Nick Rosen |
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Not such good friends any more
Reasons to go off-grid number 94: US-Russian nuclear threats escalated sharply this weekend as George Bush finally realised that Vladimir Putin was not after all a man he could do business with. So dust down your fallout shelter, stock up on tinned food and gasoline – because this time round Russia is no longer the ailing, flailing basket case that lost the last cold war. It can turn off a large part of Europe’s gas supply.

Russia has already shown it is not afraid to murder its own citizens on foreign soil. In Georgia it showed Russia is happy to rape and maim foreigners as well. And it has the oil and the gas and the money to face-off the US. It was Vladimir Putin who described the end of the USSR as ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century’. Now he is trying to reverse that.

And it was Putin who presided over a vast criminal enterprise that more resembles the Mafia than a multinational corporation. From the beginning of his administration, Bush’s conviction was that talking of warm ties at the top could will them into being, and then translate into cooperation on a range of issues.

Tensions emerged immediately, and only multiplied over the years.

The United States was alarmed by Putin-led democratic backsliding, a campaign against the Yukos oil company’s leaders and other consolidation of wealth and power in the Kremlin, Moscow’s war in Chechnya and evidence of manipulation of Russia’s vast energy resources to serve geopolitical aims.

Russia was infuriated at Bush’s moves to support reformers in elections in Ukraine and Georgia and back those former Soviet republics’ bids to join NATO, plus expanding Western missile defenses into Poland and the Czech Republic and endorsing independence for Kosovo from Russian ally Serbia. Almost all Moscow’s anger grew from suspicions of U.S. meddling in its backyard, although acrimony over the U.S.-led Iraq invasion sent relations plummeting as well.

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Now the haste to conclude a preliminary agreement between the USA and Poland on deploying missile defence facilities on the latter’s territory shows that the US missile defence system is directed not against Iran, but against Russia, Moscow believes.

“Of course, judging by the content of the agreement and the haste with which it was concluded, one may conclude that all this is just another indication that in fact this project does not have anything to do with the Iranian nuclear threat, but is directed against Russia,” a high-ranking source in the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax on Friday [15 August].

On Thursday [14 August] Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that a preliminary agreement had been reached to deploy facilities of the USA’s missile defence system on the territory of Poland.

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