Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Russia Update: Still Denying Blame for the Georgia Missile Flap; Russia Expels British Diplomats; Joint China-Russia Terror Exercise Performed

Posted by K.E. White on August 22, 2007

Summary: The bear is roaring in Russia. Russia is maintaining its hard-line stance in Georgia and on the Alexander Litvinenko murder. The reason? Russia is reasserting its diplomatic weight. And, in even more SCO news, China and Russia hold their first joint terror drills.

Two independent groups agree with Georgia in the missile dispute between Russia and Georgia.

But, if accurate, what was the rationale for this peculiar action?

The most recent PINR report delves into this issue. Seeing Georgia as a “catalyst of Russo-Western tensions in the wider Black Sea region” Dr. Federico Bordonaro confirms the ‘missile’ verdict: finding Russia guilty of violating Georgian airspace.

The reason? Push back against Western influence in the region. Russia has taken harder positions on Kosovo and US-backed plans for a European missile shield. There seems to be a battle for influence: with Russia preferring OSCE to be the central playing ground in Europe, not NATO. The reason? Russia’s veto power in OSCE. The Western preference is NATO, naturally.

From the PINR report:

The timing of the incident also raises questions. Russia is saber-rattling: strategic bombers are now regularly flying again beyond Russian airspace, like in the Cold War years; military expenses are on the rise; Moscowannounced a moratorium on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and openly accuses\nWashington of unilaterally destroying the\nEuropean strategic balance by setting up a B.M.D.\nsystem without consulting Russia. At the same\ntime, the Kremlin has adopted rigid stances on\nKosovo, Transnistria, and Georgia. The impression is that Russia wants to\nreposition itself clearly as a re-established\nglobal power before the United States elects a\nnew president in the fall of 2008. American\npre-election tactics, Washington’s difficult\nMiddle East campaign, and high oil and gas prices\ngive Russia an opportunity to accelerate its\ncomeback. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that\nMoscow will seek an extreme diplomatic crisis\nwith Washington in the coming months and years.\nInstead, it will presumably formulate a broad\nproposal, designed to re-negotiate its strategic\nrelations with the West. Briefly said, Russia\nwants to re-negotiate what it had to do in\n1990-1992 from a weak position, during its deep\npolitical, economic, and military crisis that\nfollowed the perestroika years. The Tsitelubani incident\nand the following inquiry have some important\nramifications and implications for both global\nand regional actors. The U.S. and E.U. low-key\nprotests signal the weakness of the Euro-Atlantic\nalliance at this moment. Apart from some\nsensationalist articles in the press, which try\nto validate the theory of a full-blown neo-Cold\nWar, Western diplomatic reactions have been\ncautious. Western divisions, which\nstem from the different security and strategic\ncultures in Europe and the United States,\ncontinue to hamper the birth of a comprehensive\nAtlantic geostrategy in the wider Black Sea\nregion — notwithstanding the sea of printed\nproposals and studies on the issue. Russia is\nsuccessfully exploiting such a void, especially\nat a time of U.S. fatigue in the Middle East and\nAfghanistan. As a consequence of such\nWestern tactical difficulties and strategic\ndilemmas, Russia will remain confident and at\ntimes threatening in the South Caucasus, despite\ninternational condemnation for actions such as\nthose carried out in Upper Kodori or South\nOssetia.”, and openly accuses Washington of unilaterally destroying the European strategic balance by setting up a B.M.D. system without consulting Russia. At the same time, the Kremlin has adopted rigid stances on Kosovo, Transnistria, and Georgia.

The results of the missile incident’s ongoing inquiry appear to contradict Russian claims and will presumably augment Moscow’s negative image among Euro-Atlantic decision-makers. However, this seems to be a calculated risk by Russia. At the moment, the Kremlin gives less importance to its international image than to its ability to put pressure on some geostrategic hotspots.

Driving a wedge between pro-Western elites in former Soviet states and the enlarged N.A.T.O. is critical for Russia’s geopolitical interests. Therefore, look for Moscow to insist on a series of negotiations on the wider Black Sea region’s frozen conflicts and Kosovo, which will seek to secure Russian interests and influence. The and E.U. will now have to make a fundamental decision: either they opt for a harder stance and try to continue the expansion of the Euro-Atlantic geostrategic realm deep inside, or they will need to take Russian interests seriously. This latter possibility would mean that the broad arc of instability extending from Belarus to Central Asia through the wider Black Sea region will assume a bipolar structure (the Euro-Atlantic combine and Moscow being the two poles), where Russia will be able to project power and influence, notwithstanding the E.U. and N.A.T.O.’s enlargement.

Now an accommodation can be made, but the Russian broadcast is clear: Europe will have to take Russian interests into account.

In other news, China and Russia are conducting joint terrorism exercises next month in Moscow:

China‘s armed police and the interior forces of Russia will conduct for the first time a joint anti-terrorism drill in Moscow in early September.

“Cooperation 2007” will be the first international anti-terrorism exercise for China’s armed police outside the country.

The drill was in accordance with the principles of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and related agreements signed by the two countries, Xinhua news agency reported.

And remember the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko? Britain does. And Britain’s demand for answers continue to brew trouble against the countries. But fret not:

“I think British-Russian relations will develop normally. We are interested in the development of relations both from the Russian side and from the British,” Putin said on the sidelines of an ethnic festival in western Russia.

“I am sure that this mini-crisis will be overcome,” he added.

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