This past week, for the first time since the breakup of the USSR in 1991, Russia has used direct military force against one of its neighbors. Some people are inclined to believe that the US and its allies are somehow responsible, or otherwise make excuses, for Russia's actions in Georgia. If there are those of you out there that want to believe that, that's fine--I am not going to stop you. But first, you owe it to yourself to consider the facts.
Let's be clear about what has happened in Russia. All opposition parties have been liquidated from the Duma; all local government has been obliterated. Political opponents of the Kremlin, like KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko and investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya have been murdered, the former being poisoned with $10 million of a rare radioactive substance known as polonium. Nobody in Russia has been charged, let alone punished for giving the orders to kill them, or for carrying out those senseless deeds (the death warrants are widely suspected to have originated from the Kremlin, perhaps from Putin himself). Russian military spending has surged dramatically in recent years. Russia rates as 'not free' under the widely respected Freedom House's ratings for 2007, the most recent year available, with rights and liberties rapidly eroding.
Let’s be clear about what has happened in Georgia. Russia gave diplomatic recognition and support to a breakaway region of another country without international agreement, massed troops on the border, repeatedly violated Georgian airspace, shot down a Georgian aircraft, fired missiles into Georgian territory, and attempted to assassinate a major Georgian official in the region. Then it goaded the region into launching an attack on Georgian forces, and when Georgia finally responded with a limited strike against the region, after more than a year of provocation during which Georgia responded only with diplomatic protests, Russia invaded with over 30,000 troops within 72 hours and seized the region, including the use of strategic bombers and 300 other combat aircraft that destroyed civilian apartment blocks. Now, the breakaway region is engaged in massive pogrom-style attacks on Georgian civilians. The control and coordination required for such sizable military operations strongly suggests premeditation and long-term planning on the part of the Russian authorities.
Now, how is any of this the fault of the United States or of President Bush? Could someone tell me again, please?
Those trying to justify Russia's oppression and aggression come off looking like morons or maniacs--or both.