Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Why are we pretending we would fight for Georgia?

It remained for a former Tory foreign secretary to dash a little cold water of sanity on these overheated effusions. On Friday Sir Malcolm Rifkind chided the folly of making threats about the use of force when these are obviously not going to be carried out. And the day before he had said, "I think people in both the United States and in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in western Europe will have to ask very clearly how important is Georgia to them.

"There was a lot of talk about how Georgia should join Nato and if only Georgia was a member of Nato this wouldn't have happened, and so forth. I think that is frankly totally unconvincing." The truth is surely as Sir Malcolm says: "The United States, Britain, France and Germany are not going to go to war with Russia over South Ossetia, however sympathetic to the people of Georgia we are.

"We are sympathetic to Tibet, we are sympathetic to Zimbabwe, but we don't contemplate military solutions to these problems. So Nato membership is not the answer." Is it too late for our politicians to learn again that kind of plain speaking and common sense?

Webmaster's Commentary: 

Sir Malcolm misses a point. Georgie is VERY important to the people who wish to invade Iran, because a war in Georgie would limit Russia's ability to send ground convoys of supplies into Iran through the Georgian mountain passes.

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