An entangling alliance

The standoff in Abkhazia continues, and the rhetoric escalates. Whether arms and men are also building up, I couldn’t tell you, but you can find someone to posit whatever you want to be true.

Russia started this latest dustup in reaction to NATO’s assuring Georgia of an offer of membership…some day. (By the Caucasian version of Occam’s Razor—never adduce a transparent explanation when a conspiracy is at hand—Russia’s moves are being orchestrated by hardliners, to test the mettle of the not-so-hawkish-as-they’d-like incoming President Medvedev; and Saakashvili is wagging the dog in advance of parliamentary elections) Whatever their motivation, Moscow has been surprised by the unusually concerted response of the international community, which, while “calling for all sides to act responsibly,” has put the onus on Russia.

Meanwhile, some Americans think that it’s none of our business. Robert Farley is

extremely leery of allowing Georgia into NATO anytime soon. Long story short, the Western Alliance really doesn’t need to get mixed up in an obscure border dispute between Russia and Georgia; there’s much to be lost and little to be gained.

Where to begin? Georgia doesn’t expect to be joining NATO any time soon. The issue at Bucharest was whether to offer Georgia a MAP, which isn’t a guarantee and sets no timetable (Albania was in MAP for nine years before receiving an invitation in Bucharest).

The dispute is not over the Russian-Georgian border; both parties agree where that is. But Russia ignores it and has de facto annexed a large part of Georgia, while insisting that it’s done no such thing. And local disputes are obscure only until you can no longer afford to ignore them. “Hoy hoy. Archduke who? Was shot where? It’s 3 a.m. my good man! Don’t bother me with such obscure events.”