MindBullets 20 Years


Sarkozy rejoins NATO to sideline Russia

Nicolas Sarkozy, new president of the French Republic, has wasted no time in building bridges with the world’s most powerful nation. When the most recent ultimatum with Uzbekistan passed with no signs of their acquiescing to the EU’s demand that they unblock gas supplies to Europe, France’s response was swift.

“The time has passed when rogue nations can rely on the disagreements of democratic states to flout international law,” said Sarkozy, speaking in Paris on Monday.

“It is essential that we stand with our American friends in holding nations to account when they deliberately act to destabilize other sovereign states.”

This is a deliberate slight to Germany which has long-tolerated the antics of Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s brutally repressive leader.

Embattled at home, President Bush has been extremely keen to build ties with France, previously hostile to US activities.

“We the American people stand with France and support President Sarkozy’s initiative to secure Europe’s energy security,” said Bush.

The US has invited France to rejoin NATO and suggested the use of targeted military strikes against Uzbekistan.

The saber-rattling has unsettled Russian President Vladimir Putin, who supports Uzbekistan and who is privately blamed for fomenting the energy crisis. “The Russian people cannot stand for this willful aggression against our partners,” said Putin.

As the tensions rise a new Cold War is freezing.

ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be

The astronomic oil and gas prices have not just destabilized the Middle East. Europe, too, has suffered as Russia has abused its astonishing energy resources, as well as their grip over previous vassal states, to control – not just their own oil and gas – but also the supply from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan via their near-East and to Europe.

Their reliance on this oil and gas has left Europe vulnerable and incapable of protecting either human rights or their own interests. They now appear weak and ineffective.

In May 2005 Islam Karimov, fearful of another “color revolution” then sweeping through Eastern European states, directed troops to open fire on protestors demonstrating against his regime in Andijan. It has been estimated that more than 1,000 people, mostly women and children, were shot dead by security forces.

Europe’s response was muted, with Germany even suggesting recently that they would like to remove all sanctions and continue trade as per normal. Europe’s fear is that they would lose influence and be subjected to oil and gas shortages. That fear is coming true anyway.

April 2007: Refighting the Battle of Tallinn
At the tail-end of World War II Soviet forces battled their way into Europe, pushing back Nazi troops and assisting in ending the war in Europe. One of the decisive battles was fought at Tallinn, in Estonia.

For the Russians this battle is commemorated as their sacrifice for freedom. For the Estonians it ushered in 50 years of Soviet occupation. For, once the Soviet troops arrived, they didn’t leave until after the end of the Cold War, subjecting Estonians to oppression and violence.

In April Andrus Assip, Estonia’s President, orders the Soviet monument to the battle of Tallinn moved from the capital to a graveyard filled with Soviet war-dead. The monument is sensitively re-situated but, spoiling for a fight, Vladimir Putin accuses the Estonians of human rights violations.

A massed attack by Russian hackers, at the instigation of the Russian government, sees Estonia’s world class Internet services subjected to crippling “denial of service” attacks. Since Estonia is also the center of European government web development and support, the attacks affect government services across Europe.

Germany is uncomfortable at taking Russia to task but Poland, already subjected to gas shortages from Russian pipelines being closed, is confrontational.

A new Cold War looms.

November 2007: Winter looms and gas is short
Winter is icy in Europe’s capitals. Russia signs critical gas and oil deals with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, as well as China. Putin now has control over a significant proportion of non-OPEC energy supplies.

The continuing spat with Poland spreads to other ex-Soviet nations and Russia cuts off gas supplies to Estonia, Lithuania and the Ukraine. Germany is still lethargic but Nicolas Sarkozy is looking for an issue that threatens Europe that can allow him to energize his leadership. Economic reforms at home have resulted in demonstrations and violence. He senses that a real issue outside of France will allow him to push through labor and economic reforms too troubling to confront.

Sarkozy meets secretly with George W Bush, contemplating his retirement, to discuss the potential for an alliance. Charles De Gaulle, France’s post-war president, withdrew France’s membership of NATO in 1959. The threat of a UN veto by France had necessitated that NATO act to bring about an end to hostilities in the ex-Yugoslavia. Now everything is up for negotiation again.

The agreement is sketchy but Bush immediately understands threat to Europe’s security. Sarkozy agrees to assist in supporting US Iranian negotiations over Iraq. Bush agrees to put their bases in Germany at the disposal of the EU should the need arise.

December 2007: And bah humbug to you too
The French Republic is incensed when mobs of Russian youths attack the French embassy in Moscow. The Russian government denies involvement but a YouTube video clip clearly shows Moscow police vans bringing the protestors to the embassy.

Islam Karimov, sensing the confusion in Moscow, decides to renegotiate Uzbekistan’s treaty with Moscow. He calculates that he get even more money now that the stakes are higher. He cuts off all gas and oil pipelines going through Uzbekistan and announces that he won’t accept any negotiations until his price is met. European governments are told that Uzbekistan demands US$ 50 billion upfront to secure a deal, and preferential rates thereafter with gas and oil set at 15% above the market price.

Overnight, stock markets across Europe plunge. It is the middle of winter and there are no other supplies of energy available. New sources of energy take time to build.

Uzbekistan is banking on the support of Russia and on European capitulation. After all, Europe hasn’t shown much spine to date. It is a valid assumption.

Sarkozy pounces on the opportunity. His deal with the US has been ratified in Congress and he feels sure that he won’t be opposed in Germany. Poland has already offered support.

On 26 December 2007 he appears on state television: “We, the free peoples of Europe, will not stand for this type of blackmail. President Karimov, you have until 1 January 2008 to restart supplies at existing contractual rates or we will be forced to consider military strikes to regain our energy security.”

Vladimir Putin is horrified but seems to have lost control of one of his partners. He dare not show weakness either, but cannot go against the EU. Even he recognizes that, perhaps, things have gone too far. He decides to remain silent.

January 2007: Sabres rattle, war looms
Karimov remains unmoved. There is no free press in the repressive Uzbekistani state and so no-one is able to judge the mood in the government. The deadline passes.

Sarkozy issues his famous declaration. “The time has passed when rogue nations can rely on the disagreements of democratic states to flout international law,” said Sarkozy, speaking in Paris on Monday. “It is essential that we stand with our American friends in holding nations to account when they deliberately act to destabilize other sovereign states.”

Everything is in readiness for France’s swift return to NATO.

“The Russian people cannot stand for this willful aggression against our partners,” says Putin. But, again, Europe is prepared. Russian ministers are invited to Germany to inspect the joint US, British, Polish and French troops now under NATO command.

This is all real-politik; meant to intimidate. The Russians report back to Putin.

Within hours gas and oil are flowing through Uzbekistan into Europe. The battle is over.

But a new Cold War is just beginning.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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