out of its traditional
influence zone, but the first element in a sophisticated two-element
strategy, with the second element being the conflict-free (though not
problem-free) integration of Russia into the developing system of US
interests in this part of the world.

Both major parts of the American elite are inclined to pursue
partnership with Moscow. This attitude is based on the intention to
use the positional and other advantages of Russia to serve American
interests in the region of Central Eurasia – which the United States
has started to view as a key region for itself. Washington’s actions
combine pressure with invitations to cooperate: Anglo-Saxon
“bargaining ethics.” So we need to maintain our composure and be
persistent in this bargaining process. And it seems to me that this
is what Russian diplomats are preparing to do, regardless of who wins
this November’s election in the United States.

Translated by Sergey Kolosov

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress