Russia Makes Nice

I’ve read some convincing arguments about how Russia’s invasion of Georgia was a strategic blunder. I find them most compelling with regards to the impact it will have on Russian relations with China, as well as with other countries that have a lingering problem with breakaway provinces. But the problem with these instant analyses (my own included) is that the impact of this kind of event takes time to play out, and depends as much on the conduct afterwards as on the actual event.I’m reminded of something a jazzman (I think it was Joe Henderson) said about “blue notes”: they’re […]

From Aug. 20-21, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi at the invitation of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Assad last visited Russia in late 2006, when he met with then Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the beginning of their Sochi meeting, Medvedev greeted Assad by remarking that, “We are grateful to Syria for its support on issues related to the well-known recent conflict with Georgia, which committed an act of aggression against South Ossetia.” Assad responded that, “we wish to once again express our support for the Russian position as regards the recent conflict and […]

EU Leaders Talk Tough, but Act Softly, Toward Moscow

At an emergency Sept. 1 meeting in Brussels, European Union leaders adopted the unexpectedly stern stance of threatening to suspend negotiations with Moscow on a renewed cooperative framework agreement unless Russian troops withdraw from Georgia. The decision was amplified by the drama of the gathering, which represented the first emergency session of the EU heads of government, formally known as the European Council, since the beginning of the 2003 Gulf War. According to the statement of the Extraordinary European Council, “Until troops have withdrawn to the positions held prior to 7 August,” when they first intervened in Georgia, “meetings on […]

The EU and Russia

Advocates for a more punitive line will probably find the EU’s declaration on the Russia-Georgia crisis (.pdf) unsatisfactory. But as Christophe Barbier of l’Express notes in this French-language video editorial, Europe isn’t really in a position to “punish” Russia. He likens the situation to a virile negotiation or an arm-wrestling match, and judging from the EU’s declaration, that seems to be the approach the Union is taking: The European Council considers that given the interdependence between the European Union and Russia, and the global problems they are facing, there is no desirable alternative to a strong relationship, based on cooperation, […]

The Challenge of Limited War

Via MDC at Foreign Policy Watch, Fareed Zakaria argues that Russia’s invasion of Georgia will go down as a major strategic blunder, an overreach along the lines of Afghanistan in 1979. I’m not so sure. It’s true that Russia’s heavyhanded approach has validated many of Eastern Europe’s worst fears, triggering a reflex lurch to the West. But Poland’s decision to accept the American missile defense system, which Zakaria links directly to the invasion, is more an acceleration than an about face. And as MDC points out, the trans-Atlantic unity that Zakaria claims the Russian invasion fostered is not uniform. In […]

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