You wouldn’t expect Charles Krauthammer to turn in a sensible column ever. In particular, you really wouldn’t expect him to turn in a sensible column about the Russia-Georgia war. But I feel like today’s effort is an uncommonly silly one. Through his powers of clairvoyance, Krauthammer discerns that Russia’s “real objective is the Finlandization of Georgia through the removal of President Mikheil Saakashvili and his replacement by a Russian puppet” which reveals, among other things, a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of Cold War Finland. But Krauthammer darkly warns that the Finlandization of Georgia will let “Russia become master of the Caspian basin” (oh noes! the Caspian basin!) and then this, through magic, would lead to “re-establishing Russian hegemony” throughout its “former Baltic and East European satellites.”
I don’t know how many different ways there are to say this, but to think that Russia’s ability to detach two miniature provinces that don’t want to be ruled from Tblisi from a tiny country with a GDP of $20 billion will suddenly lead to Russian hegemony over, say, Poland with its GDP of $620 billion is daft.
But beyond all that, considering the high stakes Krauthammer thinks we’re playing for, his proposed remedies are pathetic. One, he wants to “suspend the NATO-Russia Council” that nobody’s heard of but that apparently was founded in 2002. Second, he wants to block Russian entry into the WTO which is already being blocked. Third, he wants to kick Russia out of the G-8. And then we get this:
4. Announce a U.S.-European boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi. To do otherwise would be obscene. Sochi is 15 miles from Abkhazia, the other Georgian province just invaded by Russia. The Games will become a riveting contest between the Russian, Belarusian and Jamaican bobsled teams.
All of these steps (except dissolution of the G-8, which should be irreversible) would be subject to reconsideration depending upon Russian action — most importantly and minimally, its withdrawal of troops from Georgia proper to South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Basically, Krauthammer thinks that it’s extremely important to American security for Russia to withdraw forces from Georgia proper and his idea of a good way to make them do that is to . . . threaten to boycott an Olympics (note that this didn’t work in 1980) . . . that’s happening six years from now. That would seem to me to give Russia plenty of time to muck around in Georgia. Indeed, I see no indication whatsoever that Russia so much as aspires to have its forces in Georgia proper by 2014; certainly it won’t take them anywhere near that long to finish wrecking Georgia’s military. This seems to me to be an excellent example of what (via Dan Nexon) Jack Snyder calls “The Myth of the Paper Tiger” whose adherents hold that:
[Enemies are] capable of becoming fiercely threatening if appeased, but easily crumpled by a resolute attack. These images are often not only wrong, but self-contradictory. For example, Japanese militarists saw the United States as so strong and insatiably aggressive that Japan would have to conquer a huge, self-sufficient empire to get the resources to defend itself; yet at the same time, the Japanese regime saw the United States as so vulnerable and irresolute that a sharp rap against Pearl Harbor would discourage it from fighting back.
That sums up Krauthammer’s view perfectly. If we don’t stop Russia from having its way with Georgia, next thing you know the entire Soviet sphere of influence will be reconstituted, but Russia might be coerced into backing down by mild gestures.