The weakness of the international responses to Russia’s occupation of Georgia is not surprising, given the lack of any military capability to put Russia’s armed forces under pressure there. In such circumstances the initiative clearly still lies with Putin as to what will happen next. He has ‘gotten away with it’ in Georgia, and will be looking at how to press the advantage he has acquired, once the dust has settled.
The Ukraine might well be next as his chosen target, or maybe Moldova, from where Putin would be able to put pressure on the EU directly in Romania. It is most unlikely the West will get itself involved in a conflict over the Ukraine, and Putin knows that in all likelihood he can get on with the job of quietly bringing the country to heel at his leisure. See Ambrose Pritchard Evans explaining why NATO /should will not fight over Ukraine HERE – NATO is not a golf club.
However, were Romania to fall under Russian ‘influence’ or oppression, that would open up the Balkans and Central Europe, and present some stark strategic choices to NATO and the EU. Romania falling back under Russian control would make the likely future borders between the Russian and Western spheres of influence, a list of countries currently considered to be well within the Western camp.
A glance at the map shows the importance of Romania clearly enough.
The Russians are well aware of it. In the past, they have invaded the country no less than 13 times. The article linked at the end gives the flavour of the relationship between Russia and Romania. Romania is a member of NATO, and a key part of any notional defensive line which exists in the minds of Western leaders.
But what if Putin were to use the Moldova conflict as an excuse to occupy parts of Romania and effectively neutralise it as a country from the Western camp? The world would be shocked, but that doesn’t mean it won’t or couldn’t happen. Without a military challenge to make Putin reconsider, he will no doubt be browsing maps on a daily basis wondering how far he will be able to go before he is checked.
If the West won’t ‘fight’ in Georgia, and won’t ‘fight’ in Ukraine, why would things be any different in Romania? Such thoughts will inevitably be in Putin’s mind, and should also be in many other peoples – especially those who consider themselves to be European ‘leaders’.
If the EU and NATO are to do anything to stand in Putin’s way, and act with any semblance of cohesion, then they should be making it clear now that they will fight over not only Poland (as the USA has guaranteed that it will), but also Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. If the West loses Romania, they will find themsleves holding the line next in Croatia in all probability, with Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all coming under duress from Russian influence.
Serbia would find the EU’s occupation of Kosovo crumbling in no time.
Meanwhile as the BBC explains so well, the dithering of EU leaders, which can only be sending Putin ‘come hither’ signals of the strongest kind, goes on. This must be a very dangerous approach as it leaves it open to Putin to hope that he will ‘get away with it’ again, until Europe finds herself stumbling towards war. It would be better to make it quite clear where the boundaries lie.
According to BBC Europe Correspondent Mark Mardell, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said that he believes he can use his personal friendship with Vladimir Putin to reason with Moscow. Mardell notes on his blog: “It seems all but decided that there will be no sanctions against Russia. No punishment for the initial invasion, nor for failing to implement President Sarkozy’s ceasefire, nor for recognising the breakaway republics. The likely form of words will be that the EU should ‘keep under surveillance its relations with Russia’.”
President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow would sign deals providing military aid to Georgia’s breakaway provinces. Georgia says Russia has set up 23 checkpoints “deep within sovereign Georgian territory”, manned by more than 900 Russian troops and 73 armoured vehicles.
Moscow still stands alone in recognising the breakaway Georgia territories so far. Venezuela, Belarus and Central Asian states have given rhetorical support but stopped short of recognition. Two other separatist enclaves – Transniestria in Moldova and Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan – have however recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Article – HERE gives background – written with foresight in May 2007 before the current troubles began.