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  • Russia, Georgia and the USA

    Posted by Jonathan on August 12th, 2008 (All posts by )

    Glenn Reynolds quotes:

    SPENGLER: “If Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were president of the United States, would Iran try to build a nuclear bomb? Would Pakistan provide covert aid to al-Qaeda? Would Hugo Chavez train terrorists in Venezuela? Would leftover nationalities with delusions of grandeur provoke the great powers?”

    Let me rephrase the question: If George W. Bush hadn’t abandoned his tough policy toward Iran, Syria and the Palestinians, would leftover superpowers with delusions of restored empire invade their independent former provinces?

     

    27 Responses to “Russia, Georgia and the USA”

    1. Phil Fraering Says:

      We’re also not the ones who sold a nuclear reactor to Iran.

      The Russians have been lining up this game of “Let’s You and Him Fight” long before Putin, to back in the days of the supposedly pro-western Yeltsin.

    2. Lexington Green Says:

      “If George W. Bush hadn’t abandoned his tough policy toward Iran, Syria and the Palestinians, would leftover superpowers with delusions of restored empire invade their independent former provinces?”

      Bush didn’t abandon anything. He ran out of assets. Iraq and Afghanistan have consumed our assets. He failed to match ends to means.

      Russia is being smart. There is no one willing or able to stop them and they are reasserting control in a critical area, which will allow them to control access to Central Asian oil and gas. They are doing what is good for them. They are also, wisely, doing things in a way which maximizes brutality and violence. Littering the roadsides with the charred body parts of women and children makes people fear Russia, which is also good for Russia. They had lost the respect of their neighbors. Also, thier humiliating failures in Chechnya had to be redeemed. This rapid overrunning of Georgia is showing that the Russian military has regained its ability to deal with small, rebellious provinces. Georgia’s “independence” was a result of Russian weakness, which turned out to be temporary. Bush going in there and folk-dancing jammed a stick in Russia’s eye. The Russians have now responded.

      Putin is playing his cards very wisely, to the advantage of his country.

    3. Lexington Green Says:

      BTW, the Spengler piece is excellent.

    4. Helen Says:

      I hope you and Spengler will still be admiring Putin, Lex, when Russia turns its attention to the Baltic States – plenty there to control and they became independent only because Russia was weak. Or was that the Soviet Union? One gets really confused. Or do you believe that now that Russia has taught Georgia a lesson she will be satisfied? Even realpolitik, which is presumably what this is all about, tells you that giving in to the Russians is a very bad move.

    5. capitano Says:

      If Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were president of the United States, would Democrat politicians (and their supporters in the mainstream media) have the guts to sell out U.S. national security in a cynical bid to regain complete political power?

    6. Jonathan Says:

      Putin is playing his cards very wisely, to the advantage of his country.

      Putin is playing his cards wisely for the benefit of himself and his oligarchy. The other people in his country might benefit more from different policies.

      Bush abandoned. He made a policy U-turn in all but name. We acquiesced to Syrian/Hezbollah/Iranian domination in Lebanon, to paying off the PA gangsters again, and to Iranian and NK nukes. Our assets had little relevance WRT Lebanon and the Palestinians: those were discretionary policy shifts that we need not have made. Bush screwed up. He delegated policy to Rice and she was not up to it.

      Our actions over the past year or so made clear to Putin that he could get away with it. In hindsight, the only question that remained was timing. He picked a good time.

      We do ourselves no favors by acquiescing here. The Georgian drama seems likely to be repeated elsewhere eventually. If that happens, will you say that we again have inadequate options to do anything but acquiesce?

    7. Jonathan Says:

      Helen beat me to it.

    8. david foster Says:

      Pretty clear that Europe is going to wind up in a situation in which they are utterly dependent on Russia for natural gas, and–absent extraordinary political courage–will dance to that country’s tune.

      If Europe’s leaders want to avoid this fate, then:

      1)They should build major LNG import facilities
      2)Coal-to-gas and coal-to-liquids technologies should be deployed on a commercial scale
      3)Germany should abandon its idiotic plan to phase out nuclear power

    9. Lexington Green Says:

      “Pretty clear that Europe is going to wind up in a situation in which they are utterly dependent on Russia for natural gas, and–absent extraordinary political courage–will dance to that country’s tune.”

      Ha. So Russia ends up winning the Cold War after all, without a shot being fired. Funny how nothing stands still.

      “We do ourselves no favors by acquiescing here.”

      I don’t see anything we can realistically do that will have any impact. The Georgians are not going to put up a resistance like the Chechens and Afghans, since they are not Muslims, no longer believe in any religion, and are therefore afraid to die. There won’t be any Georgian mujahedin to support. The Russians sell oil and gas to Europe. The Europeans cannot withstand a disruption of their fuel supply. They will make verbal gestures, at most, and hope it blows over quickly and quietly. We have no leverage with Russia. We will make verbal objections, then get on with life.

      Helen’s question about what if they go after the Baltics is a good one. The short answer is that an open invasion would provoke a lot more political outrage in the USA, and Putin probably does not want that level of conflict. He will probably use a longterm campaign of harassment and cooption and blackmail and bribery to bring them back under Russian control. Again, Europe will acquiesce rather than suffer any interruption to their energy supplies. And as long as Russia is not too overt about it, the USA will ignore it.

      I don’t have to like any of this. I just see the logic of it all. Russia has money now, and is rebuilding its military power, and it is signalling that it is going to demand respect, which it understands as fear and obedience.

    10. fred lapides Says:

      If Putin were president of the US, would he have been in the GOP or a Democrat?
      Spengler, usually wise and very much on target, here, posits a silly hypothesis…would congress go along with “President Putin”?

    11. Lexington Green Says:

      Zenpundit has a good, link-heavy post which is worlds better than my idle speculations.

    12. Lexington Green Says:

      Link to Zenpundit.

    13. fred lapides Says:

      Here are photos of the war in Ossetia, posted at my porn site, but now you can feel safe without a visit.

      http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/08/war_in_south_ossetia.html

    14. Helen Says:

      Actually, the whole idea is silly. Someone like Putin could not be president of a democratic country. I should have thought that was pretty obvious.

      As to him acting in the interests of his country or the people, I agree with Jonathan. Whipping up fear and hatred against all your neighbours, which is what happened over all past confrontations, especially the ones Russia lost (remember the bronze soldier in Estonia?) is hardly a good thing. What exactly will Russia gain from getting bogged down in Georgia and wherever else Putin might decide to go except a rather tenuous feeling of being the big bully on the block?

    15. Methinks Says:

      I just see the logic of it all. Russia has money now, and is rebuilding its military power, and it is signalling that it is going to demand respect, which it understands as fear and obedience.

      As Jonathan pointed out – as long as you understand that your definition of “Russia” is Putin and his oligarchs. They are restructuring a modern version of Soviet totalitarianism, complete with a new Nomenklatura.

    16. Methinks Says:

      Actually, the whole idea is silly. Someone like Putin could not be president of a democratic country.

      I think a lot of politicians are just like Putin. However, our constitution provides so many checks and balances that they are forced to moderate the tyrant within.

      Whipping up fear and hatred against all your neighbours, which is what happened over all past confrontations,

      And a common tool of the Soviet Union as well. Let’s also not leave out whipping up fear of Putin and his cronies within the country.

    17. gs Says:

      David Foster says:

      Pretty clear that Europe is going to wind up in a situation in which they are utterly dependent on Russia for natural gas, and–absent extraordinary political courage–will dance to that country’s tune. (p)If Europe’s leaders want to avoid this fate, then:

      4)They should publicly call for the US to develop its untapped energy resources.

    18. Mitch Says:

      1. Resentment over lost glory – check.
      2. An incomprehensible defeat behind the lines without losing on the battlefield – check.
      3. Stranded ethnic kin oppressed in nearby countries – check.
      4. Rebuilding national pride and the national armed forces – check.
      5. A strong leader to suppress the chaos left by his weak predecessors – check.
      6. The nation’s industrial might serving the nation’s political will – check.

      I don’t think we’re going to like how it turns out this time, either.

    19. Boonton Says:

      Something to think about: If McCain had his way, Georgia would be a NATO member (http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0808/McCain_Move_Georgia_toward_NATO_membership.html). This could have resulted in two possible things:

      1. Russia wouldn’t have attacked, not wanting to risk a war with the US.

      2. Russia would have attacked and we now would be asking ourselves should we declar war on a nuclear power or risk seeing the collective security guarantee of NATO diminished.

    20. Roy Lofquist Says:

      I’ve seen a lot of sentiment over the last few days that Bush has somehow not been forceful enough – maybe even timid. You folks just haven’t really watched him very closely since 2001.

      Remember when Pakistan had an epiphany – the Taliban, which they founded, trained and supplied, were really not such nice people and henceforth Pakistan stands foursquare with the US? That followed a personal visit from Darth Cheney.

      It is the Bush way to let the other guy save face – anyway he chooses – as long as he cooperates. When Bush said he demanded that the Russians withdraw many said that it was not sufficiently strong. Bush chooses his words very carefully. World leaders know that he is a most serious hombre. The real message, as he announced by having a very public heated but inaudible discussion with Putin at the Olympics, is that Russia really crossed the line and he was not going to put up with it.

      Bush has a reputation of being an astute poker player. He is more than willing to give the other guy bragging rights. As long as he puts the chips in his own pocket.

      How does this affect Iran? The Russians may deliver the message that, no matter what you believe, he’ll smash you like a bug if he has to. Some good may come of this.

    21. gs Says:

      RealClearPolitics has collected Bush’s, McCain’s and Obama’s statements about Georgia. RCP left out the White House correction of Bush’s gaffe.

      Of the three, McCain is the only one to attempt to present the crisis in terms of America’s national interest.

      Boonton, please note that McCain and Obama both support NATO membership for Georgia. That has also been Bush’s policy.

      If it’s not in our interest to help Georgia when it’s attacked, what were we thinking when we accepted their troops in Iraq? (IMO it’s plausible that we have airlifted aid.)

    22. Helen Says:

      A lot in what you say, Roy. The final communique of the NATO summit proves that. Certainly, the six points, which appear to be the basis for the peace between Russia and Georgia seem to be quite inadequate from the Russian point of view. They have gained very little beyond a couple of troublesome regions, which will now be their problem. Of course, they may not be telling Sarkozy their real intentions of they may have had more of a mauling than we realize. Or Bush really did threaten them with something serious.

    23. Helen Says:

      By Russian, I meant the Kremlin’s, of course. I seriously doubt that many Russians really wanted a war with Georgia.

    24. Jonathan Says:

      I hope that Roy’s analysis is correct.

    25. Boonton Says:

      If it’s not in our interest to help Georgia when it’s attacked, what were we thinking when we accepted their troops in Iraq?

      Didn’t we accept aid from a lot of nations? Since when is accepting aid accepting an obligation for mutual defense? I think it was sensible to establish that Russia would not recreate the USSR by extening Nato but is it wise to bring it all the way to Russia’s doorstep?

      Boonton, please note that McCain and Obama both support NATO membership for Georgia. That has also been Bush’s policy.

      If this is the case then all three should seriously rethink this policy. Would we really go to war with a nuclear power for Georgia’s sake? I don’t think so and we won’t we shouldn’t promise them something we can’t give.

    26. Ginny Says:

      I prefer Ray’s sense something better is going on than what we see – and hope that is true. (Why do people who see order beneath disorder seem more right than the opposite – despite the fact that the latter is the plot of half the movies Hollywood puts out.)

      I would like to think that because its settles my fear – that this is a period more like that between 1938 and 1941, when we should have connected dots, but apparently just didn’t want to. This has seemed true of what has been happening with fanatics in the middle east for decades, but now what has been happening in Russia. Mitch points to analogies. They don’t seem all that weak. Mearsheimer’s old argument about the long peace made similar observations about what led to war. Believing your neighbors are inferior but dangerous is core to Russian beliefs – and core to his argument.

      Does anyone know what Schroeder has been saying? This may be off point, but I don’t know. Certainly, it is not a hidden conspiracy. Which is a little more depressing – the whole process of getting his job did not give confidence in, shall we say, his integrity or statesmanship – and is apparently not a cause for which he feels shame – but then, I’m not sure he took oil-for-food dollars and those that did don’t seem all that ashamed, either. So, Here is some old news – Shroeder to Build Putin’s Pipeline”and Putin Promises Split in German Coalition. I haven’t found anything later. But I’m not always adept at googling. Most of you keep up better than I do. And some of this seems designed to make Europe more vulnerable in the near future.

    27. Anthony F Riordan Jr. Says:

      One of the greatest Rope a Dopes in history is that the US has no ASSETS. The US has used it hired private army and its reserves and not its main army. It will be a shock to the world when they push for an attack thinking they are safe and we send in 500,000 well trained soldiers that have been sitting back around the world waiting for the day to get into the action. Wake up world, our government is not that stupid.

      Anthony Riordan
      Riordanenergy@gmail.com
      rescuamericasvoice.blogspot.com