Friday, July 10, 2009

Obama: No Compromise With Israel--But We'll Work Things Through With Russia And Georgia (Updated)

The US has made clear that there is no compromise in the offing on the issue of the Israeli settlements. Obama's demand for a settlement freeze stands. This, in spite of the fact that there are agreements between Israel and the US in regards to the settlements--agreements that the US has denied by have not addressed head on, in spite of the fact that settlements are arguably not the primary issue in the peace process, in spite of the fact that some of the land under discussion will go to Israel anyway, and in spite of the fact that this is not sovereign Palestinian land (since there has never been a sovereign Palestinian Arab state to begin with).

Yet, when it comes to Russia and its invasion of the sovereign state of Georgia, the kid gloves come on.

Of course, no one is going to confuse Russia with Israel.

Obviously Obama has to be more cautious and diplomatic when speaking to and about Russia. After all, even if Russia is no longer a major superpower, it has proven that it has advanced weaponry that it is more than happy to share with countries in the Middle East, adding to the instability of the area. Also, Russia has plentiful oil reserves that give it an added bargaining chip--and potential threat.

So it is not unexpected that Obama was very cautious when addressing Russia's invasion and occupation of the sovereign state of Georgia:

I won't pretend that the United States and Russia agree on every issue. As President Medvedev indicated, we've had some frank discussions, and there are areas where we still disagree. For instance, we had a frank discussion on Russia -- on Georgia, and I reiterated my firm belief that Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected. Yet even as we work through our disagreements on Georgia's borders, we do agree that no one has an interest in renewed military conflict. And going forward, we must speak candidly to resolve these differences peacefully and constructively.

Yet, if you compare Obama's pacifying words with the reality of what is actually going on, Obama's words about Georgia ignore the reality and are not especially reassuring--especially not to the Georgians. Cathy Young writes in the Wall Street Journal that:

the Russian media are now abuzz with speculation about a new war in Georgia, and some Western analysts are voicing similar concerns. The idea seems insane. Nonetheless, the risk is real.

One danger sign is persistent talk of so-called Georgian aggression against the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia recognized as independent states after the war last August. "Georgia is rattling its weapons . . . and has not given up on attempts to solve its territorial problems by any means," Gen. Nikolai Makarov, who commanded Russian troops in Georgia in 2008, told the Novosti news agency on June 17. Similar warnings have been aired repeatedly by the state-controlled media.

Independent Russian commentators, such as columnist Andrei Piontkovsky, note that this has the feel of a propaganda campaign to prepare the public for a second war. Most recently, Moscow has trotted out a Georgian defector, Lt. Alik D. Bzhania, who claims that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili "intends to restart the war."

Yet Russia is the one currently engaged in large-scale military exercises in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and adjacent regions.

In fact, Russia has even gone so far as to make Obama's statement above about Georgia more 'nuanced'. Here is the same quote as above, with the words removed in the Russian translation in bold:

[W]e had a frank discussion on Russia — on Georgia, and I reiterated my firm belief that Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected. Yet even as we work through our disagreements on Georgia’s borders, we do agree that no one has an interest in renewed military conflict. And going forward, we must speak candidly to resolve these differences peacefully and constructively.

Obama's words are reduced from being diplomatic to being just plain vanilla--but the change from "we do agree that no one has an interest in renewed military conflict," which implies a common understanding to "no one has an interest in renewed military conflict" which implies an opinion shared by Obama alone--should set off some red flags.

This goes to prove once again that these days it just does not pay to be a friend and ally of the US--but being an enemy has plenty of perks.

Just ask Russia (and the Georgians) and Iran (and the protesters) and Chavez (and Honduras) and the Arabs (and Israel).

It's a big bus.

UPDATE: Jennifer Rubin puts my last point better:

It is easy I suppose to “get along” with others when you simply relent on every issue of consequence. Indeed, America can please many nations by letting them run amok, acquire nuclear weapons, threaten their neighbors, oppress dissidents, and engage in other objectionable behaviors. It remains an open question whether the president lacks the understanding to recognize such behavior as objectionable (i.e. if one is a moral relativist, such issues are only differences of opinion) or the will to exert American influence, or the nerve to stand up to criticism, which inevitably follows when America opposes tyrants, bullies, and rogue states.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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