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LOOKING AHEAD
12.04.2009

April 8, 2009 (the date of publication in Russian)

Grigory Tinsky

RASMUSSEN OUTSTRIPS SIKORSKY

The Dane was good in French while the Pole was reputed Russophobic

FRUIT OF AMERICAN "NEW THINKING": TALIBAN NOT MORE A FOE

The April 3-4 NATO summit appeared to be a prominent event not only in the life of the North Atlantic Alliance. There were several pretexts for that:

1) NATO celebrated its 60th jubilee, and this age prepossesses to contemplation over its role in global security today and in future;

2) the Alliance was to elect a new General Secretary;

3) the new US President had just announced dramatic changes in American and therefore, in NATO's life;

4) the Alliance's Afghan operation has been unsuccessful, while the adjacent Pakistan has destabilized.

Even those professed optimists in the Western expert community who hail NATO the most successful military-political alliance of the XX century, admit that NATO's latest operation in Afghanistan is a failure.

During six years, ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) has not managed to crush the Talibs and establish relative order in Afghanistan. Last week, Barack Obama publicized the new plan of US activities, suggesting reinforcement by 4,000 US servicemen. Thus, the new US President has increased the American contingent in Afghanistan by 21,000 persons.

The NATO summit in Strasbourg was supposed to gain new support for the Afghan operation from European allies. Several states caved in to Obama's arguments, but the US Department of Defense believes that the additional manpower is insufficient.

A philosophic old hawk Robert Gates had to admit that the experience accumulated by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan proves that the military success is not yet enough to achieve a strategic victory.

Russia's "bosom friend" Zbigniew Brzezinski shares Obama's "New Thinking" as well:

"In Afghanistan, a victory is available only by simultaneous use of political and military strategy. A military victory is practically impossible without a scale of effort that America cannot allow itself nowadays. Speaking of the scale, I mean not only expenses but also severity. The United States, as a democratic country, should be concerned of emotions and the situation of the civil population. A military-political decision, to my mind, is possible in case the purpose is determined with due accuracy. I think Barack Obama has done that correctly, identifying the goal as defeat of Al Qaeda, not Taliban. The strategy should serve to this objective, isolating Al Qaeda and splitting Taliban's unity. We are to reach local accords, enlarge the role of the Afghan Army, to moderate the attitude towards civil population, to boost economic and social assistance. Only in this way you can win this war".

This tirade sounds like a prayer of General Albert Makashov in a synagogue, or like an embrace of nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with liberal Boris Nemtsov. It is hard to guess how far the American "perestroika" is going to extend. Still, by today it is indicative enough that Afghanistan has become one of the reasons (hopefully not a single one) for NATO's friendly turn towards Russia. Barack Obama has just claimed that the United States is committed to avoid behavior that could be perceived by Russia as hostile. From this statement, it is not very far for abandonment of plans of ABM deployment in Europe – which, however, is a subject of another research.

While Obama is playing a game of "not saying yes and no", we have just to smile in the West's face and hope for the best while preparing for the worst, as Confucius had recommended, and to avoid hasty moves that could be interpreted by the US as a threat for its national interests.

The most exciting episode of the NATO summit was the election of the new General Secretary. The United States agreed for the candidature of Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who satisfied most of the allies, including the French who demanded that the candidate speak their mother language. The Dane displayed excellent command of the tongue of Racine and Hugo. Even the Turks, who could not forgive Mr. Rasmussen his excessive respect of freedom of expression, reflected in tolerance to the caricatures of Prophet Mohammad, eventually caved in – definitely, under certain conditions. But that was not the end of the story, as a krakowiak in Warsaw distracted attention of the allies even from the foie de gras in the castle of Rohan.

 

WARSAW: A NEW DANCE OF POLITICAL CLOWNS

A fiery dance was performed by Rzeczpospolita's President, Pan Lech Kaczynski. This runty gray-haired person performed his hokum with grace that exceeded his earlier cabaret-style exercises. Wishing to be perceived seriously, Mr. Kaczynski had gained real popularity on the European, or even on the global scene in the genre of clownery.

Month before, the Polish political establishment had got obsessed with the idea of promoting Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski to the position of NATO General Secretary, developing a hectic activity in this direction. Mr. Sikorski's PR agents had repeatedly visited Washington and West European capitals, trying to convince the partners to support his candidature. But though Mr. Sikorski, as compared with his predecessor Anna Fotyga, looked as a "dove of peace" and a friend of Moscow, the Russophobic reputation had so strongly associated with Poland's image that the minister could not achieve the required support for his bid.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk also hoped that Mr. Sikorski, whom he regarded as his potential rival at the next presidential elections, would make instead an international career. Lech Kaczynski's logic was similar but at the same time, prompted opposite efforts, due to the primitive way of thinking.

During a personal meeting with the Danish Prime Minister, Mr. Kaczynski unexpectedly acknowledged of his support of his candidature. The Polish elite was shocked, as a Polish nationalist, as Kaczynski was believed to be, would promote his nation's bid, regardless from his personal relations with the candidate.

Still, Warsaw diplomats could save the situation if they followed a good advice from Jacques Chirac to "sit still". They could not. An agitated Tusk reminded in public that the Polish delegation at the NATO summit was supposed to refrain from public statements before they became necessary. Mr. Kaczynski, driven with his own envy towards the more popular Premier, retorted: "I was told by Mr. Rasmussen himself that the Polish Government had promised him support. Naturally, I agreed".

The following development reproduced the pattern of "the dumb and the dumbest". Peter Kownacki, head of the president's Staff, demanded to declassify the secret report about Mr. Tusk's earlier meeting with Mr. Rasmussen in order to support his boss's version. The scandal unfolded further, splashing out to the first pages of Polish media.

Mr. Kaczynski had many times amused international observers. The typical case was the interrogation of Mr. Sikorski, organized earlier in the "secret room" of the National Security Bureau. The alleged assault on the President in Georgia was a scandal of the same kind. Thus, while Barack Obama was courting Ankara, delivering promissory tickets to the EU in exchange for compliance with the nomination of Mr. Rasmussen for General Secretary, the Poles were roaring with laughter over the elephantine grace of their President.


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