Saturday, 6 September 2008

Cheney – the wounded neocon

by Peter Lavelle

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s “inspection tour” of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine was supposed to show Russia that the US has strong allies in the post-Soviet space. Well, if the US did have strong allies in this part of the world, I doubt this is the case now.

I have to wonder whether Cheney was questioned (over and over again) about how all of his great promises of support to these countries ended up in such a catastrophe? Cheney probably simply brushed off these worries. He has no interest in these countries whatsoever. Cheney simply wants Azerbaijan’s energy and to have Ukraine and Georgia play the role of spoilers to advance Washington’s geopolitical interests – all to annoy Russia. What happens to these countries in their own neighborhood is their problem. Dick is not the sentimental type. As a true neocon, friendship, truth, the law, and honor are alien concepts.

Cheney visited Tbilisi not to shore up Mikhail Saakashvili’s political position within Georgia and on the international stage. That is simply not possible anymore. Politically speaking, Saakashvili is a “dead man walking.” Of course there were thunderous words about how the US supports Georgia and its leader. Even a billion bucks were slated to prop up Georgia’s economy. But at the end of the day, Georgia has forever lost South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It was Cheney’s support of Saakashvili and his reckless and deadly ambitions that created this new reality. And, as a result, the Georgian leader himself is now a Washington liability.

Saakashvili was always one of Washington’s favourite pitch-hitters. But when it was Saakashvili’s time to bat, he struck out in the worst possible way. Cheney really has no use for Saakashvili anymore. Just watch – today we will probably see the end of martial law in Georgia. Expect to see opposition rallies start as a trickle; sooner rather later they will turn into something serious. Cheney’s Washington friends won’t lift a finger to help Saakashvili. Western media turned Saakashvili into a sensation, but Saakashvili’s action has turned him into a political ghost.

I believe this because we are about to enter the third stage of this tragic drama. (Just to recap: the first stage was Saakashvili’s war of aggression and media blitz, blaming everything on Russia. The second is the current media war. With every passing day, Tbilisi’s lies and brutality come to light. Russia is not the most media savvy country, but it is slowly getting out the real story). The third stage is the Cheney gang regrouping. Surveying the landscape and the personalities on the ground is happening now. And Saakashvili is no longer in the line-up.

This third stage sees Cheney and his neoconservative worldview on the defensive. This is very dangerous. The neocons tend to get really nasty when playing the game of catch-up. I fully expect a slow but sure drumbeat of “incidents” on the borders and within South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Cheney’s people will do everything they can to discredit and undermine the independence of Georgia’s former breakaway republics. As before, there will be little regard for human life. And keep an eye on Crimea.

Cheney is royally annoyed. He wants the Russians to pay for his tremendous blunder. The only way to do this is through Washington-sympathetic media. And we all know what they can do to influence public opinion. Western media almost universally claims to dislike Cheney, but it has the amazing capacity to do his bidding when he demands it.

Cheney’s tour was not a triumphant parade. It was not a trip demonstrating strength. Cheney visits were to assess the damage of his own policies – and it is considerable. The post-Soviet space is taking note of American words and actions. They simply don’t match. Cheney has shown himself to be an unreliable partner.

All the while, Russia has been watching from the sidelines. It will not remain idle. It did so far too long. If Cheney wants an undeclared war – Russia will surely give him what he wants. Cheney’s world is all about illusory ideals and profit. Russia’s interests are far more basic – like living in a safe neighbourhood.

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