Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pleading the Russian Cause

By Alan Caruba

By August 12 former president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev’s opinion piece was in The Washington Post and by the next day in my daily newspaper in New Jersey as he pled the case for Russia.

Turns out, the massive troop movement into Georgia, a tiny nation on the border of the Russian Federation, the air assault, and the Russian navy just offshore, was all Georgia’s fault.

“The root of this tragedy lie in the decision of Georgia’s separatist leaders in 1991 to abolish South Ossetian autonomy.” Then, according to Gorbachev, on August 7 “The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas.”

“Russia had to respond.”

Naturally, Russia had to respond with a remarkably well coordinated attack during the Olympic Games while much of the world was distracted, while the U.S. Congress was in recess, and while many younger Americans were trying to figure out where Georgia was and why they should care.

Not to overstate the reasons why the U.S. is also probably to blame for all this, Gorbachev noted that “Georgian armed forces were trained by hundreds of U.S. instructors” and “By declaring the Caucasus, a region that is thousands of miles from the American continent, a sphere of its ‘national interest’, the United States made a serious blunder.”

The United States regarded South Korea, when it was attacked by Stalinist North Korea, a national interest and felt the same about Vietnam. It has protected Taiwan. It liberated Grenada when communists attempted to turn it into another Cuba and it rid itself of a drug lord in Panama who was also that nation’s president. More recently, it felt its national interests were well served by chasing the Taliban out of Afghanistan (they’re back) and deposing the Iraqi despot, Saddam Hussein, best known for starting wars with both Iran and Kuwait.

America has an interest in the entire world. It has been instrumental in helping many nations establish democratic governments. Our military plays a training and protective role in numerous nations.

That old guy, John McCain, a Senator who has actually been to Georgia, issued a lengthy statement regarding the Russian invasion in which he said, "Americans wishing to spend August vacationing with their families or watching the Olympics may wonder why their newspapers and television screens are filled with images of war in the small country of Georgia. Concerns about what occurs there might seem distant and unrelated to the many other interests America has around the world. And yet Russian aggression against Georgia is both a matter of urgent moral and strategic importance to the United States of America.

"Georgia is an ancient country, at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and one of the world's first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion. After a brief period of independence following the Russian revolution, the Red Army forced Georgia to join the Soviet Union in 1922. As the Soviet Union crumbled at the end of the Cold War, Georgia regained its independence in 1991, but its early years were marked by instability, corruption, and economic crises.”

Reading Sen. McCain’s entire statement will tell you more about the real situation than you are likely to read in any U.S. newspaper since quite a few choose to ignore it.

The real blunder would be to forget the nearly fifty years of the Cold War between the former Soviet Union and the United States or to overlook the way Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has steadily replaced the Soviet Union with a comparable autocratic government that does not hesitate to murder Russian journalists who print the truth or Russian dissidents overseas who might expose it.

We have returned to the Bad Old Days of the Russian Bear doing what it has always done; forcibly subjugating nations on its borders.

What I find disturbing is how swift some U.S. daily newspapers were to publish the “party line” by a former leading participant in Soviet hegemony. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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