Everyone is putting blame on Russia for the on-going South Ossetia War. An easy target, the nation and its prime minister are painted as the descendants of pure evil. “Georgia’s sovereignty must be guaranteed,” writes a pro-American New York Times editor, while further suggesting that Russia should be put in the political corner wearing an “I’m a dummy” hat.1
I’m not saying Russia is being the prime example of good and righteousness in this war, but I am looking for a more balanced approach to the whole situation, one that doesn’t conclude with “Russia bad, all American allies good.”
Besides the desire to destabilize the Georgian government, Russia also acts under the cover of protecting its own citizens. Because almost all South Ossetians have been issued Russian passports, this is a clever cover-act for the act of initiating war. Clever, but also 100% true. I don’t care if it is a cover or not, it still remains a legitimate reason. Georgia was the one who began “invading” South Ossetia2, and as such gave Russia reason to intervene. No matter what all those Russian troops were doing there so close to the border, the fact remains that Georgia gave Russia a reason to enter.
Lets skip back a few years, back to the day the United States proudly invaded Iraq. The world wasn’t exactly pleased, especially many European countries were not. The United States invaded a sovereign country, who had not directly threatened the American nation or its citizens, under the disguise of weapons of mass-destruction. Afterwards it was all discovered to be false claims, lies to head into war. Did the world punish the United States for it? Was it important then to “guarantee Iraq’s sovereignty”? No, instead many countries and people who were initially against the war now support the American “occupation” of Iraq, because there is no use to be against something that has already happened and the more help they get, the faster Iraq can return to be sovereign.
No use, you say? I would think that remaining strong in your opinion against “hostile occupation” would have some use. Especially since all those countries and people are now beginning to turn their backs on Russia because of this war-situation. I talked about double standards in society3, but the strongest double standards are to be found in politics. Why were there no sanctions for the United States, and why are there going to be for Russia? That’s an easy question — because Russia is an easy target. It’s a country with a less-then-stable economy, heavily depended on industry, with not many true allies. Even though Europe is scared to punish Russia because the country is so vital for Europe’s energy supply, it also works in the other direction — if Russia would cut-off the supplies, the Russian economy would greatly be hit by it.
Back to the on-going war. Besides wanting to protect its citizens, and to destabilize Georgia, what does Russia also want? Protection. It’s becoming more and more clear that the United States will be putting (long-range) missiles in countries close to Russia. There already is an American force close to Russian borders, in Afghanistan and Iraq (and soon to be in Iran perhaps also?). The world is not screaming murder against the United States for closing-in on Russia, but when the Big Bear presents plans to become closer friends with Cuba the apocalypse is announced by opinion makers around the world.
Yes, sure, Russia is out to stop Georgia from becoming an even closer American ally and a NATO member, but is it so irrational that they want to? Russia is still perceived by most people as an evil country, ready to pull the world into World War III. That incorrect perception makes it hard for Russia to do anything without looking like the bad guys. The world wants Russia to become more open and democratic, but blocks every attempt for it to be a better country. Just look at the whole World Trade Organization mess. For Russia to become a more open, prosperous and democratic country it needs an economy that has all the options to grow out to be prosperous. Becoming a member of the World Trade Organization would be a great step for the Russian economy — but other countries are blocking the membership.
Might I remind you that the People’s Republic of China4 is a member of the World Trade Organization — as are the communist/socialist countries of Cuba and Vietnam. The United States wants nothing to do with Cuba (a relationship too childish to go into details about), and they don’t approve of communism/related-socialism. China basically has occupied Tibet for decades now, and the human rights in the nation are severely violated practically everyday.
Yet, I don’t hear anyone complaining about China being a WTO member. Isn’t it necessary to “guarantee Tibet’s sovereignty”? Doesn’t it matter that those three countries are prime examples of zero-democracy? I can understand why China is a WTO member, being an (upcoming) economic giant, but Cuba and Vietnam? They are worse in democracy than Russia, not to mention the United States has a deeper hate for them. But for some reason they are allowed to be part of the “economically-benefited group.”
It all comes down to Russia being bullied. Not just for their current political positions and actions — but also for the past. People had (and still have) this weird, irrational obsession against communism. It doesn’t matter how corrupt a certain democratic system may be, if it’s not a communistic one it’s all right. Back in the day the Soviet Union stood equal to “Russia,” and that keeps on reflecting even now, seventeen years after the Soviet Union fell. Where the United States gets free-passes, Russia gets criticized. Not because the United States is so much better, but because democracy is associated with that country, and corrupt-evilness is with the Russian Federation.
I’m not saying I agree with Russia’s stance in this war — I am not supporting the war or trying to say Russia is the good guy here. Fundamentally I’m against war in all cases, being a pacifist and all. But I do understand its position in the war, I do understand the frustration that must exist in Moscow about the double standards in world politics. If I would imagine myself to be Putin, I would feel threatened too. Perhaps it’s an irrational feeling — but a feeling no less. What I would like is for people to take a little bit more balanced opinion. One that doesn’t automatically resort to Cold War principles.
- New York Times Editorial; “Russia Takes Gori.” [↩]
- You can’t really call it an invasion, since they consider it to be part of their territory. [↩]
- “Double standards, pump and short-haired women in baggy jeans“ [↩]
- I recognize the existence of the Republic of China, but in this article (as they’re not mentioned) I will continue to refer to the People’s Republic as “China.” [↩]