As Russia continues to exhibit behavior reminiscent of the old Soviet Union — most immediately by apparently lying about its adherence to a European Union-brokered ceasefire in the state it has most recently invaded, democratic Georgia — Americans must formulate and implement appropriate responses. The object should be both to demonstrate solidarity with the victims of Russian aggression and to ensure that there are real costs to Moscow for reverting to form.
The following are among the steps that should be taken to add teeth to the symbolic gestures of humanitarian assistance and Secretary of State Rice’s visit to Tbilisi:
Reestablish the G-7: John McCain has long called for the removal of Russia from the so-called Group of Eight leading industrial nations. He’s long been right, but never more so than now when it is indisputably the case that Russia is neither a leading industrial nation nor a member in good standing of the world’s most powerful democracies. The Kremlin’s attack on freedom-loving Georgia is just the latest reminder that the Putin-Medvedev regime does not qualify for, and should no longer enjoy, the benefits of that elite group.
Georgia in NATO, Russia out. Germany’s past objections to Georgia’s entry into NATO — assuredly a product of the dangerous dependence on Russian energy flows cultivated in recent years by that country (among others in Europe) — must no longer stand. The West should sponsor under NATO’s patronage an alliance of freedom-loving nations from the Baltic to the Black Sea, shoring up its eastern flank and discouraging further Soviet-style aggression in the region.
While NATO is at it, the Kremlin should lose its privileged place at the table in Brussels. To do otherwise under present circumstances would be to mutate beyond recognition history’s most successful bulwark against totalitarian predations.
Forget about the WTO: Too many countries that do not play by the free trade rules of the World Trade Organization — including, notably mercantilist China and monopolist Saudi Arabia — have been allowed in, to the detriment of both the WTO and the liberal trading environment it is supposed to sponsor. Russia, with its thoroughly corrupt, oligarchic, and politicized business sector is a lousy candidate and should not have been considered eligible even before Moscow’s violence against Georgia. It should be out of the question now.
Keep Gazprom out of Alaska: Russia’s flagship energy-related state-owned enterprise (SOE), Gazprom, reportedly has designs on deposits in our 49th state. The company and its owners in the Kremlin should be told, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Divest from Russian SOEs: There are things that the private sector can do to help as well — like punishing Russia’s publicly traded state-owned enterprises in our markets. American investors need to be able to identify and liquidate their holdings in all Russian entities listed on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. Ditto Kremlin-controlled enterprises and companies with access to U.S. exchanges via American depository receipts (ADRs) — devices that allow companies that list elsewhere to trade on our capital markets. Running down the value of stocks of SOEs like Gazprom and Lukoil, that amount to corporate power-projection instruments for the Kremlin, would significantly increase the costs to Moscow of its efforts to snuff democratic governments allied with the United States.
To this end, the SEC’s Office of Global Security Risk should ensure that investors understand that there are material risks associated with doing business with Russian state-owned enterprises. While Russia is not on the official U.S. list of state-sponsors of terrorism, its stocks should be regarded like those of countries who are, given the Kremlin’s conduct under Vladimir Putin. Lest we forget: such conduct includes, besides Russia’s rape of Georgia: equipping Iran with nuclear weapons-relevant reactors and advanced weapons to protect them from our airstrikes; arming our hemisphere’s most rabid anti-American, Hugo Chavez; helping prop up nuclear proliferator North Korea; and making simulated bombing runs on U.S. territory and naval groups.
The American people, if given a choice, will surely decline to invest hard-earned retirement funds and other savings in totalitarian systems dedicated to undermining their values and destroying their democratic way of life — a dedication Russia vividly displays in Georgia today. Should our government exhibit a similar determination to oppose such behavior in the aforementioned ways, the effect may not only be to prevent the snuffing of Georgian democracy. It could prevent similar Soviet-style behavior now in the offing in Ukraine and elsewhere in the formerly enslaved regions the Kremlin calls its “near-abroad.” A measure of Western determination now may even serve to discourage what seems otherwise certain to eventuate: a far more serious future threat elsewhere in the world from what remains Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
– Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington.