Gertz: U.S. diplomacy no match for Putin strategy
Russia policy failure: U.S. diplomacy no match for Putin strategyThe Georgia-Russia military clash over the breakaway region of Ossetia is being viewed in Washington intelligence circles as a failure of U.S. policy toward Russia, a policy that has relied on the personal diplomacy of President Bush rather than on U.S. national interest.
Bush has stated repeatedly in the past that he believes world problems can be worked out when leaders have good personal relations and he specifically stated that his contact with former Russian President Vladimir Putin was the key to keeping Moscow from becoming a hostile, anti-democratic power.
U.S. President George W. Bush speaks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Beijing on Aug. 8. Reuters/Guang Niu
However, Russia over the past eight years has moved steadily away from democracy and toward anti-democratic authoritarianism. The attacks by Russian strategic bombers and missiles on Georgia represent the first real post-Soviet threats from Moscow.
The Russian military attacks on Georgia in the aftermath of Georgia's military incursion into Ossetia, where Russia was covertly backing separatist rebels, are the most visible failure of U.S. policy toward Russia that has been marked by damaging neglect on the part of the White House National Security Council staff, the State Department and to a lesser extent the Pentagon.
State Department officials, in particular, ignored Russia's slide toward neo-Sovietism, claiming in internal policy papers that Moscow remained committed to pro-U.S., pro-democratic reform policies. These officials failed to recognize that Moscow, based on its opposition to a U.S. missile defense site in central Europe, had shifted dramatically against the United States.
Senior Bush aides, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have expressed publicly that they did not understand Russian opposition to the missile defense site in Poland and Czech Republic.
Weak initial U.S. responseThe United States' initial response to Russian military attacks against George did not overtly condemn Moscow's action and was likely interpreted by Moscow as weakness in the fact of Russian aggression.
The response was limited to mild diplomatically couched public statements by President Bush and senior administration leaders.
The weak U.S. response was also obvious in the early comments of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzah who said Aug. 8 at the UN that the United States "deplored" the Russian attacks, short of a harsher diplomatic terminology of condemnation.
Georgia, which failed to gain NATO membership as a result of failed U.S. diplomacy within the European alliance, has been left at the mercy of the militarily stronger Russia.
U.S. intelligence predicted conflict but not its intensityU.S. intelligence agencies adequately predicted that a Georgian military incursion into Ossetia would trigger a Russian military response, but the scope and ferocity of the attacks was not anticipated, according to U.S. officials.
One U.S. intelligence report stated days before the conflict broke out that Russia was prepared to join any conflict triggered by a Georgian military incursion into Ossetia.
The report quoted Russian special envoy to the region, Yuri Popov, as saying that "Russia will not be able to stand aside" if conditions led to a conflict in South Ossetia. Popov stated that the presence of ethnic Russians in the conflict zone was the main reason.
Some specialists believe Moscow set up the Tbilisi government and prompted the Georgian action deliberately in order to take military action. Russian leaders are demanding that Georgia's leader be replaced.
Georgian Minister of State for Reintegration Temur Iakobashvili denied reports that Israel imposed an embargo on supplying weapons to Georgia.