The Russian invasion of Georgia came up in the first presidential debate and both candidates expressed their support for Georgia. Obama said we must “affirm all the fledgling democracies in that region” and give them money to “rebuild” their economy, while McCain said that “we need to bolster our friends and allies.” Both of them mentioned Georgian membership in NATO, but neither Barack Obama nor John McCain made any serious proposals to punish the Russians now through economic and diplomatic sanctions — like expelling them from the G8 — or by providing active military support to the Georgians.
The Russian dictatorship is destroying and occupying a country that had established a budding democracy. Yet we are doing almost nothing to stop it — other than sending humanitarian and economic aid — and the presidential debate shows that is not likely to change.
Having a good economy is not going to deter a military invasion by an aggressor like Russia any more than having a successful business will deter a Mafia-run protection racket. In fact, it makes you even more of a target.
Watching Vladimir Putin reimpose a dictatorship in Russia, arresting and murdering opponents inside and outside of the country, and ordering the Russian invasion and occupation of Georgia, brings back vivid childhood memories of stories told to me by my immigrant parents and grandmother. Make no mistake about it. Putin is stomping out and destroying the fledgling movement to democracy that occurred in Russia when communism fell, the same way that Hitler destroyed the Weimar Republic in Germany, something my grandmother lived through as a young woman. Putin’s invasion of Georgia is little different from Hitler’s occupation of Austria and Czechoslovakia, which the Europeans failed to stop. Putin has even used the same justification that Hitler used, except it is to protect “Native Russians” in Georgia instead of “Native Germans.”
It is as if we are reliving the 1930s all over again. And from France to Germany to Italy, Neville Chamberlain is alive and well in all of their governments — and the public — as the West gives a collective yawn. No one, including the United States, has imposed any real sanctions against Russia.