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Is Russia reigniting the Cold War in Georgia?

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Nolan Nelson The Register-Guard

Despite Russian claims, no parallels exist between the United States' involvement in Iraq and Russian aggression in Georgia. Yet with that false parallel and on other pretexts, Russian Prime Minister Validimir Putin ordered a unilateral attack on Georgia. The attack came after NATO's rejection of membership for Georgia portended a flaccid response by the West.

In contrast, the United States, heading a United Nations coalition exceeding that which Churchill and Roosevelt assembled to confront Hitler's Germany, toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, forcing the U.N. to confront the reason for its existence.

Russian statements are especially egregious fabrications, because they helped draft and acquiesced to every resolution. The Iraq ceasefire ended because Saddam materially breached international obligations defined within U.N. Resolution 687, and reaffirmed by Resolution 1441. Resolution 687 incorporated 678 and 12 other resolutions without amendments, offering Saddam a conditional ceasefire in 1991.

Instead, Saddam ignored his responsibilities to submit comprehensive declarations of all stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, programs relating to such weapons, and missiles with a range of greater than 150 kilometers. He thwarted the program envisioned by menacing, eluding and deceiving inspectors. He continued forbidden involvement in international terrorism.

The U.N.'s ultimatums in Resolutions 678 and 1441 authorized disarming Saddam's regime through military operations "to restore international peace and security in the area," and did not instruct coalition forces to merely expel Saddam from Kuwait. U.N. precedent from the Korean War ensured that the quoted phrase extended so far as to allow the invasion of Iraq. The term "in the area," confirmed by Congress, authorized military action above the 38th parallel to disarm North Korea, and this phrase was deliberately echoed in the resolutions relating to Iraq.

As Russian forces crossed South Ossetia into Georgia proper, the moment arrived for inescapable acknowledgement that Putin had revoked the Cold War armistice. Putin's justifications contain too many parallels to Hitler's concern for Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia to ascribe less than brutal motives.

Extravagant armored attacks through the greater Caucasus mountains demonstrate the neurotic insecurity that is traditional among Russian ruling elites - a neurosis requiring the destruction of rival powers without political compromise. This long-standing paranoia infects the current cabal, leading it to regard NATO, the former Warsaw Pact countries, and the former Soviet republics as encircling enemies. Such perceptions, which are not shared by the Russian people, repudiate years of Western support for an emerging representative government, political security and economic stability in Russia.

There can be no permanent peaceful coexistence with a totalitarian Russia, but traditional warfare is not inevitable. Illogical thinking can lead Russia's ruling cabal onto unacceptable paths, but these elites remain highly susceptible to the logic of force accompanied by determination to use it.

Forceful initiatives require immediately curtailing efforts to integrate the former Soviet Union into the economic, cultural and political life of the free world.

Further initiatives require increasingly serious discussions of cooperation and membership between NATO, former Warsaw Pact countries and former Soviet republics. Finally, the United States must update Cold War plans through cooperative military exercises in Europe and the Mediterranean. This country must use overt and clandestine activities to exploit contradictions, stresses and tensions within Putin's ruling elite, between the elite and the Russian people, and between Russia and countries with which Putin needs alliances.

Such progressive, consecutive initiatives would establish constraints upon negotiating positions that Putin would have to consider. Such actions must proceed inexorably, subject to adjustment only following verifiable pacific initiatives for representative government and nonbelligerent relations with neighbors. Effective containment will reveal the fragility of a totalitarian government with a disaffected, cynical population.

The West must not squander this opportunity to make the cruel subjection of Georgia become Putin's undoing.

Nolan Nelson of Eugene is a former Naval officer and retired accountant. His avocation is the political and military history of the 20th century, and his writings have been published in the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute.
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Title Annotation:Local Opinion; Yes: Unilateral attack could become Putin's undoing
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 3, 2008
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