Sunday, August 17, 2008

Did American fumbles provoke Russia? 

Kevin Drum, one of your more principled lefty bloggers, disposes of the argument that the Bush administration somehow provoked Russia into invading Georgia:

The idea that we somehow prompted Mikheil Saakashvili to undertake his invasion of South Ossetia last week just doesn't bear scrutiny.

Look: Saakashvili came to power on a Georgian nationalist platform of recovering Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He's been jonesing for an excuse to send troops in for years, regardless of anything the U.S. did or didn't do. Likewise, Putin has been eagerly waiting for an excuse to pound the crap out of him in return — again, regardless of anything the U.S. did or didn't do. (You don't think Russia was able to mount a highly precise counterattack within 24 hours just by coincidence, do you?)

Now sure, in general, Kosovo + missile shield + NATO enlargement + resurgent Russian nationalism formed the background for this war, and maybe the U.S. has played a bad hand on this score. But Bush administration officials have said for months (i.e., before the war started, meaning this isn't just post hoc ass covering) that they've urged Saakashvili to stay cool. And I believe them. What else would they do, after all? There was never any chance that we were going to provide Georgia with military help in case of a Russian invasion, and it's improbable in the extreme that anyone on our side said anything to suggest otherwise. When Saakashvili says, just hours before sending troops into South Ossetia, that he understands this means war with Russia but he "cannot imagine the West not coming to Georgia's aid," he's being delusional.

That said, and leaving no slack for Russia, I do not understand the case for admitting Georgia into NATO. Did we push for it because Georgia has been so supportive in Iraq? If that were the answer one need not be cynical about it; NATO is about collective security, and Georgia's willingness to step up in Iraq -- which is, after all, close enough to Georgia to be worrisome -- certainly establishes Georgia's bona fides as a contributor. But that does not mean it was smart for the United States to push for Georgian membership when it did, or for France and Germany to delay the Georgian "membership action plan" until it had "resolved internal conflicts," which basically meant confronting Russia. You would have thought that NATO could have specified a condition with a less provocative incentive structure.


By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Aug 17, 10:16:00 AM:

Nato is fundamentally an anti-Russian organization. Any other function is just dressing and gravy.

And who has more of an ancentive to join a collective decurity organization the is anti-Russian than the smaller former Soviet states that the Russians wish to re-dominate?

Putting those countries into the 'alliance' (I have very little respect for Nato) theoretically acts as a check on Russian dreams of European expansion. Now that everyone has remembered that the Russians are bastards, it makes even more sense.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Aug 17, 10:57:00 AM:

I don't disagree with the truth of what you say, but pushing NATO alliances right up to the border of Russia further provokes the paranoia inherent in Russian life. Their self image is crummy enough already.
Putin has gambled that the West (especially Western Europe) wants his oil and gas more than they want to make an issue over Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, etc. being made into states subordinate to Russia. I guess that we shall see.
I also expect that Kevin Drum will get a lot of grief for the comments in this posting, from his co-believers.


By Blogger Andrew X, at Sun Aug 17, 12:44:00 PM:

At least Drum is one of the few on the left to understand the unfathomable reality that there are forces, people, and agendas at work in the world that HAVE NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THE US! This, of course, is such a stretch for so many to comprehend, but it is in fact the world. Fifty percent of the foreign policy battles between Americans would vanish if those who didn't get that reality caught a clue.

As for Georgia (or Ukraine) joining NATO, NO NO NO NO NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO!!!!!

Such a thing might be desirable, might even keep the peace, but it is not possible, not at all, UNLESS......!

Unless every European power is willing to DOUBLE their defense spending, and start acting like maybe they are willing to use it. Anyone want to hold their breath waiting for that to happen?

Without that, it ain't Europe or "NATO" backing up those new Caucasian members... it's you-know who..... again!

Spare me. I ain't down with that. It's too bad, but it's gonna be us in the gunsights virtually alone if the stuff hits the fan, the Russians know it, and I ain't goin' for it.

This question always reminds me of George and Kramer -


Kramer: George, pay the man.

George: ME?? What about you?

Kramer: Oh, I don't carry my wallet. It throws my spine outa wack.

George: Well, were do you carry your money?

Kramer: I don't carry money.

George: You don't carry money?!?! How do you get by?

Kramer: Oh, I get by.

George stares daggers at him...


Hey Kramer, start carrying some effin' money, and maybe NATO will mean something. Otherwise, forget it.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Aug 17, 01:51:00 PM:

Noticed that I mis-spelled incentive...

David: I read your thinking here as, "expanding Nato eastward is undesirable because it makes the Russians feel bad and insecure, and triggers aggressive defensive reactions."

I humbly submit that if Russian aggression were not a problem, there would be no need to expand Nato. The powers of eastern Europe want to join precisely because they need protection against this aggression.

I think you've confused the cause and effect here.

As for the prediction of Western Europe's reaction, that's probably correct. They are weak and ineffectual. They couldn't stir themselves to intervene in mass slaughter in the Balkans 15 years ago; I don't think that they give two shits about, say, Estonia being brought under Russian 'protection.'  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Aug 17, 04:38:00 PM:

Well shit, I mis-spelled "security" as well... must need more sleep.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Aug 17, 06:16:00 PM:

At least Drum is one of the few on the left to understand the unfathomable reality that there are forces, people, and agendas at work in the world that HAVE NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THE US!

Well, I disagree that this incident has nothing (you don't really mean "nothing"?) whatsoever to do with us but our role in this (and many other areas) is often secondary or ancillary to other reasons.

As difficult as this is to believe, sometimes the leaders of other countries act on their own, in their own interest (as they see it), and for their own internal reasons.

But admitting that acknowledges that we can't control events. It's more smoothing to believe that if we just had the right policies, ther right mix of incentives, other nation's would behave "resonsibly."

It's just easier to blame the "neocons" or Halliburton or military-industrial complex or some other entity.

Life can be hard sometimes.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Aug 17, 06:38:00 PM:


Again, I'm not disputing the truth or logic to your statements. But from the paranoid Russian view, they feel justified in 'pushing back'.
They could join the West in truly peaceful and prosperous co-existence, and discard the habits of the past. But they choose not to. Everything looks like a conspiracy against you, when you're a Russian. Perhaps if we had our country devastated and 40 million killed in WWII, we would be the same way.
I don't "blame the West", or NATO or the US, but the ugly reality of the nature of the nation states in play.
And we are relying on a treaty organization that cannot rouse itself to put a few brigades in Afghanistan to pacify a country which was wracked by invasion (that darn USSR again!) and civil war for 25 years, and desparately needs help in standing on its feet.
You tell me: what will the West Europeans do, if faced with a choice of re-arming, reducing the welfare state of affairs and losing some of the fuel supplies, or reaching an accomodation with Ivan and keeping the gas flowing another year?
My guess is they will pay the Danegeld to Russia, which will get more costly than they wish, sooner than they want. I think the saying is, "May you live in interesting times."


By Blogger Roy Lofquist, at Sun Aug 17, 08:00:00 PM:

Sigh, I guess you gotta get as old as the hills before you catch on. You don't use flowers to tame a bear. Try a Weatherby. You'll last longer.  

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