Cheney visit: U.S. treads tightrope on Georgia aid
The Bush administration announces $1 billion in aid but no military assistance.
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"It's an appropriate and realistic response to the situation in that the US is a close ally of Georgia … and wants to ensure that Georgia reemerges from this conflict as a stable and viable state," says Charles Kupchan, a specialist in European affairs at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. "The objective is to ensure that Georgia doesn't collapse and end up a ward of Russia."
Still, others see the US position as an attempt to return Europe's geopolitical map to where it was before the Georgia-Russia conflict – an approach that is unlikely to succeed because it fails to come to grips with the challenge of an emboldened Russia.
"This is an attempt to hit the restart button, but it really doesn't do anything to put pressure on Russia," says Nikolas Gvosdev, professor of national security studies at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. The US aid merely puts off a looming decision for US, NATO, and Europe, he says. Should the Eastern frontier of NATO end at the Baltic states with republics farther east accepting a neutral status, or should a "coalition of the willing" of the US and some partners largely from the "new" Europe press to extend Western influence farther east – without NATO support.
The European Union's reluctance to take tough measures against Russia at its summit Monday suggests transatlantic divisions will dog Western response to Russia's new assertiveness, says Mr. Gvosdev. The EU response "really weakened the US hand," he says.
Many European officials, especially among America's traditional allies, are already critical of the US response to the crisis. There is a widespread feeling in Europe that the US only annoyed Russia with its enthusiastic support for Georgia's entry into NATO at the March summit. "The US is seen here as completely out of the picture, in terms of a policy response. Mr. Cheney's trip to the Caucausus is extremely dangerous, very intrusive, guaranteed to provoke Russia," says Thomas Gomart of the French Institute of International Relations in Paris.
Contrary to the American view that the EU has so far failed to step up to the plate on Russia, many in Europe say an EU response is the only one likely to make a difference in the long run.
Says Mr. Gomart, "The more the EU is united, the more it is possible to contain Russia."