Pamela on the Georgia disaster:
They are waving American flags ….Â poor bastards. Counting on America is like counting onÂ Paris HiltonÂ (with friends like us)
Watch this video.Â Who is next indeed?Â Â
Bolton eviscerates the administration and the West for its spinelessness in dealing with Russia. It’s lengthy but it’s the best analysis out there – soÂ go hereand read it:
After Russia’s invasion of Georgia, what now for the West?Â John R BoltonÂ
At least for now, the smoke seems to be clearing from the Georgian battlefield. But the extent of the wreckage reaches far beyond that small country.
As bad as the bloodying of Georgia is, the broader consequences are worse. The United States fiddled while Georgia burned, not even reaching the right rhetorical level in its public statements until three days after the Russian invasion began, and not, at least to date, matching its rhetoric with anything even approximating decisive action.Â This pattern is the very definition of a paper tiger. Sending Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice to Tbilisi is touching, but hardly reassuring; dispatching humanitarian assistance is nothing more than we would have done if Georgia had been hit by a natural rather than a man-made disaster.
The European Union took the lead in diplomacy, with results approaching Neville Chamberlain’s moment in the spotlight at Munich:Â a ceasefire that failed to mention Georgia’s territorial integrity, and that all but gave Russia permission to continue its military operations as a “peacekeeping” force anywhere in Georgia. More troubling, over the long term, was that the EU saw its task as being mediator â€“ its favourite role in the world â€“ between Georgia and Russia, rather than an advocate for the victim of aggression.
Even this dismal performance was enough to relegate Nato to an entirely backstage role, while Russian tanks and planes slammed into a “faraway country”, as Chamberlain once observed so thoughtfully.Â In New York, paralysed by the prospect of a Russian veto, the UN Security Council, that Temple of the High-Minded, was as useless as it was during the Cold War. In fairness to Russia, it at least still seems to understand how to exercise power in the Council, which some other Permanent Members often appear to have forgotten.
The West, collectively, failed in this crisis. Georgia wasted its dime making that famous 3am telephone call to the White House, the one Hillary Clinton referred to in a campaign ad questioning Barack Obama’s fitness for the Presidency. Moreover, the blood on the Bear’s claws did not go unobserved in other states that were once part of the Soviet Union. Russia demonstrated unambiguously that it could have marched directly to Tbilisi and installed a puppet government before any Western leader was able to turn away from the Olympic Games. It could, presumably, do the same to them.
Fear was one reaction Russia wanted to provoke, and fear it has achieved, not just in the “Near Abroad” but in the capitals of Western Europe as well.Â But its main objective was hegemony, a hegemony it demonstrated by pledging to reconstruct Tskhinvali, the capital of its once and no-longer-future possession, South Ossetia.Â The contrast is stark: a real demonstration of using sticks and carrots, the kind that American and European diplomats only talk about. Moreover, Russia is now within an eyelash of dominating the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, the only route out of the Caspian Sea region not now controlled by either Russia or Iran. Losing this would be dramatically unhelpful if we hope for continued reductions in global petroleum prices, and energy independence from unfriendly, or potentially unfriendly, states.
Europe’s rejection this spring of President Bush’s proposal to start Ukraine and Georgia towards Nato membership was the real provocation to Russia, because it exposed Western weakness and timidity. As long as that perception exists in Moscow, the risk to other former Soviet territories â€“ and in precarious regions such as the Middle East â€“ will remain.
Obviously, not all former Soviet states are as critical to Nato as Ukraine, because of its size and strategic location, or Georgia, because of its importance to our access to the Caspian Basin’s oil and natural gas reserves.Â Moreover, not all of them meet fundamental Nato prerequisites. But we must now review our relationship with all of them. This, in effect, Nato failed to do after the Orange and Rose Revolutions, leaving us in our present untenable position.
By its actions in Georgia, Russia has made clear that its long-range objective is to fill that “gap” if we do not.Â That, as Western leaders like to say, is “unacceptable”.Â By drawing the line clearly, we are not provoking Russia, but doing just the opposite: letting them know that aggressive behaviour will result in costs that they will not want to bear, thus stabilising a critical seam between Russia and the West. In effect, we have already done this successfully with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Accordingly, we should have a foreign-minister-level meeting of Nato to reverse the spring capitulation at Bucharest, and to decide that Georgia and Ukraine will be Nato’s next members.Â
Second, the United States needs some straight talk with our friends in Europe, which ideally should have taken place long before the assault on Georgia. To be sure, American inaction gave French President Sarkozy and the EU the chance to seize the diplomatic initiative.Â However, Russia did not invade Georgia with diplomats or roubles, but with tanks. This is a security threat, and the proper forum for discussing security threats on the border of a Nato member â€“ yes, Europe, this means Turkey â€“ is Nato.
Saying this may cause angst in Europe’s capitals, but now is the time toÂ find out if Nato can withstand a potential renewed confrontation with Moscow, or whether Europe will cause Nato to wilt. Far better to discover this sooner rather than later, when the stakes may be considerably higher.Â If there were ever a moment since the fall of the Berlin Wall when Europe should be worried, this is it.Â If Europeans are not willing to engage through Nato, that tells us everything we need to know about the true state of health of what is, after all, supposedly a “North Atlantic” alliance.
Finally, the most important step will take place right here in the United States.Â With a Presidential election on November 4, Americans have an opportunity to take our own national pulse, given the widely differing reactions to Russia’s blitzkrieg from Senator McCain and (at least initially) Senator Obama. First reactions, before the campaigns’ pollsters and consultants get involved, are always the best indicators of a candidate’s real views.Â McCain at once grasped the larger, geostrategic significance of Russia’s attack, and the need for a strong response, whereas Obama at first sounded as timorous and tentative as the Bush Administration. Ironically, Obama later moved closer to McCain’s more robust approach, followed only belatedly by Bush.
In any event, let us have a full general election debate over the implications of Russia’s march through Georgia. Even before this incident,McCain had suggested expelling Russia from the G8; others have proposed blocking Russia’s application to join the World Trade Organisation or imposing economic sanctions as long as Russian troops remain in Georgia. Obama has assiduously avoided specifics in foreign policy â€“ other than withdrawing speedily from Iraq â€“ but that luxury should no longer be available to him. We need to know if Obama’s reprise of George McGovern’s 1972 campaign theme, “Come home, America”, is really what our voters want, or if we remain willing to persevere in difficult circumstances, as McCain has consistently advocated.Â Querulous Europe should hope, for its own sake, that America makes the latter choice.
PHOTO: Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili reacts during a rally in Tbilisi, Georgia, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008. Some thousands of Georgians gathered Tuesday in an emphatic show of support for President Mikhail Saakashvili after the country came under attack from Russian forces.
UPDATE:Â Read it all, and then after sufficient frustrationÂ read Glick and weep:
In their statements Wednesday on Russia’s invasion of Georgia,Â both US President George W. Bush andÂ Secretary of StateCondoleezza Rice openly acknowledged thatÂ RussiaÂ is the aggressor in the war and that the US stands by Georgia.
This is all very nice and well. But what does the fact that it took the US a full five days to issue a clear statement against Russian aggression tell us about the US?Â What does it say about Georgia and, in a larger sense, about the nature of world affairs?
Russia’s blitzkrieg in Georgia this week was not simply an act of aggression against a small, weak democracy. It was an assault on vital Western security interests. Since it achieved independence in 1990, Georgia has been the only obstacle in Russia’s path to exerting full control over oil supplies from Central Asia toÂ the West. And now, in the aftermath of Russia’s conquest of Georgia, that obstacle has been set aside.
Georgia has several oil and gas pipelines that traverse its territory from Azerbaijan to Turkey, the main one being the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Together they transport more than 1 percent of global oil supplies from east to west. In response to the Russian invasion, British Petroleum, which owns the pipelines, announced that it will close them.
This means thatÂ RussiaÂ has won. In the future that same oil and gas will either be shipped throughÂ Russia, or it will be shipped through Georgia under the benevolent control of Russian “peacekeeping” forces permanently stationed in Gori.Â The WestÂ now has no option other than appeasingÂ RussiaÂ if it wishes to receive its oil from the Caucasus.
Russian control of these oil arteries represents as significant a threat to Western strategic interests as Saddam Hussein’s conquest of Kuwait and his threat to invade Saudi Arabia in 1990. Like Saddam’s aggression then, Russia’s takeover of Georgia threatens the stability of the international economy.
While Russia’s invasion of Georgia is substantively the same as Saddam’s attempt toÂ assert control over Persian Gulf oil producers 18 years ago, what is different is the world’s response. Eighteen years ago, the US led a UN-mandated international coalition to defeat Iraq and roll back Saddam’s aggression. Today,Â the WestÂ is encouraging Georgia to surrender.
Whether due to exhaustion over the domestic fights about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, dependence on Russian oil supplies, a residual and unjustified belief thatÂ RussiaÂ will side withÂ the WestÂ in a confrontation with Iran over its nuclear weapons program, or the absence of an easy option for defending Georgia, it is manifestly clear that todayÂ the WestÂ is fully willing to accept complete Russian control of oil supplies from Central Asia.
Notwithstanding the strong statements issued Wednesday
by Bush and Rice,Â the WestÂ has taken two steps to make its willingness to accept Russia’s moves clear. First, there was French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s photogenic mediation-tour to Moscow and Tbilisi on Tuesday. And second there was the US’s response to Sarkozy’s shuttle diplomacy on Wednesday.
Sarkozy’s mediation efforts signaled nothing less than Europe’s abandonment of Georgia.Â During his visit to Moscow, where he met with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and Putin’s Charlie McCarthy doll, “President” Dmitry Medvedev, Sarkozy agreed to a six-point document setting out the terms of the cease-fire and the basis for “peace” talks to follow.
The document’s six points included the following principles: The non-use of force; a cease-fire; a guarantee of access to humanitarian aid; the garrisoning of Georgian military forces; the continued deployment of Russian forces in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and anywhere else they wish to go; and an international discussion of the political status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
As a reporter for France’sÂ LiberationÂ noted, by agreeing to the document France abandoned the basic premise that Georgia’s territorial integrity should be respected byÂ Russia. Moreover, by leaving Russian forces in the country and giving them the right to deploy wherever they deem necessary, Sarkozy accepted Russian control of Georgia. By grounding Georgian forces in their garrisons, (or what is left of them after most of Georgia’s major military bases were either destroyed or occupied by Russian forces), Sarkozy’s document denies Georgia the right to defend itself from future Russian aggression.
“We shouldn’t make any moral judgments on this war. Stopping the war, that’s what we’re interested in,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner explained, adding, “Don’t ask us who’s good and who’s bad here.”
Then there is the fact thatÂ GeorgiaÂ has gone out of its way to liberalize and democratize its society andÂ political systemand to be a loyal ally to the US. It sent significant forces to Iraq and Kosovo. Far from returning the favor, in Georgia’s hour of need, all the US agreed to do was give Georgian forces a free plane ride home from Iraq. That the administration has no intention of defending its loyal ally was made clearÂ Wednesday afternoonÂ when the Pentagon sharply denied Georgian claims that the US would defend Georgian airports and seaports from Russian aggression.
The Pentagon’s blunt denial of any plan to restore Georgian sovereignty was one of the first truly credible statements issued by the US Defense Department on the conflict. It took the US four days to acknowledge Russian aggression beyond South Ossetia.Â Even as convoys of journalists were shelled, civilian’s homes were bombed, and Georgian military bases were destroyed by Russian forces in Gori, a Defense Department official said, “We don’t see anything that supports [the Russians] are in Gori. I don’t know why the Georgians are saying that.”
The general lesson that emerges from Washington’s claims of ignorance is that reality itself is of no concern to policy-makers bent on ignoring it. Through its obvious lies, Washington was able to justify taking no action of any sort against Russia and not speaking out in defense ofÂ GeorgiaÂ until after Russia forcedÂ GeorgiaÂ to surrender its sovereignty through the French mediators.
The US and European willingness to letÂ GeorgiaÂ fall despite its strategic importance, despite the fact that it has operated strictly within the bounds of international law, and despite its obvious ideological affinity and loyalty to them will have enormous repercussions for the West’s relations with Ukraine, the Baltic States, Poland and the Czech Republic. But its aftershocks will not be limited to Europe. They will reverberate in the Middle East as well. And Israel, for one, should take note of what has transpired.
If nothing else comes of it, the West’s response to the rape ofÂ GeorgiaÂ should end that delusion.Â GeorgiaÂ did almost everything right. And like Israel was, for its actionsÂ GeorgiaÂ was celebrated in the West with platitudes of enduring friendship and empty promises of alliances that were discarded the moment Russia invaded.
GeorgiaÂ only made one mistake, and for that mistake it will pay an enormous price.Â As it steadily built alliances, it forgot to build an army. Israel has an army. It has just forgotten why its survival depends on our willingness to use it.
If we are unwilling to use our military to defeat our enemies, we will lose everything.Â This is the basic, enduring truth of international affairs that we have ignored at our peril. No matter what we do, it will always be the case. For this is the nature of world affairs, and the nature of man.