In For A Penny, In For An Armageddon
As a Russian carrier task force bobbed through the Med on its way to the Levant, Syrian president Bashar Assad (who before the NeoCon Surprise in Georgia and the Polish Missile Crisis had been working on a peace treaty with Israel) was in Russia. Assad assented to hosting a "defensive missile shield" and a Russian base in his country. Let's see now, for Fundies waiting on the Rapture, is it Gog who will play Russia, and was it Magog who'll be China, or was it the other way around? Saddam Hussein, Babylon the Great, the Anti-Christ, numerology, the King of the North et cetera, you just can't tell the players without a program:
The Russian aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” is heading from Murmansk towards the Mediterranean and the Syrian port of Tartus. The mission comes after Syrian President Bashar Assad said he is open for a Russian base in the area. The “Admiral Kuznetsov”, part of the Northern Fleet and Russia’s only aircraft carrier, will head a Navy mission to the area. The mission will also include the missile cruiser “Moskva” and several submarines, Newsru.com reports.Alternative energy is lovely stuff, but oil is the hottest source there is, and civilizations have shown a pronounced preference to pursue the #1 option; plus, as Phil of Perils of Caffeine in the Evening once observed, "We're humans. We burn shit." Less sagely, Condi Rice said last week, "The Cold War is over," and I sure hope she's wrong again. Because if she's right, she's too right. Give us a Cold War again, give us Nikita Kruschev in Manhattan banging his shoe on a table at Maxim's demanding service, hell, bring on a caviar embargo. It's better than the same old Bush Administration "who, me?" looks after another botch-n-blot on the escutcheon, wiser than the harsh retaliations of signing a missile deal with Poland, suspending NATO's ties with Moscow, and launching more meetings on Georgia joining NATO.
President Assad in meetings in Moscow this week expressed support to Russia’s intervention in South Ossetia and Georgia. He also expressed interest in the establishment of Russian missile air defense facilities on his land.
The “Admiral Kuznetsov” also last year headed a navy mission to the Mediterranean. Then, on the way from the Kola Peninsula and south, it stopped in the North Sea where it conducted a navy training exercise in the immediate vicinity of Norwegian offshore oil installations.
Living off the tampered hydroponics fed to us in the Media Hothouse, its easy for anyone, Big People included, to miss the primary facts. Modern armies are the most enthusiastic users of oil that ever existed. The Russians have a much-improved army, and do not need to back down. They can beat the US and its proxies on the ground in Poland, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Ukraine without breaking a sweat, and all are areas they have controlled for most of the past three thousand years. As the Russian President remarked today,
"We're not afraid of anything (including) the prospect of a Cold War..."If they want to preserve good relations with Russia, they will understand the reason for taking such a decision (for parliament to recognize independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia) and the situation will be calm."Now they are about to have an aircraft carrier parked just off "America's strongest ally," and they have no intention of allowing control of an area's hydrocarbons to pass to Western oligarchies, i.e., Dick and Dubya's friends. On the map above, two little countries separate Russia from Iran, each with a new pipeline running oil out through them to the west. As a demonstration of intentions, Russian forces cut the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline which passes through Georgia carrying 4% of western supply, and then, when Georgia tried to get the oil shipments out by rail, they cut the tracks.
It'ss unclear whether Russia will let either resume, but they can throttle them at will, and this changes the power calculus in the entire region if not the world. The Ukraine must keep Russia happy. Azerbaijan must keep Russia happy. Israel must keep Russia happy. For Georgia, it would be wise for its president, the one who listened to American admonitions to attack Russia, to step down; his own people, the ones who gave him 96% of the vote in a free and fair election, know he's a liability.
As it happens, Dick Cheney has gone on a diplomatic mission to Georgia, the Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. If anyone is disturbed by finding the words "Dick Cheney" and "diplomatic mission" in the same sentence, why yes, you should be. (Welcome to Club Paying Attention, and here is your complimentary Xanax.) Unfortunately, he's back on the stage after an all-too-short internal exile. Cheney's prime directive is to suck oil and gas out from the Caucasus and Caspian Basins in order to slow the long-term growth rates of Russia, India, and China. That's about where the analysis ends in his cost-benefit equation, because the benefits of getting those resources to him easily outweigh the costs of millions of dead, and it's not like higher energy costs are a deterrent.
As a Pumphead, Cheney cannot back off from the finite prizes he covets, believes them to be in our civilization's long-term best interests, and doesn't recognize how bad his position, or rather our position, has gotten relative to Russia. He is horribly prone to further over-reach even as Israel, precious Israel wavers. As the pipelines go, so go they, and it was Panglossian hubris, a willful denial of Russia's military capabilities and interests, to install a major new line 70-80 miles away from its southern border.
While an American Maniac plays out his part, we will be very lucky indeed if he doesn't promise a military response to Georgia. They'll ask for one, although Bush would first send troops to Atlanta (h/t to reader Jon for that quip). A good outcome is one in which Ossetia and Abkhazia break away from Georgia in return for the pipeline flowing again. In that case, the bell rings, and we can go back to our corners, take a breather before the next round and try to figure out how to win on points. The bad outcome, which should not, must definitely not happen is for a US Carrier Battle Group to deploy to the Med. That's the signal for when the Pipeline Wars start going very, very bad.