Monday, August 18, 2008

Russia Holds All The Cards...

Reading the bloviations from Secretary Rice and the White House concerning Iraq is physically painful. The utter shameless and hypocrisy crystallized into tangible form with UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad's statement that the days of violence to settle political disputes are over... "in Europe." John McCain's unwavering support of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is baffling, until one learns of his campain manager's connections to the current Georgian regime, McCain's virulent Russophobia, and his megalomaniacal thirst for war.

The unfortunate truth now is that thanks to seven years of a schizophrenic and masochistic American foreign policy, John McCain and famed Gen. George S. Patton might agree on something - war might be the only thing the Russians will understand.

What other option does NATO have if it wishes to "punish" Russia, like an errant child? Russia is marginalized in G-8 talks discussing currency priorities. There is little hope for Russia to join the World Trade Organization as long as Ukraine and Georgia raise objections. The NATO-Russia council has failed answer key Russian policy objectives like averting the bombing of Russia's ally Serbia; the invasion of Iraq; European deployment of missile defense systems; or offers of NATO membership to the former Warsaw Pact nations of Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland. Trade embargos with Russia would be suicide given their major exports are oil, natural gas, and metals - all vital commodities keeping the European economic engine humming. If the three major tools of persuasion for countries are diplomacy, economics, and the military - well, only one is left, and no sane politician wants to go there. Georgia, for all of Saakashvili's charm and bravado, simply isn't worth it.

Frankly, the Bush Administration is handling this situation all wrong. As soon as Russia made it clear that she was serious about taking the Georgians to task - we should have cut bait and given Russia our support. Georgia didn't stand a chance against the battle hardened Russian army, and even if the US wanted to help Georgia militarily - there just wasn't enough time to make it happen. With the Black Sea too shallow to hold our aircraft carriers, not to mention having to get the Turks' permission to get access to those waters, and our military spread thin like butter in Iraq and Afghanistan we had no ready forces to make an immediate impact. The only thing that could have been salvaged was American soft power and the moral high road.

Rather than back Georgia unilaterally, Bush should have scolded Saakashvili for bombing his own people, praised Putin's heroism towards the Ossetians, and pushed for UN peacekeepers to be sent in on Friday afternoon before the Russians had a chance to overrun Georgia proper. This realpolitik response would have taken best advantage of the impossible situation on the ground. Right now Russia holds all the cards... Their experience with Chechnya proves they are willing to stick it out and fight if they need too, and NATO isn't in a position to stop them without going all out. The best thing is to side with the winner, and make Putin a part of the solution, instead of a part of the problem.

The best part about that strategy is that it is what he wanted all along.

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