Friday, August 15, 2008

The Empire Strikes Back

Are we seeing a return of the Iron Curtain? While Russia may have had every right to respond (even with force) to Georgia's attempt to bring South Ossetia back into its national borders, it brought nearly unanimous scorn upon itself with the amount of force it decided to deploy. Thousands of innocent civilians in Georgia have been killed with rampaging Ossetians (technically Russian citizens if using the "Russia was defending its citizens" argument) even reportedly pouring gasoline on cattle and other livestock and setting them on fire (NPR - 8/14/2008).

Even if a military response was warranted/justified, the Russian military has a duty to protect the non-combatants (within reason), but the opposite appears to be true. Add to this the report from the AP that Poland stands to be at risk due to their support of an American backed missile defense system, and the Russians appear to be speaking very loudly and carrying a very big stick.

The question is why? What happens to make this the ideal time for this brand of diplomacy? The conflict with Georgia was started by Georgia, but do the comments by General Nogovitsyn do anything but create a further air of distrust between the two superpowers? A spokesman for the Pentagon has already stated "earlier U.S. offers for broad cooperation with Moscow on the missile defense program may be reevaluated considering the latest developments". That wouldn't appear to work in Russia's favor, unless the Medvedev/Putin pairing believes that it is time to remove the concepts of glasnost and perestroika from the Russian diplomatic vocabulary.

On Thursday, August 14th, Toomas Hendrik Ilves (president of Estonia) noted on NPR that the paradigm of Russia staying at bay and not attacking its neighbors had been in place since 1991, and is now shattered. It may be time to reconsider this thought geopolitically.