Brezhnev lives! Or his doctrine does. Stripped of its ideological mumbo-jumbo about proletarian internationalism, the Brezhnev doctrine stated that Soviet power could and would be used to keep friendly governments in power around the periphery of the USSR, in the Soviet sphere of influence.

Moscow hears the music of the spheres again, this time in the mountains of Tajikistan. When a rebel force came into the country from Uzbekistan, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman publicly solicited an invitation to join the fighting. He offered “help in counteracting the armed provocation,” promising that a “request for assistance… would be considered upon receipt.”

The spokesman cited for legal support unspecified “multilateral and bilateral treaties” as well as a never-ratified and now-defunct 1992 collective-security treaty among the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the largely moribund association of former Soviet states. There was no mention of the United Nations or any other international authority.

Because Russian “peacekeeping” forces have been in Tajikistan since 1992 (and have helped to force the United Tajik Opposition into a tenuous power-sharing arrangement with the government), no Russian invasion would have been necessary. Even so, the legal reflex in Moscow’s Foreign Ministry produced a justification for one.

In the event the Tajik government held off the attackers, and the Russian Foreign Ministry claims Russian forces were not used. But while Russian diplomats rail against NATO operations in the former Yugoslavia or other use of force outside UN auspices, it is good to know that the double standard of the Brezhnev doctrine endures, a bit of constancy in an uncertain world.