What does the US do now?

Bush said:

Russia’s government must respect Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. The Russian government must reverse the course it appears to be on, and accept this peace agreement as a first step toward resolving this conflict.

Russia’s actions this week have raised serious questions about its intentions in Georgia and the region. These actions have substantially damaged Russia’s standing in the world. And these actions jeopardize Russians’ relations — Russia’s relations with the United States and Europe. It is time for Russia to be true to its word and to act to end this crisis.

Of course the question everyone is asking is: “Or what?”. If Russia does not do this, what can the US do about it?

Bush would not have said this if there were not plans in the works to follow up. Plans usually involve some sort of sanction or escalation. Bush can’t say these things to Russia without having actions ready to follow. So if Russia ignores US protests, what action could follow?

I guess there would be two strands to US action. The first would be public, the second would be private.

In public, Bush has a number of options. He could escalate the stakes by sending a US fleet to the Eastern Mediterranean or the Black Sea. He could send air assets to Turkish airbases, in a public/media driven demonstration of capabilities. He could publicly supply Georgia with equipment. He could seek support from regional allies in terms of military assets. He could send a submarine or two into the eastern Black Sea, surfacing purposely in sight of Russian ships. He could seek to impose economic sanctions beyond the remit of the UN.

In private, though perhaps with or without the knowledge of the Russians, he could arm Georgia with more advanced weaponry. This would take the form of anti-tank missiles like the Javelin or manpad systems like the Stinger. This option is perhaps less than likely.

But Bush cannot make statements like he did last night if there are not already plans in progress to back up his demands. This will all be moot if the Russians comply with those demands.

By Friday we will know if this was a week long skirmish, or if it will turn into a multi-year conflict.

Update: It now appears this may be moot, given Russian pronouncements.

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