Russia strikes back

Aug 282008
Authors: Alex Stephens

The Russian invasion of Georgia earlier this month highlights the major failures of current American foreign policy as well as an overall inability of the West to cope with a changing political climate.

Our Western-apprentice democratic leader Mikheil Saakashvili fell victim to the taunts of Russia and decided to send his troops into a breakaway region of his country.

And surprisingly, America did nothing to help him when Russia lashed back.

Why is this?

From the multitude of “pro-democracy” rhetoric spouted from the lips of our president, I would have thought America would instantly be on the scene to halt such aggressive action against our protégé democratic state.

It used to be that America could flex its military muscle around the globe, with or without consent of the international community. When it suited our interests, we would invade countries or defend peoples.

The 2008 South Ossetia War, as it is being referred to, marks the beginning of a major shift in political balance between Russia and the West. Gone are the days of Pax Americana, where America was the sole distributor of military action without fear of international repercussion.

Gone are the days when America could influence Russian politics and economy, when we would rush them to democratize and rammed capitalism down their throats.

Democracy appears to have been set aside to the much preferred kingly rule of Putin, still pulling the strings of his puppet Medvedev.

A shameful display of elections characterized Russia last spring. Election laws make it very difficult for opposition parties to win, in addition to the blackmailing and bullying which strengthened Medvedev’s (Putin’s) victory.

Regardless of how, Russia once again elected a leader who is strong, fearless, and most importantly, won’t be pushed around by the West.

But back to Ossestias consequences: What does Russia have to fear from such a heavy handed assault on a Western-backed democracy? Not much; a few inconsequential words from Bush and his administration, but any option of military intervention by the U.S. was always “off the table.”

Russia is now too large, too powerful, and too globally influential to be treated as a lesser actor by Washington.

The most America is able to muster has been finalizing an 18-month stalled agreement with Poland to install a strategic missile defense system. I question the diplomacy of such a move.

If America wants to keep lines of communication and negotiation open with Moscow, it shouldn’t be flashing its guns. Especially with military action off the table, this seems a hollow threat. Besides, why hasn’t Condi paid them a visit yet? Are we afraid?

To make matters worse, our European allies are shackled by a dependence on Russian resources and won’t risk losing them.

Remember, in 2006 Russia cut off oil and natural gas to Ukraine and Moldova for political reasons.

So if European NATO nations start to get rough with Russia, what’s to stop the heat from turning off this winter?

Russia has plenty of demand for their resources from China, too.

Now we are faced with an Eastern Monster once again: one that disregards the opinion of the international community blatantly ignores peace treaties, sells advanced weaponry to Western enemy states like Syria, and with such disposable resources, seems to be holding a lot of cards.

Russia is back and won’t be ignored any longer.

Alex Stephens is a junior political science major. His column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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