Russia's invasion of Georgia on the pretext of "protecting" Russian peacekeepers stationed in the separatist enclave of South Ossetia and ending the "ethnic cleansing" of native Russians living there, is a sobering reminder that the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 was not a sign that old-line communists were ready to walk the sawdust trail of repentance and convert to capitalism, democracy, human rights and religious freedom. Quite the contrary.
Vladimir Putin, who continues to effectively run Russia through his hand-picked "successor," President Dmitry Medvedev, still resembles what he once was: the head of the notorious KGB security agency. Putin never renounced communism, nor has he embraced Western values. Russia was admitted to the G-8 largely because many in the West believed it would soften Putin and transform the Russian bear into a pussycat. That was a mistake and now we see Putin for what he is: a man intent on restoring Russia's "greatness" by means that closely resemble those employed by deceased Soviet dictators.
On Tuesday, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union's last head of state, wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post in which he blamed Georgia for Russia's invasion. Blaming the victim has long been a strategy of dictatorial leaders who seek a moral high ground for immoral actions.
The horrors visited on the Georgian people, including thousands of deaths, thousands more wounded and massive property destruction, provides a look into how the two American presidential candidates would handle such a crisis. On vacation in Hawaii, Barack Obama offered a somewhat tepid initial statement through a spokesperson, until confronted by John McCain's much more forceful one.
Obama then issued a second and longer statement in person. Appearing tieless, and somewhat clueless before cameras, Obama sounded as if the media were doing him a favor by showing up. He began rather informally with, "I appreciate all you guys taking the time to be here." Isn't that their job? Obama's remarks were delivered in a halting voice, with many pauses and "uhs," making him appear uncomfortable, lacking in his usual self-confidence - even hubris - and unfamiliar with the words apparently written by someone else.
Obama called on Russia to stop its bombing of Georgia, but what was missing was an "or else." Obama's version of an "or else" consisted of calling upon the feckless United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution for "an immediate end to the violence." Wow, that's likely to make Russia sweat! The world is still waiting for Iran to comply with several U.N. resolutions. Saddam Hussein ignored 16 U.N. resolutions before the United States enforced them.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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