Toshio Masuda

Toshio Matsuda, Commentator & Intl Economist

Straight from the Shoulder No.482

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"Straight from the shoulder" by Toshio Masuda August 26,2008
( Free of charge to the people I met)

Russia the Victor in Round One
of the Renewed East-West Cold War

Russia is All Action, the West is All Talk ~

Earlier this month, the country of Georgia used armed force against South Ossetia, a breakaway region that has continued to demand its independence from Georgia ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This prompted Russia to launch military action inside George, citing as the reason the need to protect Russians who live in that area.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the current representative of the European Union (EU), succeeded in convincing Russia and Georgia to enter into an agreement to cease military hostilities, and for Russia to withdraw its troops from Georgian territory. The aforementioned reason cited by Moscow for its invasion of Georgia, the need to protect Russian citizens there, was a mere pretext. The real motives behind this military advance include the desire to prevent Georgia from joining NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), as well as to avoid a situation under which Caspian Sea oil is shipped to the West without passing through Russian-controlled realms. At this writing, even after the agreement for a Russian troop pullout was supposedly closed, Russiafs military forces continue to keep Georgiafs principal roads, airports and ports closed. The number of refugees fleeing from Georgia continues to grow, with impoverishment of the nationfs domestic economy growing grave.
In past issues of this report, I have stated: gThe goal of government is the pursuit of the security of the state and its national interests. The only real means toward those ends, furthermore, are military might and money.h In this latest message, I wish to add a few more comments on the crucial basics of politics and governing. It is often said that, gGoverning consists of words.h But this could not be further from the truth. In my view, gGovernment consists solely of action.h In response to the Russian incursion into Georgia, both NATO and the United States issued a steady volley of declarations denouncing the move, followed by statements of the need to protect Georgian freedom and liberty. Not a single pistol shot, however, was fired in the direction of Russian tanks that advanced into Georgia. Now why was that?

The Primary Factor Behind Cold War Dominance is Nuclear Capability

Beginning in 1994, Washington and Moscow worked through the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) to reduce the number of nuclear warhead equipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). For its part, the U.S. also continued to reduce its arsenal of short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, despite the fact that these weapons are not targeted for retrenchment under START clauses. According to Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (known for the Doomsday Clock) and other informed and reliable sources, the current number of practical use ballistic missiles possessed by the U.S. reportedly does not exceed 500.
Russia, on the other hand, has mirrored Washington in its cuts in intercontinental ballistic missiles under the START agreement. When it comes to the short- and intermediate-range types, however, Moscow has actually upped its production of those weapons, which are now said to number 5,000 (or some 10 times the amount in the U.S. arsenal). Russiafs short- and intermediate-range ballistic missile capacity more than covers all of Europe. Under such menacing circumstances, the U.S. and other Western powers find themselves unable to fire even a single pistol shot in response to the exercising of armed force against new members of the Western bloc. Both Washington and the EU, in other words, are hardly going to choose the suicidal path of challenging practical nuclear capability some 10-fold that maintained by the U.S. military.
In addition to this, albeit not lethal to the tune of nuclear warheads, there are also economic reasons for this stance. As a case in point, Germany, the EUfs single largest economic, relies on Russia for 31% of its oil and 37% of its natural gas ? resources providing the true firepower of German industrial endeavor. As long as Russian nuclear-tipped missiles are not launched at Germany, even in the instance that Russian were to carry out a missile attack against a Germany ally, although Germany might issue a million statements condemning Moscowfs actions it would certainly be unable to resort to military action. Which is more important ? the life of another, or your own? The providence of life is also the providence of governing.

Russiafs Next Move

I believe that the Russian parliament will soon announce its recognition of independence for South Ossetia and the autonomous republic of Abkhazia, both of which have been demanding such separation and sovereignty from Georgia since the Soviet Union was dissolved. If both of these regions do become independent states and request from Moscow the permanent stationing of Russian troops there (much like the way in which U.S. troops remain deployed in Japan), there is no reason to doubt that Russia will readily comply. The cease-fire agreement brokered by President Sarkozy is little more than a passing topic of conversation. It is only a matter of time, furthermore, until Georgia has a chokehold placed on it by Russian troops from Abkahzia on the Black Sea side and from South Ossetia on the north side.
For the pro-American countries in the Caucasus region, an area that will find itself under the military threat of the Russian army from here on, a major concern is increased understanding of the reality that gWashington is all talk and no action, and in fact has its hands firmly tied.h Under such circumstances, the pro-U.S. governments there would be doomed to lose the support of their people. Once North Korea had apparently joined the ranks of nuclear nations, U.S. President George W. Bush and his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeatedly declared to the effect: gThe United States will not take military action against North Korea.h As was the case then, this latest global episode once again drives home the hard reality that nuclear weapons are the only sound guarantee of the survival of any nation state.
In this way, therefore, the first round of the renewed East-West Cold War kicked off in East Europe this summer ended in defeat for the Western side. With that conflict largely in the books, we can only wonder where the second round of the clash will occur. It goes without saying, though, that the setting for that struggle will be the Middle East. The actual hostilities themselves, meanwhile, promise to be long and hard.

As I have noted in this column, stock prices will continue to fluctuate violently through mid-September. What will be in store after that? The answer to that question is linked to an accurate reading of the global political situation and its dynamics.

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