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The Cold War Report November 19, 2007
 
Edward Lucas' Cold War Hustle
By Alexander Zaitchik Browse author Email
 
Page 2 of 4
 

Small defeats now mean bigger ones later. Russia’s petrocrats are determined to stem and reverse their country’s geopolitical retreat. If they can derail Mr Saakashvili it sends a powerful signal elsewhere. If Georgia falls, then others will be next. Russia’s hold over Ukraine will strengthen. Moldova, the weakest country in Europe, will buckle too. Then the shadow will stretch over the poorly governed and demoralised ex-communists of Central Europe and the Baltics. That will bring Russian neo-imperialism to our front door.

Edward Lucas: Anti-Neo-Imperialist

Lucas’ forthcoming book will argue that Russia is guilty of “neo-imperialism” in Europe. Neo-imperialism, of course, is a term coined in the global south to accuse rich industrial nations of subjugating them through their control over global financial institutions. Hugo Chavez accuses the IMF of being neo-imperialist; Naomi Klein describes the destruction and subsequent privatization of the Iraqi economy as neo-imperialist. And now we have the priceless case of a neoliberal Economist writer accusing Russia of the same because it demands that its neighbors pay market price for it oil and gas, and because rich Russian businesses are buying up assets in other nations.

As his Oxford logician-philosopher father, J.R. Lucas, might say, “A rather obvious ontological impossibility, my good man.” That’s because on a normal day, Lucas is one of those doctrinaire neoliberals who condescends to anyone who questions the universal truths of free-trade, privatization, and emaciated social spending. During last year’s Christian Aid Week, Lucas delivered a sermon to an audience in Canterbury Cathedral, admonishing them to “shun gimmicky slogans such as ‘make poverty history’ and ‘drop the debt’,” and instead trust in free trade and markets to raise the world’s sunken boats from the muck. Lucas implored his fellow Anglicans to ignore growing calls for debt forgiveness, and reject a “political and economic outlook…riddled with guilt and sentimentality, and a foppish disdain for wealth.” Jesus must have been looking down and thinking, “Well, there’s no need for me to return. My message has finally sunk in. My work is done.”

There are exceptions to Lucas’s pro-wealth-accumulation message. For example, you can and must denounce wealth if it comes in the form of gauche and neo-imperialist Russian investment capital. But that’s the problem with consistent free traders: you can never find one when you need one.

Never mind that most of those “poorly governed and demoralized ex-communists”—way to dis all your sources, Ed!—are now full members of NATO. Like Lyndon Johnson’s teetering dominoes of Asia, Eastern Europe is on the verge of collapse, with Tbilisi the new Saigon (and Munich and Berlin and Sarajevo). Only in Lucas’ fevered Anglican mind, it’s a creeping shadow of “neo-imperialism” that we have to fear (see sidebar), not communist dictatorship preceded by rolling waves of T-54 tanks.

Lucas’ shtick is such an exaggerated mess, fueled by such a diseased urge to increase the biggest danger our planet faces—that would be global thermonuclear holocaust, not the loss of Moldova as a NATO candidate country—that it’s hard not to wonder if Edward Lucas is, in fact, losing in mind. A Strangelovean hack for Strangelovean times. A former Economist colleague of Lucas’ once confided to me, “Ed is known at the paper, as even he would admit, as a bit of a loon.” And what’s a Cold War without loons running around urging stiffer resolves and ever expanding defense budgets?

Perhaps, but there is another, more obvious explanation for Lucas’ Cold War hysteria. After all, business is business. As mentioned above, early next year Bloomsbury will release The New Cold War: How the Kremlin Menaces Both Russia and the West. The exact release date is February 4, the anniversary of the opening of the Yalta conference, which many historians consider the start of the first Cold War.

Since there’s no Irvine Welsh-style black market for galley proofs of Lucas’ book, all we have to hold us over until publication is the Amazon synopsis. Here is the original story of Lucas’ The New Cold War (not to be confused with Mark Mackinnon's The New Cold War, published by Random House in April) compressed into 270 words:

In the 1990s, Russia was the sick man of Europe, but the rise to power of former KGB officer Vladimir Putin in 1999 coincided with a huge hike in world oil and gas prices, and after Yeltsin's downfall Putin set about re-establishing Russian autocracy. Now with its massive gas and oil reserves Russia has not only paid off its debts but amassed huge cash reserves which it is investing in easily accessible European businesses. Putin's Russia is hostile to open debate. Critics inside Russia such as the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and opponents abroad such as the defector Alexander Litvinenko, a British subject, have been assassinated. Russia has threatened to target its nuclear missiles on America's allies in eastern Europe. It has resumed the military bullying of its neighbours, including repeated airspace violations; its generals play war games involving the recapture of the Baltic states. These are familiar tactics, but a whole new breed of Kremlin dirty tricks is still more sinister. The cyber-attacks on Estonia in May 2007 showed Russia was ready to wipe a country off the online map. Russia is stitching up Europe's gas market, giving it huge influence both within and on Europe. Many people, out of naivete or greed, deny the existence of the problem. Russia has so far sidelined America, its most formidable opponent in the last cold war: America needs Russia co-operation on North Korea, Iran and the Middle East, leaving the way clear for the Kremlin. "The New Cold War" explains both the Kremlin's tactics and the West's weaknesses. Why we are perilously close to defeat and—and how we can still win.


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Zaitchik
Browse author
Alexander Zaitchik is an editor at The eXile. Email him at zaitchik@gmail.com
 
 
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