Russia’s Self-Defeating Position on Georgia

georgia080908.jpg Russian heavy armoured vehicles in the Ardon Valley, Russia, prepare to invade Georgian territory on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2008. (Associated Press) I basically agree with the FT’s editorial on the unfurling Russian-Georgian war.

Russia has long ceased to pretend to be a neutral referee. It openly espouses the cause of the secessionists there and in Abkhazia, another breakaway enclave. Its actions seem aimed at deliberately destabilising its neighbour. In recent months – especially since Georgia was promised eventual membership of Nato at the alliance’s Bucharest summit in April – Moscow has stepped up its encouragement, reinforcing its troops and trade, as if deliberately taunting Tbilisi and daring its hot-headed president to respond. Now the inevitable has happened. Mr Saakashvili does not want to take on Moscow. But Mr Putin (and Dmitry Medvedev, his anointed successor) seem to want to prove two things: that Georgia is far too unstable to join Nato, and that they alone can determine the future of the former Soviet space. They are right that neither the US alone, nor the Nato allies, would dream of intervening in a military confrontation. But Georgia is only unstable because of Russian policies. Encouraging secessionists sends a terrible signal to others inside Russia, especially in the rebellious north Caucasus. Moscow’s policy may be macho, but in the long run it will be utterly self-defeating.