MOSCOW'S "PRAGMATIC" APPROACH TO IRAQ
A NEWSMAX.COM ANALYSIS
By Colonel Stanislav Lunev
Last week, a senior Moscow official suggested that Russia would take a "pragmatic" approach to the U.S.-sponsored campaign against Saddam Hussein and would go along with a strong U.N. resolution on Iraq, provided Russia got assurances that it would not suffer economically from any war.
"The devil will be in the details of these resolutions, but our position is essentially pragmatic. What is interesting for us are our economic and financial interests," said Sergei Yastrzhembsky, chief spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Yastrzhembsky also said the Kremlin's policy on Iraq was driven by economic concerns. "We are heavily dependent on world oil prices, and it is difficult to anticipate the con- sequence of an attack on Iraq," the Moscow official said in his remarks, which are the clearest signal that Moscow will not stand in the U.S.A.'s way.
Russia strongly opposed the recently released U.S. draft resolution on Iraq, criticizing the document as an unnecessary delay in the return of weapons inspectors. According to Moscow's point of view, the U.S.A. is not really interested in Iraq's cooperation with the U.N. and its disarmament, but would like to change the regime in Baghdad and to replace Saddam with pro-American Iraqi forces.
As Moscow's press said, the draft of a new U.N. resolution makes that objective almost explicit by calling for the establishment of no-drive zones on Iraq's territory, thus making disarmament subordinate to regime change in the priorities of the new weapons inspec- tion mission.
For Russia, America's fixation with regime change in Iraq presents a major dilemma. Voting for the U.S. draft resolution with its automatic trigger for military action and a rigged setup to provoke Iraqi noncompliance is almost out of the question for the Kremlin.
However, Moscow's media said, blocking the resolution's passage would open the door to unilateral action by the U.S.A., bypassing the U.N. and thus undermining this unique venue for Russia's international influence, not to mention the possible damage to Russian economic interests in Iraq and the discomfort of a new strain in U.S.A.-Russia relations.
Russia currently continues to oppose a military operation in Iraq but it has dropped its flat-out rejection of calls for a new U.N. Security Council resolution that would lay out strict terms for Iraqi cooperation with weapons inspectors, as urged by the U.S.A. and Britain. Russian leaders have notably avoided statements supporting Saddam, but its policy is nothing else but support of the Iraqi regime.
Moscow is concerned about the $7 billion owed by Baghdad in Soviet-era debt and whether Russian oil companies would continue to have access to Iraqi oil if Saddam is toppled. At the heart of Russia's fears are the effects that a war on Iraq might have on the price of oil.
Moscow, which relies on oil for half of its external income, fears that if Saddam Hussein is deposed, the U.S. may attempt to flood the market with cheap Iraqi oil to bolster its own economy.
According to press reports, the price of oil, about $29 a barrel, is widely expected to fall if the U.S.A. wages a successful war on Iraq. However, Russia could continue to enjoy the benefits from its oil sales if the price fell as low as $18 a barrel, but not a cent less.
As a result, Russia's leaders are trying to find a way to compensate their potential losses by, for example, getting new financial and economic benefits from the West. In other words, Russia is using its position in the U.N. to extort new funds from the U.S.A., which Moscow could use to increase the personal wealth of Russia's corrupt elite and for its military buildup.
This is the real nature of Russia's "pragmatic" approach, which is good for the Kremlin but not at all good for American interests.
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Colonel Stanislav Lunev is the highest-ranking Russian or Soviet military intelligence officer ever to defect to the U.S.A. For the greater part of his adult life, Colonel Lunev worked for the Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie (GRU), or Main Intelligence Administration--Russia's highly efficient and professional military intelligence agency. From 1988 to 1992, Lunev was a GRU intelligence officer operating out of the GRU's field office in Washington, D.C. In 1992, after Boris Yeltsin came to power in Russia, Lunev defected to the United States government. Since his defection, Lunev has pro- vided important information to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelli- gence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other U.S. defense and national security agencies--information considered so crucial that he was placed in the FBI Witness Protection Program, where he remains to this day.
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