Here's a conundrum for you, dear readers.
In days of yore, it was handy for journalists to write "the Kremlin" to refer to the people in charge of Russia. It's a word that has a certain allure and mystique to it, and using it helps avoid cumbersome repetition. As a short word, it's also great for headlines.
But now that Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev, is not really running the country from his Kremlin office, and its prime minister, Vladimir Putin, is demonstrably in control, this usage isn't always accurate anymore.
This headline, for instance, is OK because it's technically true. Medvedev did sign the truce:
But this one is not, because it may not be "the Kremlin's" policy at all:
So, does this mean we ink-stained wretches can no longer always use "the Kremlin" as a shorthand for "the Russian government"? And what of "Kremlinology"?
Or has "the Kremlin" become part of the lexicon now, akin to saying "Moscow" or somesuch, to such an extent that the details don't matter? After all, it might get confusing to refer to the "White House," which is where Putin's new office is located, when talking about decisions the Russian government makes.
Kevin Drum does yeoman's work here in batting down the argument, frequently offered in recent days, that the Bush administration somehow encouraged Mikheil Saakashvili's reckless attack on South Ossetia:
Look: Saakashvili came to power on a Georgian nationalist platform of recovering Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He's been jonesing for an excuse to send troops in for years, regardless of anything the U.S. did or didn't do. Likewise, Putin has been eagerly waiting for an excuse to pound the crap out of him in return — again, regardless of anything the U.S. did or didn't do.
Kevin correctly lists Kosovo and NATO enlargement among several "general" drivers of the conflict, but I would be more specific. Let's roll the tape.
When Western countries recognized Kosovo in February, then-President Vladimir Putin immediately threatened to do the same regarding South Ossetia and Abkhazia and promised to deploy more "peacekeeping" troops there. And he made good on his warning in April, granting the two breakaway regions a status just short of official recognition.
The Georgians were duly provoked, and they got busy mobilizing troops and preparing fuel supplies. In May, Russia deployed troops to Abkhazia; Georgia's state minister warned that the two countries were "very close" to war. By August, volunteers were pouring into South Ossetia from southern Russia, and the two sides were trading fire. All the while, as Kevin points out, State Department officials were trying to convince Saakashvili to "stay cool."
Foolishly, he didn't, and here we are. But if anyone encouraged this conflict, it was Moscow, not Washington. If Saakashvili thought the U.S. military would come to his aid, then he's simply delusional -- there was no way it was going to happen.
On a broader level, the Bush administration made two key mistakes. The first was setting an awkward precedent in Kosovo. It would have been smarter to leave the situation ambiguous, like Taiwan. The second was in trying to bring Georgia into NATO prematurely. When in April, Germany and France delayed Georgia's membership action plan (MAP) until it had settled its internal conflicts, that was basically an invitation to Putin to destabilize the country. It would have been better not to push for a MAP at all.
In short, a naive and overconfident West has badly misjudged how Putin would respond to its diplomatic moves. That's the real problem here -- not some imagined whispering in Saakashvili's ear.
An armor part of a Russian convoy heads along the main road from Gori towards Tblisi as the tense standoff on the north of Georgia continued on August 15 in Gori, Georgia.
No, the Wall Street Journal reports:
Russian and South Ossetian officials have pegged the death toll as high as 2,000. They have maintained that Georgian troops razed the regional capital, Tskhinvali, and left it resembling Stalingrad after the long siege by Nazi troops during World War II. State-controlled television has shown footage of burning buildings and badly damaged infrastructure.
But on the ground in Tskhinvali, where most of the fighting during the five-day conflict occurred, there is little evidence of a high death toll. [...] The civil-liberties group Human Rights Watch, which accused both Russian and Georgian troops of causing civilian casualties, issued a report Wednesday suggesting that the number of dead in Tskhinvali was in the dozens, not more.
Responding to unsolicited French advice about his treatment of Catholics, Josef Stalin once infamously remarked, "The Pope? How many divisions has he got?"
The same question could be asked of Condoleezza Rice, who today demanded "the immediate and orderly withdrawal of Russian armed forces and the return of those forces to Russia." Appearing with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi, the U.S. Secretary of State said firmly: "This must take place and take place now."
We'll see how Russia responds, since frankly the United States has no ability to force the issue. Nor does Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin want to be seen as taking orders from America. The punishments being muttered about in Washington right now -- kicking Russia out of the G-8, deep-sixing its WTO bid, boycotting or trying to kill the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, canceling bilateral meetings -- are pretty underwhelming, I'd imagine, from Russia's point of view.
Still, the Russians ought to be very careful here. If the overarching goal is to intimidate former Soviet satellites from seeking closer ties with the West, they risk doing the opposite: sending such states running pell-mell into America's arms (see: Poland). By overplaying his hand, Putin could turn a victory in Georgia into a major strategic defeat. He ought to find a face-saving way to take Rice's advice.
With the space shuttle set to retire in 2010, and its replacement not ready until 2015, the United States had been planning on hitchhiking to the International Space Station for a few years. That may be a bit of a problem now, as the one country with the ability to transport to and from the station turns out to be -- you guessed it -- Russia.
Beyond the rising rhetorical showdown between the two sides, there's also a legal roadblock that may prevent further space cooperation with Russia. The United States needs to negotiate a new contract with the Russian space program, which may be difficult because Congress must first pass a waiver to a 2000 law banning government contracts with states who supported nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran. That includes -- you guessed it -- Russia.
In an election year with an increasingly bellicose Moscow, that's "almost impossible," says Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a supporter of the waiver who admits America is stuck between a rock and a hard place:
It is a lose-lose situation," Nelson said.
"If our relationship with Russia is strained, who knows if Russia will give us rides in the future?" Nelson asked. "Or if they give us rides, will they charge such an exorbitant price that it becomes blackmail?"
Still, who knows what relations with Russia will be like in 2010? Even if the Cold War is truly back, that doesn't necessarily spell the end of U.S.-Soviet -- er, Russian -- space cooperation. A lot could change in the next few years.
Negotiators have finally hammered out a deal to base U.S. interceptor missiles in Poland. After a deal was reached to base a radar system in the Czech Republic in July, the Poles were the final holdout for America's controversial missile shield, but the agreement was delayed by the Polish demands for Patriot missiles. According to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, that demand has been met.
This has been in the works for nearly 18 months and was sure to be resolved eventually, but the timing of this announcement makes it hard not to wonder if events in the Caucasus didn't help to move things along. Poland, having seen what can happen to other wayward countries on Russia's periphery, is sure to welcome an American troop presence while the United States, which hasn't done much to help its ally Georgia, gets to demonstrate that it still has friends in the former Eastern bloc.
Russia would appear to have few options for punishing Poland, a member of both the EU and NATO with a far larger military and economy than Georgia, but after last week it would be foolish to underestimate what Vladimir Putin can accomplish with limited military and political resources.
UPDATE: Killer quote from Tusk:
Poland and the Poles do not want to be in alliances in which assistance comes at some point later - it is no good when assistance comes to dead people. Poland wants to be in alliances where assistance comes in the very first hours of - knock on wood - any possible conflict."
President George W. Bush has announced that the U.S. military will be delivering humanitarian aid to Georgia, a move that his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili has described as a "turning point."
The announcement, along with the withdrawal plan that Dmitry Medvedev signed on to this morning, seems like a sign that the war is winding down into the clean-up and recovery phase. Russia's foreign ministry is not thrilled about U.S military involvement but says they're open to "consultations" about how best to deliver aid. (Corrected. See comments.)
The only problem is, Russian troops don't seem in any hurry to leave Georgia. Russian tanks, along with "irregular" volunteers from the North Caucasus, contine to occupy the city of Gori. According to the Russians' laughable explanation, they're sticking around to protect the local population from irregulars, who are stealing cars. This menacing quote from a Russian tank commander doesn't make it sound like he's getting ready to pack up:
It all depends on what Saakashvili is going to say. If he doesn't understand the situation, we'll have to go further. It's only 60 kilometers to Tbilisi."
It's still early to speculate, but it's possible that Russia, in fact, has no intention of leaving Georgia. The longer Ossetian and Abkhazian forces stay within the country proper, the more likely it is that Georgia will be provoked into firing back, giving the Russians a pretext for further military action. So, despite this morning's hopeful signs, Georgia is far from out of the woods yet.
One final observation: If the worst-case scenario does come true, serious questions will be raised over whether any statement by Dmitry Medvedev has any basis in the reality of Russian policy.
Beach volleyball isn't the only event giving Russia fits in Beijing.
More than a few Russian Olympians have faltered in competition and come up well short of national medal expectations. In fact, it wasn't until today that Russia captured its first gold medals of these games, with both Nazyr Mankiev and Islam-Beka Albiev taking top honors in Greco-Roman wrestling. Adding those two golds, Russia's medal count now totals 12, which still leaves it far behind China (27) and the United States (29) -- and pretty unlikely to reach its goal of 80 medals by the games' end.
One Russian who failed to medal was 20-year-old weightlifter Svetlana Tsarukaeva (left), who added insult to injury by banging her head on the door frame as she exited the competition. Anastasia Zueva, favored for the silver in the 100m backstroke, came in a distant fifth.
Most surprising, though, are the number of setbacks in sports that are typically Russia's strengths, including gymnastics (the men's team finished a dismal sixth) and tennis (Maria Sharapova dropped out, and third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova lost in an early round).
So what gives, Russia? It could be that the team is still shaken after five of its members -- including a discus champ and former world-record holding hammer thrower -- were suspended for reportedly trying to cheat on their drug tests. A lack of trainers could also be to blame.
Of course, some might attribute the lackluster showing to bad karma from the Georgia conflict. At least the Russian and Georgian (er, Brazilian?) beach volleyball players put the affair aside, embracing before their match.
In any case, it looks like luck is currently on Georgia's side. As of about 30 minutes ago, the country just won its first gold of the Beijing Games, thanks to Greco-Roman wrestler Manuchar Kvirkelia.
This is what makes the Olympics great: With their two countries embroiled in conflict, Russia and Georgia took to the sand Wednesday to settle the score in beach volleyball. And Georgia, also the underdog in sport, won the match in three sets.
But the Russians were not about to concede defeat, pointing out that the two Georgians are, in fact, Brazilian:
Cristine Santanna and Andrezza Chagas go by the nicknames of Saka and Rtvelo, which put together spell the Georgian word for Georgia. Cute, perhaps, but not if you've just lost to them at the Olympic Games.
"We were not playing against the Georgian team today," sniffed Natalia Uryadova after losing 12-15 in the third and deciding set. "We were playing against the Brazilian team. If they are Georgian, they would have been influenced [by the war], but certainly they are not."
To be fair, the "Georgian" pair have passports from both Brazil and Georgia, and had trained for two years after receiving personal invitations from Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, whose wife also happens to play beach volleyball. But the two admitted they had only visited the country twice before representing it in the Olympics -- an increasingly common phenomenon, it seems, but one counter to the Olympic spirit.
Georgian Volleyball Federation President Levan Akhvlediani, however, would have none of it, calling the Russians "bad losers" and hailing the victory as "wonderful for the Georgian people."
It's better to make a war... on the sporting fields," Akhvlediani said.
It surely doesn't hurt that on the sporting fields, for this match at least, Georgia won.
This isn't the first time the world has looked on sympathetically while Georgia was trounced by Russia. Does this sound familiar?
The President of the Georgian Republic has made an appeal to the League [of Nations] and sympathetic reference to his country's efforts was made by M. Paul Boncour in the Assembly. But it is realized that the League is incapable of rendering material aid, and that the moral influence which may be a powerful force with civilized countries is unlikely to make any impression on Soviet Russia. -The Times. Sept. 16, 1924
Here's Wikipedia on Georgia's "August Uprising."
Matt Yglesias, in his new digs at Think Progress, pooh-poohs the notion that the 2008 Georgian War will have implications for other former Soviet states, notably Ukraine.
The appeasement frame rests on the idea that it’s some kind of slippery slope from Russian bombers hitting Tblisi to attacks on Talinn, Kiev, Warsaw and who knows where else. But that’s to view international politics as some kind of purely abstract, logical affair where if Russia gets away with one thing there’s nothing to stop them from marching as far west as they please. In practice, the issue is whether there’s a slipper slope of capabilities and there clearly isn’t.
This ignores the fact that there is a lot that Russia can and probably will do to make trouble for Ukraine. If there's anything we know about Vladimir Putin, it is that he has a temper and that he doesn't make idle threats.
What might Ukraine expect in retaliation for expressing solidarity with Georgia? Well, for one, it might find itself a wee bit short on gas this winter. Mysterious separatist groups might start to cause trouble in Crimea, where Russia's Black Sea Fleet is based.
It's also worth remembering that nearly a quarter of Ukraine's population are Russian-speakers who, in large part, were never really on board with the pro-Western Orange Revolution. Russia will undoubtedly ramp up the use of "political technology" to give pro-Russian political forces a boost. I think that when people are talking about the Russian threat, this kind of low-level subversion is primarily what they mean -- not tanks in the streets of Kiev.
UPDATE: Yglesias responds:
If people don't mean to conjure up images of tanks rolling into Kiev — or at a minimum, bombers in the sky above — when they talk about future Russian pressure on Ukraine, then they shouldn't use inflammatory language about Munich and appeasement.
The South Ossetia war may be winding down but fighting continues in Georgia's other breakaway province, Abkhazia. Roughly 3,000 Abkhaz troops attacked Georgian military positions in the disputed Kodori Gorge this morning. The region's president Sergei Bagapsh claims, “We will take the region under complete control in a few days.”
Russia has escalated its "peacekeeping" presence in the region to 9,000 troops in recent days but denies that they took part in this assault though. At this point, they don't really need to. It's hard to imagine the Georgian military launching a major counteroffensive after the Ossetian catastrophe.
That Dmitry Medvedev issued his instructions to the Russian military to pull out of Georgia just before he met with Nicolas Sarkozy for peace negotiations seems significant. Russia ended this war exactly when they wanted to, without waiting to be told.
It was also a nice touch that it was Medvedev who made the anouncement. Remember that it was Vladimir Putin who said "war has started" last Friday. This good-cop-bad-cop approach to world affairs seems quite effective for the tandem.
The war itself was pure Putin tough: a brutal yet measured display of force. Russia certainly demonstrated that its troops could have marched right into Saakashvili's office without the world doing anything about it. But this is not a repeat of the Cold War and Putin is not Leonid Brezhnev. Occupying Georgia is probably more trouble than it's worth when Russia can simply "throw it against the wall" to show it is possible.
When Putin has opposition political leaders jailed or beaten up, it's not because they pose much threat to him -- he and his allies could win any national election fair and square -- but because he wants to destroy the perception that a meaningful opposition even exists.
Georgia never really posed much of a threat to Russian security, but Georgia's government and citizens had the perception that Western support allowed them to determine their own destiny, even if that meant opposing their powerful Northern neighbor. That perception has now been effectively destroyed.
Writing in the feverish runup to the Iraq war, the National Review's Jonah Goldberg endorsed the following foreign-policy doctrine, which he attributed to his colleague Michael Ledeen:
Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."
This was never a wise prescription for U.S. policy, but it is a remarkably apt description of what Russia just did to Georgia.
Could Russia have responded to Georgia's assault on South Ossetia in a more measured way? Sure. But from Vladimir Putin's perspective, this was a great opportunity to teach Georgia a lesson and encourager les autres along its periphery. And by shutting the operation day just a few days in, Russia has probably avoided a coherent, punitive Western response.
Over the long term, certainly, Europe and the United States will eye Russia with much greater suspicion. And this war is certainly going to strengthen the Russia hawks, who see their views vindicated.
Inside Russia, it is a victory for the cold warriors and a huge embarrassment for Dmitry Medvedev, who was finally exposed this weekend as a Potemkin president when Putin visibly took charge of the situation. That could doom Medvedev's efforts to crack down on corruption and promote the rule of law -- vital reforms that would ultimately do more good for Russia than any amount of mucking around in the former Soviet Union.
The question now is: Will Russia overreach? Fresh off their blitzkrieg victory in Georgia, will Putin & co. try to stir up fresh troubles in the Crimea? What kind of punishment will they try and mete out to Poland and the Baltic states for supporting Georgia? To the Czech Republic? We can only wait and see.
President Bush just wrapped up a four-day stay in Beijing, where he caught plenty of action from the sidelines (and on the volleyball courts). Avid sports fan that he is, Bush clearly enjoyed himself, spending his final day in China cheering on the U.S. men's swimming team as they clenched victory in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay.
I guess Bush's decision to opt for an extended Olympic vacation in the midst of Georgia's crisis shouldn't come as a shock. After all, he does have a history of notoriously slow reactions to catastrophic events (Hurricane Katrina, anyone?). Still, you'd think the prez would have wanted to at least appear to be in crisis mode by returning to his home office ASAP. Georgians certainly must feel that way.
Bush hasn't completely ignored the conflict: He reportedly got round-the-clock coverage from aides in Beijing. And he did make a few increasingly tough statements briefly before returning to Washington and speaking on it this evening, saying, "The Russian government must reverse the course it appears to be on."
But the fact that he devoted much of his past few days to Kobe Bryant's jump shot, Misty May-Treanor's fanny, and Michael Phelps's medal hopes rather than Georgia's plight makes his words ring a little hollow this evening.
Gallup just released some fresh analysis from its polling in Georgia that shows that, as of April/May 2007, the overwhelming majority of Georgians were seeing their relations with Russia worsening as their relations with Ukraine and the United States were improving:
I'll be surprised if, when the dust settles down from this week's fighting, Georgians still see the United States in such a friendly light. It must be a deeply embittering experience for them to learn that the 82nd Airborne is not parachuting to the rescue.
As Andrew Kramer and Ellen Barry's heartbreaking report from Gori makes clear, Georgians feel betrayed and abandoned by their American allies. The Russian media isn't really reporting it that way though:
Russia is now demanding that Georgian troops fighting near Abkhazia surrender and disarm.
It seems increasingly unlikely that Georgia will be able to return to the "status quo ante," as Washington would like. And indeed, Putin said today that Russia would take its "peacekeeping mission" to its "logical conclusion." Whether that entails the ouster of Saakashvili remains to be seen, but it seems pretty clear that Georgia has been trounced.
While I am still sorting out the claims and counterclaims about who fired the first shots in South Ossetia, one thing is clear: Russian "Prime Minister" Vladimir Putin -- who is already the big winner in this conflict -- is poised to take advantage of it.
Let's dial back the clock to April, when NATO failed to admit Ukraine and Georgia as members. Georgia was told that it must first resolve its "frozen conflicts" with renegade regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia to join. Nobody in NATO relished the prospect of being on the hook for some inscrutable ethnic conflict in the Caucasus.
But, coming on the heels of Kosovo's February declaration of independence, this was practically an invitation to Putin to do his utmost to ensure that Georgia wouldn't ever be stable enough to be a NATO member.
Here's the basic logic:
The policy had the added bonus of revenge for the Western powers' recognition of Kosovo and it cast doubts on the wisdom of using Georgia as an energy corridor. Plus, it puts the United States in an awkward position and exposes American backing of Georgia as not worth a damned thing. For Putin, it's a quadruple play.
Did Saakashvili miscalculate? Absolutely. He foolishly thought that Georgia could take back South Ossetia before Russia could effectively counterattack, and then the international community would shut the conflict down. But given Putin's brutal logic, this war was probably going to happen one way or another -- it was just a question of when.
UPDATE: Georgia has called a unilateral ceasefire.
... Russian choosing to escalate? The Times reports that Russian troops are attacking Gori.
The Georgians told them, ‘We're done. Let us withdraw," one American military official said. "But the Russians are not letting them withdraw. They are pursuing them, and people are seeing this."
Also, the Bush administration is heading to the U.N. Security Council, where of course Russia will exercise its veto. Putin and Medvedev are refusing to take calls from Saakashvili, and "Western officials" are speculating that the Russians want to oust the Georgian president.
Here's the latest on this fast-moving conflict:
UPDATE: The New York Times reports that the situation is "nearing all-out war," with Russia landing troops on Georgia's Black Sea coast.
... John McCreary comments: "Saakashvili gambled and lost. After Russia finishes crippling Georgian military capabilities, negotiations should begin."
We support Georgia's territorial integrity and call for an immediate cease-fire. We urge all parties, including Georgians, South Ossetians and Russians to de-escalate and avoid conflict."
Barack Obama said basically the same thing:
Georgia's territorial integrity must be respected. All sides should enter into direct talks on behalf of stability in Georgia, and the United States, the United Nations Security Council, and the international community should fully support a peaceful resolution to this crisis."
The problem with these statements is that they seem to ignore the fact that it was Georgia that started shooting yesterday, not Russia. There isn't a direct contradiction between supporting Georgia's territorial integrity and demanding an end to the fighting but in the context of this situation it's pretty close.
Not surprisingly, John McCain was more directly critical of Russia:
Russia should immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations, withdraw all forces from the sovereign territory of Georgia," McCain told reporters in Iowa. "The U.S should immediately convene an emergency session of the U.N. security council to call on Russia to reverse course."
Of course, there's a strong argument to be made that Russia has been trying to push Georgia into this war, but McCain seems to be either unaware of Mikheil Saakashvili's own role in escalating the conflict or deliberately downplaying it.
There's no doubt that the United States' close relationship with Saakashvili puts it in an awkward spot here and it will be interesting to see what form the American response eventually takes.
Update: Same line from the White House:
I want to reiterate on [President Bush's] behalf that the United States supports Georgia's territorial integrity and we call for an immediate ceasefire," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement in Beijing where Bush was attending the Olympics.
Defying warnings from Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, around 1,000 volunteers from Abkhazia, Georgia's other breakaway province are headed to South Ossetia to aid seperatists there against the Georgian military. Abkhazia's foreign minister told Der Spiegel:
We understand very well that we Abkhazians are next in line after South Ossetia. If the situation doesn't stabilize again, then we will have to open a second front.
Abkhazia's tensions with Tblisi have been getting far more media attention than South Ossetia's over the past few months. The status of both territories have been a matter of dispute since the end of bloody civil wars in the early 1990s and both are backed by Russia in their bids for independence.
So it's war.
Reuters is reporting that Russia has bombed a Georgian airbase near Tblisi, the capital, in retaliation for yesterday's massive military incursion into South Ossetia. Russia has also sent troops into the breakaway region. A senior Georgian military official told the agency, "They have declared war against us."
Georgia's president Mikheil Saakashvili, a key U.S. ally in the Caucasus, is calling for American aid but I have to assume it's next to impossible that the United States would sent troops into a messy civil war where they would be facing the Russia military. FP author Jon Sawyer's warning is proving prescient.
However this ends, Georgia's bid to join NATO is now effectively dead. In that sense, Russia has already won and the months of ratcheting up the pressure in the breakaway province seem to have paid off.
The public's verdict seems to be in on Dmitry Medvedev. According to a new poll, only 9 percent of Russians think the president is the true leader of the country. That's 11 percent lower than last March. Thirty-six percent say that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is in charge and 47 percent think the two share power equally.
(Hat tip: Johnson's Russia List)
A 22-year-old St. Petersburg ad executive who was hoping to become the third woman in Russian history to successfully sue for sexual harassment (yes, you read that right) just had her case thrown out. Here was the judge's reasoning:
If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children."
Well I guess that's settled then.
Reversing Russia's population decline is a major priority for Russia's government, but this isn't exactly the most enlightened way to address the problem. Conditions for working women in the country are already in a sad state:
According to a recent survey, 100 percent of female professionals said they had been subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses, 32 percent said they had had intercourse with them at least once and another seven percent claimed to have been raped.
Telling male bosses that this is their patriotic duty is probably not going to help.
(Thanks to my friend Emily for the link.)
Russia may be embracing market capitalism, but investors got a reminder recently that Vladimir Putin still holds significant sway over the business world. Two brief remarks from the president-turned-prime minister "helped wipe out half the value" of steelmaker Mechel, the Financial Times reports.
Putin seems to have it out for Mechel's majority owner Igor Zyuzin, who was Russia's 12th richest man before his shares plummeted. Putin accused Zyuzin of price gouging and tax evasion, also questioning the reclusive tycoon's health:
"Sickness is sickness," Mr Putin said. "I think Igor Vladimirovich [Zyuzin] should get better as quickly as possible; otherwise we'll have to send him a doctor to clear up all these problems."
It's a good thing Apple isn't a Russian company.
According to the Christian Science Monitor's Fred Weir, Dmitry Medvedev has a plan to avert a new cold war. Last month in Berlin, Medvedev proposed the formation of a new European defense pact which would include not only Europe but the countries of the former Soviet Union as well. Dubbed, the "European Atlantic Treaty Organization" or "EATO" by analysts, the organization would take the place of the dreaded NATO which has been creeping its way ever closer to Russia's borders in the last two decades and represent "big Europe without dividing lines."
The alternative, as Moscow has hinted over the last few weeks, is increasingly militarized tension over the issues of NATO expansion and missile defense. The most extreme hint was the dubious but seemingly intentional leak of a proposal to base Russian bombers in Cuba.
Weir believes that the proposal will be a central theme of Medvedev's foreign policy. Unfortunately, the idea has same problem that afflicts Russia's diplomatic efforts more generally: Medvedev hasn't made it clear why this would be a good idea for anyone except Russia and hasn't offered any inducements to get on board besides vague threats.
Until the members of NATO and the countries desperately trying to join it get an explanation why they would be better off in an organization with Russia as a founding member, ideas like EATO are only going to deepen the fault lines.
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