Russia Has No Imperial Ambitions - September, 2008


Russia Has No Imperial Ambitions - Putin


Putin put it straight:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBVxnhkvzyI

September, 2008

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has met political experts and journalists from all over the world for the first time since the military conflict in the Caucasus. The annual forum, the Valdai Discussion Club, which aims to provide a better understanding of the country, has been taking place in Sochi, Russia’s resort on the Black Sea. The following is the transcript of the highlights of the meeting in Sochi.

Vladimir Putin: If I remember right, this is our fifth time together. The fact that your interest for meetings in this format remains keen indicates that you want them to continue. To me and my colleagues, these meetings are interesting and important as well. They offer us an opportunity to talk directly to people who, as I have said in our previous meetings, have chosen Russia with its politics and international affairs as one of their occupations. I am very pleased to deal with experts and have a chance to engage in a living, direct dialogue in order to discuss urgent problems that mankind in general and Russia in particular face today. Of course, one of the most difficult problems today is the current situation in the Caucasus: South Ossetia, Abkhazia and everything related to the recent tragic events caused by the aggression of the Georgian leadership against these two states. I call them "states," because, as you know, Russia has made a decision to recognise their sovereignty. Of course, I am ready to talk on this subject, although I would like us not to limit ourselves to the problems of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Georgia only. I would like us to discuss a wider range of problems. I assure you that my position will be, as always, open, frank and straightforward. I don't expect our views to be exactly the same on every problem, but I assure you that our discussion and my answers will be frank. Once again, I greet you. I hope you enjoy your stay in Sochi, and enjoy your meal. That's all I'd like to say at the beginning, because long monologues are tiresome, especially for those who listen. Let's go on to a direct dialogue. Thank you for having the patience to listen to me.

'Western propaganda machine is unbelievably powerful’

Jonathan Steele, a journalist: The first time we met was in Beslan with the tragic events there. Now we are meeting with even more tragic events of the Caucasus. I understand that you have been extremely angered, as indeed most Russian officials have been, by the western reaction and by the western media reaction. But there were elements of western media which did try and report fairly at the beginning, which did say that the Georgians escalated this war and provoked it, which did go to Vladikavkaz and interview refugees from Ossetia who told stories of Georgian atrocities. But then over the next few days the situation changed and you regained control on behalf of the South Ossetians of the territory. Then Russian forces moved forward. And whereas at the beginning you had the moral high ground, if I may say so, the story changed. And the Russian planes were bombing Gori, suddenly there were more Georgian refugees than Ossetian ones and the operation began to look more like something that was almost about revenge rather than defending South Ossetia. So, my question is: Why did Russian forces go so far beyond South Ossetia into civilian areas causing the civilian distress? Even before this crisis we heard that the Russian side wanted to put forward proposals for totally new European security architecture. This idea is much more important now. What are the Russian proposals that you are preparing for a new security architecture that would either replace or include NATO in some way but that would obviously give Russia a very different position in Europe than it has at the moment?

Vladimir Putin: You know, your question doesn't surprise me. What really surprises me is how powerful the propaganda machine of the so-called "West" is. This is just amazing. This is unbelievable. This is totally incredible. And yet, it's happening. Of course, this is because, first, people are very susceptible to suggestion. Second, ordinary people usually don't follow world events that closely. So, it is very easy to misrepresent the actual course of events and to impose somebody else's point of view. I don't believe there is one person among us here who is not familiar with the facts. At least in this room, everybody knows perfectly well how the events unfolded in reality. I have given the true account on several occasions, including my recent interviews with CNN and ARD.

'Georgia’s action was well-prepared'

Without any provocation from our side, the Georgian army - I emphasize, the army, not just some individual units - started a military operation to, I quote, "restore constitutional order in South Ossetia." In the evening, or even in the afternoon, of August 7 they started bombarding our peacekeepers' bases. Then their ground troops moved in. They had military hospitals set up very close to where the action took place. These hospitals were ready to receive their wounded. Everything was organised the way military operations should be organised. They attacked our peacekeepers' base. Essentially, they started a large-scale military operation that involved heavy artillery, tanks, and infantry. Since the ratio between Georgian troops and our peacekeepers was 7:1, our troops had to retreat into the central part of Tskhinval. The Goergian military seized our peacekeepers' base ‘South’. Essentially, the Georgians occupied the entire city of Tskhinval, the center included. Only the northern part of the city and our ‘North’ base continued to offer resistance. Then they started to bomb the entire territory of South Ossetia. Some air strikes were against the town of Dzhava, which is in the central part of Ossetia, pretty far from Tskhinval. So, a small number of peacekeepers and Ossetian volunteers continued to hold back the Georgian attacks for almost 48 hours. All of this started on August 7 in the afternoon, and our troops did not enter Tskhinval until the 9th - in fact, until the night of the 9th.

'World media was silent at start of war as if under orders'

I was in Beijing at the time. I looked through the world electronic media - complete silence! As if absolutely nothing is going on. It was as if somebody ordered everyone to keep their mouths shut. To those who organised all this, I can only say: congratulations. Congratulations. You did an excellent job. The only problem, your results are poor. And this will always be the case, because the work you do is unfair and immoral. In the long run, immoral policies always lose. What was actually taking place over the last few years? You are people who follow the events, so you must have noticed that almost in every international meeting, we - myself and others - pointed out time and again that tensions were escalating in the zone of South Ossetian-Georgian and Abkhazian-Georgian conflicts.

'U.S. prompted Georgia to launch military operation'

Our American partners kept training the Georgian military. They invested a lot of money there. They sent a large number of instructors there, who helped mobilize the Georgian army. Instead of looking for a solution to the difficult problem of ethnic strife and ethnic conflicts, they just prompted the Georgian side to launch a military operation. This is what actually happened. So, naturally, we had to respond. What else did you expect? Did you expect us wipe our bleeding nose and bow our head down? What do you want to do? To destabilise the situation in the Northern Caucasus completely? I'll tell you more. We are aware of the fact that an NGO was established in a certain republic in the Northern Caucasus, which claimed that since Russia did not protect South Ossetia, their republic should seek independence from Russia. So, if we protect South Ossetia, we are wrong. If we don't protect it, they deal us another blow, destabilising the Northern Caucasus inside Russia. With some, their insolence has no limits.

'Aggressor should always be punished'

Now, you asked why we did it the way we did. Because the infrastructure used in attacks against our peacekeepers, Tskhinvali and South Ossetia in general, went far beyond Tskhinval city limits. Their command centers, their radars, their munitions depots. What did you expect us to do, wield a stationery knife there? They accuse us of the disproportionate use of force. Well, what use of force do you call proportionate? They had tanks, multi-rocket launchers, heavy artillery. Did you expect us to fight with slingshots? What would be a proportionate use of force in this situation? Of course, those who planned this provocation should have expected that they would get a hefty punch in return. If a command center is located outside the conflict zone, we should hit it there. What else can we do? Military science requires us to do it. Now, let me explain why we went there. I have already explained the military aspect to you. Now let's remember how WW2 started. On September 1, Nazi Germany attacked Poland. Then they attacked the Soviet Union. What do you think the Russian Army should have done? Do you think it should have reached the border and stopped there? By the way, it wasn't just Russian troops that entered Berlin. The Americans, the French and the British were there as well. Why did they go there? Why didn't they stop at the German border? They didn't stop because the aggressor should always be punished.

’We support sovereignty of former Soviet states’

As for former Soviet republics, it was Russia who initiated the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It was Russia. But for Russia's position, the USSR would have existed to this day.We made this decision a long time ago. We have absolutely no intention of infringing the sovereignty of former Soviet republics. On the contrary, we support it. But what is the actual situation? First of all, as I have many times said in the past, we should have rules of conduct in international affairs that would apply to everybody. You can't, for selfish reasons, make self-determination the top priority in Kosovo, and at the same time give priority to the principle of territorial integrity in Georgia.

'Europe follows the U.S. obediently'

So, let's make a decision, which rules are we going to live by. We have spoken about this many times. We have warned our partners against creating a precedent in Kosovo. But no, they insisted on doing things their way. They ignored everything: international law, UN resolutions, everything. They did it their way, the way they thought was best based on their geopolitical interests. By "they," I mean our Western partners, primarily our American partners, of course. The Europeans just follow them obediently. Well, they did what they did. I emphasize, we didn't recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia immediately after they recognised Kosovo. We didn't react. As I have recently said, we ‘swallowed’ it. The only thing we did at the time was that I signed a decree on developing closer economic ties with these two territories. By the way, this was what the UN called for. It recommended that these territories not be isolated economically. That was all we did. In principle, we were ready to continue the dialogue. But no, they wanted to use military force here too. They enjoy shooting and bombing so much they thought they could achieve success here too. You weren't successful in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in the Middle East - what makes you think you could be successful here? They failed here as well, and they will always fail - those who think that force is the most effective foreign policy tool in the modern world. This is why Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed to work out some new rules. What are these rules? It's all very simple. The same principle should apply to everyone. Let's decide which rules we are going to live by. It is absolutely obvious that no country, however powerful it economy or its military is, cannot solve all the problems in the world all by itself, without inviting reasonable partners to join it. But once you invite partners to join you, you have to take their interests into account. You can't act like you are a Roman emperor. You have to take into account your partners' interests and respect them. This is what we suggest. And we are ready to work in this way.

'There is not ground for Cold War'

Richard Sakwa from University of Kent: For 200 yeas Russia has not been able to establish a stable, confident relationship with the West. Why not?

Vladimir Putin: Look, you're asking me why Russia has not been able to establish a stable relationship with the West. Well, let me ask you: why the West has not established a stable relationship with Russia? This is the first thing I want to say. Both sides should work on this. This is something I mentioned when answering the first question. Both sides should make effort. If we are to have an equitable relationship, we have to respect each other. And respect means we recognise each other as an equal partner. The U.S. will never be able to make us similar to Western Europe. No offence meant, but Western Europe has no foreign policy of its own today. Russia cannot and will not exist in this way. Yet, we want to have normal partnership. So let's build this relationship together.

You mentioned some events from days of yore: the 19th century, and so on. Indeed, there have been many cases of conflicting interests. But the world has changed. Look at the political practice of our American partners. God forbid that you do on the continent of America something that contradicts the U.S. interests. They consider America to be their holy of holies. Yet sending their missile cruisers to a place only 200 kilometers from where we are now is a small thing to them. Is this what you call an equitable relationship?! So, I'd say, on the one hand, we do need to analyse our past. ‘He who doesn't know his past has no future.’ But we need to take the actual situation into account. Today, we don't have any Ideological differences, unlike during the Cold War. There is no ground to have a Cold War. Of course, we may have competition, different geopolitical interests, but there is no solid foundation for enmity.

[...]

Source: http://www.russiatoday.com/news/news/30316


We Did Everything Right, And I'm Proud of it - Medvedev



Medvedev's address to Valdai club: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9KNQ3fd3l0

President Medvedev revealed in a frank talk with members of the Valdai Discussion club how news of war in South Ossetia came to him, why Russia will not deal with drug-addicted Georgian president Saakashvili, what George W. Bush said in his latest phone call, and why he won’t let Russia turn into a state behind an iron curtain.

'I'll never forget that night'

“I was on vacation. They say, Russia was preparing for war – that’s a lie! The Defence Minister called me at 1 a.m. and said, the Georgians have told the Ossetians that they were starting a war. And while all those troops were moving towards South Ossetia, I took no decision and hoped those dimwits would have enough brains to stop. They didn’t! We held ourselves until they started firing rockets, shelling residential blocks, and shooting at peacekeepers. And only after that real attack I had to give an order to respond.” “I’ll never forget that night. It was very hard to order the use of force, while knowing the consequences. We did everything right. And I’m proud of it. Our response was symmetrical and proportional.” "There were many illusions in the early 1990's and, as the country developed, many of them just got blown away. Unfortunately the latest events mean those illusions are no more. Illusions that the world is just; that a security system based on current political resource distribution is optimal and keeps the world in balance." “For me, as well as for a big part of Russian society, it was the loss of the last illusion - that the current world security system is reliable. We must create a different security system.” "The world has changed almost in an instant after those events. It came to my mind that for Russia, August 8 is almost like 9/11 for America.” “The war took the whole last month of my life, and there were more productive ways to spend it. We didn’t want it, didn’t want it at all! For 17 years we’ve being mending what had broken apart a long time ago. And they didn’t thank us for that – rather they started shooting at us.” “Russia was not expected to react like that. Georgia got the idea: do whatever you want, Russians won’t meddle. That’s a diplomatic mistake that belongs to textbooks for diplomats. It’s a mistake, from the US side, from Georgia's side – but for Georgia it’s also a crime.” “I have spent so much time speaking to world leaders on the phone over the last month, my ear wouldn’t work. You know – after an hour’s conversation…” “When I talked to Bush on the phone last time I told him: you’d have done the same in a situation like this, just in a more harsh way. He didn’t argue.” "Bush asked me: ‘Why do you need it? You’re a young president with liberal background!’ I don’t need it at all. But there are situations where image is nothing and real actions are everything."

‘I don’t want to live behind an iron curtain’

“We discussed the rearmament of the Russian armed forces yesterday. We’ll have to change some priorities, but all the rest remains the same. We don’t need a closed, militarised country behind an iron curtain. I don’t want to live in a country like that. I used to. It was boring and dull.” "They should have invited Russia into NATO a long time ago. Were they afraid? Now we’d certainly have fewer problems. That was a serious mistake. And the second mistake is that any country prepared to be rude to Russia gets the right to be in NATO." "If Georgia had a NATO membership action plan by August 8, I would have done the same without a second thought. And what would the consequences have been? They would have been way more complicated." "The situation was humiliating for Russia some time ago, and we can’t take it any more. It’s a difficult choice for us, but we can’t take it." "I don't think the confrontation phase will last long. From our side, we're definitely not interested in this. On the contrary, we're ready to go as far as our partners will. If you look at the five principles [of Russia's foreign policy] I have named, one of them says we would like to develop friendly relations with the U.S. and other states, with Europe. We don’t want to create new alliances just to frustrate Europe and America. What's the point? There isn't any. Foreign policy should be pragmatic". "The concept that the U.S. State Department embraced is pure ideology. We all need to take effort and drive ideology away from foreign policy. The current U.S. administration’s problem is that they have too many sovietologists." "If you think that Russia has decided to change its vector of development, that’s not true."

Saakashvili is a drug abuser

“When I first met Saakashvili as a president I told him our policy regarding the territorial integrity of Georgia remained the same". "He was fussing around like a pooch, saying: let’s meet and discuss, I will come to Sochi. I said: OK, let’s do it. I would be glad, maybe we’ll sign an agreement on non-use of force". “Then our close partner Condoleezza Rice arrived, and the boy became like a changeling. He stopped calling, and declared 'We don't need to meet in Sochi, maybe we'll do it at the end of the year'. Well – that’s your choice. He started getting ready for war". "It won't come as a surprise if I say that the decision on recognition [of the two breakaway republics] was of course made after the military action began, when we realised that there is no other way to protect the South Ossetians and Abkhazians, that once he has tasted blood, he won’t stop unless he's dealt a good heavy blow." “The Georgian head of state is not just a man we won’t do business with. He’s an unpredictable pathological and mentally unstable drug abuser. Western journalists, that interviewed him not so long ago, know it! A two-hour-long interview on the high – that’s over the edge for a head of state. If NATO needs such a leader - go ahead.”

Asian ties bring stability to West

“We will do everything we can to diversify our energy routes to Asia, but with no harm done to our European partners. On the contrary, it will ensure greater stability. This is about oil deliveries, gas deliveries, and the development of nuclear energy. “I laugh when I read from time to time that Russia doesn’t have enough gas to provide even European needs. We know it’s not true. Russia is a big gas nation. If we see that there’s a market in the East, we’ll develop new fields. Be sure about that. Naturally, it must be balanced and must not cause economic disasters.”

‘To fight legal nihilism, we need to fight habits’

“My strong conviction is that unfortunately, there is no understanding of the value of law in Russia. I have devoted much time to studying this area both in theory and in practice. This problem can be found everywhere: in everyday matters, in business, on the level of state employees and even on the level of the state itself. That’s why during the election campaign one of my key points was fighting legal nihilism. We do have certain advantages here. Ours is a country with a developed law system, with good law schools; a country that has been developing within the European law system for three hundred years. So the foundation is not bad. The issue is really the habits that have been acquired – this is the most difficult thing”. “We understand that it is possible to create motives for non-corrupt behaviour, it is possible to put corrupt people in prison, that's not the most difficult thing, though sometimes it isn't that easy either. It’s much more difficult to make people observe the law on an everyday basis”. “Let’s imagine two scenarios. A Russian businessman and a businessman from the West are offered to pay for their contract in cash. The first question that most civilised and well-prepared businessmen would ask is, what does it all mean. “Will the tax people find out? Will I be filmed by a hidden camera? Will it all end in prison for me?” The motives of a large part of our own businessmen, unfortunately, would probably be different. I can speak about such things with confidence, because unlike my predecessors I was in business for ten years. This is not because they are criminals by nature, but because they don't think that by breaking this law they are doing anything bad. “So what if no tax is paid on this money? The state isn't perfect. Why should I share with this state? It doesn't defend me, it's trying to get something out of me”. And this is where the main difference lies. “I don’t want to idealise anything. Many Western businessmen would take the cash. But their number is considerably less. And this will also depend on the traditions and habits in this or that country. I won’t name any countries, we all know who has what habits. The problem is that we have lots of such habits. That’s why I think legal nihilism is one of our most serious problems”.

Source: http://www.russiatoday.com/news/news/30353

In related news:

A Worrying New World Order

Europe frets about its place in a different world order

NEVER has the European Union enjoyed such diplomatic prominence as this week, when Nicolas Sarkozy of France led an EU delegation to Moscow to secure yet another promise of Russian troop withdrawals from Georgia. Seen from Brussels, the Georgian crisis has exposed a tectonic shift in the global balance of power. It is not just that Russia is back. The crisis has also confirmed Europe’s sense of an America in relative decline. The EU has been slow to act in the Caucasus, and too wary of upsetting Russia, concedes one deeply Atlanticist minister. But the sad reality is that, in Georgia, “the Americans have been struggling to know what to do.” It is a revealing comment. A previous generation of EU leaders, such as Jacques Chirac or Gerhard Schröder, dreamt of a multipolar world, in which several powers would wield clout. Now something like it may have arrived. Yet today’s European leaders are not crowing. Talk to ministers and officials in private, and they admit that the new world order is making them anxious.

Their anxiety is justified. The EU mission to Russia relied on bluff, and the deal reached on September 8th glossed over some serious problems. It was silent on the withdrawal of extra Russian troops from South Ossetia and Abkhazia (because the loss of these enclaves seems a fait accompli). Big questions about ceasefire monitors and the return of refugees remain murky. Nor did the Russians show great respect for the Europeans. At one point, they hinted that their troops might not withdraw to pre-conflict positions after all (at which point Mr Sarkozy threatened to fly home). Russian officials fought against displaying the EU flag at the press conference, wanting only French and Russian flags on the podium. Their disdainful message was clear: Russian leaders cut deals with powerful countries, not insignificant clubs.

Yet that is to miss a key point. Mr Sarkozy’s weight as a negotiator stemmed from a mandate, agreed by 27 EU heads of government, to demand that Russia pull back its troops. Admittedly, that mandate was backed by a fairly feeble threat (to delay talks on a much-delayed pact that Russia only vaguely wants). Still, a deal was done because Mr Sarkozy holds the rotating EU presidency, not because he is president of France.

Three days before Mr Sarkozy flew to Russia, EU foreign ministers met in the south of France. As thunderclouds loomed operatically over the old papal palace in Avignon, the assembled bigwigs struggled to define the new order. Some talked of an “apolar world”, a phrase coined by Niall Ferguson, a British historian, before dismissing this as too bleak, for now. America remains an undisputed superpower, was the consensus: it is just that no single country can now control the world. Alexander Stubb, the Finnish foreign minister, talked of a new “era of overlapping systems”, in which assertive nation-states challenge the idea of an open global system, governed by international rules, common values and multilateral organisations. French officials pointed to a speech by Mr Sarkozy that described an “era of relative powers”. The multipolar world is here, and it is a dangerous and difficult place, said one French diplomat. Europeans had imagined the new world would be a “post-modern” paradise of dialogue and compromise, but that was “a bit naive”.

The neo-polar world

For what it is worth, Charlemagne proposes a different label: this is a neo-polar world, in which old alliances and rivalries are bumping up against each other in new ways. The neo-polar order is easier to define by what it is not. The old multipolar world, as dreamt of by Mr Chirac and his friends, supposed that a European pole would form in opposition to American “hegemony”. But that is not happening.

For one thing, even the crisis in Georgia has not been enough to shock the EU into a common position on Russia. To some, one highlight of Avignon was a successful push by Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, to demand an inquiry into the causes and conduct of the war. That sounds harmless, until you grasp Mr Steinmeier’s motives: he leads a camp that reckons Russia is unreasonably being held responsible for a war that was started (and lost) by the hot-headed, American-backed Georgians. This camp also thinks that EU statements condemning Russia have been hijacked by “hawks” such as Britain, Sweden and newer EU members from the ex-communist block.

The lack of mutual understanding is striking. For in fact the so-called “hawks” are equally scathing about Georgia’s government. They just fear that Mr Steinmeier wants to bury the fact of Russian aggression in a morass of moral equivalence. The new members also deny they are hawkish on Russia. They use a different word to describe their position: fear. “What do the Russians need to do to scare western Europe?” wonders one minister from eastern Europe. “They have already scared us.” Assuming the neo-polar world remains a scary place, what then? Will that push Europeans towards a Euro-Atlantic pole? Some ministers think it might. French officials stress that their foreign policy has changed under Mr Sarkozy. In the brutal new world of power politics, they note, France has re-embraced “the camp of the West”, including a stronger alliance with America.

Mr Sarkozy has drawn another lesson from the Georgian crisis, it is added: that the EU needs its own defence capability if it wants to be taken seriously. A French plan for a push on European defence can be expected in October, larded with promises not to undermine NATO. But he is likely to be disappointed: no consensus exists for a really ambitious defence project in Europe. As events in Moscow showed this week, there is a place for Europe in the new world order. But Europeans do not agree over what it should be. America will elect a new president in November, and the poles of global power will move again. The world may not wait much longer for Europe to decide where it stands.

Source: http://www.economist.com/world/europ...ry_id=12203018

Why Being Passive With Russia Just Won't Cut It

Do you feel that chill in the air? Theres a cold breeze swirling, and its not a sign of the coming winter. Its the frigid relations between Russia and the United States. Some people are calling it the beginning of a new Cold War. Whether or not this is true, there is certainly much to be worried about. Bolstered by skyrocketing energy prices, Russia, under new president Dmitry Medvedev (a puppet for former president and current prime minister Vladimir Putin), is becoming more adventurous about throwing its weight around in Asia and Europe. And this newfound bravado has been to the detriment of the United States and its ideals.

First, the facts. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Russia is in a position of unprecedented energy wealth. Among the rest of the world, Russia is No. 1 in natural gas reserves, No. 2 in coal reserves and No. 8 in largest oil reserves. In Aug. 2007, Russia resumed Cold War-era strategic bomber flights. This September, Russia and Venezuela agreed to conduct joint military exercises. Russia has plans to move at least four naval ships into Venezuelan ports. And after both the Czech Republic and Poland agreed to house important aspects of a U.S.-developed missile shield designed to protect Europe from ballistic missiles, the Russian Foreign Ministry responded by saying a military response would follow.

So how are we to tackle this growing anti-American influence spreading throughout Eastern Europe and perhaps the world? One thing is certain: Diplomacy alone isnt the answer. Diplomacy from a position of weakness doesnt work and wont work to reign in what is increasingly becoming a rogue Russian regime. Look at the North Korean approach. For years, the Bush administration backed tough sanctions against North Korea, refusing to give the oppressive regime of Kim Jong Il the legitimacy of face-to-face talks. Finally, the Bush administration gave in to the sentiments of the State Department and many liberal commentators and negotiated a six-nation effort to end the countrys nuclear program. The result: A little over a year after the agreement was signed, North Korea decided to restart its program last week.

Considering its current weak position, the United States must tackle this problem head on, develop a position of strength and not be ashamed to proclaim its motivations. Missile defense installations must be installed in the Czech Republic and Poland, despite Russias threats. These installations will undoubtedly make Europe safer (from yet another perturbing threat: Iran) and will help the United States stay safer at home as missile defense technology is put into action and we learn more about how to perfect the process.

The United States must also commit itself to defend its allies that so proudly hold up the democratic ideals that we share. Its understandable that the United States European NATO allies arent quick to criticize Russia given that a majority of their energy supplies, including natural gas, are imported from Russia. The rest of Europe doesnt want to experience the cold winter that Ukraine did two years ago, when Russia shut off its natural gas for the better part of a week during intense negotiations.

Russia is in such a strong strategic position that it would be tough now to undo the influence and power it has in contemporary Europe. But make no mistake: The price of failing to stop this new Russian aggression will be steep. According to Freedom House, in 1972 there were only 42 democratic nations in the world. Today, there are 123. A domino effect of countries wilting under Russian pressure, especially in the former Soviet Bloc, could reverse this significant progress. And Russia already began its brazen power play with its recent invasion of Georgia.

In a cowardly act, the United States promised aid to Georgia, not military assistance, while the democratic former Soviet Republic was steamrolled by a merciless invading force from Russia. As Russian troops marched toward his capital, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said it best: What's at stake here is America's ideals. If freedom collapses in Georgia, it will collapse in other places as well. His fears are well-founded. Ask the Ukrainians left in the cold by Russia just two years ago. Ask the thousands of refugees from Russians recent invasion. Hopefully these fears will be addressed by a new U.S. president in January who is seriously committed to maintaining peace through strength.

Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/...n4473364.shtml

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