Kill the Chicken to Scare the Monkey

russiantank081308.jpgThis bit of analysis comes from Ariel Cohen in the Washington Times, who wonders when Europe and the United States will get around to questioning Russia’s claim to be an upholder of international law. Unfortunately, Iraq and Kosovo are going to be inconvenient precedents and a likely source of much finger pointing.

Aggression against Georgia also sends a strong signal to Ukraine and to Europe. Russia is playing a chess game of offense and intimidation. Former President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spoke last spring about Russia “dismembering” Ukraine, another NATO candidate, and detaching the Crimea, a peninsula transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954, when both were integral parts of the Soviet Union. Russia is engaged in what the Chinese call “kill the chicken to scare the monkey.” Ukraine is the monkey: its pro-Western leaders, such as President Victor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, have expressed a desire to join NATO, while the pro-Moscow Ukrainian Party of Regions effectively opposes membership. NATO opponents in Ukraine are greatly encouraged by Russia’s action against Georgia.

Beyond this, Russia is demonstrating it can sabotage American and EU declarations about integrating Commonwealth of Independent States members into Western structures such as NATO – something Warsaw has supported. By attempting to accomplish regime change in Georgia, Moscow also is also trying to hold Azerbaijan in a vise and gain control of the energy and transportation corridor that connects Central Asia and Azerbaijan with the Black Sea and ocean routes overseas. This corridor includes the strategic Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Erzurum (Turkey) gas pipeline.The United States and its European allies need to take all available diplomatic measures to stop Russian aggression. The U.S. and its allies need to demand that Russia withdraw all its troops from the territory of Georgia and recognize its territorial integrity. Further, the U.S. and Europe need to internationalize the conflict. Russian claims and desire to be viewed as upholder of international law need to be turned against Moscow. The European Union and the United Nations should send other international observers to Georgia.Talks need to start in a neutral forum to finally settle the problems of South Ossetia and eventually, Abkhazia.Beyond this, the United States and its allies and other countries need to send a strong signal to Moscow that creating 19th-century-style spheres of influence and redrawing the borders of the former Soviet Union endanger world peace. It cannot be done without violation of international law; and is likely to result in death and destruction – a price neither the Russian people nor others should pay.The U.S. and its European allies should communicate to Moscow that it has much to lose – including hosting the 2014 winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, membership in the G-8 and access to Western capital and export markets – if the aggression against Georgia is not stopped.