In a no-nonsense op-ed in Saturday's London Telegraph, John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, nails on the head the West's failure to respond to Moscow's aggression in Georgia.
The West, collectively, failed in this crisis. Georgia wasted its dime making that famous 3am telephone call to the White House, the one Hillary Clinton referred to in a campaign ad questioning Barack Obama's fitness for the Presidency.
The faults aren't all America's, of course. Old Europe's response has been at least as flaccid, which is at least consistent with how it has behaved when faced with previous Kremlin bellicosity. In the last few years, whenever a western-leaning bloc country did something to upset Moscow, the latter would cut back on Europe's oil and gas supplies that flow through pipelines in bloc countries. And who would Europe then blame? Not Moscow, but the former bBloc countries—for having the temerity to want to determine their own future.
Like it or not, Moscow has a new taste for revanchism. And as Bolton makes clear, the Kremlin's Georgian escapade has nothing to do with it feeling threatened and everything to do with western weakness:
Europe's rejection this spring of President Bush's proposal to start Ukraine and Georgia towards Nato membership was the real provocation to Russia, because it exposed Western weakness and timidity. As long as that perception exists in Moscow, the risk to other former Soviet territories—and in precarious regions such as the Middle East—will remain.
And this exposes a serious flaw in the breathless media speculation that this is a return to the Cold War days. Then, at least, the West knew what it was facing and was galvanized to resist it. Now, the West knows what it faces but can only wring its hands in uselessness. And the hand-wringing will continue until the West wisens up and realizes that its own fractures and weaknesses are permitting destabilization.