A Call for the Marshall Plan, Revamped
Russian-American relations have captured public interest in both countries since World War II. During the Cold War, both nation-states developed doctrines for examining the other’s foreign policy and movements in the world. These doctrines are not that different from each other — to identify an instance in which the aggression of the other is taking place, and to match their force in a type of proxy-war. The proxy-war is a Cold War strategy that persists in today’s operations. However, as Russian territorial ambitions threaten parts of the world in which the United States is not as interested, the question arises: how serious is the United States about protecting territorial sovereignty of states that are experiencing Russian aggression today?
In August 2008, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Georgia went to war over a semi-autonomous territory called South Ossetia. Nestled at the border, this territory is made up of around 40,000 Ossetians who established a form of statehood separate from Georgia during the breakup of the Soviet Union. In 2008, when Georgia tried to resolve this territorial issue in a campaign to bring the region back under Georgian control, Russian troops reacted by crossing the border and occupying the disputed territory.
While the war only lasted five days, there are still Russian military bases in South Ossetia, and the unfixed border continues to move farther into Georgian territory. These components of an enduring border war hurt the Georgian economy by stifling foreign investment in the country. Foreign investors, especially those hailing from the Western world, view Georgia as too susceptible to Russian aggression, and therefore, a risky investment with little reward that is often the case in a post-Soviet economy. Today’s investment risk-aversion should be contrasted with the willingness of the American government to gain influence in the Eastern bloc after World War II via the Marshall Plan. The American public perceived the Marshall Plan as a sustainable government effort to rebuild European economies after a catastrophe and bring them into the Western system. But today, investment in a recently transitioned economy is typically discouraged, and general discourse labels such actions as overtly interventionist.
However, economic strength enables a nation-state to protect itself from territorial aggression. As a power that claims to be a protective force against breaches of sovereignty, does the United States have a responsibility to strengthen a state’s ability to defend itself? A question for citizens of such a power: do we have the responsibility to invest in regions that are building their economies? Especially those countries that are building economic independence from what Georgians consider a previous “economic oppressor?”
If the answer is yes, then this calls for a Marshall Plan redux, one of conscious investment, democratic in its goal: true economic stability of a region that has struggled in the shadows of a bipolar world order — and not the desire for political influence.