Monday, August 11, 2008

A 3 A.M. Phone Call From Georgia

Russia has now captured Gori and is within 35 miles of Georgia’s capital, Tiblisi. The 3 a.m. phone is ringing.

This is John McCain forecasting Russian aggression against Georgia. This video is from 1999.

John McCain, who has visited both Georgia and South Ossetia in the past, has been, as David Broder says, "prescient"

As Powerline points out, there is a tremendous amount at stake in Georgia. Georgia is a pro-Western democracy and it is home to an oil pipeline that allows former Soviet Republics surrounding the Caspian Sea to pump oil outside of Russian control. If we allow Georgia to fall, this will of necessity effect all of the other former Soviet nations, moving them out of sheer survival instinct back into the Moscow sphere. It will be a message that the West cannot be counted upon as an ally. And control of the oil pipeline from the Caspian sea would give Russia ever more total control over the West’s lifeline. To reiterate, this is a 3 true A.M. event.

In the wake of Russia’s naked aggression into Georgia proper with the intent of forcing the ouster of the democratic government, John McCain issued the following statement, setting out a plan to respond to Russia’s aggression:

. . . 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.

"Following fraudulent parliamentary elections in 2003, a peaceful, democratic revolution took place, led by the U.S.-educated lawyer Mikheil Saakashvili. The Rose Revolution changed things dramatically and, following his election, President Saakashvili embarked on a series of wide-ranging and successful reforms. I've met with President Saakashvili many times, including during several trips to Georgia.

"What the people of Georgia have accomplished in terms of democratic governance, a Western orientation, and domestic reform is nothing short of remarkable. That makes Russia's recent actions against the Georgians all the more alarming. In the face of Russian aggression, the very existence of independent Georgia and the survival of its democratically-elected government are at stake.

"In recent days Moscow has sent its tanks and troops across the internationally recognized border into the Georgian region of South Ossetia. Statements by Moscow that it was merely aiding the Ossetians are belied by reports of Russian troops in the region of Abkhazia, repeated Russian bombing raids across Georgia, and reports of a de facto Russian naval blockade of the Georgian coast. Whatever tensions and hostilities might have existed between Georgians and Ossetians, they in no way justify Moscow's path of violent aggression. Russian actions, in clear violation of international law, have no place in 21st century Europe.

"The implications of Russian actions go beyond their threat to the territorial integrity and independence of a democratic Georgia. Russia is using violence against Georgia, in part, to intimidate other neighbors such as Ukraine for choosing to associate with the West and adhering to Western political and economic values. As such, the fate of Georgia should be of grave concern to Americans and all people who welcomed the end of a divided of Europe, and the independence of former Soviet republics. The international response to this crisis will determine how Russia manages its relationships with other neighbors. We have other important strategic interests at stake in Georgia, especially the continued flow of oil through the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which Russia attempted to bomb in recent days; the operation of a critical communication and trade route from Georgia through Azerbaijan and Central Asia; and the integrity an d influence of NATO, whose members reaffirmed last April the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Georgia.

"Yesterday Georgia withdrew its troops from South Ossetia and offered a ceasefire. The Russians responded by bombing the civilian airport in Georgia's capital, Tblisi, and by stepping up its offensive in Abkhazia. This pattern of attack appears aimed not at restoring any status quo ante in South Ossetia, but rather at toppling the democratically elected government of Georgia. This should be unacceptable to all the democratic countries of the world, and should draw us together in universal condemnation of Russian aggression.

"Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin must understand the severe, long-term negative consequences that their government's actions will have for Russia's relationship with the U.S. and Europe. It is time we moved forward with a number of steps.

"The United States and our allies should continue efforts to bring a resolution before the UN Security Council condemning Russian aggression, noting the withdrawal of Georgian troops from South Ossetia, and calling for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgian territory. We should move ahead with the resolution despite Russian veto threats, and submit Russia to the court of world public opinion.

"NATO's North Atlantic Council should convene in emergency session to demand a ceasefire and begin discussions on both the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to South Ossetia and the implications for NATO's future relationship with Russia, a Partnership for Peace nation. NATO's decision to withhold a Membership Action Plan for Georgia might have been viewed as a green light by Russia for its attacks on Georgia, and I urge the NATO allies to revisit the decision.

"The Secretary of State should begin high-level diplomacy, including visiting Europe, to establish a common Euro-Atlantic position aimed at ending the war and supporting the independence of Georgia. With the same aim, the U.S. should coordinate with our partners in Germany, France, and Britain, to seek an emergency meeting of the G-7 foreign ministers to discuss the current crisis. The visit of French President Sarkozy to Moscow this week is a welcome expression of transatlantic activism.

"Working with allied partners, the U.S. should immediately consult with the Ukrainian government and other concerned countries on steps to secure their continued independence. This is particularly important as a number of Russian Black Sea fleet vessels currently in Georgian territorial waters are stationed at Russia's base in the Ukrainian Crimea.

"The U.S. should work with Azerbaijan and Turkey, and other interested friends, to develop plans to strengthen the security of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline.
"The U.S. should send immediate economic and humanitarian assistance to help mitigate the impact the invasion has had on the people of Georgia.

"Our united purpose should be to persuade the Russian government to cease its attacks, withdraw its troops, and enter into negotiations with Georgia. We must remind Russia's leaders that the benefits they enjoy from being part of the civilized world require their respect for the values, stability and peace of that world. World history is often made in remote, obscure countries. It is being made in Georgia today. It is the responsibility of the leading nations of the world to ensure that history continues to be a record of humanity's progress toward respecting the values and security of free people

In contrast, Mr. Obama's initial reaction showed that he clearly lacked any sort of basic grasp into what was occurring and its ramificaitons. He issued a call for both the invaded country, and the invader, to "show restraint." This was his statement on August 8, answering the 3 A.M. phone call:

"I strongly condemn the outbreak of violence in Georgia, and urge an immediate end to armed conflict. Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint, and to avoid an escalation to full scale war. Georgia's territorial integrity must be respected. All sides should enter into direct talks on behalf of stability in Georgia, and the United States, the United Nations Security Council, and the international community should fully support a peaceful resolution to this crisis."

And here is George Will, comparing the reactions of both Obama and McCain:

Russia’s aggression is an indictment of soft power politics in a world where brute force is always an option. There is little doubt in my mind that the EU nation’s refusal to allow Georgia entry into NATO acted as a green light for Moscow’s aggression, not much different than the message by Sec. of State Dean Acheson’s remarks on our unwillingness to defend Korea over 60 years ago was the precursor to the Korean War. For those bent on domination, soft power standing alone - without both the will and ability to respond with force - is meaningless. As Stalin asked in 1935, "how many divisions does the Pope have?"

Powerline, commenting on the statement of John McCain quoted above, notes the need for a Western response to be backed up by threat of force:

All such measures--not to mention the usual diplomatic steps--are useful only to the extent that they involve the actual or potential use of force or meaningful economic sanction. Russia will not be deterred from trying to reassert control over the lost provinces of its empire by condemnations and resolutions. Frankly, I'd feel more confident that such measures would be undertaken or credibly threatened if McCain were President. President Bush once had the fortitude to deal with this sort of crisis, but seems to have lost it. As for Barack Obama, the less said the better.

For my money, we should have planes flying over Tiblisi at this moment. They would have to be U.S. planes. NATO is utterly useless at this point and needs either to be reformed or concluded to be replaced by individual agreements between the U.S. and those European nations still willing to fight for their survival. Only a handful come to mind.


Joanne said...

Well, McCain calls it as he sees it, and so far his eyesight has been very good indeed.

Dinah Lord said...

Excellent post, GW. I knew I could come over here and get right up to speed on the Georgian conflict.

I too, am frustrated by our lack of response and your conclusions regarding NATO are spot on.

Loved going in the wayback machine to see McCain calling the whole situation. He really is starting to grow on me...

Hope all is well.

Georgia Info said...