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Archive for July, 2009

Induction of INS Arihant – The Traid is complete

The recently concluded induction of INS Arihant in the Indian Naval Fleet is of immense significance to the nation. Apart from becoming part of the elite group of nations operating nuclear submarines, the real importance lies in completion of the nuclear triad. This means that, at the date of commissioning of the vessel, India will have the capability to launch nuclear weapons from sea, apart from the already possessed air and land launch capabilities.

India, as a peace loving nation, has a very respectable policy that ensures ‘no first-strike,’ however, a robust nuclear weapons launch system is essential considering a misadventure that may originate from the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) or the North-Eastern Region. In the event of such an incident, where India becomes a victim of a nuclear strike, there needs to be a very responsive system that can counter the threat and deliver a fitting reply. Until the induction of INS Arihant, nuclear weapons launch capability was restricted to land bases and aircraft, meaning that the range achieved via both these mediums was significantly lower, which meant deeper penetration of Indian aircraft into enemy territory, an action that was risky and not guaranteed of success. However the availability of a sea based launch system puts an end to those limitations and completes the triad.

But before the Indian Naval Establishment and the Nuclear Command Authority will begin to breathe easy, two years from today will come to pass as the indigenously built Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) will become operational only by the year 2011as per estimates. The now inducted submarine will complete two full years of sea trails in the Bay of Bengal after which it will be commissioned for full service. Operations personnel, scientists, analysts and technology managers have a huge challenge ahead of them which lies in monitoring the on board reactor and rendering it to attain criticality without any technical glitches.

Furthermore, the valuable lessons that will be learnt from the tests that INS Arihant is put through, will form as a base for other vessels to be built and operated, which, Navy officers and scientists rightly believe will set the precursor to India being a credible and recognizable nuclear power.

Interestingly, the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) program in India came to be conceptualized during the Prime Ministership of Mrs. Indira Gandhi in the year 1970. Not gaining momentum through the 70s and until mid 80s, the vision remained a dream before it was kick started with the support of the erstwhile Soviet Union. The collapse of the USSR stalled the project and robbed many valuable years off it, until work finally resumed in 1998 under the leadership of Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, who was then scientific adviser to the Indian Defence Minister. Formed with the objective of design nuclear-powered fast attack submarines, the ATV program soon re-aligned course aimed at designing and producing ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).

The program although ambitious and steady, was not without its share of problems. Powered by an 80 MW pressurized water reactor (PWR) with enriched uranium fuel, the initial design of the miniaturized naval-version of the reactor was developed by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) but had a number of technical challenges staring at it, following which Russian help was sought to resolve design issues. The final version of the reactor was then built at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) at Kalpakkam. At a cost of USD 2.9 billion, India will pay a very small price for safeguarding its sovereign from rogue attacks. The Indian Navy estimates that 2 more such vessels will be commissioned by the year 2015. Capable of carrying 6 torpedoes and 12 ballistic missiles, INS Arihant will be a formidable force to reckon with and most importantly India’s prided defender!

The launch on 26th July by the Prime Minister on the 10th anniversary of the Kargil intrusion reinforces India’s strong commitment to upgrade its defence systems aimed at countering evolving threats.

Pakistan alleges RAW involvement in domestic terrorism

It has now been revealed that the Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani handed the Indian Prime Minister documents supporting terrorist activities aided by India’s Research Analysis Wing (R&AW) during their meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh last week. This comes close to the heels of a joint statement by both nations on terrorism, Pakistan’s admission that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was indeed the mastermind behind the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and more importantly at a time when the lone surviving terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab confessed his involvement in the 26/11 episode.

The dossier handed to the Indian Prime Minister is said to contain details pertaining to the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore and that on a police academy on the outskirts of the city earlier this year. Pakistani authorities have, furthermore, indicated that they are fully aware of the identities and location of Indian handlers and their operatives in the region and claim to be actively monitoring their activities. Elaborate photographic evidence of Indian handlers meeting with their operatives are also part of the report. That apart, the document is also believed to have listed out the many safe houses used by Indian operatives along with their locations, an extensively detailed trail of financial transactions which Pakistan believes has been done at India’s behest to fund operations in the region and locations of ‘India-funded training camps in Kandahar where Baloch insurgents are trained to mount insurgency operations against Pakistan!

It looks like a very well structured report at the outset, except that it is too good to be true! Pakistan, has certainly engaged, once again, in convoluted fabrication in order to draw away world attention from its failing state! Kasab’s confession was only a matter of time, after which India and the international community would exert pressure on it to clamp down on perpetrating terrorism. Adding to this, the recently concluded visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also saw, although in milder terms, a categorical appeal to Pakistan to refrain from activities that could embroil the region in a serious security flux. Having foreseen Kasab’s confession, Pakistan had little option but to fabricate a dossier outlining Indian complicity in terrorist activities within its boundaries considering the impending heat it was bound to face!

On another angle, this report prepared by Pakistani authorities raises more questions than answers which they desperately seek. Assuming that the contents of the report are correct, which is certainly unlikely, one would understand that Pakistan has indeed spent some time compiling it. One then questions why Pakistan has refrained from acting upon the information that it has so diligently put together! Why have the agents and operatives in question not yet been rounded up, despite their identities indisputably confirmed by way of photographic evidence? They certainly do not possess diplomatic immunity, I suppose! Why have Pakistani security services not raided the safe houses that they so emphatically claim to be used by Indian agents and operatives? Are they waiting for an opportunity to present itself? Why hasn’t action been taken despite the knowledge and evidence of what has been termed as an extensive labyrinth of financial transactions made by India in support of subversive activities in Pakistan? They certainly would not need Indian consent! Most importantly why the timing of this disclosure? Why has Pakistan not raised this before? Why has not the international community been notified of this earlier? Why has not the United States, which is a committed partner on the war on terror been told about this at a much opportune moment, earlier?

Answers to all the aforesaid questions can be deduced with ease and little thought, I’m sure. Moreover, one can easily see through the ploy here, it being an act of countering India at a time when all evidence of terror operations point towards Pakistan, them being the confession of Kasab, Pakistan’s admission of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) complicity in the 26/11 episode and most importantly the irrefutable evidence presented by Indian agencies. Pakistan has once again acted out of sheer desperation rather than basing its actions on conclusive evidence.

Pakistan should aim at prosecuting elements behind terrorist attacks in India and not lead the world into a wild goose chase with concocted documents and reports. The onus lies on Pakistan to come clean and act mature and responsible in combating terror and display credentials that can be taken as positive emanations paving way for significant strategic partnerships and not engage in activities that could contribute to distrust and acrimony, least of all making false dossiers and handing it to an executive head of state!

Hillary Clinton's visit – An Analysis

July 21, 2009 2 comments

Hillary Clinton’s love for India is not the same that is echoed by the U.S. State Department. No irony here, only reality! A number of media addresses, emphasis on education, interaction with the captains of industry and shopping expeditions later, one questions the progress of Indo-American relations given the hawkish view of the State Department and the perpetual threat of terrorism emanating from an ever turbulent Pakistan, something that hasn’t been addressed the way India would have liked the United States to have!

The Indian media made a huge fanfare of the visit and went long miles to please the visiting dignitary. The weekend newspapers were emblazoned with pictures and snippets of the Secretary while the delegation was given a warm welcome and treated to soulful Indian curries by the platter, even as news media channels staged live debates and analysis of this visit, as if it were a second-coming of the Lord himself! But, make no mistake, for Secretary Clinton came calling in warm terms as a ‘friend of India’ to which the Indian machinery found themselves swinging in musical pleasure!

I do not intend to negate or in any manner undermine the relationship Clinton shares with India, particularly in the light of her founding the India caucus in the upper house of the U.S. Congress, following her election as the senator from New York. A whole lot more has happened to cause particular warmth between her person and our nation, undoubtedly. But this visit was different and needed to be looked at differently, considering her position and Obama administration’s commitment to the world to aid ‘democratic nations’ in the war against terror.

While the State Department has sometimes, coming under some diplomatic pressure, echoed Secretary Clinton’s India bonhomie, it is common knowledge that their inclination lies oriented towards Pakistan, something which has been a happenstance for many many decades now. This attitude needs to change to bring about some level of credibility towards the statements that have been made warranting the need for increased cooperation and bilateral ties between both nations.

And then, there is the issue of terrorism originating from Pakistan, which has been proved a number of times of having the backing and complicity of state actors. This needs to be viewed very seriously. That Pakistan is an ally of the United States in the War on Terror, automatically makes it mandatory for it to shun any support for terror directed towards the Indian sovereign, something that it has repeatedly failed to adhere to as was seen even during the 26/11 episode. The United States, particularly the State Department needs to understand that a conducive environment is needed for solving issues that have long been kept at bay and state sponsored terrorism, such as that orchestrated by Pakistan, cannot help achieve such a climate.

Pakistan is fast becoming the breeding ground for global jihad and Washington needs to take cognizance of this fact and shape policies towards countering terrorist activists. While Hillary’s statement that “both nations have suffered at the hands of terrorists. And the breeding ground of this threat is India’s neighbour, Pakistan. Thus, when South Asia, described as the world’s most dangerous place and where India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are situated, is boiling, who can be the stabilizer? It can only be India which has a Muslim population that is almost five times that of Afghanistan and almost equals Pakistan’s” echoes the reality that is faced by India, it is also important to understand that anti-state elements in Pakistan were a creation of Pakistan itself and not the handiwork of an external force or element!

Terrorism is only one of the many issues that is an area of concern, apart from which there are areas such as trade, outsourcing, climate change, education and so on needing attention.

After this much publicized whirlwind trip, one really wonders about the possible outcome. Is the reality going to change? Will Indo-US relations scale new heights or is this just an eyewash that has been made to make India ‘feel good’ ahead of an impending statement in the not so distant future, which as seen in the past, will favour Pakistan and ignore the ground reality?

Also, what guarantee has the United States received that a next terror attack on its soil will not be aided by Pakistan or as they say ‘elements from within?’

The secret wars of the CIA – II

The immediately preceding post talked about the recently terminated “kill or capture” covert program which the CIA ran for eight years without the knowledge of the U.S. Congress. It can be viewed here.

This post outlines the top-secret MKUltra program that the CIA ran during the 1950s and a large part of the 1960s, uncovered later by the New York Times and investigated subsequently by the Church Committee and the Rockefeller Commission. The CIA faced a lot of congressional ire following the disclosure and attempted hampering the process of investigations by destroying a large collection of documentation related to the program at the behest of then CIA Director Richard Helms. Investigations, nonetheless were carried out often relying on sworn testimonies and a retrieved cache of documents that survived the purge ordered by Helms. It is believed that the CIA still conducts some experiments and programs related to the MKUltra project although not at the same scale as was back in the time of its inception and research! However, these claims cannot be verified!

MKUltra was the code name given to a series of top secret mind control experiments devised by the CIA during the 1950s aimed at understanding the human mind and its functioning under the influence of psychotropic substances. It was commissioned into existence by then CIA Director Allen Dulles and headed by Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, who was a Jewish American military psychiatrist and chemist. Sidney’s obsession with the program was so much that he quickly earned the titles “Black Sorcerer” and the “Dirty Trickster.” At the time, it was widely believed in the CIA that U.S. Prisoners of War (PoWs) were interrogated by mind control techniques by the Soviets, the Chinese and the North Koreans as a result of which the need for a similar program in the United States was felt.

The program was illegal ab-initio, owing to the facts that it neither had the approval of the U.S. Congress nor the consent of those who were made to participate in it, many of whom met with death or permanent incapacitation as a result of what they were subject to.

The CIA poured millions of dollars into this program with the objective of researching the many methods involved in ‘tweaking’ the mind! Budgets for this elaborate program were of course secretive and unofficial with the program director being assigned six percent of the CIA operating budget. It is estimated that at least $10 million USD was spent on the program.

This ominous program was conducted with some of the most infamous goals in mind. A document pertinent to the project outlines the the size and range of the effort, the process involving a comprehensive study of an assortment of mind-altering substances described as follows:

1. Substances which will promote illogical thinking and impulsiveness to the point where the recipient would be discredited in public.
2. Substances which increase the efficiency of mentation and perception.
3. Materials which will prevent or counteract the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
4. Materials which will promote the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
5. Materials which will produce the signs and symptoms of recognized diseases in a reversible way so that they may be used for malingering, etc.
6. Materials which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness.
7. Substances which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so-called “brain-washing”.
8. Materials and physical methods which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use.
9. Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use.
10. Substances which produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.
11. Substances which will produce “pure” euphoria with no subsequent let-down.
12. Substances which alter personality structure in such a way that the tendency of the recipient to become dependent upon another person is enhanced.
13. A material which will cause mental confusion of such a type that the individual under its influence will find it difficult to maintain a fabrication under questioning.
14. Substances which will lower the ambition and general working efficiency of men when administered in undetectable amounts.
15. Substances which promote weakness or distortion of the eyesight or hearing faculties, preferably without permanent effects.
16. A knockout pill which can surreptitiously be administered in drinks, food, cigarettes, as an aerosol, etc., which will be safe to use, provide a maximum of amnesia, and be suitable for use by agent types on an ad-hoc basis.
17. A material which can be surreptitiously administered by the above routes and which in very small amounts will make it impossible for a man to perform any physical activity whatsoever.

To accomplish what the CIA believed they could via MKUltra, an assortment of drugs were used, some of them being heroin, morphine, temazepa, mescaline, psilocybin, scopolamine, marijuana, alcohol, sodium pentothal and most prominently LSD, which dominated many MKUltra sub-programs! Several people suffered massive and permanently irreparable conditions as a result of these experiments and surprisingly no remarkable breakthrough was made despite massive investments and persistence, or so it is publicly believed!

Almost a year before the New York Times broke the story in the winter of 1974, Director Richard Helms abruptly ordered documentation pertaining to the program to be destroyed hence making large amounts of information permanently unavailable to the U.S. Congress. Following the expose on the program, the U.S. Congress created investigation bodies in the form of the Church Committee and the presidential Rockefeller Commission. Although reports of these commissions revealed little beyond what was already publicly known, they created a tight spot for the CIA particularly when it came to be known that subjects under the program were induced into taking part without their consent and knew little or nothing about what they were participants of! Senator Frank Church, who chaired the Church Committee, concluded that “prior consent was obviously not obtained from any of the subjects” and noted that the “experiments sponsored by these researchers call into question the decision by the agencies not to fix guidelines for experiments.” This prompted President Gerald Ford to issue an executive order prohibiting “experimentation with drugs on human subjects, except with the informed consent, in writing and witnessed by a disinterested party, of each such human subject

Following the news-break surrounding MKUltra, reports of many branches of the US Military conducting similar experiments continued to surface, the most prominent of them being that of Harold Blauer, a professional tennis player in New York and Frank Olson, a U.S. Army biochemist, both of whom died as a result of experiments conducted on them.

It is believed that 44 American colleges or universities, 15 research foundations or chemical or pharmaceutical companies, including Sandoz (currently Novartis) and Eli Lilly, 12 hospitals or clinics (in addition to those associated with universities), and 3 prisons participated in the MKULTRA program making it the most elaborated colluded yet secretive programs of the CIA and perhaps the most damaging of all!

The full extent of information and damages caused by the MKUltra program will never be known as it is still designated ‘top-secret’ and much of the documents related to the program do not exist. However, there is no doubting the fact that it became one of the most controversial scandals that the CIA was embroiled in!

Ironically, the entrance of the CIA loudly boasts a verse from Gospel of John 8:32, The Holy Bible which reads “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

With inputs from Wikipedia

The secret wars of the CIA – I

Once again the Central Intelligence Agency has come under fire, this time for not disclosing its secret “kill or capture” counter terrorism program to the U.S. Congress! As an independent U.S. Government agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior U.S. policymakers, the CIA is bound by statute to disclose all of its covert operations programs, in minimal measure, to the U.S. Congress and the Senate Intelligence Committee, neither of which this time around were aware of the existence of such a program which was put together by the Bush Administration eight years ago! Incumbent Director, Leon Panetta who became aware of this program sometime late in June, ordered its termination and proceeded to inform the Congress of its erstwhile existence and subsequent termination. As required by Title 50 of the United States Code Chapter 15, Sub Chapter III, “when it becomes necessary to limit access to covert operations findings that could affect vital interests of the U.S., as soon as possible, the President must report at a minimum to the Gang of Eight.”

For several years the CIA has had a very turbulent relationship with the U.S. Congress, often caught concealing many covert operations programs from the latter although mandated to disclose in minimal measure any and all activities undertaken under the ambit of national security. What is surprising is the level of secrecy surrounding the currently terminated program even within the CIA leadership! It is significant to note that former Director Gen. Michael Hayden did not inform his successor of the existence of such a program despite it being very highly likely of his affirmed knowledge of its existence, given his close proximity to the Bush Administration, the President and his Vice-President in particular.

As was believed during the news break of the existence of this program, it is now becoming increasingly clear that former US Vice President Dick Cheney directed, more than once, the CIA not to inform the US Congress about the so called “kill or capture” program. Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein has stated that “Director Panetta did brief us two weeks ago, I believe it was on the 24th of June, and, as had been reported, did tell us that he was told that the vice president had ordered that the program not be briefed to the Congress.” Reacting to comments on the CIA’s delinquent attitude, House Intelligence subcommittee Chairwoman Representative Jan Schakowsky stated that “It’s not as if this was an oversight and over the years it just got buried. There was a decision under several directors of the CIA and administration not to tell the Congress.”

While the CIA leadership has been proactive in informing the Congress this time, it is highly unlikely that this incident will fade away without serious implications for the CIA and the White House. In the recent future, the Congress is likely to express support for the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Bill including a provision that would require the President to inform more than 40 members of Congress about covert operations. While the current administration has threatened to veto the final version of the bill should it include such a provision, it should be noted that mid last year, the Fiscal 2009 Intelligence Authorization Bill was approved by House majority containing stipulations that 75% of money sought for covert actions would be withheld until all members of the House Intelligence panel were briefed on sensitive covert actions.

Now that the affair is out in the open, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Representative Silvestre Reyes has announced that he considers an investigation into alleged CIA violations of the National Security Act, which requires with limited exception that Congress be informed of covert activities. Apparently he has support from fellow representatives who given the long standing Congressional-CIA relationship, the bitter acrimony and hatred involved, will not let the latter go off the hook, without some hard hitting at least!

This is a two-part series outlining CIA’s covert operations programs that have continued to operate without the knowledge of the US Congress. While this post outlines the recent disclosure of DCI Leon Panetta, the upcoming post will outline some of CIA’s most notorious covert programs that have brought it considerable controversies to court!

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Decoding L'Aquila

It seems Obama’s misreported bottomgate affair hogged the limelight more than the proceedings of the G8, which this time too failed to arrive at a much needed consensus on important issues such as climate change. As before, leaders of the group of eight, along with invitees, once again came together to put their thoughts on issues such as nuclear energy, dialogue with emerging countries, achievement of millennium development goals, negotiations on climate change, development of Africa in the areas of education, water, food and agriculture, health and peace support, intellectual property, outreach and expansion.

Not surprisingly the debate on climate change has brought forward no significant or tangible solution, with member nations not focusing on emission cuts and most importantly the Kyoto Protocol. While some question the relevance of the G8 in the face of a modernized global scenario, some others argue that it serves as an important platform for world leaders to wrangle on important issues that concern one another and the world at large. However, that ‘world at large’ is yet to see some tangible results as a measure of outcome from this gathering! Take for instance the posture on climate change which has hardly changed from before. While industrialized nations continue to play footsie with the issue, they have long been pressurizing some invitee nations to adopt a more stringent set of protocols that call for reduced emissions, something that seems more of hypocrisy! One may also ask about the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol, which is refused to be addressed.

Although Africa has been on the agenda for a long time now, there is no reflection of any constructive activity in the ground level. Take for instance the scale of poverty, issues pertaining to health, clean water, basic sanitation requirements and education programs that exist only as plans on paper and remain a distant dream. Mere agreements to sort out these issues by addressing them at forums is not enough. Implementation at various levels is the requirement.

Nations such as Sudan continue to be plagued in civil war with little or no assistance from the outside world. People continue to die at alarming rates and turn into fast statistics that are forgotten in a matter of days. Mere echoes of UN Security council resolutions will not address the problem. Why are nations not looking at establishing a military task force such as the KFor or the ISAF within Sudan, Darfur in particular? Is it the cost factor that is a deterrent or the knowledge of the non-existence of any rich pickings from these poor nations that is putting off the G8 from arriving at a policy of cooperation within themselves to assist impoverished countries, such as mentioned in their agenda?

For once, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi spoke intellectual when he remarked that the framework of the G8 needs to be modified to include the larger G14! His statement that “we saw that G8 is no longer a suitable format to show a global economic way of doing. Instead, a consolidated G14 representing 80% of the world economy could help create a real dialogue. We want to see if the G14 is the best solution for debates which will bring to us unique results,” echoed the G8’s attitude in taking cognizance of emerging nations such as India and China in the global forum, something that cannot be ignored as was in the past! I would certainly accord a great deal of credit to the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh for having paved the way to such a landmark consensus as is witnessed today, when two years ago in a predecessor G8 summit at Heiligendamm in Germany, he stated the need for India to participate in the get-togethers of the rich as a partner rather than a petitioner.

It does not take a lot of brain racking to understand and conclude rightly that evolved partnerships are the key to success especially on a regional front which seems expanding and holding significance more than ever! Bilateral trade, cultural ties, combating terrorism, educational and outreach programs, disease control and a lot more can be significantly and systematically addressed in a much efficient manner with an expanded framework as in the case of the G14, which has rightly been envisioned and supported.

Fresh perspectives from developing nations with regards to plaguing problems can bring to the table a great deal of change, inclusive at that. However, one needs to wait and watch how the proceedings of this meeting of the G8 are to be implemented to attain measurable outcomes rather than being fizzled out as existent only on paper!

And maybe the press too can be a lot more mature to highlight issues and call for increased cooperation rather than misreport the roving eyes of a head of state!

Two to Tango – Russia & America

President Obama’s first visit to Russia as Commander-in-Chief of the United States is very significant. There’s a lot of mending of fences to do and a relook at strengthening bilateral relations that needs to be done on a serious footing. That apart, the two countries need to underscore the need to work together very closely in areas such as combating terror, which is a growing threat to many nations and their people. Their first meeting ahead of the G20 summit in London, held earlier this year, will certainly help them bond well and one hopes for it to be that way considering the extensive areas of cooperation their nations need to engage in.

The Bush administration viewed its Russian counterparts as hawkish and chose to remain wary in their interactions with Moscow, an action that fueled a number of cold war type instances that may have come to be, thankfully not, given the maturity with with each side has handled the other in particular.

The American pull-out from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty of 1972 is not so distant in the past to be forgotten, but even fresh is the Russo-Georgian conflict which was dragged into the purview of the NATO of which Georgia is a member nation. The summer of 2007 also saw some tense moments with the United States announcing plans of building an anti-ballistic missile system in Poland and a radar architecture in the Czech Republic, both nations being former Warsaw Pact members. While United States cited this as a protectionist measure from any nuclear attack that may originate from the soils of Iran or North Korea, Russia rebutted the explanation and tested a long range intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-24 and backed it up with a serious view that it could position its missiles towards Poland and the Czech Republic in the event of an American go-ahead of the stated plan.

Although President Putin’s warnings that American actions could turn Europe into a “powder keg” did not come true, for good reasons, a war of words between both heavyweights ensued with each side choosing to articulate its right of stand in the backdrop of a tense situation that could have lead to some deadlock among them signalling the beginning of a new arms race and power play, the least of which the world wanted at the time.

Vladimir Putin’s Iranian visit aimed at discussions of Russia’s aid to Iran’s nuclear power program in the backdrop of an American call for military action against Iran which Russia firmly opposed, prompted Bush to state a direct message to Putin that “if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” A sharp witted Putin retorted comparing American plans to put up a missile defense system near Russia’s border as analogous to when the Soviet Union deployed missiles in Cuba, prompting the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Just as the missile defence plans were getting each nation into a tirade of words with each other, Russia intervened in Georgia, when Georgia invaded South Ossetia. It did not help that senior Georgian officials acknowledged to have started the war in the region which prompted a certain Russian response. Georgia being part of NATO was viewed as a significant standpoint in the now faltering Russo-American relationship. While NATO members howled at one of their member nations being attacked, Russia staved away any attempt to stall the invasion by an external force and firmly drew the Georgian misadventure to a close within a remarkably short period of time.

More recently the joint naval exercises between Russia and Venezuela have fumed the White House and the State Department owing to their regard of the latter as a nation not aligned with the interests of the United States. The recently concluded missile tests by North Korea has brought the United States and Russia together in their condemnation of the act which both view as a cause for any nuclear engagement that may take place.

With all this as part of a turbulent background, both leaders clearly have to do a lot to work their way towards warming one another in arriving at a consensus regarding many issues that form part of their cooperation agenda. For starters, their views on North Korea are encouraging, but this is just the beginning. There is a simmering Pakistan aided by the United States in the War on Terror, an exercise that seems to be headed nowhere with no clear agenda in place. Iran continues to be a serious issue which still needs a lot of sitting-down-to-talk! The issue of jointly eliminating pirates in Somali waters is also in the backdrop and requires ongoing commitment and participation from both sides.

On the economic front, a lot needs to be done to arrive at an agreement in many spheres aimed at staving off the effects of the global recession which has affected the world at large. General Motors which last year setup a plant in St. Petersburg is now in hot water back at home. Its is believed that American investment has been growing at a rate of fifty percent a year and two-way trade between Russia and the United States now exceeds $26 billion, and two-way investment is approaching $20 billion, all of which is good news.

Caviar, wine and curry later, both leaders must aim significantly at laying the framework to improving two-way cooperation that will foster good relations with each other, paving way for partnerships like never before. That in place, Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club and governor of Chukotka, can focus on making rich pickings off his £80m investments in the world’s largest drilling exercise aimed at creating a tunnel between Russia and the United States, a Tsarist vision lying unattended to since the early 20th century! It makes better sense not to build a real bridge between the two nations as desired by the current Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.