Russian revisionist history is corrected by Brookings Institution president Strobe Talbott — excerpt:
Russia has been justifying its rampage through Georgia as a “peacekeeping” operation to end the Tbilisi government’s “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” of South Ossetia. That terminology deliberately echoes U.S. and NATO language during their 1999 bombing campaign against Serbia, which resulted in the independence of Kosovo. Essentially, it’s payback time for a grievance that Russia has borne against the West for nine years. The Russians are relying on the conceit that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is today’s equivalent of Slobodan Milosevic, and that the South Ossetians are (or were until their rescue by the latter-day Red Army last week) being victimized by Tbilisi the way the Kosovar Albanians suffered under Belgrade.
This analogy turns reality, and history, upside down. Only after exhausting every attempt at diplomacy did NATO go to war over Kosovo. It did so because the formerly “autonomous” province of Serbia was under the heel of Belgrade and the Milosevic regime was running amok there, killing ethnic Albanians and throwing them out of their homes. By contrast, South Ossetia—even though it is on Georgian territory—has long been a Russian protectorate, beyond the reach of Saakashvili’s government.
An accurate comparison between the Balkan disasters of the 1990s and the one now playing out in the Caucasus underscores what is most ominous about current Russian policy…
Then comes the truly chilling part:
A question that looms large in the wake of the past week is whether Russian policy has changed with regard to the permanence of borders. That seemed to be what Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was hinting yesterday when he said, “You can forget about any discussion of Georgia’s territorial integrity.” He ridiculed “the logic of forcing South Ossetia and Abkhazia to return to being part of the Georgian state.”
Lavrov is a careful and experienced diplomat, not given to shooting off his mouth. That makes his comments all the more unsettling. If he has given the world a glimpse of the Russian endgame, it’s dangerous in its own right and in the precedent it would set.
…Among Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s important tasks in the days ahead is to get clarity on whether a Lavrov doctrine has replaced the Yeltsin one of 16 years ago. If so, big trouble looms—including for Russia….