The West must not push Russia away – again
After so many broken promises, integration is key.
(Page 2 of 2)
The West would only win in this scenario. Instead, it has surrounded Russia with missiles and radar stations and accumulated conventional weapons in close proximity to its borders. It would be naive to expect Russia to make concessions such as ratifying the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty under these conditions. Opinion polls show that promoting pro-Western policies in Russia today without an equivalent response from the West would be political suicide for Russian leaders. Neither the military establishment nor citizens would support such concessions.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The situation in Georgia is a global embarrassment, a tale of contradictions. And, the reaction from Russians and Americans is, simply put, ironic. Russian leaders were crying crocodile tears over the genocide of Ossetians, and voicing outrage over the shelling of Tskhinvali. But they had done the very same thing in Chechnya just a few years ago. The American administration is no better, attacking Iraq for bogus reasons, destroying an entire nation, inciting further religious terrorism, and killing tens of thousands of civilians.
To understand Russia's actions in Georgia, the West must first understand that Russia does not see herself as the losing side that must be punished for the cold war. Second, there is a dangerous historic precedent: In 1919, the Entente forced Germany to sign the humiliating Treaty of Versailles. Historians suggest that the repercussions of that Treaty led to World War II. Had the Allies looked at the situation from the German point of view, history may have taken a better course.
Perhaps the conflict in the Caucasus will at least force the West to talk to Russia about real integration – WTO membership, for example. For if Russia continues to be "pushed away" – left alone with its anxieties and the anxieties of its leaders – relations will definitely sour. Do not forget how many nuclear warheads Russia has and how many Russians want to save the country's honor.
• Alfred Kokh is the author of the upcoming book, "A Crate of Vodka: An Insider View On The 20 Years That Shaped Modern Russia." He served as a deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin. This text was translated by Antonina W. Bouis.