Zamieszczona przez Bhadrakumara – link w Asia Times
Putin, it's your payback time
The early bird gets the worm and someone like US president Barack Obama who grew up in the tropics in Hawaii and Indonesia would know it far better than his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin from Leningrad. The alacrity with which Obama scrambled to take early lead in the propaganda war over Moscow on Ukraine almost makes it appear he was expecting such a horrendous tragedy to happen. So far he has had no phone conversation with Putin — not even to ascertain some facts first.
That is, unlike Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and the two most affected statesmen here in the tragedy of the ill-fated Malaysian plane — Dutch prime minister Mark Rutt and Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak. Rutt, in fact, already twice discussed the tragedy with Putin and they have agreed on the latter’s suggestion for an “independent, open and fair investigation” into the tragic event in Donetsk by the International Civil Aviation Organization with the participation of “all the parties concerned”, and pending that, to demand “an immediate and unconditional ceasefire” in eastern Ukraine.
Will Obama also agree with such an approach? Both Merekl, here, and Razak, here, have promptly agreed with Putin. But then, a ceasefire in Ukraine is the last thing on Obama’s mind, with Vice-President Joe Biden constantly urging President Petro Poroskenko to press ahead with the military crackdown in the restive, disaffected region of Donetsk so that somehow a point of no return could be reached in the relations between Russia and Europe, which are delicately poised.
To be sure, Moscow has lost the propaganda war to Washington. It harks back to the Cold War era. The US was always miles ahead of the former Soviet Union in catching the worm — be it during the Cuban missile crisis, Afghanistan or Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago.
To my mind, Russia is at fault here. This is what happens to a divided house. It has been quite apparent to any long-time observer that Moscow was being pulled in opposite directions by the so-called ‘westernists’ and ‘orientalists’, the latter on retreat. The Ukraine crisis ought to be a wake-up call. The point is, history has not ended and Russia can never be part of the Western world. It is too big and too different and too powerful and unmanageable. Russia’s presence in the European tent challenges the US’ trans-Atlantic leadership and questions the very raison d’etre of the NATO, and indeed Euro-Atlanticism as the leitmotif of the US global strategies ceases to be.
It is about time the ‘westernists’ among the Moscow elites realize that all they have is a pipe dream. There is no precedent of the US ever having treated another country — including Britain — on an equal footing. Therefore, Russia’s destiny is dictated by the need to consolidate its standing as an independent global player. It has the capacity to do it, but, alas, often enough not the will and interest in discerning who is a potential ally and who is not.
That makes the phone call that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani put through to Putin yesterday a many-splendored thing for a Russia watcher. Of course, Rouhani didn’t broach Ukraine. The surprise would have been if he had.
To be sure, it is a poignant moment in Iran-Russia relations. The Kremlin had cooperated with the Obama administration in the spirit of the (in)famous US-Russia ‘reset’ to put the screws on Iran and isolate that country at a time when Tehran was having its back against the wall. Of course, that was a time when the ‘westernists’ in Moscow were ruling the roost and they were brimming with confidence that they were having a deal with Obama, chewing hotdog and washing ti down with coke. The whole world seemed to them a burger joint, in fact.
The wheel has come full circle now. The reset turned out to be a macabre joke that the Obama administration played on the Kremlin folks. And the mother of all ironies is that Russia today is being threatened with an avalanche of sanctions by the US unless it behaved properly over Ukraine, much the same way Iran used to be threatened until last year.
And, yet, Rouhani didn’t broach Ukraine with Putin. But he’d have left food for thought for Moscow. The point is, simply by being a sincere friend and strategic partner of Iran at this point in time when the US-Iran talks are finely poised, Moscow can turn the tables on Washington and hit back at the cold warriors in Washington where it hurts them most.
Quite obviously, the US’ negotiating hand vis-a-vis Tehran is weakening. A return to ground zero (before the direct talks began) is not possible; a military strike against Iran is not feasible; if talks fail Tehran will resume the nuclear program full-throttle. In sum, Iran has breached the US’ ring of encirclement. That is the meaning of the extension of the July 20 deadline for the nuclear deal. Period.
Now, what Russia can do is tear into tiny pieces the US’ sanctions regime against Iran by simply proceeding to expand the relationship with that country to its full capacity — be it in the field of energy or in defence cooperation. After all, Russia’s plea all along is that it abides by the UN sanctions only. Simply put, put into practice what Moscow preaches. Besides, it will also be the right thing to do from the business angle — to be in Tehran ahead of American companies.
Put differently, make the US negotiate in despair with an Iran, which has Russia’s full support. There is no confrontation on the part of Russia with the US here, either, since Russia will only be deepening and broadening its relations with a friendly country.
The bottom line is that the Iranians will give the Americans a run for their money. There is no way that Tehran is going to give up on its massive assets running into hundreds of billions of dollars, which the US confiscated following the fall of the Shah; it was plain highway robbery. Nor could Iran have forgotten that the Americans deliberately shot down an Iranian civilian aircraft in 1988 – knowing fully well it was a civilian aircraft — killing 300 people on board.
I first began dealing with Iran as a career diplomat in 1989 and I have been to that country so many times that I really lost count. If I know my Iran, I can tell this much: Rouhani reached out to Putin at a defining moment in contemporary world politics.
Posted in Diplomacy, Politics.
By M K Bhadrakumar – July 20, 2014