Krauthammer whiffs (update)

Charles Krauthammer looks at the war in Georgia and decides while there’s not much we can do, there are some things we should do.

What is to be done? Let’s be real. There’s nothing to be done militarily. What we can do is alter Putin’s cost-benefit calculations.

We are not without resources. There are a range of measures to be deployed if Russia does not live up to its cease-fire commitments:

1. Suspend the NATO-Russia Council established in 2002 to help bring Russia closer to the West. Make clear that dissolution will follow suspension. The council gives Russia a seat at the NATO table. Message: Invading neighboring democracies forfeits the seat.

2. Bar Russian entry to the World Trade Organization.

3. Dissolve the G-8. Putin’s dictatorial presence long made it a farce but no one wanted to upset the bear by expelling it. No need to. The seven democracies simply withdraw. Then immediately announce the reconstitution of the original G-7.

4. Announce a U.S.-European boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi. To do otherwise would be obscene. Sochi is 15 miles from Abkhazia, the other Georgian province just invaded by Russia. The Games will become a riveting contest between the Russian, Belarusian and Jamaican bobsled teams.

Usually I’m pretty impressed by Krauthammer, but I guess everyone has a bad day. Krauthammer cites “cost-benefit calculations” that Russia might have done and intimates that those 4 things he lists weren’t included in it or they wargamed a different outcome than what Krauthammer presents.

Please. When Putin did this he knew full well the worst case scenario included all of the above and he gave the order to “go” anyway. Obviously he wasn’t that concerned with any of the above becoming a reality.

Suspend the NATO-Russian Council? For heaven sake, didn’t Russia unilaterally do that when they crossed into Georgia? Does anyone think they don’t know that?

Kick them out of the G8 and bar them from the WTO? And do what? Stop their economy from growing as it has? Oil and gas are the “in demand” commodity in today’s world and Russia is flush with them. Not being able to sit down with the G7 or become a part of an organization which it hasn’t been a part of until now simply isn’t a particularly tough punishment for what they did.

And, of course, announcing 6 years prior to an event that you’re not going to attend the event doesn’t quite have the same sting as announcing it the year of the event. Not that Russia would be particularly effected – they survived the Jimmy Carter boycott quite nicely and were able to showcase their athletes without having the troublesome Americans there to steal their thunder.

Frankly, the only way to make the point to Russia that their actions are unacceptable is militarily, and that isn’t going to happen. All the rest is so much hand-waving, and barring them or kicking them out of organizations may give the West the satisfaction of saying “so there”, but practically will have little effect on Russia now, nor would it restrain Russia in the future.

There’s only one thing which will do that, and no one is willing, at this point, to do it.

Given all of that, how then, do you make an impression on Russia?

Well one way is to immediately increase military aid to the Ukraine and the Baltic states. Obviously with the consent of those states, but Russia really can’t complain if we do given their invasion of Georgia.

The Ukraine is a much larger state than Georgia. In fact, about 10 times larger. Its military has about 150,000 active duty and a million in reserve (it has compulsary service). So any move by Russia into that area won’t be the walk in the park Georgia was (but it points to why Georgia was so perfect for the point Russia is trying to make).

We’ve got to do something to keep Russia at bay and to me, that’s probably the most feasible and visible thing we can do. And my guess is both the Ukraine and the Baltic states would welcome it.

UPDATE: Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov pretty well validates my point:

“I don’t know how they are going to isolate us,” Lavrov said during an interview on radio station Echo Moskvy. “I have heard threats that we are not going to be admitted to the [World Trade Organization], but we see clearly that nobody is going to admit us there anyway,” he said. His remarks were translated by the Interfax news service. “Excuse my language, but they’re just stringing us along.”

Crossposted at QandO.

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