LONDON — Only moments after takeoff on a flight from Amsterdam to London, everyone on board, it seemed, had disappeared into a newspaper. With front pages from across Europe held aloft, a glance down the aisle showed one story dominated the news that day in dailies across the region, with another piece of news coming in a close second. Almost every front page showed a picture of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Not far below the news from Denver, most papers featured unsettling news about Russia and the possibility of a new Cold War. Once again, America and Europe stand […]

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Before the Russia-Georgia war, the Discovery Institute’s Real Russia Project, which relative to most members of the U.S. foreign policy commentariat provides a decidedly contrarian view of Russia, wrote a short pamphlet called “10 Reasons Americans Should Care About Russia.” According to the project’s Yuri Mamchur, the report remains valid. “Perhaps as tempers cool, people of good will can consider what is at stake; what there is to gain, and what there is to lose,” he writes. Here’s the full report, and here’s a list of the 10 reasons: 1. Russia is the world’s largest country, straddling Europe, China and […]

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“What is a Jew in Germany Permitted to Say against Israel?” Thus ran the headline to a commentary that ran in the Arts and Letters section of Germany’s influential Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) last week. And — though perfectly reflecting the tenor of the article by Patrick Bahners, the editor of the section — a very odd headline it is. For while the subject of the piece is a court case in which freedom of speech is indeed clearly at stake, as so happens the case involves not an attempt to silence a Jewish critic of Israel, but rather the […]

While control over routes for the export of oil and gas to Western markets was clearly not the primary cause of the recent hostilities between Moscow and Tbilisi, the vital role of the Caucasus as an energy transit route nevertheless cannot be ignored in the context of Russia’s increasingly tense relationship with the United States and its European allies. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s led to the formation of several breakaway republics in the Caspian region, an energy-rich area which had been off limits to Western investment. That these newly formed states with substantial reserves of […]

GEORGIAN BLAME GAME . . . — Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili may excoriate Russia for invading his country in interviews with Western media — such as his Financial Times interview Monday — but for local consumption he does not spare the West from responsibility for Georgia’s current crisis. In a major speech in Tbilisi last week, he said the Russian military build-up in South Ossetia was well underway before Georgian forces attacked the breakaway province, but Western leaders wouldn’t believe him, and Western intelligence failed to detect it. “When we were asking our Western partners [read: the United States] did […]

On Aug. 21, the Russian Defense Ministry announced its decision to halt military cooperation with NATO members. The Russian announcement comes only a week after Moscow tried to convene a special meeting of the NATO-Russia Council to discuss the situation in Georgia, but was rebuffed by the alliance. Instead, NATO foreign ministers met independently of Moscow on Aug. 19, when they threatened to curtail military cooperation with Russia. When asked about the Russian decision, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe observed that, “For all practical purposes, military-to-military cooperation had really already been ended with the Russians. I can’t imagine […]

When all was said and done, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice got scant comfort from NATO on her mission to press punitive action against Russia following its armed incursion into Georgia — and its slowness in leaving it. True, the North Atlantic alliance foreign ministers meeting in Brussels Tuesday did manage to adopt a united position — but at the price of tepid language and of retaliatory steps that fell short of what the Bush administration had urged. President Dmitry Medvedev signed an agreement that requires Russian troops to return to positions held before the fighting broke out on Aug. […]

Earlier today, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski signed an agreement negotiated last week that will position 10 American-controlled interceptor missiles at a U.S.-manned missile defense base in Poland. Both governments reached the deal despite strenuous Russian opposition to the move. During the past year, Russian political, military, and other leaders have stridently denounced American efforts to establish a comprehensive ballistic missile defense (BMD) network that extends beyond the United States. In particular, Moscow has objected to U.S. plans to deploy ballistic missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic to supplement the […]

When war broke out in the Caucuses between Russia and Georgia, the government of Israel immediately knew it had a difficult situation in its hands. The early phases of the conflict forced Israel to walk a difficult diplomatic path. Before long, Israelis realized that the new global reality reflected by the conflict meant an even more challenging environment in which to handle threats to their security. The rumblings of a new Cold War could well mean that cooperation between the West and Russia on matters crucial to Israel, particularly Iran, is coming to an end. Even worse, a possible new […]

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To continue a theme I’ve touched on in a few recent posts, Daniel Drezner’s comments (via the 8th Circle) on Georgia, Russia and NATO expansion are worth reading. Drezner cautions against believing that encroachment of Western influence and institutions like NATO and the EU is the primary cause of Russian coercion of its near abroad: . . . I’m not sure that realist opposition to NATO expansion is vindicated by the Georgia invasion. I presume their argument is that NATO expansion somehow triggered the security dilemma, which led to Russia’s current revanchism. The thing is, I wrote half a book […]

The War in Georgia has seriously exacerbated relations between Russia and Ukraine’s pro-Western government. On Aug. 12, Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko joined the leaders of four other former Soviet states in Tbilisi to show solidarity with Georgia and its embattled president, Mikheil Saakashvili. Yushchenko told the crowd that had assembled in Tbilisi’s central square: “You will never be left alone! . . . We have come to reaffirm your sovereignty, your independence, your territorial integrity. These are our values. Independent Georgia is and independent Georgia will always be!” The following day, President Yushchenko boldly imposed severe restrictions on the movement […]

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Following up on my post about McCain’s response to the Georgia war, Andrew Sullivan more elegantly makes the point that I was clumsily attempting to make in referencing that Belgravia Dispatch post on Wednesday. Here’s Sullivan: No one should doubt that McCain’s heart is in the right place. McCain long championed the persecuted people of Iraq; and he came to the defense of the beleaguered Bosnians. He is passionate about Burma and Darfur. You name a lost cause and he will rally to it. . . . His position on Georgia makes much more sense if you see it in […]

AUGUST BLUES — “August is the month when wars start,” wrote the late Al Aronowitz, the rock writer. Both World War I and II started in August, and now the Georgia-Russia conflagration has followed suit. In planning their attempt to retake South Ossetia, did the Georgians think the Russians would all be on vacation and not notice? Their second miscalculation was to forget the lesson of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 and somehow believe that their patron, the United States, would step in. That’s what the Hungarians believed when they launched their revolution against the Soviet presence, based mainly on […]

The participation of the American basketball player Chris Kaman in the Beijing Olympics as a member of the German basketball squad has caused some eyebrows to be raised — not least, those of Kaman’s own father LeRoy. “You’re not German,” Yahoo Sports reports LeRoy telling his son: “You’re an American citizen.” But the story of Kaman’s blitz naturalization is not only one of a basketball mercenary in search of a chance for glory at the Olympics or of the German national team’s desperation to find a usable center to line up next to star forward Dirk Nowitzki. It also reveals […]

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Jeez. I figured that the opening of the Olympic Games meant I could sneak in a week of intermittent posting, and instead war breaks out in Europe. Obviously, with resident Russia specialist Richard Weitz around, I assumed WPR readers would be well informed, and I wasn’t wrong. Setting aside the actual issues at dispute in the Russian-Georgian conflict, when I saw the first reports of the fighting, I couldn’t help but think that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashivili had done the Russians an enormous favor in provoking an armed conflict, and this paragraph from Richard’s piece explains why: By punishing Georgia […]

August is when official Washington shuts down and heads off for vacation. Congressmen and senators travel to their districts to politick, especially in these even-numbered years, and presidents travel to their ranches or beach houses or, this year, to the Olympics. But that wasn’t the case during the administration of George H.W. Bush. In fact, it was during these dog days of summer that the elder Bush was busiest. The next president could learn a thing or two from the 41st — about what to do and what not to do. It’s regrettable that Bush’s presidency is usually mentioned in […]

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For those looking to make sense of the Russia-Georgia conflict, we’ve published three commentary/analysis pieces on the subject today. —Richard Weitz looks at Moscow’s motives; —Frida Ghitis says Russia is sending a message; and —Peter Doran says Moscow has been allowed to play both mediator and spoiler.

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