Monday, August 11, 2008

Reactions To Russian Run-up

By Carol Gee

The leaders in United States and the European Union have made a number of pronouncements about the war between Russia and Georgia. And, yes, most everyone calls it a war. What are others saying? Here is a little round-up of reactions:

  • Memeorandum leads with this story by Tony Halpin of the Times of London (8/11/08): "We helped in Iraq - now help us, beg Georgians." Conservative blog, Michelle Malkin's "see-dubya" asks (August 11), "Is Georgia in 2008 like Hungary in 1956?

    I’ve said before that America needs to take up for her allies. It keeps the world safe. . . Unless I’m mistaken, we’ve signed no security guarantees with Georgia. But we are discussing bringing them into NATO, we’re training and supplying their soldiers, and they’ve been fighting in Iraq on our side.

    So we’re not bound to do anything to help Georgia–except by our commitment to supporting freedom and opposing tyranny around the world. We’ve staked much of our identity as a nation on exactly that commitment,

  • MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI, the President of Georgia, wrote a fascinating opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal today titled, "The War in Georgia Is a War for the West." He begins poignantly, "As I write, Russia is waging war on my country."

  • RedState'sTomlinsonDouthat's Diary, headlines, "Georgia and the American National Interest," discussing --in the author's conservative words -- "Georgia as an ally, Russia's influence on NATO, Russian imperial designs,the democracy project, the Gulf War Precedent, American military overstretch, oil," and concluding:

    The last few days of reports from Washington do not give confidence that the Bush administration fully appreciates the potential gravity of this situation, nor that they are willing to take any significant steps in addressing it. I hope that further consideration will show them all that is at stake. We must stand with Georgia.

  • William Kristol, at the New York Times, wonders predictably, "Will Russia Get Away With It?"

  • The Carpetbagger's Report's Steve Benen rightly takes Fox News to task for its insistence on a gossipy John Edwards focus, at the expense of discussing the Russia-Georgia situation.

Continuing on with a variety of Progressive reactions that stand in contrast to Conservatives, you can take your pick of a range of ideas about how this dire foreign policy eventuality came about and who might be at fault:

  • Steve Clemons at The Washington Note, skilfully examines today responsibility for this crisis, and on August 9: "Georgia-Russia Clash: American Culpability and the Kosovo Connection."

  • For thorough coverage of U.S. government leaders' responses, check out McClatchy's story that concludes:

    . . . the Bush administration, which has equipped and trained the Georgian army, sharpened its response to what it called Russia's "disproportionate" response over South Ossetia.

    U.S. C-17s began flying home the 2,000 Georgian troops serving in Iraq. . .

    Speaking at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov admitted in a phone call with Secretary of Rice that Moscow wants Saakashvili replaced. . . Asked by Khalilizad if Russia sought "regime change," Russian Ambassador Vitali Churkin replied tartly, "Regime change is purely an American invention."

    Khalilzad, whose native Afghanistan was invaded and occupied by the former Soviet Union in 1979, later told reporters: "The days of overthrowing leaders by military means in Europe, those days are gone."

  • The Washington Post's perspective is more "on the ground" in Europe. The headline quotes Russian President Medvedev: "Operations in Georgia Almost Complete." To quote further:

    The remarks from the Russian president, made to the Interfax news agency, as well as comments from other Russian military officials, appeared to play down the possibility of a broader Russian move beyond the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

    . . . The Georgian army, suffering massive casualties in the face of overwhelming Russian firepower, retreated from South Ossetia on Sunday. Georgian leaders' recent expressions of defiance turned increasingly into pleas for a cease-fire and Western support in the face of a military debacle.

    . . . France currently holds the presidency of the European Union and is proposing a settlement that includes an immediate end to hostilities, the withdrawal of forces to positions held before the war, the replacement of Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia with an international force, and respect for Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia. The region seized de facto independence by force of arms in 1992, but internationally it is still recognized as being part of Georgia.

  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, according to Memeorandum and Nathan Gardels at The Huffington Post, says "Russia's Invasion of Georgia is reminiscent of Stalin's attack on Finland." Taylor Marsh hosts guest blogger, Mark Allen Haverty on the "history of Georgia, Russia and South Ossetia."

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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  • Let us not be taken in by neo-con claptrap about defending freedom and democracy. The war between Georgia and Russia is another gigantic foreign policy blunder of the Bush administration. A few sobering facts before you grab your guns to defend Tiblisi:

    * Saakashvili miscalculated. He assumed the Americans would rush to his aid without even asking, i.e without getting his ducks in a row.

    * When you cultivate an ally in a troubled region, make sure the ally is on the same page. Saakashvili did not confer with Washington before his adventurism on Ossetia.

    * Saakashvili violated an Olympic tradition: He started a war on the opening day.

    * War with Georgia is Russia’s payback for a belligerent and unilateral foreign policy that has irked Russia for years, most notably our handling of Kosovo’s independence, and our plan for a missile shield in Poland, among other issues.

    What the U.S. has lost in the bargain:

    * Russian cooperation on “loose nukes.”

    * Russian cooperation on the Security Council with respect to containing Iran’s nuclear program.

    * Political stability in the former Soviet-bloc states.

    Way to go, neo-con jerks! Now it looks like a return to cold war conditions at a time when we can least afford it.

    By Blogger Swampcracker, at 4:00 PM  

  • Good to hear from you, ecophotos. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.
    Your analysis seems spot on to me, particularly what the U.S has lost in the bargain. I would add one thing -- the opportunity to get more of a working relationship with Medvedev, the new President of Russia.
    There is an old Texas saying about the bunch in the White House being the only ones who could "mess up a two-car funeral."

    By Blogger Carol Gee, at 5:53 PM  

  • Hi Carol. Some Olympics observers commented on Bush’s demeanor after he had talked to Putin. Some noted that Bush appeared inattentive, fidgety, and petulant. I don’t think these observers connected the context of Bush’s demeanor to the Georgia situation.

    It seems to me that Bush appeared more than annoyed. Did he realize how his administration got caught unawares and unprepared? That his Georgian policy just got smoked? That he is devoid of arrows in his quiver? That the world may have again changed as it did after 9/11?

    Putin returned to Russia within hours. Bush remained at the Olympic games. Tells you a lot, doesn’t it? One would think Bush would want to convene a meeting with advisors to discuss strategy instead of stewing visibly in public at the Olympic games. For me, that moment summed up the failures of the past 8 years.

    By Blogger Swampcracker, at 9:08 PM  

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