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The US: Iraq and Russia

Speaking at the Houston Forum, House Majority leader Tom DeLay (R, Texas) called for immediate war on Iraq. Then Vice President Dick Cheney addressed a national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Nashville, Tennessee, a very appropriate audience for his message, which, while not as truculent as that of DeLay, confirmed that Bush has an attack on Iraq in mind; the administration might consult with Congress, but not ask its permission. Newsmen started discussing how to cover urban guerrilla warfare in Bagdad. The outside world found Cheney's speech unconvincing. He spoke as though there were an international coalition supporting Bush, and he railed against Iraq for disregarding the UN without mentioning that Israel does the same with the approval of the US.

What is the attitude of Moscow? From there Cameron Sawyer says "The view that Russia has a particular interest in Iraq and would behave confrontationally in case Iraq is attacked seems to be widespread. I am not really sure why people think this. Russia did have a particular interest in Serbia in the form of a special relationship which goes back to the wars with the Ottomans. The Russia public was outraged by the NATO attack on their Orthodox brothers. But Russia, for all of its harsh words, did not confront the West over Serbia. Russia is busy building a new society, political system, and economy, and is not much in the mood for geopolitics or confrontations.

Russia does have certain economic ties to Iraq, and to other countries in the region such as Iran, but these are mostly based on Russia's opportunistic exploitation of the embargoes of those countries. The Russian people feel no bond whatsoever with the Iraqis, at least that I have ever heard about, and in fact Russians fear Islamic fundamentalism probably more than we do (and they are currently fighting a war against it in Chechnya). Even the economic ties to Iraq are superficial Russia is the second biggest oil producer in the world and competes with Middle Eastern oil producers. A war with Iraq would drive up oil prices, and would be significantly beneficial to Russia.

Russia is not quite comfortable with the U.S. flexing its muscles all over the world and expanding its spheres of influence. But if the U.S. attacks Iraq, I believe that the Russian response will be rather muted. In fact if Bush is smart enough to consult with Putin and help him come up with a way to appear to be in the loop (Clinton used to this quite skillfully), Russia might even be supportive. I am not necessarily advocating an attack on Iraq; I am just trying to clear up the Russian angle".

My comment: We shall see.

Ronald Hilton - 8/27/02