Moscow’s blitzkrieg in Georgia is more than a military campaign. It is designed to empower Russia’s diplomatic strategy, which seeks to make the European Union (EU) the West’s chief representative in future negotiations with Russia. Quite naturally the Kremlin wants to escape the logic of U.S. and NATO policy, which is to contain Russia within her national borders. Meanwhile, the European Union is an entirely different animal: toothless, utopian and ready to please.
The Kremlin strategists believe that the United States is on the brink of a crippling dislocation. According to a July 29 Pravda article, an anonymous Russian diplomat revealed that the “Russian administration believes the United States may soon suffer from a serious political crisis.” The sequence begins with a financial crash, advances to political unrest and finally to the dissolution of American military power. As the Russian diplomat warned, “America is standing on the verge of a large-scale crisis of its own existence.”
Last month Russia’s ambassadors were called back to Moscow. On July 15 President Dmitry Medvedev spoke to them at the Foreign Ministry. “I would like to use this opportunity for an open and pragmatic conversation,” explained Medvedev to the assembled diplomats. “Russia is indeed stronger and able to assume greater responsibility for solving problems on a regional and global scale.” You see, the Cold War was not an American victory. Medvedev reminded his colleagues that they had “survived the Cold War.” And now Russia is prepared to establish “a new equilibrium.”
Medvedev’s speech was prescient: “the habit … of resorting to force … is increasing…. In such circumstances it is important to maintain restraint and to evaluate situations carefully.” When wars break out, it’s best to know what you’re fighting for; so Medvedev wanted his ambassadors to familiarize themselves with the party line before they headed back to their embassies. We should not worry about Cold War style confrontations, Medvedev lectured. “I am convinced that with the end of the Cold War the underlying reasons for most of the bloc politics and bloc discipline simply disappeared.” In other words, NATO is divided. And NATO’s violation of Yugoslavian sovereignty in 1999 now enables a devastating Russian response.
History ought to be remembered, said Medvedev. “We simply cannot accept the attempts taking place in individual countries to highlight the ‘civilizing, liberating mission’ of the fascists and their accomplices.” He was obliquely referring to anti-Communist patriots in Georgia, Ukraine and the Baltic States, and to the way they’d welcomed the German invaders in 1941. “Characteristically,” he continued, “it is those states that have such a passion for rewriting history and domestic and foreign policies that are at the same time the most zealous advocates of illegal acts, like the Kosovo precedent…. And those same states are the ones who have become ultra-nationalist in their policies, harassing national minorities and denying rights to the so-called ‘stateless’ citizens in their countries.”
Here was an obvious reference to Georgia, which was about to be invaded by Russian motorized and airborne divisions. “For us, this task is particularly important, since in many cases we are talking about abuses against Russians and Russian-speaking populations. And protecting and defending those rights is obviously one of our responsibilities.” And then, Medvedev explained Russia’s overall diplomatic strategy: “I have focused on these aspects because Europe today needs a positive rather than negative agenda.” In other words, the invasion of Georgia is not an end in itself. The real purpose of this operation, the Russian president hinted, was to highlight the dangerous obsolescence of NATO and Europe’s unrealistic expectations with regard to Russia. The old treaties will not keep the peace, he said, because they are unfair. Russia is a great power and deserves greater influence. “I’m absolutely convinced that this requires new approaches,” he explained. “That is why we proposed to conclude a new treaty on European security and to start this process at a European-wide summit.”
The invasion of Georgia now comes into focus. As President Medvedev noted, there are “flaws in the architecture of European security….” The Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) agreement is unfair because it forbids Russia from positioning large tank armies in Europe. This sort of thing won’t do, said Medvedev. What we need is “a truly open and collective security system.” What Moscow must demand, in fact, is the reform of international institutions. The old Soviet republics must be reintegrated through a strengthening of the Commonwealth of Independent States. According to Medvedev, “A strategic partnership between Russia and the EU could act as the so-called cornerstone of a Greater Europe without dividing lines….”
The formula is simple. Expose NATO’s weakness. Welcome the European Union as a mediator and deplore the meaningless twaddle of a helpless U.S. president. The West is weak and the time has come to prepare a great harvest. It is not the 1940s, Tbilisi is not Berlin, and George Bush is not Harry Truman. A new era has dawned in which the Americans stand at the sidelines. “The United States strongly supports France’s efforts, as President of the European Union, to broker an agreement that will end this conflict,” said President Bush.
What a silly, silly statement. How many divisions does the EU have?
Today the European Union confronts Russia in the same way Neville Chamberlain confronted Hitler in 1938; being outwitted and tricked in the ceasefire negotiations, there is no possible outcome other than appeasement. The Russians insist that their troops be accepted as peacekeepers in Georgia. The French mediators allow this. And so, the stipulated withdrawal of combatants therefore does not apply to the Russian troops. Under this ceasefire agreement Moscow can claim – in a strictly legal sense – that Russian troops can stay in Georgia indefinitely. President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin are laughing at the French while observing international law. Meanwhile, occupied Georgia is looted and burned; Georgian ships are sunk and the Georgian capital is strangled.
NATO has done nothing, even though NATO has promised to make Georgia a member of the alliance. NATO defers to the European Union. Bush also defers and sends his Secretary of State to Paris instead of Moscow. While all of Europe demanded a negotiated solution, only Poland and the Baltic States (along with Sweden and Denmark) denounced Russian military aggression. All of Europe should have denounced Russia with one voice. All of Europe should have eschewed “negotiations.” All of Europe should have demanded an immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia. All of Europe should have begun to mobilize troops and combat aircraft for the defense of Georgia. In that event, Russia would have retreated.
But the Kremlin knew, in advance, this wouldn’t happen. There is no “military confrontation” in Georgia. As President Medvedev said, “I am convinced that with the end of the Cold war … bloc discipline simply disappeared.”
The Russian president is right.