In his op-ed column published in the Washington Post today, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Michael Gerson makes some profoundly reasonable points about the negative results for Russia’s reputation and international standing as a result of its aggression in Georgia. Above all, he is right to point to our own duty in the West to support Georgia and its people, and not to cast blame on ourselves:
The worst option would be to excuse Russia by blaming ourselves. NATO expansion did not cause Russian belligerence. The desire to be part of NATO in liberated Europe was fueled, in part, by a justified fear of Russian belligerence. Citizens of the Baltic states, for example, are now glad that NATO expanded with relative speed, or they might be next on Putin’s list. Again and again in European history, there has been a temptation to sacrifice the freedom of small countries to the interests of great powers. And it generally hasn’t worked out very well, for them or for us.
Georgia has been foolish. But Russia’s crude overreach has had one good effect — revealing the courage of others. Poland has quickly upgraded its relations with America, even under nuclear threat from Russia. Ukraine has been defiant, even though Russia still makes claims on Crimea. These nations have recent memories of Russian national “pride.” And their courage should provoke our own.