Russia’s Delusions

Washington Post Editorial 8/28/08

A flurry of [Russian] presidential statements on Georgia mix lies with a dangerous new doctrine.

IN TIME WITH Russia’s unilateral recognition of the independence of the two Georgian provinces it invaded this month, President Dmitry Medvedev issued a statement, penned an op-ed and granted an unusual flurry of interviews. His intent was to justify Moscow’s latest provocation of the West, which has been united in condemnation — as was demonstrated yesterday by a statement by the Group of Seven industrial nations. Instead Mr. Medvedev merely revealed the dangerously arrogant and reckless mood that seems to have overtaken the Kremlin in recent weeks.

What’s striking, first of all, is the spectacle of a leading head of state making statements that not only are lies but that are easily shown to be such.

Over and over, Mr. Medvedev told interviewers that Georgian forces were guilty of “genocide” in South Ossetia. Yet by the count of an official Russian commission, the Ossetian dead numbered 133. In contrast, independent human rights groups have reported that Georgian villages both in and outside Ossetia have been subject to a violent ethnic cleansing campaign, and that thousands of civilians have been killed or driven from their homes by the Russian military offensive.

Mr. Medvedev flatly asserted that Russia had not violated the cease-fire deal he signed two weeks ago. But that agreement contains a provision calling for international talks about the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia — and those talks had not begun when Mr. Medvedev abruptly issued the decree recognizing the provinces’ independence.

The president insisted that Russian troops had withdrawn from Georgia and were not blockading the port of Poti, though any observer can see the checkpoints Russian troops continue to operate there and throughout the country. He also claimed that U.S. ships that have been delivering humanitarian supplies were delivering weapons, a statement quickly dismissed as ludicrous by the White House.

Read the whole thing here.

The new doctrine being espoused by Moscow as justification for its actions appears to be:

Russia has the right to protect the lives and dignity of our citizens anywhere in the world.

Under this doctrine, which on its face seems a reasonable assertion, places like Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, could conceivably be threatened if Russia mounted a serious campaign to foment civil disturbances among the Russian population there. Claiming such a justification when you have been the instigator in fomenting troubles between groups of nationalities in foreign lands sounds like a threat more than a humanitarian doctrine. It is a threat that the former Soviet Republics and Warsaw Pact satellites see much more clearly than the west. It is no accident that the most vehement support for Georgia comes from nations like Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and others who can read between the lines of Russian propaganda.

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