Two Cowboys: Vladimir & George W
Thy spirit, Independence, let me share;
Lord of the lion heart and eagle eye,
Thy steps I follow with my bosom bare,
Nor heed the storm that howls along the sky.
--Tobias George Smallett, Ode to Independence
It was quite a contrast. And that's not to say that what Russia did was right. It's just interesting for the outsider to contrast George Bush's response to events in Kosovo with his response to events in Georgia. In examining the two responses one is made aware of the fact that Mr. Putin's Russia and Mr. Bush's United States have come far since George first met Vladimir and, exercising his parapsychology skills, looked into Mr. Putin's soul and liked what he saw. What he saw in Mr. Putin's soul was a reflection of his own cowboy mentality.
It was the cowboy mentality that enabled George Bush (who history may remember as Don Quixote's direct descendant) to swagger into Iraq in pursuit of an imagined adversary. Not finding the sought-after enemy, he created one remarkably similar to the one he was chasing. (Don Quixote was less fortunate.) It was George Bush's cowboy mentality that convinced him to place corrals in the form of radar installations inside the Czech Republic and missiles inside Poland, ostensibly to protect Europe from a nuclear strike should Iran succeed in developing nuclear weapons. In the eyes of Vladimir Putin and many foreign policy mavens, the installations were meant to protect Europe from Russia.
Following Russia's invasion of South Ossetia in support of South Ossetia's bid for independence from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, the cowboy in George Bush told George he should send his head wrangler off to Georgia to let the Russian cowboy know who was boss in that part of the world even though that part of the world is more closely related to the Russian cowboy's sphere of influence than the Texan's.
During Cowboy Dick's visit to Georgia he not only assured the Georgian people of Mr. Bush's support for Georgia's insistence that the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia remain part of Georgia, but promised the Georgians Cowboy George would continue his support for Georgia's pursuit of NATO membership. Both positions were the equivalent of pushing a thumb into the eyes through which George had first gotten a glimpse into their proprietor's soul since Mr. Putin opposes Georgia's entry into NATO and supports the bids of South Ossetia and Abkhazia for independence from Georgia. What made the pronouncements even more interesting, however was that in opposing independence for the two break-away Republics George and Dick were taking positions diametrically opposed to the position taken by George only slightly more than one year earlier.
In June 2007 George visited Fushe Kruje in Albania before the vote was taken on whether or not Kosovo should be independent of Serbia and become an independent country. There were pictures of a back-slapping George Bush greeting people in Albania and expressing his support for Kosovo's bid for independence from Serbia. According to a report of his visit in the Guardian Mr. Bush announced that he had made up his mind that Kosovo should be independent from Serbia and let it be known that if agreement were not soon reached permitting the U.N. Security Counsel to vote on its bid for statehood, he might encourage Kosovo to declare independence. Following that, said he, George and his people would give it diplomatic recognition. George said: "Independence is the goal. That's what the people of Kosovo need to know. If it is apparent that is not going to happen in a relatively quick period of time, in my judgment, we need to put forward the resolution. Hence, deadline." In a press conference in Tirana, the Albanian capital, Mr. Bush said: "Sooner rather than later you've got to say enough's enough. Kosovo's independent."
Russia and Serbia opposed Kosovo's bid for independence. Among other things Serbia was concerned that if Kosovo were independent Serbia would lose 15% of its territory. It also observed that the independence of Kosovo would create a dangerous precedent for secessionists in other places around the world (like South Ossetia?) although that was not stated. Responding to Mr. Bush's meddlesome statements Mr. Putin said Russia remained firmly opposed to Kosovo's bid for independence. Kosovo declared its independence in May 2008. Now South Ossetia's independence has been recognized by Russia. George has responded by sending warships to unload humanitarian aid to those affected by the conflict. Watching the two cowboys one can only hope that George will leave the scene before he is able to sponsor a shootout at the OK Corral.
None of the foregoing is to suggest that Vladimir is a nice man. But then, as we all know, neither is George.