Standing up to Russia
We noted last week in an editorial on the Stalinification of Russia that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had caved in to Russian pressure and refused to eject the Russian delegation from its ranks even though Russia’s military action against Georgia violated its most fundamental precepts and rendered Russian membership a sham.
But that wasn’t the whole story, disappointing though it was. There were in fact some courageous leaders who stepped forward and demanded justice. Swiss delegate Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin, for example, declared angrily: “Putin is trying to return his country to the USSR. He is challenging the entire world community and he will continue to do so as long as everyone tolerates it, until someone says, ‘Enough!’” Olga Gerasimyuk, the delegate from the Our Ukraine faction, roared: “The tanks passed through Tbilisi and came here to Strasbourg. Now the aggressor is sitting at the table with us and contending for the role of host. Soon we will hear from the Russian delegation here that the Russian army is coming to defend Crimean children. Then there will be more children waiting their turn!”
British Lord Tomlinson condemned Russian hubris: “It is striking that we have not heard any apologies, regret or even doubt. The Georgian delegation allows that the Georgian authorities can make mistakes. But the Russian delegation – no. On the contrary, they think of the most unexpected tricks. They try to justify everything with the precedent of Kosovo. But they don’t admit that they were the least wrong.” His fellow delegageMichael Hancock added: “What would have happened if no one had intervened? Who would have stopped the murder? The EU? NATO? What would Georgia have done then? How many people would Saakashvili have to kill before they stopped him?”
This is very far from victory for Russia. What’s more, PACE did approve a resolution which demanded that Russia revoke its recognitition of Abkhazia and Ossetia, and it declared that it would return to the question of ousting the Russian delegation in January, after the status of Russian troops in the region has become clear. So, in fact, the only flaw in PACE’s action — though an enormous one — was the lack of any immediate sanction to back up its tough words. As U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte declared during a visit to Azerbaijan last week: “The way Russia behaved in Georgia was unjustified. The way this country behaves has nothing to do with the 21st century. We and Europe helped Georgia after that and we will continue. We think Russia will think twice before she behaves like that again.”
And that is, of course, the key. The deadline for Russian withdrawal of military forces from Georgia proper is the end of this week, and Russia itself has adopted that deadline by formal treaty with Europe.