Via Daniel Larison, Roger Kimball on the bigger meaning of Russia’s reaction to Georgia’s overplaying of its hand:
But I suspect that in the years to come what most historians–and perhaps the rest of us, too–will think of when we hear the date August 8, 2008 is not China, and certainly not old what’s-his-name with the hair, the mistress, and pathetic claims of being “99 percent honest“. What we’ll think of is the country of Georgia and we’ll realize that August 8 was the date when Russia began reassembling the former Soviet empire in earnest.
Yes, just as Iran is poised to revive the Achaemenid Empire! It’s not just that I find the charges of Russian imperialism a bit tired coming from people who have insisted for years that invading other countries, toppling their governments and setting up puppet states is not imperialism, but I find them very boring. I mean, how unimaginative can one be to say, “They’re bringing back the Soviet Union!”? That’s the sort of thing an eccentric Bond villain would try to do. There are no more workers’ councils, and there is no more USSR. In every sense of the word, the Soviets are gone and their empire is dust. No one–not Putin, not Medvedev, not anyone–is bringing it back as it once existed. Now if Kimball had said that Moscow is trying to reassemble parts of the pre-revolutionary Russian Empire, at least in terms of its territorial dimensions, I would still say that he is grossly exaggerating what’s going on, but at least he wouldn’t be embarrassing himself by saying completely nonsensical things.
I don’t know if the assertion of Russia’s desire to preserve a “shadow Soviet state” is completely non-sensical or not; certainly, it’s not non-sensical for Putin to continue intimidating former members of the USSR in the face of growing U.S. influence in the region.
But I do get pretty impatient when twerps like Larry Kudlow start calling the Russian leaders “war criminals,” when they are reacting exactly as the U.S. would have if someone made a move on a territory where we still had an occupying force.
Whereas there’s not much doubt that Putin is one calculating, ruthless SOB, I agree with Larison that all the goings on about his “inscrutability” are overdone and overwrought. He behaves in his own self-interest first, and Russia’s second. Now that he has a firm grasp on power, I would expect him to oust Saakashvili and insert one of his puppets. But what Russia does not want again are a bunch of weak, needy client states with divergent interests.