Putin’s unchecked aggression

Vladimir Putin and other Russian hardliners have long desired control over pro-Western Georgia. Georgia has much to desire in way of agriculture and landscape, and hardliners never accepted the sovereignty of the nation anyway. Now, they seem intent on making their wish a reality.

As they drop bombs on civilian targets and roll their tanks into Georgian territory, the West seems asleep at the wheel. You have to hand it to Putin, his strategy was brilliant. Build up forces on the border but take no action until the world was distracted. This week we had the opening ceremonies in Beijing, the American Congress is out on a month-long recess and many European parliaments are as well.

A friend of mine — a Georgian native — tells me her family is fleeing the country. All able-bodied men of age are being called up to serve in the conflict. I am told it is a matter of days before the Russians completely decimate everything Georgia has worked so hard to build. My friend thinks the stakes are greater than we understand. “It is the start of a new Cold War, whether the rest of the world wants to recognize it or not,” she said.

Start of a new Cold War or not, it is certainly dangerous and illegal aggression from a regime whose nostalgia for the old USSR is far too great for my taste.

The Georgian President has called for a cease-fire, the West should demand Putin do so as well. Russia’s aggression must be put in check.

UPDATE: Some good perspective from James S. Robbins:

But international umbrage is wasted on Russia. They really don’t care what anyone thinks, and their veto power in the Security Council nullifies the possibility of meaningful U.N. action. Russia used force because they knew they could. No country would intervene militarily to stop them, especially the United States. And this is not because the U.S. is tied up in other conflicts; America would not send troops to that war zone even if we were at peace. There is not enough at stake to risk direct conflict with Russia. Meanwhile Georgia is pulling all 2,000 of its troops from Iraq, with the U.S. providing the rapid airlift, and one hopes we will do more to shore up our Coalition partners, such as give materiel or intelligence support.

Yet, short of fighting, there is a way the United States can take meaningful action. Some argue that the events of the past week demonstrate the unsuitability of Georgia for NATO membership, that the country’s leadership is too erratic and their neighborhood too dangerous. On the contrary, this is a perfect opportunity for the member nations of NATO to show their resolve. At the April 2008 NATO Summit in Bucharest, the leadership agreed that Georgia would become a member of the alliance. It is critical to honor this commitment, and in fact to put Georgia on the fast track for membership. The member states must demonstrate to Russia that Moscow does not hold veto power over which countries may enter NATO. And this would be a fitting show of gratitude for Georgia’s participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Furthermore, it would cause Russia to think very clearly about the implications of future aggressive moves against Georgia, particularly actions outside the areas already occupied by Russian “peacekeepers.”

That does seem like a viable option. It would have the added effect of infuriating the Russians who have been doing everything in their power to block Georgian membership in NATO. Meanwhile, Jonathan Foreman says the situation in Georgia is a test for the United States.

Today America faces a big test. Will we stand up for Georgia? Or will we betray her in the way that the United States so often betrays its friends and allies abroad?

…As Russian bombs rain down on key Georgian military bases, Ukraine and the Baltic states know all too well that they are next on the list for Russian invasion — probably with the same pretext of protecting Russian citizens — if the Kremlin gets away with crushing Georgia.

UPDATE: Well said by John Hinderaker: “We appear to be witnessing the resurrection of the Brezhnev era. If so, the news is ominous indeed, for if Vladimir Putin looks like the second coming of Leonid Brezhnev, Barack Obama looks equally like the second coming of Jimmy Carter, whom Brezhnev treated as a lackey.”

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