By Sam Vaknin
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Author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"
Small nations can learn seven important lessons from Russia's invasion of Georgia:
1. The West, led by the USA, is militarily over-extended, politically fractured, and its European members - notably, Germany - are heavily dependent on the uninterrupted delivery of Russian energy. It can provide no effective security guarantees - and is not inclined to do so even when it could. The USA is far and Russia, in many cases, is a next door neighbor. For the former components of the USSR (the New Independent States) and for most formerly socialist countries, a "non-aligned" foreign policy makes eminent sense nowadays.
2. Russia, under Putin, is resurgent: economically, militarily, and geopolitically. True to historic form, it again resorts to the use of proxies in order to project its influence and flex its muscles in parts of the globe that it deems of vital interest (especially the Near Abroad, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Balkans). It does not shy from luring current NATO members (such as Greece) with access to energy products and pipelines. Unable to efficaciously act on Kosovo (owing to Serb capiulation), Russia is demonstrating its newfangled prowess, clout, and might in Georgia. It is hellbent on rolling NATO back from its borders and former colonies; on preventing the erection of a missile shield which it - rightly - regards as offensive, not defensive; and on establishing a Russian sphere of influence throughout Europe, east and west alike.
3. Realpolitik is back. Might is right - and only might is right. Forget about idealism, international law, human and minority rights. These are all so 1990-ish. To pedict the outcome of international conflict, one should merely gauge the size of the militaries involved; the GDP of the contestants; their industrial capacity; ability to project power and materiel; and their pivotal or marginal role in the global economy and, especially, in the energy markets.
4. Youth, enthusiasm, governance-by-gesture, public realtions campaigns, and popularity are poor substitutes for experience, strategizing, planning, and acting reasonably and with rigorous discipline. Alas, the leaders of the countries of the former Soviet Bloc are all inexperienced and rely too much on media manipulation. They have no substance. They believe that having public opinion on one's side is tantamount to running a successful state.
5. Amateurism in diplomacy may prove dangerous to one's health. Diplomacy is the art of the possible. An experienced diplomat knows how to give an take and realizes that he can never control the other party to the negotiations, or even predict the opponent's moves. Escalation is always on the cards. He, therefore, treads lightly, carefully, and patiently. Inexperienced hands are jingoistic and more attuned to their own domestic scene that to the wishes, priorities, and red lines of their adversaries.
6. National goals and interests compete for national resources and pose different risk to reward profiles. They must, therefore, be prioritized. National leaders must have the courage to delay the gratification of the cravings of their constituents and even to sacrifice certain rights, aims, and interests for the sake of the greater and longer good. Faux patriotism, used to raise and sustain popularity ratings, is the sign of the bad and dangerous leader.
7. In bilateral disputes, the deep involvement of foreigners and third parties guarantees instability. It motivates the parties to attract attention and score points by escalating the conflict. Countries like the USA and Russia are likely to abuse the locals as pawns on the global chessboard. Thus, the interlocutors in an internationalized bilateral dispute are likely to suddenly finds themselves embroiled in faraway standoffs in which they have no interest. Example: Russia has probably invaded Georgia because the West ignored its wishes on Kosovo. As Georgia placed itself in the American camp, it constituted a perfect target and a conduit to send a message to the USA. Similarly, the United States has refrained from extending help to Georgia, even as it was being ravaged by brutal Russian forces, because it needs Russian support and help in North Korea and Iran.
Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East.
He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, Global Politician, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com