At Kön/Bonn Airport yesterday as 3 NATO surveillance planes took off one after the other, bound for Afghanistan I subsequently discovered, but reason for reflection nevertheless.

I picked up a copy of Süddeutsche Zeitung when boarding my plane and one particular article caught my eye, a column entitled “Für Georgien sterben?” – essentially Would You Die for Georgia? Well, no, I personally am not willing to die for Georgia, but having seen the NATO planes, I started to wonder whether British would send its soldiers to die for Georgia in the way they are dying in Afghanistan?

But back to the Süddeutsche for a moment. The column cited neo-con intellectual Robert Kagan who essentially asserts that the world is presently witnessing a return to 19th century style conflict, a fight for control of territory and resources. Not a new Cold War, not an ideological matter in the same way, but a compicated new geo-political era where countries such as China and Russia have not seen a transition to democracy at the same time as economic development. In this geopolitical environment Islam and the war on terror are peripheral concerns.

Having said that, however tenuous then and even more tenuous now, the motivation from Britain (and indeed NATO) to send troops and resources to Afghanistan was linked to a danger at home – a terror threat in London is linked to what is happening in Kandahar. During the Cold War the military threat was very much visible, and the ideological threat was played upon and stoked by the politicians on both sides.

But now with Georgia? Its importance is twofold. It’s reasonably democratic, in the face of a large neighbour, Russia, with questionable democratic credentials. And it’s important strategically for energy supply. But for Britain, less dependent on gas from the east than other EU countries, why worry? There’s a population already hardened to the dangers of war from Afghanistan and Iraq. There’s not even the burning ideological reason to do something in the post-Cold War era.

Add to that the lack of popular support for Brown’s government, and intrigues between him and Foreign Minister Miliband, and is it remotely surprising that the government is being rather silent on all of this? What can they do? What should they do?

David Cameron on the other hand, wanting presumably to try to align himself with the “forces of freedom”, is travelling to Tbilisi today. He’s trying to put himself forward as the Prime Minister in waiting, but I do not understand how this will play in electoral terms. He, like the other leaders that have queued up to meet Sakashvili over the last week, can offer some kind words but little else.

However we look at it nur Georgier sterben für Georgien.


  1. yes TT, and remember the French started WWII by provoking the Germans.

    mai, we live in a simplistic world

  2. Please will you remember that Georgia started this by attacking South Ossetia, after having agreed a truce.

  3. James Rogers

    Jon: Interesting post.

    There are two ways of looking at the question: Would you die for Georgia?

    (1) If you are not willing to die for Georgia, are you willing to die for Poland…or Germany…or Spain….or indeed, the United Kingdom? This question applies to Britons, but even more so to Germans, Italians, Spaniards, and all those NATO members whose military budgets are declining or static. And if they would not die for Georgia, why should they expect Britons, French or Americans to come to their aid in case they are attacked? For it is only the latter three powers with the means to implement Article 5 in any real way—it is only they with thermonuclear weapons.

    (2) The question also reflects the dangerous notion that military power is only for defence. It is not. It never has been, and it never will be. Military power is also for the pursuit of foreign policy objectives: it will and must be used preventatively and proactively to secure national (or European) objectives. A lazy conceit has swept much of Europe, and many think—very wrongly—that we now live in more enlightened times. The case with Russia and Georgia has proven that we do not.

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