Over the last few years Russia has become increasingly hostile towards the west and increasingly provocative in their actions. As they emmerged from the ruins of Soviet Communism the Russian authorities realised that if they were ever going to compete with the West they had to emulate it. Thus the old ways were cast aside and a new era of Russian politics emmerged. Gone were the days of communism and in came popular capitalism which ensured Russias economic revival and renewed world standing.
Now Russia is on stronger ground and the ‘Cold War’ is getting that bit hotter. They have both the economic and the military power to play a game of cat and mouse with the West and most importantly they know it. Russia’s actions are increasingly irrational and provocative, whether it be poisoning people in London, threatening a nuclear strike on Poland or invading a helpless neighbour. The Russian motives for the invasion of South Ossetia are clear to me: they want regime change in Georgia and they want to cement their dominace in the region. The pro Western Saakashvili is completely unacceptable to Russia who, despite appearences, maintains its Cold War mentality that they still dominate the Eastern block.
Naturally each side has argued its own version of events in Georgia. The Georgians claim they are defending their interests whilst the Russian’s claim they are responding to Georgian agression. However it is the Georgian’s who are telling the truth. Georgia invaded South Ossetia, yes, so on the surface level they are the agressors, however their invasion was entirely in response to repeated provocative attacks by South Ossetian separatists controlled and funded by our dear friends in the Kremlin. This was a not a war Georgia wanted; but it was one Russia wanted.
The Russians relished the oppourtunity to flex their military muscles once again and once again fly in the face of Western opposition. No matter how much they attempt to justify their actions, the fact remains that their action stand in direct violation of the UN Charter and the fundamental principles of democracy, co-operation and security in Europe. They justify their actions as being in defence of their citizens in South Ossetia and argue that the citizens of that region have the right to self determination. Russia is right, every individual does have the right to self determination… but not where the Russians are concerned.
Their claims would be that bit more believable if it weren’t for that ever potent thorn in Russia’s side: Chechnya. Do they not have the right to self determination? Or rather do they only have the right to Russian determination? Russia does not have a leg to stand on playing the moral high card. The fact is Russia’s actions, their flouting of international law and their provocative actions of late all amount to one thing: a policy of regime change in Georgia. Just because they have signed a ceasefire does not mean that their intentions have changed. They want and will actively persue regime change in any country in their vicinity that does not turn to Moscow for guidance.
So what can we do? Obviously western military intervention in Georgia is out of the question, however the Russians actions cannot go un-punished. There are many other ways in which the west can punish them be they political, social or economic. An obvious and symbolic way of apllying some pressure on the Kremlin would be to make it clear to the them that their own prestige project, the Sochi Olympics, may have to be reconsidered should their actions continue to be provocative.
What we need now is strong leadership from Washington, London and the west at large. The Cold War was not won through quiet diplomacy it was achieved through long term and sustained economic and political pressure combined with strong leadership from Thatcher and Reagan. We need leaders of that like to stand up to Russia once again and make it crystal clear that this type of behaviour will never be accepted. However with Obama in the White House and Brown tentatively hanging on in Downing Street I am fearful that a new Cold War would be tipped entirely in the Russians favour.