Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bush rebuking Russia? Putin must be splitting his sides

Moscow has to take some of the blame. But it is the west's policy of liberal interventionism that has fuelled war in Georgia

Simon JenkinsThe Guardian,Wednesday August 13 2008

One thing is for sure. This week's operation in Georgia has displayed the failure of the west's policy of belligerence towards Vladimir Putin's Russia. The policy was meant to weaken Russia, and has strengthened it. The policy was meant to humiliate Russia with Nato encirclement, and has merely fed its neo-imperialism. The policy was meant to show that Russia "understands only firmness" and instead has shown the west as a bunch of tough-talking windbags.

Georgia, a supposed western ally and applicant to Nato, has been treated by Russia to a brutal lesson in power politics. The west has lost all leverage and can do nothing. Seldom was a policy so crashingly stupid.

Putin would die laughing if he read this week's American newspapers. The president, George Bush, declared the Russian invasion of Georgia "disproportionate and unacceptable". This is taken as a put-down to the vice-president, Dick Cheney, who declared the invasion "will not go unanswered", apparently something quite different. Bush says that great powers should not go about "toppling governments in the 21st century", as if he had never done such a thing. Cheney says that the invasion has "damaged Russia's standing in the world", as if Cheney gave a damn. The lobby for sanctions against Russia is reduced to threatening to boycott the winter Olympics. Big deal.

Every student of the Caucasus has known since the fall of the Soviet empire that this part of the world was an explosion waiting to happen. The crisscrossing fault lines of ethnicity, religion and nationalism, fuelled by gas and oil, would not long survive the removal of the Red Army and communist discipline. There were too many old scores to settle, too much territory in dispute and too much wealth at stake...


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