American Elephants

Just how far do Russia’s ambitions go? by The Elephant's Child

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed Tuesday that both Russian and Georgian troops will withdraw to their positions before the present conflict, in order to halt the fighting in South Ossetia.

“I have decided to end the operation to compel the Georgian authorities to peace. The aim has been achieved” Medvedev was quoted by Tass news agency as saying. Medvedev has also been reported to have ordered Russian forces to “eliminate the aggressor” in case Georgians resume military activity.

Uh huh. A military operation such as the Russians just demonstrated is a carefully planned and organized action. Vladimir Putin is pushing to reassert Russia’s authority in a former Soviet state. Putin is using the separatist issue in South Ossetia as an excuse, and if he is allowed to get away with it, all the former Soviet states are threatened. You don’t just round up two divisions, hundreds of tanks and bombers, and a squadron of of warships overnight. It takes a lot of planning and organizing.

Russian bombers have indiscriminately hit residential and industrial areas, and killed hundreds of civilians. Russian forces took the central city of Gori, just 40 miles from Tibilisi, the Georgian capital. Russian troops also invaded from Abkhazia and took the city of Zugdidi to the west.

Russian claims of Georgian ethnic cleansing seem to be well-rehearsed propaganda. This is the first Russian military offensive outside of Russia’s borders. But there has been a consistent pattern of threats and provocations against other Russian neighbors, such as shutting off oil or natural gas delivery to Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and even Lithuania, a NATO member. They launched a cyber-assault on Estonia, and have opposed two antimissile sites in Eastern NATO nations.

There is a message here for Europe from the Kremlin. It says very clearly: We can shut off the supply of Siberian gas any time we want, and we can turn off every spigot in the region any time we choose.

Europe, protected throughout the Cold War by an American military umbrella, has long wallowed in a dream of a world without conflict. But as the well-known adage from Flavius Vegetius Renatum, circa 375 AD, goes “Si vis pacem, para bellum” goes: If you want peace, prepare for war. It remains very good advice.

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