Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

Unlucky Poland

The large plane crash involving Poland’s president and other key leadership oddly mirrors the tragic events of Katyn, which this generation of leaders were flying to Smolensk, Russia to honor.  Of course, the scale of the 2010 crash is many times smaller than Katyn, where some tens of thousands of Polish Officers and intelligentsia were murdered by the NKVD during the early stages of World War II.

Poland has been an unlucky country in many ways:  its national borders snuffed out for most of the 19th Century, its leadership beset by infighting in the 18th, conquered by Germans and Soviets in the 20th, some 6 million of its citizens murdered by Nazis and some several hundred thousand more murdered by Soviets and their lackeys thereafter.  Yet it has risen again, many times over, no matter what it has endured.  Indeed, the 20 years in its post-Communism phase have largely been a period of expanded wealth, military power, and good relations with both Germany and Russia.

The glue that has held Poland together through all of these events is Catholicism, which is believed widely and more sincerely there than in nearly any other European country.  Let us hope that the Polish people’s Catholic faith sees them through this latest tragedy.

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The bombing in the Moscow subway is a typical Islamic terrorist horror, complete with suicide bombings, mass death, and sneaky female perpetrators.  But Russia, like Israel, has within or lives alongside a large number of Muslims.  It acquired its Caucasian Republics as part of its 19th Century drive to have a warm water port.  As a consequence, an historically Nordic and homogenous group–the Russian Slavs–acquired a multinational empire of Tatars, Chechens, Ingushetians, Ossetians, and all the rest.  

Israel, likewise, was born in the post World War II Jewish reconquest of their ancient homeland, which, in the 2,000 years of their exile, had become populated by a majority of Christian and Muslim Palestinian Arabs. 

In other words, both of these nations because of where they are located and the settled facts of their ancient and recent history must deal with Muslims, and that means they must deal with Muslim terrorism.  The United States, by contrast, is protected by two oceans, has a miniscule Muslim population, and benefits in spite of it all from a great deal of historical homogeneity, particularly on the matter of religion. 

Our Muslim population is of recent vintage, often speaks with an accent, is easily identified, and is here because of the 1964 immigration reforms, which were deliberately designed to turn the white majority into a minority.  While we’re told repeatedly that “diversity is our strength,” the facts suggest otherwise.  Muslims do nothing extraordinary in America that Americans cannot do themselvses.  They are not particularly talented and seem concentrated in low skill merchant occupations, with a smaller cohort in medicine and engineering.  In other words, they do things we can easily do for ourselvs.  But since this “reform” we’ve had the ’93 WTC attacks, 9/11, the El Al airlines shoot up, Major Nidal Hasan, and many other Muslim attacks and associated inconveniences. 

Is this what we want?  We are not fated to live this way.  The risk is completely artificial, a creature of immigration policy that is fairly easily reversed in this instance, as evidenced by the mass self-deportation of Arabs and Muslims in the wake of the increased scrutiny following the 9/11 attacks.  Russia and Israel, if they mean to preserve themselves, may have to resort to extremes.  Some view their common terorrism problem as requiring solidarity and American activity in the region.  But our common threat allows us (unlike Russia and Israel) a low effort, high reward solution not available to the fellow victims of Muslim terrorism.  America can do defend itself by simply shutting the front door through which the terrorists keep coming in and by reducing our presence in the neighborhoods in which they reside, which focuses their attention unduly upon us.  We should not allow a common threat obscure from us an uncommon advantage of geography and history.

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It’s been a heady few weeks for Obama’s foreign policy.  It has echoes of Carter all around.  It is animated chiefly by guilt and a lack of confidence.  Its big features in recent weeks are as follows:  (1) we will have more due process for al Qaeda detainees in Afghanistan; (2) we are going to give Russia a huge victory (and our allies a huge headache) without anything in return by dropping missile defense in Eastern Europe; and (3) we are going to meet unconditionally and bilaterally with North Korea, even though this marginalizes Japan, South Korea, and other important and interested parties in the region.

Foreign policy was a campaign prop for Obama, but it was not nearly  as important as it was to John Kerry, for whom getting the respect of the French was the most important thing in life.  Obama’s apparent belief that if we are “nice” to people that are critical of us, hostile to us, or competitive with us, they will back down. This is reminiscent of President Carter, who dropped the B-1 bomber program, abandoned the Panama Canal, defunded the MX Missile, and reduced military spending–all in an attempt to treat all countries as our equals, even when we were many times stronger, and also to placate the Soviet Union.  The end result was an emboldened Soviet Union that invaded Afghanistan, the toppling of the Shah in Iran, and the loss of the Panama Canal.  Obama takes this principle further, thinking that it is important not to be nice merely to potential competitors like Russia and China, but also to cultivate the self-respect of the Third World by treating weak dysfunctional countries like Egypt or Iran or North Korea, as if they were our equals.

It’s true the Cold War is over. Insofar as NATO should exist at all, it made sense after the Cold War to integrate the fundamentally western and friendly powers of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic into its command structure.  These countries were bullied by the Soviet Union and also by Tsarist Russia, and the would risk being bullied by an independent Russia after the Soviet collapse without western support.  That said, Russia is a great power, and there is no good reason today to antagonize a post-Soviet Russia through policies like missile defense or expanding NATO to countries on its border like Georgia.

Whether aimed ostensibly at Iran or in actuality at Russia, missile defenses in Eastern Europe were a mistaken policy of the last eight years, a product of the neoconservatives’ view that Russia was an intractable enemy as opposed to a manageable regional power with basic nationalist concerns for influence and security.

Even with these caveats in mind, the President and conservatives who applaud this decision, such as Daniel Larison, should recognize that the friendly countries of Central Europe have gone out on a limb for the United States in Iraq, and their governments whethered a great deal of pressure from domestic political factions and Russian saber-rattling for their friendliness to missile defense.  If this policy turned out to be counterproductive, the reward for their support of the United States should be something tangible such as conventional arms sales, and this substitution should have been public and showy.  Instead, for Poland in particular, insult was added to injury as the dropping of missile defense was announced on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Eastern Poland in 1939.  Nice optics there Obama.

It’s not so clear this policy will gain us anything from Russia on Iran, which was the ostensible purpose of this gesture.  Russia simply implied this would be an opening for more brinksmanship, viz., Putin was quoted as saying “And I hope very much that this correct and brave decision will be followed by others.”

Why did the administration do this in a way so insensitive to our partners in Eastern Europe? Well, first, I think Obama thinks the US was not such a great guy in the Cold War, and that our pig-headedness and myopia did much to increase tension.  Giving Russia respect is part of his concept of justice, therefore.  Second, he believes we’re much too concerned with Europe in general.  To him, part of global social justice requires the protection of the rights, independence, and sovereignty of the Third World from the machinations of the First World (US and Western Europe) and the Second World (former Communist Countries).  Keeping the First and Second Worlds’ conflict down to a dull roar allows him to focus on the Third World, with gestures like amnesty for illegal aliens, human rights reforms in our treatment of terrorists, increasing foreign aid, standing on the side of leftists in Honduras, and kowtowing to Muslims in Cairo.

Obama’s heart is in the Third World.  In the 1980s when he was in college, he was inspired by anti-apartheid politics and movements for domestic nuclear disarmament, not the heroic Contras of Nicaragua or the Poles of Solidarity. As he said in Dreams of My Father regarding a post-college trip to Europe, “[B]y the end of the first week or so, I realized that I‘d made a mistake. It wasn’t that Europe wasn’t beautiful; everything was just as I‘d imagined it. It just wasn’t mine.”   And love of the Third World, the Third World of his father’s national socialist Kenya, is the ideology of the Third World nonaligned movement. The Nonaligned Movement was led by countries like India, Indonesia, and Brazil to forge a new, independent socialist destiny.  It viewed the Cold War as an act of quasi-imperialism, which diverted attention from the Third Worlders’ nationalist interest in expropriating wealth from First World businesses and their interest in gaining independence from the influence of both the United States and the Soviet Union.  As Obama said in Cairo, “More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.”

In this view, Russia will not treated with exceptional respect, and it wasn’t on his recent state visit. Instead, it’s just a big hungry bear that needs to be appeased so the real business of radicalizing the home front and forging common cause with “oppressed peoples” at home and in the Third World can continue.

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What are Russia’s Subs doing off America’s East Coast?

I have an hypothesis. It involves events of one year ago: Russia’s Counterattack Against Georgia and Liberation (or Annexation depending on your point of view) of South Ossetia.

As Russia’s Akula Class Subs cruise our East Coast, Georgia is complaining this week about Ossetia again, and there have been some very minor clashes between Russian and Georgian forces in recent weeks. It’s aparently very tense over there.

I wonder if this is Russia’s way of saying: if your ally decides to attack again and things get hot in Ossetia, don’t think it will costless for the United States to lend a hand. The weak Russia of Boris Yeltsin is a fading memory. While the U.S. may be able to send some naval vessels or logistical aid through the Bosporous into the Black Sea, let’s just say if you go into our “lake,” we’ll be keeping an eye on your comings and goings and can respond in kind to any military aid to the Georgians. In other words, two can play at the power projection game.

I hope nothing happens either over here or in Ossetia, but the one year anniversary of the war–8/8/08–is coming up, and Saakashvili is completely unpredictable in general and doubly desparate because he is about to lose power domestically. He’s just stupid enough to attack again in the hopes the West will view a Russian counterattack as “aggression.”

I hope he realizes his similarly choleric mentor, John McCain, did not win the election, and Obama’s only likely support for Georgia will be some bandaids, and a speech asking “cooler heads to prevail.” If Saakashvili is not killed by the Russians or his own people, Obama may even have them all over for a beer summit.

Incidentally, this show of military capability by Russia is all happening shortly after Obama’s charm offensive to Moscow. During the campaign, part of Obama’s schtick was that everyone was going to love us now and never cause problems because Obama will be so smooth compared to Bush. And while there may be a modicum of truth to this, it is worrisome that the very parties we are courting are responding in this fashion. Then again, between having a NATO exercise in Georgia earlier this year, various protocol flubs in Moscow, and Biden’s insults of Russia after Obama’s recent trip, it could simply be that actions and other administration officials’ unscripted words speak louder than Obama’s empty rhetoric overseas, just as they speak more loudly at home.

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Russians are practical, even sometimes rather harsh, people, and it was no great surprise to me that they were a great deal more skeptical of Obama than the more deracinated folks in Western Europe. White guilt doesn’t fly with Russians. Like Jews and the Irish, Russians are a self righteous nation that sees itself, at worst, as a victim of the designs of greedy, double-talking, back-stabbing Westerners.

Obama’s typical rhetorical style is a Solomon-like proliferation of double-talk and glittering generalities. After being ruled and abused for three quarters of a century by regime built on “hope” and “glittering generalities,” then a decade of chaos under western “tutelage,” the Russians are a tough sell for this kind of thing.

This quote a Russian business student sounded about like what I’d expect from the typical Russian:

“We don’t really understand why Obama is such a star,” said Kirill Zagorodnov, 25, one of the graduates. “It’s a question of trust, how he behaves, how he positions himself, that typical charisma, which in Russia is often parodied. Russians really are not accustomed to it. It is like he is trying to manipulate the public.”

Russia knows America’s foreign policy to Russia is what really matters. They also know that Obama, while he has extended the olive branch, will likely not challenge certain institutional biases against Russia, NATO enlargement, policies of missile deployment in Eastern Europe, and stupid “human rights” hectoring regarding the restive provinces of Dagestan and Chechenya.

I do commend Obama for trying to thaw out our unfortunately strained relations with a great nation that is a natural ally in our conflicts with Islamic terrorists. Perhaps the cool reception will wake Obama up to how the world works and give him a much needed dose of reality.

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The blog Your Lying Eyes had a quite brilliant and nuanced essay on the politics of restraint:

So by crediting Putin/Russia with restraint, I’m hardly slabbering them with praise. But it is an indication of self-interest at work, and this is a very important thing to know about a country. When you can be sure a country is merely acting in its self-interest, you’ve got something to work with and a basis for negotiation and diplomacy. One of the scary things about the old Soviet Union was that it appeared to have some very big goals in mind besides what was best for Mother Russia, such as International Socialism. It often over-reached internationally and in its devotion to socialism at home starved and enslaved its own people. We pretty much had to take it at its word that it sought world domination, and thus the Cold War.

But the Soviet Union is long gone. Russia no longer shows any interest in fomenting revolution abroad and imposing totalitarian rule on its neighbors. It does not threaten the United States or Western Europe or even the non-Soviet Iron-Curtain nations of Eastern Europe. It would clearly like to have less hostile countries on its immediate border. Imagine Chavez’s Venezuela bordering the U.S. – I don’t think we’d put up with that, quite frankly (as, for example, with Cuba). Yet both Ukraine and Georgia are openly hostile and pro-American, yet both remain independent. This is hardly the behavior of a reckless, dangerous, rogue state.

In its actions in Georgia, Russia is clearly making a statement about Western influence on its borders, and appears willing to back off provided this message is heard and respected. Thus the restraint. Putin doesn’t want trouble with Europe or America, but he’s not willing to be boxed in by an expansionist NATO, either. It is critical that the U.S. not escalate tensions with continued talk of NATO membership and anti-missile installations*. We have nothing to gain from an antagonistic relationship with Russia, and very little to gain from friendly relations with her neighbors. Self-interest and self-assessment suggest one thing is required on our part: restraint.

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In a more rational world, any alliances the US made with anyone would be reciprocal and balanced in nature. We’d get something in return for our commitments, and that something would equal or exceed our efforts. For that reason, we’d be wary of getting in bed with hot-headed and geographically isolated nations like Georgia or Armenia or, for that matter, Taiwan.

This idea of reciprocity was the model of the old NATO partnership. The Western European countries had a common interest in allying against the Soviets, and they knew that together (along with the US) they were substantially more powerful than they were otherwise. It made sense to sign up smaller Western European countries, because the NATO nations’ collective power increased by using standardized weapons systems and other protocols. Every NATO nation was at risk, continguous, and perceived as a common bloc by the Soviet Union. If Belgium or the Netherlands did not join, they’d simply be “free riders.”

By contrast, today the model of NATO expansion and US security guarantees in general seems to be all about racking up numbers and looking for missions without regard to the risks that commitments to places like Lithuania or Georgia might entail. We’ve forgotten that foreign policy is ruled first and last by the law of the jungle. In post-modern fashion, we’re embracing alliances and adding people to NATO like we’re racking up connections on Facebook.  The currency of international relations, however, is force.  Just as you don’t befriend the “punk” in prison, you don’t stick your neck out for weak nations destined to be ruled by their neighbors.

Unfortunately for our new allies, we won’t realistically defend places like Georgia, Lithuania, or Moldova. Emboldened by an empty guarantee, they may bite off more than they can chew in a fit of pique, just as Saakashvili did earlier this month. Such nations’ gestures of alliance–sending a few thousand troops (highly dependent on US logistics) to Iraq–are sweet, but do not count for much. We’ve forgotten that alliances are not fundamentally acts of charity but are instead expressions of enlightened self-interest.  Broken promises may do more to create enemies than anything else the United States does in the years ahead.

We have enough abuse of welfare at home; we don’t need to bring this dead-end to foreign policy, encouraging schemers and perrenial losers to suck dry the life blood of a great nation with entangling alliances.

Any security relationship is quite unlike networking, where the rule is “the more, the better.” Rather, because of our relative power, it is an instance of letting people into an exclusive and potentially expensive club: friends the US will go to war for. Without such parsimony, we’ll be misled by sycophants and needy hangers on.  We are already weighted down by serious responsibilities in South Korea and Israel, persistent foreign wars such as we are fighting in Iraq, and the designs of self-interested charlatans like Ahmed Chalabi.

Pissing off the Russians for preserving the borders of a Caucasian County the size of Los Angeles in a small nation the size of South Carolina is the exact opposite of any self-interested concept of foreign policy.  McCain’s ridiculous assertion that “We are all Georgians now,” only highlights his dangerousness and inability to make necessary distinctions in this arena.

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Mark Ames has a balanced account of the various issues and sources of conflict in Georgia and South Ossetia.  He notes that the Western Media have largely ignored the Ossetians, their beefs with the Georgians, their treatment in Georgia’s initial campaign of bombardment, and their mutually exclusive appeals to justice that are in direct conflict with those of the Georgians.  The following passage is particularly insightful:

At the root of this conflict is a clash of two twentieth-century guiding principles in international relations. Georgia, backed by the West, is claiming its right as a sovereign nation to control the territory within its borders, a guiding principle since World War II. The Ossetians are claiming their right to self-determination, a guiding principle since World War I.

These two guiding concepts for international relations–national sovereignty and the right to self-determination–are locked in a zero-sum battle in Georgia. Sometimes, the West takes the side of national sovereignty, as it is in the current war; other times, it sides with self-determination and redrawing of national borders, such as with Kosovo.

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These are just a few random observations about the current conflict in Georgia.

Americans are ill suited to being a global power. The great majority of Americans are mostly bored by conflicts involving strange, foreign lands. If we’re not bored, we’re easily misled by the media into assuming we know enough to have an opinion, which usually takes the form of a Wilsonian-idealist-interventionist set of principles that do not do much to clarify what are our legitimate interests. For the most part, foreign policy is the play thing of a smallish clique on the East Coast wedded to outdated ideas of the U.S. being the “sole superpower.” Most everyone else is basically nationalist and isolationist. Americans only take notice when things have gone very wrong long after the trend lines have been established.

Putin’s Russia is becoming Franco’s Spain for anti-modern traditionalist conservatives. His ethnonationalist concept of Russia, his subordination of business interests to the state, and his rejection of the liberal internationalist order all have a certain appeal. The mainstream media and mainstream conservative institutions diverge from a significant voice that sees in Iraq and crusades for democracy the seeds of disaster. This group, seeing in Russia a Christian nation undergoing a renaissance of power that is often in conflict with a common enemy in the form of militant Islam, strikes some of us at least as a natural ally with certain admirable qualities.

Along these lines, the Russia people today parallel the US view of ourselves and our applications of military force. Russia selectively rejects international institutions and international norms, including subordination to the UN, when such norms simply restrain its power without benefit. The average American’s view of its actions in Panama and Kosovo were much the same. Russia too has a rather romantic view of its soldiers and the beneficence of its power projection. It’s more than a little humorous to see Russia simply mimicking the western formulae of “stopping the genocide in Ossetia.”

Russia’s army itself, judging from photos, is a bit rough and ready, though apparently quite capable of taking on the poorly equipped and outnumbered Georgian forces. In various photos, we see a hodge podge of uniforms, old T-62 tanks, and irregular Ossetian and Chechen forces on display. Together, they show that the modern fores on display in the recent Victory Day Parade conceal the uneven pace of military modernization and the persistent ill discipline that still plagues the Russian army.

Finally, the geography of the Cauceses matter quite a bit for US power projection and shows how things that cannot be easily changed–like mountain ranges and the Asia Minor peninsula–limit our power. The Black Sea can be easily closed off by Turkey. None of the countries in the Caucuses can be reached without some cooperation from Ukraine, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, or some other neighboring land. Almost all of the significant US actions since WWII–Korea, Lebanon, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, Kosovo, Iraq–occurred in lands close to a large body of water, where supplies can be easily brought on shore and where power can be projected directly without the consent of countries bordering land-locked battlefields. Afghanistan was and is the exception and could not have occurred without Pakistani, Uzbek, and other nations’ cooperation. Even now, the indifferent state of that cooperation hinders operations.

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Stratfor has a very persuasive analysis of the entire situation in Georgia, in particular how it is not the beginning of a new balance of power but rather the manifestation of an already-changed one.  It shows that the predictable US response is likely to do little to help Georgia, while hurting US credibility:

By invading Georgia as Russia did (competently if not brilliantly), Putin re-established the credibility of the Russian army. But far more importantly, by doing this Putin revealed an open secret: While the United States is tied down in the Middle East, American guarantees have no value. This lesson is not for American consumption. It is something that, from the Russian point of view, the Ukrainians, the Balts and the Central Asians need to digest. Indeed, it is a lesson Putin wants to transmit to Poland and the Czech Republic as well. The United States wants to place ballistic missile defense installations in those countries, and the Russians want them to understand that allowing this to happen increases their risk, not their security.

The Russians knew the United States would denounce their attack. This actually plays into Russian hands. The more vocal senior leaders are, the greater the contrast with their inaction, and the Russians wanted to drive home the idea that American guarantees are empty talk.

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Tom Piatak makes an important observation about the historical context forgotten by those who see in today’s Russia the same kind of threat that existed in the former Soviet Union:

The border dispute between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia has inspired much breathless commentary, including Andrew McCarthy at NRO proclaiming this the “Soviets’ rebirth.”

Before hyperventilating, McCarthy would be well advised to read some back issues of National Review. As that magazine long argued, what made the Soviet Union such a dangerous threat was the Communist ideology the Soviet Union embodied, an ideology that gave the Soviets many Western admirers and allies and also propelled the Soviets toward confrontation with the West. Soviet Communism is dead, and what is going on in South Ossetia is an old-fashioned border squabble of the type that the United States has wisely stayed out of for most of our history.

This is exactly right. No one ever expected Russia before or after the Soviet Era to be indifferent to the safety of its own people, the actions of nearby enemies, and the behavior of neighboring nations in general. The problem for the United States and the West during the Cold War was not so much that the Soviet Union concerned itself with the Caucuses or the Baltics, but rather that it also concerned itself with Vietnam, Nicaragua, Angola, Libya, Syria, and everywhere else on the globe.  Its unifying Communist ideology was an uncompromising and aggressive set of principles that did not acknowledge any geographical or other limits. A nationalist and powerful Russia, by contrast, can always be expected to have a certain influence over its neighbors. This is not a problem for the United States, and those neighbors ultimately must reach a modus vivendi with Russia that the U.S. can do little to fashion.

The natural power of Russia over its near-abroad–particularly the Caucuses–is why the expansion of NATO to Russia’s front door and NATO’s embrace new of missions such as the Kosovo Campaign are so foolish. These detours turn a defensive alliance, once necessary to contain an aggressive and ideological regime, into an offensive conspiracy that would foment the very aggresion that it ostensibly exists to deter.

Any useful concept of post-Cold-War relations must be founded on some realistic consideration of spheres of influence. The Caucuses are a legitimate concern for Russia, not least because they include parts of Russia and, in the case of Georgia, a nation that borders Russia. Just as Europe should respect American influence over the Western Hemisphere, it is natural and predictable that nations like Russia will be substantially more touchy in affairs taking place in their own backyard.

Even if some strategic relationship with nations like Armenia and Georgia makes sense to the U.S., it is particularly unwise that cooperation extends the NATO defensive military alliance. Far from “avoiding another Munich,” such commitments would instead hurt the intended beneficiaries, and likely hurt the U.S. as well.  Such commitments could hurt both parties directly by dragging us into wars based on the actions of our uncontrolable treaty partners or indirectly by creating commitment that the U.S. would ultimately abjure and thereby devalue our national honor. It is especially a bad idea to get into bed with a provocative and irresponsible–if fawningly pro-American–leader like Saakashvili. After 1989, and especially now after witnessing the indifferent assistance of our NATO allies in Afghanistan, the U.S. should scale back our NATO commitments to informal relationships with the handful of NATO nations that can actually do something useful for us like Italy, Great Britain, and Turkey.

Our continued cultivation of NATO is an extension of a self-defeating U.S. strategy undertaken during the 1990s: the impossible goal of maintaining “unipolarity.” In foreign affairs, this quest to remain the “sole superpower” makes everything everywhere our business, sets us up for manipulation by cynical power brokers like Hasim Thaci and Saakashvili, and is in the end a recipe for high cost and little reward, as our power will become resented and opposed by inevitable regional powers like Indian, Russia, and China. Just as anti-war conservatives should acknowledge that the strong defense posture of the Cold War was addressed to a singularly dangerous threat, pro-war conservatives today should remember the same in reverse. Very few threats match those of Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia. It is time to restore some sense of proportion in foreign policy, based on the sturdy foundations of preserving our own safety and our own national independence in a world where the reality of power politics is the most important factor.

Of course, such a world would not always be a perfectly just one. I don’t mean to imply the evils suffered in this war, particularly by the civilians of Georgia, are not real and unfortunate. But politics, above all, requires some translation of abstract justice into the human realm, refracted as it is by memory, power, history, and geography. A foreign policy that aimed to rid the world of all evil, all competition, all war, and all strife in the name of “commitment to doing the right thing” would destroy the country that pursued it, no matter how sincerely. If the Soviet Union’s doomed history teaches us anything, it should be this.

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America is reaping the whirlwind after its policies in Kosovo and the Caucuses. In the quest of certain factions to reinstitute the certainties of the Cold War, we seem to have forgotten that Russia is rightly concerned more with its neighbors and Russian co-ethnics in neighboring states than we ever would be. Bush continued the Clinton policy of confronting Russia, supporting nationalist regimes on its borders, and generally disrespecting Russia’s right to have influence on its neighbors. Today Russia said, “Enough.”

It’s certainly not the case Russia’s motives in Georgia are pure. It’s hard to believe Russians care a heck of a lot about the non-Russian Ossetian people. But neither are Saakashvili’s motives so idealistic. He is a nationalist in the same mold as Putin or Medvedev. But, unlike the Russian leaders, he controls a weak nation. Further, he aims to enlist the US in its provocations, extending to his suicidal push to become a NATO nation. As Richard Spencer observes, treaties and military alliances have consequences. And the worst of all possible worlds is a series of provocations coupled with American bad faith when the natural consequences come around This is exactly what NATO expansion into the non-European Caucuses would mean. It’s unlikely America would go to bat for Poland or Lithuania. But Georgia? Let’s just say that Tblisi doesn’t exactly roll off the American tongue.

It’s time to stop the madness. Russia and Georgia are engaged in a petty border dispute of no consequence to the US. We have nothing in common with the people of Georgia or Chechnya or Dagestan or anywhere else in the region. It’s their problem. It’s appropriate Georgia is in the orbit of Russia. It is needlessly provocative for the US to forge such close ties to Georgia when it is run by a provocative leader willing to gamble on a major war. It’s bad enough to be in this position, but now we have the double problem of scaling back our commitment after having stupidly extended it. This unfortunately is the price we must bear for our own independence and our own safety. It’s a lesser price than continued conflict with Russia. There’s no reason to continue our present course and jump in the shark-infested waters having gone so far out on this plank.

Too many Americans, particularly conservatives, will fall into a Pavlovian response after seeing Russian tanks on the offensive. A friend suggested it was like Czechoslovakia in 1968. It is no such thing. It’s more like Kosovo in 1999 or, rather, 2008. No principled basis exists for Russia not to outright annex South Ossetia under the principles the U.S. has endorsed in Kosovo, i.e., allowing independence bids after brokered autonomy under multilateral peacekeepers becomes part of everyone’s general consciousness.

South Ossetia has been de facto independent since the early 1990s. It contains a cooperative force of Russian, Georgian, and Ossetian peacekeepers. An increasingly confident Georgia–not Russia–decided to initiate the provocative attack earlier this week that injured Russian peacekeepers. Georgia’s learning to its chagrin that Russia does not observe the suicidal principle of absolute proportionality in such matters.

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Dr. Trifkovic, whose reporting and analysis on the Serbian question has been excellent, details the diplomatic fumbles, evasions, and outright lies that led the West to gang up on Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs in the mid-90s. 

Karadzic’s arrest is the finale of this thoroughly misguided affair.  Like most examples of victor’s justice, its only long-term effect will be to give the Serbs another proof of the West’s bad faith, while whetting the Bosnians (and their supporters) appetite for revenge. 

With terrorist Hashim Thaci running the show in Kosovo and Nasir Oric acquitted by the Hague just  this month, it’s clear that the Hague Tribunal is just a NATO-led anti-Serbian operation by another name.  This policy is at obvious cross purposes with the war against al Qaeda and the need for a united Europe and West in the face of Islamic extremism. 

The West’s elites’ perrenial Russophobia has been the biggest reason this fight against al Qaeda and its allies has been so long, drawn out, and fraught with resistance. The fight against Serbia and the constant criticism of Russia are examples of an unnecessary “two front war” against both the Islamic and Orthodox world, even though our cultural similarities and interests in the Middle East are nearly the same as our Orthodox brothers and sisters.  As children are murdered in Beslan and Kosovo, we are destroying the perpetrators camps in the hills of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq, even while giving them nation-states in the heart of Europe.

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Kissinger reminds us that Russia is moving in its own way towards the rule of law and that we should not needlessly provoke her:

Speeches denouncing Russian shortcomings and gestures drawn from the Cold War have occurred frequently. Proponents of such policies assert that the transformation of Russian society is the precondition of a more harmonious international order. They argue that if pressure is maintained on the current Russia, it, too, will eventually implode. Yet assertive intrusion into what Russians consider their own sense of self runs the risk of thwarting both geopolitical and moral goals.

Some groups and individuals in Russia undoubtedly look to America to accelerate a democratic evolution. But almost all observers agree that the majority of Russians perceive America as presumptuous and determined to stunt Russia’s recovery. Such an environment is more likely to generate a nationalist and confrontational response than a democratic evolution.

In many ways, we are witnessing one of the most promising periods in Russian history. Exposure to modern open societies and engagement with them is more prolonged and intense than ever before — even in the face of unfortunate repressive measures. The longer this continues, the more it will impact Russia’s political evolution.

The pace of such an evolution will inevitably be Russian. We can affect it more by patience and historical understanding than by offended disengagement and public exhortations.

I was encouraged that such a wise man of foreign policy echoed some themes I had written about earlier in my own non-expert musings on Putin and Medvedev here and here.

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