BERLIN – Russia’s strategy to revise the post-Soviet order in what it calls its “near abroad” will be pursued with even more perseverance following its victory over Georgia. Europe should have no illusions about this and should begin to prepare itself. But, as the European Union ponders what to do, cold realism, not hysterical overreaction, is in order.
Unfortunately, equating the current situation in the Caucasus with the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 does not attest to this kind of realism. Neither the West nor NATO constitutes the decisive strategic threat facing Russia, which comes from the Islamic South and from the Far East, in particular the emerging superpower, China. Moreover, Russia’s strength is in no way comparable to that of the former Soviet Union.
Indeed, demographically, Russia is undergoing a dramatic decline. Apart from commodity exports, it has little to offer to the global economy.
Notwithstanding booming oil and gas revenues, its infrastructure remains underdeveloped, and successful economic modernization is a long way off. Likewise, its political and legal system is authoritarian, and its numerous minority problems remain unsolved. As a result, Russia’s current challenging of the territorial integrity of Georgia might prove to be a grave error in the not-so-distant future.