Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Gazprom imperialism

One thing Anne Applebaum, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book, Gulag, gets right every time is her interpretation of Russian motivations. Today, she writes how the Russian invasion of Georgia is the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia all over again . . . and at the same time is not. Read the whole column.

Here are two nuggets that reveal the Russian mind:

The Russian state's open hostility toward not only Georgia but also Ukraine and the Baltic states is . . . partly ideological. Genuine elections have taken place in those countries; people who have not been preselected by a ruling oligarchy do sometimes gain wealth or power. Georgia's Rose Revolution and Ukraine's Orange Revolution even involved street demonstrations that helped unseat more oligarchic regimes. Thus it is not pure nationalism, or mere traditional great-power arrogance, that makes the Russian leadership disdainful of Georgia and Ukraine: It is also, at some level, fear that similar voter revolutions could someday challenge Russia's leaders, too.

* * *
. . . if the Russian military remains in Georgia proper, if this turns out to be only the first of several incursions into other neighboring states, there are relationships we have and meaningful levers we can use, whether over Russian membership in international institutions or Russian leaders' luxury apartments in Paris -- if, of course, we are willing to use them. The critical question now is whether the West is prepared to behave like the West, to speak with one voice and create a common transatlantic policy. In recent years, Russia has preferred to deal with Western countries and their leaders one by one. Just last week, an affiliate of Gazprom, the Russian state-dominated gas company, added a former Finnish prime minister to its payroll -- which already includes former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. If we hang together instead of allowing Gazprom to pick us all off separately, there is at least a chance that this mini-chill won't last another 40 years, too.

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