With President Barack Obama’s trip to Moscow on Monday, you might expect Russia to avoid stirring up any trouble. Yet the Russian media are now abuzz with speculation about a new war in Georgia, and some Western analysts are voicing similar concerns. The idea seems insane. Nonetheless, the risk is real. …
Given all this, a war seems unlikely. What’s more probable is that Russia will seek to destabilize Georgia without military action. This saber-rattling may be meant to boost Georgian opposition to Mr. Saakashvili.
Still, Moscow’s actions are not always rational. If the pro-war faction believes that the Western response to an assault on Georgia would be weak and half-hearted, it could be emboldened. In a June 25 column on the EJ.ru Web site, Russian journalist Yulia Latynina writes that the probability of the war “depends solely on the Kremlin’s capacity to convince itself that it can convince the world that the war is its enemies’ fault.”
That is why it’s essential for the United States and the EU to respond now — by increasing their non-military presence in Georgia, expressing a strong commitment to Georgian sovereignty, and reminding Russia of the consequences of aggression. Such a statement from President Obama in Moscow would go a long way toward preventing the possibility of another tragedy.
Hmm. Given recent weeks’ events, the odds of President Obama talking tough to Putin? Oy.