by Jerome a Paris
Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 05:34:28 AM EST
Russia 'ends Georgia operation'
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered an end to military operations against Georgia, the Kremlin says.
Note that on the groudn witnesses say that Russia's operations have been limited for the past couple days, despite repeated announcements by the Georgian side. Here's the FT's Charles Clover, reporting from Georgia:
The land battle between Russia and Georgia - which started on Thursday with a Georgian offensive against the South Ossetian separatists and Russia's iron-fisted response - now appears to be static. Both sides continue to trade fire, Georgians shelling Russian positions and Russian jets dipping and diving on the Georgians. But neither side appears to want to move or attack anywhere urgently. (...)
Despite rumours that swept Tbilisi on Sunday night and Monday, stoked by the Georgian government, that Russian troops had broken out from the South Ossetian enclave and were headed for the regional centre of Gori 30km to the south, no such invasion materialised, though a nearby army base was hit by one bomb.
"We all evacuated, thinking the Russians were rolling into town any minute, but when we came back in the morning, the people said they'd had a peaceful night's sleep," said a correspondent with Al-Jazeera television.
Beyond a few bombing raids (and some collateral damage, endlessly shown), there does not appear to have been large scale military movement by the Russians. This has not prevented our media from swallowing the Georgian version of things unquestioningly (even when Saakashvili was talking about shooting down 80 Russian planes and other similarly incredible assertions), and the discourse to move uniformly about Russia's over-reaction, thus conveniently avoiding the debate about the prelude to this and our role therein.
Instead, we get this:
The new age of authoritarianism
Yet today, in much of the world, the spread of freedom is being checked by an authoritarian revanche. That shift has been most obvious in the petro-states, where oil is casting its usual curse. From Latin America to Africa to the Middle East, the black-gold bonanza has given authoritarian regimes the currency to buy off or to repress their subjects. In Russia, oil has fuelled an economic boom that prime minister Vladimir Putin, and some of his foreign admirers, mistakenly attribute to his careful demolition of the chaotic democracy of the 1990s.
(no mention of the US or Europe in that trend)
The farther Russia's tanks roll into Georgia, the more the world is beginning to see the reality of Vladimir Putin's Napoleonic ambitions. Having consolidated his authoritarian transition as Prime Minister with a figurehead President, Mr. Putin is now pushing to reassert Russian dominance in Eurasia. Ukraine is in his sights, and even the Baltic states could be threatened if he's allowed to get away with it. The West needs to draw a line at Georgia.
Vladimir Putin's Russia isn't the former Soviet Union, bent on ideological confrontation around the world. But it is a Bonapartist power intent on dominating its neighbors and restoring its clout on the world stage. Unless Russians see that there are costs for their Napoleon's expansionism, Georgia isn't likely to be his last stop.
(He's so French, ie cowardly, if I remember correctly?)
How the West Can Stand Up to Russia
Georgia's "impertinence" in seeking NATO membership and building close ties with Europe does not fully explain Moscow's blatant display of brute power. In a speech before the Munich Conference on Security Policy in February last year, Mr. Putin made it clear that Russia would no longer accept the rules of the international road as set by the democratic West. It was an in-your-face challenge to the U.S. and Europe, and we blinked. With the exception of John McCain, who warned against "needless confrontation" on the part of Moscow, no American or European official at the conference made any attempt to push back. Ever since, Moscow's contempt for NATO, the European Union and Washington has only grown.
Reversing this course will not be easy, but it is absolutely necessary. At stake are international law, energy security, NATO's future, and American credibility when it comes to supporting new democracies. It is also about resisting Russia's openly hegemonic designs on its neighbors
What can the West do? The first step is for the U.S. and its allies to rush military and medical supplies to Tbilisi. If we want democracy to survive there, Georgians have to believe that we have their backs. At the moment, the tepidness of the Western response has given them serious cause for doubt. In addition, Washington should lead the effort to devise a list of economic and diplomatic sanctions toward Russia that impose real costs for what Moscow has done. Russia should know that the West has a greater capacity to sustain a new Cold War than Russia, with its petroleum-dependent economy, does.
Over the longer term, it is essential that Russia's stranglehold on Europe's energy supplies be broken. The EU's failure to get its house in order by diversifying energy supplies and insisting that Russia, in turn, open up its own market, has created a situation in which Moscow rightly believes it has significant leverage over the policy positions of key countries such as Germany.