OBAMA ON A LEASH: Russia reserves opt-out of arms treaty with USA…

Russia reserves opt-out of arms treaty with US

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press Writer Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press Writer Tue Apr 6, 9:40 am ET

MOSCOW – The new U.S.-Russian arms control treaty is a much better deal for Russia than its predecessor, but Moscow reserves the right to withdraw from it if a planned U.S. missile defense system grows into a threat, Russia’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

Sergey Lavrov said Russia will issue a statement outlining the terms for such a withdrawal after President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign the treaty Thursday in Prague. The new accord replaces the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START I, which expired in December.

Lavrov has said before that Russia could withdraw from the treaty. But his comments at a briefing Tuesday were his most specific yet on how and why a withdrawal could occur.

“Russia will have the right to opt out of the treaty if … the U.S. strategic missile defense begins to significantly affect the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces,” he said.

Moscow welcomed Obama’s decision to scrap the previous administration’s plans for missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, but expressed concern about plans for a revamped shield, including a possible facility in Romania.

Lavrov said the site in Romania poses no immediate threat, but Russia could opt out of the new treaty if U.S. missile interceptors become capable of intercepting Russia’s strategic missiles.

“We have noted that the U.S. system won’t have a strategic capacity in its early stages,” he said. “We shall see what will happen next. When and if this system gets a strategic capacity, we shall see whether it creates risks for our strategic nuclear forces.”

The talks on a START successor had dragged on for nearly a year. They were stymied most recently by Russia’s demand for an explicit link between strategic arms cuts and development of the U.S. missile defense system. The U.S. Senate, however, has opposed any restrictions on the shield.

Moscow eventually agreed to have just a general statement noting a link between strategic offensive and defensive weapons. U.S. officials said the wording imposes no constraints on missile defense.

Lavrov said the new agreement will be the first arms-control treaty to make the parties fully equal. He said Russia shares Obama’s goal of a nuclear-free world, but said other nations must join the disarmament process, as well.

Obama’s Russian Disaster

Obama’s Russian Disaster

April 6th, 2010

By Kim Zigfeld, America Thinker

 Obama is being pushed around by Putin

The point of President Barack Obama’s much-ballyhooed “reset” of relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia was simple: Get Russia to stop supporting American enemies and use its influence to reduce the threat of nuclear terror being rained down on the West by the world’s rogue regimes. 

Obama was ready, willing, and able to betray Russian human rights activists by selling American values down the river in order do get this deal done, and he promptly gave them the cold shoulder. He was even willing to totally ignore Russia’s horrific problem of race murder and its invasion of tiny Georgia for imperial conquest.

Last week, Obama learned the wisdom of Ronald Reagan’s famous advice on Russia: “Trust, but verify.”

Despite Obama’s best efforts, including a unilateral withdrawal of the Bush anti-ballistic missile plan for Eastern Europe, Putin traveled to Venezuela, shook hands with a beaming Hugo Chávez, and announced (video here) that Russia would provide Chávez with both a nuclear energy capacity and a rocket program, the same as it has done for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran.

Read More:

Hussein: U.S. Responsible For Russian Invasion Of Georgia By Setting Bad Example In Iraq

Putin’s Next Domino

Putin’s Next Domino

By Kathy Shaidle
FrontPageMagazine.com | 8/22/2008

As soon as the U.S. and Poland signed their long awaited missile defense pact on August 20 (a deal recently reported in FrontPage), the Kremlin issued a sinister threat reminiscent of its old Cold War rhetoric.  

The deal places 10 missile defense interceptors on Polish territory, 115 miles from the Russian border. The missiles are designed to deter and, if necessary, defeat an Iranian attack, not to attack the former Soviet Union. But the Russians don’t believe that.

Hours after the signing, Russia’s Foreign Ministry described the new base as “one of the instruments in an extremely dangerous bundle of American military projects involving the one-sided development of a global missile shield system.” The Foreign Ministry insisted that the interceptors don’t have “any target other than Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles,” and issued a veiled threat: “In this case Russia will be forced to react, and not only through diplomatic” channels.

A few days earlier, Deputy Chief of Staff General Anatoly Nogovitsyn had warned, “Poland, by deploying [the system] is exposing itself to [nuclear] attack, one hundred percent.”

Earlier, the chief of Russia’s strategic missile command suggested aiming nuclear missiles at Poland, while Vladimir Putin himself has warned Poland’s neighbor that “Russia will have to point its warheads at Ukrainian territory” if Ukraine joined NATO.

In Poland to sign the aggreement, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed any suggestion that the new system represents a threat to Russia, and denounced General Nogovitsyn’s threat.

Comments like this “border on the bizarre, frankly,” said Rice, adding, “The Russians are losing their credibility.” “Missile defense, of course, is aimed at no one,” Rice futher explained. “It is in our defense that we do this.”

“It’s also the case that when you threaten Poland, you perhaps forget that it is not 1988,” Rice continued. “It’s 2008 and the United States has a … firm treaty guarantee to defend Poland’s territory as if it was the territory of the United States. So it’s probably not wise to throw these threats around.”

Perhaps, but Russia seems eager to turn back the clock, to a time when it was the United States’ most feared enemy, and not merely a nation among others.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Gabriel Schoenfeld reports that, like the United States since the end of the Cold War,

Russia has also reduced the size of its tactical nuclear arsenal, but starting from much higher levels and at a slower pace, leaving it with an estimated 5,000 such devices — 10 times the number of tactical weapons held by the U.S. Such a disparity would be one thing if we were contending with a stable, postcommunist regime moving in the direction of democracy and integration with the West. That was the Russia we anticipated when we began our nuclear build-down. But it is not the Russia we are facing today. (…)

As in the Cold War, nuclear weapons are central to the Russian geopolitical calculus. “The weak are not loved and not heard, they are insulted, and when we have [nuclear] parity they will talk to us in a different way.” These words are not from the dark days of communist yore. Rather, they were uttered last year by Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, and they perfectly capture the mentality we and Russia’s neighbors are up against.

In other words, the Kremlin has the hardware to back up their bluster. In recent months, the Russians have sent bombers on sorties along the Alaskan coast, and have threatened to station nuclear weapons in Cuba in response to the U.S. Poland pact.

Because Russia is the world’s second largest oil producer, its newest threats helped oil prices shoot up to $115 a barrel on Wednesday. The situation was compounded by Russia’s recent invasion of Georgia, which threatened to disrupt important regional pipelines. The price of gold, which has historically risen and fell in unison with international tensions, also rose yesterday due to “increasing geopolitical risk.” One veteran market observer analyzed the situation on Thursday and issued a distressing prediction:

Venezuela, Syria and Iran are aligning themselves with Russia. President Assad has said that Israeli assistance to Georgia shows that Russia and Syria should bolster military cooperation. Venezuela’s Chavez is also aligning himself with the Russians. Chavez said at the weekend that Russian President Dmitri Medvedev wanted to send a Russian naval fleet to visit Venezuela and that the Russians naval fleet would be welcome in Venezuela. Venezuela has been seeking closer relations with Moscow, in part to buy military hardware, including 24 Russian Sukhoi fighter jets recently delivered.

Geopolitical risk is higher now than at any time since the end of the Cold War and looks set to remain heightened in the coming months.

So far, the U.S. and Poland have issued calm yet firm statements in response to the Kremlin’s belligerence.  For example, on August 21, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski suggested that the Russians be invited to inspect the new bases on Polish territory.

However, whether or not the two nations and their allies can maintain this sanguine front in the face of Russia’s threats of nuclear “payback” remains to be seen.


A blogger since 2000, Kathy Shaidle runs FiveFeetOfFury.com. Her new e-book Acoustic Ladyland has been called a “must read” by Mark Steyn.

Georgia On Our Mind

Who do want to face off with Putin

Nashi and the Young Guard: two paths toward building support for Putin

Nashi and the Young Guard: two paths toward

building support for Putin

The groups engage in social programs and political events, but their approaches differ markedly.

Pavel Elizarov is just the kind of teen President Vladimir Putin’s government started worrying about a few years ago.

“I was never political until I was 18. But in 2004, I was in Ukraine on a tourist trip with my friends, and I saw happy people who were protesting,” says Mr. Elizarov, referring to the Orange Revolution, which brought hundreds of thousands into the streets to protest fraudulent elections. “They were all together, and I thought that they were capable of changing something in their country.”

Indeed, Ukraine’s new pro-Russia president was forced to hold fresh elections, which his West-leaning opponent won. Such revolutions buffeted other post-Soviet states – Georgia in 2003 and Kyrgyzstan in 2005.

Keen to avoid such upheavals, political forces close to Mr. Putin quickly backed two pro-Kremlin youth groups: Nashi and the Young Guard. Today, both claim roughly 100,000 members each, who engage in social programs as well as political events. But their approaches are decidedly different.

Nashi’s federal headquarters lurks beneath dim streetlights in northwest Moscow. Its windows are barred, its door unmarked. Inside, youths with nose piercings and tousled hair mingle in hallways plastered with vibrant magazine photos of Nashi activists. Here, they plan their “actions” – anything from picketing stores that sell tobacco to underage teens to massive pre-election demonstrations to encourage citizens to vote – for Putin’s party, of course.

“My grandfather was a state official, my father was a state official; I want to be useful for my state,” says Maria Drokova. An 18-year-old commissar, she speaks excellent English and credits Putin with stopping the war in Chechnya, raising salaries, and paying off Russia’s Soviet-era debt.

The Young Guard, meanwhile, is sheltered within the massive headquarters of Putin’s United Russia party. At a recent strategy meeting, Kirill Shchitov (see story, left), who manages public relations, sat in the middle of a large modern office at the head of a wooden table, surrounded by stylish colleagues who listened attentively. His party recently introduced a 20 percent youth quota and has a candidate running for municipal office in every one of Moscow’s 125 districts on March 2.

“We are meant to prepare our young people to become young, professional politicians,” says Ivan Demidov, a former TV producer recruited in 2005 to turn the Young Guard into a political movement.

Ms. Drokova describes Nashi’s ideology as “freedom and justice”; Mr. Demidov says United Russia is “for all things good against all things bad,” adding that the unifying theme is support for Putin’s policies. The Young Guard focuses on getting people in office, while Nashi emphasizes upward mobility, holding out government and business posts as carrots for promising members.

Not everyone is impressed with the groups. “Nashi is organized by people whose only religion is success and mimicry,” argues Andrei Zolotov, editor of the state-funded Russia Profile magazine. “There has to be a kind of moral foundation in a real youth movement.”

Others harp on the government’s support of Nashi, the most well-known of Russia’s numerous youth groups, which counts state-run energy giant Gazprom among its donors.

But Demidov rebuffs such criticism. “In the ’90s, the only public institutions were bandits – they taught [young people], selected them, gave them jobs. Of course, young people paid for all that with their lives…. It’s good that the state is at least doing something.”

 

The Old Russia Is Back

Duly Noted: The Old Russia Is Back

Created 2008-08-16 10:55
George Handlery about the week that was. The Ossetes and the Abkhaz are saved: who will now save them from Russia? Order in the Caucasus not by kicking ass but by crushing skulls. Excuses regarding sanctions: we are prepared do anything to be able to do nothing. A brilliant insight: some terrorist trainees might become Quakers. The „Dictator‘s tantrum #3.
 
1. It is understandable that Russia wishes to be as powerful as her weight-class demands and allows. However, her leaders are not content to keep national power as a deterrent in “reserve.” The policy for the use of the fist seems to be to a reversion to past practices. It is to assert might offensively and therefore, not for the sake of securing the defensively interpreted national interest. Foreign Offices will not fail to take notice of this.
 
2. Russia’s reaction to Georgia’s attempt to retake its province of South Ossetia demands that several factors be considered. The selection is without the pretense of all inclusiveness. The Ossetes obviously do not wish to be Georgians. Their independence, also the will to assert it, would not have been materialized without Russian instigation and protection. Georgia’s move to solve the problem has been a mistake – and an action against which US cautioned the country’s US educated President. Russia’s military operations, the timing and the speed of force-deployment suggest that, this response has been prepared and the crisis anticipated. Issuing Russian passports to the independence-minded Ossetes and the large number of Russians there gives substance to the claim of acting defensively to protect Russian citizens. The same fact also supports claims of pre-meditated transgression. Russia might claim otherwise but her military moves suggests the pursuit of goals that go beyond what is stated by the “peace enforcers.” To secure South Ossetia it is not necessary to occupy Georgia, to bomb unrelated civilian targets and industrial installations far away from the front. Russia’s SecCouncil attempt to draw an analogy between bombardments’ fall-out effect in Iraq and Afghanistan on civilians and the smashing Georgian  housing areas sound good. Provided they are viewed through the optics of anti-Americanism. There is a difference between hitting military targets placed in civilian areas and “total war” type attacks that have the destruction of non-military installations as their objective.
 
3. The conduct of the war in Georgia suggests that, as in Chechnya, the Russians have still not learned much about the tricks of asymmetric warfare. Being only able – or willing? – to proceed in their WW2-style might be a significant disadvantage in a future crisis. Perhaps because her systems allows it and the deterrent value is not lost on her, Russia’s instinct is not to “kick ass” but to “crush skulls.”
 
4. Even if you live far away from Georgia and know as little about it as you care to, the subtle effects are greater than meets the eye. Russia’s neighboring small countries are additionally alarmed by the threat that Georgia might be overran by Russian troops that only “defend Ossetia.” By Sunday (August 10), the official political objective of military operations had been achieved. Not stopping at that red line indicates more is wanted than the security of Ossetia. Russia also exhibited some reluctance to talk in order to pursue her suspected goal of subjugating Georgia. Refusing to talk to Saakashvili on the phone (if true) reveals that unstated goals are pursued. (This applies to Georgia but also to others.) The outbreak of an early peace then would have been too soon for Moscow. The, for the Kremlin’s modus operandi typical, continuation of military operations after the armistice, support the foregoing.  Meanwhile, the reaction of the West and of NATO reveals that the alliance is weak. Threatening the impact of continued lack of restraint on EU-Russian relations – as Sarkozy implied – is less than impressive. Europe’s dependence on Russian energy makes serious consequences as far fetched.
 
5. Even now (August 11) it is clear: the old Russia with a Tsarist-Soviet imperial appetite and a determination to use all its military, political and economic means, is back. Those of us who thought that it is otherwise were wrong.
 
6. Thanks to Russia, Ossetia and Abkhazia will be saved from Georgian supremacy. Ironically, fearing Tbilisi, the advocates of independence resorted to Moscow’s help. Through this they will become Russian and not Georgian subjects. Their next problem will be Russia’s domination. No one will be willing or able to rescue them from this self-inflicted condition. Russian occupations, regardless of the circumstances have led to them, have a distinguishing feature. Even if officially called “temporary” – as in central Europe 1945-89 – they are a condition whose duration is, at best, measured in decades.
 
7. French “mediation” that coincided with the moment Russia intended to cease major operations brings us a Moscow-dictated settlement in Georgia. The discussion about what to do next is on. It is pointed out that measures such as disinviting Russia from the G8 or canceling joint military exercises are symbolic and unlikely to harm Russia. This is so. Nevertheless, if such measures would cause material damage the same people would warn us that this is not desirable to injure Russia. If symbolic measures expressing strong disapproval are excluded then a conclusion will emerge. It will be that the democracies are unwilling to use whatever means they have against aggression by a major and determined power. Anybody can guess the long-term consequences.
 
8. Soviet-Communist dictatorship had accomplished the repression of its outstanding opponents. Whether we consider the merits of the woks (in literature, art, the social sciences) or the qualities of the persons producing these, the term “outstanding” is properly used. Now that the road to democratization is open, we find that the leaders with stature needed for the completion of the process are missing. Why is this so? Nowadays we have to do with a more skilled and supple dictatorship than the openly Stalinist one had been. Today’s system understands and exploit’s the weaknesses of old (ageing?) democracies. Accordingly, the abuses have grown in quality and the presentation of their show-window elements have improved. Most significantly, the rewards for cooperating with the “system” have become more bountiful. This latter point is true for those living “inside” and those located “outside” of the new, re-baptized, system.
 
9. The causes of conservatives and the greens appear to show limited convergence in the area of energy supplies. Yet the appearances hide enormous substantial divergences. Both are concerned with energy supplies and the alternative sources from which the need can be covered. While alternatives are to be explored, conservatives wish to tap available conventional supplies. In doing so, their concern is energy independence as a component of political independence. The greens think it realistic to exhaust available supplies to force the switch over to wind, geothermal and solar generated power. To accomplish this, the curtailment of economic activities that supported the way of life of industrialized countries is a welcome side effect. Moreover, the strategic implication of energy shortages and dependence on politically unreliable suppliers are of little concern.
 
10. The “Dictator’s Tantrum,” Sequel 3. Hours after the posting of “Sequel 2” Libya has obliged her skeptics by a new move. It lays bare that tyranny’s substance. The newest is that the brother of the Moroccan servant Hannibal and his spouse have beaten has been arrested in Libya. The charge must be “criminal inclination to choose the wrong relatives.” The mother of another servant is also in jail. Some signs suggest that the servants who are now in Switzerland, might trade their relatives’ release for the withdrawal of the complaint. To complicate matters Geneva’s DA persists in pressing formal charges against the Gadhafis. He makes no political deals he tells. (By the time of this posting one of the relatives was allowed to leave Libya.)
 
11. An accidental correlation with non-accidental consequences. Libya and Russia are coming closer. Russia will modernize Libya’s military (U-boot, Planes, rockets, tanks). Cooperation in exploiting oil and gas fields is also envisaged. 

 


Russian Imperialism – It’s Back

Russian Imperialism – It’s Back

By Michael Radu
FrontPageMagazine.com | 8/12/2008

 

While it is still not clear whether it was Georgia that escalated the conflict first, or Russia through its local puppets and mercenaries who provoked Tbilisi, the basic fact remains that the fighting is taking place exclusively within the internationally recognized borders of Georgia. Despite the Western media’s persistent description of the Russian military in South Ossetia as “peacekeepers,” they are and have always been nothing but an occupation and invading force.

In fact, Russia has used the same method for years elsewhere. In Transnistria, a secessionist area of Moldova, Russian “peacekeepers” have kept the local gang of unreconstructed Stalinist smugglers since the early 1990s, and in Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgian territory, it is the same “peacekeepers” and mercenaries who have ethnically cleansed the Georgian majority and de facto annexed the area.

The pattern has been the same in Abkhazia and South Ossetia – Russia has unilaterally granted citizenship to the secessionists and then, when Georgia has tried to recover its territorial integrity, claimed that it has the right, and duty, to defend its “citizens” – a claim repeated on August 8th by President Dmitry Medvedev, and reminiscent of the old Soviet “struggle for peace” in places like Afghanistan.

What is Russia’s interest in controlling these regions? The economic value of these small areas is close to zero – they are too poor to survive without Moscow’s subsidies and, more to the point, without all being criminal black holes – Mafia ruled havens for smuggling and trafficking of arms and drugs to the mutual benefit of the local thugs and their Russian military overseers.

Transnistria specializes in the traffic of weapons, South Ossetia on drugs, cigarettes and weapons; Abkhazia alone has anything resembling a local economy, mostly based on Russian tourism. Ultimately, with Moscow paying the salaries, pensions and various subsidies to the local puppet “governments” in Tiraspol, Sukhumi and Tskhinvali (the capitals of Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia respectively) they are an economic drain – but a valuable political and strategic tool.

Domestically, the war in Georgia serves multiple purposes to the Putin-Medvedev regime. It gives satisfaction, and something to do, to a newly vocal military, throws an ideological bone to the ultra-nationalists in the Duma (who have already voted to recognize the “independence” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia), and divert the attention of restive Muslim, and increasingly Islamist minorities in Northern Caucasus. The fact that Russia’s North Ossetia, the only mostly Christian and loyal to Moscow region in that area has a direct ethnic stake in the developments to its south, may also explain, in part, the decision to invade South Ossetia.

On a wider scale, through its control of Transnistria (and oil supplies), Moscow has transformed Moldova into an obedient annex; its activities in Georgia has not only mutilated that country’s territory, but ensured that NATO membership, desired by most Georgians, will not become a reality.

Indeed, the Europeans, especially Germany, are naturally reluctant to admit a new member involved in a long term conflict with Russia. That means that Georgia will remain vulnerable to Russian threats for the foreseeable future – and that its fate would be anxiously watched, and remembered by Ukraine, another former Soviet colony seeking strategic independence from a resurgent Russian imperialism.

It should be remembered also that a cowed Georgia will also mean the strengthening of Moscow’s control over the energy supplies of Europe. The only major pipelines for Caspian Sea oil and gas not controlled by Russia, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku – Shupsha, will come under the indirect control of Putin & Co.

Not surprisingly, the West’s response to the developments in Georgia has been unimpressive. Washington and various European capitals have expressed alarm and demanded a cease fire, as well as the withdrawal of Russian troops from that country – something they have demanded for years, without noticeable results. The United Nations, as usual and as could be expected, has taken notice and the Secretary General made the usual demands for a peaceful resolution, etc. – while everybody remains fully aware that the Security Council, the only body with any influence on the matter, will go nowhere, given the Russian veto.

What the world should keep in mind is that the present conflict is not over the 3,900 square kilometers of mostly barren South Ossetian mountains but over the fate of Georgia as an independent state and, even more importantly, over the West’s ability, or willingness, to take a stand against the blatant revival of historic Russian imperialism.

If Georgia loses the current fight, and part of its territory, both of which are likely,  in the longer term the main loser will be the United States and its credibility as a friend. At the very least, Washington, NATO and the European Union should make it clear that, by its behavior in Georgia, Russia has proven that it is a security threat and should be treated as such. That may mean a rapid re-arming of Georgia, even security guarantees against further Russian aggression, Moscow’s removal from the (mostly symbolically relevant) G-8 Group and, most importantly, the shedding of all illusions that Russia is, or could be a “partner” on anything but trade.


Michael Radu is Senior Fellow and Co – Chair, Center on Terrorism and Counterterrorism, at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.

The Caucasus War: It Is About More than “a Kosovo for a Kosovo” Now

The Caucasus War: It Is About More than “a Kosovo for a Kosovo” Now

Created 2008-08-11 08:16

America’s stake in the Caucasus war just went up.

In the past 24 hours, the Russians launched offensive operations beyond the secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, marking a dramatic expansion in their war aims — well beyond the putative casus bellum of protecting Russian citizens. (It should be recalled that these “citizens” are Abkhaz and Ossetian locals who were issued Russian passports without, for the most part, ever setting foot in Russia.)

The town of Gori, in Georgia proper, is apparently the first to face a determined Russian assault. Georgian Zugdidi, just south of the second front erupting from Abkhazia, is also apparently occupied, though reportedly ceded by fleeing Georgians. It’s Gori, though, where the real fight is: and a look at the terrain around Stalin’s hometown tells why. This map shows Gori at the southern end of the plain to which the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali is the northern entrance. (Recall that this war began with a Georgian assault on Tskhinvali; they’ve been tossed clear down against the mountains in two days.) Gori sits on a pass leading into a long valley that slopes toward the southeast. About 50 miles at the other end of that valley, against that long blue lake in the lower right-hand corner of the map, is the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

In light of the recent, and somewhat frantic, Georgian offers of truce, there aren’t many reasons to take Gori if the Russians are merely interested in the direct protection of their clients. Though it wouldn’t be entirely out of character for the Russian army to simply bludgeon a city because it’s there, the logic of events lends credence to what America’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, charged today: that the Russians seek the overthrow of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. The synopsis of the exchange, at the UN Security Council’s emergency meeting on Georgia, between Khalilzad and Russia’s UN Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, makes for chilling reading:

Mr. KHALIZAD (United States) …. went on to say that Mr. Churkin had referred to the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s phone conversations with United States State Secretary Condoleezza Rice this morning, a conversation that raised serious questions about Russia’s objectives in the conflict. Mr. Lavrov had said that President Saakashvili, the democratically elected President of Georgia, “must go”, which was completely unacceptable and “crossed the line”. Was Russia’s objective regime change in Georgia, the overthrow of the democratically elected Government of that country?
 
Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) …. said “regime change” was an American expression that Russia did not use. As was known from history, different leaders came to power either democratically or semi-democratically, becoming an obstacle to their people’s emergence from difficult situations. The Russian Federation was encouraged by Mr. Khalilzad’s public reference to that, which meant he was ready to bring it into the public realm.
 
Mr. KHALILZAD (United States) asked whether the goal of the Russian Federation was to change the leadership of Georgia.
 
Mr. ALASANIA (Georgia) said that, as he had heard Mr. Churkin, the question asked and the answer received had confirmed that what Russia was seeking was to change the democratically elected Georgian Government.
 
Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) suggested that he had given a complete response and perhaps the United States representative had not been listening when he had given his response, perhaps he had not had his earpiece on.

Dealing with Churkin is rarely pleasant, but the facts in Georgia now — and especially the assault on Gori — render this episode something more than one of his usual tantrums.
 
Here’s where America’s stake goes up. As I noted when this war kicked off in earnest, the Georgian state blundered into this with eyes open, and Saakashvili is not the sort of man to whom we ought to harness our own policy. Were the Russians content to merely fulfill their putative war aims of 48 hours ago, and strictly occupy Abkhaz and Ossetian territory — in other words, were Moscow content to deliver a Kosovo for a Kosovo — this would be painful but acceptable, and not worth a showdown between America and Russia. A Russian overthrow of the Georgian government, coupled with what must be some sort of occupation, is altogether different. It would mark the explicit debut of Russia as a post-Cold War revisionist state in fact, and not just in rhetoric; it would be an explicit repudiation of the post-World War Two order in Europe, as the first inter-state aggression of its sort since 1945; and it would be an explicit warning to those seeking America’s friendship and the aegis of NATO.
 
Defending the standards of Europe’s long peace, preserving the strategic outcomes of the Cold War, and upholding the credibility of the institutional guarantor of that peace and the winner of that war: these are things worth acting for — and yes, worth fighting for.
 
None of this is to argue that the United States must now fight Russia for Georgia. On a pragmatic level, there is no American manpower to spare, and the risk of such a confrontation spreading is too great. The Vice President has told Saakashvili that “Russian aggression must not go unanswered,” and one hopes he has not leapt direct to the idea of armed force. (There is, though, much the West may do to help the Georgians help themselves short of that, from imagery sharing to signals intelligence to resupply.) But we must understand and swiftly come to grips with the realities of what this war costs us, and the institutions — NATO in particular — that protect us.
 
Already we see that several of our allies, and aspirants to that status, are tremendously alarmed at Russia’s war on Georgia. They understand what it signifies, because they remember all too well suffering aggression from the same source. As that memory drove them to seek refuge in alliance with us within NATO, it befits us to justify their confidence as an ally should. We noted yesterday the extraordinary joint communique from the Presidents of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia that condemned Russia’s “imperialist and revisionist policy in the East of Europe.” Poignantly, the Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, is now allowing the Georgian government — whose online portals are blocked by Russian action — to use his own official website to disseminate news and photographs on the war. Most remarkably, Ukraine, which hosts the Russian Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol, is threatening to bar Russian access to the port. Ukraine was one of the two states denied a NATO Membership Action Plan at the NATO summit last April, specifically because of fears of Russia’s reaction. The other was Georgia.
 
America’s stake in the Caucasus war just went up. It may be too late to save Georgia — though we ought, within limits, to help Georgia save itself — but it is not too late to contain the damage to America and its allies that Georgia’s tragedy inflicts. As the Russian tanks roll toward Tbilisi, we should think hard about how far we’re willing to go to do it.