About the Author: Daniel Fried is the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
Russia's incursion into Georgia -- followed by the failure of Russian troops to withdraw from Georgian territory after Russian President Medvedev signed a Ceasefire agreement to do so -- has generated intense diplomacy and conceptual thinking over the past two plus weeks. Secretary Rice has led on both counts.
First, Secretary Rice helped seal the French-negotiated Ceasefire agreement by flying to Tbilisi and working with Georgia's leaders to get President Saakashvili to sign it. She worked with the French and Georgians to get clarifications of the ceasefire, without which the Georgians would not have signed. Her effort succeeded, appreciated by the French and Georgians alike. While the Russians have not yet adhered to terms of the Ceasefire, without her effort we would have no Ceasefire at all with which to push the Russians and achieve some stability.
Second, Secretary Rice focused the initial outrage and anxiety felt in Europe into a unified front at NATO in support of Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and the Ceasefire agreement. Anyone familiar with NATO's customary pace understands that we achieved a lot and achieved it fast.
Beyond these operational successes, Secretary Rice helped put Russia's invasion of Georgia into strategic context: Russia, she argued, was trying to behave like the Soviet Union toward Georgia (and other countries close to its borders), while still seeking the benefits of integration into the wider world. Her point, now increasingly accepted, is that Russia cannot have it both ways, and that Russia is in fact choosing a path of self-isolation due to its own actions, not punitive steps by others.
In any crisis, critics and pundits have a lot to say. Some argue the United States was too hard on Russia because we did not give Moscow a "sphere of influence" to dominate its neighbors. We plead guilty: the United States does not "give away" other countries, or sacrifice the freedom of other peoples for cynical calculation. That kind of thinking went out with the last century, and, to our credit, the United States never really embraced it.
Others say we have been too accommodating to Russia. But I would argue that the efforts of the last three Presidents to encourage and support Russia's integration into the world were certainly the right ones. If Russia has failed to make its own shift from imperial- and Soviet-style efforts to dominate its neighbors, that is Russia's choice, and Russia will have to live with the consequences: fear from its neighbors, suspicion from the world's advanced democracies, and isolation.
This crisis is not over. But Americans can be proud of the role their Secretary of State has played in responding to the most serious threat Russia has posed to European security and stability since the breakup of the Soviet Union.