A few weeks back, I blogged about what the US, NATO, and the Western powers should do about Russia, writing that while "Russian security concerns should be taken into account, to allow those concerns to move NATO away from its pacific mission is the wrong choice." Today, I find more support for my position with specific regard to NATO expansion.
Today comes reports from Georgia that war is "very close" between Georgia and Russia. Perhaps in response to Kosovo's breakaway from Serbia, Russia has been increasing the number of peacekeepers it deploys to protect the ethnically-Russian region of Abkhazia. Russia has accused Georgia of threatening war against the region, while Georgia sees the Russian troop deployment as a not-so-subtle move to create de facto independence there. So far, Russia has kept troop levels under the maximum number (3,000) allowed by a UN agreement, but a self-proclaimed "foreign minister" of Abkhazia has announced that "[Abkhazia] agrees to Russia taking this territory under its military control. In exchange, we will demand guarantees of our security." The US, in response, has "urged the Russian government to reiterate its commitment to Georgia's territorial borders and sovereignty, reverse the troop movements and "cease from further provocation."
The Russian government is behaving extremely irresponsibly here, likely using blunt threats and posturing to send messages over the nature of Russian strategic interests and the need to preserve state integrity and sovereignty. But such ham-fisted attempts merely reinforce the questions over Russia's intentions and strengthen the case and need to get Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. Russia's actions clearly throw into doubt whether Russia can be seen as a long-term status quo power and overall trends do not show even the kind of progress that can be seen in China. While the Cold War is not reemerging, the US, NATO, and the West should make it abundantly clear to Russia that its own interests will only be respected so far as Russia adheres to legitimate means to pursue those interests.