RUSSIA'S GEORGIAN WAR: WHAT DOES IT MEAN, PART TWO
"The war in Georgia, therefore, is Russia’s public return to great power status. This is not something that just happened — it has been unfolding ever since Putin took power, and with growing intensity in the past five years. Part of it has to do with the increase of Russian power, but a great deal of it has to do with the fact that the Middle Eastern wars have left the United States off-balance and short on resources. As we have written, this conflict created a window of opportunity. The Russian goal is to use that window to assert a new reality throughout the region while the Americans are tied down elsewhere and dependent on the Russians. The war was far from a surprise; it has been building for months. But the geopolitical foundations of the war have been building since 1992. Russia has been an empire for centuries. The last 15 years or so were not the new reality, but simply an aberration that would be rectified. And now it is being rectified".
Dr. George Friedman, "The Russian Georgian War and the Balance of Power," in www.stratfor.com
"You must either conquer and rule, or lose and serve, suffer or triumph, be anvil or be the hammer".
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
"Strong do what they can, the weak suffer what they must".
Thucydides, "The History of the Peloponnesian War," Book V.
I would not go to say that the world has 'changed', much less changed substantially in the last week. Perhaps it in truth has not, and, perhaps it is too early to tell. Did anyone know pour example, say in September-October of 1931, in the immediate aftermath of the 'Mukden Incident', that the whole scheme of International relations had been profoundly changed? It would seem that the answer to this query is a resounding 'non'. It was only in retrospect, five, ten years later, that the importance of what occurred on the 18th of September 1931, acquired the importance that it did. Which raises in an acute fashion the points made by Friedman in his interesting article. In and of itself, what has occurred in Georgia and South Ossetia, are what the renowned French historian, Georges Braudel, once labeled a: 'mere event' ('une evenement'). Meaning that the occurrence had no intrinsic importance in and of itself. What gave it any importance was that it reflected and was caused by the underlying shifts ('structure' and 'conjuncture') in the historical process. Neo-realist and International relations discourse notwithstanding, Friedman's article in essence posits the same thesis. The outcome of the Russo-Georgian War: Russian trouncing Georgia, the USA's ally and standard bearer, was the endproduct of historical processes of the past five years or so. Among which are: a) the stabilization of Russia; b) the astronomic rise of the price of petroleum; c) the American debacle in Iraq; d) the standoff between the USA and Persia; e) the fact that Russia has the world's third highest currency reserves; f) the pacification of Chechnya; g) the diplomatic alienation of much of Western Europe from the USA since 2001; h) the political enfeeblement of the Bush regime at home.
All of the above variables, when taken together, have significantly changed the underlying foundations upon which the Russo-Georgian war took place. Au fond, if the war had taken place, say five years go, the results would most likely have been far different. Presuming that Moskva would have taken the risks involved by going to war in the first place. However due to the changes in the geopolitical structure upon which the conflict did take place, the results were quite different. Hence the utter rout, of the Georgian forces and the dismemberment of the Georgian state. As well as the failure of the American 'project' (in Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov's wonderfully accurate description (see: "Russia's Lavrov slams Bush statment on S. Ossetia", in www.en.rian.ru), to build a pro-American citadel. All that is over with now. Gone. Scattered to the winds. As the ever-intelligent, Anatol Lieven trenchantly commented in yesterday's Financial Times:
"The bloody conflict over South Ossetia will have been good for something at least if it teaches two lessons. The first is that Georgia will never now get South Ossetia and Abkhazia back. The second is for the west: it is not to make promises that it neither can, nor will, fulfil when push comes to shove." www.ft.com
All the above being said, where one may ask does that leave us, leave say Europe and the USA vis-`a-vis Matushka Roissya? It leaves us, at the opening edges of the return of something that perhaps has not been seen for upwards of sixty years now: the return to 'International Anarchy', using the expression in the sense defined by the late, great British academic, E. H. Carr. Whereas circa in 1950, the world had a sort of on the window ledge, "stability", divided as it was into two great power blocs. And, circa 1999, the world was presided over (if one may use that expression) by the sole Superpower, the USA. We can now see in the mists of the future, perhaps, something which has not been visible since before 1945: an anarchic, world system of international relations, in which there is no effective system of governance, and of course no longer an effective hegemon. We are not at that point yet. However it could well be the case, the Russo-Georgian War and its aftermath (so far) points us in that direction. Which in the case of Moskva means that its future moves, will be dictated much more by what it 'can get away with', and, less with what 'Europe thinks', or 'what Washington says'. Even the threat of being expelled from the Olympian heights of the G-8, may not count for that much, if Washington, intends to use it as a stick to keep Russia in line. Based upon ths weeks events, the only thing that will keep Moskva in line, is Moskva itself. Rien plus.
For those curious please stay tuned...