As the Russian Army continues its operations in the Eastern Ukraine, with mounting casualties on both sides, it may be useful to examine how President George W. Bush handled a previous military adventure in a former Soviet republic, that being Georgia, in the summer of 2008.
As CNN noted, the conflict between Russia and Georgia, a small nation in the Caucasus Mountains, is a long-standing one, dating back to the Bolshevik Revolution and not having been resolved by the breakup of the Soviet Union. To make a long story short, Russia supported the breakaway of two Georgian provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia with “peacekeeping troops.” Though the independence of Georgia was preserved, the affair was termed a defeat for the George W. Bush administration in its waning days.
But, as Breitbart reports, things could have been much worse. The former defense minister of Georgia, Dmitri Shashkin, suggested that the Bush administration played a crucial role in preserving the independence of the country.
It was known at the time that the United States provided military transports to airlift a brigade of Georgian Army troops from Iraq to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and that this was followed up by the arrival of humanitarian aid. What was not known at the time, but Shashkin has just revealed, is that the troop transports were escorted by American fighter jets. The commander of the fighter unit sent a signal that any activity by Russian Air Force units would be considered an attack on the United States. Russian leader Vladimir Putin got the message and did not press on to overrun all of Georgia.
At the time then-Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama offered his preferred solution to the crisis, which included a call for UN mediation, the condemnation of Russian aggression in international forums, and a call to Georgia to exercise restraint in the use of force.
The reaction of the future president caused then vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin to opine that Obama’s reaction of “indecision and moral equivalence” would likely embolden Russia to invade the Ukraine next. Palin was criticized and even ridiculed for her prediction at the time. But she was proven to be correct.
Bush’s solution to the Georgia crisis was not perfect. South Ossetia and Abkhazia remain outside the authority of the Georgian government, their unrecognized independence under the protection of the Russian Army. In the meantime, Putin has managed to annex the Crimea away from Ukraine and is currently conducting military operations in the eastern part of that country in support of ethnic Russian rebels. The Obama administration seems impotent to stop the Russians, even refusing to provide arms and other support for the Ukrainian military.
Things are not all bad. Russian casualties are mounting, a fact that Putin is increasingly unable to conceal from his own people. The Ukraine adventure has also become a monetary black hole, sucking up Russian resources that might be better used elsewhere.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan contributed greatly to the fall of the USSR. But in that case, the Reagan administration hurried things along by providing the Afghan mujahedin lavish amounts of weapons that they used to bleed the Red Army white. The Obama administration is inexplicably failing to take advantage of the opportunity presented in the Ukraine to serve Putin in a similar fashion, bringing his rule and his attempts to revive the Soviet Empire, crashing into ruin.