EDITORIAL: Zero Hour Approaches


Zero Hour Approaches

Russia has signed treaty by which it has promised unambiguously to remove every last Russian soldier from Georgian territory outside the formal borders of Ossetia and Abkhazia that it has recognized by October 10th, less than two weeks from now.

The United States has threatened Russia in the most blunt manner possible that the NATO allies will not tolerate any deviation by Russia from this promise.  The highest-ranking U.S. diplomat on Russia, Daniel Fried, has stated:

If the Russians have not complied by October 10 there would be a very strong reaction.  The problem with Russia’s invasion of Georgia is that it is not just a little hiccup or bump in the road. It is a major problem because Russia has tried to change international borders by force and that is quite a sobering thought. Russia is going to have to choose how far outside the international community it wants to place itself. There was a strong sense the Russia challenge had to be met and that no country in Europe should be left alone and isolated in dealing with Russia. Let’s be very careful that we don’t suddenly find ourselves slipping into a position of de facto recognizing what Russia has done.

Zero hour approaches.

Five days after it withdraws its troops from Georgia proper, Russia must appear in Geneva Switzerland to face interrogation by the world community over the 7,500 troops it insists on leaving in Ossetia and Abkhazia, twice as many as were there before the crisis began. The civilized world insists that Russia return to the status quo ante of late July, before the military crisis developed.  If Russia cannot satisfy the world that its actions in seizing Ossetia and Abkhazia are legitimate, it will face permanent international pariah status similar to that faced by Iran.

But maybe that’s what Russia wants.  It shows no signs of even considering the possiblity that it might be wrong on Georgia, and instead is actually escalating the confrontation with the West by, among other things, loaning Hugo Chavez $1 billion to buy weapons, sending nuclear bombers and ships in the Caribbean and announcing a plan to embark upon development of a “Star Wars” spaced-based weapons system.  Does Russia really think that NATO will then simply back down and give Russia what it wants, terrified of Russian power?

We in the West find it difficult to imagine how such a thing could be possible, but we forget two key facts about Russia.

First, Russians are more than capable of acting irrationally.  The USSR embarked upon a suicidal arms race with the U.S., not only when it was obvious it could not win but when it was equally clear that brutal suffering would be imposed upon the people of a the country as a result.  Who can explain in rational terms why Soviet dictator Nikita Khruschev would take off his shoe and pound it on the table at the UN, and meet no censure for this action at home?  Who can rationalize the election by the Russian people of a cadre of proud KGB spies to rule them so soon after the KGB destroyed the USSR?

Second, Russians lack the basic flow of information and self-criticism necessary to make good decisions even when they are inclined to act rationally.  Just as in Soviet times, Russians have cut themselves off from both foreign information and domestic dissent, leaving them very much like the infamous Emperior with his “new clothes,” standing naked before the world.

Russia has made it perfectly plain that the only language it understands is the verbiage of blunt trauma.  Only when presented with overwhelming physical force combined with steely resolution of purpose will Russia back down — but in that event it will back down each and every time, as it balked at moving into Tbilisi and removing the hated Saakashvili from power, as the Kremlin undoubtedly originally planned to do, when surprised by speedy intercession by the NATO allies.

Let’s be clear:  We have the ability to inflict that trauma, without breaking a sweat.  Russia is an impoverished nation, and the little money it does have comes from just one source:  American demand for oil.  Russia cannot survive a protracted economic cold war any better than the USSR did, and its military is hollow charade compared to the overwhelming power of NATO.

Russia must remove all its forces from the territory of Georgia proper according to its written promise, or it must suffer dire retaliatory consequences that the Russian people themselves will feel.  It must then negotiate the fate of Ossetia and Abhazia in good faith, and if it refuses to recognize international boundaries that all civilized nations of the world acknowledge, it will then consign itself to status of international pariah, relegated to being dismissed as lightly as places like Iran and Venezuela and excluded from the conferences of the great nations of the world.

There is no alternative.  As Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said recently

I think there is a profound ideological difference between the European Union and the Russian Federation. Russia, through its deeds, has shown that it lives in a different century. Russia has thrown us an ideological challenge. Any further attempt to redraw borders in Europe by force or by subversion will be regarded by Poland as an existential threat to our security and should entail a proportional response by the whole Atlantic community. We need to make NATO’s traditional security guarantees credible again. NATO needs to recover its role, not just as an alliance but as a military organisation.

Poland’s president, for his part, has clearly stated that Russia intended to topple the democratically elected president of Georgia when it invaded last month.  All of Russia’s former slave states in Eastern Europe, having had their minds concentrated by the Georgai atrocity, are of one mind on this question. From Ukraine to Latvia, they speak with one voice in calling for the West to rally against Russian aggression.  Russia stands alone, and NATO is at war, whether it knows it or not.  The Eastern Europeans, our canary in the mineshaft, have sent out the clarion call.

NATO must respond. That is what is it there for.

Even Barack Obama seems to understand that. At last week’s presidential debate, he stated:

I think that, given what’s happened over the last several weeks and months, our entire Russian approach has to be evaluated, because a resurgent and very aggressive Russia is a threat to the peace and stability of the region. Their actions in Georgia were unacceptable. They were unwarranted. And at this point, it is absolutely critical for the next president to make clear that we have to follow through on our six-party — or the six-point cease-fire. They have to remove themselves from South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It is absolutely important that we have a unified alliance and that we explain to the Russians that you cannot be a 21st-century superpower, or power, and act like a 20th-century dictatorship. And we also have to affirm all the fledgling democracies in that region, you know, the Estonians, the Lithuanians, the Latvians, the Poles, the Czechs, that we are, in fact, going to be supportive and in solidarity with them in their efforts. They are members of NATO. And to countries like Georgia and the Ukraine, I think we have to insist that they are free to join NATO if they meet the requirements, and they should have a membership action plan immediately to start bringing them in.

Russia’s abhorrent actions have reverberrated across the world and echo now even in the minds of those who heretofore, like Obama, did not have the slightest interest in the country.  Only now that Russian tanks have moved into action does the world see that the warnings this blog has been sounding for three years now were serious.

But talk is cheap, and the time for talk is past. Now is the time for action.

13 responses to “EDITORIAL: Zero Hour Approaches

  1. THe Russians wouldn’t know what a fucking contract is if they had to put a pint of blood on it.
    Do you think they will live up to any agreements?

    That is a joke.

    Until a civilized government takes over in the Kremlin will there be world peace. Until then, drink up me lads, the Kremlin will raise hell.

  2. This is all wishful thinking. Mark my words, the West will not do anything of substance, other than empty rhetoric, when Russia again thumbs its nose at the international community. Putin is smart enough to know this. I wish that I would be made to eat my words, but alas, I think that I will not. Germany and France cower under the threat of an energy disruption.

    BTW, even at the height of the Cold War, USSR still delivered oil to the West because that was their sole source of foreign currency (other than export of weapons and terrorism). Why do France and Germany think that they will stop now if we play hardball with PutMed (my new term for the current Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum in power)? Who else will buy their oil if the West does not? What else can they fall back to? The Strategic Reserve? For how long?

  3. I sincerely hope that Western leaders and opinion-formers do read La Russophobe.

  4. I wonder if editor could make up his mind with the rest of American foreign policy — are they talking on behalf of the US, the West, or the whole world, and if latter, who granted them authority?

    * * *

    Kolchak, for instance, Romanov’s dynasty upheld its pact with Serbia that prompted its involvement in World War I. It might not be the smartest move and cost them a throne (good riddance), but as suicidal, it was just as noble to, in fact, live up to the agreements.

    I only exampled Tzarist Russia, cause in this here circles they never make a difference between Romanov’s empire, Soviet Union or post-soviet Russia (Do you apply same methodology to Germany, I wonder?).

    On the contrary, I am curious who is responsible for not living up to the agreement of NATO non-expansion. Interesting, innit?

  5. The problem is that the propaganda in Russia is so extreme – I was just there for a month… that everyone in Russia actually genuinely thinks that not only is the issue finally resolved… but that America has admitted they got it wrong and Russia were right to say that Georgia started the agression…

    People talk about South Ossetia and Abkhazia as if they’re ‘obviously’ independant and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

    To suggest that Russia might somehow admit they were wrong… in that context… is nigh on impossible.

    Anything the west does to try and turn Russia around on this will just be interpretted as an unmotivated attack on Russia country …further fuelling their intense paranoia and misconceptions…

  6. I laugh at this type of stuff. Russian propaganda. Have you watched Fox, CNN, BBC or looked at some Reuters stuff. Just look at this site?

  7. Propaganda me arse. I, for one, almost never watch Russian TV news, and when I read news sites like lenta.ru, they do present western opinions via translations of articles from major western outlets (Reuters, AFP, BBC, CNNN etc.).

    I mostly got my information on conflict from mainstream western media — BBC and, to lesser extent, CNN (mostly online editorials, cause TV coverage was biased crap with Saakashvili’s mug never leaving the screen and sensationalist news ticker announcements). And sources like StratFor.

    And in no way I am buying American spin on it (note, that I don’t include Western Europe, cause it wasn’t as biased). And spin that was, cause you could’ve seen from the get go that State Department announcements and media headlines were based on little more than rumours or Saakashvili’s allegations (many of which were proven untrue) and instances of pallywood.

    As usual, the first victim of the war is truth. I am in no way naive about Russian mainstream media, so am I not naive about the Western media. I am opposed to Putin’s regime in many regards, but when it comes to foreign policy, one has to understand that West had been poking sleeping bear for too long, and with such behaviour it just perpetuates authoritarian regimes in countries like Russia or Iran.

    And the sentiment of some opposition (most certainly mine) is such that, please, let us deal with Putin ourselves, but get the fudge out of our backyard!

  8. Yeah, Ug, you have been so courageous and effective in dealing with Putin yourself. Georgia is not your backyard. Ukraine is not your backyard. Poland is not your backyard. Go ahead and try to offer your version of “democracy” to Canada and see how far you get. Every nation is free to decide which way they want to go. So keep your stinking Russian paws off free nations!

  9. I have no problem with Ukraine or Georgia and so forth having their own independent lives. I have many connections in those countries, and have no quarrel with them. Hell, when their football teams playing anybody but us, I cheer for them just as well as for my team.

    I have problem with Americans poking their nose in every hole and giving Georgians new Humvees with NATO communication devices instead of humanitarian aid in Batumi.

  10. To Ug:

    Humvees were provided for American trainers within the framework of mutual practice sessions (NATO, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia). They were packed and put in container and ready for shipment when Russians took them.

    The story with Reuters pictures was refuted by Reuters: http://ru.reuters.com/news/announcement20080818. And you can watch a video taken at the same time at the same scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=user&v=uK0Pi9GRmg0

    You dared to provide a link to Byzantine Blog? Are you aware that “They’re little more than Serbian apologists. They claim that the massacre at Srebenica never really occurred. They claim that there were no concentration camps run by the Serbs during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

    Concerning the spin – you seem to base your judgement on a single article. And by whom, any serious analyst there? Do you frankly believe that State Department would issue ANY statement without asking CIA or DoD for facts?

    Your hypocrisy is unimaginable!

  11. The Hummers are the least we should give the Georgians. We need to give them anti-armor weapons and Patriot missiles so the next time your ilk wants to cross an international border, they will get their nose bloodied.

    Besides, the NATO equipment is the most modern available in the world. Why would the Georgians want anything else. The Russians can’t even keep their submarines afloat.

  12. Oleg, NATO is not the heroic multinational superpower that you think it is. In fact, NATO has a history of watching war crimes being commited within view of their checkpoints.

    If you want anyone to disobey orders on your behalf, it would have to be the US military. A well rationalized moral judgement is the only thing that guides us.

    Wasn’t it the Russians that installed screen doors on their subs.

  13. Oleg, maybe I should have read your earlier posts, oil seems to be a commodity that requires it to be locally, or at the very least regionally acquired in order for it to be cost efficient.The US gets almost all of its oil from Canada and Mexico.

    Russia can never be global power based on oil. You may be able to hold some countries hostage by limiting supply, but the end result is that no-one will rely on you, and the savy investor will put money down on your competition.

    Your sphere of influence is based on extortion. That is a bad word in my country, but it seems like standard operating procedure in yours.

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