Saturday, August 16, 2008

Russia and Georgia

A thoughtful Atlantic article on the conflict between Russia and (the other) Georgia is here.

My thoughts:

1. Russia still has a long way to go to be a modern country, but we already knew that.

2. Should the US be worried about Russia? Not so much. They never really were a real superpower even during the cold war. The US wildly over-estimated their economic capactity at the time (for reasons that go beyond the scope of this post but have much to do with large military budgets), in a way that was obvious even to me as a high school student visiting Moscow and Leningrad in 1979. Russia was and is (sadly) just a heavily armed tinpot dicatorship. China will soon overshadow them both economically and militarily. While potentially problematic in its own right given China's excess of nationalistic fervor, China's ascension will provide both a helpful distraction to the Russians and an example of rapid post-communist economic development. Moreover, the likely ever-increasing difference in economic success between Russia proper and the former sattelite states should eventually put pressure on the Russian government to focus on economic reform rather than on nationalist territorial fantasies.

3. Surely Georgia is high on the list of places where our foreign policy should consist entirely of good wishes for growth and freedom, economic and cultural exchanges and nothing else?

Addendum: Dan Drezner has a number of interesting posts about Russia / Georgia on his blog, as well as his own take on the Krugman piece. I remain puzzled that Dan did not get tenure at Chicago.