Somebody in Washington wants to play hardball with Russia.
Duma deputies unanimously approved a resolution expressing concern over “growing and unprecedented attempts” by the United States to interfere in internal issues.
“Under the guise of helping to conduct free and fair elections for the State Duma in December 2007 and of the president of the Russian Federation in March 2008, U.S. taxpayers’ money is being used to fund numerous training courses, surveys, seminars and other events that propagandize … and distort the situation,” the resolution said…
The Duma resolution, which mentions the U.S. report, also accuses U.S. officials of participating in events organized by “openly extremist forces” — an apparent reference to the attendance of several U.S. officials at a Moscow conference held by The Other Russia last year. Among The Other Russia’s organizers is the unregistered National Bolshevik Party, which prosecutors call extremist.
The Duma also called on the president, the Cabinet and the Prosecutor General’s Office to boost enforcement of the 2006 law that bans NGOs from participating in political activities and establishes strong bureaucratic control over their finances, particularly over foreign grants.
So, who is spoiling for a fight with Russia?
In a March 22, 2007 Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, Dimitri K. Simes points a finger:
[There is an] influential group of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists inside and outside the Bush administration [for whom] compromise is unacceptable. For them, foreign policy is a morality play; the Russians are the bad guys and should be taught a lesson…
In terms of “liberal interventionists,” Simes doesn’t name names. Maybe he has in mind Katrina vanden Heuvel–publisher of The Nation–and her husband, NYU Professor Stephen F. Cohen who might identify themselves as decidedly anti-Putin.
Regarding the “neoconservatives,” I am even less sure if the label fits.
As I noted in a recent post, some strident supporters of Israel–including House International Relations Committee Chairman Tom Lantos–have recently “gone wobbly” on Russia.
If Lantos is prepared to ease the way for the lifting of Jackson-Vanik trade sanctions and help shepherd Russia into the WTO, others in Washington are not yet on board.
Mosnews has noted signs of a split in Washington:
U.S. Trade Representatives Susan Schwab said that Moscow was making only “slow progress” for entry into the 150-member world trade body.
“We would like to see Russia a full fledged member of the World Trade Organization and hope that Russia will undertake the commitments and responsibilities, the obligations that come with being a WTO member,” she said, quoted by the AFP…
Schwab also said the US Congress was not prepared to revoke Cold War-era legislation intended to pressure Soviet authorities over emigration restrictions…
As MosNews has reported, several U.S. officials including Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and Congressman Tom Lantos, have spoken in favor of lifting the amendment as soon as possible.
Schwab, however, seems to have a different idea. “The question that I get asked when it comes to Jackson-Vanik and permanent normal trade relations with Russia is, is the WTO ready to let Russia in and the answer is, ’not yet,’” she said.
What is Schwab’s beef with Russia? It may be more narrowly “commercial” than geo-strategic.
Nevertheless, there are Russia hawks in Washington and Cheney is arguably the ringleader. But it is not obvious that Right Zionists constitute the core of his anti-Putin coalition precisely because Right Zionists might be tempted to “go wobbly” on Russia in exchange for cooperation in containing Iran.
But, as Dimitri K. Simes points out, there are Russia hawks in this administration. Simes identifies one key figure: Dan Fried, assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs.
Consider, for example, his recent Congressional testimony on US relations with Turkey:
On energy security, the United States has offered strong support to help realize the Baku-Tbilisi- Ceyhan oil pipeline, working with Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan and with companies to establish a public-private partnership that has resulted in one the most complex and successful pipeline projects of all time. A companion natural gas pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum, a pipeline, is about to begin delivering Azerbaijani natural gas to Georgia and Turkey.
Over the next decade, we hope a trans-Caspian gas pipeline from Kazakhstan and even Turkmenistan will connect with this BTE pipeline. We have also just launched trilateral discussions with Ankara and Baghdad on developing gas production in northern Iraq.
This so-called Southern Corridor can change Eurasia’s strategic map by offering Europe its best hope for large volumes of natural gas supplies that will allow diversification away from a deepening European reliance on Gazprom.
Daniel Fried makes one thing clear: the Great Game is alive and well.