[A-List] Thinking The Unthinkable - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
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Thu Feb 28 02:43:22 MST 2002
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Subject: [R-G] Thinking The Unthinkable - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 27. Feb. 2002
Thinking The Unthinkable
What has changed is the U.S. perception of Russia's role in
international affairs and the world economy, at least as far as
oil and gas are concerned.
By Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger
Washington - James Woolsey is not one to mince his words or couch his views in
diplomatic language. The former CIA director has just rebuked the
Europeans in a sharply-worded newspaper article, accusing them of neglecting
their duty to act against global threats and of displaying arrogance toward the
Mr. Woolsey believes that there is no alternative to overthrowing Saddam
Hussein in Iraq and that the problems of terrorism and weapons of mass
destruction can only be laid to rest once and for all if we succeed in
creating a new order in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf -- an order
based on pluralism and democracy and not on oppressive regimes. He is just
as bold when it comes to the West's, particularly the United States',
relationship with Russia: The United States is at war, and Russia is a
staunch ally, he says; that changes everything.
What has changed is the U.S. perception of Russia's role in international
affairs and the world economy, at least as far as oil and gas are concerned.
It changed when Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned U.S. President
George W. Bush right after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Under the Clinton
administration, the issue of access to the energy resources of the Caspian
Sea basin was a source of constant geopolitical friction between the
Russians and the Americans. Today, Russia is considered a stabilizing factor
on energy markets.
The idea of Russia becoming a global energy giant, perhaps even taking over
Saudi Arabia's role as the world's largest oil exporter, is no longer
anathema in Washington. Quite the contrary, the prospect of Russian
companies winning contracts in the Middle East, even in an Iraq free of
Saddam Hussein, has become a conspicuously welcome idea.
Another striking thing is that Russia's future relations with the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization are being cast in a rosy light under the motto
"nothing is impossible."
While the Bush administration can envisage Russian membership of the
Atlantic alliance in the long term, or at least does not want to rule it
out, there are quite a number of people outside administration circles --
Democrats and Republicans alike -- who say they see no reason at all for a
delay. They view Russia as the United State's most important partner in a
struggle that Washington can fight without NATO's integrated command and
that, by nature of the campaign's global nature, reduces NATO's
Why, asked U.S. security experts at a recent conference in Washington, is so
much effort being spent on bringing the three Baltic states into NATO when
Russia is of the "utmost importance" in the coalition against terror? Why
does this organization, which is in permanent flux anyway, not want to take
on Moscow? That is what the Americans are now asking.
The Europeans, meanwhile, are having a hard time of it. They feel trampled
on by a neoimperialist United States, and they are plagued by doubts as to
whether NATO's best days are over as the key to European security and the
transatlantic alliance. They can only stand by and watch as the contours of
a U.S.-Russian duopoly take shape.
One can easily imagine what the consequences of Russian membership in NATO would
be. On the one hand, the dispute over NATO expansion would be defunct, and the
development of NATO into a European security organization would be dramatically
But on the other hand, the alliance would no longer be the old NATO, and the
(non-Russian) Europeans would have less influence. Russia, which is both
nuclear-armed and has grown more confident under Mr. Putin, would command a
place at NATO's top along with the United States. Naturally, it does not like
the idea of creating a new governing body of 20.
NATO membership for Russia is not something that Western governments are
considering at the moment, because they want to wrap up the next round of
enlargement first. But Washington is no longer horrified by the thought,
because Mr. Putin is not making life difficult for the United States, and
because the military usefulness of NATO has changed.
It would be most awkward for the Europeans if they were suddenly to discover
that Washington found it easier to agree with Russia than with its
traditional allies on the big issues -- such as weapons of mass destruction,
"rogue states," and energy resources.
That would mean Europe was more marginalized than ever.
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