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Russia Proposes a New Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Writing in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, Soviet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposes a new world order in which Russia and America, envisioned here as two equally great powers, carve out spheres of influence while rolling right over any democratic pipsqueaks who get in the way --or at least who get in Russia's way. Under the headline "America Must Choose Between Georgia and Russia," Lavrov suggests that "An embargo on arms supplies to the current Tbilisi regime would be a start."

In menacing tones, Lavrov warns of "the cost of the choice being made in Washington in favor of the discredited regime in Tbilisi." Lavrov also dangles the bait that "Russia is committed to the ongoing positive development of relations with the U.S." Implying a world in which Russia and America reign as co-regents, in chiding manner that comes close to parody of some of Condi Rice's recent diplomatic locutions, Lavrov says:

"It is up to the American side to decide whether it wants a relationship with Russia that our two peoples deserve. The geopolitical reality we'll have to deal with at the end of the day will inevitably force us to cooperate."

... Perhaps, Mr. Lavrov. But on what terms? Lavrov's proposal to Americans carries eerie echoes of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a non-aggression deal hammered out on the eve of World War II between the "High Contracting Parties" of Hitler's Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union. The pact included a secret additional protocol, carving up spheres of influence, interest and territory in the Baltics, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Regarding Poland, in particular, the text noted: "The question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an independent Polish States, and how such a state can a state can be bounded can only be definitely determined in the course of future political developments."

The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact disintegrated in June, 1941, when Nazi Germany invaded the USSR in Operation Barbarossa. Today's Russia has far less to fear from a democratic United States, which has no territorial designs on Russia, and has been looking to democratic evolution of other states as the best bet for a safer, more peaceful world. America, by the same token, has more to fear, in terms of threats all too likely to be incubated under the spreading shadow of an autocratic and bullying Russia. The world has yet to recover from the corrosive effects of Soviet hegemony in the last century, from which this not-so-new Russian KGB-FSB brand of order is now sprouting. 

If America goes for this bait, swallows this Russian manifesto of the new world order, and hands over Georgia on a plate -- with Ukraine, Moldova, and other former Soviet satellites and dominions to follow -- we are in for a century even more brutal than that presaged by Sept. 11, 2001. Russia and America have a shared interest in thwarting the spread of Islamist jihad. But for America under the banner of that shared interest to collaborate in the resurrection of a predatory, despotic Russian empire would be to invite not a safer world, but a proliferation of threats.

It would be comforting to assume that Washington understands this, and will treat Lavrov's article not as an invitation, but as a window on the disturbing political evolution going on inside Russia. These are sinister enticements the Kremlin now offers. Surely the American electorate knows better? This is a test of nerve, resolve, wisdom and basic decency. It will cost America dearly if we fail.