The NATO alliance appears ready to present a united front against an old foe over its aggression against Georgia. Instead of wheedling Russia into withdrawing its troops from the former Soviet republic, Europe and the US will “cut to the chase” at the UN by forcing a vote at the Security Council. Meanwhile, the US has accused Russia of stealing Humvees sent as part of the humanitarian aid package:
Abruptly discarding a week-old push to engage Russia and convince its leaders to end their war on Georgia, European and American diplomats are saying they will “cut to the chase” with a U.N. Security Council resolution that stresses the need for an immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgian territory.
The move, which diplomats say is sure to result in a Russian veto, came as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization announced plans to strengthen its ties with Georgia. Russian officials responded by heaping scorn on the West’s newly confrontational tone and putting several new conditions on promises they made a week ago to withdraw their troops from Georgia.
The Georgian government yesterday accused Russia of taking 20 Georgian troops hostage, and Pentagon sources said Russian troops stole five military Humvees that America dispatched to assist the humanitarian efforts in Georgia.
The British ambassador to the United Nations, John Sawers, said Russian troops stopped a British military attaché in Georgia and turned him away from a Russian-controlled zone. Rather than withdrawing from Georgia, the Russian soldiers — whom Mr. Sawers said are now serving as “an army of occupation” — appear to be deepening their entrenchment in Georgia, according to press reports from the region.
What will a UNSC vote accomplish? The Russians can veto any resolution that has any teeth in it, and can reasonably expect China to follow suit. The episode would certainly embarrass them diplomatically, but if the invasion itself and the behavior of their troops hasn’t shamed them, an empty and failed Security Council resolution won’t do much to speed change in Georgia.
The resolution, written by France and supported by NATO, demands a withdrawal to pre-conflict positions. The cease-fire agreement signed by Georgia and Russia already committed to that, and Russia obviously isn’t interested in honoring their word. The proposed resolution also commits the UN to the territorial integrity of Georgia, which seems a new position for the Council, given their previous neglect of Serbia’s territorial integrity with Kosovo.
A strengthening of ties between NATO and Georgia, and NATO and Ukraine, holds more promise — and risk. The Russians could react by sending more troops into Georgia and daring the West to do something about it. If NATO extends membership to Georgia under these circumstances, they would almost certainly be committing themselves to a war in Asia, which most of them have avoided in Afghanistan despite having more impact on their national security than the Georgian impasse.
The best method of handling Russian imperialism will be economic warfare. The West has to cut Russia’s economy off at the knees, just as Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s to the Soviet Union. Russia has an oil and natural gas economy, and they need Europe almost as much as Europe needs Russia, and perhaps more; Russia has no warm-water ports to transport their product to other customers. If we act to lower the price of oil and starve Russia of its export potential, their imperialist impulses may have to yield to business realities.