Thursday, August 14, 2008

Georgia: Sunrise At The Dawn of Russia's Next Age

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the apparent collapse of the Soviet Union I have been wondering what direction the great bear was going to stumble in. Given the history of Russia and nationalistic pride of its people, it was only a matter of time before this great beast woke up from its forced slumber and, somewhat grumpily, stuck its head outside its cave and reasserted its dominance in and around its lands.

So it is no surprise, at least to me, that its first actions upon waking is to start reclaiming territory and reasserting its dominance in and over countries at is borders.

The Ossetian territory has a substantial number of people who feel they have an allegiance to Russia. That they are being oppressed or even being ethnically cleansed from the area is open to debate. Nevertheless, it is Russia's open argument to move in and protect these people.

The true reason for this military action is, in typical Russian fashion, both obvious and subtle.

Putin, with true Russian patience, has been establishing his political base and authority in Russia. From his beginnings in the intelligence services of his country he has established both his knowledge of the people he deals with and a network of supporters that believe in the preeminence of Russia. He established himself politically, both in Russia and to the world, through apparently legitimate means and elections. And he has, by political maneuvering, managed to retain power even though, constitutionally, that power has expired. Very bright man, this Putin, very crafty. And even more importantly, since he is a Russian to the bone, he has the grudging respect of every Russian who believes that Russia needs to rise to the top of the world political heap.

And now the time has come for Putin to use his power to serve Mother Russia and serve it he will.

This move in Georgia is but a foretaste of things to come. The regions around Russia are holding their collective breaths now waiting to see how this plays out because soon, very soon they maybe at the receiving end of the might of Russia. I'm sure there are some very clinched sphincters in the European Community right now, particularly on the eastern side.

It is the Americans that pose the biggest threat to Russia, but at the same time it is the Americans that pose the least threat. As usual, Americans mostly either don't have a clue or really don't care what happens on the other side of the world. There are shortsighted people who whine and rant about Russian aggression against a seemingly independent country and the oppression of a theoretically free people and, morally, they are right. Unfortunately they fail to recognize that Russia is playing chess with the world. Instead of focusing on the whole board, they see the destruction of a single pawn and decry the inhumanity of the action.

The American military, positioned as it is in Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc., can make a difference and Russia knows it. Alas, at least for us, Russia knows that we won't do a damn thing. Not only are we caught up in an election cycle, we are trapped in the lamest of lame duck periods in presidential history. With a rock-bottom approval rating and vanishing legislative support, President Bush is at his weakest and Putin knows this.

So Russia/Putin can act with impunity in that region. But Russia isn't a one-act play. It is an opera of epic proportions and Ossetia/Georgia is but one scene.

The real question that we should be asking is, what is Russia's next best move? It isn't a question of whether Russia will follow this up somewhere else, it is a question of when.

The sooner we, as Americans, wake up to this, the sooner we can enter this game as a real players and not simply as sideline observers or powerless referees.

The Soviet Union may be dead as a door nail, but Mother Russia is back with a vengeance.