Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

The example of our power

The European Union will soon find itself between a jagged rock and a harder place if it continues its campaign of empty threats against Moscow. Russia is confident that neither the United States nor the E.U. will militarily prevent them from having their way in the Caucasus. And now they are becoming more confident that economic sanctions, as well, will be soon thrown out of the U.S.-E.U.’s diplomatic arsenal.

In Brussels several weeks ago, the European Union agreed to assist Georgia, presumably through economic and humanitarian aid packages, but shied away from imposing economic sanctions on Russia.

This is a faux pas step in the right direction. While it does the good deed of abetting the now war-torn Georgian nation, it fails to address the problems with Russian military presence in a free democratic nation. In other words, the move today sidesteps the major issue of Russia’s invasion of Georgia.

Many who have commented on this issue are quick to blame Russia for their aggression. However, they seem to miss one indispensable fact: the Georgian militarily instigated this war. Georgian forces began their military offensive on the night of August 7th, after agreeing to a ceasefire and Russian-mediated peace talks. In their surprise attack, they killed 15 innocent civilians and practically leveled the South Ossetian ‘capital,’ Tskhinvali, with gunfire.

Russia’s response, however, was overwhelming and unnecessary. It has led to some 400 Georgian military deaths, 1,492 civilian deaths and over 230,000 refugees. Nonetheless, we must still view Russia’s response as a reactionary measure taken by Moscow instead of an unprovoked invasion.

Had Russia invaded Georgia on its imperialistic whim, our reaction and, by extension, their punishment should be much more severe. But, this is not the case.

Seeing as it cannot and should not do anything militarily to end this conflict, it would be prudent for the West to engage in something that has been lacking in the Middle East to end the conflict in the Caucasus: thoughtful diplomacy.

So far, neither party has canvassed this option. The Republicans, spearheaded nowadays by the pseudo-foreign-policy tag team of John McCain and Sarah Palin (by virtue of living in Alaska which is “up there near Russia,” as several Fox News correspondents have pathetically pointed out), have said that “we are all Georgians” and must stop at nothing to help Georgia and only Georgia in this bipolar conflict between good and evil.

The Democrats, headed also by their nominee for president and vice president, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, have belatedly called for a somewhat more pragmatic and realistic call for restraint on both sides. But, like the Republicans’, this trying move falls well short of a solution on this precedent-setting contemporary foreign policy decision.

It would be best if the United States set this precedent with a prudent decision that appropriately appraised the United States’ and Russia’s future ties. They are the difference between a second Cold War, exacerbated by thousands of nuclear weapons going unaccounted for, and a peaceful coexistence that not only would find and secure all of Russia’s loose nukes, but see Russia remain in the G-8 and join the World Trade Organization.

The U.S., at least, can easily broker a deal with Russia that would go a long way in restoring a congenial relationship with its former Cold War foe.

Russia despises the U.S.’s missile defense system in Poland, which to even the mediocre military technocrat looks like a tatterdemalion instead of a polished example of the Pentagon’s potential.

Russia does not want Georgia to join NATO; Georgia probably would not have been able to join NATO anyway because of the many requirements, such as defense spending, size of military, etc., it does not and probably will not meet.

The United States wants Russia to leave Georgia proper and the two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and install a peacekeeping force that will do its job rather than one, like the previous Russian ‘peacekeepers,’ that instead of solely providing humanitarian aid was instrumental in exacerbating the conflict to its tipping point.

This give-2-take-1 deal could greatly help the United States in its quest to refocus Russian relations toward nuclear nonproliferation. Moreover, it would prove that the United States is willing to give a little more than it gets, for once, in a peace treaty – an exemplary moral stance the U.S. must take in order to begin restoring its place in the world.

As Bill Clinton unveiled in a wonderful chiasmus last week during his speech at the Democratic National Convention, “people the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.”

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