“Let him first respect his own signature.”
That was French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, talking last Saturday at a meeting of the European Union in Avignon, France. He was talking about the “president” of Russia, Dmitri Medvedev, calling him worse than a liar, someone who signed a formal written promise and then broke it. Kouchner says that Medevedev has violated at least half of the key terms he agreed to in a France-brokered ceasefire which sought to resolve the Georgia crisis. For a diplomat from any country, much less France, to use language this stunningly tough (this, indeed, larussophobian) is sure and certain proof of just how utterly Russian foreign policy has come a cropper. Even though Russia hasn’t used nearly as much military force in Georgia as the U.S. did in Iraq, and hasn’t deposed the country’s ruler as the U.S. did, the world’s reaction has been wholly different. Russia has been villified and condemned, and now stands in exactly the position it wished to place the U.S. in when it opposed U.S. action. This is neo-Soviet failure, laid bare.
Writing in the Moscow Times on Monday Richard Hainsworth, CEO of RusRating, a Moscow-based credit rating agency, scathingly condemned the barbaric behavior of the Russian government during the Georgia crisis. He began this way:
When Russian troops moved into Georgia, foreign investors moved out and the Russian market plummeted. When U.S. troops moved into Iraq, foreign investors hesitated but the U.S. market barely blipped. Is this a double standard? Not really.
Why not? Because of simple fact that all the world, but not Russia, clearly understands. As Hainsworth puts it: “Russia’s actions in Georgia were unpredictable and unexpected. Its aims and goals — starting with official pronouncements and ending with its actions on the ground –were difficult to disentangle.” In other words, the manner in which the U.S. and Russian governments behave is as different as night and day. Hainsworth explains:
Whatever the reasons or motivations for Russia’s invasion into the sovereign territory of another country, investors were not prepared for this unpleasant surprise. Their investment models did not include this factor. When U.S. troops go anywhere, they are accompanied by journalists, news conferences and public warnings. Investors may not like a military conflict and they may be severely damaged by it, but they are prepared.
Russia hides from the truth. It lies, and it gets caught in lies. People who have money on the line don’t like this kind of behavior. They don’t mind the use of military force, they understand its going to happen. But they want it to be done in a manner that is predictable and reasonable, mature and responsible. For all the criticism of U.S. president George Bush, as the American saying goes “money talks and B.S. walks.” The international markets had no real problem with the Iraq invasion, but they were appalled by what Russia did in Georgia because Russian actions made it clear: Today it’s Georgia, tomorrow it’s you.
As MT columnist Alexei Bayer has written: “Mark Twain remarked that history may not repeat itself, but it rhymes a lot. If so, recent events in Russia are starting to rhyme with some of the worst pages of the country’s history.”