General Orlov in Octopussy.
Thursday, August 28, 2008

Octopussy and Georgia

About 17 minutes into Octopussy General Orlov (shown above) outlines his plan for the conquest of Western Europe. At the 18 minute mark he denounces the West as decadent and longing for unilateral disarmament. His plan is predicated on the ineffectiveness of the NATO alliance. It is General Gogol’s objection that a mass incursion of tanks into Europe, where they will meet inferior NATO forces, will trigger a theater nuclear response that prompts General Orlov’s outburst.

25 years after Octopussy, which should not be taken as a serious film about geopolitics, Russia attacked Georgia. NATO did substantially nothing.

I’m not familiar with the ins and outs of Georgian politics, or of Russo-Georgian relations, so lets leave all of those issues off the table, and instead concentrate on Georgia as an ally of the West. What are the responses that can be used?

  1. A military response.
    1. NATO forces repel Russian forces in Georgia. Russian forces retreat, and do not threaten again for a number of years. A counter-attack and thrust into Russia probably will not work because it is too late in the year, and will encounter the Russian winter, which actually is pretty bad, as Napoleon and Hitler found out. This suggests another option, a limited defensive strategy aimedsolely at removing Russian troops.
    2. A defensive strategy with conventional weapons could involve both sides in a prolonged conflict. Could NATO bring sufficient conventional forces to bear upon massed Russian armor to repel those forces? NATO countries range from Iceland, which has no military, and which consumes 0% of its GDP in military expenditures, to Turkey, which expends 5% of its GDP. This table shows the expenditures and the size of the military, as of 2002, for the NATO countries. Russia has about 1.5 million in its military. It is not probable that either NATO or Russia could suddenly mass large conventional forces in or around Georgia. If conventional forces fail, then it might be that NATO would use theater nuclear forces to destroy masses of Russian armor. That in turn runs the risk of escalating. So both conventional and nuclear options are probably off the table.
    3. A third option, of supplying the Georgian military would be a possibility, but that might devolve into a prolonged conflict along the lines of the Soviet-Afghan war.
  2. Application of economic and diplomatic pressure. Cut off NATO-Russian talks. Toss Russia out of the G-8. Charles Krauthammer has suggested a number of options that would effectively punish Russia. If this article in the NY Times is correct, which is always dubious with the Times, Russia is suffering the loss of some investment already.
  3. Crypto-colonialism. This is a long term project. Machiavelli discusses the importance of colonies in the spread of the Roman empire. If the West takes a page from Machiavelli the areas that border Russia, and other trouble spots, such as the Middle East, can become outposts for the West. Not just military bases, but a revitalized and reinvigorated Peace Corps, and Voice of America can be used to spread Western values. The idealism of the ‘60s needs to be replaced by a recognition that the most important function of organizations like these is as a form of viral marketing. Spreading the ideas of freedom and democracy through contact. By spreading these values in the areas that border hot spots, the interchange across borders will have a deleterious effect upon authoritarian and totalitarian states. Lycurgus imposed his strictures on travel precisely because of the corrupting (anti-Spartan) effect that exposure to world would have.
  4. Do nothing. This is more or less what has happened. Whether or not it will lead to more incursions against Western allies or not remains to be seen.

Victor Davis Hanson has an article online at the National Review on the decline of NATO. It makes interesting reading.