Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Putin: Russia May Strike Back If U.S. Attacks Iran

Diplomatic Sources Say Russian President Vowed in Private Meeting With Iran's Supreme Leader to Regard American Military Strike as an Attack on Russia Itself -- Meanwhile, China Stuns U.S. With a Surprise Submarine Appearance During American Naval Exercises in the Pacific


President Vladimir Putin (center) meets with Russian Muslim leaders at his Kremlin office in Moscow last Thursday. The Russian president, during his visit to Tehran for a Caspian Sea summit last month, reportedly told Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that Moscow will regard a U.S. military strike against Iran as an attack on Russia -- raising the specter of a revival of the Cold War between Washington and Moscow. (Photo: Dmitry Astakhov/Novosti Press Service via AP)

By Skeeter Sanders

President Vladimir Putin of Russia has reportedly served notice that if the United States launches a military strike against Iran, Moscow will regard it as an attack on Russia itself, raising the specter of a revival of the Cold War between the two nuclear-armed giants.

Putin issued his warning during a closed-door, face-to-face meeting with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, near the end of the Russian president's visit last month to Tehran -- the first by a Kremlin leader since World War II -- for a summit of the five Caspian Sea nations, according to the Internet news site Asia Times Online, citing high-level diplomatic sources.

He stopped short of saying explicitly what Russia would do if the U.S. struck Iran. But by stating that an attack on Iran would be tantamount to an attack on Russia itself, Putin strongly hinted of retalitory measures by Moscow.

Meanwhile, American officials were stunned by the unexpected appearance of a Chinese submarine which showed up undetected in the middle of recent U.S. Navy exercises in the Pacific -- leaving Washington wondering if, in the event of a U.S.-Russian confrontation over Iran, Beijing would also intervene on Tehran's side.

Putin, Khamenei Reportedly Agree on Plan to 'Nullify' U.S.

Putin and Khamenei agreed on a plan to "nullify" the Bush administration's increasingly bellicose rhetoric against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear development program, the sources said, amid growing concern that Washington is preparing to launch a pre-emptive military attack -- perhaps in the form of a tactical nuclear strike -- against Iran.

The Russian president told his Iranian host that "an American attack on Iran will be viewed by Moscow as an attack on Russia," Asia Times Online quoted its sources as saying.

At the Caspian Sea summit meeting, Putin publicly warned the U.S. not to use a former Soviet republic to stage an attack on Iran. He also said countries bordering the Caspian Sea must jointly back any oil pipeline projects in the region.

Putin said none of the five nations’ territory "should be used by any outside countries for use of military force against any nation in the region" -- a clear reference to long-standing rumors that the U.S. was planning to use the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan as a staging ground for any possible military action against Iran.

“We are saying that no Caspian nation should offer its territory to third powers for use of force or military aggression against any Caspian state,” Putin said.

The private Putin-Khamenei meeting following the summit was extraordinary in and of itself, for Iran's supreme leader rarely receives foreign dignitaries, even a head of state with the stature of Putin. The Russian president told the ayatollah that he may hold the "ultimate solution" regarding Iran's highly controversial nuclear program, the sources said.

For his part, Khamenei insisted that his country's nuclear program was strictly for civilian purposes and vowed that it would continue, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported. But he did tell Putin, "We will ponder your words and proposal."

An Iranian government spokesman was quoted by IRNA as saying that Putin had a "special plan" that Khamenei said was "ponderable," although Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had publicly denied the Russians had volunteered such a plan. Details of the Putin proposal were not disclosed.

Tehran, Moscow Now In 'Strategic Partnership'

That Iran and Russia have entered into a "strategic partnership," in the words of one diplomatic source, is sure to complicate Washington's resolve to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

It might explain what appears to be a deepening rift between Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice -- who on Sunday denied that the U.S. was bent ongoing to war against Iran -- and Vice President Dick Cheney, who has become increasingly bellicose in his public statements against Tehran.

The development is also likely to intensify opposition to Cheney's saber-rattling within the U.S. intelligence community. As reported in this space on Monday, several intelligence analysts have refused to back down from their dissenting conclusions on Iran's nuclear program in a National Intelligence Estimate report on Iran, despite intense pressure from the vice president.

The dissension has held up release of the NIE for more than a year. The White House has now indicated that it will release the report later this month -- but with its conclusions on Iran's nuclear program kept secret.

Putin's Remarks an Eerie Echo of Cuban Missile Crisis

The Kremlin has so far neither confirmed nor denied Putin's remarks to Khamenei, which Asia Times Online first reported on October 29, largely because the Russian president's private meeting with the ayatollah -- unlike his earlier talks with Ahmadinejad during the summit -- was ignored by the Western news media.

But if the Hong Kong-based Web site's report is accurate, his remarks are eerily reminiscent of President John F. Kennedy's warning to Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khruschev during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, which brought the world to the brink of an all-out nuclear war.

During those 13 frightening October days 45 years ago, The U.S. discovered that the Soviet Union had placed offensive nuclear missiles on the communist-ruled island located just 90 miles from southern Florida.

Kennedy, during a televised address to the American people, bluntly warned Khruschev that any Soviet missile attack on the United States launched from Cuba would prompt "an immediate retaliatory response by the United States against the Soviet Union." Khruschev -- to the world's relief -- backed down.

Iran is almost as geographically close to Russia as Cuba is to the United States; its northern neighbors -- Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan -- are all former Soviet republics. And relations between Washington and Moscow are at their lowest point in the 17 years since the Soviet Union collapsed.

The Kremlin clearly considers an American military strike on Iran as much a threat to Russia's national security today as a Cuba laden with Soviet nuclear missiles was to the United States four-and-a-half decades ago. Putin's comments, therefore, cannot be taken lightly.

China Flexes Its Naval Muscle -- Right in America's Face

If Washington and Moscow were to have a confrontation over Iran, the question has to be asked: What would China do? For American military officials, the question has to be popping up in the back of their minds -- especially after they were stunned by the sudden, unexpected appearance of a Chinese submarine during recent U.S. Navy exercises in the Pacific.

The submarine, a 160-foot Song Class diesel-electric attack vessel, surfaced and sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the American supercarrier USS Kitty Hawk during U.S. naval exercises in Pacific waters between southern Japan and Taiwan.

U.S. Navy officials were beside themselves with disbelief, senior NATO officials told the Daily Mail of London.

The Americans had no idea China's fast-growing submarine fleet had reached such a level of sophistication, or that it posed such a threat, the newspaper reported, quoting one NATO official as saying that the Chinese sub's surprise appearance was "as big a shock as the Russians launching Sputnik" in 1957.

How Did Chinese Sub Escape Detection?

The Chinese submarine somehow managed to slip undetected past at least a dozen other American warships which were supposed to protect the carrier from hostile aircraft or submarines, the Daily Mail reported.

That it was undetectable to even the two U.S. subs that were accompanying the surface ships left Pentagon officials dumbfounded and has forced a serious reconsideration of American and NATO naval strategy to deal with the level of threat from potentially hostile Chinese submarines, the newspaper said.

It also led to tense diplomatic exchanges between Washington and Beijing, with shaken American diplomats demanding to know why the submarine was "shadowing" the U.S. fleet and their Chinese counterparts pleading ignorance and dismissing the affair as merely a coincidence.

Military analysts believe China was sending an in-your-face message to the U.S. to demonstrate its rapidly growing military capability to threaten foreign powers which try to interfere in the western Pacific and the South China Sea -- which Beijing considers its "front yard" -- especially if hostilities were to break out between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.

The Chinese navy's submarine fleet includes at least two nuclear-missile launching vessels, the analysts said.

But the timing of the incident -- so close to Putin's meeting with Khamenei in Tehran -- raises the possibility that Beijing could have been sending the U.S. another message: That it would not stand idly by if Washington launched a military strike against Iran.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S., the world's only military superpower, has certainly thrown its weight around. But with their combined military might, Russia and China could force the U.S. to rethink the use of its military forces to settle disputes with other, far less powerful nations.

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Volume II, Number 57
Copyright 2007, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.



TSR said...

Obviously this proves the navy is capable of making mistakes. Also, this proves the Chinese is advancing technologically on the battle field or we need to catch up. There are countries, such as Estonia, that offer WiFi all over the country. Considering they were under Russian control until 1991, and it wasn’t until the Singing Revolution ( that they gained their freedom, Estonia is advance at a rapid pace. Mistakes like these can cost many lives in an actual battle.