"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A Sense Of His Soul 

Remember this golden oldie from the Boy King?
I looked the man [Vladimir Putin] in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.

Earlier during that same 2001 press conference, Chimpy noted that he and Putin "share a lot of values." And indeed, so they do:
Defense officials from Russia and the United States last week helped block a new demand for an international probe into the Uzbekistan government's shooting of hundreds of protesters last month, according to U.S. and diplomatic officials.

British and other European officials had pushed to include language calling for an independent investigation in a communique issued by defense ministers of NATO countries and Russia after a daylong meeting in Brussels on Thursday. But the joint communique merely stated that "issues of security and stability in Central Asia, including Uzbekistan," had been discussed.

The outcome obscured an internal U.S. dispute over whether NATO ministers should raise the May 13 shootings in Andijan at the risk of provoking Uzbekistan to cut off U.S. access to a military air base on its territory.

The communique's wording was worked out after what several knowledgeable sources called a vigorous debate in Brussels between U.S. defense officials, who emphasized the importance of the base, and others, including State Department representatives at NATO headquarters, who favored language calling for a transparent, independent and international probe into the killings of Uzbekistan civilians by police and soldiers.

State and Defense department spokesmen, asked to comment about the debate, said that Washington has one policy and that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld -- at the ministerial meeting -- verbally endorsed previous statements about the incident by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush.

Other officials said the disagreements between Defense and State officials reflect a continuing rift in the administration over how to handle a breach of human rights that has come under sharp criticism by the State Department, the European Union and some U.S. lawmakers.

In this instance, the "values" shared by the Naked Emperor and his pal Pooty-Poot are cowardice, greed, and an insatiable lust for power. It is not hard to imagine why Putin is protecting the evil Islam Karimov, a man who treats his political enemies in exactly the same manner that Glenn Close treats bunnies. Karimov is no doubt well-known to Putin from his days at the KGB, and it is not hard to imagine that the Butcher of Tashkent is exactly the sort of guy with whom Putin can play ball as he confronts Islamic nationalism in Chechnya and elsewhere. Putin also wants to maintain his influence over the former Soviet republics, and toward that end it never hurts to have a few well-placed goons on retainer.

But Shrub's spittle-licking obeisance to Karimov is perhaps harder to understand. The Post article cited above makes much of the importance given to the Karshi-Khanabad air base, and implies that Washington is terrified that Karimov will take his ball and go home - leaving us with one fewer base in Central Asia. That would certainly go a long way toward explaining the rift between State and Defense on this matter:
[A] senior diplomat in Washington said that "there's clearly inter-agency tension over Uzbekistan. . . . The State Department certainly seems to be extremely cool on Karimov," while the Pentagon wants to avoid upsetting the Uzbekistan government.

A senior State Department official, who called The Washington Post at the Defense Department's request, denied any "split of views." But other government officials depicted this week's spat over the communique as a continuation of frictions that erupted last summer, when then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell would not certify that Uzbekistan had met its human rights obligations. The decision led to a cutoff of $18 million for U.S. training for Uzbekistan's military forces.

Weeks later, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, and criticized that decision as "very shortsighted"; he also announced that the United States would give $21 million for another purpose -- bioterrorism defense.

More recently, the senior State Department official confirmed, State and Defense officials disagreed about a cable addressing Uzbekistan's continued participation in the military's Partnership for Peace program. After the Andijan massacre, the State Department had proposed a blanket suspension of cooperation. But the Defense Department recommended a case-by-case review of cooperative programs -- the position that prevailed.

Also, of course, one cannot think of the Central Asian republics without thinking of oil and natural gas. American energy firms have long coveted increased influence in the region, as illustrated by this 1998 testimony by UNOCAL's John J. Maresca before the House of Representatives:
As we near the end of the 20th century, history brings us full circle. With political barriers falling, Central Asia and the Caspian are once again attracting people from around the globe who are seeking ways to develop and deliver its bountiful energy resources to the markets of the world.

The Caspian region contains tremendous untapped hydrocarbon reserves, much of them located in the Caspian Sea basin itself. Proven natural gas reserves within Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan equal more than 236 trillion cubic feet. The region's total oil reserves may reach more than 60 billion barrels of oil — enough to service Europe's oil needs for 11 years. Some estimates are as high as 200 billion barrels. In 1995, the region was producing only 870,000 barrels per day (44 million tons per year [Mt/y]).

By 2010, Western companies could increase production to about 4.5 million barrels a day (Mb/d) — an increase of more than 500 percent in only 15 years. If this occurs, the region would represent about five percent of the world's total oil production, and almost 20 percent of oil produced among non-OPEC countries.

One major problem has yet to be resolved: how to get the region's vast energy resources to the markets where they are needed. There are few, if any, other areas of the world where there can be such a dramatic increase in the supply of oil and gas to the world market. The solution seems simple: build a "new" Silk Road. Implementing this solution, however, is far from simple. The risks are high, but so are the rewards.

Whatever the reason, the Accidental President has clearly stated his allegiance - on the side of Putin's kinder, gentler Stalinism and UNOCAL's bottom line, against the Uzbek dissidents who have been slaughtered in the streets. It's unconscionable, but it's not surprising. After all, we have long had a sense of the man's black, withered soul.




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