Monday, August 25, 2008

Cheney, Sarkozy, and the Russia-Georgia Conflict

by Norman Markowitz

As the Democratic convention opens, the administration is announcing that Vice President Dick Cheney will be going to former Soviet Georgia next week. Cheney, former Halliburton CEO and backstage orchestrator of the unilateralist foreign policy associated with the Bush administration, has been shouting "Russian aggression" and U.S. NATO flag waving since the crisis began. But he is not alone by any means. Nicholas Sarkozy, the opportunistic right-wing President of France (who reminds me a bit of Richard Nixon) has jumped in too, trying to build his own reputation as the NATO bloc leader who will, in old early postwar language (a year before the term "cold war"was coined) "get tough with the Russians," accusing them of not honoring their withdrawal commitment.

This may be, to paraphrase one of Karl Marx's most famous statements about history, tragedy repeating itself as farce, but it is a dangerous and sinister farce.

So far no one has said that if Georgia "falls," Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan might fall like a row of dominoes and the road to either Paris or Perth Amboy would be opened. No one has accused the Moscow government yet of "exporting revolution," since no sane person believes they have any revolutionary ideology to support(although that didn't stop Bush when it came to Hussein and weapons of mass destruction. No one is accusing the Moscow government of seeking to control the oil of the region, since it is mostly their oil and it is the NATO bloc countries that are committed to controlling it.

If Sarkozy and Cheney think they can score political points with their electorates (with whom they are not so popular) by "getting tough with the Russians" they should remember a bit of sound advice given to the Truman administration in 1946 by one of its members, former Vice President Henry A. Wallace: "The tougher we get the tougher the Russians will get" (that statement along with others cost Wallace his position in the administration). Using the UN to resolve the conflict, not as the political arm of NATO to support Georgia against Russia a la North and South Korea (Sarkozy's present maneuvering) is the only serious policy which the U.S. should support.

Saakashvili's authoritarian rightwing government, echoing Republican party "free market" ideology, deserves no support from any progressive liberal or labor grouping in any of the NATO bloc countries. The separatist regions that Saakashvili has pledged to reconquer have, as I see it, as much or as little right to exist independently as his government or the other governments of the former Soviet Republics, all of which were created without the clear consent of their people.

Russia, whatever else it has endured since 1991, remains not only a nuclear power but, in the language of the cold war, one of the two nuclear "superpowers." What the left in the U.S. and all the NATO bloc countries should be thinking about is a serious questioning of NATO's role in the world, now that the Soviet Union has been out of existence since 1991. Rather than expanding NATO to former Soviet Republics and sending it to places where it was never remotely supposed to have anything to do with, now is the time to begin to look at a post NATO world, which a post cold war world demands--the creation of new security relationships and protections outside of one military alliance, whose whole existence was to represent the interests of a group of advanced capitalist countries, led by the U.S., in opposition to the Soviet Union.

Sarkozy may have delusions about making himself the "strong man" of the NATO bloc, reviving French imperialism and making France the defender of "the West" Christianity and civilization, as its old imperialists liked to think, but those are comical delusions. Cheney may have hopes of bringing Halliburton to Tbilisi, which would serve the interests of profit but not of peace.

The emerging progressive majority in the U.S. should begin to rethink and call upon those it is supporting, especially Barack Obama, to rethink the U.S. relationship to NAT0, leadership role in NATO, and NATO's role in the world today. As I see it, that role is dysfunctional to and for any progressive international policy.