Russians Rethinking Shifting Sands in the Mid East

Russians Recalculate MidEast Moves
Russians Recalculate MidEast Moves

Eric Walberg Gives Us a Peek Into the Russian Bear Debates


by   Jim W. Dean,  VT  Editor


Staying up to date on interntational events these days is a superhuman task.

And a good understanding of the behind the scenes struggles and machinations remains almost a dream because it requires so much more background geopolitical depth than most have time to invest.

VT has focused on bridging that great divide for our readers, making the dream a reality with our own in house material spearheaded by our bionic editor Gordon Duff and his huge archive here. 

Some of the current VT people go all the way back to those days and I wanted you to be aware of that legacy because no one else has it.

Gordon was point man on the AOL Military section way back in 1993, with snail speed modems, but so many were still alive who aren’t now. See our ‘in memorium’ section at the bottom of the editorial board page.

We try to bring you good material from writers and analysts who specialize in their niche areas. Our writing pool spans from our experienced grey heads, to emerging talent still in graduate school and everything in between. Eric Walberg has a treasure trove of Russian geo-political archive material with a great piece below.

A Rare Colonel Lawrence and Camel Photo

The dust is beginning to settle on the shooting part of the Libyan Revolution and attention is shifting to Syria and the emerging regional influence of Turkey. The Arab Springs have been a game changer and the geopolitical tectonic plates are now shifting.

The old computer modeling is out the window, and those betting the smart money will be careful not to be caught up in the long forgotten quicksands of the Mid East.

The last any of us thought much of those was in Lawrence of Arabia the memorable scene where one of Colonel Lawrence’s servants was swallowed up. Now dictators and tyrants are replacing the young servant boy.

Eric provides us a unique peek into the complicated behind the scenes Russian debates over their future in the Mid East. Such works are huge time savers for the rest of us, delivered to our doorsteps.

Hopefully some method will emerge from all the madness.


Russia’s Middle East dilemma   …by  Eric Walberg


Russian Geopolitical Analyst Eric Walberg

As the Arab Spring grinds on into autumn, the Russians are asking once again whether they should follow the policy “If you can’t beat `em, join `em”, says Eric Walberg

Muammar Al-Gaddafi’s demise is all but a done thing, carried out with a UN blessing, however dubious, and only belatedly opposed by Russia and China.

Russian policy makers are now wondering if their quasi-principled condemnation of Western-backed regime change in Libya was not just Quixotic but downright stupid.

Libya’s National Transitional Council denies that Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam signed a secret agreement with France in March mediated by the Qatari government, whereby French companies would control more than a third of Libya’s oil production in return for Paris’s early and staunch support for the rebels.

However, even as Russia recognised the NTC last week, Abdeljalil Mayouf, information manager of the rebels’ Arabian Gulf Oil Company, warned:

“We don’t have a problem with Western countries like the Italians, French and UK companies. But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil.”

Medvedev and Assad

Gaddafi’s impending fate is now fuelling Western efforts to topple Bashir Al-Assad in Syria, with France openly organising the rebels, and a European boycott of Syrian oil in place as of Friday.

The latter is potentially more devastating than hosting dissident conferences in Paris, as almost all of Syria ‘s oil, a third of its total export revenues, goes to Europe .

The burning question now is “Should Russia should accede to Western plans for the Middle East?” To “learn from its mistake” in Libya and dump Al-Assad immediately, whatever the internal dynamics of Syria may be?

The whole relationship of Russia to the Arab Spring is now heatedly discussed, with many critical of Western machinations but just as many worried that Russia will only lose out if it stays aloof.

The two camps represent the two poles in post-Soviet Russian thinking: the Eurasianists vs the Atlantists. The former trying to put Russia at the centre of an independent anti-Western coalition.

The latter are happy to throw in the towel, to accede to the Western hegemony which characterises the postmodern imperial order unfolding since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Showdown in Russia - East or West ??

There are powerful forces in Russia behind both views. Atlantist enthusiast Russian President Dmitri Medvedev was responsible for the success of UN Resolution 1973 allowing the NATO bombing of Libya.

In March, he overrode broad Russian opposition including by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who denounced the Western invasion as a new Crusade. Medvedev had to fire Russian ambassador to Libya Vladimir Chamov when the latter sided with Putin.

Medvedev now warns Al-Assad of a “dire fate” if he continues his campaign against the opposition.

Will Putin Clash with Medvedev? ?

Those who want to accede to the Western agenda complain that in Libya Tatneft and Gazprom Neft will have to abandon their projects. “We won’t have anything; Libya ‘s oil market will shift in favor of Italian ENI.

After them, the American and European companies,” whines Uralsib Capital analyst Alexei Kokin. The Russian Railways contract to build a 550 km high-speed rail line from Sirt to Benghazi also appears to be under review by the new government in Tripoli.

Libya is far away, and was never much of a Soviet-Russian ally. In Syria, Russian economic and security stakes are much higher.

Not only is Syria one of Russia’s largest arms export customers, with current and pending deals valued at $10 billion, but Al-Assad’s regime is also a significant Russian security partner in the Middle East.

The Russian navy is dependent on Syrian ports to sustain its operations in the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf.

Dmitry Rogozin - Russian NATO Ambassador

Russia’s NATO Ambassador Dmitri Rogozin scoffed at the idea that the West had any altruistic motives in invading Libya.

He told the EU observer on 2 September that the Libya experience shows NATO will now “expand towards its southern borders”, and though he was happy NATO had stopped expanding eastward, “we cannot trust [that] NATO will not exceed the mandate and NATO bombs will not be dropped on Damascus.”

Concerning the proposed UN resolution against Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, “This is a call for a repeat of the Libyan scenario. The BRICS nations will not allow this to happen.”

There is no question for the Russians that honest elections are now unavoidable in Syria in future, but “we strongly believe it is unacceptable to instigate the Syrian opposition to continue boycotting suggestions to start a dialogue.”

Russia is unwilling to contemplate another Western-incited civil war and invasion leading to regime change. For the moment, the Eurasianists have the upper hand.

The Russian Geopolitical Debate Heats Up Internally

Underlying the Atlantist-Eurasianist debate is the fate of the entire Western project to transform the Middle East, which has been in the works since the 1980s with the rise of the neocons.

This plan was to bring about a controlled chaos in the region, creating a series of weak statelets that would benefit a strong Israel. Oded Yinon’s “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s” proposed the policy of divide-and-conquer.

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah described the Israeli policy in 2007 as intended to create “a region that has been partitioned into ethnic and confessional states that are in agreement with each other. This is the new Middle East.”

But given the horrors of this policy in action since 2000, the burning question for Russian politicians is not just:

 “Should we accede to Western plans for the Middle East?” but rather “Are Western plans in the Middle East going to succeed, and is Russia helpless to influence them?”

The neocon wars of the 2000s were the steel fist approach to subduing Islam: kill millions and terrorise the survivors. But they have been a disaster, made the US and Israel pariahs, and left a trail of terrorism in their wake.

In Libya and Syria today, Afghanistan and Iraq loom large. Russian Profile analyst Alexandre Strokanov fears that “the real war and even more horrifying suffering still lay ahead for the Libyan people” and warns that weapons from Gaddafi’s arsenal could well end up in terrorist hands.

Neither the US nor the EU are in any position to get involved in another “nation-building project”. In any case, the new Libyan government will have to show its fiercely proud people that it is independent from all foreign powers.

Who Will Still be on the Rollercoaster When it Stops ??

 It is clear now the whole Arab Spring is not as spontaneous as appeared at first glance. While the regimes across the region were indeed corrupt and dictatorial, they were all supported by the West. But so was the opposition.

The moment came when they were perceived as passed their due date, and with the neocons in office by 2000 and PNAC’s “new Pearl Harbour ” on the horizon, it was possible to proceed with Yinon’s plan to create dynamic chaos in the Middle East. The Arab Spring is, in an eerie way, a natural conclusion to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A sort of “If you can’t beat `em, join `em”, American style.

It has taken various forms so far, with a breezy boot for Zine Al-Abidine Bin Ali in Tunisia, a pair of handcuffs for Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, a burnt face for Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, impending assassination for Al-Gaddafi, and who-knows-what for Al-Assad.

How Many Are in the Hot Seat Now? - Is Israel?

The only ones to escape unharmed are the Gulf sheikhs and the kings of Morocco and Jordan, who are so compliant that they need only a tap on the shoulder to do Washington’s bidding.

Oh yes, Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is still hanging on, but not even the neocons dare to overthrow him and reopen civil war wounds from the 1990s.

That is not to denigrate the revolutionaries across the region, nor to dismiss their heroic (but very much uphill) struggles to achieve independence in the face of the Western intriguers.

Among the prominent new leaders are Muslim Brotherhood leaders such as Tunisia ‘s Rachid Ghannouchi and Egypt’s Essam El-Erian.

Their popular Renaissance and Freedom and Justice parties are projected to win the plurality of seats in upcoming elections, and they have no use for the imperialists.

Then there is Libyan rebel military leader Abdullah Hakim Belhaj who plans to take the US to court for torturing him and then rendering him to Al-Gaddafi. There are few secular heroes in the region that can vie with the long-suffering Islamists.

While Italy and Britain were cruel colonial taskmasters in Libya before independence, Russia has no such imperial baggage. Russian officials met with both sides throughout the stand-off to try to negotiate a ceasefire, emphasising the importance of international law, and have nothing to be ashamed of.

If it’s any comfort to Atlantists like Kokin, even enthusiastic support by Russia of the bald imperial venture to unseat Al-Gaddafi would hardly have done Tatneft or Russian Railways much good.

Russia inherits fond memories across the region as the anti-Zionist Soviet Union’s successor. It now has the chance to gain long term credibility as a principled partner not only in the Middle East but to nonaligned countries everywhere, and should stick to international law and stare down the imperialists.

***Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly You can reach him at His Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games is available at



The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI) October 17, 1996 Milwaukee, Madison, and Wausau conducted public hearings this summer regarding a proposal that would require children to have a hepatitis B vaccination to be admitted to school. see here hepatitis b vaccine

I believe parents should know certain facts before they allow their children to be inoculated with this vaccine.

All vaccinations, including hepatitis B vaccine, have the risk of post-vaccinal encephalomyelitis, as well as other severe reactions.

The government has recognized the danger of vaccination and Congress has passed a law that pays compensation to children damaged by vaccination. Hepatitis B vaccine is not covered by this law.

Unlike the diseases for which the usual childhood vaccinations are given, most children in Wisconsin have little or no risk of contracting hepatitis B. The problem in this country is that children are primarily being exposed by mothers who are carriers of the virus. Most of these mothers are drug users and/or have multiple sex partners. In most counties of Wisconsin, childhood hepatitis B is very rare. The average Wisconsin child has little risk of this disease.

Before a parent allows his/her child to receive a vaccination against hepatitis B, that the parent should ask their child’s physician:

What are the theoretical and actual risks of this vaccine. site hepatitis b vaccine

What compensation would be provided to this child if there is an adverse reaction?

How many cases of hepatitis B have been observed in the past few years in the county in which the child lives?

This information is available to the physician in medical literature and from the state Division of Health.

Also, the hepatitis B vaccine given children is effective for only 10 years. Therefore, when a child becomes a young adult and their habits or environment may change, the matter can be reconsidered.

After my letter on the hepatitis B vaccine was published in the Wisconsin State Medical Journal, a number of physicians, particularly those with young children, told me that they had the same concerns about giving the vaccine to all children regardless of risk factors.

Finally, hepatitis B vaccine is indicated for persons involved in the health profession and in persons who have a high risk of contracting this disease. Therefore, my reservations regarding universal hepatitis B vaccination do not apply to these groups.


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Jim W. Dean was an active editor on VT from 2010-2022.  He was involved in operations, development, and writing, plus an active schedule of TV and radio interviews.