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Inbox: Russia-Georgia Conflict

by campaign2008
August 18, 2008

In response to CFR.org’s recent Daily Analysis Brief, In Russia-Georgia Conflict, Balkan Shadows, reader Christian Kim writes:

You assert that “[t]he challenge for Washington and European Capitals…is what tack to take to restrain Moscow.” This statement assumes, as does the Holbrooke article, that Europe and the United States can formulate a uniform Russian strategy in the Caucuses and Caspian region. In light of Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, which Russia has deftly used to drive a small wedge between Europe and the United States, this assumption cannot stand. America has little leverage against Russia in the region, and Europe almost none. There is no trans-Atlantic tack to restrain Moscow.

NATO’s impotence in coming to Georgia’s defense, a country once tabbed for membership, arises from a divergence of interests between Washington and Europe. Europe’s Faustian bargain with Russia means it must eventually recognize its need to pursue a diplomatic strategy independent from American concerns. The notion of peak oil and concerns arising from the reality of finite energy resources did not factor in the ideologically-driven Cold War, and in a geopolitical climate where regions must compete to secure energy demands, NATO seems an anachronistic remnant of a bipolar world. Europe may be forced to exchange certain elements of its friendship with the United States for Russian energy, which accounts
for a quarter of Europe’s oil supply and half of its gas.

As for the United States, the time has come to accept Russia’s re-emergence as a great power– an OPEC competitor with the globe’s second-largest nuclear arsenal. Georgia is important insofar as protecting Western interests in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. America should cut its losses on Georgia’s ill-considered gamble and concede that Russia can do what it wants with South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This type of concession does not mean Russia will be emboldened to retake Eastern Europe. Its conventional military is still a mess, and the West should have no fear of Russian offensives in the near future. The best the United States can do is to make sure Russia understands where the red lines are: Ukrainian and Georgian sovereignty, and the BTC pipeline.

Christian Kim

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