Obama Adviser Brzezinski to the Rescue...of Russia?

Patrick Casey
Last week, Barack Obama's foreign policy adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was sounding tough on Russia, perhaps due to the tepid reaction to Obama's initial vapid comments on Russia's invasion of Georgia. Here's an excerpt from an article that ran in the U.K. Guardian on August 12th, 2008: Obama adviser compares Putin to Hitler:

The former US national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, has called on the world community to isolate Russia in protest over its campaign in the Caucasus, likening its tactics to those of "Hitler or Stalin".

...He said that Putin's "justification" for splitting up Georgia - because of the Russian citizens living in South Ossetia - could be compared to when Hitler used the alleged suffering of ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland as a pretext for annexing Czechoslovakia in 1938.

An understandable, and true, assessment of what's going on in Georgia. Since then, things haven't gotten any better. Despite mounting international criticism, Russia continues to occupy Georgia, is in the process of destroying the Georgian military and infrastructure, and is moving forward with plans to formally annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Frederick W. Kagan has an updated situation report on the developments in the Georgian conflict over at The Institute for the Study of War website here. Included in the latest news is this:

Abkhazia and South Ossetia have requested Russian recognition of their independence; the Russian Federation Council will hold an extraordinary session on August 25 to consider these requests.  A Russian parliamentarian stated that Russia was quite willing to allow both republics, once independent, to join the Russian Federation.

What's happening in Georgia right now is sad, but not unexpected. The so-called "ceasefire agreement" that was negotiated by the EU (spearheaded by France) and signed by both Georgia and Russia was filled with loopholes. But it really didn't matter how bad the agreement was. Russia has had this aggression planned for quite some time and is going to finish what it set out to do -- either turn the entirety of Georgia into a puppet state of Russia or annex it altogether.

To put it plainly, the situation has gotten much worse since Brzezinski's aforementioned words on August 12th. Countries like Poland have seen the writing on the wall and have quickly signed up for our missile defense system, something that was highly improbable (at least this fast) two weeks ago. I would think that an adviser to Obama, especially one like Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski with his vast knowledge of the former Soviet Union, would be tougher on Russia today than he was nine days ago. But we're dealing with Democrats here, so I'm not entirely surprised that I'm wrong.

Sweetness & Light points us to an interview conducted with Zbigniew Brzezinski by Russia's news agency, Interfax: U.S. decision on missile defense elements in Europe could be revised in next Congress - Brzezinski. In essence, Obama's adviser tells the Russians that regardless of who becomes President next year, they shouldn't worry about little things like missile defense systems -- the Democrats in Congress are about to save the day:

There is no urgency in the immediate deployment of U.S. missile defense elements in Eastern Europe, former U.S. national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski told Interfax in an interview.

It would be absolutely justified for the next U.S. Congress to again have a critical look at these proposals, Brzezinski said.

Noting that, while it is hard to tell what each candidate for the U.S. presidency will do, Brzezinski said the Congress, with its democratic majority, will be skeptical of this idea.

He also said he knew little about the missile defense elements in question but suggested that they were unlikely to be directed against Russia.

Brzezinski goes on to say that as for the Russians' concerns over the Ukrainian and Georgian fast track on NATO, not to worry:

"The Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine and Georgia is the only thing under consideration now, but, even if it is granted to them, this would not yet mean the decision to admit them."

The rest of the interview contains similarly soft platitudes to the Russians. And this is from someone who should know better. But it's also a helpful reminder of why it was Ronald Reagan, and not the Democrats and their intelligentsia, who won the Cold War.

To the Russians, and especially to someone like Vladimir Putin, diplomacy and negotiations are something you engage in while you continue to go about accomplishing your business. Putin has goals -- many of them unclear to us now -- and he is not going to rest until he either finishes achieving them or he is stopped. That does not mean that a military confrontation is either inevitable or desired, by either side. It means that unless we take strong stands and actions to counter Putin, he will not be deterred. Russians respect strength, and despise weakness.

The type of weakness that Brzezinski, Obama, the Democrats, the State Department, NATO, and many of our non-Eastern European allies currently reek of.

Addendum: To set the record straight, I'm not a fatalist regarding Russia. During the 90s, I traveled to Russia as a businessman with the Watson Institute at Brown University, and subsequently returned and lived on Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg for a while. I grew to greatly admire both the people and the country of Russia. I strongly feel that the West, and the United States in particular, abandoned Russia during the 90s. We had an incredible opportunity to help them get on their feet, at the same time helping ourselves in the process. Instead, we let them down. In addition to my own personal culpability, I place the blame squarely at the feet of the State Department and whoever was handling Russian policy during the first Bush Administration and the entire Clinton Administration. It was a collective embarrassment.

The Russians have reason to be upset with us. Our actions during the 90s showed that our word, at least on an economic and business level, could not be trusted. The rise of Vladimir Putin, therefore, was an entirely understandable and predictable development. And as soon as Putin took charge, it was just a matter of time before something like Georgia occurred.

Just because public opinion polls during the 90s showed that voters thought it was no longer important to concentrate on Russia, since we had already "won" the Cold War, doesn't mean that we shouldn't have done so. In actuality, it was always vital that the peaceful economic development of Russia remain on our front burner. It wasn't, so we blew it - at least for now.

Having said that, do I think that Russia's actions and rhetoric today are defensible? No, not at all -- as I've made quite clear in my writing. But neither do I think that all is lost between our countries. I firmly believe that it's still possible to have close and mutually beneficial economic, diplomatic, and military relations between us.

In order to have that develop, however, we must be strong, and regain the respect of Russia. Putin is betting that the West, and the United States in particular, will cave in and accept whatever he and Russia decides to do. And he has good reason to believe such a thing. He's watched with interest how the Democrats have dealt with Iraq, and with glee how the West has dealt with Iran, North Korea and the terrorists surrounding Israel. Putin assumes that Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States, and is looking forward to eating him for lunch.

We must prove Putin wrong, on a number of different levels.
Last week, Barack Obama's foreign policy adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was sounding tough on Russia, perhaps due to the tepid reaction to Obama's initial vapid comments on Russia's invasion of Georgia. Here's an excerpt from an article that ran in the U.K. Guardian on August 12th, 2008: Obama adviser compares Putin to Hitler:

The former US national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, has called on the world community to isolate Russia in protest over its campaign in the Caucasus, likening its tactics to those of "Hitler or Stalin".

...He said that Putin's "justification" for splitting up Georgia - because of the Russian citizens living in South Ossetia - could be compared to when Hitler used the alleged suffering of ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland as a pretext for annexing Czechoslovakia in 1938.

An understandable, and true, assessment of what's going on in Georgia. Since then, things haven't gotten any better. Despite mounting international criticism, Russia continues to occupy Georgia, is in the process of destroying the Georgian military and infrastructure, and is moving forward with plans to formally annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Frederick W. Kagan has an updated situation report on the developments in the Georgian conflict over at The Institute for the Study of War website here. Included in the latest news is this:

Abkhazia and South Ossetia have requested Russian recognition of their independence; the Russian Federation Council will hold an extraordinary session on August 25 to consider these requests.  A Russian parliamentarian stated that Russia was quite willing to allow both republics, once independent, to join the Russian Federation.

What's happening in Georgia right now is sad, but not unexpected. The so-called "ceasefire agreement" that was negotiated by the EU (spearheaded by France) and signed by both Georgia and Russia was filled with loopholes. But it really didn't matter how bad the agreement was. Russia has had this aggression planned for quite some time and is going to finish what it set out to do -- either turn the entirety of Georgia into a puppet state of Russia or annex it altogether.

To put it plainly, the situation has gotten much worse since Brzezinski's aforementioned words on August 12th. Countries like Poland have seen the writing on the wall and have quickly signed up for our missile defense system, something that was highly improbable (at least this fast) two weeks ago. I would think that an adviser to Obama, especially one like Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski with his vast knowledge of the former Soviet Union, would be tougher on Russia today than he was nine days ago. But we're dealing with Democrats here, so I'm not entirely surprised that I'm wrong.

Sweetness & Light points us to an interview conducted with Zbigniew Brzezinski by Russia's news agency, Interfax: U.S. decision on missile defense elements in Europe could be revised in next Congress - Brzezinski. In essence, Obama's adviser tells the Russians that regardless of who becomes President next year, they shouldn't worry about little things like missile defense systems -- the Democrats in Congress are about to save the day:

There is no urgency in the immediate deployment of U.S. missile defense elements in Eastern Europe, former U.S. national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski told Interfax in an interview.

It would be absolutely justified for the next U.S. Congress to again have a critical look at these proposals, Brzezinski said.

Noting that, while it is hard to tell what each candidate for the U.S. presidency will do, Brzezinski said the Congress, with its democratic majority, will be skeptical of this idea.

He also said he knew little about the missile defense elements in question but suggested that they were unlikely to be directed against Russia.

Brzezinski goes on to say that as for the Russians' concerns over the Ukrainian and Georgian fast track on NATO, not to worry:

"The Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine and Georgia is the only thing under consideration now, but, even if it is granted to them, this would not yet mean the decision to admit them."

The rest of the interview contains similarly soft platitudes to the Russians. And this is from someone who should know better. But it's also a helpful reminder of why it was Ronald Reagan, and not the Democrats and their intelligentsia, who won the Cold War.

To the Russians, and especially to someone like Vladimir Putin, diplomacy and negotiations are something you engage in while you continue to go about accomplishing your business. Putin has goals -- many of them unclear to us now -- and he is not going to rest until he either finishes achieving them or he is stopped. That does not mean that a military confrontation is either inevitable or desired, by either side. It means that unless we take strong stands and actions to counter Putin, he will not be deterred. Russians respect strength, and despise weakness.

The type of weakness that Brzezinski, Obama, the Democrats, the State Department, NATO, and many of our non-Eastern European allies currently reek of.

Addendum: To set the record straight, I'm not a fatalist regarding Russia. During the 90s, I traveled to Russia as a businessman with the Watson Institute at Brown University, and subsequently returned and lived on Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg for a while. I grew to greatly admire both the people and the country of Russia. I strongly feel that the West, and the United States in particular, abandoned Russia during the 90s. We had an incredible opportunity to help them get on their feet, at the same time helping ourselves in the process. Instead, we let them down. In addition to my own personal culpability, I place the blame squarely at the feet of the State Department and whoever was handling Russian policy during the first Bush Administration and the entire Clinton Administration. It was a collective embarrassment.

The Russians have reason to be upset with us. Our actions during the 90s showed that our word, at least on an economic and business level, could not be trusted. The rise of Vladimir Putin, therefore, was an entirely understandable and predictable development. And as soon as Putin took charge, it was just a matter of time before something like Georgia occurred.

Just because public opinion polls during the 90s showed that voters thought it was no longer important to concentrate on Russia, since we had already "won" the Cold War, doesn't mean that we shouldn't have done so. In actuality, it was always vital that the peaceful economic development of Russia remain on our front burner. It wasn't, so we blew it - at least for now.

Having said that, do I think that Russia's actions and rhetoric today are defensible? No, not at all -- as I've made quite clear in my writing. But neither do I think that all is lost between our countries. I firmly believe that it's still possible to have close and mutually beneficial economic, diplomatic, and military relations between us.

In order to have that develop, however, we must be strong, and regain the respect of Russia. Putin is betting that the West, and the United States in particular, will cave in and accept whatever he and Russia decides to do. And he has good reason to believe such a thing. He's watched with interest how the Democrats have dealt with Iraq, and with glee how the West has dealt with Iran, North Korea and the terrorists surrounding Israel. Putin assumes that Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States, and is looking forward to eating him for lunch.

We must prove Putin wrong, on a number of different levels.