Monday, July 27, 2009

A Russian Fairy Tale Of A Future Yet To Come

Joe Biden's flap-tongue-without-brain-engaged effort at public diplomacy didn't perturb the Geek alone. Not by a long shot. The Russians were not delighted either. No surprise there. The only slight surprise comes from the dearth of criticism from the Right which seems ever poised to leap on the slightest administration mis-step--provided, apparently, that it is on the domestic front only.

Perhaps the Right is grinning secretly, given that the oft-proclaimed foreign policy expert Biden has come out in agreement with Bush/Cheney and the neocon ninnies. Russia is nowhere. It is a defeated has-been. A nullity that can be pushed around for fun and profit. The fallen giant of our Cold War horrors which can now be kicked safely and with great inner pleasure.

Yeah. Right. For sure.

Instead, for grins and to prompt thinking, let's take a dekko at an option which the current Obama administration's foreign policy deficit is opening to yawning proportions. It has to do with Israel, Iran, and Russia.

It starts with the community of interest which events of the recent past have created for Russia and Israel. The community has two chief features. Both see Iran as a potential threat albeit of differing proportions. Secondly, neither government has profound reasons to rely upon the Obama administration for cooperation in pursuing core national and strategic interests--even when doing such is objectively in keeping with American core interests.

Israel has already approached Russia for assistance in abating the Iranian nuisance. The Kremlin's response is not yet publicly known. For purposes of this thought experiment let us assume it is guardedly favorable.

This is how the pas a deux might well play out.

Russia indicates it "understands" Israel's anxieties. It suggests that as a first step in dealing with this, Israel might want to enter a joint venture in, say, air defense technology development. Israel agrees as this would be to both state's benefit even if the relation does not progress to more exalted levels.

Israeli technicians join with Russian in "up-grading" the SAM 300 system. Of course this would let the Israelis know just how to go about defeating the gadget so as to do in Iran what they did in Syria only faster and better.

Russia invites Israel to dispatch an air contingent to Russia for "joint training exercises." This would provide perfect cover for an Israeli attack against the Iranian nuclear R&D complex without overflying any Mideast country. The Kremlin knows that no matter what, Iran (and others) will blame the US even if the attack launch point is publicly alleged.

The Russians will say nothing. Neither will the Israelis in the style of the days after the Syrian attack. If Iran makes any nasty noises toward Moscow, the Kremlin can shrug it off being secure in the capacity of the Russian army, air force, and strategic rocket forces to deal expeditiously and effectively with anything Iran might be tempted to try. (Remember the Russians have great faith in unilateral action unlike the US.)

Should, as most expect, the attack results in a severe spike in world oil prices, Vladimir Putin and company will laugh all the way to the bank. From the perspective of the Russian economy the very best thing that could happen would be a long stoppage of oil flowing through the Persian Gulf coupled with a speculator frenzy driving oil above 200 clams per barrel.

In the wake of the Israeli strike, the Kremlin would quietly pass the word to the fearful states of the Gulf concerning its involvement in the attack. The Russian diplomats might suggest that the Russian "defense umbrella" was more reliable and robust than that of the Americans. Perhaps, these diplomats would purr, the time has come to revisit your military equipment needs.

The assorted oil sheikdoms would get the message quickly and clearly.

So would the mullahs of Tehran. This would be particularly true if the Kremlin allowed as how the attack was a one-off operation and would not be repeated if Iran fixed its nuclear power needs more closely with Russian suppliers. The mullahs would not be so otherworldly as to fail to see the shadow of an implied Russian "defense umbrella" being held over their heads in the event of another Israeli strike, particularly one which used missiles and nuclear warheads.

The US would be on the sidelines throughout the process. It would be busy however, issuing denials with one hand while catching blame with the other. In any event, the Obama administration would be too busy dealing with the necessary consequences of stratospheric oil prices on the recovery and the agenda alike.

Putin may be too civilized at this juncture to make any statements about the "withering" American economy and the loss of the American "empire." It is, he may believe, far more enjoyable to win than it is to crow about winning.

The moral of our fable, kids?

Simple. Don't declare yesterday's enemy dead and buried because he may come roaring out of the grave only to embarrass you.

Did you get it, Joe?


Anonymous said...

No, he didn't get it - but if the scenario you talk about actually occurred, talk about paybacks.

Here's the most hilarious part:

The Obama administration's best path in terms of response would end up being to "out NEOcon the NEOcons".

First off, missile defense for eastern European nations would be a 'must'. All the sudden, it's #1 on the agenda. Got to get back in the game, and that means re-establishing "influence". Easier said than done.

Second, most of the nations we are talking about want economic development. Their economic interests become priority - not ours. They probably won't be too likely to sign on to all of our environmentalist concerns, and we're just going to have to deal with that.

It's going to be a situation where it will be harder (on orders of magnitude) for the US to disengage from places like Iraq and the 'stans. We're talking the type of gaffe in this specific instance that could make "Mission Accomplished" look like pocket change long term.

Then there's the last little irony. The best way to get back to even with Russia (now that 'Uncle Joe' has done such magnificent job of stuffing both feet into his mouth - up to his elbows) is to extensively promote the expansion and drilling of the massive shale rock formations existing in both Hungary and Poland - for hydrocarbons, specifically natural gas formations.

There's serious talk that those shale rock formations could be the Eastern European equal to the Haynesville or Fayetteville shale formations here in the US.

Imagine if a substantial portion (in excess of 60%) of the existing EU market for natural gas could be provided for from production occurring in Hungary and Poland, instead of Russia.

Now, this would mean that the Obama administration would end up having to advocate massive drilling and hydrocarbon exploration programs, but stranger things have happened.

Or the Administration could just send 'Uncle Joe' back over to Russia to bleat piously about our loss of influence and how we were being being treated so unfairly.

I'm sure that under those circumstance, Vlad would probably be willing to let Joe Biden hand polish his shoes for him.

History Geek said...

Good point. But of the two "fairy tales" the Geek has to stick with his, it is slightly more realistic. Putin and the Israeli government are capable of a degree of realism which totally eludes the Obama administration.