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August 15, 2008



I do consider these to be significant stories--I read them this morning but didn't comment at the time.

1. Ukraine. The article you link isn't as clear as it should be--here's a better one that's been up all day at RCW: Ukraine offers West radar warning: "Ukraine has said it is ready to make its missile early warning systems available to European nations following Russia's conflict with Georgia."

The other article makes it sound like Ukraine is entering into the same deal as Poland/Czech Republic. More exactly, Ukraine is suggesting that it will integrate its already existing Soviet-era system into the NATO system. That's interesting, because Ukraine's initial reaction was to say, hey, we've got to find a way to get along with Russia. Like Poland, Ukraine is not Georgia, and Russia is not about to invade Ukraine any time soon.

2. Merkel. This is surprising to me, but is still rhetoric--I'll believe in Georgian NATO membership when I see it. NATO has yet to show that it can project itself into the Caucasus, or impose sanctions on Russia that would bite. If they can do it, more power to them, but they need to think further down the road this time. I have stated Russia's large areas of vulnerability several times, but the fact remains that Russia will remain very important to us for a long time to come. The last thing we need is a Russia flat on its back or in chaos.

This (Merkel's rhetoric) is also a good illustration of what I was saying about Kaczynski being a loose cannon and a thorn in the side of just about every NATO nation: his charges against France and Germany this morning look extremely silly now and make Tusk look all the better. As for "NATO" repairing the tattered Georgian military, I think Merkel means "the US". When was the last time any NATO country other than the US built or rebuilt a military? They have enough trouble maintaining their own militaries.

3. The point of the Russian Georgia adventure appears to have been to force some accommodation of their interests. We shall see if that happens. Right now I'm still betting on that because, despite Merkel's rhetoric, Bush is saying he doesn't want a return to the Cold War.

Cecil Turner

Is it really just a matter of opinion?

Uh, yeah.

. . . and was his specific proffer of a "satisfactory solution."

Nonsense. Nowhere did Tusk say "do this and I'll sign" . . . he said, "We are ready to accept proposals or corrections . . ."

Of course, the US maintained that the interceptors weren't directed toward Russia, but Tusk's reply was that that didn't matter--what mattered was Russia's actual response to the deal.

Both now claim the interceptors have nothing to do with Russia--clearly a polite fiction--which demonstrates the pitfall of accepting public political statements at face value.

The movement was all on the American side.

Except for the obvious (i.e., "no:yes" on the Polish side).

JM Hanes

The only thing that surprised me about the German positioning was the fact that Merkel personally travelled to Tbilisi a la Condi, which might be worth contemplating. I note that you seem to be coming around to my suggestion that we have yet to see where the chips will ultimately fall and that diplomatic rhetoric, cordial or otherwise, does not necessarily represent actual give and take. In any case, having already stipulated U.S. deference to Poland on missiles in my own comment above, I'll let you get back to work.


Cecil: Nowhere did Tusk say "do this and I'll sign" . . . he said, "We are ready to accept proposals or corrections . . ."

Of course Tusk didn't negotiate in the newspapers. Look what he did say:

Tusk: ``It's clear that we need security assurances that don't leave Poland with no more than a `naked' installation,'' Tusk told reporters yesterday. ``We wouldn't hesitate for a minute to sign an agreement as long as it enhances Poland's security.''

Read the article and you'll find out what Tusk means by "naked installation."

Tusk, without disclosing full details, said Washington was proposing to put Patriot batteries on Polish soil for one year.

In the months-long negotiations, Tusk's center-right government had sought billions of dollars worth of U.S. investment to upgrade Polish air defenses in return for hosting 10 two-stage missile interceptors.

"We are ready to accept proposals or corrections from the American side which would include our proposal to increase (our) security. We can do this in a day, a week, a month," Tusk said.

Without disclosing details--negotiating in the newspapers--Tusk refers to a specific Polish proposal and says, almost verbatim: we can accept your proposals and correction as long as they include our proposal. Do this, and we'll sign.

You've really got a problem.


Oh, I'm done working for the day. I'm gonna cut my hair now.

Of course I agree that we don't yet know how all this will play out. While nobody in the West wants a Russian basket case, they have to find a way to cope with Russian bullying, too. The right way would have been to listen to them about the Balkans, while perhaps being firm elsewhere--give and take, in other word, rather than the back of the hand. Now it'll be trickier than it should've been.

I'm opposed generally to NATO membership for Georgia because it is not the sort of stable partner that deserves NATO membership. The fact that they violated our express injunctions proves that. Read up on Georgia and you'll soon discover that nothing there is as simple as the news coverage may make it seem.

Cecil Turner

Of course Tusk didn't negotiate in the newspapers.

And yet you persist in trying to divine his mental processes from press reports.

Neither of us knows what made Tusk change his mind. It may have been primarily security guarantees, a plus up in the Patriot deal, or a shift in public concern over Russian adventurism. I believe the latter is more compelling than the former, but all played a part. You apparently believe it's entirely the former. This is well into "unprovable" territory.

You've really got a problem.

Right. Personally, I believe that when you find yourself agreeing with Novosti, Xinhua, and the World Socialist Web Site, it's time to reexamine your position. And no, concurrence from Reuters and AP (or the NY Times) does not allay those concerns. Cheers.


Oh, for goodness' sake!


Selected graph from a CSMonitor story datelined Warsaw:

Polish and Baltic officials, most of whom grew up under Soviet occupation, have long chafed at being described in Western Europe as too "Russia-phobic" in their oft-repeated warnings about Moscow's intentions. But now in this gritty capital [Warsaw], the refrain is, "We told you so."


"The Eastern Europeans totally saw this [Russian resurgence] coming," says former US ambassador to Romania, James Rosapepe.


German officials and many European NATO officials argue that it is simply unrealistic to provoke Russia by allowing its immediate neighbors into the alliance. They say Russia's actions in Georgia vindicates this point. Berlin takes a very careful and consistent position on the importance of understanding Moscow, one Western diplomat points out.

Yet Polish officials are quick to point out that Germany was the most powerful and insistent voice throughout the 1990s for getting Poland into NATO – as a way to create a buffer zone between Germany and Russia.


Here [in Warsaw] there's a widespread view that Iraq was a mistake for the Americans.

"Poles look at the events transpiring in Georgia from the perspective of 'while America slept,'" says James Hooper, a former senior US diplomat based in Warsaw. "They understand that Russia's mainspring expansionist impulse can be deflected only by a steady US policy in managing European security affairs, and thus pin everything on American power, purpose and resolve."

JM Hanes

Having read the article, I can't imagine why your linkless selection didn't include this gem:

Polish opposition to hosting 10 proposed missile silos dropped by 30 percent in the week after Russia's military move in Georgia, according to polls in Warsaw.
But never mind; I'll leave that discussion to you and Cecil. New Europe seems to have a different kind of rethinking in mind than you do, but for my purposes, "trickier than it should've been" in hindsight is a substantial improvement on the kind of incompetent bankrupt stupid shambles that struck me as lacking a certain nuance.


Because it wasn't relevant. Of course public support for the pact soared, but the fact remains that Tusk had been holding out for what he got from the US long before Georgian happened--and in the face of public opposition. Tusk's statement that he could sign a deal "in a day" if the US would only include his demand for Patriots and guarantees was made over a month before Georgia, and while public opposition was still high.

Here's another linkless quote:

During months of discussion, a majority of the Polish public consistently opposed basing the shield in the country. But a GFK Polonia survey taken right after the the agreement was signed indicated a change of mood. As much as 58% of those polled supported the deal, while 38% opposed it. The telephone poll was taken from a sample of 500 people on Aug. 16.

Another poll taken during the crisis in Georgia showed that 39% of Poles consider Russia their country's biggest enemy; as much as half the population fears that Russia may attack Poland within a few years.

That's right--the poll was taken after the agreement was signed. Tusk signed, then the poll was taken. Just as interesting, while up to 1/2 of Poles feared a Russian invasion, only 39% thought Russia was Poland's biggest enemy! What did the other 61% think?

And from the same unlinked article:

Amid fears about the potential risks of hosting the silos, Poland persistently pressed the U.S. to boost Polish air defenses with cash and equipment supplies, such as long-range Patriot batteries. In announcing the deal, Prime Minister Tusk explained that Washington had accepted Warsaw's "key demand, the presence of Patriots."


Still, Poland is trying to take Russia's sensitivities into account. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski confirmed that Poland would honor an earlier proposal allowing the Russians to inspect the future base. "We want to continue the dialog with the Russian side, we want them to convince themselves that the installation is not directed against them," Sikorski wrote in the Polish daily Fakt. "Because of the brutal Russian action in Georgia, emotions rule now. But when the battle axes fall, we will still be neighbors." Yet clearly uneasy ones.

That's right, Tusk didn't just drop the negotiations after a one time demand--he persistently pressed for the Patriots. And when he fired the original negotiator for being "too soft," he didn't appoint some milk toast figurehead to negotiate--he put Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, darling of US conservatives and known anti-Soviet hardliner (he was notoriously a war correspondent in Afghanistan during the Cold War), in charge of the negotiations to overcome US objections that Poland didn't need defense enhancements. Sikorski's job was to overcome these attitudes on the part of the US:

Even so, American diplomats say that Poland is going too far in demanding U.S. funding to modernize its armed forces and a pledge to permanently station a battery of Patriot anti-ballistic missiles in Poland.

``We don't see the necessity of extra-special security agreements,'' Andrew Schilling, counselor for public affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, said by phone. ``In our view, our guarantees to our partners through NATO are a sufficient commitment.''

And who's going to condemn the Poles now for catering to Russian paranoia, allowing the Russians to inspect Polish/US bases? Or Tusk for continuing to warn against "precipitous" actions or rash rhetoric?


As a reminder, the claim was made that, in the wake of the Georgian invasion, the Poles came running to the US to climb on board an anti-missile pact the Tusk government had shown little interest in up to that point or had even tried to back out of. I characterized that claim as "deeply stupid," and I still do. The fact is that, in the wake of the Georgian invasion, it was the US that came running to Warsaw to give the Poles everything they had been "persistently demanding"--Polish demands that the American side had pooh-poohed before the Georgian invasion. That's why it's the Poles who are saying: we told you so.

Cecil Turner

I guess Strobe Talbott falls into the "deeply stupid" category as well, based on what he said yesterday on NPR (~21:20):

One of the immediate effects of what the Russians did in Georgia, was Poland, backing . . . uh . . . getting over its ambivalence about whether to have a missile defense system of the United States on its own territory. And one of the reasons it did that is because it's now more frightened of Russia than it was before . . .
And here's some more stupidity from NPR news:
But while publicly Polish officials say they didn't change their minds because of Russia's actions in Georgia, most observers including McFall see this missile defense deal as part of Poland's efforts to shore up its ties with Washington, as Russia flexes its muscles.
Yeah, the idea that "Tusk was driven by domestic political considerations" must be wrong, because, well . . . It isn't like Tusk changed his mind at the same time as public opinion did:
According to the new poll, 58 percent of those surveyed support the missile defense plan — compared with 30 percent in March 2007, early on in the negotiations. The poll was published in the Rzeczpospolita daily. It was the first time a majority of Poles surveyed have backed the U.S. missile defense plan, according to lead researcher Maciej Siejewicz from the Gfk Polonia polling agency. [emphasis added]
The idea that since the poll happened after the agreement, Tusk somehow couldn't have known about the public opinion shift, is faintly ridiculous (unless you're suggesting the agreement itself caused the shift--or that Poles don't have internal polls). Bottom line is that the Russian adventurism in Georgia had an effect. You can argue that it's not the most important, but the idea that it's not a factor is difficult to accept.

JM Hanes

Can't believe I acccidentally posted this in the abortion thread first:

Frankly, I think sabre rattling over Poland is a sideshow. Russians have destroyed military bases around Goti and positioned themselves around Tblisi, effectively cutting the Georgians off from Poti, which, oddly enough they've just taken a preliminary stab at seizing. That major port city is tantalizingly close to Russian "satellite" Abkhazia, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if it's conveniently included in the Russian vision of extended buffer zones so brilliantly negotiated into the cease-fire agreement by Sarkozy.

Russians have been handing out passports in the Crimea for some time now; I suspect Ukranian moves may be considerably more significant than Polish reaction. Reported Russian activity in regard to refurbishing Syrian ports on the Mediterranean is also worth contemplating as a reflection of the underlying strategic imperatives here. The idea that Georgian membership in NATO provoked the Russian bear discounts the essential pragmatism at the heart of Russian policy. NATO membership is an very practical obstacle to Russian ambitions, which clearly include control of the Black Sea -- with implications which cannot be understated, but which have being largely ignored in the pop-psyche diplomatic analysis which has charaterized assessments of Russian reaction to U.S. incursions on its fabled near abroad.


Many are not sure whether Talbott should not be grouped among the "useful idiots." There is a recent book out "Comrade J" that portrays Talbott, based on the recollections of the top KGB official in NY, as an unwitting but very useful source for the Russians. I seriously doubt that Talbott has ever made a serious study of Polish affairs--his focus and his sympathy has always been on Russia.

NPR is a source I turn to regularly when in search of stupidity. Keleman has been their Russian expert for many years and never fails to parrot the current liberal "wisdom." I had to laugh when she said: "while the Poles say xyz publicly..." expecting to hear, "privately they say..." Nothing of the sort! Instead they quote an American. They probably had no Polish source at all, and certainly not one who would contradict the official position that Radek Sikorski presented--this was not about Georgia, this was about the US changing its mind and giving Poland what Poland had been "persistently demanding" all along. That this is so can easily be seen by comparing Tusk's statements with those of US diplomats. As I said, the mere fact of Tusk putting Sikorski in charge of negotiations was a clear signal of serious intent, but also of firmness. Read Sikorski's bio at Wikipedia.

The only Polish source who suggests that Tusk's actions are poll driven is Lech Kaczynski, a genuine loose cannon, as per his comments about Sarkozy and Merkel yesterday. Kaczynski has been trying to block every bit of legislation advanced by the Tusk government and uses his office to criticize anyone--Polish, German, French--who does not support him.

At last word, the Turks continue to resist American demands for passage through the Bosphorus to the Black Sea. Why aren't the Turks worried about a new "imperialist" Russia?


Of course Russian saber rattling directed at Poland is a side show! Since the Turks have, up to now, refused to let US naval vessels pass into the Black Sea, the US has been hard pressed to come up with some action, any action, that would at least look like it was a response to Russia's invasion of Georgia. In reality, the US has been maintaining ever since the missile base in Poland was proposed that these missiles have nothing at all to do with Russia and everything to do with rogue state threats. The Poles used the Russian reaction as part of their bargaining package--one that the US rejected until the US needed some sort of positive publicity in the wake of the Russian invasion of Georgia. The US had been rejecting Polish demands for so long precisely because the Poles' demands were in fact directed at Russia and the US didn't want to offend Russia by giving in to the Poles. The Russian invasion of Georgia played into the hands of the Poles and benefits Polish long term security, as well as that of all Western Europe, but that is the only connection to Georgia. It merely helped the Poles advance their own national security agenda, which has been the same (directed at Russia) for years. If NPR "experts" want to say that Poland reacted because of Georgia--something that Sikorski categorically denies--they can live with that. They got what they wanted, and that's their bottom line. The Russians will understand that the Poles played their cards perfectly against the State Department.


BTW, Ukrainians were the backbone of the Soviet officer corps. The Russian army probably misses them.

JM Hanes

"At last word, the Turks continue to resist American demands for passage through the Bosphorus to the Black Sea. Why aren't the Turks worried about a new "imperialist" Russia?"

Just to be clear: you're suggesting this indicates that Russia doesn't make Turkey nervous?

It's also not clear to me whether you're suggesting that the U.S. should have acceded to Polish demands at the start, or not acceded to them at all, or publicly signed onto the Polish position in re Russia, or whether you're simply trying to argue that that shifting the U.S negotiating position in light of events on the ground is a sign of incompetence -- even though you believe both Polish and Western European long term security have been enhanced as a result. The relative expertise of NPR wouldn't factor into the foreign policy equations I've been looking at, even if I were a listener, which I'm not.

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