"Who told you that the Cold War was ever over?"
The Kremlin’s trap for Obama: A new war in Georgia?
- Konstantin Preobrazhensky
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has revived Stalin’s tactics of personally influencing American Presidents. In 1943, prior to the Tehran Conference, Stalin successfully mounted a worldwide misinformation campaign, in which he suggested that Hitler wanted to kill President Franklin Roosevelt in Iran. He then persuaded Roosevelt to stay in the Soviet Embassy in Tehran. This enabled Soviet intelligence to monitor every word of the private talks of the unsuspecting American delegation. Stalin’s efforts to manipulate the President led to America’s general misunderstanding of the criminal nature of Stalin’s regime.
In March, 2003, the famous Russian human rights activists, Elena Bonner and Vladimir Bukovsky, wrote an open letter to President Bush in which they warned: “The danger of ‘partnership’ with criminal regimes is that they never stop until they make you an accomplice of their crimes”. Unbelievably, their warning was ignored and their prediction came true.
Stalin has long been Putin’s idol, so it is no surprise that Stalin’s ability to manipulate Roosevelt served as a model for Putin. In March 2007, he convinced President George W. Bush to accept into the Oval Office a notorious Russian General Vladimir Shamanov, who had been accused of committing military crimes and other violations of human rights in Chechnya. Putin had succeeded, to some small extent, in making Bush an accomplice to Russia’s crimes in Chechnya.
This meeting caused a squall of indignation by both American and Russian human rights activists. But the White House stated that it was not aware of the allegations against General Shamanov (although they were openly discussed in the Russian media while it was still relatively free, and the information was readily available on the Internet).
Today, this episode is all but forgotten, but it set a precedent. A former KGB intelligence officer told me that it was his professional feeling that Putin celebrated it as a great victory. He understood that American Presidents are vulnerable to manipulation because they want to believe that when dealing with Kremlin, they are dealing with gentlemen.
Now it is President Obama’s turn and the stakes are considerably higher. The President wants to be very open and sincere on his visit to Russia, but his trust is misplaced and he may be seriously compromised during his visit. Putin has another agenda entirely. First, he has no love for America, and no particular interest in developing friendly relations with this administration. In fact, there is a strong indication that Putin may soon initiate a new war in Georgia and make Obama an accomplice in this imminent conflict.
According to Mikhail Kasyanov, the leader of the People’s Democratic Union and a former Russian Prime Minister, the new war in Georgia might be unleashed as early as July 6, during President Obama’s visit to Moscow. If this information is correct, the timing of the invasion may be linked directly to the visit, in order to demonstrate to the world that America has supported this war. If Putin is successful in this plan, he will succeed in making Obama appear weak and foolish. Even worse, he may make Obama look complicit.
Dr. Andrei Piontkovsky, of the Hudson Institute, has predicted that a very hot summer is awaiting throughout the Southern and Northern Caucasus, where Chechnya and Georgia are located. He wrote the following:
“The striking irresponsibility, to say the least, of the Supreme Commander [President Dmitri Medvedev], posing himself in the role of “macho”, is not making us optimistic. The fate of the country may very quickly fall into the hands of his decisive subordinates. The war in Caucasus is always the war for the Kremlin.”
If the war begins during Obama’s visit, it is likely to be very beneficial for Putin. For the first time in the new Russian history, the Kremlin will not need to concern itself with the possibility of a negative Western reaction. If he is successful in marginalizing Obama, he may totally ignore Western concerns.
There is one more factor that will compound Putin’s success. The West depends on Russian oil and gas, but does not have any leverage for similarly affecting Russia. In fact, throughout Putin’s reign, Russia has succeeded in organizing the powerful Kremlin lobby in all Western countries, including the United States, in order to strengthen their global position. The large number of pro-Russian journalists who currently report news to the world will no doubt justify every action of the Kremlin.
It is difficult to guess when the new war in Georgia might start. It may begin on Monday, or Tuesday, or a month from now. A great deal depends on secret plans that we can only guess at. The outcome of Obama’s visit may therefore depend on what plans have been made for the time he is in Moscow. Putin has little need or interest in appeasing Obama, and he may well be planning something considerably more harmful. We can only pray that sober people may be found among Putin’s advisers who can prevail against starting a new war, but it is hard to be optimistic.
Konstantin Preobrazhensky, a former Lt. Colonel in the KGB who defected to the United States in 2003, is an intelligence expert and specialist on Japan, about which he has written six books. Preobrazhensky’s eighth book, “KGB/FSB’s New Trojan Horse: Americans of Russian Descent” was recently published by Gerard Group Publishing.
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