Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Guns of August: Russia Breaks Ties With Nato; Sends Carrier to Syria; Surrounds Georgian Port

In Barbara Tuchman's history of the build-up to World War I, the themes that came through the strongest was how inexorable the process was. And how many opportunities to stop it were blown.
For some months I've had an edge-of-consciousness feeling that comes out of my (limited) understanding of that summer 94 years ago. From a March 28 post on Iceland's economy:
..Reading Mr. Evans-Pritchard's Balkan reference, you can almost hear a muted drumbeat of 1914. Spooky.
It's not that I think we're grinding to war, just that I see how we might. Mrs. Tuchman won the Pulitzer Prize for The Guns of August. She won another for Stillwell and the American Experience in China. She also won a National Book Award for A Distant Mirror. A very sharp gal and a class act. Here are a couple quotes:
"Diplomacy means all the wicked devices of the Old World, spheres of influence, balances of power, secret treaties, triple alliances, and, during the interim period, appeasement of Fascism." Source
A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated that it should be. Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?
-Barbara Tuchman, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, 1984
From RIA Novosti via Reuters:
Russia freezes military ties with NATO - RIA

From Debka:

Big Russian flotilla led by Admiral Kuznetsov carrier heads for Syrian port

As the West awaits Moscow’s threatened reprisal for the treaty installing American missile interceptors at Redzikowo, on Poland’s Baltic coast – signed in Warsaw Wednesday - the Kremlin is striking back in the Middle East – hence Russian president Dimitry Medvedev’s honeyed words of reassurance to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert in a call he made to Jerusalem Wednesday, Aug. 20.

DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose that a powerful Russian naval contingent, led by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov , left Murmansk on the Barents Sea Aug. 18 to dock at the Syrian Mediterranean port of Tartus Saturday, Aug. 23. It includes the Russian Navy’s biggest missile cruiser Moskva and at least four nuclear missile submarines.

At the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Syrian president Bashar Assad told reporters Thursday, Aug. 21, that he is considering a Russian request to deploy missiles in his country in view of Russian-Western tensions over the Georgian conflict, which he said had polarized East and West anew.

Assad signaled he would also be representing Tehran’s interests in his talks with Russian leaders. Jordan’s King Abdullah is on his way to join them later in the day.

Before the Russian flotilla departed Murmansk, Assad is reported by our sources as having given the nod for Tartus port’s conversion into a permanent Middle East base for Russia’s nuclear-armed warships....MORE

From the International Herald Tribune:
Russia to consider Syrian weapons sales

From YnetNews:

Assad to Russia: Plant missiles in Syria

Russia Today TV reports Syrian president will allow Russia to place anti-aircraft weaponry in Syria, in response to US planting of missiles in Poland. Acting Russian ambassador in Israel: Why would we need to deploy missiles here?

From the AP:
Russia blocks Georgia's main port city