Friday, August 10, 2018

West Didn’t Want to Understand Putin’s 2008 War against Georgia, Babchenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 9 – Vladimir Putin’s attack on Georgia in 2008 was the “first of the Putin wars of a new kind,” Arkady Babchenko says; and the West not only did not understand what the Kremlin leader was doing but did not want to understand because then it would have had to do something.

            But the West’s denial, the Ukrainian journalist says, meant that Putin’s approach in Georgia – the denials, the use of “puppet quasi-states, and so on – would become his approach in Ukraine and Syria and will be extended to other places unless and until Western leaders understand what this approach means (

            Many have suggested that the West’s failure to respond to Russian aggression against Georgia led directly to the annexation of Crimea, the war in the Donbass, and Moscow’s moves in Syria; but Babchenko is making a larger and in many ways more important point: the West didn’t understand because it did not want to understand.

            “All the technologies Russia is applying now in Ukraine were forged then. The present-day DNR and LNR were forged then. The present ‘we’re not there’ lies were forced then. The present zombification was born and began to grow there, Babchenko says.

            “Then the world did not understand this,” he continues. “It did not want to understand.” Instead it talked about peacemaking by the sides in the conflict instead of about repelling the aggressor and occupier. It was not prepared to call things, including war and aggression, by their own names. And to a large extent, it still isn’t prepared lest it be forced to act forcefully.

            “As a result,” he says, “we have what we have.” And what we will continue to have if the world continues in denial about what Putin’s Russia is all about. But that dangerous trajectory is not only affecting what Moscow does abroad but what Moscow does at home – and perhaps some will be concerned about that, Babchenko continues.

            In 2008, some Russians were able to go into the streets with slogans like “I am Georgia.” Today, because Putin has tightened his grip, few will risk doing the same with ones like “I am Ukraine.”  That means that Putin will not be constrained by his own population; and if he is going to be stopped from a repetition of his war in Georgia, outsiders must help.

            They didn’t do enough in Georgia a decade ago; they aren’t yet willing to do enough in Ukraine now.  But if they want to have a peaceful world, they must face their fears, recognize the nature of Moscow’s aggression and take steps to repel it rather than allowing Putin a seat at the table to resolve “conflicts.”

            Those “conflicts” are things he as an aggressor has created. They must be repelled rather than become the object of talks.

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