While Republicans were whopping it up in St. Paul, Vice President Dick Cheney was stirring things up in Georgia and Ukraine. The architect of the Iraq invasion pledged a $1B aid package to Georgia and urged Ukraine to forge closer ties with the U.S.
This blogger is all for freedom and democracy in that region, but there is a time and place for all things. U.S. relations with Russia have sunk to a Cold War level. A lame-duck Administration should not be provoking the Russians with saber-rattling. E.g., the New York Times (Sept. 6) reported that Russia is furious with the U.S. decision to sail three warships into the Black Sea, which is dominated by Russian ships, over the past month. The USS Mount Whitney, flagship of the Sixth Fleet, dropped anchor off Georgia’s Russian-patrolled port of Poti. Reuters (Sept. 5) reported the U.S. deployment was to “send a signal to Moscow.” More like a jab in the eye.
Military analysts say American forces are already over-extended overseas. This country stood on the sidelines when Russia invaded Georgia, a country with 4.6M people. Cheney is unwise to aggravate Russia with talk of a speedy entry into NATO for Ukraine, a country with historic ties with Russia. Nearly 20 percent of its 46M people are Russian. There is no way an emboldened and energy-rich Russia would stand pat if Ukraine attempted a quickie NATO bid.
Thankfully that speedy NATO bid doesn’t seem to be in the cards. The Times reported Sept. 4 that Ukraine’s pro-western government is on the verge of collapse. Reuters added that a majority of Ukrainians now oppose NATO membership. So what is the point of Cheney’s tough-guy talk? Is the Administration that desperate to stay relevant?
Mike Willard, who runs The Willard Group with offices in Moscow and Kiev, panned Cheney’s tour of the region. “It was a ridiculous show of bluster for a fellow probably most responsible for the Iraq debacle and for an administration with only five months left in power,” he said. “It also is so phony. The United States has very limited options vis-a-vis Russia. In my view, such actions go beyond foolish to being dangerous.”
Cheney is off to Italy following his Ukraine adventure. He is expected to return home next Wednesday. President Obama or McCain will have to deal with his mess.