Tuesday, 14, August, 2007 (30, Rajab, 1428)

China and Russia Begin Teasing Washington
Linda Heard, sierra12th@yahoo.co.uk —


Moscow and Beijing have teamed up and appear determined to send a message to the White House, singly and together, which translated could mean, “Don’t mess with us” and “Stay clear of our allies.”

The two countries are currently playing war games together with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, all members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), considered a buffer to US oil and gas ambitions in the Caspian.

The SCO claims its mission is counterterrorist but while Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia have been invited to attend an associated Aug. 16 summit, the US has been rebuffed.

This comes hard on the heels of a not subtle Chinese threat to the American economy. Last week, two Chinese officials made statements, which did nothing to settle market jitters.

In essence, they warned the US to quit pressuring China to revalue its yuan or else it could decide to dump its dollar reserves, worth $1,330 billion and cash in its US Treasury bonds, roughly valued at $900 billion.

In the unlikely event of China following through on the implied threat, the ensuing economic carnage could make the 1929 Wall Street Crash look like a picnic because other countries would be panicked into following suit. Incredibly, some 45 percent of America’s foreign debt is held by foreigners, which leaves the US in an extremely vulnerable position.

Not to be outdone in the audacity-stakes, Russia claims to have buzzed a US airbase on the Pacific island of Guam in a show of its military resurgence.

According to the Russian military, two of its bombers were intercepted by US jets.

The pilots smiled at one another, says Russia, before going their separate ways. The Pentagon denies any such interception ever took place.

Russia’s new confidence derives from its friends in powerful places plus the fact it is swimming in oil and gas wealth, partly because Bush’s wars and aggressive Middle East foreign policy has driven up prices.

Its recent foray into the Arctic where divers erected rustproof titanium Russian flag on the seabed of the North Pole was interpreted by some as Russia having laid claim to some of the world’s largest untapped petrochemical reserves.

In the past, the logistics of tapping into those reserves were daunting, not to mention uneconomical, but now that ice caps are melting and prices are rising, Russia sees an opportunity.

It seems so does Canada and Denmark. Last week Canada announced the opening of two military bases in the region, while a group of 40 Danish scientists are traveling to the Arctic on an icebreaker to stake Denmark’s claim.

Now Georgia has stepped into the fray by asserting a Russian military aircraft has violated its airspace, leaving behind a missile that failed to explode in a farmer’s field, near the disputed region of Ossetia.

Russia has denied the incident and accused Georgia of putting on a “theatrical presentation” aimed at canceling scheduled talks over the breakaway area’s future status.

Russia has further made it crystal clear that it does not approve of George Bush’s anti-missile defense shield being erected in Poland and the Czech Republic out of concern it could be directed at it rather than Iran and North Korea, as claimed. President Vladimir Putin initially proposed a joint missile defense venture with the US — an idea that was not well received.

And so he has decided to beef up his own defense system, modernize his army and navy and, in the event Bush’s star wars plan proceeds on his doorstep, he has threatened to direct his missiles toward Europe.

Russia’s relations with Britain have also gone south. Their erosion began when people Russia termed as British spies working under cover of the British Embassy in Moscow were filmed concealing a telecommunications device inside a dummy rock, through which secret messages could be transmitted via a palm-sized computer.

Diplomacy succeeded in papering over that embarrassing incident that was shown to viewers around the world on Russian TV. But nothing could put a lid on the mysterious death of Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned by Polonium-210 after meeting with two former KGB agents and an Italian friend in London.

Following investigation, Britain’s director of public prosecutions requested the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, a Russian citizen and was told in no uncertain terms that Article 61 of Russian Constitution forbids the extradition of Russian citizens to foreign countries and any such trial must take place within Russia. Russia also accuses Britain of refusing to extradite Russian citizens wanted by Moscow.

The contretemps is still ongoing and has thus far resulted in the tit-for-tat expulsions of both Russian and British diplomats. This is all a far cry from those cozy post-Cold War years when President Bush said he looked his Russian counterpart in the eye and sensed his soul. The only looks they’ll be giving one another nowadays would be decidedly shifty.

It seems to be a terrible shame that such a wealth of goodwill has been so cavalierly wasted. If the Bush administration hadn’t been so intent on pushing its global weight around to fulfill a neocon agenda of full spectrum dominance we might have enjoyed a world where major powers worked together for the good of all.

Together they could have striven toward alleviating poverty and disease, reducing conflict and tackling climate change. Instead, untold billions will go toward weapons of death and destruction. This is Cold War Mark II folks — a deadlier sequel to Mark I now that China is on board. Fasten your seatbelts for an uncomfortable ride ahead!