A New York Times editorial brutally entitled “Small Minds in the Kremlin” (one of the world’s leading newspapers calling the rulers of Russia idiots — ouch!):
In a depressing sequel to its petty and destructive war against Georgia last summer, Russia has now cast a petty and destructive veto in the United Nations Security Council, compelling the abrupt withdrawal of 130 badly needed international military monitors from Georgia’s secessionist region of Abkhazia.
It was petty because Russia’s larger interest lies in calming, not stirring up, secessionist ambitions in the Caucasus, a violently fractured part of the world that includes other restive regions like Chechnya. And it was destructive because whatever hopes the Russian-backed Abkhazian separatists might still retain for a semblance of international legitimacy vanishes with the withdrawal of the United Nations mission.
Abkhazia’s grievances are not without some merit. But secessionists there cannot expect much sympathy after they lent their cause to the brutal Russian invasion of Georgia last year. Nor can they calm concerns about the treatment of minority ethnic groups when they expel the only neutral monitors from their territory.
Moscow’s heavy-handed meddling has isolated Abkhazia, and Russia. Only Russia and Nicaragua recognized the “independence” Abkhazia proclaimed after the Russian incursion last summer. This month Russia voted alone in the Security Council to evict the monitors.
The problem goes beyond Georgia, of course. Moscow regularly bullies Ukraine and other neighbors and has even used its gas supplies to push around the Europeans (who show little interest in pushing back).
President Obama travels to Moscow next month hoping to put the United States-Russia relationship on a more positive course. There is a lot that the two countries need to talk about, including reviving efforts to reduce their own nuclear arsenals; rolling back the nuclear weapons programs of North Korea and Iran; climate change; terrorism; and the global economy.
Russia can be an important player on all of those issues. And it is clearly eager to be treated as one. But the sort of petty and dangerous game it is playing in the Caucasus only diminishes its credibility.