A New Low for Neo-Soviet Russia
The Voice of America reports that “at the rare Sunday session of the [U.N. Security] council, called jointly by the United States and Georgia, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad questioned Russia’s motives in sending some 10,000 troops into South Ossetia in recent days to prevent Georgia from reasserting control over the Russian-backed breakaway region.” VOA quotes Khalilzad: “Russia has claimed that its military operations were intended to protect its peacekeepers and the civilian population in South Ossetia. Yet, its reaction goes far beyond any reasonable measures required to do so. Indeed, its escalation of the conflict has been the immediate cause of increased loss of innocent life and humanitarian suffering.”
Khalilzad then referred to a phone call between Sergei Lavrov and Condoleezza Rice: “In that conversation, Foreign Minister Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State Rice that a democratically elected president of Georgia – and I quote – ‘must go.’ I quote again: ‘Saakashvili must go.’ This is completely unacceptable and crosses the line,” Khalilzad said. He then stated bluntly: “I want to ask Ambassador Churkin, is your government’s objective regime change in Georgia? The overthrow of the democratically elected government of Georgia?”
Churkin would not give a direct answer. Instead, he merely said that Russia does “not use such an expression.” He didn’t say Russia isn’t trying to affect regime change in Georgia, only that it doesn’t use those words. When asked for clarification, he refused to give it.
It was, in other words, an exact replica, word for horrifying word, of what we heard in the Cold War.
So it was hardly surprising to see the Christian Science Monitor write in an editorial:
A new Iron Curtain is being drawn around Russia.
When he was Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin accused the West of reigniting the cold war, but it is actually Russia that’s stuck in the cold-war mentality. Bullying through energy blackmail and now tanks and bombers, it reaches for its imperialist past and believes it requires a buffer to protect itself from threatening democracies. It would love to get back, or more tightly control, parts of Ukraine and Moldova, the long-disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and parts of central Asia.
It’s hard to believe, but Russia has actually found a way to sink to a new neo-Soviet low. Not only is it abrogating all the things it said during the Iraq and Iran confrontations about the need for negotiations (Russia opposed even economic sanctions, much less military force) and the dangerous risks of unilateral use of force by the United States. Not only is it brutally crushing a tiny defenseless neighbor, and alienating the whole world in the process. Not only that, but Russia is returning to the very worst, most arrogant and insular Soviet attitudes, displaying haughty contempt for facts and even its own best interests.
Russia is spitting on the graves of all those who perished in the Soviet dictatorship, it is baiting the return of the worst of those times and a whole new legion of corpses. Just when you think Russia can’t possible sink any lower, it plunges to such horrifying depths that its prior station looks exalted.
Russia now appears before the world like a crude bully, a thug, a rogue nation incapable of being treated like a member of the group of world leaders. Georgia is a country with less than 5 million people and poses no threat whatsoever to Russian security. Russia has not confined its attack to Ossetia, but has greedily grabbed not only for Abkhazia and indeed for Georgia itself, bombing the Tbilisi airports. Russia has shown the world that Georgia was right to request NATO membership, that Russia cannot be trusted to respect the sovereignty of the former Soviet slave states.
Once again, of its own volition, Russia stands utterly alone in the world, a rogue among rogues.