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Showing posts with label Russian Invasion of Georgia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Russian Invasion of Georgia. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why Are We Baiting the Bear?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Is the Senate trying to reignite the Cold War?

If so, it is going about it the right way.

Before departing for a five-week vacation, the Senate voted to declare Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be provinces of Georgia illegally occupied by Russian troops who must get out and return to Russia.

Monday, August 18, 2008

'New Europe' Urges West to Rethink Russian Ties

Seizing on the conflict in Georgia, East European countries are pushing for strong measures against an aggressive Moscow they say they know all too well.

They live in a historically battered region between West and East, the Rhine and the Volga, Berlin and Moscow. Now, as Russian tanks rumble in Georgia, the states of "new Europe" are urging the West to rethink its relationship with Russia and are pushing for new security and strong measures against an aggressive Moscow they say they know all too well.

From Poland to Ukraine, the Czech Republic to Bulgaria, Russia's invasion of Georgia with tanks, troops, and planes is described as a test of Western resolve. The former Soviet states are vowing to thwart Russian aims – in deals with the European Union, in a missile-defense pact with the US, and in trade and diplomacy.

Polish and Baltic officials, most of whom grew up under Soviet occupation, have long chafed at being described in Western Europe as too "Russia-phobic" in their oft-repeated warnings about Moscow's intentions. But now in this gritty capital, the refrain is, "We told you so."

The strength of Polish feeling against Russia is measured by the quick completion of a US missile defense pact last week, after 18 months of wrangling in Warsaw and Washington. While the US has stoutly argued that the missiles were meant as a shield against rogue attacks from Iran, their strategic value here has apparently shifted. Polish opposition to hosting 10 proposed missile silos dropped by 30 percent in the week after Russia's military move in Georgia, according to polls in Warsaw.

"The events in the Caucasus show clearly that such security guarantees are indispensable," said Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Ukrainian officials now say they encourage talks with the US on a similar shield. The suggestion over the weekend came despite Russian deputy military chief Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn's warning that Poland's missile shield would expose it to a Russian attack. "Poland, by deploying ... is exposing itself to a strike – 100 percent," said General Nogovitsyn.

In recent years "new" Europe has tussled with "old," with Germany in particular, over NATO expansion for Georgia – most recently in April at the alliance summit in Bucharest, Romania, where Berlin opposed it. Former Soviet states now in NATO argue that Western ideas about liberal reform in Russia were naive at best and self-serving at worst: They see Vladimir Putin's Russia as disparaging civil society, reverting to brute strength with small nations, seeking empire, and exploiting divisions inside Europe, and between Europe and the US. Russia is not a 'status quo' power under Mr. Putin, they say, but rather willing to change principles in pursuit of greatness.

Most Poles will agree that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili made a serious mistake in trying to enter South Ossetia with force. But they feel it was an error that Russia seized upon in a planned operation to annex Ossetia and Abkhazia, where they say a new millionaire class in Moscow is rapidly buying up coastal property.

"When we woke up and saw Russian tanks in Georgia, we knew very well what this meant," says Bartosz Weglarczyk, foreign editor of Gazeta Wyborcza. "The Russian talk about helping others and bringing peace to Georgia.... We don't buy it. When did Moscow ever enter a country without 'bringing peace?'

"Now it is back to basics," he adds. "For us, it is all about staying out of the Russian sphere. We forgot about Russia for a decade. Now as Frankenstein is being reassembled under a former KGB chief, we remember it again."

But few Poles believe Moscow is ready to use military force as far east as Poland, lacking the discipline required by the grand ideas of Marxism and shown in Soviet days. "The Russians want to keep their money, their property in Monaco and Palm Beach, and have a good life," says one official. Moscow will, however, seek to exploit weakness and divisions in the West, say Polish diplomats, officials, and citizens, in a new type of energy and economic war of which Georgia is an example.

Five presidents from East Europe traveled to Georgia last week to show solidarity and to challenge Russia. East European states are reexamining their policy of allowing dual passports that can be used by Russia as a reason for entering their country, as was done in South Ossetia.

Ukraine wants to limit the Russian Navy's use of its ports. EU members from the East vow to block new Russian efforts for a liberal trade deal. Polish President Lech Kaczynski criticized Germany and France for mollifying Russia in order to protect commercial interests. Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves argues vociferously that Georgia should still be admitted to NATO.

E. Europeans saw Georgia coming

The question of NATO membership remains sensitive in East Europe. Many Poles say they understand the aspirations of Georgians to join, and feel sympathy that those aspirations have been dashed. The question for small states in Russia's backyard is not a neutral one – for a small country being eyed by a powerful Russia seeking to expand its influence.

"The Eastern Europeans totally saw this [Russian resurgence] coming," says former US ambassador to Romania, James Rosapepe. "In Romania the attitude was, we have to get into NATO before Russian power returns."

German officials and many European NATO officials argue that it is simply unrealistic to provoke Russia by allowing its immediate neighbors into the alliance. They say Russia's actions in Georgia vindicates this point. Berlin takes a very careful and consistent position on the importance of understanding Moscow, one Western diplomat points out.

Yet Polish officials are quick to point out that Germany was the most powerful and insistent voice throughout the 1990s for getting Poland into NATO – as a way to create a buffer zone between Germany and Russia. Now that Poland is in NATO, Germany has changed its tune, they say, showing indifference to Poland's own interests in a similar buffer zone. They argue it is in Germany's commercial interest to advocate balanced restraint and sensitivity to Moscow.

Poland's view: 'While America slept'

In the immediate years after Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev decided to release Eastern Europe from the Soviet bloc, US efforts to expand NATO were robust. Yet as Russian power appeared to be waning, and as the US became involved in a war on terror and in Iraq, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus received less and less attention and material support from the US and Western Europe – even as it became clearer in the East that Russia under Putin was gaining strength with every rise in the cost of a barrel of oil.

So popular in Poland was the US after the cold war that Poles joked that their country was the 51st state. Yet the enthusiasm has waned somewhat during the Iraq war; Poles sent troops but has removed them. Here there's a widespread view that Iraq was a mistake for the Americans.

"Poles look at the events transpiring in Georgia from the perspective of 'while America slept,'" says James Hooper, a former senior US diplomat based in Warsaw. "They understand that Russia's mainspring expansionist impulse can be deflected only by a steady US policy in managing European security affairs, and thus pin everything on American power, purpose and resolve."

Friday, August 15, 2008

How the West Fueled Putin's Sense of Impunity

From The Wall Street Journal
By Garry Kasparov

Russia's invasion of Georgia reminded me of a conversation I had three years ago in Moscow with a high-ranking European Union official. Russia was much freer then, but President Vladimir Putin's onslaught against democratic rights was already underway.

"What would it take," I asked, "for Europe to stop treating Putin like a democrat? If all opposition parties are banned? Or what if they started shooting people in the street?" The official shrugged and replied that even in such cases, there would be little the EU could do. He added: "Staying engaged will always be the best hope for the people of both Europe and Russia."

The citizens of Georgia would likely disagree. Russia's invasion was the direct result of nearly a decade of Western helplessness and delusion. Inexperienced and cautious in the international arena at the start of his reign in 2000, Mr. Putin soon learned he could get away with anything without repercussions from the EU or America.

Russia reverted to a KGB dictatorship while Mr. Putin was treated as an equal at G-8 summits. Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and Germany's Gerhardt Schroeder became Kremlin business partners. Mr. Putin discovered democratic credentials could be bought and sold just like everything else. The final confirmation was the acceptance of Dmitry Medvedev in the G-8, and on the world stage. The leaders of the Free World welcomed Mr. Putin's puppet, who had been anointed in blatantly faked elections.

On Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sprinted to Moscow to broker a ceasefire agreement. He was allowed to go through the motions, perhaps as a reward for his congratulatory phone call to Mr. Putin after our December parliamentary "elections." But just a few months ago Mr. Sarkozy was in Moscow as a supplicant, lobbying for Renault. How much credibility does he really have in Mr. Putin's eyes?

In reality, Mr. Sarkozy is attempting to remedy a crisis he helped bring about. Last April, France opposed the American push to fast-track Georgia's North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership. This was one of many missed opportunities that collectively built up Mr. Putin's sense of impunity. In this way the G-7 nations aided and abetted the Kremlin's ambitions.

Georgia blundered into a trap, although its imprudent aggression in South Ossetia was overshadowed by Mr. Putin's desire to play the strongman. Russia seized the chance to go on the offensive in Georgian territory while playing the victim/hero. Mr. Putin has long been eager to punish Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili for his lack of respect both for Georgia's old master Russia, and for Mr. Putin personally. (Popular rumor has it that the Georgian president once mocked his peer as "Lilli-Putin.")

Although Mr. Saakashvili could hardly be called a model democrat, his embrace of Europe and the West is considered a very bad example by the Kremlin. The administrations of the Georgian breakaway areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are stocked, top to bottom, with bureaucrats from the Russian security services.

Throughout the conflict, the Kremlin-choreographed message in the Russian media has been one of hysteria. The news presents Russia as surrounded by enemies on all sides, near and far, and the military intervention in Georgia as essential to protect the lives and interests of Russians. It is also often spoken of as just the first step, with enclaves in Ukraine next on the menu. Attack dogs like Russian nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky are used to test and whip up public opinion. Kremlin-sponsored ultranationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin went on the radio to say Russian forces "should not stop until they are stopped." The damage done by such rhetoric is very slow to heal.

The conflict also threatens to poison Russia's relationship with Europe and America for years to come. Can such a belligerent state be trusted as the guarantor of Europe's energy supply? Republican presidential candidate John McCain has been derided for his strong stance against Mr. Putin, including a proposal to kick Russia out of the G-8. Will his critics now admit that the man they called an antiquated cold warrior was right all along?

The conventional wisdom of Russia's "invulnerability" serves as an excuse for inaction. President Bush's belatedly toughened language is welcome, but actual sanctions must now be considered. The Kremlin's ruling clique has vital interests -- i.e. assets -- abroad and those interests are vulnerable.

The blood of those killed in this conflict is on the hands of radical nationalists, thoughtless politicians, opportunistic oligarchs and the leaders of the Free World who value gas and oil more than principles. More lives will be lost unless strong moral lines are drawn to reinforce the shattered lines of the map.

Mr. Kasparov, leader of The Other Russia coalition, is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal.

The 'Deciderer' -- Undoing the Reagan Legacy One Disaster at a Time

"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country." June 16, 2001

George W. Bush

A Georgian man cries next to his brother's dead body in the town of Gori, 50 miles from Tbilisi, August 9, 2008.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Georgia's Defeat and America's Options

From The Brussels Journal
By Joshua Trevino

What Mikheil Saakashvili began at his discretion, Vladimir Putin ends at his pleasure. The Russians have called a halt to their offensive in Georgia, and none too soon for the Georgians. What remains is the postwar settlement, and the American part in it.

A look at the situation on the ground speaks to the Russian dominance of the little Caucasian republic: the Russians have near-total freedom of movement in the western plain, with soldiers in Poti. Georgia’s only meaningful lifelines to the outside world are the port of Batumi, and the long road to Yerevan. Neither of these are significant corridors for supply, and the port is free only at Russian sufferance. Further war would have seen a battle for Tbilisi in the coming 36 hours. The Georgians would have lost, and the war thence would probably have devolved into guerrilla actions centered about a sort of Georgian national redoubt in the south — in regions populated more by Armenians and Azeris than by Georgians. To be spared all this is a mercy that Georgians, rightly inflamed by what’s been done in mere days, may not fully appreciate.

The postwar settlement remains thoroughly opaque, even if, as the Russians report, the conditions of a ceasefire are agreed. The Russian war aim was never announced — or rather, it only announced itself on the ground — and its political end remains obscure. The formal disposition of the Russian-occupied secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia must be decided; the mechanisms of reparation, if any, must be agreed upon; and, most troublingly, the Russians are making noises about extraditing Saakashvili to the Hague. Here, a definitive settlement is to everyone’s advantage — not least the Georgians, who are ill-advised to act as if they are anything but beaten. Absurdities like putting Saakashvili in the ICC dock should be rejected, but otherwise, it is almost certainly best to let the Russians dictate their terms — and let resistance to those terms emanate from sources able to make that resistance count, like Europe and the United States.

With this in mind, the first task of America’s postwar policy in the Caucasus is distasteful in the extreme: pushing the Georgians to understand and act like what they are, which is a defeated nation in no position to make demands. This does not square easily with American sentiment — nor my own — nor with the Vice President’s declaration that Russia’s aggression “must not go unanswered,” nor with John McCain’s declaration that “today we are all Georgians.” Russia’s aggression and consequent battlefield victory will stand, and as the last thing the volatile Caucasus needs is yet another revisionist, revanchist state, it befits a would-be member of the Western alliance to make its peace with that. However inflammatory the issue of “lost” Abkhazia and South Ossetia are in the Georgian public square, it is nothing that the Germans, the Finns, and the Greeks, to name a few, have not had to come to terms with in the course of their accessions to the first tier of Western nations. We should not demand less of Georgia.

The second, and more enduring, task of our policy must be the swift containment of Russia. I use the term deliberately: to invoke another Cold War-era phrase, we’re not going to “roll back” any of Russia’s recent territorial gains, nor should we attempt to reverse what prosperity it has achieved in the past decade. (That prosperity, being based mostly upon transitory prices for natural resources, will itself be transitory in time.) Russia’s leadership has declared that it seeks the reversal, de facto if not de jure, of the “catastrophe” of the USSR’s end. Though not marked by any formal decision in the vein of Versailles, this is nonetheless a strategic outcome that America has a direct interest in preserving. That interest has only gone up with the admission of former Soviet-bloc states — and former Soviet states — to NATO. Inasmuch as Russian revisionism threatens the alliance that has kept the peace in Europe for generations now, it must be confronted and deterred.

The obvious question is how this may be done with the tools America has at hand. It is a media commonplace over the past several days that the United States has no leverage over Russia. This is false. American policy can and does tremendously affect several things of tremendous importance to Moscow. A brief (though not comprehensive) list of available pressure points follows:

First, the Ukraine. First and foremost, there is no former Soviet state that Russia wishes to have in its orbit more than the Ukraine. Not coincidentally, the Ukraine was also the only nation besides the United States to render Georgia material assistance in this war, when it threatened to deny Sevastopol to the Russian Black Sea Fleet. European reluctance to antagonize Russia scuttled the Ukraine’s potential NATO membership at the NATO Bucharest summit this past spring. In light of Georgia’s fate, issuance of a MAP, or even outright NATO membership, to the Ukraine, is an appropriate riposte to Russia’s war. Unlike Georgia, the Ukraine has no territorial or secessionist issues, nor an unstable leadership apt to launch unwinnable wars. It does, though, very much need the sort of guarantee that NATO exists to give.

Second, Russia’s G8 membership. The G8 is purportedly the group of the world’s largest industrial democracies. Russia, with a GDP smaller than Spain’s and a per-capita income lower than Gabon’s, was admitted in 1997 as a means of supporting its integration into international economic institutions. It’s a privilege, not a right, and it should be conditioned upon responsible membership in the community of nations. Expulsion of Russia from the G8 is a longtime policy favorite of John McCain’s, and it’s time to consider his preference.

Third, Russia’s client states. This is a short list, though Russian revisionism would wish to see it lengthen. Belarus is by far Russia’s premier client, followed by varying degrees of Russian influence over Armenia, Serbia, Azerbaijan, and the central Asian states. (We’ll exclude here clients like Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria, all of which have statuses that are dubious at best.) We’ve already seen that Russia reacts to defend Belarus when the latter is criticized. An available pressure point, then, is to turn up the heat on the Belarusian regime — specifically with support of dissidents in Belarus — and link it explicitly to Russia’s behavior elsewhere.

Fourth, Russia’s dissidents. Russian public life is nowhere near Soviet depths, but it is nonetheless notable that the Moscow regime places a premium upon the control of journalistic institutions and media. (A great, English-language example of the slick and statist nature of modern Russian media may be found at Russia Today — note the stories on Georgian “spy rings” and refugees from Georgian aggression fleeing into Russia.) Divergence from the Putin line is a good way to end up unemployed or dead, and so we ought to lend what support we may to independent media personnel — and their means.

Finally, Russia’s Internet. A major tool of Russian foreign policy in the past few years is what may only be described as cyber-warfare. We saw it when Russia wished to punish Estonia [pdf], and we saw it again this week against nearly all of Georgia’s .ge-domain sites. This is a tremendously thorny problem, both because cyber-war by its nature affords the perpetrators plausible denial, and because it is quite easy to respond to a wrong with a wrong — in America’s case, by using its leverage over Californa-based ICANN to invalidate .ru domains from which Russian attacks emanate. Here, the basic functionality of the Internet must be balanced against political concerns — and there must be some mechanism for determining when political concerns from nations like Russia damage the basic functionality of the Internet.

Beyond applying pressure to Russia, American policy must focus upon reassurance to the NATO nations that expressed alarm at Georgia’s subjugation. NATO allies Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and the Czech Republic all know quite well what it means to be crushed by the force of Russian arms, and all were therefore demonstrative in expressing their dismay at events in Georgia. If NATO and the American connection in particular is going to retain its meaning for them, it is up to us to provide the necessary reassurance. Although NATO is no longer a formally anti-Soviet (and therefore anti-Russian) alliance, we cannot pretend that it does not hold precisely that meaning for several of its member states. A failure to recognize this would concurrently weaken the alliance.

The war in Georgia is done but for the details, and the occasional sniping. Georgia lost on the first day, and Georgia has mostly — though not wholly — itself to blame. But if Georgia is prostrate, America and the West are not. If some good is to come of this, and if Russia’s adventure in its “near abroad” is to be its last, we must act decisively — and now.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Georgia's Freedom Loving President

There has been a great deal of discussion about the motives behind Russia's dastardly invasion of Georgia, the message it sends about Russia's return as a world power, the implicit message to other former satellites of the Soviet Union, and its drive to corner the oil and gas supplies on which Europe is especially dependent.

Receiving little notice is the extraordinary leader of Georgia, President Mikheil Saakashvili. American educated, he is in the mold of the leader America longs for, Ronald Reagan. And the Georgian President's accomplishments are no less impressive. He transformed a corrupt and impoverished nation by getting government out of the way, protecting individual freedom, and creating an environment that rewards initiative and investment. I wish we had someone of his caliber running for the presidency of this country. The following interview with Glenn Beck provides a good introduction and makes clear what is at stake in this conflict.