No time to go wobbly

US policy on Georgia is bipartisan. Europe’s is bipolar.

As Russia tightens the screws on Georgia, Joe Biden and Dick Lugar call for the Euro-Atlantic alliance to stand up for Georgia.

But Georgia cannot win this standoff alone. A peaceful solution will require U.S. leadership, and engagement by the rest of NATO. Those NATO members who thought they could appease Moscow by denying Georgia a MAP [Membership Action Plan—J.K.] have already learned a hard lesson. Days after the summit ended, the Russian government took further steps to pry the two breakaway regions from Georgia.

The trans-Atlantic community must understand that Russia’s actions are not directed solely at Georgia. They are also aimed squarely at NATO itself, whose peaceful expansion Russia has long opposed. Russia hopes to instigate confrontational responses and prolong the territorial crisis to further complicate Georgia’s NATO aspirations.

Georgia is a small country on the edge of Europe, not obviously central to American interests. But support for Georgia is solid across the foreign-policy establishment (not a pejorative, Glenn Greenwald notwithstanding). And Georgia has become a whipping boy for the America Firsters at The American Conservative and the America Lasters at antiwar.com.

Several readers have asked why I take such an interest in Georgia (and, by implication, why they should). I live in Georgia, because I like it and care about its welfare. Many other expats could say the same about their adopted home, and it doesn’t make a prima facie case for why the country merits the west’s support, in the face of strident Russian opposition. But Georgia is an important test case for the west’s commitment to freedom and democracy, however devalued that notion is to so many who associate it with Bush administration arrogance. Georgia has demonstrated, in word and deed, its Euro-Atlantic orientation. Russia recognizes this and—crude and absurd as their rhetoric often is—will skillfully exploit every lapse in western solidarity. Whether this tension rises to the level of a new cold war, it must be taken seriously.

If you visit here, it’s hard to come away not liking Georgia and the Georgians. But you don’t need to have any personal investment in the place to want your country to stand by a vulnerable, embattled country that has stood by yours.