Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Georgian aggression is a figment of Putin's imagination

The general consensus on the Georgian crisis seems to be that although Russia is behaving like a thug and is unjustified, the crisis could have been averted if only the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, had not attacked the separatist forces in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. However, Bernard-Henri Lévy writes in today's Wall Street Journal that this is not so:
We know now that the Russian army had been hard at work on its war preparations since before Aug. 8. We know that it massed at the "border" between Georgia and Ossetia a considerable military and paramilitary logistical presence. We know the Russians had methodically repaired the railroad tracks that the troop-transport trains were to take, and we know that at least 150 tanks went through the Roky tunnel separating the two Ossetias the morning of Aug. 8. In other words, no one can ignore the fact that President Saakhashvili only decided to act when he no longer had a choice, and war had already come. In spite of this accumulation of facts that should have been blindingly obvious to all scrupulous, good-faith observers, many in the media rushed as one man toward the thesis of the Georgians as instigators, as irresponsible provocateurs of the war.
I was surprised that this sequence of events has not been made clearer in the Western media. Meanwhile, independent blogger and journalist Michael Totten, has been doing the honourable legwork.
Russia's Orwellian rhetoric must not be allowed to stand and the West needs to hit back hard in the face of Russia's violent, nationalistic and anti-democratic expansionism. At this point the push-back need not involve military retaliation, although I think the West should help Georgia rebuild its shattered armed forces and the US should go ahead with the developement of its missile shield (and, of course, military retaliation would be de rigueur if Russia escalates its aggression either in Georgia or starts another one in the Ukraine). What Europe needs to do (in addition to the more general goals of increasing our defence spending and investing heavily in nuclear energy) is to immediately kick Russia out of the G8 (as John McCain has suggested), officially state that Russia can forget about its application to join the WTO (for the time being), fast-track both Georgia's and the Ukraine's application to enter NATO and most importantly Germany needs to put the kibosh on the Nord-Stream pipeline while at the same time Europe must encourage the Nabucco pipeline and other projects like it. There is only one language regimes like Russia understand, and as Vegetius says: Si vis pacem, para bellum.


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