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February 06, 2009

Golova Moya Kruzhitsa - Part 2
Posted by Patrick Barry

Several excellent analyses out today, which evidence the serious confusion over Russia's priorities in Central Asia regarding the U.S., after Kyrgyzstan's announcement that it plans to close its Manas airbase to the U.S, resulting from pressure from Moscow.  On the one hand, this uncertainty is not unsurprising.  As the New York Times observes, Russia's attitude toward the U.S. has so far been schizophrenic, perhaps indicating an internal Russian political debate.  My own view however, is that the confusion derives primarily from tension between two Russian priorities, which would seem to pull their policy toward the U.S. in opposing directions: checking the growth of Muslim extremism in the region and establishing preeminence over Central Asia.

When it comes to achieving the former, a stronger partnership with the U.S. seems natural, since a Taliban victory in Afghanistan would likely have repercussions within the Muslim communities closer to Russia's borders.  After Chechnya, Russia has no desire to stir up anxieties amongst its own Muslim minorities.  Neither would it desire al-Qaeda to have a base from which to stage operations that could just as easily be directed at Moscow, as London, or New York.  From this perspective, throwing increased support behind the mission in Afghanistan makes total sense.

But when it comes to the latter priority - projecting influence over the Central Asian states - Russia's stance toward the U.S. is much less friendly.  Looking at some of the hot-button issues in the region, and you can see why.  A American military presence in Afghanistan is bad enough, but when you combine that with basing rights in Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan, along with the possibility of Georgia and Ukraine's NATO accession, you can see why Russia would be open to a more antagonistic set of options. 

For the time being, it appears as if Russia is trying to have it both ways - tightening its grip over Kyrgyzstan at the expense of the U.S., whilst simultaneously offering to help the U.S.' by offering NATO the use of transit routes through Russian territory to supply the mission in Afghanistan (but even this assistance probably accomplishes an ulterior goal of keeping Georgia from collaborating with NATO - ISAF on this issue)  Whether this mixed approach is feasible in the long-term is unknown, but it seems unlikely. 

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Madeleine Albright was on the Rachel Maddow show Friday night and she stated that the current hostility that Russia has towards the West is mainly due to NATO expansion into the Ukraine and Georgia. But then Albright made an odd statement in that she does not understand why Russia would feel threataned by NATO expansion. I think that the answer is fairly obvious in that we have helped arm the new members of NATO with western arms. If I was a Russian citizen, I would have a good reason to fear the United States. The Obama administration needs to make the choice between cooperation with Russia on nuclear proliferation and Afghanistan or the pursuing outdated Cold War policies such as NATO expansion that are detrimental towards America's strategic interests. It is not Russia that feels like it could have its cake and eat it to, but the United States by wanting cooperation while expanding, what is to percieved by the Russians, an hostile alliance in Russia's backyard.

This misses the point.

We "pry" information out of people all the time. The US courts allow this in numerous cases -- to refuse to answer a court's question when you are not a defendant, not admitting to a crime, and not a person's spouse, chaplain, or attorney is "contempt of court." You could be confined indefinitely until you answer in criminal cases. Intimate details of people's lives are forced to be revealed against their will in civil cases all the time.

The ethical question is whether we have the right to harm someone who willfully refuses to divulge information that would prevent imminent, lasting harm to others. The usual catch is that we rarely know for certain if that person has such information. Abusing people we think might know about future terrorist attacks is ethically different from coercing a person who boasts "you've caught me but it's too late; I've planted the bomb already and I'm not going to tell you where it is."

The latter case is exceedingly rare. The Gaefgen/Metzler case comes closest. Gaefgen kidnapped Metzler and was caught picking up the ransom. The police thought Metzler might still be alive and threatened to torture Gaefgen, who then revealed where Metzler was (but he had already killed him). Gaefgen was convicted without the confession, and the two German police officers were fined.

US jurisprudence rests on the idea that actions by police which "shock the conscience" are forbidden, not violence. We permit police to shoot-to-kill armed hostage-takers even if they have not yet harmed anyone; the imminent potential that they will is sufficient justification. The key aspect in these cases is that we know for certain that who the hostage-taker is and what he or she is capable of doing.

The problem with the US abuse and torture of terrorists and terrorist suspects is that the US has never claimed the conditions of the ticking-timebomb existed. The US cannot justify its actions when the conditions for the justification are absent!

The problem with the US abuse and torture of terrorists and terrorist suspects is that the US has never claimed the conditions of the ticking-timebomb existed. The US cannot justify its actions when the conditions for the justification are absent!

The problem with the US abuse and torture of terrorists and terrorist suspects is that the US has never claimed the conditions of the ticking-timebomb existed. The US cannot justify its actions when the conditions for the justification are absent

The problem with the US abuse and torture of terrorists and terrorist suspects is that the US has never claimed the conditions of the ticking-timebomb existed. The US cannot justify its actions when the conditions for the justification are absent

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Many people thought that Mr Obama’s election would finally settle the controversies about counter-terrorism’s “dark side” , a darkness that concealed secret prisons, abusive interrogation and “rendition” to countries that practise torture.

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