For a third time in as many weeks, Russian “president” Dmitry Medvedev has broken his word.
Three times he has told the world that Russian forces would leave Georgian territory in response to the united demand of the entire civilized world, and three times they have ignored his words, including written promises. Now, the New York Timesreports that Russian troops are remaining in control of key ports and roads in Georgia proper and concludes: “Despite the French-brokered cease-fire framework that Russia accepted, it is striving to maintain considerable economic and military pressure on Georgia, a close ally of the United States. The ultimate goal, it seems, is the ouster of its president, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is detested by the Russian leadership, and the installation of a government that it considers less hostile.”
Let’s be clear. The expectation of the the outside world is that Russia would leave Georgian territory entirely, restoring the status quo ante from August 6th. But even if Russia somehow claims a need to remain in Abkahzia and Ossetia to protect minorities there, and lied about agreeing to that demand, it is entirely outrageous for Russia to even consider leaving one single soldier in Georgia proper, outside the disputed territories. Yet, that is exactly what Russia is doing, clearly attempting regime change in a U.N. member state whose elected leader has been recognized by the entire civilized world.
Writing in the Times of London William Rees-Mogg states:
The price that Russia is paying for the invasion of Georgia is increased isolation. The major regional powers of the modern world are the US, China, the EU, Russia, India and Japan. Since the Georgian invasion, Russia has had strained relations with the US and Europe, and no major friends. Russia is a large Asian power, stretching to the Pacific Ocean, but the three most important Asian powers, China, India and Japan, do not have close or trusting relations with it.
Of the six world powers, or groups of powers, Russia is seen as the least reliable, the least friendly. President Franklin Roosevelt felt that the US in the 1930s had become alienated from the South American countries; to correct that, he established the “good neighbour policy”. Russia is increasingly isolated from its “near abroad”. To Georgians, Ukrainians or citizens of the Baltic states, Mr Putin’s Russia appears to be following a “bad neighbour policy”. For the Russian voter, Putinism may appear to be reasserting Russia’s position in the world; to its neighbours, Russia is now an ugly threat.
In a world of global trade, Russia cannot afford to be isolated. No doubt the Kremlin hawks are riding high now. Yet as Sir Robert Walpole said of a mid 18th-century war: “They now ring the bells, but they will soon wring their hands.”
In other words, Russia now stands utterly alone in the world, renounced by every civilized nation. It has paid this price to acquire tiny scraps of territory called “Ossetia” and “Abkhazia” — an insane bargain, to say the least, and precisely the kind of behavior that drove the USSR into the ashcan of history. Russia has polarized the U.S. election against it, as the choice of Joe Bidenas a running mate for Barack Obama clearly shows. Obama had already been moving rapidly towards John McCain’s position on Russia, and now they are identical. No matter who occupies the White House next year, it will be an administration deeply committed to confronting Russia and waging a new cold war against its KGB regime. It didn’t have to be that way, but it seems it is the way Russia wants it. Nice work, Mr. Putin!
How must it feel to be a Russian these days? How must it feel to see your nation condemned across the globe as a barbaric aggressor, and to know that you lack the economic basis to stand alone, but in fact depend utterly on those condemning nations to purchase your fossil fuels in order to keep your nation from collapsing?
Without firing a shot, simply by refusing to purchase Russian petroleum, the civilized world could instantly bring Russia to its knees. Alternatively, it can decide to instigate a massive new arms race, which Russia will either bankrupt itself to wage or leave itself helplessly outgunned by ignoring.
This situation, of course, can hardly come as a surprise to Russians. After all, they chose to return to the Soviet environment by electing a proud KGB spy as their leader and then allowing him to wipe out all aspects of civil society in Russia, and even to bring back the music of the Soviet national anthem. It seems that Russians are actually more comfortable alienating the civilized world, and being destroyed by that alienation, then making friends and building a prosperous society. Their hatred of foreigners is just that deep and ingrained.
But still, how must it feel to stand alone? Soon, we will likely hear more plaintive Russian wails about “encirclement” by the outside world, utterly heedless of the fact that it was Russian aggression in Georgia that brought about that encirclement.
To be sure, the feeling is moderated by profound Russian ignorance. As pollster Lev Gudkov of the Levada Center states to Der Spiegel: “The easiest explanation for the anti-Western sentiment is the state control of the mass media. On TV there is hardly any free reporting — instead you see a lot of very aggressive propaganda.” He told DS “it was reminiscent of the worst of times in the Soviet era.” So many Russians, just as in Soviet times, don’t even know how alone they really are.
Yet they can hardly have failed to notice that not a single major nation has rallied to Russia’s cause.
Russia’s perpetual state of loneliness must surely have the same effect on the national psyche that it would have on an individual person. Russia increasingly dwells in world of its own, no longer able to accurately perceive reality, paranoid of any “outsider” who dares intrude. Increasingly bitter and frustrated, Russia lashes out at the world with venom, and in doing so only increases the vicious circle of loneliness and rejection.
This theme pervades Russian history. Russians heap outrageous conduct and scorn upon the world, and then they characterize the world’s reaction as “russophobia” or even “racism” and use it to justify heaping even more abuse and vitriol upon the world. Meanwhile, their nation degenerates, collapses, reforms and grows less and less with each passing year.
Little wonder that Russian men don’t live to see their 60th year on average. Who would want to stick around so long, watching so much misery and stupidity unfold?