To Punish or Rehabilitate Russia?

Many saw the SCO as an organization that may one day rival NATO. Regardless of whether that assessment was accurate, more evidence against it has come in the form of China and the SCO’s recent joint statement from Tajikistan in which it calls for Georgia’s territorial integrity to be respected. While the language was clearly not as critical and aggressive as that from America and Europe, the message was clear: we don’t support you. While some treat this development as an additional ‘blow’ against Russia, this blogger finds it unlikely Russia counted on any real support from China. Indeed China has Taiwan and its restive Muslim provinces to worry about. Beijing knows better than to take sides on an issue like that. While Medvedev had indeed been quoted as saying he expected the SCO to back Russia, the organization seems to not be as inherently anti-Western as they expected, hence their polite but clear statement as noted above.

Yet, for all the talk of Russia and Georgia, I’ve seen little discussing what America’s overall policy goals should be in dealing with Russian aggression. Is the primary concern defending Georgia itself, or our image which would suffer were we to appear weak in defending an ally? Are we more concerned with Georgia in the first place, or rather with Russian. And indeed, if Russia is our main concern, which I believe it is, does the United States wish to punish or ‘rehabilitate’ Moscow? To be sure, Georgia is not an important strategic interest of the United States, which this blogger says despite being an avid Georgia supporter. Both Zenpundit and Galrahn at Information Dissemination correctly point this out. With that in mind, and in the mind of Moscow, Georgia’s strategic value does not warrant escalation and the taking of high risks by the US and Europe. Thus, wading through the war mongering and Cold War rhetoric, we arrive at the aforementioned question: punish or rehabilitate?

The Europeans have, for example, voiced interest in sanctions against Russia while others have discussed ejecting Russia from international organizations like the G8. Thomas Barnett is in the rehabilitate crowd as he noted today

his fusion model of Russia’s is not that different from China’s–just coupled with Russian political paranoia. Both need to be housebroken by the global economy/Core in coming decades. China’s moving in that direction nicely, Russia’s system far more slowly. But now Georgia gives us a great “teachable moment” here, assuming we don’t go overboard or militarize the response unduly. All levers, my friends, all levers.,

Dan at tdaxp simiarly describes the situation, namely that Russia is a Gap state acting as such against new Core states. That being said, US and European policy must focus on punishing Russia and damaging its economic and political interests while at the same time, opening new and more acceptable routes for Russia to achieve its foreign policy goals. American and European politicians must make the most of this opportunity or “teachable moment” as Barnett calls it lest we leave Moscow with no other route than to remain a repeat offender.

About Chirol

Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (1852 - 1929) was a journalist, prolific author, world historian, and British diplomat. He began his career as a foreign correspondent and later became editor of the London Times. After two decades as a journalist he joined Her Majesty's Foreign Ministry as a diplomat and was subsequently knighted for his distinguished service as a foreign affairs advisor. Additionally, he wrote a dozen books on foreign affairs including The Far Eastern Question (1896), Serbia and the Serbs (1914), The End of the Ottoman Empire (1920) and The Egyptian Problem (1921). He is generally credited with popularizing "Middle East" in reference to the Arabian Peninsula with his book The Middle Eastern Question (1903). "Chirol" is a US citizen and graduate student studying Defense and Strategic Studies and government contractor. As with the historical Chirol, he has traveled to over two dozen countries and lived abroad for many years. Chirol speaks English and German fluently with basic knowledge of manyl of others.
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12 Responses to To Punish or Rehabilitate Russia?

  1. tdaxp says:

    Chirol,

    Thanks for the link! And the shout-out!

    tdaxp similarly describes the situation, namely that Russia is a Gap state acting as such against new Core states. That being said, US and European policy must focus on punishing Russia and damaging its economic and political interests while at the same time, opening new and more acceptable routes for Russia to achieve its foreign policy goals. American and European politicians must make the most of this opportunity or “teachable moment” as Barnett calls it lest we leave Moscow with no other route than to remain a repeat offender.

    However, I want to clarify my position a bit. As I wrote on 8/14:

    Punishment doesn’t work predictably, as it interacts with volition instead of motivation. Instead, to prevent a bad behavior from reoccurring, you would subject the organism to an unpleasant state of affairs, and lift the bad experience when the organism complies. “Conquest-and-reward” (C&R) is a basic feature of all learning systems, whether mechanical, animal, or human.

    So I don’t support punishing Russia — indeed, I don’t think that would work well.

    Rather, we need to recognize that conditions have changed, and that if we continue to act in the same way toward Russia, we are effectively rewarding it for using war as a tool of diplomacy.

    We need to adjust to this new state of affairs, so that when Russia begins to behave positively, we can reward that instead.

    Great news by the SCO, btw.

  2. Pingback: tdaxp » Blog Archive » All levers, my friends, all levers.

  3. Elambend says:

    We can also use Russia’s position as a lever on them to help us where we need it, as outlined “here”:http://informationdissemination.blogspot.com/

  4. Jeff says:

    If USA and EU agree that it is wrong to split Georgia, then why they conspired the independent of Kosovo? All these sufferings of Georgians are due to their USA-ass-kiss president Mikheil Saakashvili, as well as the selfish of USA and NATO.

    But, in any case, I think it is wrong to split any country, no matter Georgia or Serbia.

  5. Curzon says:

    Chirol, I overwhelmingly agree — and although I read your post as being sufficiently nuanced in its support of rehabilitation, it’s not simple. Russia is being incredibly aggressive in its post-invasion diplomacy and almost daring us to do something. We don’t need to “punish” them per-se, but we do need to silently take serious measures that emasculate Moscow’s ability to do this again in the future.

  6. Pingback: tdaxp » Blog Archive » The SCO and Russia

  7. Soob says:

    Chirol, you should revisit your D-8 post of some time ago and have a further look into it amongst recent events.

  8. I agree that the USA doesn’t seem to profess any coherent policy towards the Georgian issue. It is also rather difficult for a nation that since 1995 invaded Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq and allowed Kosovo to split from Serbia (formerly Yougoslavia) to disallow the Russians to let Abchazia and South Ossetia to declare independence from Georgia.

    The EU has a more carefull approach only because some European nations depend to much on Russian oil and gas.

    But as said, I agree Europe and the USA should take a more Ralpolitiker stance against Russia as tough-talk is the best language they understand. I wrote that in my blog http://www.luxzenburg.org/?p=236 about this issue (unfortunately folks, it’s Dutch!)

  9. Chirol says:

    Soob: Will do.

    Erik: The difference is there are virtually no similarities between Kosovo and SOuth Ossetia/Abkhazia.

  10. Oliver says:

    There is the similarity of an attempted change of borders by military intervention.

  11. Chirol says:

    Oliver: Wrong. NATO didn’t go into Yugoslavia to change borders. That was not the initial goal although it did eventually lead to that outcome.

    Check out this RAND article which succinctly refutes any S.O./Kosovo analogy

    http://www.rand.org/commentary/2008/08/25/RFERL.html

  12. Oliver says:

    Outcomes count. You can find differences and similarities if you want. You can consider either to predominate. It depends on your viewpoint. That is not good enough.

    However, either borders of sovereign countries are unchangeable or they are not.