The fact that Russia is often responding to EU and US geopolitical plans to expand its influence in Eurasia to control vital fossil fuels , as was clearly a cause of conflict between Georgia and Russia is rationalised by referring to only sinister Kremlin designs.
The line taken is that "the West" has every right to expand into Eurasia because they are real democracies whilst Russia is not but little mention is made of how in this New Cold War, the USA has propped up repellent dictatorships.
This makes a fraud of the liberal idealism that Lucas espouses which comes down to defending those like Khodorkovsky who ran Yukos and whom Putin removed from power and hence negatively affected the interests of Western investors. Yet Lucas pretends to be against cynical businessmen who do deals with Putin's regime.
No mention is made that when Putin speaks of "the dictatorship of law" the aim was to reverse resources that has been thieved under the pro-Western regime of Yeltsin. No mention of the contract killings ordered by Yukos then.
The claim therefore that Putin and Medvedev's use of energy as a political tool of leverage only supported by cynical Western investors and historians like Corelli Barnett who see Russia as a realpolitik power is a fallacy.
In foreign policy the USA has been no less ruthless than Russia in trying to use pipelines and control over them as a way of gaining the upper hand. Lucas speaks of the failure of Russia to upgrade Russia's creaking infrastructure.
This means that only Western investment and a regime run by oligarchs that genuflect to the USA's gamble for global hegemony can provide the way forward, never that the damage done by Yeltsin is to be mentioned.
Lucas continually the fact that Putin's regime has based its power on the oil price spike and trying to build up a rival non-aligned block in conjunction in 2008 with buying oil concessions in Nigeria, Venezuela ,Bolivia and Vietnam.
This double standard ignores the fact that the EU has also been waiving concerns about human rights in order to secure better relations with Colonel Gaddafi to gain access to gas and oil production.
Moreover, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was unquestionably based on the ideology of the Bush II administration in thinking that liberating Iraq would lead to an American style secular democracy and to control the oil supply.
One reason for that was the USA no longer wanted to be so reliant on Saudi Arabia as the massive population growth and rentier regime supported by the West as fears for its stability had grown as a US client.
Moreover, the growth of Centcom in the Middle East and Central Asia to protect US oil supplies in accordance with the Carter Doctrine of 1980 has expanded as fears over China's inroads into the competition for oil has increased.
Lucas cannot and will not address this history which was central to the old Cold War and why radical critics of US foreign policy like Noam Chomsky also sees it from his perspective also as " The New Cold War".
Yet there is no "new" Cold War: simply national resource competitions with the USA prepared to act precisely in accordance with the "moral relativist" ideas that any group of oligarchs or counter-elites should be funded to control oil.
When Lucas cites Russia reducing its gas supply to the Czech Republic in July 2008 in response to the decision to base the missile defence radar there, it was responding to US attempts to circumvent the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The "Star Wars" programme was never clearly explained by the US administration which had as its aim Iran but which could also just as well be used against Russia as part of a geopolitical scheme to detach Russian from alliances with Iran.
The "missile shield" was intended and still is, despite the new Democratic President Barack Obama's promise to drop it, to contain and isolate Iran whose nuclear programme is feared as much for the fact it would increase its bargaining power over its oil.
Moreover, the missile shield, recently revived in "New European" NATO satellite states such as Romania where its proximity to trans Central Asian and Black Sea pipelines is intended to drive a wedge between Russian and Iran.
That despite the fact that even though Russia has sold nuclear technology and expertise to Iran, the IAEA has still found no conclusive evidence that Iran is or has got close to building a nuclear bomb. Even if it did this would be a reaction to the fact the USA proved that non nuclear defended states can be subjected to "shock and awe" invasions.
The invasion of Iraq in 2003, however, which Lucas calls merely "bungled and blood soaked aftermath", the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghairab " and the "legal black hole" of Guantanamo Bay is cited only as a negative PR and not for its flagrant illegality and rapacity but just because it allowed the Kremlin to use it as a "propaganda weapon".
Presumably then, the Iraq War is simply just bad PR for an essentially benign power and just because Putin termed the USA as a "pernicious" force in world politics does not mean the claim is simply incorrect just because it had to be Putin who said it on the international stage.
The line here is that though the USA makes "mistakes", the Kremlin intentionally uses that to suggest an intentionality of the assertion of US global power in an irresponsible way. But the truth of that statement is borne out by US practice no matter what Russia does. Iraq was an oil grab with catastrophic results but Lucas will not admit that openly.
The elementary principle ethical principle here is that two wrongs do not make a right and it is a basic fact that all US led wars with NATO allies ( in Serbia in 1999 and Afghanistan in 2001 ) have been as opportunist as anything that Russia has done which is why so many conservatives who supported the USA in the struggle against the USSR are its most incisive critics.
Meanwhile Lucas meanders and blusters his way in a logically contradictory and wholly unethical way by at once asserting that as regards Russia
"unlike the Soviet Union ....is not riven by economic discontent and failure, investment in pouring in an d living standards are rising. Most Russians have never had it so good and Mr Putin's approval rating is well over 80%".That was written in 2006 but in the revised edition Lucas fulminates against the fact that "inflation rocketed to 15% in 2008, with food prices up by 25%" as if there was not in fact a systemic crisis of capitalism going on across the globe and that the USA's Imperial overstretch had led to a massive debt fuelled banking crash and trillions of dollars of war debts.
Not only that Russia's opportunism is a sort of revenge for the imposition of the IMF Washington Consensus by which it used debt and strict "conditionality" criteria and cuts to social welfare programmes that impoverished nations after the first crash of 1998, so that the weakening of the dollar meant that Iraqi oil concessions were being snapped up by the Chinese.
It also meant more power to the leading oil producing nations of which Russia is one and hence the bilateral ties with Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, a nation that is hardly communist in that the rich have not been expelled, shopping malls still exist for them and oil wealth used to raise the standard of living for ordinary people, something impossible when US clients ruled.
Indeed it is hardly surprising that Latin American nations such as Venezuela have continuously elected Chavez in free and fair elections and the people detested the Sumate, a collection of oligarchs and far-right pro-US politicians in a way that plays into the hands of those claiming that economic money power and control over the oil and not real democracy is paramount.
As Mark Almond stated,
Chávez rides a wave of popularity because he is the first Latin American leader to mix anti-gringo populism with making life better for ordinary people. But booming oil prices are a mixed blessing, even when the money isn't diverted to offshore bank accounts. Certainly Chávez has redirected a great proportion of revenue into projects that help the majority. This infuriates the opposition, which feels housing, doctors and education are wasted on the poor with darker skins.The rhetoric about "statism" is not entirely unfounded nor is Lucas' concern for the convergence of authoritarian power with capitalism. Yet the fact he praises Stolypin under Tsarist Russia shows the concern is that the really about fears over Western economic dominance, something exacerbated by the question he fudges: what can the West do to avoid over dependence on oil ?
The cant about humanitarian intervention is little more than a fig leaf for geostrategic economic and oil interests then the perception and the actual reality of the double standards of the West actually undermines the cause of liberal democracy at home and abroad.
Lucas is right though in his analysis that oil dependency is not good for economies like Venezuela which is buying Russian weaponry such spending its copious oil wealth on $3 billion worth of equipment such as 53 military helicopters, 24 advanced Sukhio SU fighter jets but states which feel their sovereignty threatened by the USA will do so.
Not least in a Latin America that since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 has regarded the USA as "it's backyard" and which supported various coup attempts against regimes since the Second World War
Yet oil dependency does not benefit the West as well and Lucas has no answer to that as a crude neoliberal ideologue. Think of the case in Iran where the democratically elected Mossadeq government was overthrown by Eisenhower in 1953 leading to the Shah's breakneck modernisation and the Islamist reaction that brought about the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
That itself was a result of the USA developing a high octane economy in the 1950s and rapidly using up the domestic oil reserves it had and seeking new sources in areas riven with ethnic and religious divisions such as the Middle East as Michael T Klare reveals in seminal works such as Blood and Oil: How America's Thirst for Petrol is Killing Us
That in turn led to Zbigniew Brzezinski's belief that Islamists could be used rather like the US trained death squads to get rid of governments that denied it access to its oil in the Central Asian Republics. Brzezinski's career was started as a strategic thinker paid by the Rockefellers of Standard oil.
With regard Russia Mark Almond has asserted,
"The fiasco of Russia's gas blockade of Ukraine suggest he ( Putin ) is no poker player. If he thought possession of gas and oil reserves would give Russia the whip hand, he miscalculated basic realities.Iraq's bitter experience before and since 2003 shows that fossil fuels are no use if you cannot export them. Export or die is the watchword of energy-rich states. Insurgent attacks on pipelines in Iraq reminded America that Kiev, not the Kremlin, controls the bottleneck of Russian energy exports.
That was in 2006 and the paranoia of New Cold Warriors is that Russia really poses a threat to the world ( i.e the West ) is as ludicrous as insisting that human rights have anything to do with the USA's global pursuit of expansion through appropriating and controlling global oil supplies. Furthermore, in contrast to Lucas' absurd New Cold War thesis, Almond states,
"The west is making the running in global pipeline politics, not the Russians. In reality, the west advances as Russian troops retreat from the Caucasus and central Asia. Gazprom is upping prices to ex-Soviet republics to compensate for Moscow's loss of geopolitical clout".Since the oil grab has led to as much "economic blowback" as Brzezinski's led to terrorist blowback in supporting the mujahadeen against the Soviet Union to give it "it's Vietnam", the USA now finds itself in two Vietnam like situations. The first is obviously Iraq where the USA has sunk trillions of dollars and caused , according to Lancet, 1.3 million deaths.
The second is increasingly in Afghanistan where all mention of opportunist motives in constructing a pipeline were termed "conspiracy theories". That was a curious way of screening out from public perception or what is called now "public diplomacy" the fact that in 2008 the TAPI pipeline was decided upon as a means of reducing dependence on Russia.
This pipeline is not mentioned once in Lucas' The New Cold War but he does mention the vital role of Liquified Natural Gas in the West's pursuit of "energy diversification" and that is what TAPI is providing and why states emboldened by Lucas' propaganda in Poland have been so willing so send troops to Afghanistan as well as plain hatred of Russia as a "Neo-Soviet threat".
This is why otherwise intelligent Polish conservatives such as Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski endorse, along with his American wife and Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, that Russia under Putin is a return to Soviet era style politics and not a rerun of the Great Game played by the European powers in the late nineteenth century.
Sikorski is, after all, a member of the American Enterprise Institute, a dedicted neoconservative who was a journalist in Afghanistan and still respects the policies of the 1980s under Reagan and Thatcher of arming those Afghan fighters against the Soviet Union and makes foolish comparisons between the Nordstream pipeline that bypasses Poland to the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.
But with Iraq turning into a "bloodsoaked aftermath" of an invasion to control existing oilfields and concern that sanctions were preventing extant oil wells from working should Saddam Hussein be removed as had long been mooted by neoconservatives in the AEI like Richard Perle, John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz.
As David Strahan, an investigative journalist who deals with hard facts instead of New Cold War propaganda riffs as Lucas does, revealed in The Last Oil Shock that in January 2000 US experts working for the Security Council of the USA found " that sanctions had reduced the supply of spare parts that "would severely damage oil containing rocks and pipeline systems
Far from their being a New Cold War there was a Great Game, a scramble for Iraq, the third largest oil producer in the world in which the USA was but one player who would dominate but in which the tapping of new oil fields in the south of Iraq, conveniently divided into 8 blocks by Dick Cheney's Energy Taskforce in 2001, had Russia's LUKoil as a suitor down for a production sharing contract ( PSC) in the West Qurnah oilfield.
The New Great Game is the reality and the illusion is the New Cold War which the neoconservatives had a vacillating stance as they thought Russia's co-operation in "The War on Terror" made Putin a useful ally so long as he did the USA's bidding and permitted US airbases in Central Asia to operate against the Afghan Taliban.
So it is surprising that as messianic as the neoconservatives Republicans were the hawks in the Democrats who represent US oil interests no less do nothing to avoid being overdependent upon oil but want Russia just knocked out of the Great Game by first dealing with it before China, a far worse regime that Brzezinski has always encouraged business and partnership with.
If the same standards were held by Lucas with regards China than are towards Russia, then the New Cold War would be as much directed towards it as towards Russia: the difference is that Russia is a remnant superpower whilst China by rejecting neoliberal reforms has prospered and boosted it's stranglehold over the West economically.
For the states the USA does business with in its quest for global hegemony in which Afghanistan is a key geostrategical pivot is prepared to deals with any dictator no less that Russia: it's merely that Russia seeks security as a regional power through its use of energy as a political tool whilst the USA desires the same as a world hegemon.
That's where Afghanistan comes in and why Obama's "foreign policy brain" Brzezinski remains a key player in openly advocating the TAPI pipeline as a means of blocking off the rival IPI pipeline from Iran which would lead off into a rapidly industrialising China.
Iraq was a mistake for Brzezinski because the real way to ensure US control of global oil supplies is to use Islamist proxies to destabilise states from becoming too powerful to control the lions share of oil and gas in ex-Soviet republics and there's nothing "new" about that: he has advocated it since the mid 1970s.
That means not only his staunch support and personal support for Georgia and the BTC pipeline he helped personally negotiate in 1995 but also support for the very kind of ex-KGB goons like Aliev in Azerbaijan who both he and Lucas berate if they are, however, Russians for their attempt to use transit fees to prop up the power of Gazprom.
That makes a black farce of Lucas' idiotic statements about Russia being prepared to do deals with Islamists just to "tweak America's nose" when he opines with his characteristic refined absurdity,
"the Kremlin approach seems to be to draw a rather arbitrary line ( indeed, probably fictional ) between 'good' and 'bad' Islamic militants....'good' Muslims attacked Israel and America. 'Bad ones' attached the Soviet boys in Afghanistan".In fact this is no different from the US approach which is even more sinister and dangerous, given that it has involved covert operations chiefs like Richard Secord, Heinie Aderholdt and Ed Dearborn, veterans of CIA operations in Laos, arranging for mujahadeen mercenaries from Afghanistan to be sent to Baku to fight in Azerbaijan against Armenia and its Russian allies in 1991.
These Azeri Islamist mercenaries were behind the coup that in 1993 removed President Abulfaz Elchibey from power and installed Aliev in 1993. As Peter Dale Scott, a staunch supporter of Solidarity in Poland and friend of the famous Polish Milosz, has shown, the Islamists under the name of MEGA OIL "helped supply the muscle required to stand up to the former Soviet Union"
At stake Scott points out was "an $8 billion dollar oil contract with a consortium of oil companies headed by BP. Part of the contract would be a pipeline that would, for the first time, not pass through Russian-controlled territory when exporting oil from the Caspian basin to Turkey"-a nation that denies the Armenian genocide of 1915.
How principled that stance was was hardly edifying as according to the 9/11 Commission, Osama bin Laden had established his first NGO in Baku bringing Al Qaida into the Caucasus and providing for the Islamist driven irredentism that spread across the borders into Dagestan and Chechnya and helped ignite the conflicts there.
Indeed former Congressional terrorist expert Bodansky reported in 2000, on the eve of the "blowback" of 9/11, that the US government had continued to be involved in "yet another anti-Russian jihad" and "was equipping the mujahadeen from the Caucasus" and saw the Chechen jihad as a way of "depriving Russia of a viable pipeline route through spiralling violence and terror"
In short, Lucas' concept that Russia instigated some New Cold War is a monumental piece of myth making founded on omission of key fact, selective evidence and fitting the facts to the prescriptions of a power political creed no less than the crudest Orientalists do with regards the Middle East.
Most of the ethnic and religious conflicts in the Caucasus were precipitated by the USA's crude triumphalism and hubris, as well as callous disregard for the lives of those caught up in oil and pipeline struggles, as additionally proven when Aliev hired 1,000 Islamists from Afghanistan in a war against the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Despite the lack of democracy in Azerbaijan, Donald Rumsfeld, a key figure in providing the dual use helicopters in 1988 that Saddam Hussein used to exterminate Kurds in the north of Iraq, congratulated Aliev's sucessor-the next one Ilham Aliev who came to power in a rigged election. No mention of Lucas of any of this.
As Mark Almond puts it,
"Someone is still fighting the cold war, but it isn't Russia. The chill wind that has been blowing towards the Kremlin for decades is still coming from the west".