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August 11, 2008

McCain backs Georgia's reckless war on advice of lobbyist

Looks like that old warmonger Randy Scheunemann has found himself another war to monger, in Georgia this time.

Scheunemann is John McCain's top foreign policy and national security adviser. He's widely credited (or blamed) for introducing McCain to the neo conservative establishment.

Scheunemann is also a lobbyist who went into business with Stephen "Cash for Access" Payne.

Under Scheunemann's tutelage, McCain has taken an unusually aggressive stance towards Russia. Remember that Georgia ignited hostilities by recklessly bombing rebels in the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Russia answered the provocation brutally and disproportionately by invading Georgia and slaughtering a lot of people, ostensibly to protect the Russian-allied South Ossetians but more likely to overthrow the Georgian government.

It's just stupid for the US to be backing Georgia's reckless play.  Obama has sensibly called for negotiations. McCain is cheerfully throwing fuel on the fire.

Georgia is a US ally, but McCain has taken a much harder pro-Georgian stance than Bush. And look who's chiming in with the World War Two and Iraq analogies:

John McCain’s top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, defended McCain’s direct criticism of Russia in the early hours of the crisis.

"Sen. McCain is clearly willing to note who he thinks is the aggressor here,” he said, dismissing the notion that Georgia’s move into its renegade province had precipitated the crisis. "I don't think you can excuse, defend, explain or make allowance for Russian behavior because of what is going on in Georgia.”

He also criticized Obama for calling on both sides to show “restraint,” and suggested the Democrat was putting too much blame on the conflict’s clear victim.

“That's kind of like saying after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, that Kuwait and Iraq need to show restraint, or like saying in 1968 [when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia] ... that the Czechoslovaks should show restraint,” he said. [Politico]

Mark Ames has a terrific article in the Nation about the politics behind the reckless rhetoric. He writes:

The meaning of this is clear: the United States and Britain are backing Saakashvili's invasion. Why would we back Saakashvili's reckless war, when last year even Bush was denouncing the Pinochet-wannabe's violent attack on his own people during a peaceful opposition protest in Georgia's capital, as well as shutting down the opposition media and exiling of political opponents? That would be a brain-teaser if the last seven years hadn't answered this question so many painful times already. [Nation]

Scheunemann has been lobbying on behalf of former Soviet Republics for years. He still owns a lobby shop that represents Georgia. Scheunemann has taken a leave of absence from Orion Strategies to advise John McCain. However, Scheunemann's business partner Mike Mitchell continues to represent Georgia, at least as of May 31 2008 (pdf). Interestingly, Mitchell does not appear to have registered as a federal lobbyist for Georgia, or any of his other foreign clients. There is no record of Orion Strategies registering to represent any foreign principal, either--even though Mitchell, Orion, Scheunemann all show up in the Justice Department's database of current and former foreign agents. The records document ongoing lobbying of federal officials by Scheunemann, Mitchell, and other Orion personnel. Scheunemann and Mitchell have lobbied McCain's office extensively on behalf of Georgian interests.

Mark Benjamin recently traced Scheuenemann's influence on McCain's bellicose stance towards Russia. Orion Strategies has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars representing former Soviet Republics and Baltic states seeking to join NATO. (NATO expansion as a bulwark against Russia is a longtime neocon pet project.) As a matter of fact, Scheunemann allegedly met Stephen Payne at a Latvian summit on NATO.

Mike Mitchell is also married to Karen Harbert the former assistant secretary for policy and international affairs at the Department of Energy. Which means that until February of 2008, Harbert was a senior official in the office that serves as the primary policy adviser to the Secretary of Energy and the DOE at large. Harbert was last seen plumping for offshore drilling in the pages of the Politico.


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I think Josh Marshall sums it up rather nicely:

"Do whatever you can to make sure John McCain is not elected president. Too many opportunities for crazy mischief to let him get his hands on the military and the bomb."

It's stupid for the US to be openly choosing sides between Russia and Georgia right now because Georgia wouldn't have provoked this tragic conflict without the tacit assurance that the US would back its play. This kind of saber-rattling is going to backfire. The last thing we want is to make Georgia a proxy for the US because that would give Russia even more incentive to squash Georgia.

Don't you get it, Phantom? We're getting played by our reckless "ally" Georgia and the regime's lobbyists in the McCain campaign.

McCain can't even remember whether Putin is the president or the former president, nor whether Czechoslovakia still exists. So, he's leaning on Randy Scheunemann, a major architect of the invasion of Iraq. McCain's being led around by Georgia's hired help, mumbling cold war cliches. Wake up.

I don't know whether any tacit assurances were made. Lets see what comes out.

There's no real way that the US can help Georgia very much...way too far away, right next to Russia, in a time when we are stretched.

Georgia's government may have been reckless, but lets face it, this is an instance of a small country trying to seek control of its own territory from a aggressor regime that may want to bring all the former parts of the Soviet Union under Russian control.

Don't you get it, Phantom?

Is that a rhetorical question Lindsay?

Listen, and learn.

The new Soviets absolutely do not accept the independence of any of the "near abroad" countries that once were part of the USSR.

Putin has been provoking Russia for over a month ( verified in many places, including on last nights Charlie ROse show, by Stephen Sestanovich, an academic and adviser to Obama.

This warfare has included the type of cyber war that Russia used against another escaped country, Estonia.

It has been Putin's goal for some time to crush Georgia, and if it had not been this incident, another one would have been fabricated. This is clear.

Oh, and one of the guests on the Rose show ( forget which one )said that the US had been counseling Georgia not to rise to the bait, not to respond to the provocations

I know that this is not in line with various talking points, but further research is called for.

The new Soviets

Just what we need: a new cold war. We can renew the endless cycle of provocation and counterprovocation. We can put the bombers aloft 24/7 over the Arctic Ocean again. We can build a new fleet of submarines, new ballistic missiles, clever new tactical nukes. Europe can be split into us and them again. We'll have a renewed sense of purpose. The Republicans will finally have a real issue to scare the crap out of everybody with. Defense contractors will have a stable income. Generals and admirals can preen and strut. Hooray, the halcyon days are back!

Back in the USSR

You Don't Know How Lucky You Are, Boys

Back in the USSR!

Cfrost, Phantom, Russia is a has-been country. Its GDP per capita has only just surpassed its 1990 level, and even that is due to oil and natural gas rather than real development. Give it a few years and the oil will run out, turning it into what it was in 1999 again.

As Fareed Zakaria has noted, the US-Russia playing field is so skewed that the US is able to challenge Russian influence in Ukraine, which until 1990 had been controlled by Russia for centuries.

Yeah, but its a has been country with nuclear weapons and a revanchist attitude from many in the power structure

Its economic problems are masked by a false prosperity from the high price of oil. They make very few products, and the last time I looked life expectancy among males was going down as result of severe alcoholism problems in society

Their weaknesses scare me. They feel insecure in all their borders, from Estonia to China. I don't want any conflict with Russia- a country that might want to work on keeping its population from drinking itself to death, rather than invading small and vulnerable nations.

Yeah, but the United States is a country with nuclear weapons and a revanchist attitude from many in the power structure.

That's a silly comment from a smart guy

Unless the US is seeking to annex Canada. Which might not be a bad idea come to think of it.

Yeah, The Phantom, the Russians were looking for any excuse. Even a small one like Georgia sending in troops into a region that has basically been independent since 1992 and killing hundreds of people. I also worry about Russia (and their reaction has been way over the line), but Georgia was exceedingly stupid here and began as an agressor against a smaller power (South Ossetia). Do you support Georgia's move into South Ossetia?

Actually, taking Canada would not be revanchist, since we never had it. But lets take it over anyway!



Had I been aware that Georgia was thinking of such a thing, and had they asked me my opinion ( ha! ) I would have counseled against it. This vicious reaction by the USSR ( oops Russia ) could only have been expected.

Georgia was stupid beyond belief. You provoke the bear at your peril.

But the fact remains that all the territory concerned is Georgian.

The Foreign Policy Establishment regardless of party background, seems united on the question of favoring Georgia over Russia in this conflict. McCain is a liar, and his advisors are creeps and crooks; but in this particular case it seems unfair to me to bash McCain for a position that is widely held across the board.

Many folks in the United States do have revanchist (though not, thank God, outright irredentist - your comment re Canada notwithstanding) notions of foreign policy, and their votes are readily and easily exploited. A representative sample of Americans who feel that the United States has a natural right of access to foreign petroleum (such as that that might be piped through Georgia) to keep their profligate economy afloat could be obtained in an hour or so at any busy US gas station.

As for Canada, leave those people alone. They've got cool weather and dental care. I hope to go there as soon as McCain is elected.

This move also goes against Russia's public positions about the absolute importance of maintaining territorial integrity of nations. They were among the loudest of bellyachers when Kosovo declared independence. What's bad for Kosovo is apparently good for South Ossetia.

The Foreign Policy Establishment regardless of party background, seems united on the question of favoring Georgia over Russia in this conflict.

Though it does seem that McCain was in an unseemly hurry to claim that we have a dog in this fight.

If I thought Russia's only concern was to protect the poor South Ossetenians, I'd be more sypathetic to their response.

However, they've gone beyond that and shown without a doubt they are punishing Georgia (Putin even said as much) for trying to pull away from Russia and draw ties to the West.

There's no doubt that Medvedev -a.k.a. Putin- has nothing but the most cynical motives and intentions. I'm just wondering why McCain seems so eager to jump into the fight. I'm not sure we need a president that is so obviously nostalgic for the old cold war glory days.

The Foreign Policy Establishment regardless of party background, seems united on the question of favoring Georgia over Russia in this conflict.

Though it does seem that McCain was in an unseemly hurry to claim that we have a dog in this fight.

There's no doubt that Medvedev's -a.k.a. Putin's-' motives are anything but cynical and egregiously self serving. I'm just wondering why McCain is so eager to step into the fight. I'm not so sure a president that is so obviously nostalgic for the old cold war glory days is such a good idea.

Screw TypePad.


If you don't speak like this to a KGB thug like Putin, you are guaranteeing that there will be no rollback in Georgia, and that there will be other incidents in the many other countries that Russia wants back under its control.

Obama sounded very naive when he counseled going to the United Nations. He may not realize that Russia has a veto in the Security Council. The UN probably brings nothing to the table here.

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