Friday, August 22, 2008

More on the Re-awakened Russian Bear

With each day's news reports, we get more clarity as to why it is taking so long for Russia to withdraw its troops. It looks more and more like ethnic Russians in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are using the cover of Russian occupation forces to make it difficult for their ethnic Georgian neighbors to return.
Zbingiew Brezezinski has summed up Russia's policy in the area:

Russia has deliberately instigated the breakup of Georgian territory. Moscow has promoted secessionist activities in several Georgian provinces: Abkhazia, Ajaria and, of course, South Ossetia. It has sponsored rebellious governments in these territories, armed their forces and even bestowed Russian citizenship on the secessionists.

It appears that Russia may be targeting Ukraine next. The Telegraph reports that

Ukraine is investigating claims that Russia has been distributing passports in the port of Sevastopol, raising fears that the Kremlin could be stoking separatist sentiment in the Crimea as a prelude to possible military intervention.

Earlier this year, the Russians made a point of asserting their claims to Sevastopol. Their claim amounts to an assertion that Sevastopol was not transferred to the Ukraine in 1954.

This is in addition to the economic isolation of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan; economic pressures on the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia; and the cyber attacks on Estonia. Russia may already have achieved an effective partition of Moldova

The bear has definitely woken up. The US needs to find a way to deal effectively with the re-constitution of Russia as a great power. The approach recommended by Cato does not seem the right way to go. We are well past the era when the US could cower behind the bulwark of the Atlantic. The US is also a great power, and there are responsibilities that attach to that. But a balanced, respectful dialog between the two powers would be a huge step forward from the overheated rhetoric and disrespect we've been seeing.