George Bush: Dances With Bears

Instapundit and Memeorandum both point out a strategy analysis from Asia Times published yesterday, which claims that sources reveal that George Bush and Vladimir Putin have made a deal to bring 40,000 Russian troops into Iraq. The Russians would be given the free hand in Fallujah that domestic politics withheld from American Marines, and in return, Putin plans to pay back the architects of the war on Serbia:

Do not be surprised to see three or four divisions of the Russian army in the Sunni triangle before year-end, with an announcement just prior to the US presidential election in November. Long rumored (or under negotiation), a Russian deployment of 40,000 soldiers was predicted on July 16 by the US intelligence site, and denied by the Russian Foreign Ministry on July 20. Nonetheless, the logic is compelling. Russian support for US occupation forces would make scorched earth of Senator John Kerry’s attack on the Bush administration’s foreign policy, namely its failure to form effective alliances. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, the chance to make scorched earth of Fallujah is even more tempting.
In exchange for a troop presence in Iraq, Russia would obtain a free hand in dealings with the countries of the former Soviet Union. It would gain leverage against a weakening Turkey in the Caucasus and Central Asia. And it would vastly enhance its leverage in negotiations over the placement of oil pipelines. Most important, perhaps, it would assert its old status as a global military power against the feckless Europeans. In short, the arrangement would benefit everyone, except of course the population of Fallujah.

The article doesn’t mention yet another benefit to Putin, one that should be obvious given the near-bankruptcy of Yukos: commerical access to Iraqi oil fields. It’s no secret that Putin opposed the war in Iraq because of the billions of dollars Russia stood to lose if Saddam Hussein was forced from power. The Russians need those oil concessions, and the only way back in is to make nice with Ayad Allawi and the rest of the Iraqi interim government, which now looks like it’s succeeding. That means putting boots on the ground to help eliminate Iraq’s internal and external enemies, and the Sunni Triangle is the best way to prove their seriousness. Besides, Russia holds no love for Islamofascists, and since they’ve decided to congregate in Fallujah, Putin may feel it hygienic to assist America in cleaning it out.
Asia Times does mention another, more political and personal reason to ally with George Bush at the eleventh hour, besides his personal friendship with the US President. A John Kerry win will likely bring back to power the same people who defied Russia and went to war against the Serbs (without UN approval!), a population closely related and allied with Russia. Richard Holbrooke, Asia Times predicts, will probably be Secretary of State or Defense in a Kerry administration, and Holbrooke delivered the ultimatum to the Serbs which immediately preceded the bombing campaign.
Spengler’s analysis of the Serbian war is that Clinton attempted to bolster American standing with Muslims by intervening in a centuries-old civil war on their behalf. [I supported the action at the time, but criticized the lack of resolution inherent in its planning — and time has proved me correct — CE.] Obviously this won us few friends in the Muslim world, and even the Bosnians have been radicalized, as the Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend. Putin saw this as a cynical trade-off, especially since he had Muslim radicals using terror in places like Chechnya and hardly felt that the US should be intervening to strengthen them. Now, with a Kerry candidacy hiring most of the old Clinton team, Putin sees a real danger of another four years of Muslim appeasement. Small wonder that even despite his opposition to the war in Iraq, Putin made Russian intelligence available to the President on Iraqi plans to hit American targets using terror tactics.
What does George Bush gain? Two big and obvious wins. First, Russia’s addition of 40,000 troops to Fallujah will make them the second-largest contingent in Iraq, taking pressure off of the US to extend deployments and cycling Americans out of the zone with the most danger. Second, the alliance with Russia will, as Spengler notes, make hash out of the argument that Bush cannot attract allies. A third, more subtle win for Bush is the pacification of Fallujah, which will immeasureably strengthen the new Iraqi government, set Shi’ite minds at ease about the upcoming elections, and devastate the emotional momentum for Islamofascists worldwide.
What does Bush lose? Perhaps the introduction of Russian scorched-earth tactics, such as those used in Grozny, will backfire with a segment of the American public, but I tend to think that will only be limited to the rock-solid Kerry supporters. More troublesome will be the free hand in the former Soviet republics that the US would have to allow Putin to get him to sign off. It would mean a retreat, to an extent, on human-rights issues with the Russians. However, we are at war, and war means setting priorities — and Bush has consistently made American security his overriding priority all along, and appropriately so.
We shall see if the Asia Times prediction bears out, but the fact that the deal makes a great deal of sense for both sides certainly indicates a strong probability of its veracity. Both Fallujah and John Kerry should prepare for the shock.

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