Monday, August 18, 2008

Your Brother's Keeper

Not long ago, the U.S. was pushing for NATO membership for the Ukraine and Georgia. Russia opposed it, and Europe agreed to a delay in considering the membership issue. Now the battles between Russia and Georgia remind us that NATO membership means a mutual defense pact. Either NATO membership would have prevented Russia from invading, or it could have meant the entire continent would now be at war.

You might think we dodged one. Just as easily you might think Georgia lost one. The editors at Dallas Morning News reflect that a change in balance of power makes our loss in the NATO choices a piece of good fortune.

Consider that if President Bush had gotten his way over European objections, Georgia would already be a NATO member country. The recent Russian invasion would have committed NATO to go to war with Russia – which, despite its weakened state, still has a sizable army and thousands of nuclear missiles – to defend Georgia.

Are Americans willing to engage in a shooting war with Russia over this former Soviet republic? What is the vital U.S. interest at stake worth paying that kind of price?

Others say that were Georgia in NATO, Russia never would have invaded. Maybe. Maybe not. Is that a chance worth taking? If the U.S. is not prepared to fight for Georgia, it has no business extending security guarantees to it.

Balance of power has shifted

Nearly six years ago, when NATO was on the verge of expanding into former Soviet Baltic republics, this newspaper praised the move. Those who predicted that bringing in former Warsaw Pact nations Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in 1999 would antagonize Russia were wrong, we said.

In retrospect, Russia's economic and military weakness at the time prevented Moscow from doing anything about NATO expansion. Times have changed. Russia is now flush with oil and natural gas money and, under Vladimir Putin's hard-nosed leadership, has greatly strengthened its hand. Plus, the U.S. military has become bogged down in seemingly endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The balance of power has shifted.

In April, Mr. Putin demonstrated Russia's new clout by driving a wedge between the U.S. and Europe over the issue of NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia. The Europeans, who depend on Russian natural gas, punted membership for those Russian border states into the future. Now, having masterminded Russia's invasion of Georgia, Mr. Putin is making clear that Russia will not allow itself to be surrounded by an alliance founded to contain Moscow. (Emphasis added.)

The damage that the occupied White House has done to this country is massive. We have lost the influence that would quite likely have kept the present situation in Georgia from occurring. The friendships of this country have become tenuous, and our alliances not so attractive as they once were.

The loss of power internationally, under the present warmongering elements, might be a benefit to the world, which is not so inclined to jump into wars as our executive branch is. In the next administration, it may be possible to make this country one that appeals to other countries more as an ally. For now, it is probably to humanity's advantage that the rest of the world is giving U.S. militarism a wide berth. There is enough of that to go around in other countries.

Cooler heads have prevailed in the use of NATO to commit the western world to wars. At once that is sobering, and saddening. Once, we could depend on cool heads at the helm here. Now, we owe Europe for heading us off at the pass.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my opinion you have some assumptions and conclusions wrong. Clearly, our occupied WH caused huge damage to the country. Iraq cost us lives, ours and theirs, and huge amounts of money. The major damage is still economic. The reason is simple. Once we have a decent president we will recoup our prestige, but the money is gone and the economy is in bad shape.

Russia will always want to be an empire until it becomes a democracy and that is not in the cards for now. The problem is that expanding NATO was a bad idea on which we and the European jumped. NATO should have been abolished and replaced by a less military and more political organization of democracies. Why poke the eyes of the Russian bear for nothing.

We and the EU provoked the Russians. Putin may want to expand again in all directions but will not want to identified as a hoodlum. NATO makes him appear both semi-justified and more acceptable. An organization of democracies would have made him look much worse without resorting to force or deterrence.

4:28 PM  

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