PARIS – At the very moment China was getting a “gold medal” in diplomacy for the success of the opening ceremony in Beijing, Russia earned a “red card” for the extreme and disproportionate violence of its military intervention in Georgia. Whereas China intends to seduce and impress the world by the number of its Olympic medals, Russia wants to impress the world by demonstrating its military superiority. China’s soft power versus Russia’s hard power: the two countries’ choices reflect their very different levels of self-confidence.
China may play the victim versus the West, but its leaders know that their country is back on the world scene at a level that they deem appropriate and legitimate. Of course, domestically, China’s leaders lack confidence and behave accordingly towards their citizens. Yet, as China takes minuscule steps forward, Russia takes giant steps backward.
For many years now, Georgia and Russia have been playing with fire, and war in the Caucasus looked preordained. Each side was waiting for a false move by the other to play its hand.
It is more than likely that the young and impulsive Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili fell into the trap that he had helped to create. He wanted to demonstrate to his Western partners that Georgia needed NATO protection from Russia, and that accession was therefore urgent.