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How to handle Russia
What are the West's options for protecting Georgia?
 

What happened
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said Tuesday that he had ordered a halt to fighting in Georgia, although Russian soldiers were still under orders to “eliminate” any Georgian troops remaining in the separatist enclave of South Ossetia. (The New York Times)

What the commentators said
The West must demand that Russia pull all of its troops out of Georgia, said Max Boot in the Los Angeles Times. If the Kremlin resists, we should hit it with sanctions, such as kicking it out of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations. And “sending U.S. troops is out of the question,” but we can help Georgia defend itself by sending American military equipment.

If the West really wants to help, said Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union, in The Washington Post, it should stop egging on Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili by giving him unconditional support. After all, Saakashvili was the one who started the fighting over the weekend by trying to take over South Ossetia by force, putting Russian civilians and peacekeepers in danger.

Russian peacekeepers are a big part of the problem, said The New York Times in an editorial. They must be replaced with “truly neutral international peacekeepers” and all Russian troops must be withdrawn from Georgia. Until that happens, the only option is for the U.S. to deprive Russia of the “respect” and “economic deals” it craves.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the real power in Moscow, is “betting that the West needs him for oil and deterring Iran's nuclear ambitions more than he needs the West,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. The best way to show him he’s wrong is to pass a stern rebuke at the United Nations Security Council, forcing Russia to exercise its veto. President Bush could also put Putin on the spot by saying that he “badly misjudged” the Russian leader.

“The real payback for Moscow's decision to invade Georgia,” said Gary Schmitt and Mauro de Lorenzo, also in the Journal, “should be the sweet revenge of a strong, prosperous and fully independent Georgia. Building on the strides Georgia has already made, Brussels and Washington should give Tbilisi a clear road to NATO and EU membership.”

The Bush administration helped start this crisis, said The Boston Globe in an editorial, “when it recognized the independence of Kosovo earlier this year without United Nations authorization, and against Moscow's wishes." The Kremlin warned that it might apply the same principle in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, so "Bush has left the United States little basis to protest.”

 

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