Reid Smith has drawn up the first part of a list of top security threats to the U.S. I suppose we should be relieved that Russia comes in no higher than tenth, but Smith makes a curious statement in the middle of his description:
Regional conflagrations in South Ossetia and Abkhazia threaten NATO member states.
Which NATO member states? How could conflicts over the separatist republics possibly threaten any member states in NATO? Put another way, which NATO members were threatened during the war in 2008? The answer would appear to be none. What has changed in the three years since then that makes these disputes more likely to threaten NATO members? If anything, NATO members’ security is less threatened by renewed conflict in the Caucasus than it was three years ago when Georgia was still being taken far too seriously as a prospective member. Indeed, one of the contributing factors leading to the escalation of hostilities in 2008 was the misleading impression that the U.S. and NATO would come to Georgia’s defense in a crisis, which was created by the Western willingness to entertain Georgian aspirations for alliance membership. It’s just one sentence in Smith’s post, but it is so thoroughly wrong that it merited some comment.
Smith also says that “the threat of military intervention in Ukraine and direct conflict in Georgia looms,” and it’s worth pointing out that neither of these things is true. One could imagine how the first could happen if Ukraine were ruled by an openly anti-Russian, hostile government, but it isn’t ruled by such a government, and it is not likely going to be in the future. Georgia can’t afford another direct conflict, and Russia has no need to start one. So these things don’t loom. One of them is extremely unlikely, and the other is hard to imagine at present. I would also point out that neither of these scenarios has anything to do with threats to “American territorial security, national sovereignty and interests abroad,” which is what the list is supposed to include. Smith refers to the current state of affairs as a “Cold Peace,” and yet U.S.-Russian relations have scarcely been better during the last two decades. “Cold peace” is what we had in the previous decade, and the differences between then and now ought to be obvious.