Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Georgia v Russia (cont.)

Taking a slightly more detached view of what is happening in Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia a couple of points spring to mind. The first is about ultimate culpability for this. Whether Saakashvili stupidly tried to assert military dominance over what amounted to a Russian protectorate enclave within Georgia, or stupidly reacted to Russian provocation from that enclave, it is clear that it was a pretty grave blunder for Georgia to attempt to enforce its sovereignty over South Ossetia. One can argue that democracies shouldn't have to watch their step for fear of being invaded by neighbouring states, but that would be pretty naive. That said, of course, this line of argument is akin to the argument that the drunken girl in a miniskirt is responsible for being raped. Ultimately, the culpability for the invasion of Georgia by Russian forces is Russia's. [UPDATE: Not that that stops that old fraud Seumas Milne from making precisely this argument - beautifully captured by Mr Eugenides.] [UPDATE 2: the metaphor spreads But to suggest that he somehow got what he deserved is tantamount to saying that a woman who dresses in a miniskirt and high heels and gets drunk in a bar one night is asking to be raped]

The second thought that occurs is that this invasion shows up the relative emptiness of 'soft power' in comparison to the old-fashioned military kind. Shuttle diplomacy, talks about talks, hard words in the Security Council - all these are totally irrelevant in the face of a power that is prepared to use its military power in pursuit of its national objectives. You might say that this is a point that has been proved before - by the invasion of Iraq, say. There's a fair point to be made there, although I would just point out that before that invasion, the many-spoked wheels of international diplomacy were turning for a long time. The re-assertion of Russia's power, even if still only on a regional basis, has significant implications for the future of global diplomacy - and no-one's going to be quite sure what they are until the dust settles.

One last thing - those people who believe that the United Nations is the supreme moral arbiter in the world: how do they feel knowing that they have left their consciences in the care of Vladimir Putin?

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