Resurgence of Russian Power: Limited U.S. Bargaining Chips

As a symbolic polar bear, the resurgence of Russia power is seemingly taking shape.

Although foreseeing the potential outbreak of conflict, or even a war, between Russia and Georgia, the U.S. did not expect such a radical response from Russia. This has led to a situation in which Washington not only has few options for stopping Russia’s military advance into Georgia, but also has difficulty making a decision for strong intervention. The U.S. is partly to blame for encouraging Georgia’s pro-Western government to overreach, experts said.

Experts also pointed out that there is little Washington can do to restrain Russia. Although Secretary of State Rice is an expert on the Russian issue, she might have misjudged Russian’s intention and the possible development of the whole situation. “Let me say at this point that there are no good solutions. Either we have to try to remove them (the Russians) by force or accept a humiliating defeat,” said Simes, founding president of the Nixon Center in Washington. “It is not a happy solution, and we did not have to have this situation, and I think the (Bush) administration has considerable responsibility for that.” Simes also said U.S. encouragement of Georgia President Saakashvili may have led him to believe he could take back control of South Ossetia with military action.

Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations believed that U.S. encouragement may have made Saakashvili miscalculate the situation and send troop recklessly into South Ossetia. “Saakashvili got too close to the United States and the United States got too close to Saakashvili,” Kupchan said. “It made him overreach, it made him feel at the end of the day that the West would come to his assistance if he got into trouble.”

Bush told Russia to reverse the course or risk jeopardizing the bilateral relations between the two countries. Nevertheless analysts said Washington has limited influence over Russia after years of tense relations on issues ranging from the Iraq War to U.S. insistence of deploying a defensive missile system in east Europe.

None of the Western countries, including the U.S., has claimed the possibility of dispatching troops to Georgia. The Russian leader perceived that U.S. handling of global issues can not be sustained without Russia’s cooperation and support. Furthermore, pubic opinion in America is unlikely to approve U.S. sending troops to assist Georgia.

“When you have very thin relations, it doesn’t give you a lot of diplomatic tools,” said Pifer, a former US. ambassador to Ukraine who is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institute. “The bargaining chips in the hands of America are very limited.”

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