Bear nettles the Eagle, Dragon smiles [1 of 2]

Russia has threatened the Obama administration that it will end cooperation on Iran and prevent the transfer of material to Afghanistan if Congress passes a law criticizing Russian human rights practices.
The White House argues that the U.S.-Russian “reset” of relations has had three positive results: the New START nuclear reductions treaty, Moscow’s cooperation in sanctioning Iran, and approval (for a price) for U.S. military goods to transit Russian territory on the way to Afghanistan.
But Russia is now using two of those three points as leverage to pressure the administration to get Congress not to pass a bill that would ban visas for Russian officials implicated in human rights crimes.





by M K Bhadrakumar


Note for WoP readers: The following article by noted Indian analyst shows what prevails these days between the US and the Russian Federation.  In this context, the remarks by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are remarkably critical of the conduct of elections in Russia.

Much to the chagrin of the Russians, she declared elections in Russia as unfair, even though the results there had not yet been announced. When results came, it turned out that the ruling party had lost 14 percent of the popular vote.

Clinton’s judgement smacks of arbitrary declarations by a super power [on the fairness or otherwise on the conduct of elections] in the non American world. In the same breath she so emphatically declared that no one should have any doubt over Mr. Zardari’s return to Pakistan as president of the country.

I wonder how the foreign secretary of a super power comments on other sovereign states affairs as if they were the component states of the United States of America.

Coming now to the original topic: Ever since  the killing of Pakistani soldiers a year before on the Pak Afghan border and subsequent shooting by CIA man Raymond Davis of two Pakistanis, the people of Pakistan were already seething with rage. The release of Ray Davis was like rubbing salt on the wounds of the Pakistanis. To add further fuel to the fire, the Navy Seals violated the air space of this country, did their job for complete two hours and left. [Its another matter that whether they really did kill Osama bin Laden which according to international observers, analysts and some insiders in the Taliban movement confirmed bin Laden’s natural death years before.]

The latest incident at Salala Check post, which killed more than 25 army jawans including two officers has been like last straw on camel’s back. The Pakistanis who already have had enough of Pakistani civilians being killed by US drones under the pretext of going after terrorists in this so called war on terror, now have experienced the cold blooded murder of  Pakistan’s armed forces men and officers for the sake of this US war on terror, that’s something which even shook our top brass as well as the civilian set up to admit the brutality of Uncle Sam’s forces in Afghanistan. Rightly did they decide by asking the CIA to vacate Shamsi Air base in Balochistan [a pivot in landing/take off and maintenance of US drone warfare in the AfPak war theatre].

Having blocked the US forces to enjoy their transit rights through Pakistani land route, the former have no other option but to opt for the alternate route via Uzbekistan Tajikistan or the Northern Distribution Network.  In an op-ed piece which we published earlier [written by David Trilling] here and here of Foreign Policy magazine is quite explicit about the hazards of the NDN route. Apart t from being many times more costly, its also dependent upon Russian willingness, for to ensure a safe passage through the Central Asian states [which by themselves have inter-state rivalries, including a tough fight over who will have the bigger piece of the piece], makes Russian consent highly desirable if not a must.

But Russia herself is not happy over the US bases that Uncle Sam wants to build around Russia. And to that come the bitterly critical commentaries by Secretary Clinton on elections in Russia.

Now coming to the crux of matter, US forces in Afghanistan have to be provided rations to live. Even if we do not include military hardware, the food itself is the vital factor for the US and NATO forces to stay in Afghanistan.

Under these circumstances Pakistan’s leadership has a much larger leverage to negotiate better deal for participation in the US led war on terror [a war of individual terror vs. the terror of the state or states].

In the cold and ruthless games on the chessboard of global politics there is nothing like friendship. Its always the pros and cons of a deal. Let the deal or deals be beneficial to Pakistan first and then to any other party.   [Nayyar]


From an apparently impromptu remark on Monday, the United States has elevated the Russian parliamentary election held on December 5 to a core issue of US-Russia ties. The dramatic escalation of rhetoric scatters the continued pretences over the Barack Obama administration’s “reset” of relations.

 In a swift move, Beijing has also stepped forward to express understanding for Moscow. The faultlines will impact on the regional and international situation on a host of issues in the coming period.

To recap, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost no time to offer comment on the Russian parliamentary election when speaking on the sidelines of the Bonn Conference II in Germany on Monday, she aimed barbs at the Kremlin claiming she was “worried” about the conduct of the ballot and “Russian people, like people everywhere deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted”.

 Clinton spoke out even before the results of the election were fully available. In fact, a complete vote count was available from the vast regions of Russia only on Wednesday. It revealed that the ruling party United Russia (UR) suffered a severe jolt by losing as many as 77 seats they held in the outgoing 450-member parliament. The UR scraped through with a simple majority of 238 seats.

 Clinton made it out to be that the Kremlin orchestrated a Soviet-style 98% victory for the UR. While Western media have gone to town interpreting the result as a big “defeat” for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (who is making a bid for presidency in the election on March 4), Clinton argued in a diametrically opposite direction as if the Kremlin leadership trampled the popular opinion and consolidated its grip on power.

 Curiously, Clinton didn’t let go the topic after her remarks in Bonn, but revisited it the very next day to give a further stinging rebuke to the Russian leadership from a high-profile podium right in Russia’s doorstep – Vilnius, Lithuania – in the presence of the entire community of the post-Soviet states and Old and New Europe.

 Her choice of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) forum was particularly symbolic since the regional body is the inheritor of the Cold War legacy of the famous Helsinki Accords of 1975.

 What prompted the US onslaught? A simple explanation could be that Clinton grabbed a chance to throw mud at Putin and make his bid for the presidency in the Kremlin in the Russian presidential election on March 4 as difficult and as controversial as possible.


Indeed, enough indications were available in recent weeks that Washington felt annoyed at the high probability of Putin’s return as Russia’s president at a formative period in world politics. Putin means an assertive Russia – a Russia that will negotiate hard to influence world events, a Russia that will cement its cooperation and coordination with China, a Russia that will forcefully counter the US’s crucial Middle East project to re-establish its hegemony over the region in the new conditions of “democracy”.

 The Russian Foreign Ministry routinely ridiculed Clinton’s remark, but Moscow’s reaction finally came when Putin spoke on Wednesday after letting the US secretary of state say all she had to say. Putin tore into Clinton. He said:

 I looked at the first reaction of our US colleagues. The [US] secretary of state was quick to evaluate the elections, saying that they are unfair and unjust, even before she received materials from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights [OSCE] observers. She set the tone for some actors in our country and gave them a signal. They heard the signal, and with the support of the US State Department, began active work.

 Putin then went on to allege that “hundreds of millions” of foreign money have been used to influence the outcome of Russia’s elections and Russia must protect its sovereignty:

 When money from abroad is invested in political activities inside another country, this concerns us … We are not against foreign observers monitoring our election process. But when they begin motivating some organizations inside the country, which claim to be domestic but in fact are funded from abroad … this is unacceptable.

 We will have to think about improving our laws in order to make those fulfilling the tasks of a foreign state aimed at influencing our domestic [political] process more responsible.

 The response is strongly worded, no doubt, and four things must be noted. One, this has been a rare personal accusation of Clinton herself for inciting instability in Russia. Two, Putin segregated the US State Department within the Barack Obama administration as working according to a plan of action. Three, Putin hinted at hard evidence of US meddling in the hands of the Russian intelligence. Finally, he indicated that Moscow won’t take this lying low.

 Clinton can hardly complain that Putin took a personal tone. The US State Department’s campaign against Putin had of late assumed a vicious tone even by the standards of the tumultuous Russian-American relations. A fortnight ago Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe (RFE/RL) featured a report over Putin’s personal life, with the seeming intent of animating an anti-Putin tsunami in the social media network in Russia.

 One cannot recall Russian official media descending to such abysmally poor taste to attack Bill Clinton even at the peak of the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. In retrospect, the US seems to have anticipated that the Russian intelligence had come in possession of hard evidence pointing toward the American meddling in Russian politics. The RFE/RL commentary would appear to have been a diversionary measure to get the eagle out of the trap that was actually intended for the bear.

 Clinton’s attempt seems to have been broadly in the same direction when she took to the high ground and made Russia’s election an epochal issue of the progress of democracy in the 21st century. From this point, actually, Obama administration is left with no alternative but the ridiculous one of kindling a Tahrir Square-like eruption in Moscow.

 According to the tabulation by the New York Times, by Thursday evening more than 32,000 people had clicked a Facebook page to say they would gather near the Kremlin. The daily carefully assessed, “Even if half that number showed up, that would make it the largest political protest since the fall of the Soviet Union.”

But the advent of the Arab Spring in the middle of the Russian winter in Moscow can only have predictable consequences. Beijing is also watching the unnatural phenomenon. If the New York Times senses that Putin “struggled to regain his footing after his party, United Russia, suffered big losses in the elections on Sunday”, attentive observers in Beijing have concluded otherwise.

Next: Bear nettles the Eagle, Dragon smiles [2 of 2]

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