That’s what it’s called when a big country sends tanks into the territory of a smaller neighbor, blockades its costs, bombs one of its cities, and demands that its elected leader step aside as the price of peace.

Yes, Russia is aiming to overthrow the elected government of Georgia.

Even as the Russian foreign minister denied calling for “regime change,” he repeated in public the demand he had made privately to Condi Rice that Georgia must sacrifice its president:

Lavrov said Russia can no longer view “a man who issued orders to commit war crimes” as a negotiating partner and therefore “without the departure of Saakashvili it is impossible to stop the conflict in South Ossetia.”

With Russian ships blockading Georgia’s coast, and Russian airplanes hitting Georgian (not South Ossetian) cities, do you think The Nation is now embarrassed to have run this piece of pro-Russian propaganda?

Short version of the piece: the Georgians have been mean to the South Ossetians, and Randy Scheunemann has been a lobbyist for the Georgian government, so if you think it’s a bad idea for Russia to send tanks across internationally recognized borders you must be a neo-con.

The article is almost self-parodic.

* Doesn’t a statement that starts out with a denunciation of McCain for joining Bill Clinton and Wes Clark in resisting Serbian genocide rather discredit itself?

* Isn’t the phrase “drawing in neighboring Russia” sort of … a lie, given that South Ossetia’s government is mostly a Russian puppet?

* The Russian condition for stopping the fighting, which Ames seems happy with, is that Georgia “renounces the use of force” in the two breakaway provinces. But of course a government that has no right to use force in an area is not sovereign over that area. So Russian’s position is that for negotiations to start Georgia must concede the main point at issue.

* Calling Georgia’s action an “invasion” assumes that the South Ossetian warlord were the ruler of an independent country.

* But the prize for the most dishonest sentence has to go to the one calling Saakashvili a “Pinochet wannabe.” Last time I checked it was Putin who had ordered his secret police to assassinate political opponents in foreign capitals, and then protected the murderers from justice.

Yes, the South Ossetians have real grievances. So did the Sudetendeutsch. Georgia offered autonomy, but the warlord, with Russian backing, is holding out for independence.

The basic fact I see is that the KGB has managed to re-establish control of Russia, and now desires to re-establish control of the surrounding countries as well. If being against that makes me a neo-con, I may need to get a subscription to Commentary.

It’s fair to say both that Randy Scheunemann’s history as a paid lobbyist for Georgia would greatly complicate the U.S. role in the region were McCain elected President and that GWB is to be blamed both for getting taken in by Putin years ago and for getting us so tied down in Iraq and so in need of Russian help vis-a-vis Iran that we have no leverage left in Georgia. But all of that can be said later. Right now, I’m satisfied that both McCain and Obama are saying the same thing Bush is saying (although of course McCain is also lying about what Obama is saying, since for him politics only starts at the water’s edge):

Hands off Georgia!

Update The press consensus seems to be that Georgia “started it” (this round) by attacking the South Ossetian capital. The James Nixey, head of the Russian program at Chatham House, just told the BBC that the South Ossetian “seperatists” (under Russian command) had been shelling Georgian Army positions, and that’s what got Saakashvili to attack. The Nixey (whom Jonathan Kulick vouches for) summed it up: “Saakashvili fell into a carefully set trap.”

Cheney is blustering about how “Russian aggression cannot go unanswered.” But of course there’s roughly f*ck-all we can do about it, with our army tied up elsewhere and our capacity to lead at a low ebb. Thanks, Dick.

The wingnut line is going to be to attack Obama because his original statment wasn’t as warlike as McCain’s.

The right response to that is clearly “One President at a time.” In a crisis, McCain decided to get out ahead of the U.S. position; Obama kept in step. Obama is focused on criticizing Russia; McCain is focused on criticizing Obama. Which one looks like a President to you?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: