Alex Massie

The Lessons of the Past

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Bill Keller's piece on "Springtime for Autocrats" in the New York Times has received plenty of attention (See Yglesias's sane response for instance) but for Russian and Caucasus commentary I'd recommend Neal Ascherson's article in the Observer. It's probably the best-balanced, most historically aware and, for that matter, humane piece I'd read on the whole grisly affair. As he puts it, we've been here before in the Caucasus and only the Russians have learnt anything from history. A foolish, counter-productive Georgian policy has failed (again) and the west should think long and hard about when and how it plans to bluff in the future...

Ascherson, a veteran Black Sea hand, doesn't offer many solutions, but he enjoys a vastly greater knowledge of the region than, it seems, anyone at the White House (let alone on John McCain's campaign team). It's not a matter of good and evil, it's much more important, and much more tragic, than that.

As I say, reading the whole thing is recommended.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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