Why Are We Baiting the Bear?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Is the Senate trying to reignite the Cold War?

If so, it is going about it the right way.

Before departing for a five-week vacation, the Senate voted to declare Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be provinces of Georgia illegally occupied by Russian troops who must get out and return to Russia.

The Senate voice vote was unanimous.

What is wrong with Senate Resolution 175?

Just this. Neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia has been under Georgian control for 20 years. When Georgia seceded from Russia, these ethnic enclaves rebelled and seceded from Georgia.

Abkhazians and Ossetians both view the Tblisi regime of Mikhail Saakashvili, though a favorite of Washington, with contempt, and both have lately declared formal independence.

Who are we to demand that they return to the rule of Tblisi?

In co-sponsoring S.R. 175, Sen. Lindsey Graham contended that “Russia‘s invasion of Georgian land in 2008 was an act of aggression, not only to Georgia but to all new democracies.”

This is neocon propaganda. Russian troops are in those enclaves because in August 2008 Georgia invaded South Ossetia to re-annex it, and killed and wounded scores of Russian peacekeepers. Tblisi’s invasion brought the Russian army on the run, which threw the Georgians out and occupied slices of Georgia itself.

While the Russian troops withdrew from Georgian territory, they remained in Abkhazia and South Ossetia as a deterrent to Saakashvili, whose agents have been working Capitol Hill to push the United States into a confrontation with Russia on Georgia‘s side.

S.R. 175, the work of Graham and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, declares it to be U.S. policy “to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as regions of Georgia occupied by the Russian Federation.” But the Russians are far more welcome there than are the Georgians.

Twice the Georgians have been expelled by force. Both times, Ossetians and Abkhazians helped throw them out. Why are we demanding that the Georgians be permitted to march back in and re-impose an alien rule that clearly is detested by these people? Is this the American spirit of ’76?

When the Senate says “regions of Georgia” are “occupied,” it implies that Russia seized the territories. But as a European Union investigation has confirmed, the 2008 war began with the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia.

And what business is all of this of the United States‘?

Why are we provoking a Russia for whom the Caucasus — ablaze as it is with secessionism, Islamism and terrorism — is a vital national interest?

Going on across this inflamed region are ethno-national struggles for self-determination, the resolution of which, 6,000 miles from the United States, is none of our concern. How would Abraham Lincoln have reacted had Czar Alexander II declared the Russian Empire was recognizing the independence of Virginia and demanding that the breakaway enclave of West Virginia be returned to Richmond?

Can we not see how hypocritical we appear?

When Kosovo, birthplace of Serbia, was being torn away by Albanian Muslims — and Serbs were fighting to hold on — Bill Clinton ordered Serbia bombed for 78 days and sent U.S. troops to occupy the breakaway province and plant a U.S. base there, Camp Bondsteel.

When we recognized Kosovo as independent, Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Is there not a certain symmetry here? And do we not have enough on our plate in Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan not to be telling Russians how they should behave in lands closer to them than Grenada or Cuba is to us?

The Russian city of Sochi on the Black Sea, which is to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, is as close to Abkhazia as Dulles Airport is to Washington, D.C.

East of Sochi lie Ingushetia and Dagestan, targets of terrorist attacks by Islamists seeking to create a caliphate. Moscow’s subways and Domodedovo Airport have been hit by terrorist bombs out of the Caucasus. In the airport attack, 35 were killed and 100 injured.

President Dmitry Medvedev, who has been friendly to the United States and gave the order to Russia‘s army to reverse the Georgia invasion, describes the Caucasus as the greatest threat Russia faces.

Why are we siding with Georgia, a nation of 5 million, against a Russia that seems to be on the side of self-determination? And when we recall how JFK and Ronald Reagan reacted when Russians were meddling in Cuba and Central America, can we not understand their resentment?

Medvedev believes that Saakashvili launched his 2008 attack after a visit by Condoleezza Rice, during which he may have been flashed a green light. Russia‘s foreign minister believes that the Senate resolution backing Georgia has created a “revanchist mood” in Tblisi.

If there is another invasion of Georgia and a new war, the U.S. Senate will not be without major moral responsibility. Is there to be no end to this country’s meddling in other nations’ quarrels and wars?