Friday, August 29, 2008

Admit Ukraine and Georgia into NATO

Alexander J. Motyl, a professor of political science at Rutgers University, has published this wonderful opinion piece in International Herald Tribune:

"All of Russia's non-Russian neighbors, know that the war in Georgia is really about them."
International Herald Tribune, August 27, 2008

Resurgent Russia
Alexander J. Motyl, PhD

Russia's blitzkrieg against Georgia has taken place 70 years after the infamous Munich Agreement of September 29, 1938, when France, Britain and Italy agreed to cede Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland to Nazi Germany in the hope of establishing "peace in our time."

Like Hitler's Germany, Vladimir Putin's Russia is a post-imperial authoritarian state that must expand. The Soviet empire's collapse in 1991 left the Russian population feeling humiliated; economic collapse in the early 1990s only compounded their demoralization. As in Germany, Russians blamed democracy for their collapse and humiliation. And, as in Germany, a strongman promising greatness and glory seized power, dismantled democracy, and created an authoritarian, hyper-nationalist regime with a personality cult based on promises to re-establish imperial greatness.

The war against Georgia is not the first instance of Russia's aggressiveness vis-à-vis its former colonies. Estonia was the target of a cyberwar; Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and the Czech Republic have been subjected to energy cut-offs; Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have been punished by trade sanctions.

These states, like all of Russia's non-Russian neighbors, know that the war in Georgia is really about them.

The Munich Agreement is considered a classic example of the perils of appeasement. Had the democracies said no then, it's possible that World War II could have been averted. At some point - and that point surely arrived with Russia's invasion of Georgia - the West must learn to say no to Russia. Expelling Russia from the G-8 would be symbolically nice, but Putin would respond with a laugh. Only an "anti-Munich" would say no in a meaningful fashion: Admit Ukraine and Georgia into NATO's Membership Action Plan - immediately. Putin will glare in response; he will threaten retaliation - and then, like all loud-mouthed dictators, he will acquiesce.

Alexander J. Motyl
Newark, New Jersey
Professor of political science, Rutgers University

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