Topic: General News.
As I mentioned a while back, the Russians are on W.'s shit list these days. It's come to the attention of the president that Vlad "the impaler" Putin, the man who he thought was his soul-mate, is really just another tin-horn dictator. (I don't know, maybe they really are soul-mates.) This apparently hadn't occurred to W. & Co. before, when Putin was closing down all the independent news outlets, rejiggering the constitution to allow him to appoint previously elected Governors and sending his political opponents to Siberia. The veil began to lift when Putin tried to strong-arm the Ukrainians into voting for his guy and then cut off the gas pipelines to Ukraine and Europe during the worst of the winter months. The kicker must have been when Condi came out and declared that Belarus was last true dictatorship and in reply Vald invited Lukashenko to Moscow.
Speaking of Belarus, it's purely a coincidence that just as the Europeans and the Americans are talking about imposing sanctions on president Alexander Lukashenka, who just won re-election with 82% of the vote --- low and behold ---a story comes out in the media that says Russia was spying on us before and during the invasion of Iraq. Strange bit of timing there.
This spying story is really much to do about nothing, because ultimately the intelligence they passed on to Saddam just reinforced his already muddled appraisal of the American strategy in the first place. And something tells me that the U.S. had some inkling of what the Russians were up to because, it's a little difficult for me to believe that they could have gotten their information so wrong on so many things if they actually had someone right in the heart of the command center at Doha. Obviously, they were being fed misinformation on purpose. For the U.S. to be crying foul at this point is a bit like Claude Rains being shocked, shocked that gambling was going on at Rick's.
[An interesting side note in all of this is that the Russian ambassador to Iraq was passing this intel to Saddam, and oddly enough, as he was making his getaway out of Baghdad his his convoy was fired on by U.S. troops and they damn near killed him. Was this a case of trigger-happy troops in the fog of combat, or an intentional attempt to kill or capture the Russian ambassador who no doubt knew who the mole was at Doha?]
I think, the point of this charade is to get tough with Putin. This is SOP for W. & Co.: carry a big stick and...carry another big stick in case the first one doesn't do the job. In this case, though, I don't know how far we're going to get with threats. Russia is the second biggest supplier of oil to the world and Europe would come to a grinding halt if he cut off their natural gas. Plus, China just made a big pipeline deal with the Russians, so even if we're now over the idea of the Russians helping us out with Iran's nuke's the Chinese are hardly gong to be on our side on the Belarus issue.
Besides, they can turn right around and point out that we said not one word when Ilham Aliyev in Azerbaijan won his election with 82% of the vote back in 2003. At the time, undersecretary of State Richard Armitage even congratulated him on his "strong showing."