Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Russia, Georgia, and yet another foreign policy failure for the Bush Administration

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Much has been written about the Russia-Georgia War of 2008 (i.e., the Russian invasion of Georgia) -- see, for example, Carol's recent round-up of reaction -- but make sure to check out Fred Kaplan's fine piece at Slate on "the Bush Administration's feckless response to the Russian invasion," from which I quote:

Regardless of what happens next, it is worth asking what the Bush people were thinking when they egged on Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's young, Western-educated president, to apply for NATO membership, send 2,000 of his troops to Iraq as a full-fledged U.S. ally, and receive tactical training and weapons from our military. Did they really think Putin would sit by and see another border state (and former province of the Russian empire) slip away to the West? If they thought that Putin might not, what did they plan to do about it, and how firmly did they warn Saakashvili not to get too brash or provoke an outburst?

It's heartbreaking, but even more infuriating, to read so many Georgians quoted in the New York
— officials, soldiers, and citizens — wondering when the United States is coming to their rescue. It's infuriating because it's clear that Bush did everything to encourage them to believe that he would. When Bush (properly) pushed for Kosovo's independence from Serbia, Putin warned that he would do the same for pro-Russian secessionists elsewhere, by which he could only have meant Georgia's separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Putin had taken drastic steps in earlier disputes over those regions — for instance, embargoing all trade with Georgia — with an implicit threat that he could inflict far greater punishment. Yet Bush continued to entice Saakashvili with weapons, training, and talk of entry into NATO. Of course the Georgians believed that if they got into a firefight with Russia, the Americans would bail them out.

Well, here's the deal:

a) The U.S. isn't about to bail out the Georgians. Warmongering neocons like Kagan and Kristol are talking tough, and ignorantly comparing Putin to Hitler, but they have no serious and workable plan.

b) Bush enticed Saakishvili, but he was never serious about coming between Georgia and Russia on behalf of Georgia. Indeed, Bush's support for Georgia, and Georgian democracy was as hollow as the rest of his "pro-democracy" rhetoric. That is, it's all talk. Basically, Bush set up Saakishvili and Georgia. Anyone who was paying any attention to what has been going on in Russia, and in the region, realized that this sort of response from Putin (or his puppet Medvedev) was possible.

c) Bush blew it and doesn't seem to have a clue what to do now. Diplomacy? This has been a presidency that has avoided diplomacy whenever and wherever possible. A military response? Absolutely not -- for that would mean war with Russia. (And aren't Bush and Putin good friends? Didn't Bush once peer into Putin's soul and see a kindred spirit? Well, maybe they are more kindred than most people think.)

d) Cheney reportedly told Saakishvili personally that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered." But what is the answer? Bush and Cheney and the rest of the tough-talking warmongers certainly don't have it.

All of which leaves Georgia at Russia's mercy, or lack thereof, and Saakishvili (and the rest of us who desire a diplomatic resolution) to look elsewhere for leadership and statesmanship of the sort that is required by a crisis such as this.

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  • We should not ignore the response of the McCain campaign with regards to the Russian invasion of Georgia. Especially the role of Randy Scheunemann who has lobbied on behalf of former Soviet republics for years. Scheunemann has a prominent advisory role in the McCain campaign.

    Issues of concern to voters: 1 - Conflict of interest vis a vis Scheunemann's role in the McCain campaign; 2 - allegations that colleagues of Scheunemann have failed to register as lobbyists for a foreign government, as required by law.

    Bottom line: Whereas the Georgia debacle represents one more foreign policy failure of the Bush administration, McCain promises not just more of the same but ups the ante to an even more dangerous level of bluster and failure.

    By Blogger Swampcracker, at 10:17 AM  

  • Like father, like son (c.f. Kurds, 1991)

    By Blogger Carl, at 2:08 PM  

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