How should the U.S. respond?

The war in the Caucasus has been compared by some on the right to Germany’s seizure of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia in 1938. Officials such as Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential candidate, have argued for a forceful American response to the new crisis.

Others argue the United States helped trigger the war by leading Georgians to believe they could depend on American assistance in the event of a military showdown with Russia. And Georgians have been plainly bitter that such assistance has not been forthcoming.

What’s the right approach? Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, jump into the fray.



Here’s something Americans don’t want to hear: There may be no good — or effective — U.S. response to the crisis in the Caucasus.

We can offer tough talk (and, perhaps, a presidential visit) to support the Georgians. We can even hit Russia with sanctions — although, given their status as an oil powerhouse that might hurt us more than it hurts them. Unless extraordinary circumstances develop, however, we’re not going to get into a shooting war with our old Cold War rivals. Even if our military wasn’t overstretched, it’s worth remembering that the Russians have lots of nuclear weapons. Nuclear powers quite wisely tend to avoid getting into direct confrontations with each other.

So we can’t simply make Russia act according to our wishes. It’s a frustrating set of affairs. And it’s a reminder that there are limits to American power. The last 20 years — the post-Cold War era, in which the U.S. had unrivaled ability to shape the world — were an illusion, a vacation from history.

America is still enormously powerful and influential. Short of war, we should use that power to help Georgia maintain its independence from Russia. But the war is a sign that history has returned; the United States must figure out how to navigate the new reality.



The Russian invasion of Georgia is a test of Western resolve in the face of the first real "war for oil" in this century. The Russians want to control the energy resources of Europe. Controlling the oil that flows through Georgia is a means to that end. The Russians also want respect. Moscow needs to remember that respect must be earned.

Fact is, there is plenty the United States and the West can do to exact a price for Russia’s imperial designs — if there is a will to do so. For starters, the seven civilized democracies that make up the Group of Eight should give Russia notice that it is no longer welcome in the club.

NATO established the NATO-Russia Council in 2002 to bring Moscow closer to the West. So much for that. And as for Russia’s desire to enter into the World Trade Organization: Not a chance.

The United States and Europe had no stomach for standing up to China’s support for atrocities in the Sudan and Burma by boycotting the Beijing games, a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, near Georgia, should be the easiest call of them all.

Of course, none of those punishments needs to be permanent. Russia sent a message with its invasion of Georgia. It’s incumbent upon the United States and Europe to answer Russia’s bellicosity with real punishment — in the Kremlin’s pocketbook.

Vladimir Putin and the Russian regime want a shot at restoring the glory of the old Soviet Union. We beat them before. We can do it again.


  1. AveryMoore

    Avery Moore

    Breaker, Breaker

    Internet forums are the Citizen’s Band Radio of the 21st century. They can be amazingly informative or like talk radio shows contribute disbelief to the idea that human intelligence ever will equal that of a Norway Rat. Yes, another blow to cranial Evolution.

    “Smokey Bear” is now Russia and on this topic there’s a familiar schism between publicly accepted belief systems.

    The let’s-be-reasonable sorts recognize the bear is out there lurking behind some billboard, possibly snoozing, possibly sharpening claws.

    And that’s OK. Knowing which billboard is the key. Either you don’t whiz past, or even better, you change routes entirely. The Bear gets chronic eye strain and back aches from perpetual attention to nothing happening.

    The berserker types are narrow-bandwidth. It never occurs to them that, however lazy, arrogant, corrupt, or ornery – Smokey is a nuclear bear. They want a showdown, a gunfight. They want others to do the heavy lifting. They can conceive of invading territory and holding it within a nuclear blast radius.

    Since they can astral travel at night too, and spy on enemies remotely, they are convinced that Smokey wants Georgia’s – oil.

    The State Department has a nice online map of the region. It’s dated 1994 and numbered 2762 6-94. It’s a resource map. It shows where the gold, brown coal, tungsten, manganese, natural gas and oil really is in the Caucasus.

    Now to locate embarrassing heaps of oil and natural gas: that would be Azerbaijan. At Baku, right on the Caspian. Control that hub and Georgia has no more geopolitical significance than Tonawanda, NY.

    But we should fight for Georgia.

    Lose Baku and the Baku-T’blisi-Ceyhan pipeline through Turkey, and Baku-Supsa pipeline across to the Baltic are irrelevant. Asian oil travels from Baku across Russia to Novorossiysk on the Baltic, exclusively.

    Europe, for choosing to help Georgia, is now hostage to one choice.

    North America, though perturbed, is indifferent.

    Has Smokey invaded Azerbaijan? No. Intend to? No one knows. Can perpetually impoverished Georgia be anywhere near the prize that Azerbaijan is?


    But Smokey has a history of bear intervention, bear belligerence, and a short fuse.

    And thus we think it prudent to provoke him. To show him how resolved we are. How determined we are – to provoke him…

    Honey, take the next left, there’s a bear up ahead.

  2. Cashel Boylo

    Impotent to act to help much valued “ally” Georgia, the bullyboy hero of Iraq can only come up with a probably ineffectual threat to try to exclude Russia from some of the international power clubs and cartels.
    And a weak whining complaint that he is being out-bullied by Putin, who was still his “friend” only a few days earlier in Beijing.
    Check out the video record of their jolly tete-a-tete at the opening of the Olympics. World War III might be starting and he and Bush are giggling together like two schoolboys.
    About Georgia?
    AP says: “So far, the White House has hedged on saying what consequences Russia might face.”
    Bush’s over-stretched military forces can’t say “Boo” to the evidently now super-efficient Russian military, and U.S. intelligence information and assets in this vital strategic area add up to about zero. It appears that about the highest level of intelligence available is at secondhand from a small handful of journalists.
    General Nogovitsyn has said that by accepting a U.S. missile defense battery Poland was “exposing itself to a strike.”
    Putin has had a major military victory resulting in very valuable gains in territory and power.
    And a very effective low-cost dress rehearsal for an attack on Poland whenever Russia thinks it opportune and necessary to undo the ultra-expensive U.S. rearmament deal for a missile interceptor base.
    Poland might now be pondering the reliability of American assistance in the event of a Russian military strike.
    AP says of the ever-ineffectual Rice: “Rice flew across the Atlantic to help broker peace.” She only got to act like a petty law-clerk witnessing Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili’s signature on the hopefully effective truce document devised by the President of France while the President of the United States was “deciding” what not to do.
    Apparently now the President, Rice and Gates are at his Crawford ranch videoconferenceing with top national security officials, and watching CNN for intelligence information while trying to “decide” what not to do next.
    Sore and embittered, the much misled Georgians are waiting to hear.
    Cashel Boylo