Russian leaders act intoxicated by oil revenue

If, as some say, America is addicted to oil, Russia is stumbling drunk on the stuff.

Bob Tippee

If, as some say, America is addicted to oil, Russia is stumbling drunk on the stuff.

Moscow's bullying of Georgia is the geopolitical equivalent of saloon behavior. And its leaders are saying things that bespeak the grave need for a collective blood test.

An example comes from Anatoliy Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Russian General Staff. On Aug. 15 he told the Russian news agency Interfax that nuclear attack would be a legitimate response to Poland's participation in a US-sponsored missile shield against a potential nuclear threat from Iran.

More seemingly intoxicant blather spewed from Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Aug. 28 in response to US criticism of Moscow's recognition of independence for the Georgian states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Churkin said: "I really liked the statement of the US permanent representative, who was reminding to the members of the Security Council that states must refrain from the use of force or from the threat of use of force. I would like to ask the honorable representative of the United States: Have you found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or are you still looking for them?"

Now Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin blames the US for his country's Georgian adventure.

In an Aug. 28 interview with CNN, Putin said the US encouraged Georgia to attack South Ossetia to help a presidential candidate.

"US citizens were indeed in the area of conflict," he said. "They were acting in implementing those orders, doing as they were ordered, and the only one who can give such orders is their leader."

The same day, Putin announced a ban on imports of poultry products from 19 US companies for supposed violations of health standards. International oil companies operating in Russia will recognize this drill.

Feeding Russian bravado, of course, is an economy heady from oil revenue but resistant to diversification and increasingly repellent to outside capital.

The day after Moscow's bender ends—and it will—won't feel good. Other countries must wonder how many Russian bottles will break over innocent heads in the meantime.

(Online Aug. 29, 2008; author's e-mail:

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