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Georgia - Victim Of Realpolitik

Prof. Yehezkel Dror: 'What Has Happened In Georgia Should Have Been Apparent To Anyone Who Is Not Blind'

'The U.S. Can Now Be Expected To Reconsider Its Decision To Station Missiles Around Russia'

'The Lesson For Israel Is In the Potential Use Of Force & Not Putting Trust In UN Resolutions And So Forth For Its Security'

Russian Prime-Minister Vladimir Putin

What should Israel learn from the bloody clash between the big power Russia and its small neighbor of Georgia? Has Russia almost overnight brought about a dramatic power shift in the international system that has been dominated by the U.S., since the breakup of the former Soviet Union? In an interview with IsraCast, Prof. Yehezkel Dror, a widely known expert on international relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, discusses these questions and others.

Intro: Prof. Yehezkel Dror, a senior Russian officer in Georgia is quoted as saying ' If Bush can go into Baghdad, we can go into Tbilisi!' In light of what has happened in Georgia, is this current tension between the U.S. and Russia a full blown crisis that may spell the end of the unipolar world dominated by America since the breakup of the former Soviet Union? Or is it more of a regional nature whereby superpowers practice Realpolitik in what they see as their legitimate spheres of interest?

Prof. Yehezkel Dror: 'What has transpired in Georgia should have been apparent to anyone who is not blind. So many people are in fact blind. In international relations power and the determination to use force are very important. Ideas, ideals and international law are significant but if you are one of the big powers, power is critical. Many people tend to ignore this and hopefully adopt, what they think should be the true view of international relations but this perception is out of touch with international realities'.

Question: Will Russia follow up its move in Georgia with a continuation in Ukraine and other small republics on its border?

Prof. Dror: 'No, there will be no need for the Russians to do so. What they did in Georgia has demonstrated their determination and will cause its other neighboring states to be more careful and not to try and take in neighbors from the former Soviet Union. Moreover, the U.S. will reconsider stationing its missiles around Russia - everyone will awaken from this false dream'.

Question: What does the American attempt to deploy missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic indicate about Washington's political prudence in the international arena?

Prof. Dror: 'It indicates that no really deep thought was devoted to it by the U.S. This in the sense that Washington did not understand that Russia, due to a strong and quite good leadership for that type of country, together with its growing economic power thanks to high oil prices, has become a very important global power which should not be provoked unnecessarily'.

Question: In retrospect, did the U.S. miss an opportunity to forge some kind of new deal with Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union?

Prof. Dror: 'The case should not be overstated. The U.S. and Russia do maintain a wide range of relations and cooperation in various fields. They have joint interests in acting against terrorism, in preventing wild states from going crazy, and both countries are interested in a global energy agreement. And there are other issues like preventing global ecological catastrophes. It must be understood that in relations between powers, there is a period when one side tests the determination of the other. In this case, Russia's determination to protect its interests in the Caucasian countries was underestimated. As for a possible American military response, it should have been clear in advance there would be no U.S. military intervention. Anyone who did think so was completely off the planet.'

Question: What is the lesson that should be learned by small countries like Georgia and even Israel ?

Prof. Dror: 'Don't provoke the Russian bear as far as possible while striving to preserve one's independence. If necessary, try to accommodate the the big power because when a small state has a big power as its neighbor, it depends on that country. Israel is a different story in that it has no major power on its border. On the other hand, it raises the issue of the potentials for the use of force. As for the use of force there is always the question of underusing and overusing it. For instance, in the Second Lebanon War Israel either underused or overused power. I think in some respects it underused it. Second, putting your trust in U.N. resolutions and so forth is not a reliable basis for security'.

Iranian missiles (photo: MEHR)

Question: How might the crisis over Georgia impact on the issue of Iran's nuclear weapons program in which the Russians are participating indirectly by building Iran's nuclear reactor and selling them other nuclear technology?

Prof. Dror: 'I don't think Russia wants to see a nuclear armed Iran. Moscow clearly doesn't want it. But it has other interests like the West European countries that impose economic sanctions on Iran while at the same time they sign commercial agreements with Tehran. This is an inherent inconsistency which makes determined action very hard. I'm not too optimistic about the outcome.'

Question: After the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger talked about the U.S. expelling the then Soviet Union out of the Middle East which it succeeded in doing. After Georgia, is it now possible that Moscow will attempt to again be a major player in the Middle East?

Prof. Dror: 'First of all Russia is already a major player in this area - it supplies weapons and information to Arab countries. So it is a major player in any case. But the Russians are not the dominant players. The U.S. and the European Union, if it gets its act in order, are more important players. Israel realizes that Russia is an important player in the Middle East and has taken this into account. Moreover, the Russian leadership is not anti-Israel.'

The Iranian Missile Range

Question: But on the global level has the international community now entered a new era after the U.S. exercised its uni-polar domination of the international system in recent years?

Prof. Dror. 'The international system was already in a new era before Georgia but people didn't realize it. The emergence of Russia is important, but the rise of China and India is even more important. In other words, the power balance in the world has been changing very rapidly - Russia's increasing power was predictable but it is not as significant as the rising power of China.'

Question: Under these new circumstances will the U.S. have to change its approach in the international arena?

Prof. Dror: 'Global power is always a zero sum game. If other countries gain more power this diminishes America's relative power. However, there are shared non-conflicting interests involved such as global pollution from energy. In this case, the per capita energy use by Americans far exceeds that of China which will certainly demand a change in the balance. As it gains power, China will also acquire greater leverage. The world is changing rapidly and Israel's challenge is how to thrive in such a situation where the whole Geo- strategy is undergoing a metamorphosis. The U.S will continue to be the most important single power for the next 10-15 years. After that I don't know - China may be just as powerful.'

Question: So in light of the facts you've just described, you would discount the conjecture of the U.S. and Russia possibly returning to a new 'Cold War'.

Prof Dror: 'Yes, I discount it - remember Russia itself has a problem with its own neighbor China!'

David Essing

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