How should America and our allies in Europe respond to Russia’s attempt to annex Georgia, or at least to Finlandize it? ( I take that to be the Russian goal). It seems to be a fait accompli. Georgia will, once again, be part of the Russian Empire.
As we learned in the 20th century, and most centuries before that too, it is bad for a nation to let one its allies be wiped off the map. As ambition feeds ambition, taking one nation will only wet the Russian appetite for more, however irrationally. Doing nothing makes us look like a paper tiger.
But if Russia is about to annex one of our allies, and if we are not going to be able to prevent it, what should we do? There are other reactions that might be reasonable. In particular, we need to make Russia, and other nations of the world, know that we, and our allies in Europe, are serious about self-defense.
Others who are more versed in foreign policy should weigh in, but my first thought to that end, is that both we and our allies should increase the size of their armies. Robin Williams once joked that in England the police are unarmed, so they say, “stop, or I’ll say stop again.” That seems to have become the favored model of diplomacy in Europe. War is no longer seen as diplomacy by other means. It is regarded, like monogamy, as a relic of a former, less enlightened age. Russia, however, does not think that way.
Encouraging Europe to stand up to Russia would be good for both Europe and for Russia.
In his book on Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul II, John O’Sullivan tells us that President Reagan hoped that SDI would render nuclear missiles obsolete. If they had but a slim chance of hitting their targets, then the world might be made free of them. This idea scared the powers that be in Western Europe. Without nuclear missiles, they feared, the Communists could overwhelm them with their superior conventional forces. MAD, it seems, was a cheep way of deterring the Soviet threat in Europe.
O’Sullivan notes the following exchange. Thatcher: "’If I follow that logic to its implied conclusion,’ she said, ’and do get rid of nuclear weapons, you expose a dramatic conventional imbalance, do you not? And would we not have to restore that balance at considerable expense?’"
Reagan: "’Yes,’ replied Reagan, ’that’s exactly what I imagined.’"
Reagan’s comment makes me wonder whether he saw America’s defense of Europe in the Cold War as a from of welfare. European politics grew somewhat infantile because American protection, combined with MAD, deprived it of the full responsibilities of self-government. Liberal elites like welfare, of course, partly because it makes them feel important. Reagan was more of a tough love kind of guy.
A serious response to Russia, by which I mean an acceptance in the EU and in European capitols that soft-power can never be a sufficient form of diplomacy, might not only be a reasonable response to Russian’s aggression in the narrow sense, showing Russia that Europe will not simply roll over in the face of naked aggression and energy blackmail, it might also be good for the European soul.