U.S. policy of ‘overpromising’ support for Georgia helped fuel Russian conflict, expert suggests

Ambiguous U.S. policies toward emerging democracies in former Soviet states may have set the stage for the brutal military conflict that erupted this week between Russia and its neighboring Republic of Georgia, suggests James V. Wertsch, an expert on post-Soviet democracy movements at Washington University in St. Louis.

“U.S. support for Georgia may have played into the deep-seated fears of Russia’s national narrative and the likely reactions it would produce,” writes Wertsch, the Marshall S. Snow Professor in Arts & Sciences, in a recently published news analysis. “The result has been a disaster, above all for Georgia, but also for America’s credibility.”

Wertsch’s analysis, titled “Who lost in Georgia?” can be read online in the St. Louis Beacon at http://www.stlbeacon.org/issues_politics/world/who_lost_in_georgia

Wertsch, director of the International and Area Studies Program and the McDonnell International Scholars Academy at Washington University, has done extensive research in Russia and Georgia. His work is concerned with collective memory and identity, particularly in Russia, Georgia and Estonia. He is currently working on several projects in the South Caucasus, especially the Republic of Georgia. These include collaborating with colleagues on efforts to understand the emergence of civil society and democracy in the region.