Russia has no right at all to invade Georgian territory – which South Ossetia is. Russia’s actions are illegal. The US and UK, who launched an equally illegal and much more devastating invasion of Iraq, are ill-placed to be outraged. Georgia was acting lawfully but unwisely in attacking rebels in South Ossetia. But Putin is lying when he says Georgia was engaged in genocide, and Georgia’s attack was itself less devastating than Russian attacks on Chechnya – a precisely parallel situation. So Russia is also being hideously hypocritical.
But we cannot just say that all the major powers involved are behaving terribly. That is true but not enough. Lenin’s Tomb has an excellent analysis.
But it is marred by the tendency of the left to think anyone opposed to Bush must be a good thing, and so give Putin the benefit of the doubt. Putin has plenty of blood on his hands also, and not only in Chechnya.
The truth is that life for ordinary people in the ex Soviet countries which have had “Orange Revolutions” like Ukraine and Georgia, is much, much better than in those which have not, like Belarus, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. That is so evident as to be undeniable to anyone who has actually been there.
Yet resurgent Russian nationalism is a major threat to Europe, and so Georgia must be supported as Russia tries to increase its hegemony over the former Soviet Union.
Russia’s attempt to leverage its Russian minorities into political power has been most obvious in Georgia and remains a major threat in the Ukraine. Given its own opposition to separatism for the many ethnic areas within Russia, this is not a question of principle. I posted on this last week.
Most commentators have quite correctly picked up on the fact that this is in large part about control of oil and gas pipelines. Those who have seen me lecture know that I have been talking about Russian pressure on Georgia for the last four years. My professional eye on the diplomatic dances around the invasion shows me that, as I predicted, energy dependency has made Germany a Russian client state within the European Union.
Those in Poland and Scandinavia who have been campaigning against the Nordstream gas pipeline project are absolutely right. European dependence on Russian hydrocarbons is not only an environmental abomination but also a major security risk. A Russian pipeline through Poland would be designated a major strategic national security interest for Russia – and for Germany. I can see easily see it becoming a cause for future conflict.
An immediate ceasefire is required now and a de facto Russian annexation of South Ossetia must not be permitted, unless we eventually want a war for East Ukraine. Sadly, the West will learn the wrong long-term lesson. The answer is not to strengthen NATO. NATO is part of the cause of the problem, not the solution. By encircling and humiliating Russia, not least with new missile systems, NATO has creaated the climate in Russia so favourable to Putin.
The new NATO is the main symptom of the West’s chronic inability to create a new post cold war security structure. By clinging to and expanding NATO, we merely made the return of the Cold War inevitable – much to the benefit of the arms industry and military establishment. If our leaders had any imagination, they would realise that the answer is to wind down NATO and create new structures into which Russia should be drawn.
It is already a decade late for such thinking. With Bush and Brown at the helm and the military and arms industry in grater control than ever of policy in both the US and UK, it is currently impossible.