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Georgia Conflict: Should NATO Marry the Small Kid on the Playground?

Tiny Georgia has become the front line in West-Russia tensions for the past month.  It began at the NATO Bucharest Summit in early April, when NATO members rebuked immediate progress toward full NATO membership for Georgia, due largely to protests from Russia – while nonetheless promising future membership.

In the month since Bucharest, Russia-Georgia relations have spiraled quickly.  Multiple Georgian unmanned aircraft are claimed to have been shot down over the breakaway region of Abkhazia, though disinformation (i.e. – blatant lies) coming from Russia, Georgia, Abkhazia, or all three, have blurred the facts.  Russia has also deepened ties with Georgia’s separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and increased its number of “peace-keepers” there despite protests from the EU and NATO.  At the same time, Russia is accusing Georgia of preparing an invasion into Abkhazia, and Georgia has pulled out of an air-defense treaty with Russia.

While both Russia and Georgia are contributing to escalating tensions, Russia undoubtedly initiated the latest downturn as a response to Georgia's bid for NATO membership. 
As argued by Jens F. Laurson and George A. Pieler in Forbes :
Unfortunately, Vladimir Putin may have read NATO's deferral as a signal to make his move on Georgia unchecked… reinventing the Soviet empire bit by bit clearly remains an active Putin project.
In this increasingly hostile environment, Georgia is playing a risky game: much smaller than its imposing former-imperial master Russia, Georgia is acting much like the small kid in the playground who decides to stand up to the school bully, because he expects (or at least hopes) his big brother will back him up.  Georgia has made no secret of its dependency on Western protection. 

Georgian Vice-Prime-Minister Giorgi Baramidze is quoted by the EU Observer:
"If, God forbid, things go wrong, it would not only destabilise Georgia, but the whole of Europe." However, he warned that Europe and the West were facing a "moment of truth" in their ability "to protect democracies, no matter how small and fragile they are.  "The formal position of the EU and NATO has been taken and now it is time to act accordingly, using all diplomatic, political and legal levers."
Given Georgia has little leverage over Russia, its desperate pleas for Western support are well placed, as pointed out by the Wall Street Journal:
Renewed fighting in Abkhazia is a win-win for Russia. Georgia would be outgunned in any direct confrontation with Russian forces. It can't count on support from Europe. And any hot conflict would impair Georgia's chances of joining NATO.
The big question is, will Europe and the US come to Georgia’s aid?

Perhaps Georgia’s strategic location, on a key westward route for Caspian Sea oil and gas riches, will keep the West backing it.  More details on Georgia’s strategic significance are provided in an audio interview by the Economist, with Alexandros Petersen of the Brussels-based Caspian Europe Center.

While the EU and NATO have chosen to support Georgia in rhetoric, it is hard to say how the West will respond if the dispute turns violent – and this has important implications for whether or not NATO should be so eager to take in Georgia as a full Ally.  As Laurson and and Pieler note in the same Forbes article from above:
NATO has value not unlike a marriage vow. In bad times, the partners can't run off quite so easily.  Granting this need (or plausible rationale) for NATO, the expansion to Georgia and Ukraine--put off for now, but a forgone conclusion--should be settled by the question of original importance: Would we, were these states attacked in some way, be willing to put everything on the line in defending it?

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Joe Noory on :

Kyle - Not to chase rabbits here, but I'm pretty sure that you might want to rethink that title. Allusions to statutory rape and such...

franchie on :

"Georgia Conflict: Should NATO Marry the Small Kid on the Playground?" No Georgia hasn't played a fair game with 2 autonome provinces : Ossetia & Abkhzia ; it's none of our business to interven in a russian and turkish influence aera ; got enough with our extra borders at the eastern front

Joe Noory on :

Even if the Georgians have asked us? Or would you have the west deny them that and force them to give in to an aggressive neighbor just as the Czech and hungarian uprisings were lent no aid?

Nanne on :

It's a tough choice but in the end neither the Czech nor the Hungarian uprising was worth risking nuclear war over. Maybe the west could have done more in a lot of ways, but definitely not militarily. With regard to Georgia - by all means, let's help them out with modernising their military if they need that, but let's not give them unconditional backing to fight a civil war that might draw in Russia. They need to work this out peacefully.

Elisabetta on :

I fail to see the logic in subordinating the Georgia problem to far-eastern irrelevancies. The Europeans should look at this unpleasantness as a dry run for potential Russian interference in the Baltic States or perhaps the Russian oblast of Koenigsberg. The old tired foreign policy rubic from the Tzarist times is being employed: latch on to a dubious nationalist movement, seed said place with Russian nationals and alternatively threaten or coerce neighboring States to toe the line. Georgia does not factor greatly in the body of mystic Russian nationalism. The Kremlin is attempting to send a message to Lithuania for delaying the new EU/Russia cooperation agmt or the Visegrad States. The EU should force the Americans to go ahead. If it goes south, they can always blame them and una manus lavat alteram. Russia's oil has peaked in production. They need foreign investment and expertise even to continue production at their current level, which post Saskalin-2 aint going to happen. Even with oil at $126 a barrel, Russia's GDP is on par with Italy. Russia has only bought 7 of the new Su-34 air superiority fighters. Russia is, in short, a very weak economy and with current demographic trends and social maladies Russian society will face an existential crisis sooner rather than later and attempting to reclaim a western part of the former Empire would do nicely to unite the country against the perfidious Europeans.

Kevin Sampson on :

'The EU should force the Americans to go ahead.' Force us to go ahead with what? And how is the EU going to force us to do anything?

Kyle Atwell on :

"it's none of our business to interven in a russian and turkish influence aera" Turkey is a NATO member. Also, a strong majority of Georgians want NATO membership, according to all the recent survey data I have seen. Georgia is a sovereign state, and so can choose who its allies are, rather than having Russia choose for it.

franchie on :

yeah, so who's going there ? with how many troops ? though I have read that Georgia denies the autonomy to her 2 provinces, that the got till the fall of URSS... a funny way to for being fair

Nanne on :

The question, as you note, is do we want Georgia? Should NATO have an open door for every 'pro-western' country? Georgia has some level of strategic importance, no doubt, and we should maintain friendly relations with it. It's always struck me as unrealistic, however, that we would have the will and the capability to effectively defend Georgia. If we start extending security guarantees that we won't keep, NATO will really become worthless.

franchie on :

then Georgia should ask for a commercial agreement, but if they enter into Nato, that meens they'll also want to become part of our union pragmatically, we can't defend them, neither the US, that would also meen WAR with Russia, no way then why not the khirgistan... they are dreaming, but if the US want them, then they ought to take care of them

Joe Noory on :

Abkhazia and South Ossetia are automonous regions of GEORGIA, not Russia, but have Russian military in place. It's been that way for years and it's a play at suppressing Georgia exerting economic use of the black sea, it's potentially large oil and gas reserves, and on another level, a need to prop up their influence in inching it's way closer to the south (to divide potiential alliances that might develop from west to east into the stans.) The long term effort seems to be to make Russia [url=http://no-pasaran.blogspot.com/2008/04/no-risk-too-small.html]a NATO ally[/url], and not be a hostile sphere-maker of it's own. To do that, they need to stop pressuring border-nations into its' orbit.

quo vadis on :

I'm struck by the timidity and lack of confidence expressed by Europeans here and how much of a contrast that makes with the American mindset. You claim to be world leaders, but you are afraid to take on even a modest role in a potentially challenging situation in your own back yard. You have a lot of growing up to do before you can legitimately claim a place at the grow-ups table. On the other hand, the Russians know what it takes and have the determination to be world leaders again. They smell your fear and have the confidence to exploit it.

Zyme on :

It might be that we like to invest our political credit into something more worthful, Quo Vadis. It is as simple as that. Having EU-Russian economical partnership continue unharmed brings us a lot more advantages than harassing Moscow over Georgia.

Joe Noory on :

All that does is appease and rewards the old school reactionary element in Russia. That carrot also needs a stick.

quo vadis on :

Political credit? You don't earn political credit by running home and looking on from from behind the window curtains as the neighborhood bully punches out another of the little kids on the block. As for the economic relationship, do the Russians have nothing to lose? Let them worry about the economic consequences of their actions.

Zyme on :

You don´t seem to understand. Georgia is nothing. It is in the middle of nowhere. And thus it is predestined to be Russia´s playground. You have to show some respect to an opponent on the stage of power struggle or else you will lose all possibilities in cooperation. And this respect towards Moscow is best shown in a worthless case, like Georgia. In other cases closer to central Europe like in Kosovo, it is rewarding to remain staunch. Georgia is no candidate for EU enlargement, but the troublemaking Balkans is worth being incorporated. "As for the economic relationship, do the Russians have nothing to lose? Let them worry about the economic consequences of their actions." I am afraid but I cannot imagine they will have to face any from Brussels or Berlin in this case. It is understood that Russia has its primary domain in its immediate neighbourhood. This is not something worth struggling for. It would be like Moscow interfering in Czechian politics today - what a joke. It is where EU and Russian spheres of influence meet where it is really interesting. Only by furthering that invisible border eastwards we can steadily push Moscow´s ambitions back. So in a way you seem to favor "commando" politics, while Europeans prefer steadily fortifying the "front line". (This sounds very aggressive, but it best describes the ongoing struggle for influence in the East.) Now think about who might have the better tactics - European peoples having dealt with the Russians for hundreds of years, or you?

Elisabetta on :

Now think about who might have the better tactics - European peoples having dealt with the Russians for hundreds of years, or you? Point in fact, you lost last time you danced with the Russians. Not only lost but had an entire European culture extirpated from central and eastern Europe. The Russians were able to undo 750 years of history in 5. Is that good tactic? Georgia may mean nothing to you as a symbol or country of economic value but it does matter to the central European and Baltic States: http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11293629. If the EU post Lisbon truly wants to become a viable actor on the global stage, many of its interventions will be response to minority interests. Sneering at the Balts and Slavs because their priorities differ from yours is not conducive for harmonious European integration. Think of it as similar to Clinton's foray into Haiti at the insistence of the Black Congressional Caucus.

Zyme on :

Ahem, the "last time" we had a slightly different approach, madame. Although one might argue that the same approach was successful the "last time before the last time". How this is going to help us today puzzles me though. Fact is we have to focus our interest to the East. We cannot challenge the Russians on every issue and still expect to cooperate with them. Thus we chose our conflicts carefully and show an equal amount of respect.

Elisabetta on :

"We cannot challenge the Russians on every issue and still expect to cooperate with them. Thus we chose our conflicts carefully and show an equal amount of respect." I would be more persuaded by this line of reasoning if there were any evidence that the EU has stood up to Russia about anything: Polish meat embargo, Nashi in Moscow violating int'l law attacking ambassadors, trans-whatever-in-Moldova, withdrawal from CFE treaty, Litvenko affair... The incorporation of the old kuk states was considered by many a pundit, French mostly, as a Trojan horse that would destabilize the EU; the EU's inaction is fulfilling this prophecy; as a foreign minister worker said: 'there is no Europe. No Nato. Only America.' (cant find the citation, I think it was in the Economist) Look at what the Visegrad Group does this summer in preparation for the negotiations over the next EU budget and in anticipatory defense against the French Presidency's reform platiform. If QMV goes through, interesting time could be ahead.

Zyme on :

Every enlargement eastwards of the EU is a challenge against Moscow´s ambitions. They want to regain their former status? Can you see how far they are from it? How much they have already lost towards Brussels? Year after year since 1990? Face it, the Cold War is over..

Elisabetta on :

I have never been under any delusions about Russia's current state, see supra. Nor am I an alarmist or one of those clicheed Cold War types that seem to exist only in the Frankfurter Rundschau or SPD fantasies. The salient point of the last few entries was not whether or not Georgia actually means anything or has instrinsic value in the abstract, but that the Baltic and central European nations believes it does and the EU's refusal to pretend to take these concerns seriously presages a troubled future for its future actions on the world stage.

Zyme on :

Ah ok now I understand your point. Yes I agree, the eastern European concerns are not taken very seriously here. But that is a different story. This is not going to change because the three heavyweights in EU are western European countries. And they are decisive for practically anything of importance in EU affairs. Think of it like a deal: While Eastern European countries could tune up their countries with our money, they had to hand over their political sovereignty on a number of political areas to Brussels. And while they still receive money, the sovereignty continues to be drawn. Now this loss of sovereignty is hitting us all - but Paris, London and Berlin receive plenty of influence over the EU realm via Brussels in return. This might not be what all Eastern Europeans expected, but certainly you agree that we are not responsible for idealistical naivety..

Elisabetta on :

I get this type of economic determinist variant quite a lot in response to questions of national objects within EU politics. It may be correct, but I doubt it. No one can ever underestimate the Slav propensity to willingly climb up on that cross with nails and a hammer. Even post Lisbon, foreign policy will require unanimity in the European Council.

Joe Noory on :

One could also say the same thing about any number of small European states. It's a foolish and uncaring argument. If eastern Europe was worthy of receiving help up and out of the albatross of risk and difficulty after the fall of Communism, then why not Georgia? Or do they not matter because they aren't in Europe proper? It's a funny thing to say when NATO is otherwise characterized as "only serving the US", and US-non-NATO actions which don't serve European interest are concidered contemptable. The whole world view is negative, abusive, and ultimately inhumane when you take a close look at it.

Zyme on :

I cannot remember myself having claimed that I would have an incredibly humane world view :)

franchie on :

"but you are afraid to take on even a modest role in a potentially challenging situation in your own back yard." precisely, it isn't our back yard or may-be of the new eastern counties that came into EU, it's not on our eye direction, that is more on the Atlantic

Joe Noory on :

Just what IS their [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tld1lh6rG_Q&feature=related]back yard[/url]?

Pat Patterson on :

Dunkirk?

franchie on :

Dunkirk, wasn't there that the Brits ran (oops, swam away) away like rabbits in their hole ?

Pat Patterson on :

Of the 330,000 troops that made it safely off the beach at Dunkirk were over 139,000 French, a few thousand Belgians and a handful of Dutch. Most of the German armour that surrounded the evacuation point were Renault tanks that the government of France had ordered abandoned but not destroyed because they hadn't been paid for yet. Dozens of French destroyers and cruisers were sitting idly in nearly ports because parts of the French navy mutinied and refused to put to sea to help with the evacuation or flee to England. Admiral Darlan had ordered that the British troops be given preference but Churchill intervened and said that all the men on the beach would be picked up. Over 1.2 million men were captured and of the 30,000 plus killed over 90% of those were British. None of the Allies had anything to be ashamed of except maybe the French Navy, the Popular Front period who allowed Communists to infiltrate the Army and then the successor government under Daladier who wanted rearmament and to guarantee Czech independence but was hailed as a peacemaker for the centuries by agreeing to abandon the Czechs because he saw that the leadership of the army and the government as well as the people were already defeated. "Ah, le cons!" He was quoted after a flower strewn welcome at Orly. Plus if one wants to be insulting then it might be best to remember that it was the French Army that dug itself into holes along the Maginot Line and then waved anything white as the Germans easily outflanked and overran these impregnable positions in hours.

franchie on :

turlututu a clanic manifest there

Anonymous on :

[url=http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:British_troops_retreat_dunkerque.png]Brits retreat, pic[/url] "Two French divisions remained behind to protect the evacuation. Though they halted the German advance, they were soon captured. The remainder of the rearguard, largely French, surrendered on June 3, 1940. The next day, the BBC reported, "Major-General Harold Alexander [the commander of the rearguard] inspected the shores of Dunkirk from a motorboat this morning to make sure no-one was left behind before boarding the last ship back to Britain." "Many French naval ships were idle in ports. To stop the Germans from being able to use these ships, British bomber planes were sent in to destroy the French ships." So mr professor is BSting again

Pat Patterson on :

And how does that contradict anything I said? And if you're going to borrow from Wikipedia then perhaps picking and choosing information ignores the whole picture. Or else you might also have included this photo of British and French prisoners leaving the beach; [url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:British_prisoners_at_Dunkerque%2C_France.jpg[/url] Or this picture showing the relief of Franch solidiers being debarked in England; [url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Good_to_be_alive_dunkirk_1940.png[/url] Plus the French troops that surrendered were either soon in the reconstituted divisions of Vichy France and served in France and the French possessions. While the British troops who surrendered, except those murdered at Le Paradis, were kept in camps the entire war.

franchie on :

Plus the French troops that surrendered were either soon in the reconstituted divisions of Vichy France and served in France and the French possessions. While the British troops who surrendered, except those murdered at Le Paradis, were kept in camps the entire war. yeah there were no french prisonners in Germany oh silly I believed my ancients how nice, that Mr Roosvelt found fine that the reconstituted divisions were helping the panzer divisions to fight the communists on the eat front yeah, what consciousness he had to deal with Vichy government as the representative government of France and not De Gaulle's ; might be some non avowable agenda there

Zyme on :

There surely must have been quite a number of frenchmen in Germany, as even my grand-grandparents in eastern Bavaria employed a few ;) My grandmother used to tell me enthusedly about their humor. I wonder how they bridged the difference in language. But I think we should not go that far off topic :)

franchie on :

[url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_France[/url]

Pat Patterson on :

I'm not too sure how my comments implied that there were not French men in camps, or even as "volunteer" workers in Germany as I was referring only to the Battle of Dunkird and the evacuation. The French and the Britsh were in desperate fight and behaved as well as can be expected. The French by and large remained to defend France and provided the bulk of the soliders that defended the beachhead which was their duty. And then most were repatriated as is normal when an army surrenders and a peace treay is signed. How would it have looked if the French debarked and left the British to defend their retreat? That battle was lost when the Popular Front froze defense spending and the Chamberlain government authorized increases too late and went into the war with outmoded equipment left over from World War I. My reference to Dunkirk was simply as a reminder that if Europe does not see something evil in its backyard, or refuses to even delineate its area of concern, then it someday will find its back to the Channel.

franchie on :

No, Mr Pat, your purpose was the "evil" french surrenders monkeys that collaborated "And then most were repatriated as is normal when an army surrenders and a peace treay is signed." yeah, in 1945, duh and your an history teacher, too bad for the Frenchs, that will have to still encounter bashing by the next generation of Americans en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_France

Franchie on :

Mr professor, a link that isn't out of wikipedia : [url]http://www.gutenberg-e.org/esk01/frames/fesk06.html[/url] you can see that the frenchs had the lowest number of soldiers in the german army or SS, apart the Wallons from Belgia (population= a department of France ~ 300 000 inhabitants (supposed), France between 40 and 50 million inhabitants though, Flanders, Danmark, Norvege, that were not numerous populations --> 3000 to 5000 volonteers, surprising, no ?

Pat Patterson on :

I despair, where did I say anything about the French being cowards. I stated that of the French units engaged in the Battle and then Evacuation from Dunkirk that they were repatriated and then reconstituted as part of the Vichy forces after the surrender on the 22nd of June, 1940. I said absolutely nothing about the fate of the rest of the French Army. I mentioned nothing about the Charlegmagne SS Division, or collaborators or traitors. I am beginning to suspect that some see such criticism everywhere much as Woody Allen accused a character in one of his films of anti-Semitism for slurring, "...did you?" Admiral Darlan kept the bulk of the French fleet in port, though some units mutinied and followed the orders of DeGaulle. Later when the Allies invaded North Africa Darlan ordered the French Army to fire on the British, American and Free French troops landing in Oran. But in exchange for ordering a cease fire he asked for a position in the new government and in spite of DeGaulle's protests was given an adminstrative postion which only lasted long enough for someone to assasinate him that same summer. Now if something I said in the previous two paragraphs appears anti-French then I would recommend new glasses. Or to simply calm down and not be so defensive.

franchie on :

I found your purposes rather suggessive though

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