Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Long Road Ahead

This writer argues that the 2008 Russo-Georgia War was a turning point for Russia's foreign policy:

Looking back on the five-day war, it is clear that it was a major turning point for all sides involved.

For Russia, it was psychological revenge after 20-year-long geopolitical retreat. It was proof that Moscow can say no. The United States and its allies were shown that Moscow was serious about drawing a line in the sand. They accepted the signal.

We shall see if the war halted NATO expansion and Russian crumbling. A statement of intent is not the same as having the ability to carry out that intent. As I wrote two years ago:

I am troubled because it may represent a change in how Russia's leaders sees the former Soviet republics. Russia before the invasion of Georgia may have been the low tide of post-Soviet Russia, angry at their loss of empire but unwilling to do anything about it. And with the invasion, we may be at the starting point of a new Russia built on picking up as much of their loss lands as possible.

If Russia's aggression against Georgia (and yes, it was aggression, even if Russia managed to get only the Georgian shooting seen as the first shots of an obvious trap that Georgia foolishly walked into) is a signal that the loss of empire is not permanent--and if the Russians rebuild a military capable of backing that desire--this could be a Russian version of Operation Urgent Fury that signaled that we did not accept the Brezhnev doctrine that communism could only advance and never be pushed back.

President Reagan's invasion of Grenada was no display of awesome military skill. But 6 years after that, the invasion of Panama was. And in 1991, Desert Storm was a display of renewed military skill. The last decade has shown the depth and breadth of the skill that we built to back our intent.

It is too soon to say if Georgia was a real turning point. But it isn't too soon to say that Russia wants it to be. In 1983, as we evaluated our shortcomings on display in our small victory, who would have looked ahead to see communism rolled back right through Moscow less than a decade later?