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Why is the U.S. being so provocative toward Russia?

ASK THIS | September 26, 2008

Does anyone really think that expanding NATO into Eastern Europe is going to bring out the best in Russia? A former CIA station chief says there's a lot more to the Georgian conflict than meets the eye.

By Haviland Smith

In the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Georgia, the media have been filled with accusations, charges and countercharges about what “really” happened.  The simplistic, disingenuous claims and explanations from all the parties -- the U.S., Russia, and Georgia -- leave a lot to the imagination and a great deal of unexamined and unreported fodder for the media.

Q. Just what sort of threat does Russia pose to the U.S. today? Should the nature of this threat persuade us to undertake an aggressive policy toward them, such as expanding NATO into Eastern Europe and involving Poland and the Czech Republic in a “missile shield”?

It is difficult to see how Russia, unlike the U.S.S.R. with its ideological imperatives and military might, represents a strategic threat to the U.S. and hard to understand why we treat them as provocatively as we do.

Q. Does the United States have the moral authority lead the charge against Russia?

Our adventure in Iraq and our moral ambiguity in supporting undemocratic regimes in that region make that an open question.

Q. What was Russian really trying to accomplish in invading Georgia?

The invasion appears to have been a response to Russian concerns over what it views to be increasing NATO hostility toward them.  The past inclusion of so many countries within the Soviet sphere of influence was bad enough.  But the proposal to incorporate Georgia and Ukraine into NATO and the installation of “missile shield” components in Poland and the Czech Republic are seen as  matters of national interest to the Russians.  They are seen as a pure NATO provocation, appropriately met with the full force of Russian diplomatic and military power. 

Q.  Did Georgia believe it had western guarantees for protection? Do we really believe that Georgia would have attempted the invasion of South Ossetia, without some hope or maybe even assurance that we would support them when the Russians responded militarily?

Given the historically difficult relationship between the two counties, it is doubtful that Georgia would have taken such a risk without some assurances.

Q. Why did the Georgians send 2,000 troops to Iraq, the most of any other nation other than Great Britain?

The logical conclusion is that they saw it as a chip in the game designed to get the U.S. and NATO to support their territorial ambitions in Abkhazia and Ossetia.

Q.  Did anyone in the Bush administration encourage Georgian President Saakashvili to attack the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali?

Post-invasion comments by Vice President Dick Cheney and Republican presidential candidate John McCain support the contention that they welcomed the invasion.

Q. Is there a difference between Kosovo and Ossetia/Abkhazia?

We recognized Kosovo as an independent country despite Russian protests.  Now we protest when they do the same with Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Q. What is the purpose of a militarized NATO today?

It looks to the Russians like a continuation of the West’s Cold War containment of the U.S.S.R.  Other than that -- and supporting the U.S. in Afghanistan -- what other purpose could it possibly have?

Q. Did the Reagan administration tell the Russians prior to the fall of the U.S.S.R. that we would not extend NATO into the East European countries?

This is said to have been the quid pro quo for Soviet acceptance of German reunification. Whatever assurances we gave them, our expansion of NATO has been a pure provocation to Russia.

Q.  Why is the U.S. supporting Georgian membership in NATO?

Are we intent on picking a fight with Russia -- something that is clearly not in our interests? It was our intention 17 years ago to see Russia peacefully join the rest of the world, yet NATO remains an active barrier to that integration. 

Q. What role has Randy Scheunemann, Sen. Mc Cain’s top foreign policy advisor, played in the Georgia affair?

Scheunemann is a neoconservative, on the board of directors of the Project for a New American Century, and is a registered agent for Georgia. The Los Angeles Times has reported that the Georgian government has paid his two-member lobbying firm $830,000 since 2004.

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