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August 10, 2008

Comments

The Reticulator

I claim to have seen this coming, and have never claimed Russia was unpredictable, nor have I ever in my entire life heard anyone make that claim. In fact, this was all too predictable. It's an old, old story that has been played out by imperialists since at least Roman times. (And watching Russian TV, as I have been doing frequently over the past few years, gave me enough clues even though I don't understand much of the language.)

As to whether bringing Georgia into NATO would have prevented this, or whether it was even a good idea, I am not so sure. George Bush won't even help a friend like Taiwan defend itself, so I am not sure NATO membership would have counted for much. I would be willing to listen to arguments to the contrary, though.

I don't see any real downside for Russia in doing this. Of course it will do it in stages, to get people to accept one move at a time, just like all good imperialists do (including the U.S.) Yes, Vladimir Vladimirovich cares a lot about what the outside thinks. But if he takes it one step at a time he can deal with it.

Daniel Larison

Reticulator--you must not read Anne Applebaum, then. You may be right that this is not a universal or even a frequently-made claim, but I'm surprised that you've never heard it. It is a basic trope of arguments that portray other states and peoples as irrational, "mysterious" and non-Western. It is more often deployed nowadays against the Iranians, but it is sometimes used to make the Russians seem more menacing.

The Reticulator

Yes, I read Anne Applebaum's book -- just a few months ago. But I didn't take any message about "unpredictability" from it. Churchill once said "enigma" but I never even took that to mean unpredictable.

Well, I see that Applebaum said unpredictable in her column. OK, I'll admit that I am often surprised by what I've learned about Russia from Russian movies. In a way, the past has been unpredictable -- like when I hear a pro-free-market lecture in a Russian movie from 1982. And Russian movie censors have not always been predictable when it comes to what they will allow.

In foreign policy, the exact details of what any country will do, and the exact timing, can often be hard to predict. But I don't see how Russia's goals and general strategy can be seen as unpredictable when they have been broadcast so openly.

Exactly what did people think Russia was doing with that big parade on May 1? What message did they think Russia was trying to send?

Josh SN

Russia is not going to start a land war in Georgia (proper).

Russia is not going to stand for Saakashvili staying power, either.

Russia has nothing personal against democracy, but putting Yuschenko and Saakashvili in power on their borders was putting anti-Russian "democrats" in power, and that, naturally, they don't like.

Ukraine won't fall, I don't suspect, if people stay reasonable, because Ukraine isn't about to invade breakaway wherever. There was a "sniper war" (wikipedia's term) from Aug 1 to Aug 7 in South Ossetia and Georgia decided to end it by brute force.

Russia has a big parade EVERY May 1st. Geesh!

The Reticulator

So Georgia and the Ukraine won't fall as long as they don't act like independent, sovereign states. That's nice.

And if you say this year's May 1 parade was just like the other May 1 parades, you weren't paying attention. It was covered even in the U.S. news.

Myrhaf

Saakashvili said, "If the whole world does not stop Russia, then Russian tanks will be able to reach any other European capital"

I think he's about to learn that there is a difference between Tbilisi and Paris.

Joules

I wonder if there was a deliberate decision to start this during the Olympics in order to gain something...distraction, publicity--just wondering.

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