It's A Dangerous World, Folks

Word comes this morning that Russia is at war with Georgia over South Ossetia. Yet another reminder that the world is full of complex hazards that can crop up in a hurry. This latest crisis presents serious national security policy issues, but it is worth mentioning two obvious points here:

-John McCain has undoubtedly thought through how we should deal with this situation.

-Barack Obama is looking at a globe this morning.

Georgia is a prospective (not current) member of NATO, and Sen. McCain has long been involved in the thorny issue of how to manage Russia’s objections to NATO expansion in Eastern Europe. Here’s McCain at the Munich Conference on Security Policy in February 2001:

If there is one indisputable priority for the [NATO] Alliance, it is that of fulfilling the vision of a Europe whole and free. This goal has served as a reliable guide for Alliance policy for well over fifty years. It is my hope that the Alliance will reinvigorate the process of NATO enlargement no later than its next summit in Prague next year, if not sooner, by extending invitations to those Central European democracies that are ready to make a net contribution to the Alliance’s security. Several of these democracies will meet if not surpass the standards of accession set by the alliance for Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Their defense budgets on a GDP basis are more impressive than some of NATO’s current members; their soldiers are standing side by side with Allied forces in the Balkans; indeed, at the moment, they are establishing standards that some current allies would do well to meet.

Certainly, Russian sensitivities regarding NATO expansion should not be ignored. But Russia’s reflexive rejection of NATO expansion cannot be permitted to determine the fate of nations exercising their sovereign right to form security relationships. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the cornerstone of the Alliance’s policy has been the premise that the extension of the NATO alliance to new democracies of Europe is fundamental to the strategic and moral objectives of the Alliance. I would suggest four principles for US policy toward Russia: realism, reform, reciprocity, and resolve. Our policy must be predicated upon Russian actions. Moscow’s motives remain, in many respects, as opaque as during the era of Communist rule. US and European views of Russia should also be shaped by the extent to which it carries out genuine economic and political reform. Economic and political corruption remain pervasive in Russia, and until reforms are implemented, Russia’s neighbors cannot be faulted for questioning its intentions. Reciprocity refers to development of a relationship wherein mutual interests are manifested in concrete action. Finally, we should feel no reluctance to stand up to Russian leaders when they challenge our interests and values.

Here is McCain on a 2003 visit to Tblisi: “We would want Georgia to become as independent as possible from Russia or any other country.” Later that year, as the “Rose Revolution” bloomed, McCain and Hillary Clinton proposed the nomination of Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili for the Nobel Peace Prize.