On Russia-Georgia: Four Views

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In the Times of London, Anatol Lieven reminds that South Ossetia and Abkhazia had been in the center of turmoil between Georgia and Russia and their own assertions of independence in 1918 and then again in 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated.
On his FT blog, Gideon Rachman thinks Saakashvili overplayed his hand with the Russians and was too confident in American support. Rachman writes:

It seems to me that the Georgians under-estimated the ferocity of the Russian reaction and over-estimated the support they would get from the west. When I interviewed President Saakashvili earlier this year, he was keen to boast of his personal friendships with the likes of President Bush, John McCain and President Sarkozy.
My hotel in Tbilisi was full of American military personnel. But Nato’s refusal to offer Georgia a “Membership action plan” late last year was a warning that there was a clear limit to how far Georgia’s western friends will go in its defence.

Third, Ronald Asmus and Richard Holbrooke call for a new transatlantic strategic plan to deal with Russia’s heightened aggressiveness. Asmus and Holbrooke at first say that it’s hard to see exactly who or what started the conflict in South Ossetia but nonetheless suggest that we must stand by Georgia and hold against Russia. Regrettably, there is little analysis in their piece of what actually created the ecosystem of fragility and imbalance between Georgia, two autonomous provices, and Russia. I regret to say that Holbrooke and Asmus don’t look back to Kosovo independence and other measures America took to gut and neutralize Russia’s interests. If they had included a bit of American self-reflection, I’d agree with them that a new strategic course is needed — but not one that focuses almost exclusively on punishing Russia.
Finally, my own views on the Russia-Georgia War are here and have been referenced widely around the blogosphere.
I hope to have comments from Nixon Center President Dimitri Simes later in the day.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

30 comments on “On Russia-Georgia: Four Views

  1. arthurdecco says:

    Kathleen said: “Russia became our “enemy'” because Venture Capitolists were not allowed to come in and steal all their natural resources…”
    Exactly.

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  2. Kathleen says:

    JamesL..flying porta potties… I forgot about those…didn’t Wayne Madsen report about those?… I needed that chuckle… isn’t there a whole process in place for handling their ‘”deposits”, too?
    Carroll.. Russia became our “enemy'” because Venture Capitolists were not allowed to come in and steal all their natural resources… Communism, the idea, was the ‘”enemy'” whether in Europe, South and Central America, Southeast Asia… were it otherwsie, we would not have sat idly by while the Hungarian rebels were annihilated, after we urged them to rise up against the Soviet Union… they had no resources we wanted to steal…
    JohnH,…pleeeeze, don;’t insult the mafia… they don’t have near as much collateral damage and they don’t engage in empty bluster… bullshit is verboten…it’s just the opposite with Neo-Cons… they’re all bullshit and empty bluster…Seriously, I’m joking or should I say, I’m joking, seriously….

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  3. Curious observer says:

    The only honest way the elder Bush or Clinton could have asked Russians to come to terms with what Stalin did would have entailed asking Americans to likewise come to terms with how FDR and Churchill served as Stalin’s enablers. Alas, neither 41 nor Bubba were anywhere near equal to that task.
    I’m not sure what you mean by approaching Russia in “full cringe mode.” If you mean giving it the respect it’s due as a significant world power, and recognizing its historical fears of encirclement, then I guess that’s the camp I’m. But so are veteran cold warriors like Pat Buchanan.

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  4. JohnH says:

    Who’s asking to approach Russia in “cringe mode?”
    How about trying “respect mode” instead of “dictate mode?” Like the Russian government of not (and I don’t), you have to accord them basic respect if you are going to have fruitful relations with them.
    The US attitude of “we set the rules and you better follow them” is a significant part of the problem–not only with Russia–but with a lot of other countries that have not exactly benefited from the “Washington consensus.”

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  5. Zathras says:

    It is mostly, but evidently not exclusively, Russians who think the imperial Soviet state should be the norm in Europe and the world.
    Look, NATO was expanded in the first place because its new eastern European neighbors hated and despised the Russians, for very good reasons. Russia very quickly turned away from the early steps begun in Gorbachev’s time to face up to the really incredible list of crimes conducted on its own territory against its own people, and was never asked by the elder Bush or Clinton, or much of anyone else, to come to terms with the wrong done by the Soviets and their malignant political ideology in all the countries it had subjugated for so long.
    The “blowback,” if one wants to use that term, started with the first Chechen War under Yeltsin, and has been with us ever since in the form of Russians from Vladimir Putin on down convinced that everything that went wrong after the Soviet collapse was the fault of the West. Approaching that country in full cringe mode, as some posters here appear to prefer, has never worked for anyone at any time in history. It is not the way to approach Russia now.
    And incidentally, you can bank on the fact that a lot of the Russians who thought the West was “stomping” on Russians Serbian cousins during the 1990s thought Srebrenica absolutely rocked.

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  6. Curious observer says:

    Zathras, what are you smoking? Bush 41 did an OK job of handling the demise of the Soviet Union, but Clinton is a major cause of the current mess — insisting on the United States remaining the 800-lb. gorilla in Europe, expanding NATO to Russia’s borders, stomping on Russia’s Slavic cousins in Serbia. He humiliated Yeltsin in particular, and Russians in general, at every turn. All Bush 43 has done is turn it up another notch — more NATO expansion, engineering phony “revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine, missile defense systems in former Warsaw Pact countries.
    Now comes the blowback. Hope you’re enjoying it.

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  7. Anne McCrady says:

    It is true: amid the swirling American self-focused worries about Russia and Georgia, the U.S. is not a benign observer. We are in fact, with our Machiavellian “diplomacy” and our own invasion of Iraq, just as guilty as Russia of being a bully in the classroom of energy resource allocation. In that context, it will be hard for the U.S. to argue against the oil-defensive or oil-empowered aggressions of others. The rumbling of invading tanks in the streets of residential neighborhoods is iconic for militarists unable to embrace the strategies and opportunities neccesary in a global community. Let’s see which American candidate and which world leaders can show they understand the folly of violent imperialism and the wisdom of visionary statesmanship.

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  8. DonS says:

    Here’s an interesting article from a Montreal based organizaton that places the Georgian affair in the context of a US-NATO-Israeli strategy in the ME involving, guess what, oil.
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9788

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  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “The term ally would cease to have any meaning lest we get actively involved in stopping this slaughter”
    You must have been asleep when Bush redefined “ally” by signing on with Musharif.
    “Ally”, in Bushworld, lost its meaning a long time ago.

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  10. Carroll says:

    I hope Steve gets a bellyfull of the egotisitcal old hack Holbrooke on this issue after his glowing endorsement of him a while back.
    The WP piece Holbrooke did is pure neo-ism and propaganda. I mean reallllly….could he possibly have left out this particular little whine:
    ” Beginning a well-planned war (including cyber-warfare) as the Olympics were opening violates the ancient tradition of a truce to conflict during the Games. And Russia’s willingness to create a war zone 25 miles from the Black Sea city of Sochi, where it is to host the Winter Games in 2014, hardly demonstrates its commitment to Olympic ideals.”
    How f’ing childish and stupid is that irrelevant linkage to the Olympics….the Holbrookes always betray their idiot selves with some idiot whine and statement like this that they throw in as some kind of sop to “ideals’..pretending they have some ideals.
    It’s worth looking at a non slanted background on the Georgia, US, Russia, regional issues. Anyone interested can go to the FAS site below.
    http://tinyurl.com/to-the-FAS-site
    And IMHO although oil and pipelines might play some part , the real game as always is control, control, control of any country that could, might ever, possibly not cowtow to US domination in their own region.
    I think the Guardian is 99.9% on target. It’s obvious that the US fears Russia regaining it’s former, not only strength, but standing in international powers, therefore the neos try to cobble together a bunch of teeny tiny “pro western” countries all adjoining Russia like a necklace. It’s stupid and it isn’t going to work. Russia isn’t going to back down on their own interest in their own region.
    The US would act the same way if Russia was converting Mexico and Canada to little satellites of Russian influence. And of course Georgia’s flop is going to make other semi pro western countries there think twice after this about who they want to hold hands with.
    This is no pipeline war but an assault on Russian influence
    Jonathan Steele
    The Guardian,
    Monday August 11 2008
    The flare-up of major hostilities between Russia and Georgia has been dubbed by some “the pipeline war”. The landlocked Caspian sea’s huge oil reserves are a factor, especially since Georgia became a key transit country for oil to travel from Baku in Azerbaijan to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean.
    The pipeline, which was completed in May 2006, is the second longest in the world. Although its route was chosen in order to bypass Russia, denying Moscow leverage over a key resource and a potential source of pressure, the current crisis in the Caucasus is about issues far bigger than oil.
    The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline is only a minor element in a much larger strategic equation: an attempt, sponsored largely by the United States but eagerly subscribed to by several of its new ex-Soviet allies, to reduce every aspect of Russian influence throughout the region, whether it be economic, political, diplomatic or military.
    Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili is the region’s most enthusiastic proponent of this strategy. His “pipeline neighbours”, Azerbaijan and Turkey, are less virulent. They have been trying to reap the economic benefits of Caspian oil while keeping good relations with Russia and avoiding provocations.
    The question now is whether Saakashvili has over-reached himself. Has his escalation of the South Ossetian crisis done more than destroy any chance of normalising Georgian relations with Russia as long as he remains president? Has it reinforced his image among many western leaders as a hothead, and set back his hopes of getting a promise from Nato this autumn to start membership proceedings? France and Germany led Nato’s cautious camp in April when they forced President Bush to delay a membership action plan for Georgia for months. Their argument that Georgia is not yet ready may well be strengthened now.
    The sudden crisis has put the United States on the spot. While supporting Georgia’s Nato ambitions, the White House was leery of military action, knowing it could do little in the face of a powerful Russian response. Visiting the former Soviet republic in 2005, President Bush urged Saakashvili to keep cool. “Georgia’s leaders know that the peaceful resolution of conflict is essential to your integration into the transatlantic community,” he told a huge rally in Tbilisi.
    Saakashvili’s supporters claim Nato’s delay was what emboldened Russia to stir up tension in Abkhazia (the other rebel area of Georgia) and South Ossetia this spring and summer. “It was interpreted by the Russians as a window of opportunity,” George Kandelaki, deputy chair of the Georgian parliament’s foreign relations committee, said yesterday. Like other Georgians, he argued that it was not his country’s forces that took the initiative last week for escalation in what had been in recent months a low level, tit-for-tat series of border incidents.
    The fighting backfired, and the Russian counteroffensive now seems aimed at capturing the 40% of South Ossetia which was under Georgian control until last week. “They [the Russians] control pretty much all of South Ossetia now,” Kandelaki said, adding: “They’re trying to take over all of Abkhazia.”
    If the Russians succeed, they will have to decide whether to keep the newly acquired territory as a bargaining chip for negotiations with Saakashvili, or go to the extreme of encouraging South Ossetia, now unified, to do what most of its inhabitants want – proclaim independence from Georgia and a referendum on joining North Ossetia, its ethnic twin on the northern side of the Caucasus mountains. Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, hinted at the tougher option, when he told Ossetian refugees this weekend that Georgia had lost the right to rule the territory.
    When the fighting ends and the dust settles, Saakashvili may also face an onslaught from his political opposition in Georgia. In the heat of battle, parliamentary leaders have rallied round the national flag, but if a ceasefire comes with all Georgian troops and civilians driven out of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Saaksahvili may be called to account for losing not just territory but the chance of early membership of Nato as well.
    “Georgian army flees in disarray”.. Times Online

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  11. ckrantz says:

    For a little images perspective here are some photos from Boston Globe. For instance these rockets the Georgians was shooting at Tskhinvali the 8 of august.
    http://cache.boston.com/universal/site_graphics/blogs/bigpicture/georgia_08_11/georgia15.jpg
    I’d say this is a war with no right or wrong side but in need of an honest broker. Unfortunately there’s no one around.
    Btw, I find it hard to believe that the American military commanders of the exercise who left about a week before the Georgians stormed Tskhinvali had no idea about what was going on.
    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2008/07/200871515107741998.html
    Or the IDF vets who until recently was training the Georgian special forces.
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1010230.html
    Knowing the usual competence of the Bush administration I can’t help wonder if there was plan that went wrong somewhere. Of course there’s a Russian expert running state right?
    http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/08/war_in_south_ossetia.html

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  12. syvanen says:

    Interesting background on the Iranic peoples. Noticed that the 2000 Georgian troops just withdrawn from Iraq were facing off against Iran, now they return to fight own Persians. Historic, ethnic hatred in evidence here?

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  13. JohnH says:

    Kudos to Brzezinski for honesty and clarity: “In brief, the stakes are very significant. At stake is access to oil as that resource grows ever more scarce and expensive and how a major power conducts itself in our newly interdepedent world, conduct that should be based on accommodation and consensus, not on brute force.”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-gardels/brzezinski-russias-invasi_b_118029.html
    Shame on the other foreign policy experts, who refuse to acknowledge the obvious. The industrialized world is kept on life support today by a vast network of indefensible feeding tubes, AKA pipelines and shipping routes. A reality check and public discussion of the industrialized world’s vulnerabilities are long past due. But most foreign policy experts won’t broach the subject. Are they afraid of offending their sugar daddies in Houston?

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  14. Arun says:

    It seems to me that in encouraging the breakup of Yugoslavia and then Serbia (and perhaps the Kurds in Iraq?) we’ve set the stage for many more of these minority breakaways and subsequent wars, ethnic cleansings and genocides.
    Is this what we want? Should we not be encouraging federal states, economic unions, and general Western Europe-type arrangements so that people can preserve their own language, culture, religion and so on and yet not feel threatened by who lives where? Should not the USA be the last to support and encourage these narrow nationalisms?

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  15. s quinn says:

    The United States needs to stand by her ally (Georgia) in this conflict with the Russians. The term ally would cease to have any meaning lest we get actively involved in stopping this slaughter. It’s an obvious attempt for Russia to re-claim what she lost post 1991. They are targeting civilians, the airport,the whole Georgian population. If there was ever a righteous time to stand up for a proven and stategically vital friend then it is now. Lets show the world who we truly are. The Russians are nothing more than bullies..always have been, always will be , unless we stand by our Georgian allies. They proved themselves with America by standing by us in Iraq…

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  16. jonst says:

    As Kennan, noted in the late 1990s, the expansion of NATO was a bipartisan disaster. Richard Holbrook, Booman, Bush, and Clinton, and the neocons, and anyone else for that matter, that wants to suck us into defending the territorial integrity of Georgia can shit in their hats…with all due respect.
    The two parties have lead us to disaster with their foreign policy consensus. From the Balkans to Iraq, and most points in between. And among the many consequences of this disaster, has been a drop in the standard of living for Americans. And particularly the middle class. If Holbrook, Booman, and the neocons want action…..let them call, today, for re-instituting the draft. That will stop this talk dead in its tracks.

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  17. Carroll says:

    What JamesL said.
    Plus, the ethnic and seperatist angle is interesting:
    Ossetians are a distinct (*) Iranic ethnic group whose origin lies along the Don River. They came to the Caucasus after they were driven out of their homeland by Mongol invasions in the 13th century.
    Some of them settled in territory now known as North Ossetia, which is now part of Russia, and South Ossetia,[30] which is recognised by all members of the United Nations as part of Georgia.
    South Ossetia currently has a Georgian ethnic minority of about one fifth (14,000) of the total population (70,000).[31]
    (*) Iranic Peoples
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The Iranian people[1] are a collection of ethnic groups,[2][3] defined along linguistic lines as speaking Iranian languages.[4] They are spread across the Iranian plateau, stretching from the Hindu Kush to central Anatolia and from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf – a region that is sometimes termed Greater Iran.[5] Speakers of Iranian languages, however, were once found throughout Eurasia, from the Balkans to western China.[6][7] As Iranian peoples are not confined to the borders of the current state of Iran, the term Iranic peoples is sometimes used to avoid confusion with the citizens of Iran.
    The series of ethnic groups which comprise the Iranian peoples are traced to a branch of the ancient Indo-European Aryans known as the Iranians or Proto-Iranians. Archaeological finds in Russia, Central Asia and the Middle East have elucidated some scant information about the way of life of these early peoples. The Iranian peoples have played an important role throughout history: the Achaemenid Persians established one of the world’s first multi-national states and the Scythian-Sarmatian nomads dominated the vast expanses of Russia and western Siberia for centuries with a group of Sarmatian warrior women possibly being the inspiration for the Greek legend of the Amazons.[8][9] In addition, the various religions of the Iranian peoples, including Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism, are believed by some scholars to be important early philosophical influences on Judeo-Christianity.[10] Early Iranian tribes are the ancestors of many modern peoples, including Persians, Kurds, Pashtuns and many other groups.
    According to the news the majority of Ossetians hold Russians passports and numbers of them are fleeing to Russia as refugees.
    Also Israel appears to have some kind of dog in this hunt so maybe this is another Isr’merica Neo enterprize.
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1010187.html
    “Jewish Georgian minister: Thanks to Israeli training, we’re fending off Russia”
    At any rate ..here’s your typical plea/cause in circulating in the press straight out of the neo talking points play book..”the whole world is in danger” if we don’t aid the actions of “democratic” Georgia…LOL:
    “One of the Georgian parliament members did not settle Saturday for the call for American aid, urging Israel to help stop the Russian offensive as well: “We need help from the UN and from our friends, headed by the United States and Israel. Today Georgia is in danger – tomorrow all the democratic countries in the region and in the entire world will be in danger too.”
    The gist of what I have gotten so far is that Georgia invaded South Ossetia claiming that South Ossetia created some incident on it’s borders. Then Russia stepped in to back up it’s peacekeeping forces in the region. If I have this wrong someone correct me.
    This confict strikes me as the same old shit stirring by the US. Saakashvili has been led down the garden path.

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  18. syvanen says:

    Booman has a good take on the Holbrook position. Basically, he is saying that whatever culpability that the US had in starting this war (which most of us here seem to accept) is irrelevant, what is most important is the that US must defend its position in the Caucasus that had been built by BushI and Clinton. Booman argues, correctly it seems to me, that the US foreign policy establishment, from both parties, believe that vital US interests require us to support Saaskashvilli. This is not just another neocon scam.
    I agree. But it also is likely true that the Iraq War fiasco has so weakened the US, that there is nothing the US can do today in Georgia to help out Saaskashvilli. Holbrooke, needs to realize that it is not 1999 anymore, we live in a new era, one that Bush has bequeathed us. Booman entitled his piece “Georgia is a reality check on the left”. A more accurate title should have been “Georgia is a reality check on Holbrooke”. I have thought for some time that Breczezinki (sp?) realized this early and it was the reason he has been so outspoken against the Iraq policies.

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  19. Linda says:

    All the foreign policy experts sound very much like a bunch of blind men trying to describe an elephant. That’s very sad when innocent people are dying in Georgia and American citizens will be paying for these foreign policy and military mistakes for decades to come.

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  20. Linda says:

    All the foreign policy experts sound very much like a bunch of blind men trying to describe an elephant. That’s very sad when innocent people are dying in Georgia and American citizens will be paying for these foreign policy and military mistakes for decades to come.

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  21. JamesL says:

    The noise machine is in full song. Widely conflicting perspectives have been advertised and sold, and commentors are now fighting each other, occupying salients that are too distant from each other to be mutually true. This is as it should be in America 2008: muddy the waters, obfuscate, keep America #1 in the hearts and minds.
    History has inertia and can’t be disregarded, no matter how much the N-Cons would like to be able to gift their own created reality to eveyone else.
    Hard data on the events would be helpful, but there’s not much reportage, and many are interested in altering the timeline to their benefit.
    If Georgia attacked a city, and Russia, as the assigned peacekeeper (what a concept for Americans to swallow), stepped in to stop that attack, then the Bush Cheney Rice line is BS. This seems to me to clearly be the case, based on blogs and comments of people who clearly seem to have a handle on that part of the world, and what news there is. If all those were missing, and I had to rely on US media (what a disheartenning thought) I’d still think the same thing, if for no other reason than the simplistic explanation of Bush/Cheney for the Georgia surprise has is not backed by any previous analytic success.
    Cheney says Russia’s move must not go unanswered. I think Dick should go to Georgia and figure it out on the spot. He’d have to get permission from Putin, of course, so that he and his porta potty could get there in one piece. Once he has triumphed there, he should stop by Baghdad on the return and stay there til he fixed that one too.

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  22. Zathras says:

    Just for the record, both the first Bush and the Clinton administrations went out of their way to avoid humiliating the Soviet and later the Russian government while the Communist empire was disintegrating.
    They both went beyond eschewing triumphalist rhetoric as captive nations were freed and the Russian army withdrew; they also declined to engage in post-mortems about Soviet Communism and the damage it had done both to Russia and around the world. The elder Bush’s administration was so tight with Gorbachev that Yeltsin’s rise took it by surprise; Clinton’s personal relationship with Yeltsin was so close that the United States ended up getting blamed in Russia for Yeltsin policies we had nothing to do with (and blamed elsewhere as well. Even today, some of the guerillas battling NATO forces in Afghanistan today are Chechens displaced by Russian offensives that the American government did not approve but about which it was mostly silent out of deference to Russian opinion). The current Bush administration has generally continued this line.
    There is much reason to doubt the wisdom of the course pursued by Clinton and the elder Bush, but the fact is that Russia and its current strongman would have little reason to feel humiliated if they did not consider the imperial, global superpower status enjoyed by the Soviet Union in the 1960s and ’70s to be the norm. The problem is that this is what Putin and many other Russians do think.
    Now, I understand that even for most politically engaged Americans, events in the Caucasus are not a focus of great concern. They will see such events as they do most foreign affairs, through the prism of American domestic politics. Were Georgia an antagonist of the current American administration and Bush as close to Putin as, say, Yeltsin was to Bill Clinton, some of the commenters here exchanging congratulations about an American ally getting its well-deserved comeuppance would be beside themselves with outrage over a dictator “propped up” by the United States violating the territory of his tiny neighbor.
    Steve Clemons does not have that excuse, and it is passing strange to read someone with his level of sophistication about foreign affairs writing about Russia and America and castigating America’s lack of self-reflection — as if Vladimir Putin or anyone working for him had ever come to terms with the reasons why Russia’s neighbors dread it so much. Of course, Russia is for the moment stronger than it was ten years ago; its interests deserve the same consideration any normal country’s would. But normal countries do not look for pretexts to send armored divisions across their neighbors’ borders, especially when their neighbors are former colonies. Russia has done this before, and is doing it again now.
    I very much doubt whether the careful eggshell-walking Steve Clemons seems to recommend will prevent Russia from doing later elsewhere what it is doing now in Georgia. I wonder where he draws the line beyond which we should not accomodate whatever Putin claims Russia’s interests to be. The fact that sending a Russian army across the Georgian border only makes him regret the way the United States recognized Kosovo’s independence makes me wonder if he would draw such a line at all, anywhere.

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  23. Carroll says:

    I think Russia is a compulsive obsessive disorder for the US policy establishment.
    And I really think one of the stupidest things in our history was the pissy US attitude toward Russia after WII and setting them up as an enemy.
    What a waste! If there was one country in the world I would choose to ally with it would be Russia.
    If the US neocons and their “democracy ruse” were gotten rid of the US could actually make some alliances that would provide some stability in the world.

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  24. JohnH says:

    Arun said, “Only if we know where we want to go do we have a chance of getting there, is it not? While you and the other experts may have ideas, it is not at all clear to me and others.” Exactly.
    But the last thing you will get from these self-proclaimed foreign policy “experts” is an honest, public discussion about America’s “vital strategic interests.” After years trying in vain to get Steve to define them in Iraq then Iran, I concluded that the foreign policy mafia consists largely of propagandists and polemists, not serious analysts.
    If the “experts” can’t clearly identify the stakes, and instead resort only to circumlocation, distraction, and deception, their commitment is not to serious analysis, but to a hidden agenda, serving the interests of an unknown, anti-democratic few.

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  25. Bill R. says:

    I can look at a map of the Black Sea. I know a little bit about Russian history. I know about the EUs utter dependence on Russia for energy. So why do we have such utter amateurs running our foreign policy and making these stupid miscalculations with horrible consequences for ordinary people??

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  26. WigWag says:

    PS: Holbrooke says this:
    “Beginning a well-planned war (including cyber-warfare) as the Olympics were opening violates the ancient tradition of a truce to conflict during the Games. And Russia’s willingness to create a war zone 25 miles from the Black Sea city of Sochi, where it is to host the Winter Games in 2014, hardly demonstrates its commitment to Olympic ideals.”
    Has the US declared a truce in Iraq or Afghanistan in honor of the Olympics that I don’t know about?

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  27. WigWag says:

    Curious Observer gets it exactly right. The reality is that the Bush/McCain neocons and the Clinton/Obama liberal internationalists are just two sides of the same coin.
    The Clinton Administration, with Holbrooke as one of the key players, pursued a policy towards Russia that was almost as bad as the Bush policy. It’s true; they didn’t abrogate the ABM treaty or place a missile defense system in Poland or the Czech Republic. But the Holbrooke policy of blaming Serbia for everything that went wrong in the Balkans while giving a free pass to Croatia and Bosnia was sure to embarrass the Russians (who at the time, were a powerless economic basket case.) And the Clinton administration was as enthusiastic about expanding NATO as the Bush administration is. (NATO expansion should have stopped permanently with Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic).
    I really hate to admit it, but the last President to manage a successful relationship with Russia/Soviet Union may have been George H.W. Bush.
    What we can anticipate from a McCain foreign policy is even worse. Certainly he would be more bellicose than Obama, but without any leverage over the Russians, this bellicosity would just hide a policy that’s equally feckless.
    Of course, Russian adventurism and the restoration of its military capabilities are fueled by oil that’s selling for more than $130 per barrel. Senator McCain’s delusion that he can drill our way out of our energy problems without doing anything else, must be music to Russian ears. As long as oil prices stay high, the Russian military will be getting more and more modern and Russia will be increasingly tempted to redress all of the perceived slights it has suffered since the end of the Cold War.

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  28. Arun says:

    Please before going into what the US should have done and what the US should do, can you outline what does the region mean strategically to the US? What long term outcome(s) would be in US interests?
    – Independent Ossetia and Abkhazia?
    – Russia also in NATO?
    – NATO all along Russia’s flank?
    – An economic union of East European states?
    – Doesn’t matter as long as whatever happens happens without war
    etc., etc.
    Only if we know where we want to go do we have a chance of getting there, is it not? While you and the other experts may have ideas, it is not at all clear to me and others.
    Once we know what the US interests are, then we can evaluate how past US actions are in line with those interests and what future actions ought to be.

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  29. JohnH says:

    It’s truly remarkable how all these foreign policy experts can talk about a situation while totally ignoring crucial drivers.
    I liken the Georgian situation to Panama circa 1989. The US invaded Panama and carried out regime change on the weakest of pretexts: safeguarding the lives of U.S. citizens, defending democracy and human rights, combating drug trafficking, and protecting the neutrality of the Panama canal.
    What was it really about? Any informed person would have had to realize it was about US domination of the Panama Canal. But by reading the news back then, it was hard to be informed. “News” organizations did everything they could to promote the idea that it was about anything but the canal.
    Now all these experts are writing all this blather about the history of Georgian-Russian relations, blah, blah, blah. While it is all probably factually correct, it all just a lot of noise, since it misses the point, just like press coverage of the Panama Invasion.
    The real issue is the BTC pipeline and who gets to control the flow of oil and gas from the Caspian to the West. It’s vitally important to Russia’s power and her role in the world.
    But most “analyses” barely touch on this subject. When you see “analyses” like these, you realize the foreign policy establishment’s almost maniacal commitment to obfuscating the real, underlying foreign policy issues from the public…just like they doggedly hid the role that oil played in the invasion of Iraq.

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  30. Curious observer says:

    Should we be surprised the Russophobe Holbrooke turns a blind eye to how U.S. meddling has made this bad situation so much worse?
    Let’s see: Elect Obama and liberal internationalists like Holbrooke drive the foreign policy ship. Elect McCain and the neocons drive the foreign policy ship. Neither scenario bodes well for U.S.-Russian relations. Why is common sense on Russia limited to the fringes?

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