Monday, March 21, 2011

Russia's stance on Libya - a hypothesis

Ever since Russia's mind-boggling abstention at the UNSC on a resolution which effectively allows for a US/NATO war on Libya I have been trying to make sense of what the hell had happened.  First, I was so mad at Russia that I did not bother looking a little deeper into possible Russian motives.  Then, when Russia joined China and the Arab League in criticizing the resolution they had just authorized, I felt like I had entered some 'twilight zone'.  I mean - I always knew that the Arab League was a joke, but Russia and China zig-zagging (together!) just made no sense.  One can say many bad things about Russian or Chinese rulers, but nobody has ever called them stupid or short-sighted.

Uh?!  Since when do these two openly fight each other?!

Seriously, for all the fake openness in modern Russia (such as Putin and Medvedev receiving their subordinates in the presence of TV cameras), the reality is that the Russian regime is every bit as non-transparent as in the bad old days of the Soviet Union: everything which matters is really decided behind the scenes (but that is also the case in most Western states, I would add).

So I came up with a hypothesis, based only an guesses, nothing more, which I would like to share with you:

What if the Russian intelligence community decided that a US-NATO intervention in Libya would be a major mistake for the US Empire?

First, a no-fly zone would inevitably turn into a full scale air war which would further alienate the world's public opinion against the USA.  

Second, a military engagement in Libya with no visible exit strategy would bog down the USA in yet another war.  Have you recently tried to tally the number of current US military involvements?  I did that this morning and I came up with this:

1) Iraq (full scale - one point)
2) Afghanistan (full scale - one point)
3) Pakistan (full scale - one point)
4) Libya (full scale - one point)
4) Yemen (covert & via KSA - half a point)
5) Iran (covert & via Israel - half a point)
6) Bahrain (covert - via KSA - half a point)
7) Kosovo (occupation - half a point)
8) Somalia (covert & via Ethiopia - half a point)
9) Palestine (covert & via Israel - half a point)

Total "war points": 1+1+1+1+.5+.5+.5+.5+.5+.5 = 7.0 wars 


No empire, no matter how rich, can sustain such a military effort, much less so an already bankrupt empire like the USA.

Third, it is highly likely that the conflict with Gaddafi will be a long one. Either no side will prevail, or one will and the other will respond with a protracted guerrilla war.  Can you guess what this will do to Libya's oil export capabilities?  And then, can you guess what a further increase in the price of oil will do to the Russian (and Venezuelan!) economy?

So let us assume that the Kremlin decided that a UN military intervention would be a major mistake for the US Empire.  Then, one of two things could have happened:

Variant #1:  Medvedev and Putin have agreed to let Putin run in the next presidential elections.  In that case, Medvedev has nothing to loose and a lot to gain ($$$) to let the UNSC resolution pass and then let Putin look noble, patriotic, principled and righteous.

Variant #2: (I like this one even more!) Putin quietly nudges Medvedev into approving the UNSC resolution thereby making him look like a spineless weakling and, as soon as the outrages takes-off in the Russian public opinion, Putin makes a widely reported statement making him look, well, noble, patriotic, principled and righteous (again).

In variant #2 Putin would kill two birds with one stone: damage the USA and damage his likely challenger Medvedev.

Please do not mistake any of the above as an expression of support or admiration for Putin.  I believe that it is impossible to do something good by immoral means and Russia's abstention at the UNSC was definitely deeply immoral.  But I also know that Putin is not exactly somebody over-burdened with issues of morality, ethics, or honor.  In fact, I have always suspected that Putin and the folks backing him had left Eltsin bring Russia to the edge of total collapse only to make themselves appear like "patriotic saviors" once in power (just remember how long Russia had a "pretend war" in Chechnia before getting serious in 2000!).

So what do you guys think of my hypothesis?  Could it be that it is all a very devious calculation on Putin's part?

The Saker