The volume of chest-thumping moxie pouring out of the Kremlin these days, swift and ebullient as a mountain stream, could choke a horse. President Medvedev, proud and provoked, labeled Georgia’s actions in South Ossetia a genocide – even though the death toll appears to be about 200 Ossetians – and declared independence for his Caucasian brethren. As if he could. His moral rectitude has metastasized to hubris. Until someone, anyone else agrees that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are sovereign nations, the Russians are occupiers. Konstatin Zatulin, who is the Duma official in charge of former republics explained the Russian position thus: “The time when we needed Western applause is over.” Prime Minister Putin said -perhaps presciently, perhaps prophetically- that Kosovo’s independence from Serbia was a precedent. Go figure.
But when it comes to partitioning states, Moscow should be careful what it asks for, for it just might get it, and get it good and hard. Chechnya, after all, is right next door to Georgia, wants out of Russia, and might like to join up with a friend who has a common enemy. Not only that, but the capital flight from Russia between August 8 and 15 is reported to be as much as $17 million, proving that despite Russia’s constant whining about being isolated by the snooty Western powers, it is anything but isolated. In fact, if the Russians really want to level the playing field between themselves and the Western World, they’re going to have to learn that its not a matter of how many countries you can force to remain in your ‘bloc’ anymore, but how many you can persuade to be there. Its that have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too thing. If you go around kicking sand in people’s faces, they’re bound to take their toys, capital, contracts and bilateral relations and go home.
Russia, like the United States, has proven the ability to act unilaterally, and the price is isolation. That is clearly true vis-à-vis the example (or spectacle) of U.S. ham-handedness in Iraq. Not even China, notorious for a pragmatism in international relations that is suspiciously like amorality, supports Moscow in this. Their only supporters are Kazakhstan, Belarus and Syria. Not much in the way of a cheerleading team, if you ask me, which no one has.
Maybe not a stellar bunch of friends, but Syria, at least is a strategic one. There is an arms deal Damascus has been trying to cinch with Moscow for munitions capable of severely shifting the balance of power in the Middle East. With more advanced antiaircraft missiles, Syria could have prevented Israel from bombing the Syrian facility presumed to be a nuclear plant last year. Now Israel and Syria are negotiating a peace deal, and with Russian armaments President Bashar Al–Assad would be talking softly and carrying a ginormous stick. Of course Russia has told Israel it wouldn’t sell anything too effective to Syria, but Russian words and actions haven’t had more than a nodding acquaintanceship lately. Its bound to get more interesting so don’t touch that dial!
P.S. Headline of the Day: “Surprise Nuclear Power Plant in Kaliningrad”. Huh? Do nuclear power plants pop up like mushrooms after a rain? Find out more at Moscowtimes.com!