The Russian invasion of Georgia has implications for transatlantic leadership in the South Caucasus, Central Asia, and beyond. Azar Gat has argued persuasively that the challenge to the liberal democratic order comes from the rise of authoritarian capitalism in states like China and Russia. In the interest of global security, Russia's call for the recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkazhia must be met by a strong European and transatlantic response.
The United States can demonstrate its values as a nation and lead by the power of its example. Its first priority should be the steadfast implementation of a humanitarian assistance policy to rebuild the Georgian state and contribute to the human security of its population. Policy recommendations that isolate Russia diplomatically, for example, suggesting its exclusion from the G-8, are likely to provide less effective leverage. American and European investors should pull their capital out of the country in a concerted effort that sends a strong message: intimidation exacts a price. No one country should be allowed to monopolize access to oil and gas resources in central Asia or intimidate sovereign neighbors at will.
The American response should be coordinated strongly with the European Union's consistent implementation of a neighborhood policy that prevents a return to Cold War divisions on the Continent. The Merkel government, in coordination with the trio presidency led presently by France, is likely to keep this policy at the top of its priorities heading into a difficult election year. This is in the German interest, as the Grand Coalition works out its internal dispute regarding the policy line to take on Russia.
Russia's actions underscore a structural reality on the transatlantic landscape: the politics of resource dependency is likely to be the source of conflict and cooperation in its "privileged" sphere of influence. The implications of this reality for the American presidential election are striking. The United States requires bi-partisan leadership that can formulate and implement multilateral responses to crises abroad, as the country simultaneously addresses considerable domestic problems: a staggering debt, dependence on foreign oil, and social inequalities in education and healthcare.
The next president needs a team that can work with Congress and inspire trust among allies. The internal debate about the importance of experience diverts attention away from critical issues. Those presidents who had to face down the Soviets in the last century, Truman in 1947 and Kennedy in 1962, came to office with considerably less experience than their predecessors. Ideological differences will determine the next election. The winners are likely to be the presidential and vice-presidential candidates who can persuade the majority of Americans that they can restore popular confidence in the economy at home and America's purpose in a divided world.
Colette Mazzucelli, MALD, EdM Cand., PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of History and Political Science at Molloy College, Rockville Centre, New York.
Related Materials from the Atlantic Community:
- David Francis: Proposal for a United Policy Towards Russia.
- Mark Brzezinski & Lanny A. Breuer: Repairing America's Image Aborad Will Take Time.
- Editorial Team: Obama Stresses Security Policy Differences with McCain.