Thursday, August 14, 2008

Russia Gets Nervous (But Not Nervous Enough)

In Monday's post on the Russian invasion of Georgia, I wrote that Russian membership in the G-8 should be immediately and indefinitely suspended, if not revoked all together. Of course, I wasn't the only person to suggest such a move. Charles Krauthammer takes the argument one step further, arguing that the US should "suspend the NATO-Russia Council established in 2002 to help bring Russia closer to the West," dissolve the G-8 (later reforming it as the G-7 sans Russia), bar Russia from joining the WTO, and boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics to be held in Russia, just 15 miles from the Georgian border. While neither President Bush nor the presidential candidates have made such concrete proposals, it won't be surprising to such such punishments come down the line in the near future. WTO membership will be hard enough for Russia now, as every member, including Georgia, has to agree to a bilateral agreement with Russia for Russia to join. If President Mikheil Saakashvili can hold on to power (the thrust of the violation of the ceasefire by Russia seems to be replacing Saakashvili with a Russian puppet leader as well as preventing Georgia from retaining the separatist provinces), getting that agreement will be next-to-impossible.

Nonetheless, Russia seems to be a bit worried about these possibilities. Today, a senior Russian official expressed concern, saying that "there are no formal reasons to stop these (accession) talks," and that "The statements that our accession should be delayed because of events in Georgia sound strange. It contradicts basic logic, common sense and promises that were given by the governments of Western countries to Russia." This statement seems to indicate that Russia is concerned about the possibility of being shut out of the global economic system. Of course, Russia doesn't seem too concerned, probably because no such threat is immediately forthcoming.

President Bush should immediately make it clear to Russia what the consequences of this action will be, not only for US-Russian relations, but for Russia's whole approach to the west. Sending humanitarian aid is not enough; the credibility of the American role as protector of the global order is at stake here. Bush needs to move quickly to prevent the Georgian government from collapsing and the Finlandization of Georgia, with Ukraine sure to follow.


Joshua Foust said...

So... Georgia has been experiencing Finlandization since 1993. Your argument from this perspective is a good 15 years out of date.

And Charles Krauthammer knows nothing of this history of this conflict, and pretty obviously relied on Wikipedia for his background.

Seth Weinberger said...

Georgia has been Finlandized since 1993? Then how was it able to apply for NATO membership? To join the WTO? To send troops to Iraq? To use force against the ethnically Russian separatist-minded provinces? If Georgia was already Finlandized, it's hard to imagine Russia allowing it to make such moves. Russia does exert a lot of influence and control over Georgia, but I think it's a stretch to say that it's already Finlandized.

Anonymous said...

Seriously though, using Charles Krauthammer does not strengthen your argument.

Seth Weinberger said...

I wasn't using Krauthammer to strengthen my argument. I was simply using him as an example of the multiple calls for sanctions on Russia. I could just have easily referred to Zbigniew Brzezinski, who also recommended a boycott of the 2014 Olympics.