In the reflection titled “Bush in Heaven,” published by our newspapers this past March 23, I affirmed that Bush would get up to his old tricks during the NATO meeting in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, from April 1 through 3.
Important events are taking place in Europe. To ignore them would be to remain ignorant of today’s dilemmas. With enough patience to get through the next few pages, readers will have access to news items extracted from a sea of information, which come to light at different times and on different days, mixed together with other headlines, vital and not.
Athens, April 3 (EFE)
“Greek nationalists celebrated today having prevented Macedonia’s entry into NATO. At the root of this is the unresolved Athens-Skopje dispute over Macedonia’s name, which has been going on for 17 years.
“The Greek press is unanimous, this Thursday, in calling the veto that prevented Macedonia’s entry into NATO a success, a decision confirmed today at the summit meeting of this military organization in Bucharest.
“Above all else, the media underscored the intense pressure Washington brought to bear on the organization for it to admit Macedonia into NATO, and expressed a sense of nationalist pride in noting that Athens did not yield to that pressure.
“As a headline of the Athenian newspaper Avriani announced, ‘Bush’s blackmail failed,’ but Kostas Karamanlis will go down in the history of Greece for the veto against Bush’s will.”
Bucharest, April 4 (EFE):
“The White House has expressed its satisfaction over the results obtained at the summit, where the allies promised more troops for Afghanistan, backed U.S. plans for an anti-missile shield in Eastern Europe and promised that the Ukraine and Georgia would be accepted as members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the future.”
Tirana, April 3 (EFE):
“Albania’s political class enthusiastically welcomed NATO’s official invitation for Albania to join the organization.
“Albanian deputies, meeting in an extraordinary session, called the day “historical” and emphasized it as the country’s most important event since the proclamation of Kosovo’s independence this past February 17 and the creation of the Albanian state in 1912.
“Parliament President Jozefina Topalli thanked all the countries that supported Albania’s entry into NATO and U.S. President George W. Bush in particular.
“The invitation, Topalli said, marks the end of Albania’s political transition and the first step towards Euro-Atlantic integration the country has taken in these past 17 years of democracy.
“Economy Minister Genc Ruli stated that Albania’s entry into NATO means more stability and security and, therefore, more foreign investment, essential to the economic development of one of Europe’s poorest countries.
“The main streets in the Albanian capital were today embellished with the flags of NATO and Albania.”
Madrid, April 4th (DPA):
“Isolated from the rest of the world? The image of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, sitting alone alongside empty chairs at the table of the NATO summit meeting, while George W. Bush and other leaders are chatting animatedly nearby, was the front-page photo of the main Spanish newspapers today and revived debates on the foreign policy of the Spanish socialist government.
“In addition to commenting on the controversial photograph, newspapers and radio and television talk shows underscored the absence of a meeting between Zapatero and Bush, which La Moncloa had announced as a fait accompli after the U.S. leader phoned his Spanish counterpart to congratulate him on his electoral victory of March 9.
“Bush’s relationship with Zapatero has been cold and distant since the socialist came to power for, almost immediately after his election, in April 2004, the latter withdrew the 1,300 Spanish troops based in Iraq.
“At no point did the United States or Bush try to conceal their disapproval towards this. Since then, there has never been a bilateral meeting between the two.
“Bush has not officially visited Spain since then, nor has Zapatero been in the White House. It was just the opposite with the previous Spanish president, the conservative José María Aznar…his was one of four faces which appear in another well-known photo: the one taken at the Azores summit, in which Britain and the United States hatched the plans for an intervention in Iraq, which Spain supported.
“Exchanges between Bush and Zapatero in Bucharest were limited to a ‘Hello, hello, congratulations,’ from the U.S. to the Spanish leader, which newspapers satirized as the ‘three-word encounter.’”
Bucharest, April 4 (ANSA):
“In his closing remarks at the NATO summit, U.S. President George W. Bush gave the limelight to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on a silver platter.
“The farewell of the White House occupant, which marked the debut of his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy and British Premier Gordon Brown, will be remembered for Bush’s absurd insistence on requesting the immediate entry of Georgia and the Ukraine into the alliance, against the obvious opposition of the remaining members.
“It was the “Old Europe”, with the French-German axis at the helm in its criticisms of the war in Iraq, which leveled a scathing ‘No’ at President Bush.
“The U.S. president appeared unusually nervous at the Bucharest summit. Diplomatic sources even speak of harsh words spoken with his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who tried to convince him to abandon a ‘lost cause,’ at least at that summit.
“Bush’s nervousness was also evident in his sudden interruption of the press conference at the summer residence of Romanian President Traian Basescu, when the European head of state was attempting to answer a question concerning U.S. treatment of Romanians wishing to travel to the United States.
“Bush’s irritation at the length of the summit meetings, where the 26 heads of state took the floor, also came to the fore. The president abandoned the debates on Afghanistan inopportunely, leaving behind some members of his team and several journalists who were covering his trip.
“Bush also reacted adversely to a New York Times article that commented on the “invisibility” of the U.S. White House chief in the midst of the electoral campaigns and despite warnings of an economic recession.
“Bush had but one triumph at Bucharest: securing NATO’s support for his ‘space shield’ plans with a view to holding a morning meeting with Putin at the Sochi spa on the Black Sea.
“According to analysts, Bush will have the opportunity to put some order into the United State’s conflictive relations with Russia, which have reached their thorniest point since the conclusion of the ‘cold war.‘”
Bucharest, April 4, 2008 (AFP):
“In a rare cooperative gesture, on Friday Russia reached an agreement with NATO in Bucharest allowing the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance to use its territory to transport non-military equipment to its troops in Afghanistan.
“The agreement concerning Afghanistan was the only concrete step between the two parties at the NATO-Russia Council meeting held on Friday at the Bucharest Parliament Palace.
“Non-military equipment for ISAF (International Security Assistance Force based in Afghanistan) may be transported through Russian territory, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said.
“The ISAF, led by NATO since 2003, is today made up of 47,000 officers from 39 countries.
“In response to a request for reinforcements for military commands to combat ferocious Taliban resistance in southern and eastern Afghanistan, NATO countries offered troops that will more than substantially swell these forces.
“France, for instance, is to send an additional battalion of some 700 soldiers that will be deployed in the east of the country.
“As more troops are deployed and spending increases, the agreement with Russia should lower costs, as it will make it possible to transport, by train, supplies which were being sent to Afghanistan by air.
“Rogozin, the Russian ambassador to NATO, had stated that the fates of Russia and NATO in Afghanistan were interdependent, as both stood to lose if the Taliban ever returned to power.”
Bucharest, April 4, 2008 (AFP):
“While President George W. Bush affirmed that ‘the cold war has ended,’ the summit meeting between NATO and Russia in Bucharest this week demonstrated that the former enemies continue to lock horns over nearly everything: Georgia and the Ukraine, Kosovo’s independence, the anti-missile shield, Iran and the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.
“’NATO cannot guarantee its own security by expanding to other countries,’ Putin told Western leaders.
“The facts are evident: since the end of the cold war, NATO’s membership has grown from 16 to 28, absorbing nearly all of the former communist bloc —Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia—and three former Soviet republics: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
“In the heat of this geopolitical battle, on Thursday Putin managed to convince the 26 allies to postpone granting Georgia and Ukraine a membership candidacy to organization, a move strongly backed by President Bush and a step towards becoming full members.
“But Putin’s partial triumph does not dispel Russia’s concerns over the fact that NATO has promised these two former Soviet republics that one day they will join the Alliance.
“NATO’s declaration compounds the questions and preoccupations in Russia with respect to the direction of NATO’s evolution. A Russian authority referred to it as an alliance that assumes global functions without any limits on its right to have recourse to force.”
Zagreb, April 4 (EFE):
“U.S. President George W. Bush arrived today at 15:00 hours, local time.
“The President’s visit is the first official one made by a U.S. leader to Croatia since it declared independence from the former Yugoslavia.
“The US president arrived from Bucharest, where he attended the NATO summit in which Croatia and Albania received official invitations to join the Alliance.
“Croatian authorities announced earlier today that everything was ready for Bush’s visit, which posed the greatest challenge to date to the country’s security forces.
While these news items arrived from the Balkans, in southeast Europe, where numerous countries are fighting over the “honor” of being devoured by the empire’s economic and financial system in order to improve their material living conditions, which have nothing in common with those of the underdeveloped world, a news cable issued by the EFE on April 2 reported the following:
“Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank (WB), called today for coordinated global action to address rising food prices which, coupled with increasingly high energy prices, threaten to destabilize 33 countries around the world.
“Zoellick referred to that coordinated action as one of four measures that need to be implemented immediately to secure a sustainable process of globalization and minimize the effects of today’s international financial crisis on the developing world.
“He called for a global trade agreement at the Doha round of negotiations, which must be achieved ‘now or never.’
“He also called for greater transparency in the sector of raw materials in the developing world, with a view to giving greater impetus to growth.
“His speech, delivered at a hotel in the U.S. capital on the eve of the WB and IMF spring meeting that takes place in Washington next week, comes in the midst of great economic uncertainty for the world.
“’In order to make that possible, we must confront problems such as skyrocketing basic food prices, which result, among other factors, from the rally in the energy sector.’
“Zoellick stressed that basic food prices have gone up by 80% since 2005. He pointed out that, last month alone, rice and wheat prices reached their highest level in the last 19 and 28 years, respectively.
“The World Bank estimates that 33 countries around the world face potential social or political crises as a result of high food and energy prices, he stated.
“He pointed out that demographic conditions, a change in people’s diets, energy and biofuel prices and climate change suggest that the high and volatile costs of foodstuffs will be with us for years to come.
“In view of that situation, he proposed the creation of what he described as a New Agreement for a Global Food Policy, which should focus not only on hunger, malnutrition and access to food products, but also on other factors such as the connections of those prices to energy or climate change.
“Food policy needs to draw the attention of the top political circles, because no country or group of countries can face these interconnected challenges alone, he concluded.
These two institutions, the World Bank and the IMF, are part of the imperialist system.
The first news of Bush’s hazardous journey to Russia came from the very military aircraft that took him and his vast entourage there, to Sochi, a city on the shore of the Black Sea.
Reporters from several Western press agencies traveled with him.
An AFP cable dated April 4 reported:
“President George W. Bush told NATO allies that the United States would send more troops to Afghanistan next year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday.
“(…) The president indicated that he expected in 2009 the United States would make a ‘significant’ additional contribution,” he said.
“Gates said bipartisan support for such a move in the United States was strong enough to allow Bush to make the pledge even though he will no longer be president.”
From Moscow, an EFE cable dated April 5 reported:
“U.S. President George W. Bush arrived today in Sochi, where he will consult his Russian counterpart Vladmir Putin and Dimitri Medvedev, who will become Russia’s head of state on May 7.
“The final meeting between Bush and Putin will focus on Washington’s plans to deploy parts for its anti-missiles shield in Eastern Europe, a move which has just met with NATO’s support and to which Russia is resolutely opposed.
“Tomorrow, Sunday, the Russian and U.S. presidents also plan to sign a document setting down a strategic framework to guide relations between the two countries under the leadership of their respective successors.
“The document must be an honest instrument, for there are problems that cannot be ignored, said Serguei Prijodko, foreign policy advisor for the Kremlin chief, as quoted by the Russian Interfax agency.
“He stressed that significant differences still exist between Moscow and Washington with respect to anti-missile defense systems, strategic arms reduction plans following the expiration of the START-1 Treaty and the inadmissible nature of militarizing the cosmos.
“Among these differences, Prijodjo also pointed out the differing positions on NATO’s expansion, particularly into the former Soviet republics of the Ukraine and Georgia.
“Bush’s visit to Sochi, the final stage of his tour of Eastern Europe, will last less than 24 hours.”
On April 5, the German agency DPA reported:
“Tie up loose ends, synchronize watches: Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin are approaching their meeting at the Sochi spa, on the Black Sea, with a view to sparing their successors’ political burdens.
“It was Bush who chose Putin’s summer residence as the venue for their last meeting: his parents had been delighted with their 2003 private visit to this mansion, built following Stalin’s death. The locality will also host the 2014 Winter Olympics.
“The two presidents made a point of taking advantage of their 23 meetings to compliment each other in public.
“But, alongside such personal sympathies, there are more than enough reasons for political friction. One of them is the U.S. controversial plan to erect anti-missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland. In Kiev, Bush had cautiously stated that he hoped to find common ground in this dispute.
“General Viktor Yessin, vice president of Russia’s Security, Defense and Order Academy, affirmed there were reasons for cautious optimism.
“Different kinds of speculations also surround Bush and Putin’s last meeting: some believe the presidents’ plan on an agreement to construct a means of transportation that will connect the two countries via Alaska, a project that dates back to the time of the czars.
“The media began to speculate on this when the wealthy governor of Chukotka, Roman Abramovich, ordered the largest tunnel boring drill in the world from the Herrenknecht construction company.
“A Kremlin spokesperson commented on the rumors surrounding the 42 billion-euro (66 million-dollar) 100-kilometer tunnel.”
On April 6, the French agency AFP reported:
“’I am prudently optimistic about a definitive agreement. I believe that it is possible,’ stated Putin.
“For his part, Bush affirmed that he wants to establish a personal relationship with elected Russian President Dimitri Medvedev that will allow the two of them to work together on common problems…
“Bush, who took part in the NATO summit in Bucharest on Thursday and Friday, arrived in Sochi with the support of the Alliance for the U.S. anti-missile shield project.
“The future U.S. system includes a battery of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an ultra-modern radar in the Czech Republic, which would be in operation until 2012.”
Bush returned to the U.S. capital and the EFE reported in a cable dated April 6:
“U.S. President George W. Bush returned to Washington today with a lot of pending work ahead as regards relations with Russia, as he himself has acknowledged.
“The U.S. – Russia Summit closed with the signing of a strategic framework agreement which sets down the major guidelines for future bilateral relations in such areas as combating terrorism and the economy.
“But the document also clearly reveals the profound differences that persist between Washington and Moscow with respect to the anti-missile shied that the United States plans to construct in Eastern Europe, one of the thorniest issues of bilateral relations in recent months.
“Putin declared… that the devil hides in the small details. It is important for experts to decide what the guaranteed measures will be and how they will be implemented.
“Also remaining is the debate on matters such as the expansion of NATO towards the east, particularly towards the former Soviet republics of the Ukraine and Georgia.
“When they met 7 years ago, Bush stated he had looked into Putin’s eyes and had been able to glimpse his soul. The two leaders have maintained a good personal relationship, despite the deterioration of their foreign relations.
“For now, Bush and Medvedev have got off on a different foot. While the U.S. president welcomed Putin with an embrace at their first meeting, he merely shook his successor’s hand. And if he looked into his eyes and glimpsed his soul, he certainly didn’t say so,” the cable ironically concluded.
For a country as immense as Russia, Western Europe is not only a place of culture, art, history and refined science or a producer of well-known wines, pâté de foie gras, all imaginable kinds of cheese and other exquisite and costly products from the countryside and city. It is also a consumer of Russian oil, gas, gold, nickel and raw materials, an instrument for capital flight and brain drain, for the squandering of foodstuffs converted into the ethanol used by their luxury and unaffordable automobiles. The whole world knows that.
However, Asia is far more important than Europe for Russia, for Asia’s international trade institutions, through the Shanghai Group, open more doors than the World Trade Organization. Bush has promised Putin to support his country’s entry into that organization.
What interest does the United States have in setting up space bases, radars and launch platforms in Europe and all over the place, if it is not to use these to threaten Russia? Obviously, the weapons with which it is threatening Russia also threaten China and all other countries, without exception, in order to turn them into the allies or enemies of an empire whose economic and political system is unsustainable.
The United States is marching towards trade protectionism to maintain employment figures at home, where its employees cannot compete against the millions of people in the Third World who, through great sacrifice, produce quality consumer goods at much lower costs, goods which transnational corporations later sell in search of surplus value.
Meanwhile, Bush declares terrorist whatever countries he pleases.
Even at the extending myself, I decided not to divide this reflection into two parts.
I still have to address an issue which, though less significant, I would like to examine separately because of its concrete relation to our country. I shall do so on another occasion.
Fidel Castro Ruz
April 6, 2008