Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Commentators: the West Must Act

Western press comment is beginning to show a realization of the true gravity of the situation that is unfolding, not only in Georgia, but in the whole of Europe.  As Russia proceeds to ignore appeals by European and U.S. politicians, its sights are fixed not only on the Caucasus, but also on Ukraine, and even further afield. Helene Cooper's analysis in the IHT today reflects some of the shock that this realization is inducing in Western political figures and a public that has grown accustomed to the idea that after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia somehow became a part of the West:

...there is a growing belief in European capitals and in Washington that the return of Russia could mean a distinct redrawing of the Eurasia map, with Europe and the United States giving up on attempts to integrate former Soviet republics in the Caucasus, like Ukraine and Georgia, into the Western orbit, while battling with Russia to keep Eastern European countries like Poland and the Baltic states.

And the return of Russia could mean an end to already-dwindling American and European hopes of bringing Russia along eventually as an ally of the West. At best, Russia would never be trusted; at worst, it would be seen as an adversary.

Even for an emboldened Moscow, the Russian foray into Georgia carries substantial risks: not just global isolation from the Western democracies, but also anger from neighboring states of the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, the prospect of perpetual military quagmires around its borders, if not on the catastrophic scale of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, and nationalist reprisals like those that resulted from its crackdown in Chechnya.

A crowd of more than 1,000 people demonstrated in the Latvian capital, Riga, on Monday, while hundreds more gathered in Tallinn, Estonia, and Vilnius, Lithuania, to press the West to adopt a tough stance toward Moscow. Leaders in Poland and the Czech Republic echoed that call.

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