Predictably Unpredictable

David Kakabadze of RFE/RL has a piece up commenting on Russia’s successful campaign to eliminate most outside participants (the OSCE) from the conflict resolution process in the Caucases – and argues that the West should really stop pretending to be “so surprised” by Russia’s foreign policy decisions.

That, of course, seems highly unlikely. Less than five months after the August war, the West is gradually returning to business as usual with Moscow. In November, the EU decided to resume talks on a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia. NATO, after refusing to offer membership road maps to Georgia and Ukraine earlier this month, last week resumed high-level meeting with Moscow after a four-month hiatus in response to the war. That informal meeting between NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Moscow’s NATO Ambassador Dmitry Rogozin was intended to explore ways of restarting formal contacts.

In short, Russia’s military muscle-flexing in August seems to be paying off, as David Smith, director of the Georgian Security Analysis Center, argues in “Jane’s Defense Weekly.” Nikolas Busse wrote in “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” that the August war seems to have had little downside for the tandem of Prime Minister Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. (…)

Butthe State Department’s “Guidance on Non-Binding Documents” offers somesobering words: “When negotiating a non-binding instrument, both/allsides should confirm their understanding that the instrument does notgive rise to binding obligations under international law.” What wouldseem to be a positive step toward enhancing Georgia’s security mightactually end up just teasing the Russian bear. And without concretedefense mechanisms and with Russia being allowed to continue occupyinginternationally recognized Georgian territories, that could proveextremely dangerous indeed.

After all, no move by the Kremlin –no matter how “unexpected” — should come as a surprise. As HarvardUniversity Russia specialist Marshal Goldman has said, “Russia ispredictable in the sense that it will continue to be unpredictable.”