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Russia, Georgia, Appeasement and the International Leftists -- Three Articles


Moscow's Sinister Brilliance -- Who wants to die for Tbilisi?

Following McCain's Lead on Russia, Iraq

HITLER INVADED SUDETENLAND; NOW PUTIN INVADES SOUTH OSSETIA


Moscow's Sinister Brilliance -- Who wants to die for Tbilisi?


By Victor Davis Hanson
Aug 12,2008
http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MDcwY2I4MjhjMTc0Y2Y4ZmJmMWNmNzJlOTA0Y2MxYjg=

The Russians have sized up the moral bankruptcy of the Western Left. They know that half-a-million Europeans would turn out to damn their patron the United States for removing a dictator and fostering democracy, but not more than a half-dozen would do the same to criticize their long-time enemy from bombing a constitutional state.

Lost amid all the controversies surrounding the Georgian tragedy is the sheer diabolic brilliance of the long-planned Russia invasion. Let us count the ways in which it is a win/win situation for Russia.

The Home Front

The long-suffering Russian people resent the loss of global influence and empire, but not necessarily the Soviet Union and its gulags that once ensured such stature. The invasion restores a sense of Russian nationalism and power to its populace without the stink of Stalinism, and is indeed cloaked as a sort of humanitarian intervention on behalf of beleaguered Ossetians.

There will be no Russian demonstrations about an "illegal war," much less nonsense about "blood for oil," but instead rejoicing at the payback of an uppity former province that felt its Western credentials somehow trumped Russian tanks. How ironic that the Western heartthrob, the old Marxist Mikhail Gorbachev, is now both lamenting Western encouragement of Georgian "aggression," while simultaneously gloating over the return of Russian military daring.

Sinister Timing

Russia's only worry is the United States, which currently has a lame-duck president with low approval ratings, and is exhausted after Afghanistan and Iraq. But more importantly, America's attention is preoccupied with a presidential race, in which "world citizen" Barack Obama has mesmerized Europe as the presumptive new president and soon-to-be disciple of European soft power.

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Better yet for Russia, instead of speaking with one voice, America is all over the map with three reactions from Bush, McCain, and Obama - all of them mutually contradictory, at least initially. Meanwhile, the world's televisions are turned toward the Olympics in Beijing. The autocratic Chinese, busy jailing reporters and dissidents, are not about to say an unkind word about Russian intervention. If anything, the pageantry at their grandiose stadiums provides welcome distractions for those embarrassed over the ease with which Russia smothered Georgia.

Comeuppance

Most importantly, Putin and Medvedev have called the West's bluff. We are sort of stuck in a time-warp of the 1990s, seemingly eons ago in which a once-earnest weak post-Soviet Russia sought Western economic help and political mentoring. But those days are long gone, and diplomacy hasn't caught up with the new realities. Russia is flush with billions. It serves as a rallying point and arms supplier to thugs the world over that want leverage in their anti-Western agendas. For the last five years, its foreign policy can be reduced to "Whatever the United States is for, we are against."

The geopolitical message is clear to both the West and the former Soviet Republics: don't consider NATO membership (i.e., do the Georgians really think that, should they have been NATO members, any succor would have been forthcoming?).

Together with the dismal NATO performance in Afghanistan, the Georgian incursion reveals the weakness of the Atlantic Alliance. The tragic irony is unmistakable. NATO was given a gift in not having made Georgia a member, since otherwise an empty ritual of evoking Article V's promise of mutual assistance in time of war would have effectively destroyed the Potemkin alliance.

The new reality is that a nuclear, cash-rich, and energy-blessed Russia doesn't really worry too much whether its long-term future is bleak, given problems with Muslim minorities, poor life-expectancy rates, and a declining population. Instead, in the here and now, it has a window of opportunity to reclaim prestige and weaken its adversaries. So why hesitate?

Indeed, tired of European lectures, the Russians are now telling the world that soft power is, well, soft. Moscow doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, the European Union, the World Court at the Hague, or any finger-pointing moralist from Geneva or London. Did anyone in Paris miss any sleep over the rubble of Grozny?

More likely, Putin & Co. figure that any popular rhetoric about justice will be trumped by European governments' concern for energy. With just a few tanks and bombs, in one fell swoop, Russia has cowered its former republics, made them think twice about joining the West, and stopped NATO and maybe EU expansion in their tracks. After all, who wants to die for Tbilisi?

Russia does not need a global force-projection capacity; it has sufficient power to muscle its neighbors and thereby humiliate not merely its enemies, but their entire moral pretensions as well.

Apologists in the West

The Russians have sized up the moral bankruptcy of the Western Left. They know that half-a-million Europeans would turn out to damn their patron the United States for removing a dictator and fostering democracy, but not more than a half-dozen would do the same to criticize their long-time enemy from bombing a constitutional state.

The Russians rightly expect Westerners to turn on themselves, rather than Moscow - and they won't be disappointed. Imagine the morally equivalent fodder for liberal lament: We were unilateral in Iraq, so we can't say Russia can't do the same to Georgia. (As if removing a genocidal dictator is the same as attacking a democracy). We accepted Kosovo's independence, so why not Ossetia's? (As if the recent history of Serbia is analogous to Georgia's.) We are still captive to neo-con fantasies about democracy, and so encouraged Georgia's efforts that provoked the otherwise reasonable Russians (As if the problem in Ossetia is our principled support for democracy rather than appeasement of Russian dictatorship).

From what the Russians learned of the Western reaction to Iraq, they expect their best apologists will be American politicians, pundits, professors, and essayists - and once more they will not be disappointed. We are a culture, after all, that after damning Iraqi democracy as too violent, broke, and disorganized, is now damning Iraqi democracy as too conniving, rich, and self-interested - the only common denominator being whatever we do, and whomever we help, cannot be good.

Power-power

We talk endlessly about "soft" and "hard" power as if humanitarian jawboning, energized by economic incentives or sanctions, is the antithesis to mindless military power. In truth, there is soft power, hard power, and power-power - the latter being the enormous advantages held by energy rich, oil-exporting states. Take away oil and Saudi Arabia would be the world's rogue state, with its medieval practice of gender apartheid. Take away oil and Ahmadinejad is analogous to a run-of-the-mill central African thug. Take away oil, and Chavez is one of Ronald Reagan's proverbial tinhorn dictators.

Russia understands that Europe needs its natural gas, that the U.S. not only must be aware of its own oil dependency, but, more importantly, the ripples of its military on the fragility of world oil supplies, especially the effects upon China, Europe, India, and Japan. When one factors in Russian oil and gas reserves, a pipeline through Georgia, the oil dependency of potential critics of Putin, and the cash garnered by oil exports, then we understand once again that power-power is beginning to trump both its hard and soft alternatives.

Paralysis

Military intervention is out of the question. Economic sanctions, given Russia's oil and Europe's need for it, are a pipe dream. Diplomatic ostracism and moral stricture won't even save face.

Instead, Europe - both western and eastern - along with the United States and the concerned former Soviet Republics need to sit down, conference, and plot exactly how these new democracies are to maintain their independence and autonomy in the next decade. Hopefully, they will reach the Franklinesque conclusion that "We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.


Following McCain's Lead on Russia, Iraq


By Rich Lowry
August 12, 2008
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/08/
mccain_proved_right_on_russia.html


President Bush's assurance back in 2001 that he looked into Vladimir Putin's soul and liked what he saw was the international equivalent of his "heckuva job" boosterism of Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown in the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The two statements will compete for the dishonor of the most notoriously misbegotten he uttered as president. Bush's endorsement of Putin was partly a matter of calculation; when he says glowing things about foreign leaders in public, he tells those leaders in private how he expects them to deliver. But with Putin, Bush seemed as if he were playing Ned Flanders to Putin's Tony Soprano.

John McCain's assessment stands up much better: When he looked at Putin, "he saw three letters: a K, a G, and a B." Putin's neo-Soviet state has launched a nakedly illegal invasion of neighboring Georgia that is reminiscent of the Winter War against Finland at the outset of World War II. The Russian press is pumping out absurd lies about Georgian acts of genocide, even as the Russian military indiscriminately bombs and shells Georgian cities. Edward Gibbon's description of the Inquisition comes to mind -- nonsense defended by cruelty.

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The Bush administration made twin mistakes with Russia. It overpersonalized relations, with Bush hoping to coax out Putin's better side, and tiptoed around Moscow in the hopes that gentle treatment would encourage it to act responsibly. The irony is that Barack Obama -- with his commitment to personal diplomacy and a gentler U.S. footprint around the world -- wants to make those two tendencies centerpieces of his foreign policy.

The Bush and Obama statements in the immediate wake of the crisis could have been issued by a joint campaign. Bush's spokeswoman urged "all parties," both Georgians and Russians, "to de-escalate the tension and avoid conflict." Obama declared that "now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint." In their implied moral equivalence, these reactions were a little like urging the Kuwaitis to de-escalate with Saddam's Iraq in August 1990.

Upon flying back from Beijing, Bush issued a sterner rebuke of Russia from the Rose Garden Monday. He said its apparent plan to topple Georgia's democratically elected government is "unacceptable in the 21st century." But, absent the threat of credible consequences for Moscow's defiance, it's unclear why Russia wouldn't tighten its stranglehold on Georgia.

It's true that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili allowed himself to be baited into military action in the breakaway province of South Ossetia. But let's be clear who was doing the baiting and why. Russia had supported South Ossetian forces attacking Georgian villages and troops in order to detach the province slowly from Georgia or provoke a military confrontation that Georgia could never win. Mission accomplished.

The larger strategic goal is to keep the pro-Western independent states on Russia's border in turmoil. As George Kennan said, on its borders Russia can have only vassals or enemies. Russia's neighbors have an incentive to be clear-eyed about this, which is why the presidents of the Baltic States and Poland all condemned "meaningless statements equating the victims with the victimizers."

McCain's proposal from a few months ago to boot Russia from the G-8 has gone from seeming needlessly provocative to practically prescient. Together with the surge in Iraq, the Georgian crisis is the second strategic matter on which everyone else has followed the senator's lead.

McCain warned of Russian designs on its "near-abroad" when Boris Yeltsin was still in power, and advocated the enlargement of NATO into Eastern Europe -- as a way to cement those countries into the West and check Russian adventurism -- years before the Clinton administration adopted it as policy.

McCain's judgment benefits from years of marinating in national-security issues and traveling and getting to know the key players; from a hatred of tinpot dictators and bloody thugs that guides his moral compass; and from a flinty realism (verging at times on fatalism) that is resistant to illusions about personalities, or the inevitable direction of History, or the nature of the world.

Putin launched his assault on Georgia on the same day the Olympics opened with the theme of "One World, One Dream." Putin put paid to that within hours with steel and blood. All you need to know about his soul is the testimony of the rocket launchers and T-72 tanks still flowing into Georgia.


HITLER INVADED SUDETENLAND; NOW PUTIN INVADES SOUTH OSSETIA


By DICK MORRIS & EILEEN MCGANN
August 11, 2008
Published on FOXNews.com

On October 3, 1938, Adolf Hitler's armies marched into Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia. Germany said it was responding to separatist demands from the large German population that lived there and that she was merely honoring their desire for reunion with Germany. Hitler's tanks took over a vital part of an independent country that had largely rejected his overtures and allied itself with the West. Neither Britain nor France nor the United States did a thing to stop him.

On August 7, 2008, Vladimir Putin's armies marched into South Ossetia, a part of Georgia. Russia said it was responding to separatist demands from the large Russian population that lived there and that she was merely honoring their desire for reunion with Russia. Putin's tanks took over a vital part of an independent country that had largely rejected his overtures and allied itself with the West. Neither Britain nor France nor the United States did a thing to stop him.

Encouraged by his occupation of Sudetenland, Hitler continued his designs on Czechoslovakia itself and invaded the rest of the nation a few months later.

Will history continue to repeat itself?

Georgia is one of the two countries that have split off from the old Soviet Union and most firmly reached out to the West. Now Putin is testing whether the west will respond to an overt Russian military attack on a part of Georgia, doubtless paving the way for a full scale invasion, perhaps in the coming days. One immediate Russian move would be to use its new found military leverage to force Georgia to give up Abkhazia, another province with a large Russian population.

Russia has encouraged migration by ethnic Russians into its satellite empire ever since Stalin's days and now is using the provinces with large Russian populations to foment discord in nations that lean to the West.

The United States and the European Union must not turn away at this crucial moment in history. The U.S. should take visible steps to bolster Georgia, including the dispatch of supplies, materials, and other manifestations of our determination not to let this nation be invaded.

Russia's goal in this imperialism is to intimidate any nation on its borders into rejecting overtures from the west and to try to prove that the west will offer no real protection against Russian military designs.

NATO should speed consideration of Georgia's application for admission and should extend its security umbrella to include the struggling democracy.

If the United States appeases Russia now, it will pay the same price British Prime Minister Nevelle Chamberlain paid in the 1930s. This invasion must not be allowed to stand or, at the very least, it must be contained to South Ossetia and not allowed to lap over into the rest of Georgia.
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