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Recognizing Russia’s Traditional Sensitivity

From an editorial on the breakdown of peace talks between Georgia and Russia in Japan’s Asahi Shimbun.

The fact that Georgia triggered the military clash by sending troops to retake South Ossetia doesn’t justify Russia’s decision to recognize the two pro-Moscow regions in Georgia as independent states. Russia, which had been issuing passports to residents in these regions, responded to Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia by deploying military units under the pretext of protecting its own citizens. Such heavy-handed tactics should not be tolerated.

At the same time, it is important for Russia and the West to establish channels of effective diplomatic dialogue to prevent further conflict in former Soviet republics. Russia has no right to regard former Soviet republics as part of its sphere of influence. But the West would be wise to pay more attention to Russia’s traditional sensitivity to security issues, rooted in its past traumatic experiences of being invaded repeatedly by foreign armies.From this point of view, there is no denying that the United States and other countries made a strategic blunder by rushing to make countries like Georgia and Ukraine members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization without first consulting Russia.