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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2008

US turned back on Georgia

August 16, 2008

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The Georgians have now been punished enough, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared Tuesday. Or maybe not. On Thursday, Russian tanks remained in control of the Georgian city of Gori, in violation of a cease-fire agreement. U.S. officials say that Russians might be preparing to withdraw troops from Georgia. But still there could be more punishment in store for the Georgians, who were stupid enough to imagine that if they picked a fight with Russia over the disputed region of South Ossetia, Uncle Sam would ride to their rescue.

Puh-lease. Haven't the Georgians noticed that we're sort of busy in Afghanistan and Iraq? That even if we had any available troops, we're not going to get involved in a shooting war with Russia, which has the world's second-largest nuclear arsenal? That we have no other forms of leverage over Russia these days?

So where did the Georgians get the silly idea that the U.S. would bail them out?

Maybe from John McCain, Republican heir apparent, whose top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, also just happens to be a highly paid lobbyist for the Georgian government. Whoops - correction! Scheunemann used to be a highly paid lobbyist for Georgia. The McCain campaign says Scheunemann hasn't taken a dime from the Georgians since May 15. (Which is lucky for the Georgians, who are going to need all the spare cash they can get to rebuild all the stuff the Russians just bombed.)

According to The Washington Post, the relationship between Scheunemann and Georgia used to be very cozy (not to mention lucrative for Scheunemann). Between Jan. 1, 2007, and May 15, 2008, while Scheunemann also was a paid McCain adviser, "Georgia paid his firm $290,000 in lobbying fees."

And what did Georgia get in return? Well, no troops, that's for sure. But they got Scheunemann's (expensive) pledge to garner U.S. support for Georgia's admission to NATO and for its claims to South Ossetia, and his commitment to use his ties to politicians such as McCain to advance Georgia's causes.

McCain has sponsored legislation supporting Georgia's claims over South Ossetia, an issue on which he was lobbied by Scheunemann's company. And as recently as mid-April, Scheunemann was simultaneously taking money from Georgia and actively preparing McCain for supportive calls with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Is it any wonder that Saakashvili concluded that he had the backing of the U.S. Republican power structure when it came to South Ossetia?

But Scheunemann and McCain aren't the only ones who irresponsibly encouraged the Georgians to think that baiting the Russians was going to work for them.

President Bush shares the blame. Once he stopped swooning over the soulfulness of "Vladimir's" baby blues, Bush seemed intent on showing Putin and other Russian leaders that he no longer gave a damn. The Bush administration supported the "color revolutions" in Russia's back yard and denounced antidemocratic crackdowns in Russia - while making excuses for "friendly" authoritarian regimes elsewhere.

The administration also virtually shut down extensive multi-issue dialogues with Russia that had been maintained by previous administrations, hammering in the message that we didn't care much about good relations with Moscow.

The administration also aggressively pushed policies that couldn't have been better designed to enrage the Russians. At the April NATO summit in Romania, Bush urged a fast track to NATO membership for Georgia. The U.S. also insisted this summer on the deployment of an almost certainly useless missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, virtually on Moscow's doorstep.

Meanwhile, the administration singled out Georgia for the "Our Best Buddy in the Caucasus" award. The U.S. has supported the development of gas and oil pipelines running through Georgia that will challenge Russia's regional economic hegemony, and provided the fledgling Georgian republic generous economic and military aid, including an overhaul of its forces. In return, Georgia sent 2,000 troops to Iraq, and the administration pretended to be deaf when Georgian politicians crowed that their newly improved military would be perfect for teaching those pesky South Ossetian separatists a lesson.

But it's all gone disastrously wrong for our best buddies, and we're sitting on the sidelines, offering empty reassurances to the Georgians and empty threats to the Russians.

Moscow will stop pummeling Georgia when it decides the Georgians have truly been punished enough. And this being the real world, punishment will rain down on the pawns - but those who egged them on (to score political points, seek power or gain profit) will, of course, face no punishment at all.

- Rosa Brooks is a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. Her e-mail address is <a href="mailto:rbrooks@latimescolumnists.com">rbrooks@latimescolumnists.com</a>.

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

Good to know that the "let's just blow somethin' up" braintrust has this all figured out.

Brent Garner 6 years, 4 months ago

Another Soviet like appeasenik! Change your name to Neville Chamerlain, please!

cato_the_elder 6 years, 4 months ago

As soon as Russia began recently to flex its muscles in earnest against Georgia, socialists in America immediately turned Georgia's president into a whipping boy, first and foremost because of his free-market and pro-American positions. And, of course, the fact that the Bush administration has appropriately cultivated a relationship with him immediately rendered him, not Russian thugs, the villain. As a result, socialists in this country have clamored to take Russia's side - just as they did in supporting North Vietnam against our own troops in the Vietnam War. This column is another shameful piece by a dyed-in-the-wool socialist who shows no hesitation in defending Russian murderers in her never-ending battle to vilify the Bush administration and, of course, Senator McCain. The notion that our country could somehow be wrong in encouraging NATO membership for Georgia is not only exceedingly shallow, but flies in the face of what we have sought for, and should continue to seek for, all former Soviet satellite regions that are forward-looking and wish to embrace democracy and strong economic ties with the West. It is the hallmark of socialist doctrine in this country to blame America first for all of the ills in the world, and this column is a perfect example - the fact that Russia has invaded and brutalized Georgia is, in essence, our fault, and couldn't possibly be related to Putin's unrepentant desire to recreate the Soviet Union piece by piece. Because of her socialist views, it will never be possible for this columnist to understand the reality of what we face, and will continue to face, in dealing with Putin and his murderous henchmen. In the meantime, thoughtful Americans can only hope that people who share her views are never in charge of our government.

Brent Garner 6 years, 4 months ago

As for what the US should have done, a few B2 bomber sorties would have closed the Roki Tunnel and blocked, at least for the short term, many of the roads overwhich Russian reinforcements and supplies came. At the same time we should have moved our nuclear forces to DEFCON3 and alerted the 82nd Airborne (our rapid response force) for movement. Nixon did this in 1973 under threat of Soviet paratroops landing in the Middle East during the Yom Kippor War and the Soviets backed down. They were stronger then than they are now. They would have backed down again. But, no, the US turned chicken and a democratically elected government and a freedom loving people were subjected to Russian thuggary while the western world, including US, stood around, shouted, and wrang our hands. Perhaps President Bush should now be referred to as George "Coward" Bush.

Brent Garner 6 years, 4 months ago

Bozo:Thanks for the sneer. For your infomation, what I stated there is only a small modification from the battle plans I saw when I was in the USAF. Those battle plans were based on a contingency of a Russian invasion of Iran and how the USAF could make life miserable for the advancing Russian forces simply by aerial mining or causing landslides in the mountain passes in Iran. Similar terrain in Georgia. No reason it wouldn't work there.

Brent Garner 6 years, 4 months ago

I agree with Madmike. Let's at least double the Army and Marines as well as the Air Force. The draw down reduces the active US fighter squadrons by a third. Lets build back to the 600 ship fleet Reagan suggested. We've reduced our carrier battle groups from 16 to 12 and there has been talk of shrinking it further. Disarmament in the face of a rising threat, i.e., Russia, China, Iran, is a really bad idea. See the 1930s for proof.

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