Saturday, August 16, 2008

The return of Realpolitik

When reading through recent editorials in the IHT, it is easy to think that the “realists” won the day. “Airy discourses about the commerce-driven dynamics of globalization and new norms of international conduct will not vanquish realpolitik” as Rajan Menon, professor of international relations at Lehigh University, charmingly puts it in his op-ed about Georgia’s fate.

In the Swedish media, the same views are echoed by Mikael Holmström and others. They may all be right if we only look at the case of Georgia here and now. But as often, these realists fail to see the larger picture. Take South Ossetia. Fearful of Mikhail Saakashvili’s promise to restore “territorial integrity” and with 90 percent of the local population in favour of autonomy, it is not strange that its secessionist government has welcomed the military support of Russia. At the same time, if its leaders were to chose between a future as an integrated part of a prosperous Georgia joining the EU or a future as a poor backwater province in Russia, I believe that the logic on the ground would look somewhat different.

It is precisely because of this that we have to renew our commitment to further EU enlargement and, in the long-run of things, world federalism. The realists only look smart because they take a snapshot of world history here and now while ignoring the longer trends towards economic, political and social integration.

Finally, as some have noticed, this is the first time I write about Georgia and the Caucasus after the war began. Following my trip there in June, learning about the conflict has been a bit like coming back to the Balkan wars, the fusing of personal memories with horrible television images. At the same time, and unlike the Balkans, I leave to others to provide a deeper understanding of the background.


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