The United States of America is alone in advocating a stronger response to Russian aggression in Georgia. The European Union is in command of the crisis and its current President, Nicolas Sarkozy of France, is pursuing a diplomatic solution as is the consensus of the European Union. The Bush Administration simply had no meaningful support among its European Allies for a stronger response advocated by Vice President Dick Cheney. Germany and Italy championed the softer gentler approach and Europe lined up behind them. Consider this quote from the International Herald Tribune:
WASHINGTON: The Bush administration, after considerable internal debate, has decided not to take direct punitive action against Russia for its conflict with Georgia, concluding that it has little leverage if it acts unilaterally and that it would be better off pressing for a chorus of international criticism to be led by Europe.
Even as they vowed to work with allies, administration officials conceded that they wished the European Union had been willing to take firmer action than issuing tepid statements criticizing Russia’s conduct. But the officials said the benefits of remaining part of a united front made it prudent for the United States to accept the softer approach advocated by Italy and Germany, among other allies.
Unfortunately the Russians announced today their plan to station more than 7000 troops in the two disputed areas which represents a significant increase from recent force levels. While no one should doubt the persuasive powers of Sophisticated and Worldly European Diplomacy its said by Reuters that the negotiations between Russia and Sarkozy are a bit on the tempestuous side. This is rather interesting because they agreed in negotiations to pull back their forces in the breakaway regions within a month and be replaced by a 200 member EU force that would be responsible for protecting Russia from Georgian attack.
A French official said Monday’s talks were so stormy that Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, threatened to walk out when Russian negotiators tried to remove a reference to pre-conflict positions.
“At that moment, Sarkozy got up and said ‘We’re going. This is not negotiable,” the official said. The row blew over when Medvedev, who had left the room, returned and appealed for calm, the official said.
And so the crisis enters an arm twisting stage where the two sides play their games and the Russians keep the breakaway regions while the Europeans point to an agreement to return the breakaway regions at some nebulous point in the future. A point that, needless to say, will never come; but provides cover for the EU to rationalize the new Normal. The United States becomes more and more low key and tries to retain Russian cooperation in the war on terror and the need to wipe out Iran’s nuclear program. The Russians will doubtless launch a sort of charm offensive to try and attract global investors who’ve handed the Russian Markets a very nasty downturn of late. The Georgians will get some aid from the US and be forced to reconsider the strength of NATO and its willingness to stick its neck out for former Soviet states. The terrorists, the Russians, the Iranians and even the Venezuelans will have taken note how well the US was contained when the Oil prices spiked and their planners will be hard at work figuring out how to use this oil power in non self destructive ways. We’ll all pretend that Georgia continues to control the Black Sea Pipeline but it’s really the Russians who are in position to control it at a moment’s notice. The Americans might but probably won’t get a naval base in the Black Sea and the Russians will get new bases in the Persian Gulf from Iran and in South America from Venezuela. The “Crisis” will be normalized into a new status quo that bodes ill for the future of Europe as US influence in Europe fades away.