Loud Mouthed Dictators Always Acquiesce

I caught this letter to the editor of the IHT from a Rutgers political science professor. I expect we’re going to start to hear this perspective quite a lot in the United States soon.

The war against Georgia is not the first instance of Russia’s aggressiveness vis-à-vis its former colonies. Estonia was the target of a cyberwar; Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and the Czech Republic have been subjected to energy cut-offs; Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have been punished by trade sanctions. These states, like all of Russia’s non-Russian neighbors, know that the war in Georgia is really about them.

The Munich Agreement is considered a classic example of the perils of appeasement. Had the democracies said no then, it’s possible that World War II could have been averted. At some point – and that point surely arrived with Russia’s invasion of Georgia – the West must learn to say no to Russia. Expelling Russia from the G-8 would be symbolically nice, but Putin would respond with a laugh. Only an “anti-Munich” would say no in a meaningful fashion: Admit Ukraine and Georgia into NATO’s Membership Action Plan – immediately. Putin will glare in response; he will threaten retaliation – and then, like all loud-mouthed dictators, he will acquiesce.Alexander J. Motyl Newark, New Jersey Professor of political science, Rutgers University