Monday, August 11, 2008

Russian invasion of Georgia is a PR disaster-Has a new Cold War begun?

Today Russian forces overran the strategic Georgian city of Gori and are attacking on two fronts. Georgian forces have have fallen back and are preparing to defend the capital Tbilisi.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the original conflict Russia is now seen as an agressor by many political observers.

Russia's ambassador to Nato declared that Mr Saakashvili "is no longer a man that we can deal with". Dmitri Rogozin said: "He must be punished for breaching international law. He is responsible for many war crimes." Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, said that Russia would continue its military operation until "its logical end".

Obviously Russia wishes to topple the democratically elected leader of Georgia. This has very serious implications for world peace. Will Ukraine and Poland now face similar punishment? If so the West cannot stand idly by. Russia is bitterly opposed to closer links between the US and many former Communist East European countries. Putin wishes to send a threatening message to the leaders of those countries: You can have closer links with the US at your peril. Russia could quite easily sleep walk into a world war. Is that what Putin wants?

This invasion of Georgia brings to mind Russian tanks crushing the Dubcek regime in Czechoslovakia. Of course the Hungarian uprising and the workers uprising in East Berlin were also smashed by Russian tanks.
The invasion reawakens memories of the worst excesses of Stalinism. Russia has scored a huge PR own goal. Grave doubt must exist about the durability of Russian democracy.
Western European countries which had been moving towards closer economic links with Russia will now take stock.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline which is operated by BP and which transports one million barrels a day from Azerbaijan to the Mediterranean was targeted by Russian bombers. The £2 billion pipeline running through Georgia is the only major conduit for Central Asian resources not under Russian control and is of vital importance to Western Europe.

The Kremlin under Vladimir Putin, Russia's former president and now prime minister, has used gas exports to Europe as a tool of foreign policy. In 2007 Russia cut off oil supplies to Belarus therby affecting supplies to Germany and Poland amongst other neighbouring countries. In 2006 Russia demanded a hike in gas prices from Ukraine. Western Europe gets 25 percent of its gas from Russia with 80 percent of that coming via the pipeline through the Ukraine.
Thus Russia has the ability to blackmail Western Europe using energy as a tool. Increasingly Russia is seen as untrustworthy.

The invasion of Georgia further cements this view. Russian leaders need to rethink their strategy. Of course a newly confident Russia buoyed up by huge oil revenues may choose to ignore world opinion.
If so it is on a course to political isolation. A new Cold War may already have commenced.

1 comment:

rainywalker said...

Possibly, but the US is in no position to help by ourselves. I would think NATO would be considering something. But it looks like the poor Georgian's are going down fighting. It's very sad.