The following editorial appeared in the Kansas City Star:

The reaction of the West to Russia's invasion of Georgia has been disappointingly tame up to now.

Consider the recent emergency summit of European leaders, which, despite hours of deliberations, decided merely to issue another tepid warning.

If Moscow fails to live up to the terms of a cease-fire negotiated by France, the European Union leaders said, a second round of talks on a strategic partnership accord with Russia would be postponed. The talks are scheduled for this month.

Moscow promptly replied that its interest in any such partnership was "not less, but not more" than the EU's interest.

About the only positive outcome from this week's EU confab — the first emergency summit since the aftermath of Sept. 11 — was an agreement to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy sources.

That would certainly be a good idea. The EU gets about a third of its oil and around 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia.

Under the cease-fire, Russian units were to withdraw to positions held before fighting broke out Aug. 7 over the breakaway Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Instead, Russia has set up "security zones" within Georgia proper and has yet to withdraw those troops. It has also recognized the independence of the two provinces — a virtual annexation of Georgian territory.

While the West has few immediate options for changing the situation, more should be done to compel Moscow to pay a price for its high-handedness.

Even Russia's fellow members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes China and several former Soviet republics, summarily refused to recognize Moscow's land grab.

The situation is also a reminder of the low state of defense preparedness of Europe, which allocates much less for defense than does the United States.

That's especially true of the Eastern European nations, which are now most at risk in the face of Moscow's drive to re-establish 19th century-style spheres of influence along its borders.

An important part of the long-term response to Moscow's aggressiveness should be greater defense preparedness on the part of Europe, and particularly these front-line nations.


McClatchy-Tribune News Service