Sunday, August 10, 2008

Where is NATO Intervention in Georgia?

One of the debate's surround the crisis in the Caucasus is the nature of the casus belli. Has Georgia launched a war on a militarily preponderant geopolitical rival, or has Moscow cracked down on a breakaway republic in a burst of new oil-back Russian revanchism?

Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez argue for the latter scenario:

As we write, reports are coming in that after a bombardment by Russia's aircraft, its tanks are advancing on the Georgian town of Gori - the birthplace of Iosif Djugashvili, better known as Stalin.

This throwback to the heyday of the Soviet Union is more than symbolic. Historical analogies are never perfect, but our sense of déjà vu was acute as we watched Moscow's Soviet-style move to reassert its domination of the USSR's former fief.

Moscow perceives a threat to its strategic interests from a small regional actor. It prods its neighboring clients to commit such provocations that the adversary is drawn into military action that "legitimizes" a massive, direct intervention to "defend the victims of aggression."
Svante Cornell makes a similar case in, "The War That Russia Wants":

For more on the origins of the conflict, see the analysis from political scientists
Daniel Nexon and Charlie Carpenter.

Note, though,
as the New York Times reports, Georgian soldiers on the ground feel betrayed by the United States, an ally of Georgia, the diplomatic delays, and the failure to mobilize a NATO riposte to Moscow's aggression:

In retreat, the Georgian soldiers were so tired they could not keep from stumbling. Their arms were loaded with rucksacks and ammunition boxes; they had dark circles under their eyes. Officers ran up and down the line, barking for them to go faster.

All along the road was grief. Old men pushed wheelbarrows loaded with bags or led cows by tethers. They drove tractors and rickety Ladas packed with suitcases and televisions.

As a column of soldiers passed through Gori, a black-robed priest came out of his church and made the sign of the cross again and again.

One soldier, his face a mask of exhaustion, cradled a Kalashnikov.

“We killed as many of them as we could,” he said. “But where are our friends?”

It was the question of the day. As Russian forces massed Sunday on two fronts, Georgians were heading south with whatever they could carry. When they met Western journalists, they all said the same thing: Where is the United States? When is NATO coming?

Since the conflict began, Western leaders have worked frantically to broker a cease-fire. But for Georgians — so boisterously pro-American that Tbilisi, the capital, has a George W. Bush Street — diplomacy fell far short of what they expected.
The logical answer here is the United States will not risk a great power conflict in Russia's backyard, a strategic area of Moscow's historic regional hegemony. But if alliance commitments and the NATO mission are to have continued relevance in its own theater of operation, the question of diplomatic inertia and NATO intransigence is troubling.

Michael van der Galien at PoliGazette indicates that NATO may still be relevant:

It could threaten with military action or, better, intervention and it could start talking to Russia actively to convince the Russians to stop their aggression. If this does not suffice, NATO countries can punish Russia by other means, and they can start the procedure to send peacekeepers to the region. Turkey, an important NATO ally, is located close to Georgia; Turkey’s territory can be used by NATO to push the Russian forces back into Russia. Such a threat alone would be suffice to push the Russians back into their own territory. My own estimation is that Putin and the country’s president have decided to attack Georgia because they believe that the West will sit by and do nothing. If the West would unite, they would take a step back immediately.
In other words, speak to Moscow in a language it understands: power politics.