Sunday, August 24, 2008

Russian bear back with a vengeance

Aug.24, 2008

Russian bear with a vengeance

RUSSIA seems to have gained an edge in its stand-off with the US with the American ambassador in Moscow, John Beyrle, admitting that the Kremlin's first military response as legitimate after Russian troops came under attack in Georgia.
The admission signals a conciliatory tone after repeated Bush administration condemnations of the Russian intervention in Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia province. It comes amid reported efforts by Washington and Moscow to set up a summit between President George W. Bush and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to address the crises in US-Russian relations.
Effectively, Ambassador Beyrle admitted that Georgia was the aggressor in South Ossetia. He said the US did not endorse Georgia’s Aug.8 attack in South Ossetia which sparked a massive Russian reaction when its peacekeepers came under fire.
He also said his country continues to support Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organisation. That is a marked departure from implicit US threats to punish Russia for its intervention in Georgia by isolating it internationally.
It would appear that Washington has come to accept that it could no longer hope to make inroads into areas that Russia considers as its spheres of influence and Moscow has drawn a red line in its international relations, notably with the US, and is determined to defend it.
Moscow has made no secret of its rejection of US unilateralism in the Balkans, planned deployments of anti-missile missile systems in Eastern Europe and expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to include former ex-Soviet republics.
And now it is clear from Russia's words and deeds that it is affirming that it would not accept to be treated anything less than equal by anyone.
By threatening to nuke Poland if it stations US anti-missile missiles in its territory and declaring that it would supply advanced weapons to Syria, which has agreed to allow Russian bases in its territory, Moscow threw the gauntlet at the US. And Washington is found wanting because it realised that the Russians are dead serious.
Ambassador Beyrle’s statement is a sign that Washington wants to freeze the deterioration in relations with Moscow before it spins out of control.
He also signalled that Washington could do business with Moscow if Russia does not pose any threat to Georgia's integrity and regime. “We have seen the destruction of civilian infrastructure, as well as calls by some Russian politicians to change the democratically-elected government of Georgia. That is why we believe that Russia has gone too far.” he said.
The disputes over whether Russia has pulled all its forces out of Georgia and who is control of some key routes in the country are not of major consequence because a new Washington-Moscow modus vivendi would and should clear the air and remove the reasons for arbitrary actions by either side. That is what Washington and Moscow should be aiming for, and it would be a major mistake for either of them to try to impose its will on the other.