Monday, August 11, 2008

The West and Russia: the dangers of equivocation

Paul Goble, in his remarkable Window on Eurasia, considers the dangers posed by the mixed signals and equivocation emanating from Western countries in the context of the Russian invasion of Georgia, pointing out that failure of back up words of support with action could have disastrous consequences. Excerpt:

And finally – and this is a danger that cannot be ruled out – such a disorderly recession of Western and especially American power and influence in the region means that the Russians, never all that sophisticated in gauging just where the lines are, may finally cross a red line and provoke an explosion in East-West relations that could rapidly get out of hand.

No one – and I mean no one – would have been happier than the author of these lines if American and Western actions had matched American and Western rhetoric in support of the non-Russian nations who escaped the evil empire 17 years ago, but again no one can be less happy than I that the emerging gap is leading to a disaster for both these nations and the West.

These reflections are prompted not only by a close following the events of the last week in the Caucasus but also by two wise declarations by people who know far better than the West does just how dangerous the situation in Georgia is not only for the people of that region but also for the West and the future of Russia.

The first of these documents is a joint declaration issued by the presidents of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland concerning the Georgian events. Having condemned Russian actions in Georgia, the four ask two pointed questions that should be on the minds of all people of good will everywhere:

First, they ask, “can the current Russian authorities be called adequate strategic partners of the EU; and second “can the family of European democratic countries pursue a mutually beneficial dialogue with a country that uses heavy military armor against an independent country” (www.president.ee/en/duties/press_releases.php?gid=116987).

Noting that the Georgian events represent “a litmus test for the credibility of the EU and NATO to solve the conflict and to prove for all EU and NATO members, aspirant countries and democratic partners that it is worth being members and partners of these organizations,” the four presidents invite other world leaders to join them in this declaration.

The second of these documents is an appeal by Sergei Kovalyev and other leading Russian human rights activists to condemn what Russia is doing in Georgia, to exclude Moscow from the G-8 because of its actions, and to have the UN, OSCE, and PACE impose sanctions against the Russian government (grani.ru/Politics/World/Europe/Georgia/m.139826.html).

These two documents issued by two brave groups of people who understand first hand just what the Russian state is capable of and how Moscow will inevitably seek to exploit Western weakness and especially Western mistakes merit not only the greatest possible respect but the closest possible attention in Western capitals.

It is, of course, very late for this in the Georgian crisis, but it is not too soon to start thinking carefully about bringing words and actions into line so that the tragedy now visiting the people of the Republic of Georgia will not soon extend to other nations in the region and to the broader world as well.

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