With Iraq fast vanishing from the headlines, Georgia has become a political issue. It’s outbreak has implicity helped John McCain because it highlighted Barack Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience, as shown for example, by this ad. Putin, perhaps realizing this, is now trying to blame the Republicans. One of the great traditions established by Vietnam is that foreign dictators get to take sides in US electoral politics. CNN reports:
“Putin told CNN his defense officials had told him it was done to benefit a presidential candidate — Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama are competing to succeed George W. Bush — although he presented no evidence to back it up.”
Putin’s opinion isn’t shared by everyone. The WSJ, for example has its own assessment of who started the war in Georgia. But Russian attempts to enter the domestic US political fray were offset by disappointment from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, through which Beijing partly pursues its Central Asian policy. The AP reports that “China and several Central Asian nations rebuffed Russia’s hopes of international support for its actions in Georgia, issuing a statement Thursday denouncing the use of force and calling for respect for every country’s territorial integrity.” While the UN has been paralyzed and gridlocked by the Georgia crisis, more specific international alliances like NATO and the Shanghai Cooperation Council have been able to act, at least in some way. Obama’s August 2007 threat to unilaterally send military forces into Pakistan (which was referred to in the McCain ad) would probably draw a reaction from China (if only because Pakistan is an observer in the Shanghai Cooperation Council). Politics no longer stops at the water’s edge. Foreign leaders now routinely calculate their impact on US domestic politics. While the loss of complete political autonomy is probably a consequence of America’s global role, Obama’s own peroration in Berlin has come as close as anything to recognizing foreign constituencies in the calculation of domestic political issues.
This development is not confined to America. Just now the Guardian reports that Hugo Chavez has hired former London Mayor “Red” Ken Livingstone to act as his consultant on urban affairs. First Post (ht Fausta) quotes Livingstone as saying:
“I believe that Caracas will become a first-world city in 20 years,” Livingstone told reporters on a surprise visit to Venezuela. “I have a very extensive network of contacts both domestically and internationally which I will be calling on to assist in this.”
And former German Chanceller Gerhard Schroeder was hired as a consultant to Gazprom in 2005. The Wapo said at the time,
Opposition politicians denounced the appointment as a conflict of interest. “It stinks,” said Reinhard Buetikofer, co-chairman of Germany’s Greens, who were a coalition partner in Schroeder’s Social Democrat-led government, the Associated Press reported.
But if politicians are supposed to represent “the world” and the “tapestry” of humanity then such arrangements will become increasingly common. Fausta has more here.