Western Europe can accept at least part of the blame for Vladimir Putin’s strategic ruthlessness. Nearly a year ago Western Europe dragged its feet in allowing Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, partly as a result of Putin applying oil-supply-related pressure to the Germans.
No surprise there. Western Europe prefers incessant bureaucratic quibbling to action, or even real diplomacy, anymore. So Putin rightly figured that, having been denied current membership in NATO, Georgia’s chance of successfully calling on Western Europe for defensive help was minimal to nonexistent.
As for America, President Bush has a dangerous habit of trusting world leaders exponentially more than he should. He calls Putin his ‘friend’. I suggest that Putin is no one’s friend, unless it is to his political advantage. Bush has been played like a violin, and only belatedly is he becoming angry and suspicious to the degree that he should have been long before this invasion.
Putin has Europe over a barrel (of oil), and, as a result, their leadership is willing to allow worthless pieces of paper, signed by a man who has no intention of abiding by the promises contained therein, to forestall any real action to defend Georgia – not realizing that Georgia is simply the first in a series of Putin-envisioned dominos, many of which will probably fall before the Europeans get their act together and genuinely attempt to stop the toppling.
By then Europe will not only find itself over a barrel; it will find itself entirely energy-dependent on Russia: the makings of a political extortion nightmare of unimaginable proportions.
Ralph Peters, author of Wars Of Blood And Faith, The Conflicts That Will Shape the Twenty-First Century, observes:
The determination, especially in Western Europe, to minimize the importance of the rape of Georgia -- Putin's actions amount to nothing less -- is gratingly reminiscent of the cries of "Why Die for Danzig?" that echoed in Britain and France in the late 1930s. And, while politicians and pundits will do their best to minimize the perception of a military threat from the new Russia, it bears remembering that, in 1930, the German Reichswehr had 100,000 men and equipment hardly fit for a playground, yet, a mere ten years later, the Wehrmacht had millions of men under arms, the best weaponry in the world, and most of Europe under its boot-heels. While it may be unhelpful to be an alarmist, it's even less useful to be willfully naïve.
Reading the beginning of the NATO reaction to Russia’s invasion provides us a realistic glimpse into the extent of the organization’s impotence. It is unclear exactly who – Russia or Georgia – is at fault. And delicate words such as ‘situation’ and ‘loss of life’ abound, rather than the more accurate ‘invasion’ and ‘murder’.
Nor does NATO impose any real punitive action. As a matter of fact, the only ‘action’ (if one wishes to stretch the meaning of the word) taken is the cancellation of an upcoming NATO Council-Russia meeting.
Putin must be quaking in his boots.
Matthias Döpfner, CEO of Axel-Springer, one of the largest newspaper publishing companies in Europe, sums up the Western European reaction quite accurately:
These days, Europe reminds me of an old woman who, with shaking hands, frantically hides her last pieces of jewellery when she notices a robber breaking into a neighbour's house. Appeasement? That is just the start of it. Europe, thy name is Cowardice.
Eastern Europe cannot afford to be so naïve, or to allow their perceptions and responses to be so oil-dependent. They have longer, and more painfully personal, memories regarding Russian aggression. As a result, they are not rolling over and playing dead as are the Western Europeans. The Baltic Republics, Ukraine and Poland are expressing solidarity with Georgia. Ukraine has told Putin that his fleet runs the risk of losing its Crimean base, and they are threatening to hand over to the West two ex-Soviet radar installations. And Poland has suddenly agreed to America’s terms regarding a missile defense system, of which Ukraine has now also asked to be a part.
History has taught them well. The Baltics, Ukraine and Poland are beginning to experience nightmares in which they are in Russia’s crosshairs, and, in the background, Western Europe and the U.S. are sitting in plush upholstered chairs, at a long, highly-polished conference table, debating over the wording of potential sanctions/threats of military intervention/expulsion from international organizations. The bickering is beautifully scripted and open-ended.
Depending on America’s, and Western Europe’s, response over the next few weeks -- whether we allow Georgia to become a Russian satellite -- Eastern European leaders may be forced to rethink their instinctive turn toward the West. We may well betray their trust.
In which case, no one – not America nor any nation of Western Europe – deserves to wear the title ‘leader of the free world’. The ‘free world’ will be leaderless, and less ‘free’ with each new notch carved on Putin’s belt. Not to mention the inevitable emboldening of Islamic fascists, Iran, North Korea, China, and other avowed enemies of liberty -- although all such tyrannical regimes/movements have been continuously emboldened since America’s last genuine leader left office in 1989.
Twenty years adrift exacts a terrible price.
Now envision President Barack Obama occupying the White House in five months and the nightmare ratchets up to a level far beyond human comprehension.