Provoking Georgia

The Washington Post has an editorial today about Russia’s possible intentions to re-invade Georgia and finish off the despised President Miheil Saakashvili.  The article doesn’t offer much new, but there is this assumption, seen here and elsewhere, that Russia may somehow be constrained in its conduct because it wouldn’t want to upset “reset diplomacy.”

This idea isn’t convincing to me.  All overtures to improve relations have come from the U.S. side, and Russia has not been asked to do anything at all differently.  We haven’t yet seen Vladimir Putin nor Dmitry Medvedev lift a finger to make any gesture toward the reset initiative, largely because one doesn’t spend on something that is free.  Moscow likely feels that it can do whatever it wants in the Caucasus without fear of penalty – thanks largely to the realists in charge who are so eager to get a replacement for the START treaty by mid-summer and the ever elusive help on confronting Iran and North Korea at any cost (hint: Russia will never do anything to allow relations between Tehran and Washington to improve). 

There is probably only one thing keeping poor, shaky Georgia safe fornow – and that is Russia’s reluctance to tank its markets again.  Thenagain, as we hear from many analysts inside Russia, never underestimatethe political costs the Kremlin is willing to take on in order to getits way on Georgia (including what is likely to be a permanent stickingpoint over the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia statehood).

Themessage from Washington seems to be that the Obama Administration iswilling to pretend as though Georgia doesn’t exist so long as nothingelse happens down there.  Either way, with Saakashvili or without,Georgia has been dealt the geopolitical short round.