October 4, 2008
The op-ed by Henry Kissinger and George Shultz (International Herald Tribune, 30 September) is worth a careful read. I do not share Kissinger’s balance of power view of the world but this is not the theme.
They favour a rapid evolution toward EU membership for Ukraine, questioning the urgency with which NATO membership of Georgia and Ukraine was pursued.
Like most wars, they see the Georgian crisis as originating in a series of miscalculations, which should not be allowed to dominate future policy. This has evoked a rhetoric of confrontation, reciprocal threats and retaliatory countermeasures. This drift toward confrontation needs to be ended.
Isolating Russia is not believed to be a sustainable long-range policy nor an approach likely to evoke considered or constructive Russian responses. Russia’s history displays a tale of ambivalent oscillation between the restraints of the European order and the temptations for expansion into the strategic vacuums along its borders in Asia and the Middle East. These vacuums no longer exist.
With a GDP (PPP) less than one-sixth of America’s and a defence budget less than a third of even that of the EU, Russia knows that it is not well placed to conduct a superpower struggle with America or its allies.
The Russians have sought, sometimes clumsily, acceptance as equals in a new international system. Understanding the psychology of its international environment has never been a Russian specialty, but fairness requires some acknowledgment that the West has not always been sensitive to how the world looks from Moscow.
The war in Kosovo provided for an autonomous Kosovo under titular Serbian sovereignty but de facto EU supervision. That status was unilaterally changed by a group of European nations and the US without UN endorsement and over strenuous Russian objection.
The Kosovo decision occurred nearly simultaneously with the publication of the plan to move anti-ballistic missiles into Poland and the Czech Republic and a proposal to invite Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO. Neither was likely to be met with Russian acquiescence.
Kissinger and Shultz believe that the current crisis must be looked at with some historical and psychological perspective and should not deflect us from long term responsibilities.
The two countries possess over 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons and their cooperation is imperative if proliferation is to be stopped.
The authors believe that the security of Ukraine and Georgia should be placed in a larger context than mechanically advancing an integrated NATO command to a few hundred miles from Moscow.Author : Stanley Crossick