In August 2008, Russian forces invaded Georgia. Sen. John McCain reacted strongly, but then-Sen. Barack Obama’s reaction was limp-wristed at best until Michael McFaul, perhaps Obama’s most able adviser and certainly the shining star of Obama’s National Security Council, shored it up.
Nevertheless, the atmosphere among the American media was poisonous. Obama was promising to embrace all enemies, and Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry were repeatedly thumbing their nose at the Bush administration (and Lebanon) by sitting down to engage with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. When Russia invaded Georgia, the blame-the-victim mentality was rife, with even The New York Times suggesting that tiny, democratic Georgia was responsible for provoking Russia. European fact-finders went so far as to blame George W. Bush for provoking Russia by celebrating Georgia’s democracy, and its efforts to promote freedom and liberty.
In November, however, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in a rare moment of honesty, revealed the real reason why Russia invaded tiny Georgia. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, from which I’ve borrowed the title of this post, Medvedev suggested to officers in Vladikavkaz, that Russia’s goal was not countering Georgia “aggression” or “genocide” but rather was to prevent Georgia from joining NATO:
“Today I already spoke with the army officers and I will tell it to you too, that it was of course a very difficult page in our recent history, but, unfortunately, it was absolutely necessary [decision]. And the fact that Russia’s actions at the time were so tough has eventually secured a situation for us, which, despite of all the difficulties, is now quieter than it was.”
“We have simply calmed some of our neighbors down by showing them that they should behave correctly in respect of Russia and in respect of neighboring small states. And for some of our partners, including for the North Atlantic Alliance, it was a signal that before taking a decision about expansion of the Alliance, one should at first think about the geopolitical stability. I deem these [issues] to be the major lessons of those developments in 2008.”
The United States should stick by its allies, no matter how tiny, and stand for the principles of liberty and democracy. Sacrificing Georgia to satiate Russia’s desire for overwhelming influence in any area it considers is near is not in the United States’ interest. Given how many commentators and diplomats were willing to throw tiny Georgia under the bus, perhaps it’s time for some real reflection in Washington, given Medvedev’s candor.