Sunday, 10 August 2008

Whatever happened to neutrality?

The outbreak of war in Georgia (the country, not the Peach State) might distract us from the great drama of teenaged acrobats on parallel bars for a moment. That small country in the Caucasus tried to assert its sovereignty over one of two provinces essentially occupied by Putin’s Russia, and the surprise movement of troops is apparently backfiring in a big way.

But why would anyone be surprised to see the Russians going bananas to smash a military action on their southern border at whatever cost? After all, restarting the Chechen war and leaving the place a smouldering heap of rubble was what made Putin’s career and, not incidentally, boosted his popularity to 70%. Russians, like all bipeds, love to kick ass and feel they’re the toughest kids on the block.

Seems to me that the creeping expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders is the relevant context for this sad event. If Bush and the European allies hadn’t been so keen on bringing more and more of the old Warsaw Pact countries and even ex-Soviet republics into the anti-Russian military alliance and on getting missiles pointing eastward from the Czech Republic and Poland, perhaps there would have been more room for an amicable solution to Georgia’s territorial issue.

We tend to forget here that the Soviet Union lost 20 million people during World War 2 as its territory was invaded from the west and not for the first time, either. We haven’t been invaded since the War of 1812, but look how long our calm rationality lasted after a single attack.

It’s too bad that Georgia’s leaders, who seemed to be doing their best to clean up the notorious corruption and dysfuntionality of the place and get a fresh start, so badly have miscalculated the value of their quasi-alliance with NATO and now wonder why they’re not getting more help to confront the big-bully neighbor.

They should have thought of that before trying to pull a fast one while everyone was on vacation or busy applauding their national synchronized swimming teams.

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