Russia’s invasion of Georgia, in Context

From Russia’s perspective
Grand strategic: increase the capacity for the Russian state to exist on its own terms
Strategic: extend “hard” control to the former Soviet satellites to the extent possible
Operational: Overthrow the Saakashvelli government of Georgia, halt European and Atlantic expansion
Tactical: Use secessionist regions to either cajole former soviet Republics or directly incorporate them into the Russian Federation

From our perspective:
Grand strategic: Shrink the gap
Strategic: Limit the ability of gap states such as Russia from slowing or reversing economic, political, and military integration
Operational: Add Ukraine and Georgia to NATO and the EU, expel Soviet forces from Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, and so on
Tactical: presere the Saakasvhelli government, limit recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia

It is in this perspective that cheap talk of “Old European” solidarity (from Britain, France, and Germany) is heartening. Also encouraging is that even Russia’s client Serbia (for whom this whole mess started) is against Russia’s move.

Putin’s policy of “alienating friends and repelling people” is heartening for the West, because it helps our objective of shrinking the Gap, preventing the Gap from interferring with the Core, adding new states to the Core, and preserving our allies.

5 thoughts on “Russia’s invasion of Georgia, in Context”

  1. Dan,

    “Add Ukraine and Georgia to NATO and the EU…”

    Given the huge costs of adding new economic – basket case member states to the latter organisation this would have the additional advantage – from a US perspective – of destroying the EU for good. The EU “net payers” in “Old Europe” wd simply go bankrupt. The EU is financially, politically and structurally over-extended as it is.

    Congrats on yr lateral thinking. The French say: Dieu me garde de mes amis, mes enemies je m`en charge. (God protect me from my friends, I`ll take care of my enemies myself).

    I´d love to see you expelling “Soviet forces” from the countries you name btw.

  2. fmc,

    Given the huge costs of adding new economic – basket case member states to the latter organisation this would have the additional advantage – from a US perspective – of destroying the EU for good. The EU “net payers” in “Old Europe” wd simply go bankrupt. The EU is financially, politically and structurally over-extended as it is.

    Can you demonstrate these claims?

    They strike me as the sort of arm-waiving I’m familiar with from watching the Lou Dobbs Report.

  3. Dan,

    Thx for the prompt reply and the compliment. As I am an “Old Euopean” I had to check the name first. I do not watch CNN much as the sound and visuals are those of 2nd rate computer game and the content is flimsy anyway.

    Btw. I did not mention the slight problems enumerated above to “do down” the EU which I happen to be very much in favour of.

    There is no way (not even within the scope of a doctoral dissertation) to “demonstrate” the points made. A short look at the problems might look like this:

    1. Politically – when I studied law and particularly EU law in the 80s there was a lot of talk about how the EU had to get its act together before expanding any further. That was the consensus then. In reality, the reform process has been very slow and painful. Member states naturally wanted to give up as little sovereignity as possible. Two referendums (France and Ireland, recently) damned near scuppered ratification of major EU reforms since then.

    Just two of the many problems, and the 1st one is a real “biggie”: majority voting in the Council of Ministers and the principle of “one man, one vote” in elections to the European Parliament. Both problems have been discussed since the early 80s. Solution? None, bar the usual haggling. Just google it and if you are in a humourous mood check out the stuff by Poland`s Kacinsky on why the Polish vote should be weighted differently.

    That is just an illustration. What do Finland, Greece, Eire and Luxembourg have in common in matters of history, economy, politics, national mentality ?

    2. Structurally: The EU has become very unwieldy, to put it mildly. At present, each EU country has traditionally been entitled to send in a “Commissaire” or Commissioner. P.ex. Mandelson for the Brits as Trade Comm. If I remember correctly no country has yet given up its “Commissioner”. Oh, and BTW there is no official language so all documents (ten thousands of them) have to be translated. Do not laugh, just try to translate a directive about minimum standards for insurance brokers from Finnish into Greek.

    Of course that sort of thing is terrific if you need a quick reaction to an international crisis isn`t it?

    If you still do not see the problem compare the structure of the latest attempt at a constitution to a) Your own. b) The French one. C) The German one. Notice the difference ?

    3. Financially: The EU operates on the principle of redistribution from rich to poor, to put it crudely: as a German taxpayer I subsidize Portuguese farmers. The thing is called CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). It consumes 47 % of the EUs total budget (used to be 62 %). Of course it is relatively easy to pay for, say, Croatia. Ukraine on the other hand has 46 million inhabitants, a prehistoric industrial landscape and quite a few other problems (infrastructure and such) which might call for EU subsidies. This is not a grace and favour thing. It is legal right which Ukraine may actually sue for. Of course this problem could be solved by decisively reforming the EU and the system of subsidies. Will this happen ? Shortly after the Dalai Lama is named head of state in newly independent Tibet, I am sure.

    Net payers are the countries which pay more into the EU than they get back – Germany and Holland p.ex. There aren`t too many of them, really.

    Some stats – subject for a doctoral thesis to be written by a bloke impervious to boredom and endowed with an enormous capacity for absorbing data and frustration:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlargement_of_the_European_Union
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistics_relating_to_enlargement_of_the_European_Union
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Agricultural_Policy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_rebate

    Finally, as you accuse me of “arm waving” – yes, on 2nd thoughts you re right. I am waving at you, Sir, frantically: “Do not drive on. That` s a dead end … with a jacknifed lorry behind the bend. Slowly !”

    Now as I have written far too much already, will you explain the “expelling” part and, as an addition, how you will “add Georgia and Ukraine” to an organisation which the US is not a member of and which may have its own ideas about who controls admission ?

  4. fmc,

    Thank your for your excellent reply.

    I have to confess I confused you with another commentator, who shares two of your names and is taken to making broad assertions and not backing them up.

    You’re quire right on the structural and political pain enlargement causes the European Union. Indeed, I’ve defended the EU on these grounds before. Some American bloggers — even some normally very good ones — are quick to dismiss Euoropean contributions because they are not in the form of “boots on the ground” in Afghanistan, Iraq, and so on [1]. But the sacrifices the European states are individually making in order to build the European Union are breathtaking. The creation of the EU, and then its expansion in both depth and breadth, is one of the great successes of the 20th century. It continues to be a success in the 21st.

    Now, even though the EU has made such strides and even though the free flow of capital and labor have helped the European economies, the Common Agricultural Policy is a serious stumbling block. Originally, the CAP was a form of de facto reparations, where German factory workers would pay French farmers. As you point out, it is becoming increasingly unwieldy. It will need to be reformed.

    However, none of this means bankruptcy for the European Union. It means a continuation of the same processes of reform that have been going on for decades. Step by step, reform by reform, the European Union has become more powerful in both the number of members it has and its “harmonization” of member-state laws.

    (Obviously, the broader question of whether or not one it is wise to continue building up the EU super-state is a different matter.)

    Now as I have written far too much already, will you explain the “expelling” part and, as an addition, how you will “add Georgia and Ukraine” to an organisation which the US is not a member of and which may have its own ideas about who controls admission ?

    The withdrawal of Russian troops from foreign territories they are currently occupying necessarily involves reducing the ability and will of Russia to continue that occupation. [2]

    The US has been remarkably effective over the past five decades, first in diverting the attention of the major European to the common idea Europe, and then urging the incorporation of formerly east-bloc states. Certainly most of the hard work has been done by Europeans. [3] Still, the de facto status of the EU as the European political arm of NATO (or one might say, the de facto status of NATO as the European military wing of the EU-US partnership) means that the US plays a critical role in providing for the security of new EU members against potential military aggression.

    [1] http://zenpundit.com/?p=283
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/16/countermeasures.html
    [3] http://www.amazon.com/Certain-Cornell-Studies-Political-Economy/dp/0801440866

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