The National Whig

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

What Next for Georgia?

It has been a week since Russia invaded the small country of Georgia over what the Russians claim to be a humanitarian effort to stop the Georgian army from tyrannizing South Ossetia, a province of northern Georgia. However, given the push by the Russian military deep into Georgia, there can be little doubt that this is not a humanitarian effort by the Russians. There is something deeper going on here and it has nothing to do with the good will of the Russian government toward the people of South Ossetia.

Let us begin with a couple of reasons for Russia's quick launch of an invasion of a country that was once part of its Soviet empire. The number one reason is the expansion of NATO all the way to the border of Russia, and as a result, Russia's feeling vulnerable to diplomatic conquest. Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are all member states of NATO. Ukraine and Georgia have been seeking membership for much of the decade. Russia feels threatened and, it is quite possible, flustered over watching its former empire become members of an organization created during the Cold War with the sole responsibility of making sure that the influence of Soviet Russia did not spread further into Western Europe. It seems that Georgia's attmepts to gain NATO membership was the last straw, and so Russia acted in the only way it knew how.

The first signs of Russia's determination to prevent Georgia from moving further away from its influence surfaced in September of 2006 when Georgia arrested what they claimed to be spies. Accordingly, Russia's foreign and defense ministries denounced the accusations and demanded that the detainees be released. The situation worsened when Georgia refused to release the Russian army officers and, in response, Russia withdrew its diplomatic arm in Tblisi and refused to issue Russian visas to Georgian citizens. Eventually the Georgians released the accused, even as Russia implemented economic sanctions against Georgia. Finally, Georgia began accusing Russia of giving support to separatists in two of Georgia's provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Now, it looks like Russia is on the verge of completely conquering one of its old satellite states.

So, does this all stem from Georgia wanting to be a member of NATO? And, aside from that, what is next for Georgia? It is clear that the current wisdom regarding Georgia's peril stems from their desire to be inducted into NATO. Do a quick Google search and you can see for yourself that the NATO issue is on everyone's mind when explaining how all of this came to fruition. There is some credibility to this line of thinking, though it should be encouraged to take in a contrarian's view. The main explaination is more likely to be centered around Russia's desire to recapture its old glory by reconstituting the empire it claimed when it was the U.S.S.R.

As for Georgia, its future rests in the hands of Europe and the United States. Russia's dominance of the Georgian military has rendered it helpless in repelling the invaders and thus is, as of right now, unable to regain its sovereignty. It would seem that the only way forward in saving Georgia is to have the Europeans get involved, but so far the only involvement has come from the US in the form of telling Russia to get out. Poland has decided to allow the US to place a missile defense shield there--much to Russia's displeasure--but the US insists that it is to protect from a nuclear Iran. Russia's response has been to declare that it will not rule out a nuclear strike against Poland. Europe also has to think about the energy repercussions of a Russian dominated Georgia.

The war in the Caucasus is going to put a major strain on Europe, and even though there is not as direct a strain put on the US, this does set the table for future rows between the East and the West. Russia is free to run rough-shod over its neighbors because Europe is unwilling to use any type of force, even to protect their own back yard, and the US is busy with the terrorist threat in the Middle East. It is going to be difficult to slow down the advance of the bear, but the West better act quickly and with one voice or it faces another Cold War.


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