By Scott Tibbs, August 29, 2008
The conflict between Russia and Georgia has reminded many of Soviet imperialism during the Cold War, and Russia's military aggression against a former Soviet republic has prompted many to encourage the U.S. to take a stronger stance against Russia. Before we do that, we might want to take a step back and carefully consider the ramifications of a new Cold War and what steps we can take to bring Russia back into the fold as an ally.
Some have advocated that Georgia be admitted into NATO, the military alliance formed between Western Europe and the United States to blunt the aggression of the country that Ronald Reagan correctly called an "evil empire". What if Georgia was already a member of NATO? Russia might not have invaded when Georgia attempted to regain control over the province of South Ossetia, which seeks independence. But what if Russia had invaded anyway? Would the United States have entered into a direct military confrontation with Russia?
Russia's invasion of Georgia may have been imperialism, but do we have a national security interest that requires us to go to war over whether South Ossetia is part of Georgia or not? Is sending a warship to the coast of Georgia to deliver humanitarian aid, a move Russia considers gunboat diplomacy, an unnecessary provocation?
Russia's behavior toward Georgia is certainly disturbing. It is similar to Nazi Germany's actions toward the Sudetenland, and one thing we should have learned from World War II is that there is a time when we need to confront a would-be empire's aggressively imperialistic policies. There is certainly much we can do, diplomatically and economically, to make it very clear that we will oppose any dreams of reviving the Soviet empire that Russia may have. Russia's blood-soaked history over the last century demonstrates how dangerous they can be.
We do need to think carefully, however, before entering into Cold War II with Russia. We need to think even more carefully about the serious implications of a military confrontation with Russia. I am not a pacifist, but I do recognize that military force should be a last resort. Right now, it is not inevitable that Russia will be our enemies again. Our actions over the next few weeks and months could have implications for decades to come.