David Ignatius has a sympathetic read on American involvement in Georgia’s decision to attack South Ossetia. Is he right? Not sure. He seems to believe that Georgia’s behavior was not based on American prodding, and that, on the contrary, the Administration was telling him to keep the brakes on. David is an astute, centrist observer with an intelligence background. The problem now is one of radical distrust by any of our allies of a Republican Administration. David writes:
The signal Bush is said to be sending Saakashvili is: “We’re with you. We take your survival and interests seriously. But be smart. Don’t give Russia a pretext.” This go-slow message is in part a reflection of the administration’s frustration that Saakashvili ignored repeated advice over the past two years not to provoke Russia over the disputed regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Having promised Moscow that the United States would restrain
Mark Mardell’s Euroblog about the EU’s response to Russia at the Avignon retreat, and the string of comments in response, represent a good window into how Europeans are struggling with the question of Russian intervention in Georgia and its consequences. Here is an excerpt:
In EU jargon this meeting is a “Gymnich”, named after the German castle where the first one took place. It’s an informal meeting, which means it can’t issue conclusions. But in reality it’s likely they will decide whether to go along with the plan of the German foreign minister to launch an investigation into the beginning of the war.
Mr Miliband was not against this “It is important to make sure false stories about the origions of the crisis do not become holy writ ..but equally that serious allegations are followed through.”
They will also look at the plan to send EU monitors to report on
It is hard to know what in this piece is designed to drive a wedge in the new Israeli/Syrian dialogue and what spells real trouble in terms of a rapidly deteriorating relationship between the United States and Russia. We may be seeing the undermining of the real possibility of peace between Syria and Israel. There is a march of folly, from Georgia’s move on South Ossetia, to Russia’s naked aggression, to the successful neo-conservative strategy of alienating everyone and anyone for eight years, including Russia (Did Poland really need an ABM defense right now? Is that what is going to make them safer?). It seems that reactionary forces in the United States may get their wish for a world in conflict that will push frightened American voters–and Israeli voters–in their direction once again. It is true that Russia has been headed in an anti-democratic direction for a long time, but …
Tom Friedman is worth reading on sharing the blame for Moscow’s aggression:
If the conflict in Georgia were an Olympic event, the gold medal for brutish stupidity would go to the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin. The silver medal for bone-headed recklessness would go to Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, and the bronze medal for rank short-sightedness would go to the Clinton and Bush foreign policy teams.
Let’s start with us. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, I was among the group – led by George Kennan, the father of “containment” theory, Senator Sam Nunn and the foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum – that argued against expanding NATO, at that time.
It seemed to us that since we had finally brought down Soviet communism and seen the birth of democracy in Russia the most important thing to do was to help Russian democracy take root and integrate Russia into Europe.
I have a friend, Bryan Hamlin, who has been an amazing citizen diplomat all his life, who helps entities in conflict understand each other, especially at critical hours. What I mean by ‘citizen diplomat’ is a person who takes it upon himself to build relationships between enemy groups, or between his own culture and a culture with which he or his country is in conflict. My next book, To Make the Earth Whole, will deal at great length with citizen diplomats because I believe they are the hope of the future, inching the globe toward greater integration, cooperation, and community.
Bryan had two great pre-occupations of his career as a citizen diplomat, the Palestinian/Jewish relationship, and the Russian/Western relationship. He chose wisely, for these remain the deepest challenges to the future of humanity. What we have seen in Georgia proves this.
One of the most exhilarating moments …