Russia’s Bellicose Tone toward Georgia

There are many in Europe and Washington who downplay the rising tensions between Russia and Georgia, brushing off these exchanges as just another series of rhetorical exercises between a resurgent Kremlin and the uppity governments of former Soviet republics. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is just one example. Those who doubt the seriousness of this situation would do well to pay close attention to the word choice of General Lieutenant Alexander Burutin, who spoke to the press yesterday regarding the arrest then release of four Russian peacekeepers by the Georgian authorities. “In the future we cannot guarantee that our servicemen will act in this patient way. Their patience is not limitless. The consequences will be grave and there could be bloodshed. Responsibility for that will be entirely on the Georgian side.” Ostensibly, before the eyes of the world, the Kremlin has announced that their peacekeepers will be authorized to engage the Georgians and that furthermore, we can expect bloodshed. What exactly is Tbilisi expected to do in response to such a statement? How is it that Moscow can get away with making such bellicose statements without the West so much as batting an eye? It’s time for the international community to close this gap in perceptions of this conflict and realize how perilously close to the edge these two countries are.