Meet Igor Sechin, nominally the deputy prime minister of Russia. In fact, he is the dominant power in the Kremlin. In Russia, the speculation is over whether Putin is his puppet! According to top Kremlinologists, Sechin was calling the shots when Russia invaded Georgia.
Robert Amsterdam, an international lawyer who knows all about the inner workings in Moscow, calls the invasion, in part, “an effort to sidetrack Dmitry Medvedev,” the newly elected Russian president who has focused on bringing to Russia the rule of law. Determined to show real power and to trivialize the legalisms of Medvedev, Sechin and Putin ignored the Russian president in invading their neighbor.
But Amsterdam makes a larger and more important point: The corporatist leadership of Russia, entirely dependent on oil and gas revenues for its economic viability, has an essential stake in promoting global instability. A stable world encourages a drop in oil prices. It is no coincidence that Russia is at the core of the two major threats to world stability: Iran and the invasion of Georgia. Worried by a major drop in oil prices, creating severe economic problems for Russia, the Kremlin has a cosmic interest in promoting turbulence whenever and wherever it can.
Georgia represents the last pro-Western bridge to bring oil and gas from the central Asian former Soviet states to the West. Three times as much oil flows over rail tracks on the bridge near Gori which Russian aircraft destroyed as through pipelines from Russia.
Bush’s response to the Georgia attack has been prompt and skillful. Introducing American troops into Georgia on a humanitarian mission makes it clear to Russia and to the Georgian people that the United States will not abandon its ally, but it does so in a way that deters further Russian moves.
But the key answer came not from the U.S. but from Poland, which approved having a missile defense shield on its territory. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, elected on a platform of opposing deployment in Poland, quickly reversed field and saw the light when Russian troops began rolling into Georgia.
Urgent Western attention to the application of Ukraine for NATO membership will further underscore to Russia how short-sighted its invasion of Georgia really was. The backlash in Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe will prove to be far more devastating to Russia than Putin . . . and Sechin . . . may have anticipated.