What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bush raises the stakes

The Weekly Great Game - Special Issue #2 (April 2)
"Imagine, for a moment, that there is no such country called Russia, no Soviet past, no democracy in the West, that there are no such countries as Britain, Germany, Poland,or the United States, and so on. The map remains as we know it in terms of states delineated by familiar borders. But it is a map full of blanks. All that we are allowed to believe at this stage is that there are two military power blocs standing side by side: Bloc A and Bloc B. One assumption is also allowed: each bloc is suspicious of the other’s motives. Now, consider anumber of developments in the last decade or so.
First, Bloc A has grown in size from comprising 16 countries in 1998 to representing 26 countries today. Bloc B has remained alone as just one country. Second, the expansion of Bloc A has brought it right to Bloc B’s borders, whereas previously a buffer zone had existed. Third, consider the relative change in that period in the size of the respective armed forces and the respective capacities to deploy military hardware. Bloc A now has 1.9 million men and women under arms compared with 2.1 million just over a decade ago—a decline of 9.5 percent. Bloc B has 578,000 personnel compared with 749,000—a decline of 23 percent. Bloc A’s combat aircraft numbers have edged up slightly to 4,121, while Bloc B’s combat aircraft numbers have collapsed by 31 percent to 1,967. Bloc A’s attack helicopter numbers have risen by over 9 percent to 1,305, while block B’s have fallen by 44 percent to 447. And so the list goes on.
Given the allowed assumption that Bloc A and Bloc B view each other with suspicion, it would be understandable if Bloc B were concerned about recent developments."
Yep. There's even a nice chart on page 36 showing you more details of the changing balance of forces, even in terms of tanks (of which who knows exactly how many are actually deployable, I wonder).
Russia can't really look at all this as though there'd be no such thing as a security dilemma affecting its calculations. Even though its voiced fears of an aggressive NATO are obviously not well-founded, its regime's security as well as its (economic as well as political) interests' security in its near abroad is something they do have reason to take seriously. Even if the fear that NATO could act like the "Bloc A" described above, as a unitary, monolithic actor, is even more unfounded than some of the West's fears were, back following Stalin and Mao's negotiations in 1949/1950, of the emergence of a monolithic Red Bloc about to spread communism in a militant division of labour all around the globe; the Ukraine's getting in would be just too much for Russia.
But (as it was to be expected, actually) George Bush has just gone to Kyev yesterday to tell President Yushchenko how he will give his support to the Ukraine (and Georgia) entering a Membership Action Plan agreement in Bucharest.
The major European powers call for caution. Germany does, exactly because of its policy of equidistance between Russia and the U.S., and since allowing the Ukraine to start the MAP would be too much for Russia. That's no surprise really. That France is also calling for caution is no surprise, either, but remarkably they have just recently accomplished, with Sarkozy at the lead, a shift in policy more towards the U.S. And so do take note that yet they are not likely to buy into this one. French Prime Minister François Fillon reportedly stated on the radio, the Washington Post reports:
"France will not give its green light to the entry of Ukraine and Georgia. We are opposed to Georgia and Ukraine's entry because we think that it is not the correct response to the balance of power in Europe, and between Europe and Russia."
With the lack of prior, major European support, I still believe this was just a bit of "we support these countries' quest (unlike others, you know)" sort of grandstanding from Bush. Which is also compatible with the "Europeans are free-riders not standing up for their own interests" sort of line from the people behind his back. (Considering that NATO-Russia cooperation over Afghanistan is one of the stakes behind the Ukraine/Georgia MAP issue, and that one of the keys to making progress in Afghanistan is more of an effort by the European pillar (of sorts) within NATO, it's once again sign of just how much attention Bush is giving Afghanistan...)
If I'd be mistaken here about dismissing the scenario of the Ukraine (and Georgia, yes, in brackets) getting an MAP, I still think that then Bush wouldn't be about to go on - if all goes according to plan - to meet Putin in Sochi after Bucharest. And... oops, has Georgia just been forgotten, too, all but rhetorically here? For Georgia, one of the worst things imaginable is that the Ukraine gets in while it stays out. One of the cards Russia can play is in Abkhazia, uh, especially after the politically flexibly definable Kosovo "precedent." Having the Russians play that card, without at least an MAP for Georgia would be just bad, bad, bad for Georgia... Yet Bush hasn't gone to Tbilisi before Bucharest, he went only to Kyev. And he is not planning to go to Tbilisi after Bucharest, either... He will only go to Croatia before Sochi, and Croatia is of course the safest bet for admission into the alliance out of the "Adriatic" (haha) trio of Croatia, Albania and Macedonia. But I of course don't really think the "Ukraine in/Georgia out" scenario is realistic at all.
And anyway, diplomats have already come up with a way to bridge the U.S.-Russia gap. I so conclude from this:
"Since the decision requires unanimity, Washington would probably have to settle for a "road map" to closer cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia and a commitment to review the issue at next year's 60th anniversary summit, they said."
We'll see how serious Bush is about messing things up a little at his bye-bye summit between "Europeans" and the Ukraine (and Georgia) and between "Europeans" and Russia.
But switching to a different mode of speech for a last note, well, overall it is useful how the U.S.' stance makes it clear that the Ukraine can't be traded away as a bargaining chip. The parts make up more than the sum of the parts you know... which is a valid statement if Bush is coming not really to make a mess, but to take a stance. It could be constructive even.

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