Monday, August 11, 2008

Putin Rimes with Stalin

"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul."
George W. Bush, Brdo Castle, Slovenia (June 16, 2001)

And Georgia is the Finland of our day.

On Sunday Zbigniew Brzezinski, the elder statesman who was national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter, was interviewed about the Russian invasion of Georgia. Here are my excerpts:

Fundamentally at stake is what kind of role Russia will play in the new international system.... more ominous is the analogy of what Putin is doing vis-a-vis Georgia to what Stalin did vis-a-vis Finland: subverting by use of force the sovereignty of a small democratic neighbor. In effect, morally and strategically, Georgia is the Finland of our day

The question the international community now confronts is how to respond to a Russia that engages in the blatant use of force with larger imperial designs in mind: to reintegrate the former Soviet space under the Kremlin's control and to cut Western access to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia by gaining control over the Baku/ Ceyhan pipeline that runs through Georgia.

..... If Georgia is subverted, not only will the West be cut off from the Caspian Sea and Central Asia. We can logically anticipate that Putin, if not resisted, will use the same tactics toward the Ukraine. Putin has already made public threats against Ukraine.

..... The United States, particularly, shoulders the major burden of mobilizing an collective international response. This invasion of Georgia by Russia is a very sad commentary on eight years of self-delusion in the White House regarding Putin and his regime. Two memorable comments stand out.
  • First, when Bush first met Putin and said he looked into his soul and could trust him.
  • Second, not long ago, Condi Rice claimed that American relations with Russia have never been better in history!
..... The question is not what obligation the West may have at the moment. The question is about our longer term interest .... Therefore it is all the more important that Russia be stopped now by mobilizing a concerted, global effort to oppose and condemn the Russian invasion.

..... The West desisted from extending the NATO "membership action plan" to Georgia -- a preparatory stage for becoming a member -- out of deference to Russian objections. It is now clear that the deference shown to Putin, in the face of his obvious ambitions, has been counterproductive. In view of what has happened, NATO ought to extend the membership action plan to Georgia, therefore reinforcing the commitment NATO made in Bucharest last March to the effect that NATO intends, at some future point, to include Georgia.

So is this the 3 A.M. call we have all been waiting for? It comes exactly seven years to the day Bush failed to read his President's Daily Briefing of August 6, 2001, entitled Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US. This time our president was on another holiday, at the Chinese Olympics. Now, as then, there's little evidence Busheney were prepared to answer their phones. And our nation, the erstwhile leader of the free world, has been caught ill prepared to deal with a real world crisis. This situation could have been anticipated. A little diplomatic restraint with Putin and a lot on Saakashvili could have prevented this disaster. But that would have required our strategic thinkers to have their eyes on the big picture. Instead? We are up to our tits in Bush's 'vanity war' his unneccessary and useless Iraquagmire. Our Neroic figure in the White House has fiddled away 'the defining years' of the 21st Century, building a bridge back to the 20th century's horrors. We are arrived at the doorsteps of a new cold war.