Georgia, Russia, the Ukraine and Us
It also seems clear that Georgia’s president acted somewhat recklessly when he undertook military action against the enclave of South Ossetia, a territory that lies wholly within Georgia’s internationally recognized borders. What is not clear to the outside world is the extent of any Russian inspired and planned incidents there that were intended to get the desired results – a pretext for the Russian move.
Russia needs to pay a price for this naked aggression, but it is not immediately clear what the vital interests of the U.S. are here – although forestalling similar moves against Poland certainly is in our interest, as is encouraging Europe to try to move away from such energy dependency as now exists. Immediate extension of NATO memberships to Georgia and the Ukraine are at the high risk end of the spectrum, while doing nothing but protesting and seeking sanctions are at the other end. We have to do something, even if only to continue our long-standing tradition of supporting the growth of freedom everywhere in the world, and old-fashioned balance-of-power international politics is a pretty good reason also.
What Is Russia Afraid Of?
The spread of freedom and the West standing up to it.
Aug. 18, 2008 Slate (Excerpts)
"The Russian state's open hostility, not only toward Georgia but also toward Ukraine and the Baltic states, is, in this sense, partly ideological. Genuine elections have taken place in all these countries; people who have not been preselected by the ruling oligarchy sometimes gain wealth or power. Georgia's Rose Revolution and Ukraine's Orange Revolution even involved street demonstrations that helped unseat more-oligarchic regimes. Thus it is not pure nationalism, nor mere traditional great-power arrogance, that makes the Russian leadership disdainful of Georgia and Ukraine: It is also, at some level, fear that similar voter revolutions could someday challenge Russia, too.
Nevertheless, the word superficial is worth repeating here: As I've written before, I don't really like historical analogies, which can conceal as much as they reveal. For one thing, the ethnic conflict that sparked the Georgian president's foolhardy response and the Russian invasion two weeks ago has been twisted and manipulated, but it nevertheless involves real people. Any long-term solution to the current crisis has to find some accommodation for the South Ossetians whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed in the exchange of fire….
Today's Russian leaders, despite the paranoia they learned in KGB training, have far more profound relationships with Western institutions, not only the G-8 and the Council of Europe but the Western banks and companies that invest their money and manage their property. Today's Europe is theoretically better prepared to engage Russia, though it has not done so until now. On Aug. 8, I wrote that the West, which failed for many years to address the security vacuum in the Caucasus, would have no influence over Russia, and in the short term this has proved true. Despite a cease-fire brokered by France, Russian troops are withdrawing very slowly, if at all. We have no military means to force them out and should not pretend otherwise.
But if this turns into a long-term conflict, if the Russian military remains in Georgia proper, if this proves to be only the first of more incursions into other neighboring states, there are relationships we have and meaningful levers we can use, whether over Russian membership in international institutions or Russian leaders' luxury apartments in Paris—if, of course, we are willing to use them. The critical question now is whether the West is prepared to behave like the West, to speak with one voice and create a common trans-Atlantic policy. In recent years, Russia has preferred to deal with Western countries and their leaders one by one.
Just last week, an affiliate of Gazprom, the Russian state-dominated gas company, added a former Finnish prime minister to its payroll—which already includes former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. If we hang together instead of allowing Gazprom to pick us all off separately, there is at least a chance that this minichill won't last another 40 years." Slate
It is my view that the steps being contemplated and discussed above are like mosquitoes to the elephant – easily anticipated and brushed off by Putin and Medvedev. Although our interests may not be directly at risk here, I believe that we in the west are in for a long series of power moves intended to reconstruct the former Soviet Union, and will result in the same kind of long-term standoff as the 40 year long Cold War if allowed to succeed. I believe that the time to take risks is now. We must convince Europe to extend NATO membership to Georgia and the Ukraine, and we must go ahead and move some of the forces and installations we have in Germany to Poland, a move long overdue.