No, We're Not All Georgians Now, by Cernig

In the aftermath of Georgia's failed attempt to subjugate its breakaway regions by main force, the Right is busy today trying to paint the entire episode as a lesson in fear. From Bush to McCain to Krauthammer, the message is that the West, and the US in particular, must push back hard against naked Russian aggression otherwise, as we were repeatedly told in Cold War days, we'll wake up one morning to find Russian tanks on the Atlantic coast of Europe. That message clashes with what the Russians have actually done in Georgia but that hardly matters to the hotheaded confrontationalists. And so we've seen a progression, from claims that Russia intended to take over all of Georgia and this proved that they'd do the same to all their old satellites in turn to claims that Russia wants regime change in Georgia and that this proves they'll invade all their old satellites in turn.

Of course, Russia hasn't said it won't deal with the democratically elected government in Georgia - it has said that it won't deal with the President of Georgia, who as commander in chief ordered an all-out attack on its breakaway neighbour, less than 24 hours after signing a peace deal and while it was under the CIS-mandated protection of Russian troops. If the Georgian government wants to elevate one of its other leaders to the presidency pro-tem, until a new election can be held, that appears to be just fine with Putin and Medvedev - but in any case once the "rally around the flag" reflex abates, a lot of Georgians are going to want Saakashvili removed too for what he has done to their country.

Now, the neocons are making calls to bar Russia from the World Trade Organisation, to expel it from the G8 and even to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. All are cosmetic. Barring Russia from the G8 or WTO won't change the fact that Russia is a primary economic world player - indeed, the globalization of world energy markets which has handed Russia its newfound wealth is also a major player in the geopolitics of the current situation. The West has been happy to suck up all the oil and gas former Soviet states can provide (even the US, which gets 10% of the oil) and now suddenly everyone's noticed that Russia controls all the pipelines. Neither the demand or the control of supply will alter one whit by tossing Russia out of these organisations - all it will do is remove and leverage over Russia to not twist the spigot to solely its own advantage. As to the Winter Olympics boycott - does anyone remember how useless the boycott of the Moscow olympics in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was?

There are exactly two steps that might matter - and both are more likely to provide negative consequences than positive ones. Sending US forces on "humanitarian" missions to Georgia and accelerating the acceptance of Georgia into NATO. In the London Times today, even British rightwingers are looking askance at both ideas.

It is to be hoped that the commanders of the US Navy and Air Force now leading their forces to Georgia will be equipped with the same diplomatic skills. Nevertheless, entering a new war zone is fraught with dangers. The US Navy’s task force will be challenging the Russian naval blockade of Georgia’s ports, while the giant US military cargo planes will be landing close to areas recently bombed by Russian warplanes. The Georgians tried to exploit the move last night by declaring that their ports and airports would be put under US military control, an offer the Pentagon quickly declined.

Everyone concerned is fully aware that this operation has little to do with humanitarian needs. Georgia is not an African country in the grip of a terrible drought. It is a small pro-Western nation at Europe’s fringe that is struggling to recover from a vicious bashing by its giant neighbour.

The presence of US airmen and sailors is meant to send a powerful signal to Tbilisi that Washington will stand by its allies, in this case the crumbling Government of President Saakashvili. The US move is also intended to demonstrate to the Kremlin that US forces can and will operate in Russia’s backyard.

... The success or failure of the US initiative will depend in large part on how its allies respond. It has called for an emergency meeting of Nato next week to agree a unified response, including confirmation that Georgia and Ukraine will be future members. Countries from the former Soviet bloc are already committed to defending Georgia, but Germany, France and Italy will press for reconciliation with Russia.

Nobody wants a small war in the Caucasus to become the trigger for a new global conflict.

In particular, no-one wants a small war in the Caucusus which turned hot because the leader of Georgia decided, apparently against the warnings of his allies, to launch an all-out military attack - including a massive rocket bombardment of a town of 40,000 - to become a trigger for a new global conflict. No-one in their right mind will sign up to a treaty guaranteeing that man military backing if he does something that stupid again. So no, we aren't 'all Georgians now". Not even all the Georgians are, in the sense that McCain wants it to mean - that of solid backing for a thuggish aggressor who has gone off the mental rails. That's true of most of those on the US Right as well (Krauthammer and his ilk may be exceptions). However, Bush and McCain are obviously calculating that some "tough talk" and saber rattling never, ever hurt the GOP at the polls, while hoping they can keep a lid on the possible wider consequences of their vote-boosting.





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