Author Topic: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?  (Read 108271 times)

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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #300 on: August 23, 2008, 03:17:08 PM »
Oh, come on folks. You can't say Saakashvili is an intelligent or able statesman, in fact he's no statesman at all. In a single stroke, by bombing the capital city of South Ossetia, he managed to play into the Russians' hands and give them the perfect opportunity to flex their geopolitical muscles in the region, which is something they've been itching to do for the last decade. Saakashvili behaved irresponsibly and impulsively and stupidly, and Georgia is now paying the price. I am not saying that either Georgia or Russia is completely to blame here, I am saying that both of them have blood on their hands. And both of them are trying their best to protect their own national interests, as well they might.

But as long as we keep expanding NATO - how do you think Russia is going to respond, exactly? I mean, what if Georgia IS allowed to join NATO? It has already applied for membership. And NATO members are obliged by treaty to come to the aid of any other NATO member who is attacked by an outside force. Oh, that should work out really well for the United States, then. We can get into a war with Russia over an insignificant, tiny little country like Georgia, which has territorial disputes with Russia not only over South Ossetia but also over Abkhazia. Fantastic. Let's go for it!

Because that is what both McCain and Obama seem to be angling for - NATO membership for Georgia. And they're both so politically naive or starstruck (McCain happens to be a personal friend of Saakashvili, who wined and dined him in Georgia after he became president there) that they don't realize the trap they're walking into - the trap they're walking US, the United States, into. Excuse me for being so cynical, but this is not a case of big evil Russian bear attacking small defenseless Georgian rabbit. I repeat, it's a case of Russia trying to protect its own national interests, and Georgia doing the same - albeit totally incompetently, thanks to its idiotic president.
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Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #301 on: August 23, 2008, 03:34:37 PM »
Oh, come on folks. You can't say Saakashvili is an intelligent or able statesman, in fact he's no statesman at all. In a single stroke, by bombing the capital city of South Ossetia, he managed to play into the Russians' hands and give them the perfect opportunity to flex their geopolitical muscles in the region, which is something they've been itching to do for the last decade. Saakashvili behaved irresponsibly and impulsively and stupidly, and Georgia is now paying the price. I am not saying that either Georgia or Russia is completely to blame here, I am saying that both of them have blood on their hands. And both of them are trying their best to protect their own national interests, as well they might.

But as long as we keep expanding NATO - how do you think Russia is going to respond, exactly? I mean, what if Georgia IS allowed to join NATO? It has already applied for membership. And NATO members are obliged by treaty to come to the aid of any other NATO member who is attacked by an outside force. Oh, that should work out really well for the United States, then. We can get into a war with Russia over an insignificant, tiny little country like Georgia, which has territorial disputes with Russia not only over South Ossetia but also over Abkhazia. Fantastic. Let's go for it!

Because that is what both McCain and Obama seem to be angling for - NATO membership for Georgia. And they're both so politically naive or starstruck (McCain happens to be a personal friend of Saakashvili, who wined and dined him in Georgia after he became president there) that they don't realize the trap they're walking into - the trap they're walking US, the United States, into. Excuse me for being so cynical, but this is not a case of big evil Russian bear attacking small defenseless Georgian rabbit. I repeat, it's a case of Russia trying to protect its own national interests, and Georgia doing the same - albeit totally incompetently, thanks to its idiotic president.

I agree with Elisabeth's assessment of this situation. Saakashvili miscalculated - made a dumb mistake is more like it. I am not surprised that Russia attacked - and I'm no politician - but Saakashvili (who is supposedly a politician) seemed to be under the impression that it wouldn't, or he thought that the US would come to his aid? I have no idea what he thought, but what he did was kind of dumb... It is a lot more complicated than poor Georgia being attacked by big old Russia. I just hope we won't get involved in this one!

BTW, did McCain really make a statement to the effect of "in the 21st century civilized nations don't invade other nations" in response to Georgia war, or did I just imagine that one? I can't seem to find where I initially read this, so perhaps I did imagine it!

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #302 on: August 23, 2008, 03:42:30 PM »
BTW, what do you guys think of US nuclear missiles in Poland, and how that will effect their relationship with Russia (as well as US relationship with Russia)?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080815/ap_on_re_eu/russia_us_missile_defense

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #303 on: August 23, 2008, 03:58:15 PM »
Not a good move. Just where do you think Ruaaian missles are aimed at now? And you know, Helen, I am pro-Russia.
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Offline StevenL

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #304 on: August 23, 2008, 04:53:52 PM »
Oh, come on folks. You can't say Saakashvili is an intelligent or able statesman, in fact he's no statesman at all.

Who are you debating? Who above has said this?


But as long as we keep expanding NATO - how do you think Russia is going to respond, exactly?

Sovereign states looking after their own best interests should not have to be paralyzed by that question.
Sovereign states have the right to sign treaties and join international organizations.That is partly what
being sovereign means.


Because that is what both McCain and Obama seem to be angling for - NATO membership for Georgia.


Largely counter-posturing in the heat of the moment in response to Russia flexing its muscles in a big way.
While Georgia remains in Russia's grip and while Russia continues to control the major transit routes through the
three Caucasus nations, of course you should not be surprised to find the US and Europe talking tough.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2008, 04:58:13 PM by StevenL »

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #305 on: August 24, 2008, 07:09:23 AM »
Steven, I don't know of many sovereign states that consider it their right to obliterate by bombing the entire capital city of a breakaway enclave. What you are basically saying is that Georgia had the right to wipe out hundreds of South Ossetian lives, the lives of innocent civlians, in the interests of maintaining its so-called territorial integrity. All I can say is, it's no wonder that South Ossetians hate Georgia with a passion, and want to rejoin with North Ossetia, even if it means rejoining Russia in the process.

And can't you see, Steven, that letting Georgia join NATO might not be in the United States's best interests. In fact, it would no doubt run directly counter to our best interests. For a moment, let's talk realpolitik. Russia is still a great power, if no longer a superpower like the United States or China. Whereas Georgia is a minor blip on the radar screen of international politics. Given those particular circumstances, exactly with whom should we stay friendly? What is the point of continuing to expand NATO into Russia's natural sphere of influence, when it obviously gets Russia's dander up and makes even ordinary Russians, not to mention the Russian government, increasingly hostile toward the West? Do we really want another Cold War? Or for that matter, an actual war with Russia? Over Georgia and Abkhazia? Are you joking?

As for the U.S. and Western Europe "talking tough" to Russia - unfortunately all this is probably completely counterproductive. What do we want to do, exactly, alienate Russia completely? Inadvertently give power to all the Russian reactionary nationalist politicians out there who say that the West is determined to humiliate or even destroy their country? In other words, do we want to encourage democratization in Russia, or do we want to take a dubiously "moral" stand on behalf of Georgia and in doing so encourage the Russian government to become ever more authoritarian and belligerent, not only towards former Soviet republics that are now independent, but also towards the United States and the West in general?

I'm sorry to say this, but I think that both Obama and McCain are showing poor judgment and lack of foreign policy skills and experience regarding this latest crisis in Georgia. And it should also be noted in this context that McCain just happens to be a personal friend of the Georgian leader Saakashvili. Perhaps not surprisingly, McCain keeps threatening to throw Russia out of the G8. I tell you, if this happens, it will be an utter disaster for the West. We cannot afford to ignore or ostracize Russia. Russia is a fact of life. It is not going away. WE HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE RUSSIA. WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH RUSSIA. Otherwise matters will only get worse - a hundred times worse -  in that particular corner of the world.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2008, 07:11:06 AM by Elisabeth »
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Offline StevenL

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #306 on: August 24, 2008, 07:25:37 AM »
What you are basically saying
What I am basically saying is what -- I -- said above, not the inflammatory clap-trap found in your second paragraph above which is your own very colorful attempt at paraphrasing my message.

Once more as I asked you above -- with whom are you really debating? Who above has actually said anything --remotely-- like what you have attributed to me above in paragraph 2 of your reply? You seem to prefer to do battle with opinions that no one has expressed. And no need to SHOUT-- a sure sign of someone not on solid ground.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2008, 07:44:16 AM by StevenL »

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #307 on: August 24, 2008, 07:51:02 AM »

Sovereign states looking after their own best interests should not have to be paralyzed by that question.
Sovereign states have the right to sign treaties and join international organizations.That is partly what
being sovereign means.

Largely counter-posturing in the heat of the moment in response to Russia flexing its muscles in a big way.
While Georgia remains in Russia's grip and while Russia continues to control the major transit routes through the
three Caucasus nations, of course you should not be surprised to find the US and Europe talking tough.

These are the two paragraphs I took issue with, Steven. I'm sorry if I misunderstood and still misunderstand your statements. But you seem to be arguing here that Georgia should be able to join NATO. I don't think that's the case, judging from its recent behavior and its current (and past) political and territorial disputes with Russia. Nor do I think that "the US and Europe talking tough" to Russia is the right or necessarily "natural" way to go. Both the US and the EU had the option of remaining neutral in this conflict. They could have reproached both Georgia and Russia for spilling innocent blood. Instead they're "talking tough" to Russia, and making Georgia out to be a martyr to Russian aggression - utter stupidity, as far as I'm concerned, since for once Russia is not primarily to blame for the latest outbreak of hostilities. And, as I said, the West's unfairness towards Russia in this instance will only encourage reactionary nationalists and other anti-Western hardliners in the Russian government.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2008, 07:53:09 AM by Elisabeth »
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Offline StevenL

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #308 on: August 24, 2008, 08:26:50 AM »

Sovereign states looking after their own best interests should not have to be paralyzed by that question.
Sovereign states have the right to sign treaties and join international organizations.That is partly what
being sovereign means.

Largely counter-posturing in the heat of the moment in response to Russia flexing its muscles in a big way.
While Georgia remains in Russia's grip and while Russia continues to control the major transit routes through the
three Caucasus nations, of course you should not be surprised to find the US and Europe talking tough.

These are the two paragraphs I took issue with, Steven. I'm sorry if I misunderstood and still misunderstand your statements. But you seem to be arguing here that Georgia should be able to join NATO.

I said "Sovereign states have the right to sign treaties and join international organizations.That is partly what being sovereign means." Do you dispute that? Do you dispute with the UN for instance that Georgia is a sovereign nation?


Nor do I think that "the US and Europe talking tough" to Russia is the right or necessarily "natural" way to go.

I did not advocate that talking tough was "the way to go," but it is what happens naturally: Strong actions provoke strong reactions, just as happened with Georgia's initial blunder. Thus I said above "you should not be surprised to find the US and Europe talking tough."

as I said, the West's unfairness towards Russia in this instance


I cannot debate this point with you as because you and I appear to possess fundamentally irreconcilable value systems:

I totally reject the notion that the West must remain hostage to Russia's stubborn refusal to put behind itself
the Soviet Union-era mindset about its "empire" (Eastern Europe and the former Soviet realm).
You appear to accept that mindset and encourage others to work around it, which is to me like enabling an alcoholic.

I reject in this enlightened era the notion of "natural spheres of influence," and all that it
implies for smaller countries in a world already dominated by the larger ones.
You appear comfortable relegating small sovereign nations to the position of pawns on a chessboard,
which to me represents the very worst assumptions underlying imperialism and colonialism.


Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #309 on: August 24, 2008, 08:35:22 AM »
Well, what about those South Ossetians, then, Steven, if you're so gung-ho about the self-determination of smaller nations? The South Ossetians do not want to belong to Georgia, they want to rejoin North Ossetia in Russia. It seems to me your desire to stand up for the rights of smaller nations like Georgia is rather limited - to Georgia. How did you stand on Kosovo, by the way? Don't you think that was a paradigm-shifting moment? After all, if the U.S. can support a breakaway enclave of the Yugoslav Republic in achieving independence, then what is to stop the Russian Federation from supporting a breakaway enclave of Georgia, especially since Russia has both a historical and, it could be argued, a moral claim to this territory (given that the majority of South Ossetians want to be with North Ossetia, even if it means rejoining Russia in the process)?

P.S. What is NATO if not a "sphere of influence"? And is a great power like Russia just supposed to turn a blind eye to the expansion of the Western (and specifically American) sphere of influence into its own region?

There were plenty of people back in the 1990s who said that expanding NATO into Eastern Europe and Transcaucasia would worsen our relationship with Russia, perhaps permanently. The eminent historian and anti-Communist Richard Pipes was one such voice... This has nothing to do with trying to protect Russia's imperial interests. It has everything to do with dealing with the world as it really is - carved into geopolitical spheres of influence, whether you like it or not. And these spheres of interest have to respect one another - otherwise all hell is certain to break loose.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2008, 08:51:11 AM by Elisabeth »
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Offline StevenL

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #310 on: August 24, 2008, 09:26:29 AM »
Well, what about those South Ossetians, then, Steven, if you're so gung-ho about the self-determination of smaller nations? The South Ossetians do not want to belong to Georgia, they want to rejoin North Ossetia in Russia.

Read way above before --yet again-- ascribing to me words I never spoke, and putting the most inflammatory spin on what I said.

As you will find on this forum I am fine with working toward compromise (I even cited several successful models)
in this dispute and I do not approve of Georgia's action that precipitated the crisis. However, Georgia, unlike S.O.,
is an internationally recognized sovereign nation. S.O. at the moment is not. There is a difference, and there are models in the past
for handling secession which Georgia, the UN, and the West and Russia both should strongly consider after all the posturing and
muscle-flexing dies down.

What is NATO if not a "sphere of influence"? And is a great power like Russia just supposed to turn a blind eye to the expansion of the Western (and specifically American) sphere of influence into its own region?

Again, due to fundamental differences in our core values, I cannot debate this with you. Nowhere in your most recent words is it recognized that NATO is a free and voluntary legitimate association of sovereign nations. That is a far cry from a "sphere of influence," a situation where associations are non-voluntary and where the weaker parties have inferior rights. In your message you also continue to accept Russia as having special rights to a certain "region," i.e., you are "enabling" Russia's tragic and fatal inability to move beyond the now long-defunct Soviet-era reality.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2008, 09:33:09 AM by StevenL »

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #311 on: August 24, 2008, 09:52:16 AM »
Well, what about those South Ossetians, then, Steven, if you're so gung-ho about the self-determination of smaller nations? The South Ossetians do not want to belong to Georgia, they want to rejoin North Ossetia in Russia.

Read way above before --yet again-- ascribing to me words I never spoke, and putting the most inflammatory spin on what I said.

As you will find on this forum I am fine with working toward compromise (I even cited several successful models)
in this dispute and I do not approve of Georgia's action that precipitated the crisis. However, Georgia, unlike S.O.,
is an internationally recognized sovereign nation. S.O. at the moment is not. There is a difference, and there are models in the past
for handling secession which Georgia, the UN, and the West and Russia both should strongly consider after all the posturing and
muscle-flexing dies down.

What is NATO if not a "sphere of influence"? And is a great power like Russia just supposed to turn a blind eye to the expansion of the Western (and specifically American) sphere of influence into its own region?

Again, due to fundamental differences in our core values, I cannot debate this with you. Nowhere in your most recent words is it recognized that NATO is a free and voluntary legitimate association of sovereign nations. That is a far cry from a "sphere of influence," a situation where associations are non-voluntary and where the weaker parties have inferior rights. In your message you also continue to accept Russia as having special rights to a certain "region," i.e., you are "enabling" Russia's tragic and fatal inability to move beyond the now long-defunct Soviet-era reality.

You are avoiding the fundamental question, Steven. What about Kosovo? Wasn't that a radical shift in the geopolitical paradigm? And doesn't it give Russia implicit permission to intervene if it sees that a people wanting to join Russia are being unnecessarily persecuted (well, yes, actually bombed) by the nation they supposedly "legally" belong to (if you can call an arbitrary decision made by Stalin some 50 years ago legal?).

NATO may be a voluntary orgainization but that still doesn't make it any less a sphere of influence, for crying out loud. You seem to make distinctions like this only when it suits your argument. After all, South Ossetia VOLUNTARILY wants to rejoin with North Ossetia and Russia - but somehow that doesn't count in your book. Only Georgia's rights - to be IMPERIALISTIC in South Ossetia - seem to count with you.
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Offline StevenL

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #312 on: August 24, 2008, 10:55:05 AM »

You are avoiding the fundamental question, Steven. What about Kosovo? Wasn't that a radical shift in the geopolitical paradigm? And doesn't it give Russia implicit permission to intervene if it sees that a people wanting to join Russia are being unnecessarily persecuted (well, yes, actually bombed) by the nation they supposedly "legally" belong to (if you can call an arbitrary decision made by Stalin some 50 years ago legal?).

NATO may be a voluntary orgainization but that still doesn't make it any less a sphere of influence, for crying out loud. You seem to make distinctions like this only when it suits your argument. After all, South Ossetia VOLUNTARILY wants to rejoin with North Ossetia and Russia - but somehow that doesn't count in your book. Only Georgia's rights - to be IMPERIALISTIC in South Ossetia - seem to count with you.

Sorry, your style here way to shrill for my tastes. As I said our core values  and approaches are irreconcilably different, including what you have suddenly introduced here what apparently is for you "the fundamental question" of this debate.

The Soviet world-view is unhealthy as the Soviet Union is no more. Those like you who enable that view and propose that whole nations do the same are free to do so, though in my opinion it is like reinforcing and coddling a friend who lives in an unhealthy state of denial.

In the meantime, Eastern Europe and the break-away republics are moving on, and looking in new directions, such as to the West. As sovereign nations it is their choice. Just as Belarus looks to Russia, Georgia as a sovereign state is completely free to aspire to greater association with the West. Hopefully if it is serious in doing so, Georgia will adopt a more practical path, which will probably include, in time, recognition of the will of the majority in S.O. and Abkhazia.


Offline RichC

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #313 on: August 24, 2008, 11:15:55 AM »
Elisabeth, you are not giving enough due consideration to how the Russian invasion of Georgia looks to Russia's erstwhile vassal states of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Ukraine, and so forth.  This is the reason the EU and the U.S. are reacting with such strong rhetoric.  Do you know how many ethnic Russians live in Ukraine?  How about Estonia?  What would you say if these people started agitating to again become part of Russia?  What's your position on the Crimea?

If you want to talk realpolitik, let's do it.  The EU will never allow Russia to regain it's lost empire in Europe.  And the response you are seeing to what happened in Georgia is evidence of that.  Perhaps Georgia is the exception, but for the rest of them, the borders have been settled once and for all.  You don't see Germany attempt to reclaim most of Poland, do you?  I mean, most of western Poland was once part of Germany, with Germans living there.  Not anymore. 

It is Russia, not the West, that has to rethink it's attitude here. 

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #314 on: August 24, 2008, 11:21:57 AM »

You are avoiding the fundamental question, Steven. What about Kosovo? Wasn't that a radical shift in the geopolitical paradigm? And doesn't it give Russia implicit permission to intervene if it sees that a people wanting to join Russia are being unnecessarily persecuted (well, yes, actually bombed) by the nation they supposedly "legally" belong to (if you can call an arbitrary decision made by Stalin some 50 years ago legal?).

NATO may be a voluntary orgainization but that still doesn't make it any less a sphere of influence, for crying out loud. You seem to make distinctions like this only when it suits your argument. After all, South Ossetia VOLUNTARILY wants to rejoin with North Ossetia and Russia - but somehow that doesn't count in your book. Only Georgia's rights - to be IMPERIALISTIC in South Ossetia - seem to count with you.

Sorry, your style here way to shrill for my tastes. As I said our core values  and approaches are irreconcilably different, including what you have suddenly introduced here what apparently is for you "the fundamental question" of this debate.

The Soviet world-view is unhealthy as the Soviet Union is no more. Those like you who enable that view and propose that whole nations do the same are free to do so, though in my opinion it is like reinforcing and coddling a friend who lives in an unhealthy state of denial.

In the meantime, Eastern Europe and the break-away republics are moving on, and looking in new directions, such as to the West. As sovereign nations it is their choice. Just as Belarus looks to Russia, Georgia as a sovereign state is completely free to aspire to greater association with the West. Hopefully if it is serious in doing so, Georgia will adopt a more practical path, which will probably include, in time, recognition of the will of the majority in S.O. and Abkhazia.

Georgia is overrun by strong nationalist feelings at present, I seriously doubt it's going to let South Ossetia or Abkhazia go willingly. You seem to forget that Saakashvili was voted into office on a wave of Georgian nationalist feeling. He's fond of calling Putin the "Lilliputin" (Lilliputian, haha, get it, get it?). He's insulted Putin left and right, both publicly and privately, and yet somehow - he believed that Putin and his government wouldn't retaliate when he bombed South Ossetia! The brilliance of the guy!

Excuse me for saying so, Steven, but you can't seem to confront the question of Kosovo, and what it has meant for the world political paradigm. I've asked this question twice in a row now, in two different posts, and you still haven't answered. I think it's because you're honestly stumped. You can't answer, because if you answered, you'd have to admit that South Ossetia, like Kosovo, has the inherent right to go its own way - even if that means, in South Ossetia's case, rejoining Russia!

I am not por-Russia, by the way. I am pro-common sense. We can't keep throwing stones at the Russian bear and not expect it to get annoyed, even angered, in response. Continued NATO expansion into the Russian sphere of influence is a mistake, IMHO. We should not get involved in Russia's territorial disputes with former Soviet republics on its borders. To do so would be to endanger both American and NATO security. Plenty of these former soviet republics are dictatorships, anyway, at least in Central Asia. It's hard to see what we would be fighting for, defending such countries from the so-called Russian threat.






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