In the Chatham House view, Realpolitik trumps the misty-eyed "globalization" Thomas Friedman & the NYT pilot fish preach incessantly as the dawn of democratic capitalism:
Russia's regional objectives are therefore straightforward. It aims to show its neighbours, by means of the Georgian example, that Russia is "glavniy": that its contentment is the key to "stability and security", and that if Russia expresses its discontent, Nato will be unwilling and unable to help. It aims to show Nato that its newest aspirant members are divided, divisible and, in the case of Georgia, reckless. It aims to show both sets of actors that Russia has (in Putin's words) "earned a right to be self-interested" and that in its own "zone", it will defend these interests irrespective of what others think about them. For Russia, the broader implications are also becoming straightforward. To its political establishment, to the heads of Gazprom and Rosneft, to its armed forces and security services and to their advisors and "ideologists", the key point is that the era of Western dominance is over.
Far from rejecting "globalisation", as Westerners might suppose, their view, in Foreign Minister Lavrov's words, is that the West is "losing its monopoly over the globalisation process". The Beijing Olympics are reminder enough that the cresting of what Russians call Western "democratic messianism" and the rise of "sovereign democracies" is not purely a Russia-driven process. But the West needs to know that Russia is determined to play a significant part in that process and that it is now able to do so.
The West will not have adequate responses to these events until it draws adequate conclusions. The first is that the era of democratic "coloured revolutions" is over. A few years ago, the Kremlin rightly feared that Georgia's Rose Revolution and Ukraine's Orange Revolution might destabilise the political elite in Russia itself. Today, the issue is whether these countries will be able to achieve their minimal objectives. Given today's harsh "correlation of forces", the issue for Tblisi is not whether it is right to use force against separatists but whether it is wise. The issue for Kiev is not whether its prime minister threatens its president but whether their divisions threaten the independence of the country. The issue for Nato and the EU is whether their "currency of influence" buys "stability and security" in this region and, if not, whether it is time to change it.
The left among EU countries wants to become quiescent, shed NATO as a Cold War artifact no longer useful, and employ its vaunted "diplomatic skills," [you know, the ones that brought us WWI & WWII to dampen conflicts around the world by employing soothing words to intractable crises.] But Mr. Sherr isn't so convinced Russian autocracy might not trump Western democracy when brutal methods are employed in a crisis.
...Russia is exasperated with the West and also contemptuous of it. In the Georgian conflict, as in the more subtle variants of energy diplomacy, Russians have shown a harshly utilitarian asperity in connecting means and ends. In exchange, we appear to present an unfocused commitment to values and process. Our democracy agenda has earned the resentment not only of Russia's elite but of the ordinary people who are delighted to see Georgia being taught a lesson. Our divisions arouse derision. Russians have no worries about the emergence of a unified EU energy policy, and they are losing their worries about a unified commitment to Nato enlargement. The war in South Ossetia, and the movement of conflict beyond it, should be a reminder that contempt has consequences.
George Kennan famously noted that Russia historically has only neighbors who are "either enemies or vassals." It appears that Putin thinks an iron fist will send the EU-nuchs scampering into neutrality and away from NATO, effectively making the EU a vassal-bloc dependent on the new incarnation of the USSR's energy pipelines. Sherr is somewhat pessimistic himself:
The final conclusion is the need to focus on what is at stake. Is our relationship with Russia the most important issue? If so, what happens to that relationship if we demonstrate that brutality works and that "zones of interest" can be formed against the interests of the countries that reside in them? What happens to our wider scheme of interests in Central and Eastern Europe and the Black Sea and Caspian regions? Today, those questions are now being asked. But it is late to be asking them.
Politico's Jonathan Martin notes that John McCain was prescient on Russia's malevolent intentions, going so far as to call Putin an "apparatchik" back in the 2000 campaign. John certainly came out far more strongly than Obambi or GWB did in the original attack on Friday, and he seems to have guessed that this was no mere whiff of grapeshot on the Russians' part, but a serious attack on Georgia's various infrastructures, including the BTC pipeline.
IMHO, electing a temporizer like Obama would signal Russia and China that it's okay to make their "near-abroads" like the South Caucasus, Ukraine, and Tibet into vassal states or even reincorporate them into the main country. Taiwan would soon follow in the Far East & scaling back NATO would scare Poland & the Czech Republic back into a moral no-man's land which would effectively return them into Russian satellites.
McCain would continue to make the world safer for democracies.