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Tilting at Windmills

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August 22, 2008

RUSSIA AND THE G8.... I really wish they'd stop doing this.

"We're not going to let Russia, so soon after the Iron Curtain fell, to again draw a dividing line across Europe," said Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut and close friend of Republican presidential hopeful John McCain. "It is simply unacceptable." [...]

"The G-8 should become for a while the G-7 until Russia proves that it is capable of being a law-abiding member of the international community," he said.

Look, I'm not about to defend Russia's recent conduct in the Caucasus, but the talk about kicking Russia out of the G8, principally from the McCain campaign and its surrogates, is misguided.

John McCain got the ball rolling in March, in hisfirst major address on foreign policy, stating his intention to remove Russia from the G-8. A few months later, the McCain campaign said the senator no longer believed what he said. A McCain adviser told McClatchy that the candidate's policy on Russia and the G-8 as "a holdover from an earlier period," adding, "It doesn't reflect where he is right now."

In July, however, McCain went back to the "earlier period," saying excluding Russia from the G8 would be "what's best for America" and might "improve" Russian behavior. Lieberman is singing from the same hymnal.

If McCain and his cohorts want to take steps to punish, or even isolate, Russia in the midst of its conflict with Georgia, they can certainly make a compelling case. But this G8 talk is foolish -- given how the G8 works, through consensus, Russia would have to approve its own removal. A senior Bush administration official recently conceded, "It's not even a theoretical discussion. It's an impossible discussion." The official described McCain's idea as "just a dumb thing."

But practicality aside, there's also the issue of what makes McCain and Lieberman think this is a good idea in the first place.

From a recent McClatchy report:

[M]any wonder whether McCain's suggestion would be wise policy. They fear that if McCain is elected and follows through on an attempt to toss Russia from the group, it could anger and isolate Russia, which has been increasingly assertive on the world stage, autocratic within its borders and is the second-largest producer of the hydrocarbons that feed the world's energy needs.

"In Europe, there's very little support ... for a policy like that," said Stephen Larrabee, an expert on Europe and Russia at the RAND think tank. "It's too late in the game to try and oust Russia."

The proposal also seemed at odds with the theme of McCain's speech, which promised a less unilateral approach to world affairs than the Bush White House has pursued. That could reflect tension between two Republican foreign-policy camps vying for influence in McCain's campaign: the pragmatic realists and the hard-line neo-conservatives -- with the neo-cons ascendant for now in Russia policy.

"There are a lot of important issues that we need Russia's support on....What's to be gained by tossing Russia out? We feel more self-righteous about ourselves?" said Andrew Kuchins, the director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for International and Strategic Studies, a center-right think tank.

Fareed Zakaria also explained recently why McCain seems to have Russian policy backwards.

What McCain has announced is momentous -- that the United States should adopt a policy of active exclusion and hostility toward two major global powers. It would reverse a decades-old bipartisan American policy of integrating these two countries into the global order, a policy that began under Richard Nixon (with Beijing) and continued under Ronald Reagan (with Moscow). It is a policy that would alienate many countries in Europe and Asia who would see it as an attempt by Washington to begin a new cold war. [...]

The single most important security problem that the United States faces is securing loose nuclear materials. A terrorist group can pose an existential threat to the global order only by getting hold of such material. We also have an interest in stopping proliferation, particularly by rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea. To achieve both of these core objectives -- which would make American safe and the world more secure -- we need Russian cooperation. How fulsome is that likely to be if we gratuitously initiate hostilities with Moscow? Dissing dictators might make for a stirring speech, but ordinary Americans will have to live with the complications after the applause dies down.

One gets the distinct impression that McCain and Lieberman have very little to offer by way of a response to this, but they think their rhetoric makes them sound "tough on Russia," so they'll keep repeating it.

Steve Benen 9:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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Holy crap.

I have to say this again. Hey McCain, if the Rooshins were such a big bad threat then why waste about 80% of the US's combat power on a pissant nation like Iraq?

The Rooshins know that this is empty posturing. How are you going to magically transport, replenish and refurbish all those wonderful weapons and troops stuck in the great big Sandbox of Iraq? I sure as hell don't know.

The STRATEGIC consequences of the Iraq blunder are starting to come home to roost.

Posted by: Former Dan on August 22, 2008 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Mars bitches!

Posted by: eric on August 22, 2008 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

This solidifies the case that McCain's idea of a 100-year war is very unlikely, and that if it did happen, America would crumble. We pose no threat to other nations because our armies are spread thin enough as is it. McCain is unbelievable.

Posted by: Katie Chop on August 22, 2008 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Look, I'm not about to defend Russia's recent conduct in the Caucuses, but the talk about kicking Russia out of the G8, principally from the McCain campaign and its surrogates, is misguided.

It's also just talk. There is zero support from the other six for this, so talk of getting Russia out of the G-8 is on the same level as talk of getting the US out of the UN: it's for whackos and the trailer park.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on August 22, 2008 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Welcome to your new home!

Posted by: joyzeeboy on August 22, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Uh, Steve, it's The Caucasus. Sounds the same as caucuses, but spelled differently.

This also came up in comments on The Carpetbagger Report a few days ago.

Posted by: Michael W on August 22, 2008 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Ahem.. Republicans need ENEMIES..the bogeyman..Iran isn't shaping up like McCain would like. Russia means missles and all the good stuff that fills the pockets of their friends. Just imagine if Russia slowed oil shipments, Mccain could have rigs all over the near shore and Alaska.

The Repugs need a bad Russia.

Posted by: Mudge on August 22, 2008 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

I think McCain wants Russia outside the tent, pissing radioactive urine in.

Posted by: riffle on August 22, 2008 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

William Pfaff [h/t TruthDig] says:

One can understand that a hysterical and demagogic Georgian nationalist like Mikheil Saakashvili might think he could wipe out long-standing ethnic dissidence in his country by attacking Russian peacekeepers legally stationed in those enclaves to protect the dissidents. But who in Washington is promoting this strategy of hostile military and political encirclement of Russia? What conceivable interest of the West does this serve?

It is a senseless policy, apparently meant to intimidate Russia, but why? For the sake of perpetuating international tension so as to strengthen the forces that with Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush have been promoting constitutionally unaccountable executive rule in the United States?
The piece describes a recent history of US/Russian relations that has been almost entirely absent from Us media.

Posted by: jhm on August 22, 2008 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Couldn't find a link to the webmaster's email so all i can do is comment in here - the RSS feed doesn't send all the text of the posting, only about 1/2 of this posting was sent via RSS. It is my understanding that this was a full-text RSS feed but I might be wrong.

Posted by: Don B on August 22, 2008 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

It's painfully obvious that LIEberman, McCain, hell, all of the GOP need to have an enemy to rally the troops against. Commies, black and brown folks, gays, bleeding heart liberals, terrorists, and now back to commies.

It's part of their plan. Keep the dimwitted, flag sucking half wits that comprise an unfortunately large percentage of the electorate full of anger and hate towards groups that supposedly are the cause of their misfortunes.

This tactic gives them election victory after election victory, while it is the very people that vote them into power that shoulder the brunt of their failed economic policies, designed to make the rich richer at the behest of the working poor.

We're seeing it in action right now. That this is even a close race between McCain and Obama is a testament to this fact.

Of course, a new cold war would keep a steady flow of booty flowing into the military inustrial complex that governs our formerly great country, but that warrants a post of it's own.

Posted by: citizen_pain on August 22, 2008 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK


Welcome to the new place. I've always enjoyed your guest blogging here, and if I haven't been a regular at your old place, it was for lack of time.

But speaking as one Caucasian to another, I have to live up to my name and point out that it's not Caucuses, but Caucasus.

I wasn't going to do this anymore. See what you made me do?

Posted by: thersites the pedantic @$$#ole on August 22, 2008 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Can we fairly ask, if by encouraging all those break away, Soviet satellite nations to join NATO, while rubbing Russia's face into the dirt with our declaration of "winning" the cold war, if we were not the first to draw a dividing line across Europe?

The Neo Cons continue to cling to this myth that the west won the cold war. But considering how much it has cost Russia and the West in terms of actual costs and opportunity costs, how can anyone think we were somehow the victors? We all lost the cold war and the "victors" want to resurrect it.

Why is our fate determined by such fallible fools who draw such wrong lessons from history and declare that only they can make us safer?

Posted by: lou on August 22, 2008 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Lets see if I can understand Lieberman's thinking. Russia is a giant resource power. It has a large educated population. It has the 2nd largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. It is fully capable of fielding a large powerful modern army. Fifteen or so years ago it lost its empire and is just now holding its head up.

What it lacks is a strong industrial/consumer economy. It's people don't have the things Europeans have. Lieberman and McCain want to kick them out of the G8 which among other things provides a framework to help them develop their consumer society. A strong consumer society would mean they have more to lose and less to gain from invading their neighbors. Good thinking boys.

Why don't we just start WWIII now and save all the worry. These clowns are worse than Bush. At least Bush shows sputtering signs of learning. McCain and Lieberman not so much.

Posted by: Ron Byers on August 22, 2008 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

"One gets the distinct impression that McCain and Lieberman have very little to offer by way of a response to this, but they think their rhetoric makes them sound "tough on Russia," so they'll keep repeating it."

John "Zinger" McC*nt is embarrassed because he goaded the President of Georgia into confronting Russia, and they both found out that there are no Divisions under McC*nt's command to defend his "Ally".

That, or he just wanted to start a war so he could win an election. Shades of 2002.

Posted by: Lance on August 22, 2008 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Lieberman and McCain do want to start a new Cold War. They realize that Republicans can't win on domestic issues, and, anyway, they aren't interested in them.

What's missing in the criticism of the "Let's Kick Russia's Ass" crowd is the realization that, even with its oil wealth, Russia is close to a joke. When the USSR sent its tanks into Czechoslovakia back in '68, it was the second largest economy in the world. Today it ranks 11th, behind Spain, Canada, and Brazil. Putin is good at murdering journalists and harassing businessmen, but he's got no infrastructure. Russian science, Russian technology? It doesn't exist.

Posted by: Alan Vanneman on August 22, 2008 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, I think this "cheap-talk policy" helped McCain in the polls. Real foreign policy discussions are too sophisticated for the general electorate. I really don't know how Obama should counter McCain on this. Having a realistic view of foreign policy and a recognition of the limits of American power is viewed as "girly." On the other hand, he can never be as stupid on this issue as McCain and Lieberman. This is a tough one for the Dems.

Posted by: g. powell on August 22, 2008 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not talk about invasions, eh? Our standing there is not so hot.

McCain is stuck in the cold war/Vietnam war era. I read an article the other day that he resents Cindy for the time she spends on the internet.. Sorry but he is too old in mind, body and spirit.

And Lieberwar just likes killing people. Take on Russia? You and (literally) what army?

Idiots. Plain and simple!

Posted by: MsJoanne on August 22, 2008 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

I'd be far more positively disposed to this if:

1)America and Europe did not depend so much on oil supplies from Russia or areas it is quite close to. I other words, oil from somewhere else or far better, internal renewables.

2)We hadn't pissed away our army in Iraq.

3)We had actually managed to make Afghanistan a successful country and had left a year or two ago.

4) We had rapproached with Iran, making the two major Caucacus powers Turkey and Iran into our allies.

That said, while I can't really imagine the why of Russia doing this when they have them over a cyber and oil barrel, any military action on the scale of Georgia against Ukraine or Poland can't be allowed.

Posted by: MNPundit on August 22, 2008 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Fareed Zakaria says:

“The single most important security problem that the United States faces is securing loose nuclear materials.”

Fareed Zakaria does not have good situational awareness. He has an ethnocentric mind. John McCain does not appear to have good situational awareness either. A bomb or two wouldn’t do too much damage. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were both thriving in the 1950s. Close the Strait of Hormuz and two pipelines in Saudi Arabia though, and there would be real security problems.

Posted by: Brick Oven Bill on August 22, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Ostracizing Russia won't work. They're used to going it alone in their own sphere of influence and it would feed their nationalistic pride to be rejected by the US. It plays into their hands. Only this time instead of a bunch of Iron Curtain satellites dependent upon them, they have Europe hanging on to their oil and gas resources. So how do you say "bring it on" in Russian?

Mornin' Steve! Good to see some of the old gang over here!

Posted by: petorado on August 22, 2008 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Folks, it is so very important for us to press the case on:
1. Georgia started this by making moves in S. Ossetia, whether some back and forth before that notwithstanding.
2. John McCain's FoPo advisor Randy lobbied for Georgia and facilitated moves by McCain to recognize Georgia's provincial claims, promise US support for their consolidation (BTW, remember April Glaspie telling Saddam H. how the US wouldn't be so upset if he pressured Kuwait about the slant drilling etc? Wasn't that interesting?)
Randy Scheunemann was also on the Board of neocon policy wrangler PNAC; see that among multitudes of neocon power points at http://rightweb.irc-online.org/ind/scheunemann/scheunrmann_body.html.

We've got to prod the MSMemia to talk more about this, now that we know they won't say much of what needs being said w/o being almost literally caned into doing it.

This is good too, and even has a connection to Karl Rove!:

Posted by: Neil B ☼ on August 22, 2008 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Listen, McCain is a Manchurian candidate programmed by the Vietnamese and Chinese to become president and start a war between the US and Russia, so that China will be the sole superpower when the smoke clears. OK? Geez.

Posted by: Speed on August 22, 2008 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, a good campaign ad would be to show McCain proclaiming "we are all Georgians now!" and then show Saakashvili eating his tie on TV (that video is all over the Internet). Why aren't the Obama people on top of this.

Posted by: g. powell on August 22, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Uh, Steve, it's The Caucasus.

Thanks. It's fixed.

Posted by: Steve Benen on August 22, 2008 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Is all of this bluster by the McSame campaign that much of a step up from the Bush doctrine?

Just this week, an agreement was signed between the United States and Poland to allow the U.S. to build 10 missle silos that will be about 100 miles from the Polish border facing Russia. With what little coverage this has received, the general perception of the politicians and pundits has been "Why are the Russians so pissed off about this?"

Does anyone remember the Cuban Missle Crisis? Would we have not been pissed off if the Russians assured us that it was just defensive missles being put in to protect us from the Mexicans?

McCrap's policies toward Russia really are not that much more of an extension of Bush's.

Posted by: SadOldVet on August 22, 2008 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

He was for removing Russia from the G8 before he was against removing them from the G8 before he was for removing them from the G8 before he was against it. He was a POW. That's why he sometimes usually sounds incoherent.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on August 22, 2008 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

What is the G8 but a photo-op for leaders who are too stupid to understand the real world of economics. A sign of impotence threatening to ban Russia from a symbolic photo-op.

Our present leaders have a third grade level of comprehension of how the world works based on PC assumptions that our culture is universal (and it is if you force it on people at gunpoint and occupy their country for a century) and a superficial glance at a conflict to determine who are the bad guys. In truth, Georgians have been the bad guys v. the breakaway provinces,which they have tried to isolate, and the Russians their friends. One could point also to the most superficial PC renderings of the Bosnian conflict, or the Sudan conflict, where the black rebels, PC-ly depicted as victims because of their color, actually started the conflict, want to continue it, and do most of the destruction of aid convoys.

Posted by: Luther on August 22, 2008 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

SadOldVet: Assuming (yes, caution!) that the Poland missiles are indeed anti-missile missiles and not the GtG missiles the USSR put up in Cuba (but let's REM that the US had Jupiter GtG IIRC in Turkey about the same time, which we eventually pulled out too), Poland:Cuba isn't a close analogy.
BTW, talk to your buddies and see if you can convince them McCain isn't a good one of the boys, tx.

Luther: Yes, there were black southern Sudanese rebels in play (and maybe with good case to be separate in yet another colonially mis-drawn border), but that doesn't justify the vile treatment of Darfur civilians etc. Don't indulge Likudnik style thinking that justifies collective punishment, etc.

Posted by: Neil B ☼ on August 22, 2008 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Russia would have to approve its own removal

Bearing in mind Grouch Marx's quote, "Any club that would accept me as a member, I wouldn't want to join," we should consider the possibility that perhaps Russia doesn't view membership in the G-8 as that big of a deal.

In related news, consider numerous articles in the financial pages to the effect that the international economy is in serious trouble right now - the sort of thing a prudent person might actually consider distancing himself from, actually.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on August 22, 2008 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Yo, McCain's economic brilliance will lead us to kick Russia out of the G8 for what? To help a potentially rogue nation establish its own oil price schedule to the West? Allow a potentially rogue nation to interdict the flow of oil from pipelines in its neighboring, once satellite states, it now is competing with economically? Here's the total summation of Presidential Candidate McCain's economic and foreign policies - balderdash! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on August 22, 2008 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

"We're not going to let Russia, so soon after the Iron Curtain fell, to again draw a dividing line across Europe," said Lieberman.

Say, what's that huge thing those guys are building along the southern border of Texas? Some kind of levee or something? An aqueduct?

"The G-8 should become for a while the G-7 until Russia proves that it is capable of being a law-abiding member of the international community," he said.

Say, what are those guys that look like American soldiers doing over in Iraq? Are they building schools or something? Is that the Peace Corps?

Posted by: chrenson on August 22, 2008 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Saakashvili is selling the Georgians BS, and we are selling the Georgians BS. Result? It is we who are creating the problems there.

Saakashvili is an ultra nationalist.

We are actually decreasing the security of not only Georgians, but of Ukraine etc.

Posted by: 45er on August 22, 2008 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

The McCain neocons want a war. It's how they make money and gain power. If they can't continue the endless "war on terror" by attacking countries in the middle east then they will promote another cold war. Only Russia can fill the bill for a cold war so any opportunity to demonize their behavior and promote a new cold war with them will be taken advantage of by the McCain neocons.

After attacking and invading a country that was not an imminent threat to the US and had nothing what-so-ever to do with attacking us on 9/11, killing a million innocent Iraqis etc how dare the war cheerleader McCain have the audacity to condemn Russia for her defensive behavior while we try to shove missiles into Poland.

McCain would threaten every nation out there if we didn't stop him. He would rather start a war than lose an election as demonstrated by using the Georgian affair for purely political reasons.

Posted by: bjobotts on August 22, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

How did that Rev. Wright line go? Oh yes, "Chickens...coming home...to roost." How apt.

Posted by: sparrow on August 22, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, the G-8 'problem' is easy to solve. It is not a freaking alliance. Just show up somewhere and forget to invite Putin and Mev-poodle.

There is hardly a more worthless entity in the world than the G-7/8. At least one of the national leaders changes every time they meet. They have nothing to do but talk and publish a least common denominator statement. And they look like idiots.

Posted by: Lance on August 22, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Under that flawed reasoning, shouldn't the U.S. kick itself out first, followed closely by accomplice, the UK, and maybe throw in some strong words for Italy, and Japan?

Posted by: snowgod on August 22, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

This video (9:29) from 'The Real News' about "Full spectrum dominance" will explain everything. Very informative.


Posted by: GovtFlu on August 22, 2008 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK
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