Who’s afraid of the big bad bear? 43

 Who’s afraid of Russia? NATO is, and the EU, and Bush and Rice.

On August 15 President Saakashvili of Georgia made an impassioned plea for effective help against the invasion of his small democracy by Russia.  He stated bluntly that NATO’s rejection of Georgia’s application for membership of NATO  on the grounds that there were territorial conflicts within Georgia [created and stirred up by Russia] had been ‘asking for trouble’ from the Russians. Putin, he explained,  was testing the  waters – how far could Russia go? At what point would there be an angry enough growl from the Western alliance to indicate ‘so far and no further’? No growl came. At the same time – a stretch of some years –  Russia was preparing to invade Georgia, extending (for instance) railway lines through North Ossetia, which is in Russia, to faciliate the transport of men and material to the borders of Georgia. Then they built tank bases inside the two disputed territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Then they put military specialist in them, and then paratroopers. Step by step they prepared their invasion. Georgia, Saakashvili said, ‘screamed to the world’ for help. The West remained unmoved. The Russians took note, and continued to build up an infrastructure for invasion, and to send troops. Finally, Russia brutally invaded sovereign Georgian territory. 

In reply to this, Condoleezza Rice had this to say: 

That President Bush  had sent her to Georgia ‘to show the solidarity of the United States with Georgia and its people [sic]  in this moment of crisis’.  Big comfort for the country ‘and its people’? 

That [verbally, theoretically, gesturally] the US supported Georgia’s independence, territorial integrity, and democracy’, as did ‘the Europeans as well’.   So reassuring to the country ‘and its people’!

That the most urgent task was to get the Russian forces out of Georgia.  Great! How?

By having President Saakashvili sign a six-part ceasefire accord brokered by France.  Has he signed it? Yes. And that will do the trick? Well, no, because the Russians haven’t signed it yet. 

Still, Rice declared:  ‘This is the understanding I had with President Sarkozy [of France] yesterday, which is that when President Saakashvili signed this ceasefire accord, there would be an immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgian territory. Sheer magic! And did that happen? Well, no. Why not? Because the Russians haven’t signed the agreement. 

So next effective step? ‘We need international observers on the scene fast,’ Rice said. That will make the Russians tremble! But wait, that is not all. ‘Eventually,’ Rice went on, ‘we need a more robust and impartial peacekeeping force that would follow these [hypothetical] monitors.’  And will they be able to keep the peace, although the record of such peace-keeping forces – for example in the Middle East – has been one of utter failure?   Hmm … well…  And who will provide them?  Hmm… Well ….

But wait – that still is not all. The United States, Rice assured the Georgians, is ‘already providing humanitarian assistance’ to them.  [A planeload or two of some useful things]  Thanks. And? This humanitrain mission will be vigorous and ongoing. What is more it will be ‘headed by the United States military’.  By the military? That sound strong. You mean, some US soldiers will dole out the useful things? Good.  And? 

Well, ‘when the security situation is stabilized’ [that is to say, when the Russians have withdrawn which will be if and when they decide to do so]  ‘we will turn immediately to reconstruction’. Ah, you mean you will give money? Yes. The G-7, the IMF  ‘and other international financial institutions’ will ‘rapidly develop an economic support package’.  They will? When the security situation is stabilized? You are sure? Fairly sure. But how is the stabilization to be brought about?

Well, one step at a time, Rice said. First things first. The ceasefire agreement has been signed (by one party to the conflict, anyway).  ‘It is a ceasefire agreement,’ she repeated four times. It didn’t ‘prejudice future arrangements’.

So what is the sum-total of the achievement of NATO, Europe and the United States so far in helping Georgia against the Russian invaders? They have got the president of Georgia to sign a ceasefire agreement. One side of the arranged marriage has agreed to it.  First things first. And maybe nothing coming after. Or perhaps some money. Eventually. Maybe. 

And will these steps deter Russia from trying the same thing on again with other states in the old Soviet sphere ? Poland say? The Ukraine? The Baltic states?

That question, Rice said, would be addressed next Tuesday by NATO. She was sure that there would then be ‘confirmation of NATO’s transatlantic vision for Georgia [whatever it may be] as well as for Ukraine, and of NATO’s insistence that it will remain open to European democracies that meet its standards’.  NATO’s insistence, eh? That should be worth something, shouldn’t it? 

 And what was even more, the North Atlantic Council will ‘also have to begin a discussion of the consequences of what Russia has done.’ Really? There will be consequences for Russia for invading a small neighbouring country? Well …  discussion of consequences anyway.

Finally, Rice assured everybody that there was no need to be afraid of NATO. Especially, she went on to stress, Russia had no need to be afraid. It should not fear the US missile defense system which Poland has agreed to have on its territory. It is not designed to deter Russia, only ‘small missile threats of the kind one could anticipate from Iran, for instance’.  NATO, she said, ‘has never been aimed at anybody’ [except the Serbs, of course], and is certainly not aimed at Russia. 

Now Russia can breathe easy. (Though not Georgia, Poland, the Ukraine, or the Baltic states.) Thank goodness for that! 


Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Sunday, August 17, 2008

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