The State Department must be feeling the onerous indecision of a diner at a vastly complicated sushi restaurant in considering its response to the war in Georgia – some options good, others terrible, and that one special item that could poison the whole engagement. The “what-to-do” discussion seems to be the most popular focus of the plethora of op/eds in the American and British papers today. This one from the New York Times by Svante E. Cornell (John’s Hopkins academic) considers McCain’s call to eject Russia from the G8 as a stock whose value is quickly rising.
Should we allow Russia to occupy Georgia or even just depose the Saakashvili government, the implications for America’s standing in Eurasia would be dire. We would risk losing the support of the post-Soviet states of Central Asia that are cooperating with the American mission in Afghanistan, along with hopes of westward exports of more Central Asian energy. Many who might agree with this analysis nonetheless shrug their shoulders over solutions. Indeed, we have no real military options against Russia. But we can put together a meaningful comprehensive reaction, attaching real costs to Russia for its policies. America must hit where it hurts: Russia’s international prestige, an obsession of Mr. Putin’s. To begin with, we must do everything possible to see Russia’s membership in the Group of 8 industrialized nations be suspended (something the Republican presidential hopeful John McCain called for even before this crisis).