On June 21, two Chinese military helicopters swooped low over Demchok, a tiny Indian hamlet high in the Hima-layas along the northwestern border with China. The helicopters dropped canned food over a barren expanse and then returned to bases in China. India's military scrambled helicopters to the scene but did not seem unduly alarmed. This sort of Cold War cat-and-mouse game has played out on the 4,057-kilometer India-China border for decades. But the incident fed a media frenzy about "the Chinese dragon." Beginning in August, stories about new Chinese incursions into India have dominated the 24-hour TV news networks and the newspaper headlines.
China claims some 90,000 square kilometers of Indian territory. And most of those claims are tangled up with Tibet. Large swaths of India's northern mountains were once part of Tibet. Other stretches belonged to semi-independent kingdoms that paid fealty to Lhasa. Because Beijing now claims Tibet as part of China, it has by extension sought to claim parts of India that it sees as historically Tibetan, a claim that has become increasingly flammable in recent months.
Ever since the anti-Chinese unrest in Tibet last year, progress toward settling the border dispute has stalled, and the situation has taken a dangerous turn. The emergence of videos showing Tibetans beating up Han Chinese shopkeepers in Lhasa and other Tibetan cities created immense domestic pressure on Beijing to crack down. The Communist Party leadership worries that agitation by Tibetans will only encourage unrest by the country's other ethnic minorities, such as Uighurs in Xinjiang or ethnic Mongolians in Inner Mongolia, threatening China's integrity as a nation. Susan Shirk, a former Clinton-administration official and expert on China, says that "in the past, Taiwan was the 'core issue of sovereignty,' as they call it, and Tibet was not very salient to the public." Now, says Shirk, Tibet is considered a "core issue of national sovereignty" on par with Taiwan.
When Russia got away with naked aggression in the Caucasus, it showed bad guys everywhere what's possible. If this catastrophe happens, the West will be to blame for, as McCain put it in the last great statement of American purpose we're likely to hear for years, his brilliant Republican National Convention speech, "turning a blind eye to aggression." Meanwhile, Russia's delusional insolence is accelerating:
It is a pity that President Dmitry Medvedev will not share the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize with U.S. President Barack Obama. In my view, he deserves it no less than Obama, whose principal accomplishments are still in the future.
Together with Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Medvedev is responsible for changing the tone and direction of international politics to craft a better world.
Not unlike Obama, Medvedev inherited a foreign policy plate that was driving his country into isolationism and debilitating self-pity.
In fits and starts in less than two years, he has managed to transform Russia’s international role from that of an estranged spoiler to that of a constructive problem-solver with a stake in a functional world order. Medvedev has gradually steered Russia away from the unilateralist initiatives taken by his predecessor.
He shares Obama’s penchant for multilateral diplomacy and has worked to make international institutions — from the United Nations to the nascent Group of 20 — stronger and more efficient. His more pragmatic position on Iran is likely to make global efforts to stop Tehran’s secretive nuclear program more effective.
Medvedev commanded a successful war that was forced upon him. Like Obama in Afghanistan, he did not go wobbly in Georgia and proved his resolve to defend Russia’s interests and citizens. Medvedev’s toughest foreign policy decision has been to unilaterally recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Despite broad international criticism, Medvedev’s perseverance on this issue casts him as a world leader with a strong set of values. He does not crave popularity, just respect for his country.
I think it's true that Russians crave respect. That's why rolling back Russia could be so cheap: merely to send a loud signal that the world despised the cowardly, lying, thieving thugs and bullies of the Putin-Medvedev regime-- merely to, for example, announce a boycott of the 2014 Olympics-- while stating a justifiable high regard for the country's historic cultural and scientific achievements which contemporary Russia's aggression is sadly eclipsing, just might do the trick. But that would require a degree of geostrategic insight not seen since... well, the Bush administration.