This happened several weeks ago and I reported on it then but thought is was worth repeating in somewhat more detail. (See 1 below.)
Russia is again a force to be reckoned with and Putin means business, He is willing to play hardball because he has the upper hand. Russia now begins diplomatic talks and Georgia is over a barrel and the west with them. (See 2 2a below.)
Olmert lays down an opportunity for Abbas. Olmert has offered Abbas less land than Barak offered Arafat but a passage connection Gaza and the West Bank to compensate. Abbas will have to sell this deal to his people and Olmert to his. Status of Jerusalem has been deferred.
Palestinians always want more and consequently lose. The question for Abbas is threefold:
a) Can he assure Israel security from Hamas?
b) Can he convinmce his people a state is better than trying to eliminate Israel.
c) Can Abbas survive and impose this deal on the thugs who control Gaza?
The Palestinians have been teaching hate for so long I don't believe they will be able to meet the conditions Israel needs for their own security but then I am cynical. (See 3 below.)
Christopher Chantrill submits the five Republican Senators, who want to prove they are nice guys and bi-partisan, are really political traitors. The very least one can say is that they are stupid. (See 4 below.)
It would not surprise me if Russia was behind possible renewed action on the part of Hezballah against Israel. A strong and secure Israel remains a long term threat to Russia's objectives to gain greater influence in the region through arm deals and commercial ties.
Russia's no nonsense action against Georgia should send a chilling message to those in the region about its intentions and the West's powerlessness in the face of swift Russian action. The bear has a long reach and crushing hug.
The only positive that could possibly come from what happened in Georgia is that it serves as a wake up call to the U.S. if we are wide eyed enough to see and comprehend? (See 5 and 5a below.)
1) Refugees from whom?
Extraordinary developments in Gaza have given a new meaning to the term 'Palestinian refugees'. As the Jerusalem Post reports, fierce fighting in Gaza between Fatah and Hamas over the weekend, in which 11 people died and dozens more were wounded, resulted in 180 Fatah refugees fleeing from what they called a 'war of genocide' by Hamas against Fatah supporters. And where did they flee to? Why, to Israel, of course -- which allowed them in and proceeded to treat 23 of them (some of whom were wounded by the Israeli army after they approached the crossing into Israel) in Israeli hospitals. These refugees say they cannot return to Gaza because they will be killed. How fortunate, therefore, that their own Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas, can give them sanctuary in the West Bank!
But hang on – Abbas won't let them in. Yup, with the exception of five individuals whom he did allow in, he's denied them all sanctuary. He says they should go back to Gaza. And the invaluable Khaled abu Toameh tells us the reason why:
PA officials explained that the reason behind their refusal to absorb the new 'refugees' was their desire not to encourage other residents of the Gaza Strip to leave. 'Everyone knows that if we allow people to leave the Gaza Strip, almost all the residents living there would try to cross the border into Israel,' said a senior PA official.
But there was also another reason:
The last thing Abbas needs is another 180 bitter Fatah thugs from the Gaza Strip patrolling the streets of Ramallah, Bethlehem and Nablus and imposing a reign of terror on the local population. Past experience has shown that the Palestinians in the West Bank have never been enthusiastic about the presence of their brethren from the Gaza Strip among them.
So now Israel, with its iron commitment to human rights, is to hear a court case today where it will be argued that Israel has a moral duty to grant asylum to these Fatah men.
So let's get our head round this: Palestinians committed to the destruction of Israel fled from other Palestinians committed to the destruction of Israel into Israel, which is providing them with sanctuary and medical treatment, while the president of their putative state who bases his claim against Israel on its alleged refusal to admit Palestinian 'refugees' refused to allow actual Palestinian refugees fleeing Palestinian violence access to that same putative state, while Israel agonizes over whether to grant them permanent asylum. Surreal, or what?
One of the Fatah men said that he too was wounded at the beginning of the clashes. The father of three, who has undergone surgery in his leg, said he first tried to go to a hospital in Gaza City, but was blocked by Hamas. 'Hamas had closed all the roads leading to the hospital. I wanted to go to Shifa Hospital [in Gaza City], but Hamas did not allow any ambulance to enter our area. In the end, my brother drove me to the Israeli border,' he said. When asked if he wanted to go back to the Gaza Strip, he replied: 'It would be like a death sentence for me. I hope they don't force us to go back.'
Hamas closed the roads leading to the hospital... not allowing ambulances to enter the area to collect the wounded... When reading the coverage of these clashes later today in the British press or watching and listening to it on the BBC, just consider what that coverage would have been like if it had been Israel rather than Hamas that had behaved like this. The Jerusalem Post reports:
At least 12 of those who were wounded in Saturday's fighting were under the age of 15...
What is that unfamiliar sound emanating from all those who routinely scream that Israel kills Palestinian children? It is called silence.
2) Analysis: Russia sends a message to the West
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
Georgia lost a foolhardy gamble in thumbing its nose at its powerful neighbor Russia, which this weekend bombed Georgian cities and wrested control of its breakaway province of South Ossetia, according to Israeli Russian experts.
Russia had seen a "golden opportunity" to teach Georgia and its neighbors a lesson to "behave properly," said Hebrew University Russian expert Yitzhak Brudny, as he explained how a small military flare-up between Georgia and South Ossetia had turned into a major military exercise for Russia and drawn world attention away from the Olympics in Beijing.
With all eyes turned toward China, Georgia's pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili had hoped he could respond harshly to a skirmish with South Ossetia on Friday and try and regain control of the separatist province, said Russian expert Amnon Sella of the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya.
"It backfired on him because Georgia, which has a very small army, can't take on Russia," which had obviously been prepared for such a move given its swift response, said Sella.
"Saakashvili is a young president who is not well seasoned in international affairs," said Sella. He had hoped the international community and in particular the West would support Georgia's moves in South Ossetia and that Russia would not respond, he added.
Saakashvili, explained Brudny, has a reputation for being a "hothead" who does not always think through what he is doing.
Instead of responding diplomatically, Russia, which has granted passports to most South Ossetians, sent combat troops into South Ossetia and attacked Georgia from the air.
The bombardment was a way for Moscow to kill a few birds with one stone, Brundy and other academics said.
It showed both Georgia and the West that Russia was a regional superpower to be reckoned with, said Brudny. The message was: "We are going to use force, we are not going to tolerate a hostile regime on our borderland."
"Russia wants to maintain the status quo, meaning they wield influence over the region," including a monopoly on sources of energy, said Sella. Running through Georgia is the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipline, the second largest in the world for the transport of crude oil, he said.
By flexing its military might against Georgia, Moscow paid the West back for its recognition of Kosovo's independence; a move that Russia had opposed, said Brudny.
In addition, he said, Russia hoped that its violent response would mark the beginning of the end of the Saakashvili government, which seeks to join NATO and had moved the country away from Russia in favor of the West. Moscow would like to see a pro-Russian government replace Saakshvilli, he added.
Russia is nervous because NATO is expanding into its back yard with both Georgia and the Ukraine seeking membership at the same time that NATO is putting an anti-missile system in neighboring countries, specifically in in Poland and Czechia, said Zvi Magen, a former ambassador to Russia and the current chairman of the Institute for Eurasian studies at the IDC in Herzliya.
While the system is supposedly aimed at protecting Europe from Iran, the Russians are still uneasy about it, he added.
Saakshvilli, in a way, had been "ambushed" by the larger forces in play here, said Magen. For some time now Russia had been in opposition to the West in its region, but had been able to do little more than verbally protest - this was an opportunity for it to flex its muscles, said Magen.
In this way, he added, it also sent a message to the American administration that will replace Bush in January: Russia is not a force to be ignored.
2a) Russian president halts military operation in Georgia as diplomatic haggling begins
This announcement from the Kremlin came after Moscow’s first formal statement on its terms for ending hostilities in the Caucasian War. A senior Russian army commander confirmed the troops had received orders top their advance.
Military sources: Moscow’s curb on Russian forces leaves Abkhazian and South Ossetian troops free to combat the Georgian army.
The Russian spokesman Boris Malakhov, explaining President Dimitry Medvedev’s decision to end the Georgian military operation, denied Russian troops were ever in Georgian territory, but only in the “peacekeeping” regions [South Ossetia and Abkhazia). Moscow reserved the right to respond militarily to future Georgian attacks.
Referring to the second breakaway region, Malakhov said Abkhazian troops were trying to liberate the Kodory Gorge from Georgian occupying troops. Moscow has no desire for “regime change”, which he said was an American expression, or territorial ambitions in Georgia. “Our only goal was to enforce peace and since this goal has been achieved, our president has ended the operation.”
Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov earlier demanded total Georgian withdrawal from South Ossetia and retreat not only from the breakaway region but also the facilities in the vicinity of next-door Gori used to attack the region. A similar withdrawal must take place in areas of Georgia abutting Abkhazia as well. He demanded a signed pledge from Georgia renouncing the use of force and said that Georgian president Mikhail Saakashivili was no longer trusted as a negotiating partner.
The Russian bombardment of Gori, deserted Monday night by Georgian troops, continued earlier Tuesday and focused on Georgian artillery positions. Rocket explosions reported by witnesses killed four people, among them a Dutch TV correspondent.
Lavrov and the Finnish foreign minister Alexander Stubb answered reporters’ questions in Moscow Tuesday, Aug. 12 ahead of French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s arrival to launch a mediation bid that will take him later to Tbilisi.
The meeting between NATO ambassadors and Russia scheduled for Tuesday was postponed, slowing the diplomatic momentum.
Stubb said he was sick and tired of the battle of words and wanted everyone to focus on securing a ceasefire, solving the humanitarian problem and stopping the inflammatory rhetoric.
Lavrov said Russia wanted to restore peace but ruled out Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili as a partner for peace talks who is not trusted any more. This is not a pre-condition, he said, but it would best if he resigned before peace talks began. His actions need to be investigated because Georgia’s steps amounted to genocide.
“We have no plans to impose leadership in Georgia; other countries do that,” he said. “We leave that to the Georgian people.”
The Russian foreign minister said Saakashvili had been hysterical when he accused Moscow of seeking to annex Georgia, which was not true.
3) Olmert to PA: We'll quit West Bank when you retake Gaza
By Aluf Benn
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has presented Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a proposal for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, to take place after Abbas' forces have retaken Gaza, as part of an agreement in principle on borders, refugees and security arrangements between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
Olmert, who met with Abbas this week, feels there is time to reach an agreement during his remaining time in office. He is now awaiting a decision from the Palestinians.
The centerpiece of Olmert's detailed proposal is the suggested permanent border, which would be based on an Israeli withdrawal from most of the West Bank. In return for the land retained by Israel in the West Bank, the Palestinians would receive alternative land in the Negev, adjacent to the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians would also enjoy free passage between Gaza and the West Bank without any security checks, the proposal says.
A senior Israeli official said the Palestinians were given preliminary maps of the proposed borders.
Under Olmert's offer, Israel would keep 7 percent of the West Bank, while the Palestinians would receive territory equivalent to 5.5 percent of West Bank. Israel views the passage between Gaza and the West Bank as compensating for this difference: Though it would officially remain in Israeli hands, it would connect the two halves of the Palestinian state - a connection the Palestinians did not enjoy before 1967, when the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian control and the West Bank was part of Jordan.
The land to be annexed to Israel would include the large settlement blocs, and the border would be similar to the present route of the separation fence. Israel would keep Ma'aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, the settlements surrounding Jerusalem and some land in the northern West Bank adjacent to Israel.
Since Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently approved more construction in both Efrat and Ariel, two settlements relatively far from the 1949 armistice lines, it is reasonable to assume that Olmert wants to include these settlements in the territory annexed to Israel as well.
Olmert's proposal states that once a border is agreed upon, Israel would be able to build freely in the settlement blocs to be annexed.
The settlements outside the new border would be evacuated in two stages. First, after the agreement in principle is signed, the cabinet would initiate legislation to compensate settlers who voluntarily relocate within Israel or to settlement blocs slated to be annexed. Over the past few months, Olmert has approved construction of thousands of housing units in these settlement blocs, mostly around Jerusalem, and some are intended for the voluntary evacuees.
In the second stage, once the Palestinians complete a series of internal reforms and are capable of carrying out the entire agreement, Israel would remove any settlers remaining east of the new border.
Olmert will to try to sell the deal to the Israeli public based on a staged program of implementation. The present negotiations, which started with the Annapolis Summit in November 2007, are intended to reach a "shelf agreement" that would lay the foundations of a Palestinian state. However, implementation of the shelf agreement would be postponed until the Palestinian Authority is capable of carrying out its part of the deal.
Olmert's proposal for a land swap introduces a new stage in the arrangement: Israel would immediately receive the settlement blocs, but the land to be transferred to the Palestinians and the free passage between Gaza and the West Bank would only be delivered after the PA retakes control of the Gaza Strip. In this way, Olmert could tell the Israeli public that Israel is receiving 7 percent of the West Bank and an agreed-upon border, while the Israeli concessions will be postponed until Hamas rule in Gaza has ended.
Abbas, for his part, could tell his people that he has succeeded in obtaining 98 percent of the West Bank from Israel, along with a promise to remove all settlers over the border.
The Palestinians' proposal had talked about a much smaller land swap, of about 2 percent of the West Bank.
Compared to previous Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the Olmert proposal falls between the one then prime minister Barak presented to Yasser Arafat at Camp David in July 2000 and the one he offered at Taba in January 2001. The Palestinian proposal is similar to the ones offered during the Arafat years, which would have allowed Israel to annex only a few settlements, along with their access roads - a proposal nicknamed "balloons and strings." All these Palestinian proposals ruled out allowing Israel to retain the settlement blocs.
Since then, however, the separation fence has been built in the West Bank, and a new physical reality has been created in the areas where the fence has been completed.
Israel also presented the Palestinians with a detailed model of new security arrangements under the proposed agreement. The security proposal was drawn up by a team headed by Maj. Gen. Ido Nehoshtan, now commander of the Israel Air Force, but previously head of the army's Plans and Policy Directorate. The proposal has also been passed on to the Americans, in an effort to obtain their support for Israel's position during the negotiations.
The security proposal includes a demand that the Palestinian state be demilitarized and without an army. The Palestinians, in contrast, are demanding that their security forces be capable of defending against "outside threats," an Israeli official said.
On the refugee issue, Olmert's proposal rejects a Palestinian "right of return" and states that the refugees may only return to the Palestinian state, other than exceptional cases in which refugees would be allowed into Israel for family reunification. Nevertheless, the proposal includes a detailed and complex formula for solving the refugee problem.
Olmert has agreed with Abbas that the negotiations over Jerusalem will be postponed. In doing so, he gave in to the Shas Party's threats that it would leave the coalition if Jerusalem were put on the negotiating table.
Olmert views reaching an agreement with the Palestinians as extremely important. Such an agreement would entrench the two-state solution in the international community's consciousness, along with a detailed framework for achieving this solution. In Olmert's opinion, this is the only way Israel can rebuff challenges to its legitimacy and avoid calls for a "one-state solution." Such an agreement would show that Israel is not interested in controlling the territories, or the Palestinians, over the long run, but only until conditions arise that enable the establishment of a Palestinian state. This position has received strong support from the present U.S. administration.
Next week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit the region to continue her efforts to advance the negotiations. However, Olmert opposes her proposal to publish a joint U.S.-Palestinian-Israeli announcement detailing progress in the negotiations since Annapolis. Olmert objects to publishing partial positions; he only wants to announce a complete agreement - if one can be reached.
4) Another Bipartisan Betrayal
By Christopher Chantrill
In the week that the last of the climate-change "hockey stick" finally disappeared into Steve McIntyre's wood-chipper, it makes complete sense that a gang of five Republican United States Senators would form a cabal with five Democratic senators to betray the Republican base on energy. It makes sense that they'd hand Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) a get-out-of-jail card on oil drilling that is short on drilling and long on alternative energy subsidies. And it makes complete sense that they would be completely shocked when Mr. Conservative, Rush Limbaugh, went ballistic on them.
Actually, Rush didn't go ballistic. He seemed to feel, as all of us must feel, a kind of numbness. That is what usually happens when you have been betrayed: a deadening numbness.
It's a pity that our Republican Senators don't act more like Radames, the hero of Verdi's Aïda. When he realizes that he's betrayed Egypt by revealing vital military secrets to the Ethiopians he just hands himself over to the Egyptian G-men, singing, at the top of his voice, that he has dishonored himself.
In due course, the dishonored Radames submits humbly to the verdict of ancient Egyptian law: to die by asphyxiation in the Tomb of the Unknown Traitor.
What happened to good old-fashioned American honor, senators?
How could they do it?
Like Radames, I doubt if they realized what they were doing. In Radames' case, he was too consumed with his obsession for the lovely Aïda to think clearly about public policy. This is not the first time that such a thing has happened, and it won't be the last, as former Senator John Edwards can testify.
No, I suspect that they were just doing what any decent politician does instinctively. They were acting to save their political skins.
Whatever we stalwarts in the conservative base may think, your average senator understands that he can't afford to get too far away from the "consensus" position on energy, environment, and global warming.
It doesn't matter to a United States Senator that Steve McIntyre has finally got hold of the Supplementary Information in that well-known climate-change paper Wahl and Amman (2007), after a year of demanding it. It doesn't matter that he has now analyzed the methodology that Caspar Amman used to validate the tree-ring temperature proxy series that formed the shaft of the hockey stick. And it doesn't matter that Amman's methodology seems to amount to the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy, where you fire a bunch of shots at the side of a barn and then decide where to draw the target.
You and I, committed members of the climate denial community, understand that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chaps are now in a sticky situation, and that their confident claims that the science is settled on global warming are going to come in for some significant revision in the months and years ahead.
But our elected solons live in a different reality. They cannot take out long-term speculative positions on climate science. They must deal in the spot market of today's MSM "consensus" position. They can lean a little one way or another. But if they stray too far from the "conventional wisdom" they risk being made into a laughingstock by the political-activist community. They risk the obloquy that attaches to Sen. James Inhofe (D-OK).
Republican senators are worried about political risks beyond energy and global warming, of course. They are bound to be worried by the gloating of lefty Greg Anrig In the Washington Post. It's all over for conservatives, Anrig sneered in the August 4 edition.
[Conservatives] advocated creating health savings accounts, handing out school vouchers, privatizing Social Security, shifting government functions to private contractors, and curtailing regulations on public health, safety, the environment and more. And, of course, they pushed to cut taxes...
But in practice, those ideas have all failed to deliver on the promises the conservatives made[.]
You can just look at Hurricane Katrina, Anrig writes, to see just how badly conservatives failed to deliver.
Any elected politician can see which way the wind blows on all this. The prudent thing to do is to hedge your bets.
But conservatives should take courage, even in the numbness of betrayal. Ultimately the senatorial tap-dancing and the WaPo gloating don't matter. It is the slow, careful analysis of people like Steve McIntyre and the underlying value of conservative ideas that matter. If they are right, then they will probably prevail over the long haul. If they are wrong, then they deserve to fail and be forgotten.
As for Radames, don't forget that when he was thrown into the sealed tomb he quickly found that he wasn't going to die alone in there. The lovely Aïda had slipped into the tomb unobserved during his trial. No need to feel sorry for him.
As for the Faithless Five--Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), John Thune (R-SD), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Bob Corker (R-TN)--I suppose we'll forgive them. According to Arthur C. Brooks, you have to be "very liberal" to be really angry these days.
5) 'Syria and Hizbullah gaining strength'
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday that "it is not a coincidence that the IDF is holding intensive drills in the Golan Heights," adding that UNSC Resolution 1701 was not accomplishing what it set out to do.
Hizbullah supporters fix...
"Hizbullah has gained significant strength in the last couple of years," said Barak during an IDF Armored Corps drill in the North. "We are closely following a possible violation [of the resolution] caused by the transfer of advanced weapons systems from Syria to Hizbullah. The necessary preparations have been made, and regarding all the rest - I always prefer not to talk, rather to take action when the time comes."
Barak expressed optimism with regards to the IDF's capabilities. "The army is regaining its strength, and coming back to the right morals, carrying out the right exercises and it is our obligation as the government to ensure that the proper means are available to carry out such drills in a correct and intensive manner."
Referring to a proposed budget cut to the Defense Ministry, Barak said: "We live in a country where security and defense consist not just of tanks and planes, but also of fostering excellence and caring for the population through education and social welfare."
Nonetheless, Barak emphasized that "security and defense take precedence over quality of life and in a country such as ours, we do not have the luxury of cutting the defense budget."
The defense minister also addressed the Gaza ceasefire and the strengthening of the group.
"So far, the ceasefire has proved promising," he said. "There have been ten instances where rockets were launched in the past 6 weeks, compared to the hundreds of attacks that occurred in the past. Every week that passes with the ceasefire in place enables us to gain strength and to maximize the possibility or the probability of bringing about the right conditions for the release of [captured IDF soldier] Gilad Schalit.
Barak added that "in the meantime, the government must care for the social and economic infrastructure as well as the preparation of the home front in the Gaza periphery and the surrounding areas.
Concerning the Georgia-Russia conflict, Barak warned against leaving friends during testing times.
"We view Russia as a very important country both on a regional and global scale," he said. "[At the same time,] we see Georgia as a country with which we have friendly relations, and Israel, particularly due to its experience, must ensure that it does not rush to leave its friends at a testing time."
"This is what we have expected from our friends and it is what our friends expect from us," he continued.
Barak's remarks came amid Russian protests over Israeli weapons sales to Georgia.
The defense minister was accompanied on the drill by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi and other senior IDF officers.
"I am pleased with what I see and think that we are heading in the right direction," said Ashkenazi, adding that "the training and the drills serve to restore the army's readiness to act when necessary. Furthermore, we are talking about a process. There is still work to be done, there are no shortcuts, it is very hard work. I think that people understand this, I think that officers understand this. We are all working hard and use every day to strengthen our capabilities and readiness to execute our tasks."
5a) Russia-Georgia Conflict Offers: Glimpse at New World Order
By Gerald Seib
This is a week in which Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama likely are thinking more about Georgia the country than Georgia the state, and for good reason: The hostilities that have erupted between Georgia and Russia are telling us a lot about the world order one of them will inherit as the next president.
As hostilities intensify between Georgia and Russia, WSJ's Jerry Seib reports on the new world order facing the next president of the United States where good ties with China are proving strategically invaluable.
Russia's decision to send its troops and bombs into Georgia is a testament, at least in part, to how much the flow of billions of dollars in oil and gas revenue is emboldening Moscow to defy the U.S. and the West in ways it either wouldn't or couldn't just a few years ago.
But the troubling strategic reality that is emerging is bigger and starker than just that. The rise of energy prices also is enriching other bad actors, creating a kind of globe-girdling string of well-heeled regional antagonists the U.S. can't ignore.
In the Middle East, Iran has assumed the role of energy-enriched regional power hostile to the U.S., with its ability to build a nuclear program and to bankroll Hamas and Hezbollah Islamist militants made all the easier by soaring oil prices. In Latin America, Venezuela aspires to play the role of oil-fueled, anti-American antagonist.
Now Russia, increasingly nationalistic and expansionist, may well be emerging as a similar oil-financed regional power either indifferent or hostile to the wishes of the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
"What we're basically seeing," says Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, "is a redistribution of power."
It's a troubling picture that has one additional, important strategic implication. The emerging new global equation makes fostering good relations with China even more important to the U.S. in the global balance of power. Indeed, it was appropriate, perhaps even prophetic, that President George W. Bush was in Beijing for the Olympics, smiling and saying nice things about "respect" for China's people, even as Russia was bulldozing into Georgia.
Energy has a lot to do with creating this overall picture, of course. In Georgia, certainly, energy is an important factor, and not just because Georgia is strategically important as a conduit for oil and gas supplies from the Caspian Sea region to the West.
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In the 1990s, Russia was flat on its back financially, broke at home and indebted to the West, and not in much of a position to defy the West by challenging Georgia's transition from former Soviet republic to pro-Western democracy on its southern border.
Today, thanks to soaring oil and gas prices, Russia is an emerging financial power. A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that Russia had $811 billion in foreign-investment assets at the end of 2007, second largest among oil exporters after the United Arab Emirates.
Just as Russia's financial clout has increased, so has Western Europe's reliance on its energy resources. Europe depends on Russia for a quarter of its gas supplies, which is a large reason America's European allies have heeded the protests of Russia and resisted efforts by the Bush administration to allow Georgia to join NATO.
Had Georgia been allowed into NATO, it would be under the Western alliance's defense umbrella today, which would either have prevented Russia from launching its offensive this week or have drawn the West directly into the fight.
The question for either Sen. McCain or Sen. Obama is what to do about this equation. The obvious long-term answer is to lead the West into a new energy structure in which the U.S. and its allies aren't so dependent on oil and gas from bad actors around the globe, and aren't busy enriching those same bad actors.
In the short run, the answers aren't so easy. The U.S. has a powerful incentive to build stronger ties to Mexico, Chile and Brazil to offset Venezuela's influence in the Western Hemisphere.
At the same time, the new president will have to be prepared for more tensions with Russia. There is a real possibility that the next international crisis may spring not from Iraq, or Iran, or Afghanistan, but from Russia. The nightmare scenario is that Russia's leaders, emboldened by their move against Georgia, try to follow up by seeking to rein in the bigger and much more important fellow former Soviet republic of Ukraine.
Yet simply antagonizing Russia isn't feasible as a long-term American policy. "You still need Russia to deal with Iran," says Mr. Haass. "You want to integrate, as much as you can, Russia into the international order." The problem is that Russia is fueled not just by oil riches, but also by more than a decade's worth of built-up resentment at the diminished role Moscow has played on the world stage since the fall of the Soviet Union.
All of this makes the U.S. relationship with China more interesting and important. It probably isn't feasible to try to play China and Russia directly off against each other, as was sometimes possible when they were the two Communist behemoths during the Cold War. The two countries now are on quite different paths, with China developing an economy that requires much more integration into the global order to succeed.
Yet that also represents an opening for the U.S., and at a good time to seize it. There may not be a direct trade-off between relations with Moscow and Beijing. But at a time of rising tensions with Moscow, the next president isn't likely to want the same problems with Beijing.