Although Vice President Cheney bravely rattled a sword or two and George Bush was talking a little tougher to his old soul mate Vlad the Impaler, the simple truth is that there's not a damn thing we can do about the Russian invasion and perfidy short of nuking them. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made it amply clear that we aren't going to do that, or much of anything else beyond sending some humanitarian medical aid and supplies for the Georgian refugees.
The Georgian government made two mistakes — it took the Bush administration's rhetoric seriously and it ignored the Russians' bluster — and now both the Georgians and the world had best brace themselves for further Russian military action, economic pressure and diplomatic chicanery.
The opportunity to punish the Georgians is simply too tempting for Russia to ignore, so Putin will drag them back into Moscow’s orbit, if not Moscow’s ownership, and thus fire a warning shot across the bow of other breakaway republics that are considering membership in NATO or otherwise thumbing their noses at Putin.
Washington can respond only with tough talk. We can threaten to punish the Russians by expelling them from the International Monetary Fund and the Group of Eight wealthy nations, but with a fat bankroll bulging with Arab-size oil earnings, the Russians don’t really need to care about this.
If there's any silver lining to these dark clouds, it might be that Bush and Cheney will be so preoccupied grumbling at Bush’s buddy Vladimir and issuing empty threats that they won't have time to issue other threats or take some irrational action against the Iranians.
Things have truly come to a sorry pass when both our military and our diplomatic threats are as empty as our national treasury, and the Russians of all people can afford to laugh them off.
The lead paragraphs:
Only someone with a tenuous grasp on reality and a poor knowledge of history and the world could have looked into the flinty eyes of a onetime colonel in the Soviet KGB and "found him very straightforward and trustworthy."
That was newly elected President George W. Bush's pronouncement in June 2001, on his first meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin.