Wrong is exactly what happened when, depending on who you listen to, Russian troops responded to the Georgia army's attack on rebels in Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway (Russian-backed) region of South Ossetia, inside Georgia.
No wonder there is confusion, a former part of the Soviet Union breaks away from Russia and becomes the Republic of Georgia, then a part of that state wants to break away from Georgia. With a little help from Putin.
If you wonder if any of this is our concern, I regret to say, yes it is. The Republic of Georgia is a pro-western democracy, its soldiers are serving as part of the coalition of forces in Iraq and it wants membership into NATO.
Vladamir Putin and the hand picked, Metallica loving President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev would love to squash this upstart republic and remind everyone in the area that Russia is still the Sheriff in town. If you want to look a little further, I don't think it would be a stretch to say the Putin would love to have control of the Georgian oil pipelines that carry much of Asia's oil to the West.
Great you say, another war for oil. Well, not so fast. Yes the oil pipelines are a strategic interest to the world, but the bigger picture has to be taken into consideration. If Russia can annex entire nations and the world just writes 'strong condemnations' and passes resolutions calling for a cease fire, what lessons do you think Putin will take away from this little gamble?
- The world will sit on its hands the next time Russia has an 'altercation' with one of its neighbors and has to invade the country to 'stabilize it'.
- Former republics of the USSR, the Ukraine for instance, had better reconsider the next time Putin makes them 'an offer you can't refuse'.
- The western anti-war protesters, who show up in droves to rally against the US military, don't seem to care when the Russian military is indiscriminately bombing civilian targets with no care whatsoever for how many people they kill.
- To sum it up, Putin will know the application of brute force to conquer a neighboring nation will go unpunished.
President Bush is pursuing aggressive diplomacy with the Russians, but I am not sure if diplomacy works when a ripe plum is within your reach and you think a slap on the wrist is an acceptable price to pay for such a prize.
I think the only way to really have any leverage with Putin is to tell him if you don't pull back, we will immediately grant NATO membership to any former republic on the Russian border. Another place to put pressure on Russia is to vote them out of the G-8. Either of those might get Putin's attention.
This is the dangerous world we live in, and for those who think the world is this way because of Neo-cons or George W Bush or some other fictional boogey man, this is the way the world has worked for a few millenniums. Ask the Polish people if someone should have taken a stand against Hitler when he took military control of the Rhineland in 1936?