Earlier today, I talked about the reactions of President Bush and Senators McCain and Obama to the Russian invasion of Georgia. At the end of that, I said that I’d revisit the topic, and look at just what can be done about the situation. I think that the best solution would be to handle it diplomatically and politically..
“Diplomacy,” though, being defined with the classic definitions. “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggie’ while reaching for a stick.” And “politically,” as in “war is the extension of politics by other means.”
Dafydd ab Hugh (who was so underhanded as to steal my title, and had the gumption to publish first!) has some ideas about how best to react to Russia’s moves in Georgia. I like a lot of his ideas, but I have to disagree with some of them.
First up, I don’t think that extending NATO membership to former Soviet slave states is a good idea. It would be seen as provocative, goading Russia into accelerating any aggressive intentions it has towards those nations. I’m sure they have the plans, and they would be right — it would be provocative. They might even consider jumping the gun, getting the invasions under way before the treaties are signed.
That would be a very, very dangerous situation. It was the beauties of interlocking treaties that was a large factor in triggering World War I. A modern-day conflict, between Russia and the West over its former slave states, would escalate very, very quickly.
For all they’ve fallen since the Bad Old Days of the Soviet Union, Russia is still a military superpower. A fight with them would be very bloody and very expensive. I also fear that the wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson would be borne out: “when you strike against a king, you must kill him.” This fight would become a matter of “win or die” for the Russians, much like the Japanese at the end of World War II, and I don’t believe we have anything as much of an eye-opener as the atomic bombs.
No, engaging the Russians militarily — or preparing or threatening to — is too risky a move. Some of Dafydd’s other ideas, though, might work.
Senator McCain has recommended expelling Russia from the G-8, the eight leading industrial and economic powers of the world (the other seven being the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Italy, as well as the European Union collectively). That would be a good move, I think; Russia put a lot of fuss into admission, and it will be a blow to their pride to cast them out.
Economic sanctions could also be a good move. I don’t agree with some people who argue for using grain for this, though — I find using food as a weapon a bit repugnant. But other imports and exports, as well as financial arrangements, can and should be re-examined and reconsidered in light of Russia’s actions.
Support for Georgia is problematic. We’ve already given them extensive training, and supplied them with some munitions. Giving weapons to resistance forces is a time-honored tradition, and it worked pretty well in helping the Afghans bleed the Soviet bear white in the 1970’s and 1980’s. (It also ended up with the Taliban taking power, largely facilitated by the US losing interest in Afghanistan once the Soviets lost interest, and that cost us dearly in the long run, but I don’t think that would be inevitable here.) It also runs the risk of pushing the Russians into escalating the fighting into wholesale conquest and slaughter, and that could spill over into other former slave states.
An element of an ideal solution would involve a way for the Russians to save face somehow, to back away without having to admit defeat or error. As satisfying as that would be, it would be very expensive in the long run.
Maybe an agreement for both Russia and Georgia to both withdraw from both North and South Ossetia, and bring in some peacekeeping forces (NOT from the UN, please — they almost always make any situations worse) to keep the areas secure. Both regions would become temporary protectorates of a third party or a coalition of third parties, while Georgia and Russia negotiate — honestly negotiate — about their future. And the people of Ossetia would have a seat at that table, too.
In the meantime, though, the fighting goes on in Georgia. Russian troops are killing more civilians, destroying more property, and tearing down a democratically-elected government that is a staunch US ally. That needs to be stopped, and stopped now.
If Russia proves truly intransigent, then we need to threaten with the greatest weapon at our disposal. We should warn them that if they don’t start behaving themselves, we will be sending over Code Pink, the International Solidarity Movement, and all those other psycho “peace” groups that have plagued us for far too long.
If that doesn’t bring Russia to the table now, nothing short of nuclear weapons will.