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People haven't appreciated the extent to which William Hague lost his political self-confidence after the 2001 defeat. He still has the same speechmaking and other skills but he's an empty shell in terms of beliefs.

I won't forget the fact that William Hague attacked Israel in her hour of need in 2006 and frustrated plans to leave the EPP.

The Georgians aren't saints but if we let Russia get away with this they'll think they are untouchable.

Spot the difference. Today’s competition is to identify who said what:

(1) “Reports of fighting and bombing outside South Ossetia are especially disturbing as they represent a broadening and deepening of the conflict.“

" it is vital for leaderships on both sides to call for fighting to cease and for peace talks to start as soon as possible."

(2) "There is a very serious danger that these clashes could develop into a wider conflict between Russia and Georgia. It is vital for both countries to commit themselves to talks and cease fighting immediately."

Miliband or Hague? Minibland or Vague?

Was this bland statement by Hague just recognition of the fact that Parliament is just a county council to the EU, and matters of foreign policy is determined there not here, as with much of the important matters of state, which is why the Cameron’s Conservatives busy themselves with fluffy issues, like social issues, where they are still permitted to have a view and policy, rather than the important matters of state, like economic policy, foreign affairs etc.

The Soviet mentality is alive and well.Pity.

Stay well clear.
Do it all via the UN.
That is what the UN is for.
Keep uttering the platitudes - from afar.

Be like Japan and above all do not get involved.

Dan is no doubt being caustic; that it is good politics for the Conservatives to say nothing on foreign policy.

Helen Szamuely has clearly pointed out that Russia is reasserting its hegemony over the near aboard which will inter alia affect gas and oil supplies to Western Europe.

And Hague doesn’t take a robust stand? We all know Russia can blackmail the EU just as easily as it has already blackmailed the Czech Republic and Ukraine.

Hague’s statement is irresponsible - just as irresponsible as ‘in Europe but not ruled by Europe’. Fit for government?

It ok for people to attack Hague but frankly at least he is being honest, after all the UK Government doesn’t have a lot of options.

What would some of these arm chair commentators want him to do – declare war?

Georgia is impossible to defend from a UK military perspective and the Russian’s know this.

The West’s mistake was allowing Bush to lull Georgia into a false sense of security over NATO membership, the rest as they say is history. Sadly is just like the Munich crisis again but this time with gas and oil involved.

May be the West could boycott Russian oil, the independent pipe from Georgia has already been cut - the Arabs would just love it!

Blue Peter

What is the EPP'S take on this issue?

Russia should be immediately excluded from the g8.

Imagine this scenario. Mrs Thatcher was faced with the Falklands invasion and wrestling with the problem of how to react to a military crisis 8,000 miles away in the South Atlantic. It would have been made very clear to her that the signals we gave about our intentions, and our willingness to take firm action, were awaited by nations other than the Argentines. It was probably put to her that if we acquiesced in the face of Argentine aggression, the Guatemalans would look even more closely at Belize; the Spanish would reconsider their intentions towards Gibraltar; and at a crucial stage in the Cold War, the USSR might well weigh up the advantages of a 50km advance on a broad front over the Inner German Border, followed by a pause, thus facing the NATO Alliance with a difficult dilemma; "..and you might well be faced, Prime Minister with the only remaining option of bombing them back to Moscow. Do you want to be faced by such a choice?" This situation would have made it clear to her that doing nothing was not an option and the signals we gave about our willingness to face up to, and then act on such difficulties were of paramount importance.
The USA were faced by similarly perilous options over Cuba in the 1960s. In the outcome of firm action, Russia backed down.
The judgement now concerns Russian willingness to be persuaded that any intention she might have of trying to take control of the new oil pipeline, running across Georgia to the Black Sea, and of de-stabilising her former subject nations at the same time, will be strongly resisted. Some of them are awaiting admission to NATO at the end of the year, so Russia`s window of opportunity is growing smaller by the day.
The crucial question is how this will be brought home to Mr Putin. Ill-thought-out plans, such as the US/UK adventure in Iraq, could easily see a great deal of macho posturing on all sides that might well lead to a disastrous result that will have unintended consequences for the world at large. `Jaw Jaw` is still a great deal better than `war war` but we must all face up to the fact that the pressure engendered by bellicose responses from commentators must not lever national leaders into a major conflict where this can be sensibly avoided. Even so, there is little doubt that the Russians are trying it on. Putin is ever eager to play the strong man when the USA faces an imminent general election, with the pacifist option looking set for power. He will not want to miss a golden opportunity so someone had better make it clear to him that the time for this adventure to stop is now; and the "or else" had better be spelled out clearly too.

i agree with you McCainac, we must make a stand or Russia will think they can get away with anything

So the south Ossetians want to be part of Russia. The Georgians want to incorporate them into Georgia against their will. Seems to me the Georgians are in the wrong and the Russians are well able to correct the situation. What has this got to do with us? Hague is right to be cautious.

Golly, how alike the opinions of 'westminster wolf' & 'bluepatriot' are, but anyway -
yeah, we should go to war with Russia. Never mind how, isn't it obvious that Georgian democracy is a cause worth squandering *even more* British lives for? Let's add it to our wonderful triumphs in Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Kosovo, and Bosnia, where we've built up flourishing, honest, tolerant, stable, reliable multi-party, multi-ethnic democracies. Well, we meant to at any rate, and it's good intentions we have to be judged on - what with us plainly being unable to be judged on, um, results.

What's that you say? Georgia's a pitiful excuse for a democracy? Who (amazingly foolishly) started this fight? Which the Americans, let alone us, couldn't (and won't) do anything about even if they, or we, wanted to? That every argument 'we' advanced for why Kosovo should be detached from Serbia applies with equal force to both recalcitrant bits of Georgia? That we completely ignored Russia's counter-arguments in that instance? That when Zalmay Khalilzad intones that the 'age of overthrowing governments by military force' is 'over', we have to do better to stifle our laughter? That, to take one of our great democratic allies at random, the Americans, say, as a matter of course wouldn't allow a sovereign nation (oh, like Venezuela, or Bolivia, or wherever you care to mention down Mexico way), no matter how many thousands of miles distant, to invite foreign troops into their territory. You know, the way the likes of Japan, for example, or South Korea can. But plainly Russia is uniquely evil for disliking the actions of a rickety regime actually-factually on its sodding border, harassing, to put it mildly, Russian nationals.

The only thing more absurd than the suggestion Britain should give a stuff one way or the other about this, is the nervy, anxious-for-the-future drumbeat of a 'Roon lie about Hague that crops up *every* time there's a thread here that mentions his name. William didn't stop us from leaving the EPP, Dave did.

ACT: Who mentioned going to war with Russia? There's a whole range of things that can be done between washing our hands of the affair and sending in the tanks.

Of course ACT has a point but the trouble is that Russia has `form`. Would ACT think that there is anywhere that we should draw a line in the sand? Unfortunately for the logic of his case, I fear it doesn`t apply to the Russians; or at least they don`t think it does. Their approach is `push here and see what happens. If nothing happens, then either push harder or perhaps push somewhere else. The more problems that are posed and the wider they are spread, the more difficult they are to counter`.
So if we do nothing, where will the next problem arise and how much more difficult will it be for us to do anything about it. However distasteful it might be, this approach was tried in the 1930s and it led to a problem no one wishes to see repeated,

What is Conservative foreign policy?
I think we should be told.

I mentioned war, because as *both* the Georgian and Russian governments are showing, force is the arbiter. Everything short of force is windy, intentionally insincere grandstanding. As, for example, all the foolish right wing supporters of the war in Iraq would of course agree. After all, they would - rightly, from their point of view - have dismissed any failure on our behalf to use force to overthrow Saddam as being mere 'words'.

Alternatively, let's pretend that there *is* a high moral principle-cum-British national interest at stake here. That somehow it's incumbent on us to seek to prevent a foreign country from expecting of its borders and for its nationals what we should hope for our own, i.e. security. And let's not be limp-wristed and wait for the say-so of those twin engines of corruption, the UN and the EU, before acting. Let's strike a pose, er, I mean, let's show leadership - let's unilaterally boycott imports of Russian energy supplies, and let's instruct BP to disinvest what's left of its corporate activities in Russia. That'll learn 'em. Otherwise let's stop gassing on and on.

Why are we surprised at William Hague's lame response? Tony Blair got it right when he said in 2000 at PMQs: "You can do the jokes, William, but you have no political judgment whatever".

Our foreign policy is a mess. We need a lot less of the happy clappy trips to Rwanda and a lot more rigorous realpolitik.

Yeah, Russia's Nazi Germany (much like Saddam was Hitler). It's almost astonishing how many foreign coves are Hitler, and quite how often foreign countries turn out to be yet another Nazi Germany manqué. And yes, if, never mind merely detaching, let alone, gradually incorporating, both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia actually transformed Georgia herself into a neighbouring client state, that would be the end of Western Civilisation as we know it. Or, it wouldn't matter at all, and certainly would entail far, far fewer costs than the act of resisting (though, for certain, not preventing) such a Russian move would.

Editor, a link to Oleg Gordievsky's letter in today's Telegraph might be helpful.

There are six options:
"One, ignore it, two, file a protest, three, issue a statement condemning it, four, cut off aid, five, sever diplomatic relations, six, declare war. Now, if we ignore it, we tacitly acknowledge it, if we file a protest it'll be ignored, if we issue a statement it will seem weak, we can't cut off aid because we're not giving any, if we sever relations we risk losing the oil contract and if we declare war... people might just think we're overreacting."

"...a government-in-waiting won't be able to stay quiet forever." what does this actually mean? (Hint: nothing.)

And this is drivel: "People haven't appreciated the extent to which William Hague lost his political self-confidence after the 2001 defeat." (Westminster Wolf)

How interesting. Hague is being cautious because that's the only thing UK foreign policy can be. What should we do instead? Turn off our gas supplies by boycotting Russian exports? Try and persuade the Germans to commit economic suicide?

No. We need to accept that a long game is to be played here. This hammers home the need to get our economy off oil dependency.

Defenders of William Hague need to see this hesitancy in the context of hesitancy on all foreign policy questions.
Can anyone identify any issue where he has said anything REALLY interesting?

William Hague ( like Portillo) is a sad
figure these days. It's like political Alzheimer's disease, they don't know where they came from or where they're going.

Russia is a bully and only understands strength.
The Berlin Airlift, Kennedy and Cuba, The West's support of the coup against Allende
in Chile, The successful Falklands War all made Russia think and pull back. The weakness of Jimmy Carter allowed them to strengthen their grip on Angola and Africa generally.
Bush's and the EU's weakness towards Iran is seen as a weakness of resolve, and our lack of response to Russia's bullying over energy supplies has emboldened Russia further.

What Hague could do is propose to throw Russia out of the G8, break off diplomatic relations with Russia even if the EU don't like it, and even threaten to support financially and militarily the various groups fighting to be independent of the imperialistic Russian state.
Unfortunately only the USA can realistically threaten a military response to keep Russia in check.

Wringing one's hands (like Hague and the Conservatives) inspires contempt both at home and abroad and history shows that problems escalate into something much worse unless stopped in their tracks (eg: Hitler's re-occupation" of the Rhineland.)

The contrast between Hague's honesty and common sense on the one hand, and Labour's pathetic posturing and grotesque hypocrisy on the other, makes me proud to be a Tory.

We're lucky to have men like Hague who are true politicians, not just party political salesmen.

The fact is, we have neither the power to stop Russia, nor (after Iraq) the moral authority.

For politicians to pretend otherwise is deeply irresponsible. In fact, it is one of the things that led to this mess in the first place, because it encouraged the Georgians to try to face down Russia.

You have it precisely the wrong way round Dave.
It was European reluctance to see Georgia become part of Nato that emboldened Russia's view that we could be bullied.

'Yeah, Russia's Nazi Germany (much like Saddam was Hitler). It's almost astonishing how many foreign coves are Hitler, and quite how often foreign countries turn out to be yet another Nazi Germany manqué.'


Which would make you Chamberlain ;-D

ACT obviously sees himself as some sort of sophisticated, above-it-all analyst. The notion of supporting liberty in a foreign country must be treated with airy, Chamberlainesque disdain.

In fact, his analysis confuses the wood for the trees. The costs of NOT confronting Russia now would be far greater in the long run because after Georgia would come Ukraine. Then Estonia. Then Lithuania. Then whomever next the Russians think they need to undermine in order to protect their "sovereign democracy".

The calculation you make about Georgia is precisely the calculation Chamberlain made about Czechoslovakia.

The fact that the Nazi analogy is grotesquely over-used - which it is - doesn't mean that it can never be used appositely. Indeed, of all the Nazi comparisons of the past 50 years, the current Russian state bears most resemblance to Hitler's mob.

Oh no, not Lithuania! Wherever would we be without a free Lithuania?

'European reluctance to see Georgia become part of Nato that emboldened Russia's view that we could be bullied'
- Umbrella Man

First of all, let's get events in their proper order.

It was Georgia's view that Ossetian separatists (ethnic Russians)could be 'bullied' which sparked this crisis off.

Given Russian interest in the region, the only reason Georgia could have been so emboldened was by the ridiculous posturing of Western politicians (ridiculous posturing which, as I mention, Hague is refreshingly innocent).

Secondly, as for Georgia not being fast tracked into NATO, thank God ! The analysis that it was too unstable for inclusion was bang on the money.

The US only publically pushed for Georgian membership as a quid pro quo for the token force the Georgians sent to Iraq.

'Chamberlainesque disdain.'

Siegfried Von Bock


What did I tell you ?

"Oh no, not Lithuania! Wherever would we be without a free Lithuania?"

You've just put your tawdry, effete moral cynicism on full view.

Haig is vague and shows why he was not electable. If he gave a robust repsonse, then it would allow the Government to be less spineless. Haig's lack of response shows our alliues we are intimidated because of BP and TNK and a BP pieline. It also shows that unless Cameron reshuffles soon, Tories have no foreign policy except Chamberlain style apeasdement.

Dave, if the cap fits.

"Effete moral cynicism"! I feel a tingle all the way down to my toes. I may well get a Hague-style baseball cap made up with that very legend printed on it. EMC! EMC! EMC!

At the risk of breaking Godwins law, you don't have to go back to the 1930s to find a comparable situation, just the 1990s.

Georgia is Serbia, willing to use violence to crush independance movements.

South Ossetia is Kosovo, in which the independance movement was being violently crushed.

Russia is NATO, which used is military might to protect the independance movement.

I suppose the US is Russia, humiliated by the treatment of it's client state but incapable of doing anything about it.

The difference, Dave, is that the West intervened in Kosovo out of genuine humanitarian concern for civilian suffering. The Russians care not a jot for civilians, as they have displayed time and again throughout their history, most recently in Chechnya.

Don't forget that many reasonable people believe the FSB was involved in the mysterious Moscow apartment bombings that killed hundreds of Russian civilians and helped usher Putin into power.

Here we go again! Another cue for those armchair-bound, bellicose, balmpots, demanding... demanding what? Send a gunboat? God, if only we had some, after Blair/Brown's depredation of our armed services. Threaten to cut of our financial support for their energy industry? And get our gas cut off? Does nobody, apart from Ras Putin undersatnd how far we have got ourselves in hock to the new Soviet-styled Russia? Whilst we've been fiddling in Iraq, listening to the CND lobby over nuclear energy, p***ing our North Sea oil up the wall, Russia has been taking all the investment we can throw at them, and are now ready to thumb their noses at us.

Don't tell me anybody thinks this Georgia invasion isn't a coincidence whilst the rest of the world is besotted with the Olympic Games? Will we never learn? Twenty years ago we were talking loudly about a peace dividend after the Berlin Wall and Soviet Russia collapsed. We talked, they carried on the there same old way. There isn't, never was, a "peace dividend." We sere suckered again, and the West decimated its armed services, none more so than the UK.

If we wanted to send a hard message to Russia, what would we back it up? Hazel Blears? Get real fellas. We are where we are, and we have put ourselves in this situation. Get used to it. It ain't gonna change. Ever!

I'm reasonably sure, given the number of, oh, Orthodox monasteries burnt down after NATO's intervention, Serbs murdered or expelled etc etc, that the suffering we were 'genuinely' concerned about was salved, at best, partially and ineffectually. Much, one supposes, as Moscow's actions will help the equally tender objects of their pity.

Siegfried, I know that there are differences between NATO's intervention in defence of Kosovo and Russia's intervention in defence of Ossetia.

Still, they are similar campaigns with similar justifications.

The only way you could compare current events with the Germans and the Sudetenland would be if the Russians carried on through Ossetia and annexed all of Georgia.

Perhaps another cliche wouldn`t come amiss. "The only lesson we lear from history is...that we never learn the lessons of history."

Oh dear. Perhaps I ought to lear to spell, or even learn to type!

Dave at 1454.
Did you and ACT (oh by the way EMC is the trademarked logo of a very prestigious information storage company who do not want to be associated with you in any way shape or form) work for the people who compiled the WMD dossier for Tony Blair or did you work for the Hutton Inquiry?
I think NATO intervention in Kosovo, backed by UN resolutions has as much in common with Russian intervention in South Ossetia as a firework with a Daisy Cutter.
Prior to Kosovo. Serbian troops had a very well-documented history of war-crimes over a long period of time. I do not see the same for Georgia at all. Do you have access to such documentation to change my point of view?
Secondly. Milosevic reversed the autonomous status Kosovo had in 1989 and it all came to a head 10 years later when, after a year of opportunity to comply with many resolutions, the international decision was made to take Kosovo out of the reach of Serbian aggression. Russia' actions are unilateral and dispropotionate. The comparison between the actions of Saakashvili and Milosevic is that of a reflexive slap compared to an all-out assault with an iron bar.
But perhaps you are fans of dark humour and irony and sorely misunderstood.

There is something strange about this conflict between Georgia and Russia. There appears to be an element of collusion going on somewhere. Russia has obviously been building up its forces for months, if not years, to make such an instant attack across its borders into Georgia.
Thinking back to the Suez Crisis of 1956, would it not be supremely ironic if the USA, who stopped Britain and France from taking back the Suez Canal, were now drawn into a very wide conflict in the Mideast through the collusion of Russia with, say, Iran.

It is a bit of a myth that the United States prevented Britain and France defeating Nasser.

American intervention was not needed to stop the "run on the Pound" as that was only a problem with a fixed exchange rate (as was known even before 1956 - see Rab Butler's "ROBOT" suggestion). And nor did John Foster Dulles plot against Britain - Dulles was too ill at the time to do anything, and (years later) asked Eden "why did you not go on?"

Of course both Ike and the State Department (especially Herbert Hoover Jr - who was rather anti British) made antiimperialist noises - but that was for public consumption (both domestic and in the Middle East).

The real person who undermined Suez was Harold Macmillan - as the Cabinet papers make plain is was "first in and first out". He pushed Eden on - and then (once the operation was well under way) claimed that the sky was falling (financially) and defeat had to be accepted - it is hard not to think that Macmillan's actions were a calculated plan to become Prime Minister by discrediting both Eden and Butler.

On the conflict between Georgia and Russia:

It is clear that George "I have looked into his eyes and he is a good man" Bush's policy towards Putin is in ruins.

Putin brought all the radio and television stations under the control of his regime and its friends.

Putin undermined the independence of the court (independence which really was emerging under Yelstin).

Putin has sort to bring all major natural resources under the control of his regime and his friends - acting against both Western and Russian companies.

Putin has even had murdered Russian journalists (and others) who were nothing more than a minor irritant to his regime. They were no threat to him - but he had them killed anyway.

And Bush has just gone on and on with "Putin is the friend of the West".

John McCain has been proved right - again and again, but policy has not been changed. It took Bush years to change policy (from the absurd "light footprint" the lack of troops that was denounced as far back as 2003) in Iraq, but he eventually did - but we have run out of time with Putin.

If the Georgian government falls, Putin's influence will grow over such nations as the Ukraine.

And the Russian stragglehold over energy supplies to WESTERN Europe will grow. For example the only pipeline from Central Asia not under Russian control runs through Georgia.

But "Russia will help us against Iran".

Putin has been SUPPORTING the Iranian regime for years, Bush you......

'Dave at 1454. Did you and ACT work for the people who compiled the WMD dossier for Tony Blair or did you work for the Hutton Inquiry?'


Hurrah !

I'm not Neville Chamberlain any more. Now I'm Alistair Campbell.

Well, I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts. I suppose it won't be long before I go back to being Hitler.

Dave 1807
Oooo no, I would never go that far. That is an evil that should never speak again.
I am getting the impression also that one's lunch has taken longer to drink than usual.

What a wonderful idea! Military action on 3 fronts. Obviously this thread in dominated by experienced Military Strategists!
Do we make noises of outrage which we cannot back up with meaningful actions? Ban imports of Russian gas and oil, anyone? We could ,of course, ban Russian oiligarchs(sic) from taking over our soccer teams.
WH is shadow Foreign Secretary. He has at present no power within the UK. The UK has no reserve power, militarily, economically or politically. Thanks to the policies of Labour, we cannot even properly fight the two-fronted war we are presently engaged in. If the Argentine makes a move now, the Falklands becomes the Malvinas overnight.
Nevertheless, purported Tory activists, possibly graduates of the "Disgusted of Tonbridge Wells" School of Political Commentary, are attacking WH with ad hominum remarks. I shall be charitable and suggest that they are excoriating WH as an outlet for their rage against the painful knowledge that this Nation is utterly powerless. A war is going on in a part of the world where we have no established vital interests, no influence, no contingency planning and no allies. Neither do we have gunboats anymore.
We could possibly send a few hoodies on "adventurous training" and "Goodwill" visits, personally overseen by Des Browne.

WH has phrased his remarks in an honest and statesmanlike manner. If one carefully reads the Thud and Blunder of the courageous Cabinet, they are saying essentially the same in hundreds of words that WH said in tens. If you wish to know how confused is the situation in South Ossetia, read the comments attached to Denis McShames' mendacious scribbling in today's DT. There are people whose families have lived in the area for generations commenting from the front line.
To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, "Speak really softly when you haven't even got a big stick". That is exactly what WH has done.
If there are any other posters who have got some in, or even worked for the Militaries' arch-enemy, the FO, I'd appreciate your informed comments - for or against.

There is nothing wrong with being cautious at first -it is wise. Being cautious does not mean that we aren't prepared to be tough when the need arises. The West has shown its mettle before and if it has to, it will again. We should be calm but firm and make this clear.

Absolutely Matt. What I least want to happen is that we talk tough and do nothing as has happened in Darfur, Bosnia, Burma etc which compromises the West in the eyes of potential enemies or we back up our words with action. My problem is that I'm torn, as a small country with weak armed forces and more importantly a pipe line that is vital to our interests I'm inclined to support the Georgians but equally I thought their attack on South Ossetia extremely foolish.

Modern Russia is our monster that we created.

We saw Russia and Eastern Europe as a place to make a fast buck after the end of Communism.

Well guess what, they have some pride.

Russia will use its wealth and power to re-exert its unfluence. If we had treated it more as a partner and less as a place for new McDonalds and cheap commodities, we would not be facing such antagonism today.

I doubt Georgia will be the only country under attack in the next few years.

Our armed forces are so weakened and overstretched we can't do anything even if we wanted to.

"The only way you could compare current events with the Germans and the Sudetenland would be if the Russians carried on through Ossetia and annexed all of Georgia."

They won't be QUITE so blatant. Their tanks will roll through the streets of Tblisi and Saakashvili will either be mysteriously disappeared or summarily shot for "war crimes" within a week. After that, they'll annex South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but leave the rest of Georgia in the hands of a puppet government.

Which is in fact what ACTUALLY happened in Czechoslovakia, come to think of it: Germany annexed the Sudetenland and the other Czech territories as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, legally an integral but "autonomous" part of Germany, while they set up a puppet state in "independent" Slovakia.

"Modern Russia is our monster that we created."

Oh please: whatever happens, it is ALWAYS our fault, the West. Nonsense: modern Russian isn't our monster. It isn't modern either: Russia's repeated cycle of anarchy followed by tyranny goes back at least to the Time of Troubles following the death of Ivan the Terrible.

August - 1914.
August-September 1939.
Why do World Wars so often start when everyone is on holiday?
August 2008?
We usually seem to get a serious war at the beginning of every century: 1618-1648/1702-1713/1802-1815/1914-1918.

The Czech Sudetenland and 1938 come to mind as the circumstances are so very similar. If history is followed then Georgia will fall under Russian rule within 18 months, perhaps very much sooner.

South Ossetians will firstly welcome liberation by Russia from Georgian oppressors - they have Russian as a common language. Austria and the Anschluss also come to mind.

Its in the interests of the major powers for there to be some tacit understanding of spheres of influence. William Hague has a sense of history. That could be deemed the reason for his caution. And on that basis Georgia arguably is in the Russian sphere of influence. Was afterall part of Tsarist Russia going back many centuries. Both the older President Bush and Mrs. Thatcher did not wish to see a break-up of the Soviet Union as they could forsee the can of worms that would be opened up as regional confliect and mini civil wars.

By the same token this tacit understanding of spheres of influence should lead to Russia firmly accepting that Serbia is in the sphere of the major western powers.
And in 1914 had Russia accepted that Serbia was in the Austro-Hungarian sphere of influence the peace of Europe would have been saved.

We need to take a leaf out of Metternich.

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