keep in mind that Georgia initiated the use of force on South Ossetia- with the support of the U.S. and Israel. It is foolish to expect Russia to sit back and watch while this happens on its borders. The western press has been near unanimously criticized Russia for being an unprovoked aggressor -
This comment takes the "initiation of force" principle out of context and the premise of this claim implies the wrong approach to analyzing foreign policy. Imagine if in the 1930s the Nazi's had used an ethnic conflict on Germany's borders to justify a full fledged invasion of a country. Would we have been concerned about the the minutia of the ethnic conflict or would we have been concerned with the larger geopolitical implications of German hegemony and its growing military expansion? In the same way, the details of the ancient ethnic conflict between the Georgians and Ossetians (discussed in this Christian Science Monitor piece "Roots of Georgia-Russian Clash Run Deep" and this background) are almost irrelevant. This is not an episode of Law and Order. The threat to the United States and the object of proper concern is Russia, and in particular Putin's neo-Stalinist regime's "growing regional ambitions." Quoting the CSM article:
The West worries that Moscow's true goal is to subjugate pro-West Georgia and overthrow its democratically elected president, Mr. Saakashvili. In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Monday, Saakashvili warned that if Moscow's drive succeeds, Western influence in the region will be defunct.The Russian's did not just happen upon this conflict nor are they really concerned about the plight of Russian citizens in South Ossetia. As the timeline in the CSM piece illustrates, the conflict between the Georgians and Russians has been brewing especially since Georgia sought membership in NATO. As Bolton points out:
This confrontation is not about who violated the Marquess of Queensbury rules in South Ossetia, where ethnic violence has been a fact of life since the break-up of the Soviet Union on December 31, 1991 – and, indeed, long before. Instead, we are facing the much larger issue of how Russia plans to behave in international affairs for decades to come. Whether Mikhail Saakashvili “provoked” the Russians on August 8, or September 8, or whenever, this rape was well-planned and clearly coming, given Georgia’s manifest unwillingness to be “Finlandized” – the Cold War term for effectively losing your foreign-policy independence.
By not foreseeing the consequences of denying immediate membership to Georgia and Ukraine, NATO has once again shown its short sightedness. I agree with the following from the Bolton op-ed:
Europe’s rejection this spring of President Bush’s proposal to start Ukraine and Georgia towards Nato membership was the real provocation to Russia, because it exposed Western weakness and timidity. As long as that perception exists in Moscow, the risk to other former Soviet territories – and in precarious region s such as the Middle East – will remain.
Additionally, Russia's "concern" over the plight of the Ossetians just happens to coincide with their interest in an important oil and natural gas pipeline. Again, as Bolton points out:
Moreover, Russia is now within an eyelash of dominating the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, the only route out of the Caspian Sea region not now controlled by either Russia or Iran. Losing this would be dramatically unhelpful if we hope for continued reductions in global petroleum prices, and energy independence from unfriendly, or potentially unfriendly, states.
The goal of foreign policy is to protect American interests not be an arbiter of global conflicts or a global policeman. As Russia continues to devolve into yet another dictatorship under Putin, the U.S. and its allies must not repeat the mistakes of the past or we will find ourselves on the outside of another iron curtain in Eastern Europe.