RUSSIA'S BALKANS

The Trumpet
http://www.thetrumpet.com/index.php?q=4987 .3263.0.0
April 1 2008
OK

What is at stake at the coming NATO summit? Why is it "an issue of
survival" for Moscow? Why does Russia want to keep Ukraine and Georgia
out of the alliance? By Richard Palmer

The conquest of Russia by any foreign power has always been
difficult. With the exception of Genghis Khan, no power has ever been
able to subdue it. It's just too big. Both Hitler and Napoleon met
their comeuppance trying.

Though part of the problem is its size, topography is also very much
on Russia's side. On its western frontier, the vast open flatlands
of Ukraine, providing no cover to any eastward advancing incursion,
and the extensive marshlands plus heavy forestation of Belarus tend
to act as a buffer to aggression from the west. In the south, nature
provides a fortress. Sandwiched between the Black and Caspian seas is
the Caucasus, being a narrow corridor leading up into Russia. This
passage is guarded by the vast Caucasus Mountains. If one wishes to
invade Russia further east, the vast plains, deserts and mountains of
Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan must first be conquered.

The Caucasus is crucial to Russia's defenses, not just important
because of its location. It is key to Russia's fuel supplies also. In
1940 the French General Gamelen wrote:

Dependence on oil supplies from the Caucasus is the fundamental
weakness of Russian economy. The Armed Forces were totally dependent
on this source also for their motorized agriculture. More than 90
percent of oil extraction and 80 percent of refinement was located
in the Caucasus (primarily Baku). Therefore, interruption of oil
supplies on any large scale would have far-reaching consequences and
could even result in the collapse of all the military, industrial
and agricultural systems of Russia.

Hitler was obsessed with the area, especially Azerbaijan's capital,
Baku. He was convinced Germany needed the oil in the Caucasus and
the farmland in the Ukraine to be self-sufficient and invulnerable.

Indeed, if Hitler had controlled these two areas, Germany could have
produced all its own fuel and food.

Hitler, however, failed. While the Nazis made their way to Baku,
the German 6th Army was defeated at Stalingrad. His panzers never
made it through the Caucasus Mountains. Some historians believe that,
had Hitler made it to Baku, the war would have ended very differently.

Today, 19 percent of proven world gas reserves are within nations
bordering the Caspian, not including Russia. This area is expected
to become a major area of oil and gas extraction, with oil production
levels predicted to reach 4 billion barrels a day. Azerbaijan today has
one of the largest known undeveloped offshore reserves in the world.

The Caucasus is the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Not only is there much fossil fuel in the Caucasus and in the Caspian
Sea, but the area is also key to transporting oil and gas.

This small area is receiving more and more of the world's attention.

The little nation of Georgia occupies a crucial strategic location on
the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains and the eastern shore
of the Black Sea. Ukraine, on the northern shore of the Black Sea,
is also a key to controlling the Caucasus. In addition to housing
Russia's Black Sea fleet and its continental ballistic missiles,
Ukraine is a buffer state in defending Russia's south.

The allegiance of both Georgia and Ukraine is, in a way, crucial to
the hegemonic plans for expansion of both the EU and Russia.

Europe is desperate for a fuel supply that comes with no strings
attached. It is especially desperate for gas. Unlike oil, which
often travels in containers, the only real way to move gas is through
pipelines. Europe gets some gas from the North Sea. Some it imports
from North Africa. That is not enough. Europe needs to get most of
its gas from the east. Currently it comes from Russia, but Russia
has no qualms about pulling the plug on the West when the urge arises.

Europe, fed up with this situation, is turning to new suppliers.

Though Iran and other Middle Eastern nations such as Egypt have
offered to fill the need, these sources may be just as unreliable,
if not more so, as Russia. Europe's only hope for gas with seemingly
fewer strings attached comes from the Caucasus, the Caspian Sea
and Central Asia. At the moment, all this gas travels to Europe
via Russia. However, Europe has a number of projects under way to
build pipelines directly from Europe to the Caucasus. Armenia has no
diplomatic relations with Turkey, and is under a trade embargo from
both Turkey and Azerbaijan, so no pipelines can travel through Armenia
in the foreseeable future. All of these pipelines would have to travel
through Georgia. It is the only possible route to get oil from the
Caspian region to Europe without direct Russian or Iranian involvement.

If Europe can influence Georgia to become a key supplier, then it can
secure an independent source of gas. By contrast, if Russia can control
Georgia, then the bulk of Europe's gas must come from Russia or Iran.

This is what is at stake at the coming nato conference.

On the one hand, Russia needs Ukraine and Georgia to be aligned with
itself. It cannot afford to have nato forces based in countries so
crucial for its own national security. As Stratfor put it, this would
mean "relegating Russia to the status of a declining regional power.

[F]or Russia, it is not just about its efforts to revive the bipolar
world, but it is an issue of survival" (March 28). Stratfor sources
say that Russia "would not look for payback on Kosovo if the alliance
does not push for Ukrainian and Georgian membership" (March 19).

Recently, however, U.S. President George W. Bush met with Georgian
President Mikhail Saakashvili. At this meeting, Bush said that
Washington would push for Georgia to be given a Membership Action Plan
(map), a road map to entry into nato. Bush also said it would do the
same for Ukraine.

By pushing for nato membership for Georgia and Ukraine, the United
States pits itself directly against Russia. Many nations within nato
agree with the U.S. and support Ukraine's and Georgia's nato bids.

A Membership Action Plan is not actual membership, of course, but it
does put countries on the road toward membership several years down
the line.

Though many in nato are all for giving out the maps, it is interesting
to note who is against it. The leading opponent of giving maps to
Ukraine and Georgia is Germany. This marks a 180-degree turnaround
in German thinking since last year.

German Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier said,
one year ago, while in Georgia, "Of course, it is in the interest
of nato and nato members that new nato members do not bring their
conflicts into the alliance along with them. On the other hand,
it does not mean that we should view the lack of a resolution [to
the conflicts] as an obstacle to accession. If we do, then we will
enable third parties to drag out the process endlessly."

A press release on the visit stated, "Federal Minister Steinmeier
stressed that the question of nato accession would have to be decided
by the alliance and Georgia alone. Third countries must not have any
influence on this."

Now Berlin is arguing strongly against a Georgian map. It says
Georgia is not qualified for a map because of unresolved conflicts
on its territory. Berlin has also argued, off the record, that
"Russia has no veto, but Russia's views must be taken into account";
"Russia is a factor [in decision making] and this is undeniable,"
and "Russian concerns cannot be ignored if we want a real partnership
with Russia." This is the opposite of what Germany said a year ago.

Steinmeier is now saying, "I cannot hide my skepticism" about Georgia
and Ukraine joining the alliance.

Why the switch in Germany's, and especially Steinmeier's, position?

Relations between Russia and Europe have deteriorated greatly over
the past year. Russia vehemently opposed the recognition of Kosovo's
declaration of independence. Europe recognized it anyway (to find
out why Europe is so interested in the Balkans, read our booklet The
Rising Beast-Germany's Conquest of the Balkans.) Drawing Georgia and
Ukraine away from nato would save face for Moscow.

Steinmeier is one of the most pro-Russian politicians in Europe.

Toward the end of last year, Steinmeier visited Russia as the first
foreign minister to meet with Russian presidential candidate Dmitry
Medvedev following his presidential nomination. He also had a private
meeting with the real power in Russia, Vladimir Putin.

We have often predicted that Russia and Germany would make a new
agreement, similar to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact forged before
World War ii. Steinmeier's flip means one of two things. He may be
worried about just how far relations between Russia and Europe have
deteriorated and be trying to stop them from deteriorating further.

The alternative is that Russia and Germany have already come to an
informal agreement.

Before Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence, Russia took
a strong position against Kosovo. Now that the rest of the world has
recognized Kosovo, Russia has done little to back up its words.

Indications are that Russia already agreed to let Kosovo go quietly
to Europe, so long as Steinmeier scuppers the nato bids of Russia's
former Soviet satellites. It's a straight swap: the crossroads of
Europe for the crossroads of Asia.

If Ukraine and Georgia are not admitted to nato, Russia recovers
its reputation of power that was damaged when it failed to prevent
Kosovo's secession.

Already, Ukraine has signaled its backing down from its bid for
a map. Just this week, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said
that no nato bases would be built in the country. In Russia's eyes,
that leaves George yet to be dealt with.

Russia is using both carrot and stick to bring Georgia back into its
fold. Georgia has two regions-Abkhazia and South Ossetia-that have
declared independence multiple times. Georgia says it would regard
any nation recognizing that independence as an act of war. Russia's
parliament, the State Duma, has said the government may consider
recognizing these states' independence. It has also recommended that
the government send more peacekeeping troops to the area.

At the same time, though, flights between Georgia and Russia have
resumed after being halted in 2006. Maritime connections between the
two states have also returned to normal.

Moscow is making it clear to Georgia: It can have it the easy way or
the hard way, but Russia intends to control Georgia in the end.

Control of Georgia means control of the Caucasus. It means that Europe
is forced to choose between Russia and the Middle East for its gas.

Both Russia and Germany are on the rise. They are each trying to
increase their power in the world. Germany is conquering the Balkans,
and Russia has its eye on Georgia. As these powers compete against
each other, watch a new Molotov-Ribbentrop pact to emerge. It may be
that dealings are already under way to conclude such an agreement.

The Caucasus is Russia's Balkans. In Europe, control of the Balkans
was imperative for the eastward expansion of the German-dominated
European Union. For similar strategic reasons, just as Germany
ruthlessly went after the Balkans, watch for Russia to ruthlessly go
after the Caucasus to allow the consolidation of its imperialist goals.

As has happened in the past, this clash of Russian and German
interests at the extremities of their buttressing borders will lead to
a trade-off in the form of a non-aggression pact, thus leaving Russia
and Germany to continue their imperialist policies-in theory, having
their mutual borders first agreed. This was the scenario predicted
by Herbert Armstrong decades ago. The signs are that such a pact is
imminent. Watch the upcoming nato summit for further developments in
this vitally strategic region.