Outside editorial: Russian aggression requires a strong Western response

Posted: Monday, August 18, 2008

The Bush administration's initial reaction to the crisis in Georgia was sluggish, but since then the White House has made up for lost time.

It appropriately dispatched humanitarian aid, canceled plans for a joint NATO-Russian military exercise and issued a strong statement in support of the embattled Georgian government.

In the face of the still-developing Western reaction, the rhetoric from the Kremlin became even more bellicose. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blustered that the West could "forget about" Georgia's territorial integrity, a sign that Moscow intends to absorb the breakaway Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Bush pointedly noted that Russia is putting at risk its aspirations for greater integration with international institutions and the global economy.

In that light, steps that should be taken include threatening expulsion of Russia from the G-8 group of industrial nations, as well as denial of Russia's hopes of joining the World Trade Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Paris-based group of developed nations.

Russia should also understand that the 2014 winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea city of Sochi are now at risk.

Russia needs to understand that its massive invasion of Georgia will carry significant costs.

The stakes go well beyond the fate of one tiny nation. Unless the West reacts strongly, the next victim could be Ukraine.

The independence of every country once a part of the Soviet Union could be undermined if Russia is permitted a free hand in the region.

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