A quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing.Isolationists (of whom I am not one) believe that since there is nothing we can directly do to intervene there is little point in getting involved. Appeasers take a similar view. One man who knows a lot about this area is LibDem blogger James Oates, who blogs at Cicero's Songs. He has some dire warnings.
This is the "Rhineland" moment. Should what now appears to be a long planned Russian aggression against Georgia go unpunished, then Russia will feel that it may proceed with impunity against any other of its neighbours. This includes states protected under the North Atlantic Alliance. In short, unless the West intervenes now, we could be facing an all out conflict situation before too long, as Russia continues to proceed with its wilfully reckless and dangerous defiance of all norms of civilised behaviour. Russia refuses to respond to British pressure on the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. It continues to sanction extra-judicial murder of any citizen of any country that it deems to be hostile to its interests. It willfully breaks all treaties that it undertakes, including the international law of the sea.In a post yesterday, James put the conflict into context...
Russia is a rogue state. Although I fear, as Edward Lucas does in today's Times that the West will fail in this challenge, the fact is that Russia is a threat to global peace and stability. If we do fail now, the consequences later could be even more serious- and bring us to the brink of a global war.
Russia has attacked Georgia- not the other way round. This is simply the latest act from the Kremlin that defies international law. I have noted in the past the massive strategic significance of Georgia to the energy pipelines from Central Asia to the West, and while the West may be unclear about how important such a small country is, Russia has never forgotten and finds the Euro-Atlantic stance of the Tbilisi government intensely annoying.But the question remains: what do we do? With both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on their holidays the UK government hasn't exactly been at the forefront of giving an international lead beyond the usual remarks in these situations of calling for calm and dialogue. William Hague issued a statement this afternoon calling for both sides to negotiate
However the fact is that Russia has simply gone too far. Moscow must be told that they have crossed the limits of international patience. The international community must now act to contain the Kremlin and stop the belief that it may continue to choose to act beyond Russia's borders with impunity
Incidentally, Mary Dejevsky has certainly crossed the limits of my patience this morning in the The Independent- the idea of Russian military weakness looks pretty stupid to the people of Poti who witnessed this mornings attack, and the civil servants in Tbilisi who have been asked to evacuate their ministry buildings. Dejevsky's latest parroting of the Kremlin line is frankly contemptible.
There is a very serious danger that these clashes could develop into a wider conflict between Russia and Georgia. It is vital for both countries to commit themselves to talks and cease fighting immediately.All well and good, but how exactly do we - and the West - get the Russians to take any notice? The UN isn't likely to be able to get very far. The EU won't do anything, mainly because it won't want to jeopardise its energy links with Russia. The German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier illustrates the point with this incredible quote today...
It is still unclear who is responsible for the new outbreak of violence.I suspect he has been watching too much Russian TV. Helen Szamuely emphasises the failure of the international community in the run-up to this crisis on the Bruges Group blog today...
One wonders whether this could have been avoided by a greater display of courage by certain West European countries, such as Germany, France, Spain and the Benelux, who made it clear at the last NATO Summit that they were prepared to act on Russian instructions if it meant "standing up to America" and, of course, ensuring no break in that energy supply.She has a point about the last NATO summit, but like others neatly avoids the question of what do we do? EU Foreign Ministers are meeting on Monday to discuss the crisis and will no doubt issue a very worthy statement deploring aggression and calling on both sides to negotiate. But what is there to negotiate? Russia has invaded Georgian sovereign territory. Anything apart from a complete Russian withdrawal will be seen as rewarding the Russians for their military actions.
Come to think of it, where is the soft power of the EU? This war is unfolding reasonably close, yet neither the EU nor its member states, whose leaders are, of course, on holiday or in Beijing, seem to have any ideas beyond wringing their hands and pleading with all sides to be good little children and play nicely with each other.
The long term consequences of this dispute could be fundamental, with Georgia being drawn even further into the US sphere of influence, thus irritating the Russians even further. The dispute will also enable us to examine further the power shift between Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev. It's interesting to note that it is Putin who has gone to Ossetia not the President.
This has been an unusually long post for me and I am sorry it is going to conclude with a question which I have asked several times so far, but failed to come up with answer.
What. Do. We. Do?