The Case of Georgia: Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan

The Case of Georgia: Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan

Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan are right. Georgia is precisely the kind of fault line that will divide American conservatives and neoconservatives well into the foreseeable future. Eventually America will be forced to accept the fact that Russia will not turn into a big Switzerland because it would be congenial to neocons.
Anyone who thinks what I think; that nuclear weapons reflect human intelligence, and that international IQ data promises that Russia has enough intellectual talent to play the terror game forever. There may be serious, even violent clashes between America and Russia, but negotiations about controlling nuclear weapons must continue.  From the beginning of the 21st century to as far as anyone sees into the future, nuclear weapons will dominate any other issue in international politics. All facts must accommodate the nuclear weapons fact.

According to a page 1 Wall Street Journal piece on August 29, 2008 the Bush administration is considering changes in American Russian agreements concerning nuclear arms control, in response to events in Georgia. A key phrase in the piece is the assertion by Secretary of State Rice that “it is not business as usual.”

One of the potential actions designed to punish Russia is ending cooperation on proliferation issues. Another issue concerns agreements on reducing nuclear weapon stockpiles, and verification protocols.

In a September 3, 2008 Wall Street Journal editorial
‘Stop! Or We’ll Say Stop Again,’ the writer criticizes the European Union for a  tepid response to Russia’s action in Georgia. The one substantive threat the EU did take, to halt negotiations with Russia over new economic arrangements is criticized as basically worthless. The Russians had not been particularly exercised over the proposed new arrangements before their aggression.

In an August 29, 2008 WSJ Op-Ed piece, Arthur Herman identifies Russia, Iran and Venezuela as a new “axis” of evil. A curious fit, one might think, but Mr. Herman identifies the elements that shape the fit: Authoritarian political structures, a preference for “crony” corrupt structures rather than free marker solutions, anti-free market preferences, corrupt business arrangements,  and perhaps most important, wealth from oil.  He believes that Russia’s intervention in Georgia is the type of provocation that requires a response.

But he also tells us not to become overly exercised about the facts: “Despite Russia’s nuclear arsenal, none of these states poses a military threat comparable to the Cold War Soviet Union, or even the Axis powers in the 1930s.  For all their bluff and bluster, Russia, Iran and Venezuela have a relatively tenuous position in the world; for all their oil wealth their economies remain weak and unstable.”

Another WSJ reviewer, Judy Shelton, argues in a September 3, 2008 piece, “The Market Will Punish Putinism”  that Russia is bound to lose foreign investment capital as a result of its actions.  The U.S. should take heart, she tells us, because Russia stock prices have to reflect their unease at Putin’s assertions of traditional Russian despotic claims.The value of the ruble has also fallen as investors have retrieved their investments. In response the Russian central bank has raised interest rate which has inevitably tightened credit, causing problems for the entire Russian population.

My view on the point is that Russia’s vulnerability to the price level of a single commodity, oil, cannot be dismissed out of hand. It is one thing for a small isolated Saudi Arabia to function with this vulnerability; it is a very different thing for a large population that wishes in some important respects to challenge the United States, Western Europe and NATO to live with the same vulnerability. So Ms. Shelton is right on one central point; when oil prices sink Russia may need American and European cooperation.
But I think that the suggestion that the U.S. respond by support a fast tick European Community membership for Ukraine, and, if necessary to ignore European doves, and offering Ukraine the opportunity to adopt the dollar. It guarantees that Russians who are marginally pro-West, and even pro-American, will see this as a long term threat at home.

How seriously the Russians, or even the ordinary American, might take the proffered menu of American threats is anyone’s guess but if an American administration follows through with them, the net result has to be a less secure world for everyone. Given that nuclear weapons are engineering talent, what is being promised is simply: Continue the same arms race that was in effect for the past half century.

The problem is that today, roughly at the end of the first half century of nuclear competition, America is orders of magnitude more vulnerable than it was 50 years ago. The key question that America has to ask itself is whether America can be infinitely safe while making Russia infinitely vulnerable.

Mr. Herman and Ms. Shelton, following the American Establishment line of the last 50 years believes that the ultimate reality in the nuclear force progression will be found in economic data. I believe the ultimate reality in the nuclear story will be engineering talent, and that international IQ data establishes that Russia and China will be able to do what they have done for the past 50 years: match the American nuclear terror march, step by step.



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