Spot the difference: Russian tanks in 1968, 2008

Have just returned from Prague to read this amazingly ignorant quote from our outgoing SoS about the mess in Georgia:

 "This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia where Russia can threaten a neighbor, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it. Things have changed."

 End of the Prague Spring 1968

Russian tanks in Gori


Well, okay. No. Czechoslovakia was a part of the Warsaw Pact and Moscow was operating under what was ex post facto called "the Brezhnev Doctine," which meant invading Pact countries whose governments defied Communist mandate and ideology (which was applied to justify the squashed Hungary 1956 uprising in true Ministry of Truth fashion). In this case, Moscow was reacting to the Prague Spring, the cultural awakening under Alexander Dub?ek that allowed liberalizations like increased freedom of the press, economic restructing and freedom to travel. This is why a massive 200,000 strong military invasion seemed especially cruel, unjust, etc. Also Dub?ek was not "overthrown" in the strick sense, but was forced to step down nine months later after some minor scandal and then, in classic Husak tradition, was given a job in forestry. While 70,000 fled CZ initially, 300,000 fled in total after Husak's regime returned Czechoslovakia to an almost Stalin-like system. And as for "getting away with it" - well, history shows us that the UN did almost nothing to stop the invasion and that the Soviets insisted they were merely helping out a brother against anti-social forces.

The situation in Georgia, which seems to be a wiff of things to come as much as it is of the past, is much different. Mikheil Saaskashvili, perhaps emboldened by his warmongering friends in the White House, ordered attack on a secessionist region that had been in gridlock with the former Soviet state for more than a decade. It's an area, for example, that finds cultural and linguistic affinity with its northern, Russian, neighbors and an area of extreme poverty as many go to Russia for schooling and work. Saaskashvili didn't suspect Putin's massive retaliation, but anyone with a head for basic political and military strategy would have. 

While the U.S. (especially our dear McCain) supports Georgia's hot headed attempts to institute pro-West policies, it's fairly certain that we won't get involved in a military conflict in the region given our current dual wars, cruched economy, and general uncertainty about Russia's ambitions. And so Georgia miscalculated and now stands humiliated and uncertain.

Things will continue to play out, but I think it's massively dangerous to use Prague as an example of how Russian's might stretches into its spheres of influence - the two actual situations couldn't be any less similar, except in photos from a far distance of space and time. 

But if, looking at Condi's statement, she actually meant to say something more general like:

"This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia where Russia can warn a historically and cultural related region that its non-complaiance is an irritation, use massive military retalition for a minor to solve a political dispute, then influence politics in a pro-Russia favor, and get away with it."

Then she'd at least have her history right, even if her assessment of the current situation was wrong.