Since the formation of the Russian Federation in 1991, the Russian government has been careful to limit military spending, hoping to avoid the Soviet error of engaging in a ruinous arms race with the West. As recently as February, then-Russian President-Vladimir Putin reaffirmed that Russia “must not allow [itself] to be drawn into [a new global arms race].” But while Russian defense spending has already been rising in recent years, one long-term effect of the Georgia War could be to accelerate Russia’s military rearmament. On several occasions since the Georgia War began, Russian leaders have made statements that could be […]

The Case for Strategic Patience: Russia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan

AFOE’s Edward Hugh offers a solid analysis of the current financial turmoil roiling Russian markets, that among other things debunks the idea that the invasion of Georgia was an essential cause — as opposed to a catalyzing event — of the capital flight in the invasion’s aftermath. In other words, absent other fundamental weaknesses and contributing factors, there’s no way of knowing whether globalized markets would have “punished” Russia’s muscle-flexing in the Caucasus. While most of the loud arguments about the Russian invasion have framed it in terms of NATO enlargement and some sort of moral obligation to defend Georgia’s […]

The Self-Imposed Costs of Punishing Russia

A few weeks ago, it looked like the Rice-Gates faction was winning out in the Bush administration’s internal debate about how to respond to Russia’s invasion of Georgia. That view argued in favor of restraint and a collective response with our European allies instead of unilateral “punitive” measures. But according to this LA Times article (via Ilan Goldenbeerg at Democracy Arsenal), the Cheney hardliners might be carrying the day. This faction is advocating for “. . .the continuation of what they confirm has been a White House-imposed communications blackout on most dealings with Russia and a halt to nearly all […]

The Russian military intervention in Georgia has imparted a new tension in the Sino-Russian relationship. Earlier this month, the Chinese Foreign Ministry made the surprising suggestion that the United Nations could help resolve the Georgia crisis. Spokesperson Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing that the U.N. might, “through dialogue and consultations . . . help achieve regional peace and stability and should embody the common ground of all the various parties.” In previous U.N. Security Council (UNSC) sessions, the Chinese representative had adopted a low-key position while Russian and Western diplomats deadlocked over proposed UNSC resolutions to resolve their acrimonious […]

Russia’s Willingness to Act

When I see Bob Gates struggling to formulate a response to Russia’sinvasion of Georgia, it makes me feel better about not having any easyanswers myself. A lot of people have been trying to come up withexplanations for why Russia is the big loser of the conflict, and whythe invasion was a strategic blunder. To me, Gates’ statementsundermine that argument, and reveal the hollowness of Condoleezza Rice’s more confrontational remarks. What strikes me as obvious is that, despite our overwhelmingsuperiority in terms of the balance of force and power, the rolesbetween the U.S. and Russia have been reversed. From the end […]

Beating Missile Defense

I suppose that one of the advantages of the anti-missile defense system the Bush administration is so intent on deploying in Eastern Europe is that it will give the Russians something to do with all their weapons grade uranium stockpiles that might otherwise fall into dangerous hands. Think of it as an arms race doubling as counter-proliferation policy.

The Cyprus Model

Good down the road analysis on Russia and South Ossetia from A Fistful of Euro’s Douglas Muir. A propos my point that South Ossetia’s dependence on Russia undermines the initial claims for autonomy that justified the whole intervention, Muir calls that a feature, not a bug. He cites a EurasiaNet articlewhich predicts the “Cyprus model” for the two provinces, withinternational isolation leading to dependence on Russian aid and thedevelopment of the illicit market (drug trafficking, smuggling andmoney laundering), but points out: Russia has no interest in Abkhazia and South Ossetia being prosperousdeveloping liberal economies with access to World Bank technicalassistance […]

Breaking Away?

Russia seems intent on compounding its major strategic blunder of the Georgia conflict, recognizing S. Ossetia and Abkhazia, by signing security agreements with the two breakaway provinces that among other things establish permanent Russian bases. As I mentioned last week, this is the only way Russian forces could have remained in the provinces post-conflict, as the UN peacekeeping mandate was scheduled to expire next month. But it also very obviously underscores the two provinces’ dependence on Russia, undermining the claims of autonomy and independence that the intervention was meant to defend. Question: What happens to all the Russian passports handed […]

The Bulgarian Option

So far all I’ve seen in the English-language press is a denial by a NATO official that it was discussed. But according to Nicolas Gros-Verheyde at the Bruxelles 2 blog,a Greek military office cited by the Bulgarian press claims that theU.S. is considering basing part of its anti-missile system in Bulgaria.That’s a long way for a rumor to travel, but Bulgaria has expressed interest in the idea before.

On Sept. 8, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the most concrete U.S. punishment of Russia for Moscow’s military intervention in Georgia. In a brief press release, she related that President Bush was rescinding the proposed U.S.-Russia Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation. She expressed regret at the decision, but described it as inevitable since, “given the current environment, the time is not right for this agreement.” Although Vice President Richard Cheney has denounced “Russia’s actions [as] an affront to civilized standards” and said they are “completely unacceptable,” the Bush administration had until this decision not penalized Russia so directly […]

Palin’s Words, McCain’s (and Obama’s) Policy

A couple thoughts about Gov. Sarah Palin’s remarks about “war with Russia,” as they’re being reported: GIBSON: Would you favor putting Georgia and Ukraine in NATO? PALIN: Ukraine, definitely, yes. Yes, and Georgia. . . GIBSON: And under the NATO treaty, wouldn’t we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia? PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you’re going to be expected to be called upon and help. Greg Sargent makes the salient point at the same link as above: It’s worth […]

Embargoing Georgia

One country has already applied an arms embargo on Georgia before the Russians even presented their draft resolution to the UN Security Council. Nicaragua? Nope. Israel. Here’s Haaretz: The officials say the blanket directive was decided upon this week because Israel is concerned about damage to its relations with Russia. For the same reason, Israel decided to stop most weapons sales to Georgia even before the Russia-Georgia war last month. One of Israel’s primary concerns is that Russia could sell Iran advanced weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles. Israel had previously supplied drones and urban warfare training to the Georgian military. (That […]

When war breaks out, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy is decidedly in his element. “BHL,” as he is known in France, made a first venture into his peculiar brand of literary war reporting as the self-appointed bard of the Bosniak cause during the Bosnian civil war in the early 1990s. This was then followed — in sometimes dizzyingly short order — by quick jaunts into war zones or areas of civil unrest in Algeria, Afghanistan (to visit Massoud), Sri Lanka, Burundi, Colombia, Southern Sudan and Israel (during the Israel-Hezbollah War of 2006), and even a brief foray into Darfur last year. […]

Walking Back the Russia Response

So just after I posted this morning about how a confrontational stance with Russia ignored the reality that we need their cooperation on a host of important issues, I got a call from Bob Gates thanking me for tipping the internal Bush administration debate in favor of a more realist approach. Seriously, though, I might have been too quick to characterize the Bush response so far as confrontational, since this is about word for word what I was arguing: Overall, the administration’s strategy reflects a desire to defend Georgia’s territorial sovereignty and its symbolic role as an emerging democracy, while […]

Dealing with Russia

Following up on yesterday’s post about the costs of Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Richard Hainsworth has a great article in Moscow Times (via The Russia Blog) comparing market reactions to the conflict with the reaction to the American invasion of Iraq (barely a blip): Whatever the reasons or motivations for Russia’s invasion into the sovereign territory of another country, investors were not prepared for this unpleasant surprise. Their investment models did not include this factor. When U.S. troops go anywhere, they are accompanied by journalists, news conferences and public warnings. Investors may not like a military conflict and they may […]

Russia’s Georgian Gamble

Daniel Drezner makes a compelling case for the geopolitical and financial costs Russia has suffered due to its invasion of Georgia. Among the former, its embarrassing isolation as the only country (outside of Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua) to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Among the latter, the $21 billion that fled the Russian markets in the war’s aftermath. I agree that the decision to recognize the two breakaway provinces was a strategic error, both for the reasons Drezner identifies, but also because it wasted a pressure point the Russians could have saved for later. But I’m less convinced by an argument […]

Azerbaijan Becomes Object of Russian-Western Rivalry

Although widespread fighting in Georgia has ceased, the war’s diplomatic repercussions continue to ripple throughout the region. One major concern in Washington is that Russia’s successful military intervention in Georgia will intimidate other former Soviet republics to, if not bandwagon with Moscow, at least distance themselves from the United States to avoid antagonizing a newly belligerent Russia. It is therefore no accident, as Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin likes to say, that U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney visited Azerbaijan last week. Cheney travelled to Baku even before arriving in Georgia and Ukraine, whose governments have been engaged in more acute […]

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