THIS WEEK’S SYNDICATED COLUMN: 13 DAYS IN AUGUST

The Polish Missile Crisis: Bush’s Last War?

The Cold War is over,” Condi Rice said last week. This may be true. She and her lame duck boss seem to be starting up a hot one instead.

Imagine Russian or Chinese military bases in Tijuana or Ciudad Juárez, across the Mexican border from El Paso. Add some more in Toronto and Vancouver. Now imagine that Russia managed to persuade Canada and Mexico to join it in some weird new Eastern bloc military alliance whose purpose was to “contain” the U.S., and then placed a battery of long-range missiles in one or both countries. How long would it take before we went to war?

Of course, you don’t need an imagination. The U.S. didn’t tolerate Soviet missiles in Cuba, and is still trying to overthrow its government.

Given America’s refusal to accept an unfriendly regime in its neighborhood–remember Grenada?–you’d think it would know enough to stay out of Russia’s hair. You’d be wrong.

Driven by its twin original sins of greed and arrogance, the United States began nibbling at Russia’s edges soon after the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Clinton Administration wooed oil-rich ex-Soviet states such as Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. It’s as if Florida were to declare independence, and crawled into bed with Iran.

Efforts to de-Russify the old Soviet sphere of influence accelerated under Bush, who used 9/11 and the “war on terror” as a pretext to establish permanent military bases in the Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Bush’s CIA even funded a coup d’état in Kyrgyzstan, which overthrew Central Asia’s only democratically elected president.

Central Asia, under Russia’s sphere of influence for more than 150 years, began playing host to CIA “black sites” and other U.S. torture facilities.

The U.S. invited ex-Soviet bloc states–the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, the Baltic states–to join NATO, the Cold War-era anti-Russian military alliance. Recently, it even encouraged the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia to apply for membership, emboldening Georgia in its recent conflict with Russia.

Now the Bush Administration has convinced Poland to base ten RIM-161 Standard Interceptor Missiles (SM-3) along Russia’s western border.

Republics that were once part of or fell under the influence of the Soviet Union are sovereign states. They are legally and morally permitted to form alliances with any other nation they choose, including the U.S. Still, you have to wonder: Don’t these guys own a map? Doesn’t it make more sense to suck up to the superpower next door than the one an ocean away?

From our perspective: Why would the U.S. think provoking Russia by encroaching on its traditional sphere of influence is a good idea?

For Russia, using newfound oil wealth to rebuild its military, the Polish-American missile deal is the line in the sand. Annual defense budget increases of 20 percent or more, which should bring at least half of its hardware up to modern standards by 2015, have transformed the dying dog of Yeltsin-era “shock economics” back into a growling bear.

“Poland, by deploying [U.S. missiles] is exposing itself to a [nuclear] strike–100 percent,” says top Russian general Anatoly Nogovitsyn. The Russian government stood by his threat.

The U.S. claims the Russians have nothing to fear. “It [the missile system] is not aimed in any way at Russia,” says Condi. Indeed, interceptor missiles are designed to shoot down other missiles, not launch attacks. But the Russians don’t want to see their ability to strike first–a right also reserved by the U.S.–degraded by an anti-missile system. They also worry about the slippery slope: what new weapons will the U.S. place in Eastern Europe later on?

Russia’s concerns are no different than ours would be if they were the ones arming Canada against us. But Condi’s reassurances are too cute by half.

Shortly before signing the missile deal with Poland, she commented: “This will help us to deal with the new threats of the 21st century, of long-range missile threats from countries like Iran or from North Korea.” Sounds reasonable–except for geography.

Nearly 2000 miles separates Iran and Poland. North Korea is nearly 5000 miles away from Poland. But Iran’s longest-range missile, the Shahab-3, can only go 1200 miles–about the same as North Korea’s equivalent. When you factor in the fact that America’s Poland-based SM-3s only travel about 300 miles, it is mathematically impossible for them to intercept anything launched by Iran or North Korea.

The U.S. is occupying two of the largest nations bordering Iran–Afghanistan and Iraq. Wouldn’t building a missile shield there make a zillion times more sense? As for North Korea, well, we have a base in Okinawa, not to mention 25,000 troops in South Korea.

Meanwhile, Condi is trying to recruit more former Soviet republics for NATO. “We are going to help rebuild Georgia into a strong Georgian state,” Rice told Fox News. “The Russians will have failed in their effort to undermine Georgia. And we will be looking at what we can do with the states around that region as well.”

Are the Bushies trying to create a “national emergency” pretext for canceling the presidential election? Are they crazy Christians lusting for the end times? Or are they just nuts? No one knows their motives. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that, after lying us into two losing wars, Cheney & Co. are using their closing months to try to provoke the mother of them all.

COPYRIGHT 2008 TED RALL

26 Responses to “”

  1. Aggie Dude Says:

    Embrace the insanity, Ted. Did you really think this century would be different? It’s a great time to be alive.

  2. Aggie Dude Says:

    …You know what the scariest part of this whole thing is? Look at Rall’s latest op-ed and compare it to Pat Buchanan’s latest. You’ve got two great minds who couldn’t be farther apart on most things, and their articles essentially make the same exact argument: that Western Europe and the United States have antagonized Russia.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    The U.S. is occupying two of the largest nations bordering Iran–Afghanistan and Iraq. Wouldn’t building a missile shield there make a zillion times more sense?

    Ted Rall doesn’t mind the U.S. building an anti-Iranian missile defense shield!

  4. Anonymous Says:

    bush needed to go yesterday. Along with him and his administration The U.S. foriegn policy. It has done no good since the end of the Marshal Plan. It’s time for some new ideas on how to win friends and influence people. How about this for a novel idea. Food and blankets? Want to make friends? How about…Doctors? Sound too communeistic? Ok then how about clean water? OOPs don’t let the secret out. 1,2,3,4 what are we fighting for?

  5. Sean Says:

    Maybe Poland feels, **for some reason**, that they are more likely to be actually invaded by Russia than the USA. Not that the USA would or could actually save them if the Russians really wanted to do so, but I guess they’re trying to make it look like as ugly an option as possible.

  6. Aggie Dude Says:

    Historically speaking, Poland (or the piece of land currently known as Poland) has always been screwed when Western Europe has antagonized Mother Russia, this is nothing new.

    Bush & Co. will launch nukes if Russia invades. Once that happens, humanity is doomed. But maybe for a brief moment before the apocalypse, people will finally see their true colors.

    Eh, not bloody likely.

  7. The Reverend Mr. Smith Says:

    Blogger Aggie Dude said…

    …You know what the scariest part of this whole thing is? Look at Rall’s latest op-ed and compare it to Pat Buchanan’s latest. You’ve got two great minds who couldn’t be farther apart on most things, and their articles essentially make the same exact argument: that Western Europe and the United States have antagonized Russia.

    I noticed that too! I almost sent Mr. Rall the piece by Pat Buchanan and then figured he probably already read it.

    If Ann Coulter writes a third version of this column, the End Times are truly here. We’ll be OK though, I think Skeletor is still lusting after John Edwards and probably will be for a couple more weeks at least.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Ahhh, fuck it. America is county of idiots. The balls of our leaders to demonize Russia for invading a “Sovereign” nation. It’s on purpose. Psycho Christian eschatology. They WANT the apocalypse to happen. There are actually people the believe that a nuclear war is survivable. Tell ya what, in the 15 minutes it takes for the missiles to cross the pole, every nation with nuclear capabilties will use that time to settle old scores. If God won’t do it, then Bush and Co. will force his hand. And by the way, what the fuck did McCain and his lobbyist promise the Georgian President?? A latter day “Bay of Pigs” if ya ask me. Am
    I wrong but he refers to McCain by name, right?? And how many of McCain’s Jewish supporters get miffed when he keeps refering to Georgia as one of the first “Christian” nations?? Like that matters. Doesn’t Israel and the rest of the world’s Hebrews know that they’re bait for Jesus? For a nation that bent against violent Islamic militants, The final events of the New Testament end pretty messy. “You die, the girl dies, everyone dies.” Unfitting for the so-called “Prince of Peace”, eh?? End of rant, go back to watching sports. Dorme bene.

  9. Sean C. Ledig Says:

    TESTIFY BROTHER TED!!!

    Another kick-ass column.

    The trouble with the right-wing, pseudo-Christians is that they have no sense of empathy. It is impossible for them to put themselves in another's shoes. Unfortunately, as they determined at Nuremberg, a lack of empathy is the root cause of all evil in the world.

    Speaking as a Christian, let me say that Bush, Cheney, the late Ronald Reagan and their ilk are not Christians. I think of them everytime I read about "wolves in sheep's clothing" and "false prophets" in my Bible.

    They are very good at demonizing outsiders, like secularists, atheists, Moslems, Jews, new-agers, etc. But the real enemies of Christianity are not those outsiders. It's those like Bush & Co., who've infiltrated the faith and use it to justify their own evil.

    They are the "wolves in sheep's clothing." (Matt. 7:15)

  10. J. A. Ludtke Says:

    12.11am’s anonymous said:

    And how many of McCain’s Jewish supporters get miffed when he keeps refering to Georgia as one of the first “Christian” nations?? Like that matters.

    1) How many Jewish supporters does John McCain have? Probably too few to care and so likely to vote GOP that he doesn’t care about offending them.

    2) When I saw McCain speak this Wednesday he made this reference to Georgia as an early Christian nation. I also wondered WTF but I guess his logic is that Americans would be more willing to get involved in saving the ass of an uppity Christian ex-Soviet republic than a Muslim one?

    3) Related more back to Ted’s post, has the US ever shown respect towards Russian and/or Slavic culture? AFAIK we’ve almost always been either neutral or antagonistic.

  11. J. A. Ludtke Says:

    Tangential to everything here, but I can’t find the original post, so…

    Henry Payne had an editorial cartoon two days ago with Obama picking McCain as his running mate.

    Ted’s cartoon on the exact same subject with both a better setup and punchline was 20 days ago.

    I guess this means Mr. Payne doesn’t read Ted Rall. 😦

  12. Aggie Dude Says:

    Hey Charles, glad I wasn’t the only one, because I was afraid of offending Ted by mentioning him and the “Bulldog” in the same sentence.

    If Ann Coulter writes a third version of this column, the End Times are truly here.

    That would be scary, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. For as silly and 18th Century as Buchanan is, he’s very experienced and knowledgeable. Heck, he was on the plane with Nixon to China! Ann Coulter is nothing like Rall or Buchanan. All she is, is a wasted away cheerleader who begs for acknowledgment from strong, conservative white men who she adores as daddy figures, and that’s what drives her, but she’s not smart enough to add anything real to any discussion. I predict she won’t ever say anything about this.

    Honestly speaking (not that I’ve really looked), has she ever commented on anything serious in the world?

  13. Marion Delgado Says:

    In Lebanon and Palestine the IDF and the settlers kill off the first Christians, and the RW base could give a rat’s ass, so I suspect it only works one way.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    In this case, the U.S. is the kinder, gentler kleptocracy. The former Soviet states and satellites are flocking to us because we don’t rape and pillage nearly as hard as the Russians.

    The civilized world should protect free peoples from the Russians. Look at it this way, Bush is the worse we’ve ever done. The Ruskies have Stalin and Ivan the Terrible to their credit.

  15. WisdomKurk Says:

    What fun it is to read Ted. I’ve been away from Mr. Rall’s columns for a while and I sure am glad I found his blog. Wow, up to 27 comments on one of his cartoons! You go boy.

    Here we are in the dog days of a lame duck administration and Mr. Rall has his hair on fire. Could it be that he can see that his arch-radical front has destroyed the Democratic Party, and that there will be a meltdown in Denver and in November?

    As for this 8/21/08, article: “greed and arrogance”, “original sins”? “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, are the United States of America’s original graces. Whereas some of the ex-Soviet bloc nations were given the opportunity to join NATO, the Soviet Union used tanks and bayonets to “invite” them into the Warsaw Pact. Mr. Rall, do you really want millions of people to “suck up” to tyranny? Do you really long for the heady days of Hungary 1956?

    So the bear is in his den and growling. By 2015, he’ll awaken and start to feed his ravenous appetite. According to Mr. Rall we should allow it to have a few midnight snacks. I wonder how President Obama’s second term will handle the bear.

    Keep up the great work Mr. Rall. Gee, 27 comments.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    Ahh, good to see Ted is still the Totalitarian Apologist supreme.

  17. Incitatus Says:

    Aggie,

    The scariest part is that both Ted’s and Pat’s opinions are going to be discarded by the mainstream (from both parties) as wacky. Which should make one wonder…

  18. Anonymous Says:

    Anon 8/22-3:50pm

    Pretty difficult to read this column as an apology for totalitarianism. It might help to revisit the characteristics of a totalitarian regime.

    Here are the criteria that define a totalitarian situation. Hard to see how present day Russia fits the bill.

    1) Is there a very active political movement consisting of very disgruntled people that seek control of the government and institutions?

    2) Does the movement fanatically support ideological positions and do the leaders rely heavily on propaganda to continually reinforce the ideological positions?

    3) Are coercion and various forms of intimidation readily adopted and justified by the movement and its leaders?

    4) Once they have solidified their hold on the government, do the leaders promulgate and pursue grand and aggressive agendas to change society—and the world—with little regard for possible consequences or actual outcomes?

    5) Is it clear that the entire society, and portions of the world, is being deeply involved in these travesties, because individuals and even nations are either enthralled by the ideologies or co-opted given their situation?

    6) Is resistance and dissent extremely difficult, if not impossible, once the movement achieves substantial political success and, effectively, becomes the government?

  19. Incitatus Says:

    Wisdomkurk,

    Why should it be the business of the U.S. government when a country invades another, half way across the globe?

  20. Anonymous Says:

    An interesting aspect of the so-called missile defense systems is that they don’t work and probably never will. Here’s the first sentence of the executive summary of an 2004 evaluation by experts at MIT:

    “The ballistic missile defense system that the United States will deploy later this year will have no demonstrated defensive capability and will be ineffective against a real attack by long-range ballistic missiles. The administration’s claims that the system will be reliable and highly effective are irresponsible exaggerations. There is no technical justification for deployment of the system, nor are there sound reasons to procure and deploy additional interceptors.”

    Here’s a more recent (04-2008) assessment:
    “However, the United States is no closer today to being able to effectively defend against long-range ballistic missiles than it was 25 years ago.”

    Link to research, etc.

    This is one of those great black hole projects. The military gets another base and billions get spent on stuff that won’t work. It does give all these great leaders something to talk about as they fight about who gets the oil revenue. I wonder if they work out what qualifies as acceptable insults in advance? Will there be a call to reconstitute the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which included Latvia, Belarus and part of the Ukraine?

  21. Matthew Says:

    Anon. 8/22/08 12:56 PM

    “Look at it this way, Bush is the worse we’ve ever done. The Ruskies have Stalin and Ivan the Terrible to their credit.”

    Wasn’t Stalin Georgian?

  22. Anonymous Says:

    “The civilized world should protect free peoples from the Russians. Look at it this way, Bush is the worse we’ve ever done. The Ruskies have Stalin and Ivan the Terrible to their credit.” -Anon.

    Numbnuts, Stalin was a GEORGIAN.

    Bush isn’t the worst we’ve done…we blew up Vietnam, nuked two cities in Japan, invaded Iraq for no reason, invaded or supported insurgencies in Afghanistan and abandoned the country twice, bombed Serbia (and destroyed both a TV station and the Chinese Embassy, both war crimes), supported goons in El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, Iran, Iraq…we goaded the Ethiopians into invading Somalia a few years ago, and backed the war criminal Jonas Savimbi in Angola in the
    1980s-1990s while at the same time the US paid for Pol Pot’s camps on the Thai-Cambodian border. If you know the history of the world, you realize nobody has clean hands, and that some nations have more crusted blood on their hands than others.

    – Strelnikov

  23. WisdomKurk Says:

    Incitatus, true, what indeed does any country half-way around the world have to do with us? If the answer is nothing, absolutely nothing, then how about a 1/4 of the way around? 1/8?

    And then what about the U.S.’s humanitarian efforts? President Bush’s efforts has reduced AIDS in Africa by huge numbers. Should we stop the Africa/AIDS project because we need the 5 billion here?

  24. Anonymous Says:

    Strelnikov,

    I would be offended by “numbnuts” but I know its a serious problem. I now have full sensation in my genitals thanks to the work of a wonderful urologist. I can give you his contact info. You sound like you can benefit from his services.

    Stalin is Georgian. Hitler was Austrian. You can find deranged people of all ethnicities. If a country choses such a person to lead them, it says more about that country than the leader’s place of origin. For instance, if the Canadians elect Josef Fritzl Prime Minister, it would reflect more badly on Canada than Austria.

    The Soviet Union was a strongly Russian dominated state. The Russians have a strong track record when it comes to putting wackos, both native and imported, into positions of power. Catherine the Great would be a good supporting example, but alas the story about the horse is just an urban legend.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    Ted, since you enjoy globe trotting, why don’t you visit some of those eastern european countries and ask them who they think is better? Of course, it might be a case of the devil you know rather than the one you don’t. But I don’t think it is. Most europeans have much animosity towards the Russians, and for good reason.

    Have there been any countries since WW2 to willingly and democractically align themselves with Russia? There might be a few. But there are far more who have willingly gone the way of the west, and by extension, the US.

  26. Jenny E Says:

    Strelnikov,

    I can’t believe you forgot Panama “Operation Just Cause” (that’s right put it in the title and then no one can argue with you) and pretty much every country in Latin America. And of course, the first one, against the Native Americans of North America.

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