Tuesday, August 12, 2008
On this day:

Last word on Russia v. Georgia...for now

I am in 100% agreement with NRO's Andrew Stuttaford:
John O'Sullivan writes this:
It has been widely argued, for instance, that Mr. Putin's recognition of South Ossetia was a response to the recognition of Kosovo's independence by the United States and European Union. Since Russia has been helping the secessionists for 16 years, this would make Russia's response a unique event in history: the first occasion on which an effect preceded its own cause.
Cleverly put. Nevertheless, while I don't believe that it justifies what has happened, I do think that it is a mistake not to face the fact that the recognition of Kosovo has helped provide useful cover for the way that Russia has now dramatically ratcheted up (a far, far too mild a term to describe the horror of what is now going on) the level of force it has long applied in Georgia/South Ossetia.

The more I think about it, the more I think that the timing and the manner of the Kosovo recognition were mistaken. In his piece, John describes South Ossetia as "a squalid depopulated entrepĂ´t for drugs, smuggling, money-laundering and other criminal endeavours." I wouldn't be at all surprised if that were indeed the case. You can, however, take a look at this report in the Washington Times from 2007 and quite reasonably wonder how different that sounds from the Kosovo that the US and various EU countries decided to recognize this year. Food for thought, perhaps.

As to what to do now to assist Georgia, the answer, will in the end, I suspect, be a matter of generous aid and assistance with reconstruction more than anything else. What won't help anybody is proceeding as if Russia is in the process of transforming itself into some sort of revived Soviet Union. It's not.
I would add also that it won't help anybody for the U.S. to continue supporting NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine, as the Bush administration - and now both John McCain and Barack Obama - have suggested we should do.

NATO is first and foremost a military alliance. Its basic terms are simple: member states agree that an attack on one is an attack on all.

As the week's events have made clear, for NATO to live up to such a commitment to Georgia and Ukraine would almost certainly require the stationing of NATO forces in both countries at some point in the future, since it's highly unlikely that the Russians would simply accept those countries' accession into NATO without a challenge. A very realistic scenario would see escalation following upon escalation, as the Russians engaged in every possible means short of war to test NATO's will to defend its new allies. There are serious doubts as to whether the alliance - stretched more thinly than ever - could win that particular contest of wills. If it didn't, its credibility would be damaged beyond repair.

This is a dangerous and dirty game we're playing here, but as "citizens of the world," our participation is mandatory. One of the game's rules - albeit one that we're free to break - is that we shouldn't make commitments that we're either unwilling or unable to keep. Just something to think about as the politicians try to out-tough each other this election year.