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Russia: Holding the Line

Published on: September 27th 2008 08:23:04
The Administration’s reaction to the Georgia crisis has emerged as a measured, pragmatic adjustment to the new realities of the North Caucasus. While the Department of State continues to radiate criticism of Moscow’s continued military presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, privately US officials admit to “moving on” from what in practical terms is increasingly regarded as a Russian fait accompli. This does not amount, however, to US acquiescence to the Kremlin’s new foreign policy. Instead, the White House has focused its energies on countering the broader international legitimization of Russian influence in areas claimed to be of “special interest”. At the vanguard of this effort are Washington’s EU and NATO allies, most vocally those on the eastern periphery who share concerns with the former Soviet states regarding the next vector of the Kremlin’s assertiveness. In the view of the Administration, international disapproval of Moscow’s worldview, or even the absence of support for it, in the case of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, may encourage a return to ante bellum basis of US-Russia cooperation. The coming months will demonstrate their own verdict. On an unexpected front, developments hint that the course of events and the semblance of trans-Atlantic solidarity are embedding a contrast in the minds of other players. Indicating that “It makes sense now to take into consideration a NATO bid”, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb has ignited a debate focused on closer European security relations both in Finland and in neighboring Sweden.

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