On February 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin startled the Munich Conference on Security Policy with a speech that was strongly critical of United States foreign and military policy. The speech drew an immediate and harsh reaction from the U.S. media. However, after reading the entire speech (found here), I must say that it was, if anything, restrained. Some extended quotations from Putin's speech are in order:
What is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to one type of situation, namely one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making. It is [a] world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within...
We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law.... One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this? ...
This is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe. I want to emphasize this – no one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course such a policy stimulates an arms race....
Putin expressed particular concern about the expansion of NATO up to the borders of Russia itself:
[NATO] represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? ...
The stones and concrete blocks of the Berlin Wall have long been distributed as souvenirs. But we should not forget that the fall of the Berlin Wall was possible thanks to a historic choice – one that was also made by our people, the people of Russia – a choice in favor of democracy, freedom, openness and a sincere partnership with all the members of the big European family.
The new American Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, followed the next day with assurances to Putin and the Russians that “we all face many common problems and challenges that must be addressed in partnership with other countries, including Russia... I think no one wants a new Cold War with Russia.”
Though I may be earning myself a world of hurt, I must say that I am unconvinced by Gates’ reassurances and I dare suggest that Putin’s apprehensions might have some justification. (Standard disclaimer: while I find much to admire in Russian history and culture, I detest Soviet Communism. In my frequent visits to Russia, I have seen what Communism did to Russia and to my Russian friends).
For a validation of Putin’s concerns, one need look no further than the published objectives of the neo-conservatives, and particularly of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the policies of which have been largely adopted intact by the Bush Administration. For consider:
**Putin complains that a “uni-polar world” is a world with “one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making ... one master, one sovereign.” But isn’t this precisely the published objective of the neo cons and PNAC? As William Kristol and Robert Kagan put it, the time has come for the United States, the “sole remaining super-power,” to impose a “benevolent global hegemony” upon the world. They explain, “a hegemon is nothing more or less than a leader with preponderant influence and authority over all others in its domain. That is America's position in the world today.” This is a virtual paraphrase of Putin’s complaint.
**Putin is also alarmed by “a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law.” This disdain is exemplified by The Bush Administration’s unilateral abrogation of the test-ban and anti-ballistic missile treaties, its violation of the Geneva Conventions against torture and of the Nuremberg Accords forbidding unprovoked war, and its refusal to allow American citizens to be tried in international criminal courts. What is all this, if not a “disdain .. of international law”?
**Putin asks: “[NATO] represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust... Against whom is this expansion intended?” A worthy question. Why indeed need NATO expand up to the very borders of Russia, and within the borders of the former Soviet Union? Why include the Baltic Republics (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) and Georgia? Why attempt to add Ukraine to the alliance? Why should NATO install “defensive”missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic? Why, except to provoke and, perchance, humiliate Russia for its alleged “loss” of the Cold War? Otherwise, these developments must appear to the Russians as a revival of the Cold War “containment” policy.
It would seem that Cheney, Rumsfeld and now Gates are old Cold War dogs incapable of learning new tricks. They just can’t adapt to a post-Cold War multi-lateral world. “Just like any war,” Putin observed, “the Cold War left us with live ammunition, figuratively speaking. I am referring to ideological stereotypes, double standards and other typical aspects of Cold War bloc thinking.”
Let’s be perfectly blunt: Not everyone suffered because of the Cold War, and not everyone was elated by its demise.
Most significantly, of course, the Military-Industrial Complex (expanded since Eisenhower’s 1961 warning about “the military-industrial-academic-media-congressional complex”), flourished during, and because of, the Cold War and then was hit hard and immediately by the ending of it.
The ending of the Cold War was especially painful in the defense-industry-intensive state of California. In a March 29, 1991 San Francisco Examiner article, “State’s Finances Collapsing,” we read: