Russia Digs its own Grave
Last week, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin declared he would establish “legal connections” to breakaway regimes in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. The new ties were to include trade, agriculture, education, diplomacy and social support. Military assistance was on the table as well. “Support for the Abkhaz military in the form of logistics or ammunition, this is possible,” said Putin. David Bakradze, Georgia’s foreign minister, said that Russia was adopting a policy of “creeping annexation.” The former prime minster of Estonia expanded upon that idea in a Financial Times column which we republish below. Estonia’s current prime minister, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, is even bolder, explicitly stating that Russia is intentionally destabilizing Georgia in order to disqualify it from NATO membership as an “unstable” state.
Based on this precedent, NATO is now free to do the same in Chechnya as Russia is doing in Georgia, and this should begin immediately. Chechnya has a frightening level of unemployment, and NATO can begin with “social support” for the starving population, then move on to helping Chechnya develop trade and agriculture bases separate from Russia. Simultaneously, NATO can offer Chechnya “logistics and ammunition” to be used in fending off Russian soldiers, just as Russia is helping the rebels of Abkhazia and South Ossetia attack Georgian soldiers.
Russia’s precedent is timely indeed. Reuters is reporting that Chechen rebel leader “Sulim Yamadayev, in an interview with Echo Moskvy radio station, said on Saturday amnestied rebels recruited by Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin leader Ramzan Kadyrov were engaged in violence and stood ready for another war with Russia.” Yamadayev declared: “You think there is order here? This amnestied army goes around with weapons. They do not have to hide and run… They have everything. They are just waiting!” Defense analyst Pavel Felgengauer said of the interview: “This is a very embarrassing statement and a very embarrassing situation for the Kremlin.”
When NATO begins supporting the Chechen rebels in exactly the same way Russia is supporting the Georgian rebels, Felgenhauer may need to choose a stronger word than “embarrassing.”
Of course, Russia will complain to the United Nations, just as Georgia is now doing in regard to Russia’s actions. NATO can simply record Russia’s opposition to Georgia at the UN and play it back in the future when Russia seeks to use the UN against NATO. Russia will explain why it is free to get involved in the domestic affairs of Georgia, and those same reasons, word for word, will justify NATO involvement in Chechnya. And Ingushetia. And any other place that decides it would rather not be part of Russia.
China, of course, will be free to use the same policy in Russia’s Far East.
Meanwhile, of course, now that Russia has clearly established the precedent, the world is free to to totally ignore Russia and Serbia when they complain about independence for Kosovo. Russia has decided that any nation is free to interfere in the domestic affairs of any other nation, and the only limiting factor is military power to do so. It’s a bit strange, of course, that Russia would embrace such a philosophy given that its military is a pale insignificance compared to NATO.
One would think that Russia might want to attempt to use moral arguments against encroachments upon Russian interests, and as such would understand that it must remain on the moral high ground, avoiding taking any actions that would undermine its moral authority. One would also think Russia might wish to avoid incurring the wrath of the entire Western World with its barbarism. Republican presidential candidate John McCain, for instance, reacted this way:
I spoke today by phone with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili about Russia’s moves to undermine Georgian sovereignty over two secessionist regions. Moscow has announced that it will establish governmental links directly with Abkhazia and South Ossetia without the approval of the legitimate Georgian government. Such a move is in violation of international law and deserves strong condemnation by all countries committed to the rule of law.
But as the people of Russia well know, they are governed by a superman who simply does not operate on the same intellectual plane as the rest of us mere mortals. Obviously, Putin understands that Russia is well positioned to win a new military confrontation with the West. With its declining population and non-top-55 per capita economy, Russia can simply disappear whenever it wants, and it will be impossible for NATO to find. You can’t destroy what you can’t see!
Attaboy, Mr. Putin. You’ve upheld the Soviet standard of foreign policy and given Russia the worst of all possible worlds; solid grounds for both international condemnation of Russia and precedent justifying Western interference within Russia itself. Truly, a majestic act of statesmanship. We raise a glass to your health!