Georgian War: Russia Fires Off a Message

Georgian War: Russia Fires Off a Message

The political and historic intricacies of the war raging between Russian and Georgian forces in South Ossetia are rather complicated, but the message fired off by the relentless Russian onslaught is as clearly discernible as the blast of a cannon: The territories of the former Soviet Union will answer to Moscow -- whether they want to or not.

That smoldering salvo has its intended audience, more than anywhere else, in those former Soviet territories: in lands that include Georgia, of course, but also other former Soviet republics than have worked to moved away from Moscow's influence. The message is meant to be heard in places such as Ukraine, and maybe -- just maybe -- as far as the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, which once saw their independence bartered away to Moscow but have now managed to achieve their dream of rejoining Europe by gaining entrance in the European Union. The fiery message also has an intended audience in the West, where Europe and the United States have been trying to figure out what to make of the newly invigorated Russia, and how to respond to overtures from the likes of the Republic of Georgia, pleading for entrance into NATO and the EU.

Unfortunately for Georgia, and for other emerging democracies that might find themselves in similar situations, NATO, the EU and the U.S. are not about to go to war against Russia on their behalf any time soon. Cold War memories of Soviet tanks rolling in to subjugate other nations remain fresh in Europe. Still, the West needs Russia to help with Iran; it needs Russian gas; and it simply cannot afford to antagonize Moscow very strongly.

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