There is only one really important bilateral relationship between nations in the world: that between the U. S. and Russia. Between us we possess 90% or more of all of the world’s nuclear weapons and we’re the only two nations that can bring the world to an end.
If the U. S. and China were to sever relations or relations between the countries were to sour seriously, were trade to stop between the two countries, Walmart would collapse, millions more Chinese would probably starve, American consumers would scramble for a while to find alternatives for the thousands of products that are Made in China, and it would affect U. S. bond prices but it wouldn’t be the end of the world, at least not literally.
If the relationship between the U. S. and the European Union or the U. S. and the various countries that make up the European Union were to go seriously awry, it would curtail a lot of vacations, there’d be a difficult period of adjustment while the tangled financial relationships were sorted out, and life would be paler, poorer, and less interesting but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
If the relationship between Germany and Russia were to be severed, it would be a cold winter for a lot of Germans and, in all likelihood, foment a financial crisis in Russia, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
A serious disagreement between Russia and the United States that lead to direct military conflict between the two greatest military powers in the world could mean the end of the world.
That’s why I think the alarm expressed in John Barry’s article in Newsweek, Appeasing Russia, is so misplaced. Our interests in Georgia are very limited indeed and, as I noted yesterday, I don’t think you can explain them reasonably without mentioning the word Europe.
Russia’s reassembling the old Soviet empire would be deeply distressing, particularly to the people who live in the USS-were but we could live through it. We lived with the old Soviet Union which everybody with a lick of sense always knew was just a pretext for Russian nationalistic expansionism for 70 years. If the Europeans aren’t willing to make any sacrifices to prevent that from happening, I see no reason whatever that we should do so.
Over the period of the last week I’ve read an enormous amount of claptrap on what Russia can and can’t do and what the Russians will or won’t do, both from people who think we should face down the Russians and those who think we shouldn’t. I suggest that everybody start by reading this for a quick description of Russia and this for a quick description of Russia’s military capabilities. Whatever its problems Russia continues to be a big, powerful country with a big, powerful military. Its leaders have few scruples about using its military and overwhelming support for a return to Russia’s greatness under the old Soviet Union however impractical ior unrealistic that might be. This is aided mightily by the shall we say skewed notions that the Russians have about Russia, its history, that of the situation in the former republics of the Soviet Union, and the West. We have our own peculiar notions.
All of this BTW is the reason I was so upset by the Clinton Administration’s mismanagement of the U. S.-Russian relationship. That’s not a partisan slur; it’s simply a statement of fact. The Bush Administration has continued with the situation it inherited and added its own bonehead contributions.