Magazine article The American Conservative

Russia's Backyard

Magazine article The American Conservative

Russia's Backyard

Article excerpt

IN LATE MAY, tensions between Russia and Georgia increased after Moscow accused its Caucasian neighbor of spying and aiding rebels in Chechnya and Dagestan. Russian authorities accused Ramzan Turkoshvili, an ethnic Chechen born in Georgia, of funneling aid to rebels in southern Russia, effectively labeling Georgia a state sponsor of terrorism.

The flap comes after Russia reinforced its "peacekeeping" units and elevated its diplomatic representation in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These moves appear to have paved the way for formal recognition of the two Russian-backed statelets inside Georgia, and they seem likely to lead to renewed hostilities between the breakaway regions and Tbilisi.

But rather than proving why Georgia is a bad candidate for integration into NATO and a liability to American interests, these episodes are almost certain to solidify Washington's bipartisan consensus that the U.S. should guarantee Georgian sovereignty.

Those looking for different views on American policy toward Russia and the Caucasus among the presidential contenders will be disappointed. John McCain's bizarrely passionate commitment to successive Georgian governments is well known, and his likely Democratic opponent's views are fundamentally no different. Along with a broad swathe of other Democrats, Barack Obama has co-sponsored a resolution calling for Ukrainian and Georgian membership in NATO, demonstrating that his professed interest in bipartisanship helps to reinforce the ruinous policies that his supporters believe he will change.

The broader foreign-policy agreement between the two campaigns is symbolized by the collaboration of two of their respective advisers, Robert Kagan and Ivo Daalder. Earlier this year, the pair co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Post that laid out plans for achieving future interventions abroad and hinted at the creation of a "Concert of Democracies." This idea is essentially identical to McCain's proposed league, which opposes the influence of Russia even in its own backyard.

Kagan asked recently, "Would the United States really want to live in a world where Russia holds sway over Georgia and the Ukraine?" Chillingly, either future administration would probably answer, "No." But the appropriate response would be, "Sure, why not?" These are states that, until very recently, were Soviet republics and were Russian provinces for at least a century before the revolution--and much longer than that in the case of Ukraine. It's not just as if Russia declared American influence in Latin America unacceptable, rather, from the Russian perspective, it would be like declaring American influence in Texas and Hawaii offensive. …

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