26 August 2008

Georgia Update

Russia has unilaterally recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia.The real test of Russian clout will be how many nations follow them on this course. I expect some countries that hope for Russia to anchor an anti-American coalition (Venezuela, perhaps) to extend recognition, while countries loyal to the U.S. will join the Bush administration in its insistence on Georgian territorial integrity. China's attitude is hard to predict. Some expect the Chinese to oppose Russia's move on principle, on the premise that endorsing Ossetian "splittism" would send the wrong message to Uighurs, Tibetans and other restive elements in their own country. It's not clear, however, whether China conducts its foreign policy according to ideology or pragmatism. To the extent that the Chinese government values Russia as a partner in any "anti-hegemonic" or anti-American front, they might well happily play the hypocrites and recognize the new states to keep Russia's good will. On the other hand, if they begin to read this month's news as proof that Russia wants to play hegemon itself, they might throw their support behind the U.S. (and send a consistent message to their own people on splittism) in order to maintain a balance of power.

This MSNBC item will tell you more about the Russian decision and the American response, but I want you to notice the inherent bias in the reporting. The average reader would get an impression from this story that Russia is doing something extraordinary, even unique among nations, in throwing its weight around this way. An uninformed person might go away believing that Russia is the only nation that claims a sphere of influence in which its "clout" should predominate. I'd like to hope the writer would know better and reflect that superior knowledge in the story, but I don't know if I can assume it. If more people understood that other nations, including ours, have spheres of their own and have enforced them with force in the past, they might find Russia's actions more palatable, or our own less so.

4 comments:

crhymethinc said...

The thing is, we have something called the "Monroe Doctrine" which mandates the entire western hemisphere as the US "sphere of influence". I don't know that any other nation in the world has shown such hubris and arrogance in claiming half of the planet as their backyard. If we are to take the Monroe Doctrine seriously, then we should back off any country outside of the western hemisphere. Or we should be forthright and declare our national intention to rule the planet and let the cards fall where they may.

crhymethinc said...

(as an afterthought) Keep in mind that the thieves and scoundrels we call politicians can barely rule this country adequately.

Samuel Wilson said...

Americans will probably want to claim that the Monroe Doctrine is somehow quite the opposite of the "Putin doctrine." Historically, Monroe has been justified in terms of protecting the infant republics of Latin America that had just liberated themselves from Spanish rule from reconquest by Spain or any European allies. In other words, it's identified, as is the American preference, with "protecting liberty" rather than projecting a sphere of influence. But in essence it's exactly the same thing that Putin and all his Russian predecessors have demanded, a buffer zone at the big nation's border from which foreign (i.e. "anti-democratic") influence is banned. So be prepared to hear hypocrites deny their hypocrisy, which is just what you should expect from them.

crhymethinc said...

These people can call it what they want, but it is a doctrine that establishes an American sphere of influence that covers the entire western hemisphere. As you said in another posting, let these Americans renounce the Monroe doctrine once and for all before they complain about the "Putin doctrine".

What it all boils down to is the ludicrous notion that "This playground only has room for one bully."