Remember that whole Russia-Georgia thing?

by Joshua Foust on 1/12/2009 · 2 comments

I still don’t get the strategic calculus behind this one:

The United States and Georgia officially became “strategic partners” under a charter signed by the two governments on January 9. While Georgian officials are hailing the document as a guarantee of Washington’s support for Tbilisi, analysts are divided on what kind of impact the agreement will actually have. Many believe the only certainty is that the pact will rile Russia.

Few details have been publicized about the charter, which was signed four months after Georgia’s disastrous war with Russia. It has been widely reported, however, that the Georgian pact resembles a strategic partnership charter signed by the United States and Ukraine in December.

According to the public version of the Ukrainian document, the signatories pledged “to strengthen” relations in five areas: economics, politics, diplomacy, culture and security. The charter also stressed US “support” for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which “constitutes the foundation” of the bilateral relationship.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice lauded Georgia during the signing ceremony in Washington as “a very valued partner of the United States.” She added that the charter “outlines a way to advance our partnership.” Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze celebrated what he described as a “historic development for my country.”

Correction: I don’t agree with the strategic calculus of this agreement. In essence, it says that the American relationship with Georgia is war-proof, that no matter the appallingly bad decisions of its leadership it will be rewarded simply for being a thorn in Russia’s side and offering a partially non-Russian corridor for energy.

Indeed, going back to the context of the Russo-Georgian War is interesting. A lot of commenters and bloggers gave us grief here at for declaring the war a disaster for Russia—it served to strengthen the view that Medvedev is a shallow puppet, yet even as it highlighted Russian weakness the war showed just how ridiculous all the talk of a New Cold War was pure rubbish (no matter what bankrupt geopolitical ideology you choose to use).

Regardless, the Bret Stephens of the world got their wish: the U.S. is rewarding aggression and intemperance, while Dmitri Medvedev has graduated toward complaining Putin isn’t solving Russia’s severe economic problems quickly enough. You’d think there is a lesson in there, somewhere.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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James January 12, 2009 at 6:05 pm

The strategic calculus of this pact is to poke Moscow in the eye just one more time before leaving office. And who really cares? Not Russia. It’s a meaningless agreement from a meaningless administration.

Wouldn’t it also be “rewarding aggression” to go on with business as usual with Russia after this invasion? That’s what Sarkozy did.

It’s interesting that so many commenters gave you slack for pointing out the obvious. Since the invasion, the RTS is down about 75%, the ruble has lost 20% of its value (and that is still inflated above true value), and the reserves depleted by more than a quarter.

Joshua Foust January 12, 2009 at 6:11 pm

About your middle graf, I’m not certain. We didn’t exactly have a happy-go-lucky relationship with Russia beforehand.

Also, there is this to consider: the stipulations of Russia’s peacekeeping duties in Abkhazia and South Ossetia required it to get involved should Georgia make an incursion. Up until they crossed into Georgia proper, Russia was behaving according to international norms in support of a UN-mandated peacekeeping mission. When they got to Gori, and Poti, and began sinking ships and dropping bombs on mainland Georgia, they crossed the line.

THAT is where the condemnation of Russia should have come into play. But Georgia, it seems, has a better PR machine in the West. And they got rewarded for it. And now the U.S. is stuck with a “vital strategic partner” that starts wars for… well I still haven’t figured out why this one had to happen.

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