Et Tu, Russia? That phrase came to mind when a politically anemic European Union (EU) responded to a new Tsarist-like Russia trampling in Stalin-like fashion the free and democratic state of Georgia. Rather than announcing the immediate condemnation of the invasion, the French-led EU dawdled. European leaders eventually expressed indignation, but it was too little, too late. And whether they care to admit it or not, Americans had to step in, again, and make up for lost time as best possible.
A former Soviet satellite, Georgians have every right to be suspicious about their Russian neighbors. Yet, soon after the invasion rather than focus on the Russian invaders, commentators on both sides of the Atlantic tried to place blame on Georgian attempts to pacify a restless region of their country. That is why the Russians acted, so said many European talking heads. That chatter soon spread to the U.S.; however, Russia’s disproportional use of force soon put that debate to rest.
This is not the Cold War, Part Deux. As intoxicating it may seem to some former Cold War warriors to frame what has taken place in some new East-West divide, the world has much changed from the days of Sputnik, the Berlin Wall, wars of liberation, and the communist oppression and subversion of free institutions throughout the world. To allow this issue to devolve into that mindset may be what the Russians want, but those days are long gone. The post-09/11/01 world is nothing like those days and efforts to make that comparison are just plain wrong.
The Russian advance into Georgia may be a warning to the U.S., the EU, NATO, and the former Soviet satellites that the west is getting too close for comfort. If so, someone needs to remind the Russians that that is one of the costs it paid for reckless Soviet adventurism and oppression. By invading Georgia, Russia has broken many promises to the EU and NATO. The latter should have forcefully respond by dissolving the NATO-Russia Council, granting expedited consideration to Georgia and Ukraine NATO membership, ending the U.S. 123 Agreement, or other appropriate measures. It is not as if this Russian action came as a surprise. Regardless, a strong and forceful EU/NATO response early in the process could have slowed or halted Russia’s advance; but it took American leadership to do that.
Now we are learning that Russia has her sights on a more robust presence in the Western Hemisphere. Chavez publicly backed Russia in the Georgia invasion. Late last week Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez declared that the Russian fleets would be welcome in Venezuelan ports. The U.S. should make clear to Russia to butt out of the Americas. With regards to Venezuela, it should be told to cease trying to fuel an arms race by selling Russian military equipment to the Venezuelans. These sales have exceeded $4.0 billion and included AK-47s, helicopters, and other equipment. Chavez now wants Russian subs and planes to station, some say, in the Manta region in Ecuador as part of the Bolivarian experiment. In other words, the EU’s failures impact the U.S. in direct and also indirect ways.
It would be a sad state of things if after so many years after the end of World War II the Europeans should prove unable or unwilling to manage things in their part of the world. They seem so caught up in creating a European super-state, that they have lost touch with the most primary role for a government, protection of its people from foreign aggressors. The Irish were right to reject the over-bureaucratized European nanny state for other reasons. The Irish referendum against the EU Constitution should have been enough to jolt European leaders to get back to the drawing board.
Europe and the U.S. should be asking itself, is this how the Russians re-pay forgiving billions in debt, granting access to Western financial and political institutions, and treating Russia as an equal? Georgia may be the first causualty of EU foreign policy neglience. In the end, it will likely take American leadership to fix it.