'A Lack of Leadership in Germany' The Georgia Crisis as Our Readers See It

If the Georgian march into South Ossetia caught the world by surprise, the overwhelming Russian response caused jaws to drop. But what happens next? SPIEGEL ONLINE readers have some ideas.


What really happened in South Ossetia? With the violence in the Caucasus having come to an end, and the diplomatic wrangling just getting started, answers to that question vary widely. Moscow points its finger at Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. He ordered Georgian forces into the breakaway province of South Ossetia last Thursday and heavily shelled the capital Tskhinvali.

A Russian soldier guards a checkpoint in the Georgian breakaway province of Abkhazia.
AP

A Russian soldier guards a checkpoint in the Georgian breakaway province of Abkhazia.

The response, though, was swift and massive. Russian troops pushed Georgia out of South Ossetia and then carried on into Georgia proper, bombing and shelling towns and villages as they went. Russia then opened up a new front from a second renegade province, Abkhazia. Both Tbilisi and Saakashvili's allies in Washington D.C. slammed Russia for its "disproportionate response," but Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin fired back, calling Russia's detractors hypocritical.

Now, both the European Union and the US are trying to figure out what to do next. Washington and some EU members would like a tough response and seek to isolate Russia internationally. Other EU members, including Germany, want a more measured reply based on dialogue and negotiation.

During the last week, a number of SPIEGEL ONLINE readers from the United States have written in with their thoughts.


Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

The Georgia incident shows the need for Europe to have a much more robust military. This may be a wake up call for Europe and the USA. As the days and months go by, perhaps we will find that Putin has overplayed his hand.

-- Ken Kaempffe, US


Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

This is hardly an example of any US foreign policy failure, but rather a lack of leadership in Germany. Why should the most powerful nation in Europe not be taking the lead in standing up to Russia? It is time to stop using World War II as an excuse for inaction and put Putin in his place. I hardly think that any American is going to feel the need to bail Europe out for a third time. Grow a backbone.

-- Randolph Rasch, Virginia


SPIEGEL ONLINE

Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

There is nothing really that the European Union has left to debate regarding the Georgian misadventure. EU leaders and Europeans have chosen to be doggedly blind in their embrace of pacifism -- thinking every geo-political issue can be negotiated until the machetes start cutting up the victim or the tanks blow up apartment buildings or snipers start picking off innocents.

The George W. Bush version of shoot before you think is also not the answer. At issue is how the EU has made Russia an energy giant that it is now dependent upon when the EU should have known that a humiliated ex-superpower wanted to roar again.

Putin will tweak at European interests for the next decade and there is little the EU can do. Mark my words: Europe has again entered another dismal period of mini-wars now taking place on its fringes; but soon to come to its front gates.

-- P. Achydus, US

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