Putin to help Bush win?
An article on the front page for the Aug 3 Asia Times,
Careful what you Bush for, predicts that Bush will win in November.
This analysis is based in part on the observation that the Democrats have avoided criticizing the war itslef, rather they criticize the way the war has been run. The thinking goes that this allows the campaign to be run on Bush's turf.
The second part of the argument is that Bush is going to pull a surprise, a bear out of a hat if you will. The author predicts that there will be 40k Russian troops on the ground in Iraq When Grozny comes to Fallujah
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.
On July 27, the pro-government Russian daily Izvestia editorialized on behalf of such an action:
Washington, to be sure, would like Russian peacekeepers in the Sunni belt in Iraq: they have a great deal of experience operating in such Muslim hot spots as Bosnia and Kosovo ... One should take note that in all these areas, the Russian peacekeepers enjoyed a very good relationship with the locals, without incidents and terrorist acts. Truthfully, the Russian leadership should consider this option quite carefully.
Bush thinks he needs Putin to prove his strategy right before the American electorate, but Putin will do so precisely because US strategy in the region is dead wrong. Washington believes that stabilizing Iraq will stabilize the entire region: Moscow knows that the Iraq war already has destabilized the region. In the 21st century version of the Great Game, Russia's winning chess move is to replace Turkey as the dominant power in Central Asia.
The author suggests that Bush will ask Putin to help save his butt. However, Russia will end up with greater influence in the Middle East than the US because they understand the situation and are much more ruthless in applying its military power.
This could be yet another example of how bad decisions lead to unintended and un-anticipated bad consequences. Whether Bush wins or not, the presence of Russian troops in Iraq will have very large long term consequences, the end result of which will not be good for the US.