Russian bear awakening from long hibernation

Tehran Times

August 27, 2005

By our staff writer
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to hold an international conference on Iraq as well as his initiative calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. and British troops from Iraq are a manifestation of Moscow’s desire to regain its former role in the international arena.

Putin’s proposal on the Iraq conference comes just five months after his call for a conference on Palestine made during a trip to the occupied territories.

In the third year of its military occupation of Iraq, the United States has deployed over 138,000 troops in the country. In response to the fact that the U.S. has also deployed a considerable number of military forces in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Afghanistan, a general concern has arisen in the international community about U.S. unilateralism and the expansion of its military influence.

Understandably, the former opponents of the United States are the most concerned parties.

Due to its internal and political troubles, Russia’s role on the international stage has been seriously diminished since 1991, but now it feels that it can regain its lost status and become a significant player in global affairs once again.

Russia, which is one of the world’s leading oil producers and distributors, now has a great opportunity. The rise in oil prices over the past two years, the dire need of the U.S. and Europe for safe strategic resources, and finally Moscow’s abandoning of the communist political system have given Russian officials the chance to become involved in international developments again and thus prevent their rivals from meddling in matters of Russia’s national interest.

Although they had taken a defensive stance for the past 15 years, the Russians have rejected the U.S. assertions that unilateralism is only a strategy in the campaign against international problems like terrorism and have responded cautiously to problems such as the expansion of NATO.

It seems that the Russian bear is finally awakening from its long hibernation. Propitiously, the controversy over Iran’s nuclear program and other developments have given Russia more room to maneuver.

On the other hand, the United States, which has taken an aggressive stance for the past 15 years, considers Russia’s new assertiveness toward developments in Palestine and Iraq as a potential obstacle that is gradually becoming more menacing.

At a time when Washington has not realized all its immediate goals, the emergence of outposts of resistance to U.S. policy will certainly make it more difficult for the U.S. to realize its hegemonistic objectives.

Therefore, the United States is trying to consolidate its gains of the past 15 years, exemplified by the fact that U.S. officials have been repeating the mantra that conditions are not suitable for a withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq.

Both U.S. and British officials have repeatedly declared that the proposed timetable for the withdrawal of military forces from Iraq is not practical, saying foreign troops cannot leave until the democratic process is firmly established in the country.

Over the past 28 months of the occupation of Iraq, U.S. officials have used many pretexts to attain their goal, which is the establishment of permanent military bases in the Middle East similar to those it possesses in Japan and South Korea.

Russian officials are well aware of the threat of the U.S. regional policy, if successfully implemented. Therefore, they are trying to whip up patriotic fervor among Iraqis in regard to the occupation of their country, while at the same time pressuring U.S. officials to ensure that the United States fails to accomplish its objectives in the region.