Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Kremlin Should Not View West’s Reaction on Georgia as a Victory, Russian Analysts Say

Paul Goble

Vienna, September 10 – Many Russian politicians and commentators view the European Union’s latest moves on Georgia as ratifying the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the decision of the U.S. not to impose unilateral sanctions on o for its actions in Georgia as a triumph for Russia.
But however much those actions meet Moscow’s immediate needs, Mikhail Rostovsky and Inga Kumskova argue, they are not an unqualified victory and only serve to hide the way in which Moscow has hurt its relations with both the EU and the United States (
Russia clearly benefits from the latest EU-brokered accord, they say, because Moscow gains from having a European-manned buffer between the two breakaway republics and Georgia and because the continued presence of Russian forces beyond the borders of those republics would be a constant irritant internationally.
And Moscow also gains from the American decision not to move unilaterally against Russia for actions the American leaders had criticized so severely earlier. Not only does that show the willingness of the US to seek accords, but it also calls attention to Russia’s importance for Washington on other issues.
But however much Moscow hawks say that Europe had no choice because it is dependent on Russian gas and that the United States is so overextended elsewhere that it has neither the resources nor the stomach to challenge Moscow, the two analysts say, no one in Moscow should see either case as an unqualified triumph.
Whatever the Europeans are doing now, the two say, it is obvious that the EU countries, as a result of Moscow’s military moves in Georgia, have decided that Russia is now dominated by “made revanchists of the Soviet model,” something that will complicate relations even if Europe continues to buy Russian gas.
And whatever the Americans are not doing now, they add, the US – and in this they are quite similar to Russians, the two suggest – will never entirely forgive Moscow for insulting so openly a government that Washington had proudly declared to be its ally. That too will cast a shadow on ties well into the future.
These longer term consequences are likely to be obscured in the coming days, they point out, because both Western politicians and Western journalists are obviously “weary of constant discussion of the theme of the crisis in the Caucasus” and want to focus on other things.
“Saakashvili and Georgia are gradually disappearing from TV news shows and from the front pages of newspapers. But” – and this is Rostovsky and Kumskova’s main point – “to conclude that our ‘small victorious war’ against the Tbilisi fuehrer will be forgotten, is unfortunately not going to happen.”
And that will have serious consequences for Moscow. Russia needs more from Europe than just the money from the sale of gas. It needs integration with the continent if Russia is to become a modern society and economy. The events in Georgia will postpone that from happening.
In Europe today, they note, Russia has acquired “a demonic image” and “the unfortunate thing is that with ‘demons’ [people and countries] try to conduct only the most necessary minimum of business,” something that many Russians are going to learn in the next several years even if gas sales increase.
And no future American administration is going to be able to forget Russian actions in Georgia, however much Washington may want Moscow’s cooperation in other areas. Georgia won’t prevent that, as some in Moscow feared and some in the West wanted, but it will make such ties less close than they might otherwise be.
That too will hurt Russia’s progress, the two Moscow analysts say, and consequently, those who are currently celebrating what they see as Russia’s twin diplomatic triumphs may ultimately find that these were at best Pyrrhic victories or what would be even worse, self-delusions.

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