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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Ralph Peters

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Ralph Peters

Last Build Date: Fri, 22 Aug 2008 12:30:48 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2009

The End of The Fairy Tale

Fri, 22 Aug 2008 12:30:48 -0600

The American president is furious now, but it's too late. High noon came and went, and the much-derided cowboy-president wasn't there when he was needed. Instead, French president Nicolas Sarkozy, well-intentioned and inadequate, took time off from the Feydeau farce of his personal life and rushed to Moscow to "demand" a cease-fire in Georgia. The Putin regime was perfectly willing to let Monsieur le President return to Paris with a signed piece of paper. The Russians have drawn the lesson from Western efforts to negotiate with Iran and other rogue states that Europe can be narcotized with empty agreements and nebulous promises and that Europe has become a continent of bureaucrats who much prefer paperwork to reality. And there are no penalties when the agreements prove worthless. The Russian government was reasonably polite, but did not take Sarkozy seriously. Even as he presumed to speak for the European Union, he had no practical leverage with the Kremlin. One can only admire the unrivaled acuity with which Putin, the old KGB agent, sized up the other players he knew would come to the strategic gaming table. He took his cue to begin planning his punitive expedition into Georgia last winter, when a core group of European states, led by Germany, refused to inaugurate concrete measures (such as MAPs, or Military Action Plans) to set Ukraine and Georgia on course to become NATO members. Moscow read NATO's Sendung as an abandonment, especially of Georgia. Thereafter, Russia's leader surveyed the international characters who had chips on the table: President Bush had convinced himself that Putin was his friend and could be blindsided; Europe's leaders could be depended upon to quibble among themselves while seeking to avoid incurring any serious costs; and the mercurial President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia could be goaded into a conflict at the time of Russia's choosing. Putin chose that hour well. Beginning in late July, artillery barrages, sniping incidents and raids staged from South Ossetia increased in intensity as Russia's local clients prodded Georgia to respond. Politically and practically, Saakashvili had to react: no national leader can permit deadly, daily attacks upon his electorate to go unanswered. As Russian troops finished massing on Georgia's northern border, Putin notched the violence up again. Saakashvili took the bait on schedule. Western intelligence analysts had been expecting a violent confrontation for many months, yet none believed it would come just when it did, assuming that Putin wouldn't act during the Olympics. But Putin saw opportunity where others saw impossibility-a hallmark of genius. He exploited the simultaneous opening of the Olympics and the departure of EU, NATO and national European bureaucrats for their August vacations. Key leaders would be in Beijing, far from their capitals and staffs, while the world's attention would be focused on swimmers and gymnasts. From Washington to Berlin, the best and the brightest would be standing down at their beach homes, Tuscan farmhouses or Wyoming ranches. Putin gained a decisive 100 hours. From the start, Russian government voices all sang from the same score. Putin set the pitch, deploying lyrics he knew would resonate in the West, such as "genocide" and "response." With cold-blooded aplomb, the Russians accused the Georgians of doing precisely what the Russians were doing to the Georgians. Putin and his team understood that, in the Information Age, gaining early control of the narrative of events is essential and the Russians did it artfully. Throughout the first ten days of the crisis, the global media continued to find a moral equivalence between Russia's actions and Georgia's that was never there: untutored in the complexities of the region, lazy journalists accepted Moscow's proposition that a tiny nation with 87 decrepit tanks in its inventory had vigorously attacked a power that could deploy over 6,400 tanks. The result? Russia won this war, energetically integrating the va[...]