Monday, October 16, 2006

Munich 2006

It was not just the spying.

The four Russian officials who were arrested in Georgia were plotting to assassinate senior members of the Georgian government. To destabilize the country and close the only way for the West to get access to the Central Asian and Caspian oilfields that does not go through Russia, China or Iran.

These are terrifyingly high stakes. As Edward Lucas says in his article- the fall of this "faraway country of which we know nothing" would allow the KGB-led government of Russia to have complete control over the European energy market. Given the practice of Russia to be extremely aggressive in the use of energy as a political lever, this must not be allowed to happen.

Russia is a rogue power- and one that has not abandoned Soviet Imperial dreams. By being blind to the danger, the West could lose the new cold war without a shot being fired.

Yet another reason for the UK to reduce our use of fossil fuels as quickly as possible- as if the natural balance of the Planet was not sufficient reason.


RK said...

Georgia deserves our support as a fledgling democracy suffering the ill effects of a Russian neighbour that still views them as firmly within their sphere of influence. But how far should be take this support? Do we risk Russian fury? Do we risk war?

Your article is short but I read it as advocating we provide very strong support based on our access to Caspian oil.

I’m not so sure. Given the many other challenges facing the foreign policies of the UK and the ‘West’ a sober assessment sees Georgia fall well down the list that includes Iraq, Iran, Korea and Sudan. Short of a Russian invasion of Georgia Russian support in these matters is sadly more important than South Ossetia and the fate of this Georgian government.

Cicero said...

I fear that Georgia may be forgotton- as Hungary was in 1956 amidst the Suez crisis. Supporting the Russian resolution at the UN was just plain stupid. Gerogia wants to get into NATO- we should set concrete steps to bring this about- including bases in the country asap.

Anonymous said...

As the world is distracted by North Korea and Iraq, Russia is left on its own to do its bidding. The Georgia thing is horrendous, and it will escalate -- and once again the "West" will fail an ally in the "East". There has been a spate of high-profile murder in Russia (another one today with Itar-Tass), so it's open season. They are causing trouble at the Security Council and who knows, should the Queen be worried that while in Lithuania (as she is today) the Russkis will crash a MiG-29 on another "training" run???

Cicero said...

Fortunately while The Queen is in Lithuania, then Latvia, then Estonia this week, the Russians will want to keep a fairly nlow profile. The Spanish who are currently on watch- based in Siaulai- ought to be able to intercept the Russkies- let us hope, eh?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn’t use the word ‘forgotten’ in respect of Georgia. My point is that we have limited options open to us to influence Russia and that attempting to exercise these options would antagonise without necessarily protecting Georgia.

Take your example of Hungary in the 50’s. Imagine for a moment that this hadn’t clashed with any other international crisis, what could we have done to protect Hungary? What action could have made a difference without risking a larger war?

Cicero said...

Big difference- Hungary was legally and formally part of the Soviet sphere of influence and the warsaw Pact allowed Soviet troops to "defend" Hungary against the West.

Georgia has no legal alliance with Russia and is not part of the Russian sphere, although the Kremlin would like them to be.

In fact the Georgian government would welcome western troops and a guarantee of its own security- so the West has vastly more freedom of action that it did in Hungary in 1956.

rk said...

If I understand your position you advocate some kind of overt gesture of military support, either a treaty or actual troops on the ground in Georiga.

I can see why you would support this from a Georigan position but it is a high risk strategy all round.

I believe that almost nothing will stop Russian meddling and interfering because Russia will know that the west would not go to war over it. The resources the west could deploy would be scant anyway considering our many commitments and the reluctance of many EU countries to commit troops anywhere. It would perhaps stop a Russian invasion but is that really likely?

More broadly is that this policy would certainly anger Russia. North Korea, Iran, Sudan and so on would all be made much harder to reslove with a Russia determined to get revenge on us nevermind the issue of energy security.

I think this is a classic Ethical Vs Realism clash and I'm in the realism camp because Russia is simply to powerfull and immature enough to look for revenge.

Cicero said...

Actually I think that letting Georgia be undermined by Russia is neither Realist nor Idealist. The West has critical interests bound up in the pipeline across from Azerbaijan. If we let Russia take control, then Russia controls acess to all the central Asian energy supplies. Georgia is the last lever the west has to keep access. If Russia succeeds in closing the window, we will be at the tender mercy of a regime that uses energy as a weapon.