Zbigniew Brzezinski: Fundamentally at stake is what kind of role Russia will play in the new international system. Unfortunately, Putin is putting Russia on a course that is ominously similar to Stalin's and Hitler's in the late 1930s. Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has correctly drawn an analogy between Putin's "justification" for dismembering Georgia -- because of the Russians in South Ossetia -- to Hitler's tactics vis a vis Czechoslovakia to "free" the Sudeten Deutsch.
Even more ominous is the analogy of what Putin is doing vis-a-vis Georgia to what Stalin did vis-a-vis Finland: subverting by use of force the sovereignty of a small democratic neighbor. In effect, morally and strategically, Georgia is the Finland of our day
The question the international community now confronts is how to respond to a Russia that engages in the blatant use of force with larger imperial designs in mind: to reintegrate the former Soviet space under the Kremlin's control and to cut Western access to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia by gaining control over the Baku/ Ceyhan pipeline that runs through Georgia.
In brief, the stakes are very significant. At stake is access to oil as that resource grows ever more scarce and expensive and how a major power conducts itself in our newly interdepedent world, conduct that should be based on accomodation and consensus, not on brute force.
If Georgia is subverted, not only will the West be cut off from the Caspian Sea and Central Asia. We can logically anticipate that Putin, if not resisted, will use the same tactics toward the Ukraine. Putin has already made public threats against Ukraine.
Gardels: What, if anything, can the West do to contain this revived Russian behavior?
Brzezinski: Not only the West, but the rest of the international community, must make it clear that this kind of behavior will result in ostracism and economic and financial penalties. Ultimately, if Russia continues on this course, it must face isolation in the international community -- a longer range risk to its own well-being.
The Georgians have been our friends and allies. They are a good and noble people, though bitterly poor in many places. We have ties of culture to them as well as our current alliance. The Cross of St. George flies over Georgia as it did over England. One of my friends from Georgia, with us in Iraq, was named for the Greek hero Hercules.
I hope that diplomacy may resolve this matter. Yet effective diplomacy means that the US must stand with our allies. If when an ally is invaded with tanks and warplanes we do no more than say that "both sides must compromise," there is no reason to be our ally at all. The Georgians have been there for us. We must be there for them.