Thursday, August 14, 2008

Krauthammer Gets Sensible, But Where Was He Two Weeks Ago?

Krauthammer acknowledges that the West has no military response available to Russia's invasion of Georgia, and doesn't even hint that we ought to admit Georgia into NATO, or that we should have done so before the invasion.

This is a major step into the real world, by a major neocon. Hell, when even George Freakin' Will, who's not really a neocon at heart, thinks we could have prevented this invasion through the talismanic power of NATO membership, it's a bit of a surprise to see a guy like Krauthammer acknowledge limitations.

Krauthammer suggests the following diplomatic responses:
There are a range of measures to be deployed if Russia does not live up to its cease-fire commitments:

1. Suspend the NATO-Russia Council established in 2002 to help bring Russia closer to the West. Make clear that dissolution will follow suspension. The council gives Russia a seat at the NATO table. Message: Invading neighboring democracies forfeits the seat.

2. Bar Russian entry to the World Trade Organization.

3. Dissolve the G-8. Putin's dictatorship long made Russia's presence in this group of industrial democracies a farce, but no one wanted to upset the bear by expelling it. No need to. The seven democracies simply withdraw. (And if Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, who has been sympathetic to Putin's Georgia adventure, wants to stay, he can have an annual G-2 dinner with Putin.) Then immediately announce the reconstitution of the original G-7.

4. Announce a U.S.-European boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi. To do otherwise would be obscene. Sochi is 15 miles from Abkhazia, the other Georgian province just invaded by Russia. The Games will become a riveting contest between the Russian, Belarusan and Jamaican bobsled teams.

I'm good on 2 and 4. I'm iffy on 1 and 3, because I don't think you want to isolate your enemy too much: you always want to leave room for your enemy to become, if not your friend, then at least someone who's willing to be cooperative. But if either of those institutions would involve papering over Western objections to Russia's occupation of Georgia, then sure, boot Russia out.

Krauthammer adds this:
Subduing Georgia has an additional effect. It warns Russia's former Baltic and East European satellites what happens if you get too close to the West. It is the first step to reestablishing Russian hegemony in the region.
I suggest Krauthammer look at a map. Poland and the Baltic states are unquestionably part of Europe, and very close to those states we'd defended against a prospective Warsaw Pact invasion for nearly half a century. Unless I've totally misread U.S. and NATO policy, we're ready to go to the mats to keep those countries free.

But Georgia is on the east side of the Black Sea, hundreds of miles east of the Bosporus. It may be nominally in Europe by some weird mapmaker's definition, but it's due north of Iran and Iraq. It's immediately south of Chechnya, which nobody's been claiming as part of Europe. It's in what most people would think of as central Asia.

Like it or not, we're just not as invested in keeping that part of the world free from Russian hegemony as we are about Europe proper.

But here's the thing that genuinely annoys me in Krauthammer's column:
The Finlandization of Georgia would give Russia control of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which is the only significant westbound route for Caspian Sea oil and gas that does not go through Russia. Pipelines are the economic lifelines of such former Soviet republics as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan that live off energy exports. Moscow would become master of the Caspian basin.
There's no doubt that this is true. But it was just as true two weeks ago as it is now. And Georgia was just as vulnerable two weeks ago. Did nobody in the sprawling neocon brain trust notice this during the past several years?

I'm no foreign-policy guru. But that's their focus: it's a dangerous world, and threats need to be met with force or the credible threat of force. If it was important to keep Russia from re-establishing its hegemony over Georgia and Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan and all the other Central Asian former Soviet 'republics,' then what was their plan for doing so? Why weren't they writing columns about this last year and the year before that?

Oh, that's right: Iraq. In order to have a credible threat of force to apply in places like this, we'd have had to not been in Iraq in force. And you know how neocons love their Iraq.

But that's how the world works: you have limited resources, even if you're a superpower. And you've got to choose how you want to apply those resources. The neocons decided to go all-in in Iraq, leaving us no credible military options in reserve for anywhere else.

That was their choice. It's a bit late for them to get all concerned about this now.

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