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Troubled Mix: Georgia, Russia, Democracy, and NATO

by Robert McMahon, Editor
September 4, 2008

kissinger.jpgMINNEAPOLIS — U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is in Georgia reaffirming U.S ties to its ally in the face of ongoing Russian threats. Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the GOP presidential convention in Minnesota, some analysts have registered concern over how the United States manages relationships with both countries.

At a CFR panel on democracy promotion this morning, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was critical of the U.S. push for a NATO membership path for Georgia. He said that introduced a provocative outside military element to a region already roiling with unresolved separatist issues. “We should learn that security is not always military arrangements, that there are some security elements that are better protected by a combination of political and tacit military arrangements,” said Kissinger, an architect of President Richard M. Nixon’s détente policy with the Soviet Union in the 1970s.

CFR President Richard N. Haass, said it would be unhelpful for both Russian and U.S. interests if Russia was ousted from the G8 or denied entry to the World Trade Organization, as some in the West have called for in response to the Kremlin’s moves in Georgia. Haass referred to the sharp decline in foreign investment in Russia since last month, noting that the principle penalty Russia has faced so far for its actions has come as a result of its financial integration in the world. “We want to keep them inside [global institutions] because with them on the inside they have a greater stake in normal international relations [and] don’t feel international relations is something being done to them,” Haass said.

But Kenneth Wollack, president of the National Democratic Institute, a U.S.-funded organization that has promoted democratic institutions in Georgia, noted Russia has played an unhelpful role in the international bodies it currently belongs to. He also disputed Russian charges that U.S.-backed organizations contributed to the downfall of the previous Georgian government headed by President Eduard Shevardnadze. He said the fall of Shevardnadze government in the 2003 Rose Revolution followed a popular outpouring of protest in response to efforts to seat an illegitimate parliament. “In Georgia you do have a population that overwhelmingly wants to join European institutions,” Wollack told the panel.

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