Foreign Policy Blogs

Redlines

Now that the bloodshed has stopped in the Caucasus, constructing a new policy approach for the West is imperative.

Western, Georgian and Russian sources all agree on the following:

  • Russian forces have largely, but not completely, left Georgia proper. They remain in Georgia in what has been called a "new administrative border" buffering South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They also remain within South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in numbers greater than before the outbreak of full-scale conflict on August 7.
  • The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has dispatched a small number of peacekeepers to the region, but is reporting less than full cooperation from the Russians, who have not allowed OSCE into the areas that they control.
  • Diplomatic contacts continue, but there are few if any signs of progress. The tit-for-tat declarations from NATO Headquarters and from Moscow make clear that NATO-Russian cooperation is on indefinite hold.

In the American political arena, there is a sense of bipartisan dissatisfaction with the current status quo. There are a few conservatives (e.g., Buchanan ) and more liberals who decry the rhetoric coming out of the White House and State Department and the McCain campaign for being too inflammatory. There are more conservatives (Krauthammer ) and a few liberals who criticize the NATO and US for not taking more resolute action. So far, at least, there's not much difference between the way that McCain and Biden express themselves on the issue.

Those would have the US and NATO do more have few ideas beyond freezing Russia's entry into the WTO and proceeding with the anti-missile system in Europe. The experts at the Heritage Foundation argue that NATO should proceed with Membership Action Plans (MAPs) for Ukraine and Georgia, but how can Georgia join NATO before it controls its own territory?

It was Saakashvili's goal to reassert Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Now, however, it is Georgian sovereignty over the rest of the country that is diminished.

400px-baku_pipelines.jpg

Meanwhile, if there is a "redline" for the West in Georgia, it is probably an oil pipeline , Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan , which passes just 30 miles south of the Georgian capital. The 1,000-mile pipeline pumps one million barrels of Caspian oil per day, tracing a carefully constructed detour around Russian-controlled territory and territorial waters. Only now the new Russian "border" is closer than it was on August 7 , apparently by a dozen miles or so. And it is the Russians who seem to be calling the shots , literally.

 

Author

Mark Dillen

Mark Dillen heads Dillen Associates LLC, an international public affairs consultancy based in San Francisco and Croatia. A former Senior Foreign Service Officer with the US State Department, Mark managed political, media and cultural relations for US embassies in Rome, Berlin, Moscow, Sofia and Belgrade, then moved to the private sector. He has degrees from Columbia and Michigan and was a Diplomat-in-Residence at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins. Mark has also worked for USAID as a media and political advisor and twice served as election observer and organizer for OSCE in Eastern Europe.

Areas of Focus:
US Government; Europe; Diplomacy

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