Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Widening Conflict - IV

AT CFR, former United States FSU ambassador-at-large Stephen Sestanovich is interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman on issues surrounding the Georgia-Russia crisis. Sestanovich’s opinion is that the crisis represents only part of a much bigger confrontation between Russia and the West. He believes that Russia is now in the grip of a surge of anti-American and anti-Western feeling which in the post-Soviet period first surfaced there in a significant way during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution - the Russian government and large nationalist-inclined sections of the Russian public saw for the first time the possibility that a revolution of this kind, which had the potential to take their country out of its traditional quasi-Soviet orbit and closer to Western and US political and economic interests, could actually happen in Russia itself.

Now in the conflict with Georgia these politically manipulated apprehensions are gathering strength once again, and Sestanovich believes there is a risk the whole matter may spiral out of control, as Russia’s rage about Georgia’s push for NATO membership continues to grow. After much ranting and fuming on Moscow’s part throughout the 1990s, the accession of the Baltic States to NATO passed off more or less without incident in 2004. But the Kremlin seems to have reserved its wrath for the possibility of a third wave of enlargement (Russia generally favours the term “expansion”) that might also include Ukraine. In the end, Sestanovich thinks, the Russians perceive Georgia’s present political and strategic position as a threat to Russian interests, both regionally and beyond. “They see good relations between the United States and Georgia as provocative,” he says, viewing the present crisis as a classic example of a confrontation where neither side is able to back down sufficiently to enable a resolution, and where pressures of government policy and public opinion continue to build bilaterally. The implications for international security are obvious, and must give rise to concern.

See also: The Widening Conflict
The Widening Conflict - II
The Widening Conflict - III
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