Well that should do the trick. Not even les sanctions politiques et économiques can be mentioned. We’ve all discussed here the limits of U.S. power projection on the World Island, much less adjacent to a non-feeble (of any sort) Russia.
If the EU and the U.S. can not even talk about sanctions in the face of brazen Russian public contempt, what’s the point of NATO expansion in the Russian Near Abroad? One must concede that Georgia was always the outer fringe of Western willingness to provoke Moscow. In April 2008 the Germans and others blocked the Warlord’s wish that Georgia receive a so-called ‘MAP’ (Membership Action Plan) for NATO consideration. Ukraine was also denied. Both were expecting that decision to be reviewed in December 2008. Ooops.
We have a part of our answer now. It’s obvious that Moscow played on Western fears and uncertainties about where to draw their Western civilization boundaries. Many in NATO do not believe Georgia even fits that bill. Regardless of who really started the Georgian debacle, we now know that Americans, Frenchmen, Germans, Dutch and Norwegians will not even risk a significant political gesture for that part of the Russian Near Abroad. Factions in Kiev also must see the handwriting on the wall. (As does Minsk. Belorussia always is among the most reliable former Soviet Republics. Never interested in NATO membership. But even they are relatively muted in their support for Georgian ‘regime change’. Let’s not forget the ‘Stans).
The real question is where the West sees Russia exceeding its unvoiced but now recognized efforts to re-assert former imperial rule. Even the Soviets now and then in Moscow gave lip service to avoiding ‘Russian chauvanism’. Right up there with their desire for mir i sotrudniechestvo (peace and cooperation). But we know the score. And so do the peripheral states.
Poland may feel somewhat secure. Those few symbolic Patriot batteries being deployed in advance of still-roll-of-the-dice-will-they-ever-work BMD interceptors are nice tokens. There are some politically valuable Polish-Americans and growing institutional ties. The Patriots will be manned by the *crucial* but tiny American trip wire garrisons in 2012.
France and the British Empire once did go to war for Poland. But those ‘powers’ are mere ghosts in history. Will 21st century Frenchmen die for the Vistula? (Germans did twice before but that’s a whole different story). Norwegians? The capable-per-unit but over all small UK forces? And could the U.S. even do it without risking a global meltdown? As an intellectual exercise — that is avoided. Regardless all would be a fait accompli by the time Americans build up, get more European base access and especially Chinese credit. Certainly Europe’s dependence on Russian energy supplies and export markets will continue to grow. At that point? The Russians certainly might have to withstand a withering press conference or three from Brussels and Washington.
Let’s figure for the moment that Russian prudence lurks beneath truculent press releases. Poland is not and is not likely to be on any foreseeable agenda of *forcible* regime change. Russian expansionist plans remain today and so far are based on irredentism (like Russians in the Crimea, etc.). And in a potential phase two, perhaps, confined but expanding to its historic Near Abroad. Lenin always said probe with a bayonet and if you meet steel stop.
So far, the various velvets this-and-thats cover cheese whiz. The Russians know it. At least now we do, too.