Continuing the theme from DanBlather’s thread about the Georgia-Russia conflict in South Ossetia and Abkhazia I’d like to get a better grasp on what the motives are on the Russian side.
One of the larger themes in most of the news coverage and summaries I’ve read online is that this conflict is at it’s core about Georgia’s pro-Western government and Russia’s anger over that. I’m not entirely clear why Russia is so against the West and the US these days.
As far as I can tell, Russia has a representative democracy that is in many ways identical to ours and many of the mature democracies in Europe. I see no reason why the US and EU would be viewed as antagonistic towards them, and if we are antagonistic I don’t understand the motive. All in all the Russian regime matches the biggest of our ideals even if it’s got corruption issues. They aren’t warm and fuzzy and they are a little rough on Human Rights issues but compared to China and much of the Islamic world they are the good guys.
In the news the general consensus is that if the US and EU go left Russia will go right. Why is that? Why do they view the pro-Western governments in Ukraine and Georgia as so destabilizing? Economically and culturally it seems that being close allies with the US and EU would be of benefit to them due to the massive trade advantages. Is it just about ego and pride?
So what’s the scoop? Why does Russia fear Western influence and why might it hurt them if their neighbors and the West were to become allies?
For a long time Russian history has been about a series of external takeovers and invasions. Through much of the 1900s, Russia (or more precisely the USSR) and the US were fighting th cold war and fighting a war of ideals (capitalism vs communism). Remember Kruschev banging his shoe on the table at the UN and saying, in Russian, “We will be at your funeral”, and the translator stating this in English as “We will bury you”. The sentiment was usually pretty contradictory if not confrontational, and lack of mutual understanding and appreciation only made things worse.
Sorry, but that seems like a really lazy response. The current power structure in Russia has no connection to the past leaders you mention and they are operating in a completely new environment under a completely different political system. I simply don’t buy the “that the way it’s always been” response to explain why Russia is against the US, I give the people in power way more credit than that.
You’re starting with a faulty premise, which is that the Georgia/Russia conflict is because Russia is angry at Georgia’s pro-West stance. That’s how some news reports are spinning it, but keep in mind that Russia didn’t even fire first in this conflict.
I don’t know who fired first in this conflict, and I don’t think anybody does right now. But I agree with Mosier that there are other reasons for Russia to move in, like there are in fact russian citiziens in the area who in fact are being attacked. I personally believe that Russia is overworking it a bit to show Georgia and other neighbours that they are dead serious about this NATO membership thing that’s going on around their borders. Putin don’t like, and perhaps he has reasons not to.
This is moot and you misread my OP. All I said was that one of the larger themes being reported is that Russia is adverse to pro-Western governments and generally anti-West politically. I offer no opinion on how accurate the reporting is or how much of a factor anti-Western sentiment is in the Russian response and escalation to this particular situation.
Now, if you are arguing that Russia isn’t anti-West politically on the whole, then I’m open to hearing the evidence to the contrary. If you want to open a debate on who the good guy and bad guy is in the current conflict that’s a discussion for another thread.
The region is strategically very important; for instance, there’s a pipeline going from Kaukasus to Europe through Georgia without passing through Russia. - Russia has Europe (for instance, Germany) in quite a grip, because European countries are to some extent depending on Russian oil and natural gases, which is why EU and Germany at times are overseeing some of the strategic/economic desisions Russia are making, which should cause some concern.
Apparently I haven’t done a good job of framing the question. My questions are not about the current strife in Georgia. I know it’s a complex issue with historic and ethnic complications on top of strategic concerns. There’s already a thread about the Georgian conflict’s whats, whos and whys.
You do bring up one interesting point. The EU relies heavily on Russian oil and natural gas, which further highlights my question of why Russia and the EU would be at odds. They have a mutually beneficial trade situation that is undermined by this animosity. Unlike in the US-Middle East situation there is no larger religious disagreement to hinge the conflict on. Why would Russia be adversarial to it’s trade partners?
From looking at most countries, keeping up old grudges seems to be a rather large determining factor in international affairs for most nations throughout the world. The Middle East hates Israel for historical reasons. Japan is distrusted throughout Eastern Asia for historical reasons. And so on. And when governments change, usually they’re very similar to the one that left, regardless of whether the old one was a monarchy and the new one is a democracy.
Whether this is the case in Russia, I don’t know. But it seems rather idealistic to dismiss it.
It’s simple power politics. The Russians rightly see conflicts of countries’ interests as conflicts between countries, not between their respective ephemeral leadership (i.e. it wasn’t “the Soviet leadership” that at the end of the Cold War finished second best against “the NATO leadership at the time”, but “Russia” against “NATO”.)
(it seems to have been a peculiar American conceit in the last few decades to frame a conflict as being e.g. with “Noriega”, “Milosevic” or “Saddam”). A conceit that isn’t shared by many outside the US, I suspect.
Democracy or otherwise doesn’t come into it - for the purposes of power politics it is irrelevant whether countries like the Eastern European countries, Georgia, Mongolia, etc. are governed democratically, “democratically” or by a God-Emperor, it only matters whether they side economically, militarily and diplomatically with “us” or “them”.
Because said trade partners have lured their erstwhile allies away from, beginning with the defection of Eastern Europe to NATO, up to and including the Kosovo independence. They consider themselves to have been humiliated, and now to be able to do something about it.
That’s fair. Dismissing it goes too far, but in the other cases you cite there’s a clear political and strategic issue underlying those grudges. In many ways it seems that the “grudge” is simply a political talking point or a propaganda tool to motivate an uneducated public.
The Middle East hates Israel because they are Jews who hold “sacred” land. I’m not sure comparing it to a historical grudge really captures the point.
Asian nations mistrust the Japanese (though I’m curious how up to date this is) because they are extremely close to the US and a strong democracy amongst authoritarian nations with clear conflicts with the US. The simple person might hold a grudge from WWII and previous Japanese imperialism but I don’t think that this new Japan has much similarity to justify it practically.
In Russia’s case the “grudge” seems to be against their self-interest. And that grudge hinged on wildly divergent
If Mexico went communist and Canada began putting up Russian anti-missile defense systems cleary pointed to the south, and Cuba began talking about a Warsaw Pact kind of deal with Russia — wouldn’t the White House be bit concerned? Even though Putin said: “Old grugdes, eh? C’mon, pal, it’s the 21th century now, and besides, there’s this war on terror you know?”
Omniscient First of all Russia is not really a Democracy, it’s a Plutocracy with an Autocratic central authority figure. Vladmir Putin continues to run Russia, and his second in command, Medvedev was the head of Gazprom. If you put the conflict into economic terms it generally makes more sense. I don’t think Russia is necessarily anti-western as they are competitive with their most significant rivals. I don’t think it’s terribly ideological. They want to have control over resources in their direct sphere. This includes the pipelines that run through Georgia, and the natural gas deal they just penned in Turkmenistan. NATO membership for the post-Soviet states is specifically Western attempts at containing Russia from ever again becoming the empire it has been several times historically.
Russia says that the United States agreed back in 1990 that it would not seek to bring former Warsaw Pact countries into the western sphere of influence in exchange for the Soviet Union not arguing about German reunification and its treaty rights. I don’t know if any argeements were made or what was actually said, but the Russians claim that the United States has violated this agreement by allowing former Warsaw Pact nations (and former Soviet nations) into NATO.