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The foreign policy adviser of US presidential candidate Barack Obama has called on the world community to isolate Russia in protest over its campaign in the Caucasus, likening its tactics to those of “Hitler or Stalin”.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was the national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981, and is now advising the Democratic candidate, said the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, was “following a course that is horrifyingly similar to that taken by Stalin and Hitler in the 1930s”.
He said that Putin’s “justification” for splitting up Georgia – because of the Russian citizens living in South Ossetia – could be compared to when Hitler used the alleged suffering of ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland as a pretext for annexing Czechoslovakia in 1938.
In an interview with the conservative German daily Die Welt, he said even more striking were the parallels between Putin’s strategy against Georgia and Stalin’s invasion of Finland in 1939, describing both as “the undermining of the sovereignty of a small, democratic neighbouring state through the use of violence”. He added: “Georgia is to an extent the Finland of today, both morally and strategically.”
Polish-born Brezinski, 80, who earned a reputation as a hardliner due to his anti-Soviet politics, said the world was now being confronted with the question as to how it should react to Russia and what he saw as its efforts to “reincorporate old Soviet areas into the Kremlin’s sphere of control”. He said at the heart of the issue was access to oil and specifically who controlled the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline which runs through Georgia.
“If Georgia no longer has its sovereignty it means not only that the west is cut off from the Caspian Sea and Central Asia, but we can also assume that Putin will exercise a similar strategy against Ukraine if he faces resistance. He’s already publicly voiced threats against Ukraine.”
“If Russia continues on this path it has to be isolated by the international community,” he said, including economic sanctions on which all alliances from the European Union to Nato would have to take a joint stand.
He added that Russia’s invasion of Georgia was proof of the failure of the White House during George Bush’s eight year tenure, to recognise the “Putin regime” for what it really was.
“Two episodes illustrate this better than any others,” he said. “First, when Bush met Putin for the first time and said he had looked into his soul and could trust him. Secondly, when Condi Rice, not so long ago, said that the American-Russian relations had never been better than they are today.” He said the White House had deceived itself.
Asked why it was that he only spoke of Putin and not of the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, Brzezinski said: “He [Medvedev] has about as much influence over the current situation as the official head of state in the Soviet Union of the 1950s had over the Soviet Union. Nobody can even remember his name.”
KATE CONNOLLY writes for the Guardian, where this article originally appeared.