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Russia's payback

NATO disrespected Russia for too long. Now the Alliance must regroup.

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Poke a bear often enough and you're likely to get bitten. As the crisis over Georgia continues, this describes where the West finds itself today in its relations with Russia.

Amid conflicting reports of Russia's commitment to a cease-fire, one thing is clear: Moscow scored a crushing geopolitical victory this week. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared that the US must choose between a "virtual project" with Georgia, or a real partnership with Russia.

After days of evident disarray, only now is the West cobbling together a response: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Georgia in a symbolic show of support, US Air Force cargo jets are delivering small amounts of humanitarian aid, and NATO ministers will meet Tuesday to consider the crisis. When they do, they should remember how we got to this point.

The cold war's end nearly two decades ago left Russia badly weakened. Adhering to the iron laws of politics, the West immediately set out to exploit its advantage.

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