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Crafty_Dog
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« on: August 11, 2008, 08:55:31 AM »

Woof All:

It looks like the situation in Georgia requires its own thread.

I begin with the observation that it looks like Stratfor's predictions in the wake of our support of Kosovo's independence are being born out.

Anyway, here's the appeal of the president of Georgia in today's WSJ to kick things off.

Marc
==============================

The War in Georgia
Is a War for the West
By MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI
August 11, 2008; Page A15

Tbilisi, Georgia

As I write, Russia is waging war on my country.

On Friday, hundreds of Russian tanks crossed into Georgian territory, and Russian air force jets bombed Georgian airports, bases, ports and public markets. Many are dead, many more wounded. This invasion, which echoes Afghanistan in 1979 and the Prague Spring of 1968, threatens to undermine the stability of the international security system.

 
AP  
An apartment building, damaged by a Russian air strike, in the northern Georgian town of Gori, Saturday, Aug. 9.
Why this war? This is the question my people are asking. This war is not of Georgia's making, nor is it Georgia's choice.

The Kremlin designed this war. Earlier this year, Russia tried to provoke Georgia by effectively annexing another of our separatist territories, Abkhazia. When we responded with restraint, Moscow brought the fight to South Ossetia.

Ostensibly, this war is about an unresolved separatist conflict. Yet in reality, it is a war about the independence and the future of Georgia. And above all, it is a war over the kind of Europe our children will live in. Let us be frank: This conflict is about the future of freedom in Europe.

No country of the former Soviet Union has made more progress toward consolidating democracy, eradicating corruption and building an independent foreign policy than Georgia. This is precisely what Russia seeks to crush.

This conflict is therefore about our common trans-Atlantic values of liberty and democracy. It is about the right of small nations to live freely and determine their own future. It is about the great power struggles for influence of the 20th century, versus the path of integration and unity defined by the European Union of the 21st. Georgia has made its choice.

When my government was swept into power by a peaceful revolution in 2004, we inherited a dysfunctional state plagued by two unresolved conflicts dating to the early 1990s. I pledged to reunify my country -- not by the force of arms, but by making Georgia a pole of attraction. I wanted the people living in the conflict zones to share in the prosperous, democratic country that Georgia could -- and has -- become.

In a similar spirit, we sought friendly relations with Russia, which is and always will be Georgia's neighbor. We sought deep ties built on mutual respect for each other's independence and interests. While we heeded Russia's interests, we also made it clear that our independence and sovereignty were not negotiable. As such, we felt we could freely pursue the sovereign choice of the Georgian nation -- to seek deeper integration into European economic and security institutions.

We have worked hard to peacefully bring Abkhazia and South Ossetia back into the Georgian fold, on terms that would fully protect the rights and interests of the residents of these territories. For years, we have offered direct talks with the leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, so that we could discuss our plan to grant them the broadest possible autonomy within the internationally recognized borders of Georgia.

But Russia, which effectively controls the separatists, responded to our efforts with a policy of outright annexation. While we appealed to residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with our vision of a common future, Moscow increasingly took control of the separatist regimes. The Kremlin even appointed Russian security officers to arm and administer the self-styled separatist governments.

Under any circumstances, Russia's meddling in our domestic affairs would have constituted a gross violation of international norms. But its actions were made more egregious by the fact that Russia, since the 1990s, has been entrusted with the responsibility of peacekeeping and mediating in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Rather than serve as honest broker, Russia became a direct party to the conflicts, and now an open aggressor.

As Europe expanded its security institutions to the Black Sea, my government appealed to the Western community of nations -- particularly European governments and institutions -- to play a leading role in resolving our separatist conflicts. The key to any resolution was to replace the outdated peacekeeping and negotiating structures created almost two decades ago, and dominated by Russia, with a genuine international effort.

But Europe kept its distance and, predictably, Russia escalated its provocations. Our friends in Europe counseled restraint, arguing that diplomacy would take its course. We followed their advice and took it one step further, by constantly proposing new ideas to resolve the conflicts. Just this past spring, we offered the separatist leaders sweeping autonomy, international guarantees and broad representation in our government.

Our offers of peace were rejected. Moscow sought war. In April, Russia began treating the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as Russian provinces. Again, our friends in the West asked us to show restraint, and we did. But under the guise of peacekeeping, Russia sent paratroopers and heavy artillery into Abkhazia. Repeated provocations were designed to bring Georgia to the brink of war.

When this failed, the Kremlin turned its attention to South Ossetia, ordering its proxies there to escalate attacks on Georgian positions. My government answered with a unilateral cease-fire; the separatists began attacking civilians and Russian tanks pierced the Georgian border. We had no choice but to protect our civilians and restore our constitutional order. Moscow then used this as pretext for a full-scale military invasion of Georgia.

Over the past days, Russia has waged an all-out attack on Georgia. Its tanks have been pouring into South Ossetia. Its jets have bombed not only Georgian military bases, but also civilian and economic infrastructure, including demolishing the port of Poti on the Black Sea coast. Its Black Sea fleet is now massing on our shores and an attack is under way in Abkhazia.

What is at stake in this war?

Most obviously, the future of my country is at stake. The people of Georgia have spoken with a loud and clear voice: They see their future in Europe. Georgia is an ancient European nation, tied to Europe by culture, civilization and values. In January, three in four Georgians voted in a referendum to support membership in NATO. These aims are not negotiable; now, we are paying the price for our democratic ambitions.

Second, Russia's future is at stake. Can a Russia that wages aggressive war on its neighbors be a partner for Europe? It is clear that Russia's current leadership is bent on restoring a neocolonial form of control over the entire space once governed by Moscow.

If Georgia falls, this will also mean the fall of the West in the entire former Soviet Union and beyond. Leaders in neighboring states -- whether in Ukraine, in other Caucasian states or in Central Asia -- will have to consider whether the price of freedom and independence is indeed too high.

Mr. Saakashvili is president of Georgia.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus
« Last Edit: September 24, 2010, 04:04:25 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2008, 09:16:59 AM »

War in the Caucasus
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE
August 11, 2008

"War has started," Vladimir Putin said Friday as Georgian and Russian forces fought over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. Since then, the Prime Minister has personally overseen an escalation of hostilities that suggests Russia's true aim is demolishing Georgia's fledgling democracy.

Regardless of who fired the first shots late last week -- each side blames the other -- it became clear over the weekend that Russia intended from the start to turn that small battle into a broader assault. As Georgian troops withdrew from South Ossetia yesterday in hopes of negotiating a cease-fire, thousands of Russian soldiers reportedly were unloading from warships in the Black Sea into another separatist Georgian area, Abkhazia, to create a second front. Russian warplanes bombed cities well inside Georgia, including military bases and the civilian airport near the capital Tbilisi. Moscow has long since gone beyond merely pushing back on Georgia.

On Saturday Mr. Putin explicitly rejected "a return to the status quo" of just a few days ago, when rebels and Russian "peacekeepers" controlled the breakaway regions. Mr. Putin was meeting with generals near the Russia-Georgia border after flying home from the Beijing Olympics, leaving no doubt who was in charge of a war that the Kremlin has long sought (hint: not President Dmitry Medvedev).

Western leaders should have seen this coming. Russia has baited the hot-tempered Georgian leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, with trade and travel embargoes as well as saber-rattling. Georgia has had to tolerate a few thousand Russian troops on its soil. And in April, Russia downed a Georgian drone over Abkhaz -- that is, Georgian -- air space. Russia in recent years has also granted citizenship to the separatists. That looks like premeditation now. President Medvedev pledged Friday to "protect the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, no matter where they are located."

Despite this aggression, the West has proved unwilling to push back against Moscow in the Caucasus. When the U.S. proposed NATO "membership action plans" for Georgia and Ukraine at an April summit in Bucharest, Germany vetoed the move. Berlin didn't want to anger Moscow, a fact that the Russians surely noticed as they contemplated when, or if, to move against the government of Mr. Saakashvili, whom they have long despised as a reformer outside of the Kremlin's orbit. (Mr. Saakashvili writes about the war on a nearby page.)

Europe depends on Russian energy supplies and is loath to stand up to Moscow to help Georgia, which is seen to have made trouble for itself. But this is a crucial moment in the West's relationship with Russia. The rest of the Caucasus, home of other imperfect democracies and critical partners in the Continent's bid for energy security, will take its future cues from how Europe and the U.S. do or don't support Tbilisi.

Now it's up to NATO and especially the U.S. to persuade Moscow to stand down. Washington has publicly described the weekend's events as a "disproportionate and dangerous escalation on the Russian side" and warned of a "significant, long-term impact on U.S.-Russian relations."

Everyone acknowledges that Russia is back as a world power. But it has no right to use its renewed strength to punish democratic neighbors and prevent them from choosing their own futures. Mr. Putin needs to hear that using Ossetia as a pretext for imperialism will have consequences for Russia's relationship with the West.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2008, 11:22:43 AM »

August 11, 2008 | 0151 GMT
The war between Georgia and Russia appears to be drawing to a close. There were Russian air attacks on Georgia on Sunday and some fighting in South Ossetia, and the Russians sank a Georgian missile boat. But as the day ended the Russians declared themselves ready to make peace with Georgia, and U.N. officials said the Georgians were ready to complete the withdrawal of their forces from South Ossetia.

At this point, the Russians have achieved what they wanted to achieve, quite apart from assuring South Ossetia’s autonomy. First, they have driven home the fact that in the end, they are the dominant power not only in the Caucasus but also around their entire periphery. Alliance with the United States or training with foreign advisers ultimately means little; it is not even clear what the United States or NATO would have been able to do if Georgia had been a member of the alliance. That lesson is not for the benefit of Georgia, but for Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, and even Poland and the Czech Republic. The Russians have made it clear that, at least at this moment in history, they can operate on their periphery effectively and therefore their neighbors should not be indifferent to Russian wishes.

The second lesson was for the Americans and Europeans to consider. The Russians had asked that Kosovo not be granted independence. The Russians were prepared to accept autonomy but they did not want the map of Europe to be redrawn; they made it clear that once that starts, not only will it not end, but the Russians would feel free to redraw the map themselves. The Americans and Europeans went forward anyway, making the assumption that the Russians would have no choice but to live with that decision. The Russian response to the Georgian attack on South Ossetia drives home the point that the Russians are again a force to be reckoned with.

There has been sharp rhetoric from American and European officials, but that rhetoric can’t be matched with military action. The Europeans are too militarily weak to have any options, and the Americans have quite enough on their plates without getting involved in a war in Georgia. In some ways the rhetoric makes the Russians look even stronger than they actually are. The intensity of the rhetoric contrasted with the paucity of action is striking.

The Americans in particular have another problem. Iran is infinitely more important to them than Georgia, and they need Russian help in Iran. Specifically, they need the Russians not to sell the Iranians weapons. In particular, they do not want the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles delivered to the Iranians. In addition, they want the Russians to join in possible sanctions against Iran. Russia has a number of ways to thwart U.S. policy not only in Iran, but also in Afghanistan and Syria. These are areas of fundamental concern to the United States, and confronting the Russians on Georgia is a risky business. The Russians can counter in ways that are extremely painful to the United States.

There is talk that the Russians might want a new government in Georgia. That is probably so, but the Russians have already achieved their most important goals. They have made it clear to their neighbors that a relationship with the West does not provide security if Russia’s interests are threatened. They have made it clear to the West that ignoring Russian wishes carries a price. And finally, they have made it clear to everyone that the Russian military, which was in catastrophic shape five years ago, is sufficiently healed to carry out a complex combined-arms operation including land, air and naval components. Granted it was against a small country, but there were many ways in which the operation could have been bungled. It wasn’t. Russia is not a superpower, but it is certainly no longer a military cripple. Delivering that message, in the end, might have been the most important to Russia.
============
The conflict in the small former Soviet state of Georgia has taken a new twist.

So far, apart from Russian airstrikes, most of the combat has been limited to the north-central Georgian secessionist province of South Ossetia. But on Aug. 11, Russia beefed up its 2,500-strong peacekeeping force in Abkhazia — a secessionist region in northwestern Georgia — to more than 9,000 troops. And now the Russian Defense Ministry has announced — and the Georgian Interior Ministry has confirmed — that Russian forces have advanced up to the western Georgian city of Senaki.

The presence of Russian troops in Senaki has a number of important implications.

First, the Russian forces used in the operation approached from Abkhazia. There has been a U.N. buffer force between Abkhaz- and Georgian-controlled territory, so for Russian forces to be near Senaki, the Russians would have had to move through — and ultimately beyond — that buffer. Georgia’s best troops are also typically kept near Abkhazia, suggesting that those forces have been either bypassed or destroyed. Several reports indicate the Georgians are engaged in combat with Abkhaz forces in the upper reaches of the Kodori Gorge, so it seems likely they were bypassed.

Second, Senaki sits astride a railroad juncture that links the rest of the country not only to Abkhazia, but to Georgia’s largest port: Poti. The Russians have already bombed Poti several times, but taking Senaki completely removes the port from the equation.

Third, another Georgian city — Samtredia — is only an hour’s march from Senaki. Samtredia sits astride the Baku-Tbilisi-Supsa oil pipeline, transit fees from which are a major portion of Georgia’s economic wherewithal. But its military significance for Georgia cannot be overstated.

Samtredia is where Georgia’s transport links to its only other ports, Supsa and Batumi, merge with its link to Poti. (Technically, Sukumi is also a Georgian port, but the Abkhaz have controlled it since achieving de facto independence in 1993.) Should Samtredia fall, Russia will have, in effect, enacted a naval blockade of Georgia without using its navy. The city is also the only land link of any meaningful size to Turkey. While Turkey — along with the rest of the world — does not want to get involved in the conflict, the capture of Samtredia effectively blocks any potential land-based reinforcements from reaching Georgia via Turkey.

Furthermore, there is only one road and rail line that leads east from Samtredia to the rest of the country. This transport corridor is, in essence, the backbone of the entire country. Should Samtredia fall, there is really nothing that can be done — by Georgia or anyone else — to stop the Russians from taking over Georgia outright, one piece at a time, at their leisure.

In essence, the Russians are a heartbeat away from being able to dictate terms to the Georgians without even glancing in the direction of Tbilisi.
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G M
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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2008, 11:33:30 AM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/11/opinion/11kristol.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

August 11, 2008
OP-ED COLUMNIST
Will Russia Get Away With It?

By WILLIAM KRISTOL
In August 1924, the small nation of Georgia, occupied by Soviet Russia since 1921, rose up against Soviet rule. On Sept. 16, 1924, The Times of London reported on an appeal by the president of the Georgian Republic to the League of Nations. While “sympathetic reference to his country’s efforts was made” in the Assembly, the Times said, “it is realized that the League is incapable of rendering material aid, and that the moral influence which may be a powerful force with civilized countries is unlikely to make any impression upon Soviet Russia.”

“Unlikely” was an understatement. Georgians did not enjoy freedom again until 1991.

Today, the Vladimir Putins and Hu Jintaos and Mahmoud Ahmadinejads of the world — to say nothing of their junior counterparts in places like Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma and North Korea — are no more likely than were Soviet leaders in 1924 to be swayed by “moral influence.” Dictators aren’t moved by the claims of justice unarmed; aggressors aren’t intimidated by diplomacy absent the credible threat of force; fanatics aren’t deterred by the disapproval of men of moderation or refinement.

The good news is that today we don’t face threats of the magnitude of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. Each of those regimes combined ruthless internal control, a willingness to engage in external aggression, and fervent adherence to an extreme ideology. Today these elements don’t coexist in one place. Russia is aggressive, China despotic and Iran messianic — but none is as dangerous as the 20th-century totalitarian states.

The further good news is that 2008 has been, in one respect, an auspicious year for freedom and democracy. In Iraq, we and our Iraqi allies are on the verge of a strategic victory over the jihadists in what they have called the central front of their struggle. This joint victory has the potential to weaken the jihadist impulse throughout the Middle East.

On the other hand, the ability of Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas to get away with murder (literally), and above all the ability of Iran to pursue its nuclear ambitions effectively unchecked, are setbacks for hopes of peace and progress.

And there is no evidence that China’s hosting of the Olympics has led to moderation of its authoritarianism. Meanwhile, Russia has sent troops and tanks across an international border, and now seems to be widening its war against Georgia more than its original — and in any case illegitimate — casus belli would justify.

Will the United States put real pressure on Russia to stop? In a news analysis on Sunday, the New York Times reporter Helene Cooper accurately captured what I gather is the prevailing view in our State Department: “While America considers Georgia its strongest ally in the bloc of former Soviet countries, Washington needs Russia too much on big issues like Iran to risk it all to defend Georgia.”

But Georgia, a nation of about 4.6 million, has had the third-largest military presence — about 2,000 troops — fighting along with U.S. soldiers and marines in Iraq. For this reason alone, we owe Georgia a serious effort to defend its sovereignty. Surely we cannot simply stand by as an autocratic aggressor gobbles up part of — and perhaps destabilizes all of — a friendly democratic nation that we were sponsoring for NATO membership a few months ago.

For that matter, consider the implications of our turning away from Georgia for other aspiring pro-Western governments in the neighborhood, like Ukraine’s. Shouldn’t we therefore now insist that normal relations with Russia are impossible as long as the aggression continues, strongly reiterate our commitment to the territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine, and offer emergency military aid to Georgia?

Incidentally, has Russia really been helping much on Iran? It has gone along with — while delaying — three United Nations Security Council resolutions that have imposed mild sanctions on Iran. But it has also supplied material for Iran’s nuclear program, and is now selling Iran antiaircraft systems to protect military and nuclear installations.

It’s striking that dictatorial and aggressive and fanatical regimes — whatever their differences — seem happy to work together to weaken the influence of the United States and its democratic allies. So Russia helps Iran. Iran and North Korea help Syria. Russia and China block Security Council sanctions against Zimbabwe. China props up the regimes in Burma and North Korea.

The United States, of course, is not without resources and allies to deal with these problems and threats. But at times we seem oddly timid and uncertain.

When the “civilized world” expostulated with Russia about Georgia in 1924, the Soviet regime was still weak. In Germany, Hitler was in jail. Only 16 years later, Britain stood virtually alone against a Nazi-Soviet axis. Is it not true today, as it was in the 1920s and ’30s, that delay and irresolution on the part of the democracies simply invite future threats and graver dangers?
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2008, 12:02:34 PM »

GM:

Question:  So what do we do about the leverage the Russians have with regard to Iran?

=============
All:

Here's these from the NYTimes.  Caveat lector:
----

 
By ANDREW E. KRAMER and ELLEN BARRY
Published: August 10, 2008
GORI, Georgia — In retreat, the Georgian soldiers were so tired they could not keep from stumbling. Their arms were loaded with rucksacks and ammunition boxes; they had dark circles under their eyes. Officers ran up and down the line, barking for them to go faster.

Weary residents heading south said they were beginning to feel betrayed by the United States, an ally of Georgia, as diplomacy had fallen short of expectations.

All along the road was grief. Old men pushed wheelbarrows loaded with bags or led cows by tethers. They drove tractors and rickety Ladas packed with suitcases and televisions. As a column of soldiers passed through Gori, a black-robed priest came out of his church and made the sign of the cross again and again. One soldier, his face a mask of exhaustion, cradled a Kalashnikov.

“We killed as many of them as we could,” he said. “But where are our friends?”

It was the question of the day. As Russian forces massed Sunday on two fronts, Georgians were heading south with whatever they could carry. When they met Western journalists, they all said the same thing: Where is the United States? When is NATO coming?

Since the conflict began, Western leaders have worked frantically to broker a cease-fire. But for Georgians — so boisterously pro-American that Tbilisi, the capital, has a George W. Bush Street — diplomacy fell far short of what they expected.

Even in the hinterlands, at kebab stands and in farming villages, people fleeing South Ossetia saw themselves as trapped between great powers. Ossetian refugees heading north to Russia gushed their gratitude to Dmitri A. Medvedev and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian leaders. Georgians around Gori spoke of America plaintively, uncertainly. They were beginning to feel betrayed.

“Tell your government,” said a man named Truber, fresh from the side of the Tbilisi hospital bed where his son was being treated for combat injuries. “If you had said something stronger, we would not be in this.”

He had not slept for three days, and he was angry — at himself, at Georgia, but mainly at the United States. “If you want to help, you have to help the end,” he said.

Meanwhile, the influx of Ossetians into southern Russia continued Sunday, as the police escorted convoys of minibuses up the Zaramakh highway and through the mountain tunnel that is the only route into Russia. The Russian authorities estimated that 34,000 refugees had crossed the border, and 3,000 more evacuations were planned for Monday. The Ossetians emerged onto a four-lane highway whose edges had been chopped to pieces by columns of Russian armor. Around them were mountains shrouded by fog.  Tatiana Gobozoyeva was riding in a van with 20 other refugees, many of whom had spent four days huddled in dirty basements. She said she considered the United States responsible for the Georgian aggression.

Pyotr Bezhov, who fled the violence with his daughter Oksana on Sunday, stood by a dusty dirt road.

“The biggest problem here is you, your country,” he said. “You said that the Soviets were an evil empire, but it’s you that are the empire.

“Not you personally, of course,” he added. “But your government.”

On the other side of the line of battle, Georgians had begun to question the strength of their alliance with the United States.

In recent years, Mr. Bush has lavished praise on Georgia — and the so-called Rose Revolution that brought Mikheil Saakashvili to power — as a model of democracy-building. The feeling was mutual: when Mr. Bush visited Tbilisi in 2005, the authorities estimated that 150,000 people showed up to see him. He famously climbed up on a platform and wiggled his hips to loud Georgian folk music.

Those exuberant days seemed very distant around Gori on Sunday, as people fled, leaving behind corn fields and apple orchards. A group of men tried mightily to push a truck with a blown-out tire, but it got stuck on the road, and they finally abandoned it.

Gato Tkviavi lingered in Tirzini, a village of one-story houses where cows were wandering through the streets.  Asked where the border with South Ossetia was, he pointed at his feet. “The border is where the Russians say it is,” he said. “It could be here, or it could be Gori.”

The grimmest among the Georgians were the soldiers, haggard, unshaven and swinging their Kalashnikovs. A group of them had piled onto a flatbed truck, crowding on in such numbers that some were sitting on the roof, their feet dangling over the windshield.

One, who gave his name as Major Georgi, spoke with anger. “Write exactly what I say,” he said. “Over the past few years, I lived in a democratic society. I was happy. And now America and the European Union are spitting on us.”

Andrew E. Kramer reported from Gori and Ellen Barry from Moscow. Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting from Tbilisi, Georgia, and Matt Siegel from Vladikavkaz, Russia.

==========
By C. J. CHIVERS
Published: August 10, 2008
As the bloody military mismatch between Russia and Georgia unfolded over the past three days, even the main players were surprised by how quickly small border skirmishes slipped into a conflict that threatened the Georgian government and perhaps the country itself.

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Justyna Mielnikiewicz for The New York Times
A bombed apartment in Gori, Georgia, with posters of Georgia’s president and President Bush. There was no sign over the weekend that the Kremlin was willing to negotiate with Georgia.

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A History of Enmity
Related
Russians Push Past Separatist Area to Assault Central Georgia (August 11, 2008)
On Slog to Safety, Seething at West (August 11, 2008)
In Brooklyn, Georgians Pray and Frantically Call Families (August 11, 2008) Several American and Georgian officials said that unlike when Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979, a move in which Soviet forces were massed before the attack, the nation had not appeared poised for an invasion last week. As late as Wednesday, they said, Russian diplomats had been pressing for negotiations between Georgia and South Ossetia, the breakaway region where the combat flared and then escalated into full-scale war.

“It doesn’t look like this was premeditated, with a massive staging of equipment,” one senior American official said. “Until the night before the fighting, Russia seemed to be playing a constructive role.”

But while the immediate causes and the intensity of the Russian invasion had caught Georgia and the Western foreign policy establishment by surprise, there had been signs for years that Georgia and Russia had methodically, if quietly, prepared for conflict.

Several other long-term factors had also contributed to the possibility of war. They included the Kremlin’s military successes in Chechnya, which gave Russia the latitude and sense of internal security it needed to free up troops to cross its borders, and the exuberant support of the United States for President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, a figure loathed by the Kremlin on both personal and political terms.

Moreover, by preparing Georgian soldiers for duty in Iraq, the United States appeared to have helped embolden Georgia, if inadvertently, to enter a fight it could not win.

American officials and a military officer who have dealt with Georgia said privately that as a result, the war risked becoming a foreign policy catastrophe for the United States, whose image and authority in the region were in question after it had proven unable to assist Georgia or to restrain the Kremlin while the Russian Army pressed its attack.

Russia’s bureaucratic and military groundwork was laid even before Mr. Saakashvili came to power in 2004 and positioned himself as one of the world’s most strident critics of the Kremlin.

Under the presidency of Vladimir V. Putin, Russia had already been granting citizenship and distributing passports to virtually all of the adult residents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the much larger separatist region where Russia had also massed troops over the weekend. The West had been skeptical of the validity of Russia’s handing out passports by the thousands to citizens of another nation.

“Having a document does not make you a Russian citizen,” one American diplomat said in 2004, as Russia expanded the program.

But whatever the legal merits, the Kremlin had laid the foundation for one of its public relations arguments for invading: its army was coming to the aid of Russian citizens under foreign attack.

In the ensuing years, even as Russia issued warnings, Mr. Saakashvili grew bolder. There were four regions out of Georgian control when he took office in 2004, but he restored two smaller regions, Ajaria in 2004 and the upper Kodori Gorge in 2006, with few deaths.

The victories gave him a sense of momentum. He kept national reintegration as a central plank of his platform.

Russia, however, began retaliating against Georgia in many ways. It cut off air service and mail between the countries, closed the border and refused Georgian exports. And by the time the Kodori Gorge was back in Georgian control, Russia had also consolidated its hold over Chechnya, which is now largely managed by a local leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, and his Kremlin-backed Chechen forces.

Chechnya had for years been the preoccupation of Russian ground forces. But Mr. Kadyrov’s strength had enabled Russian to garrison many of its forces and turn its attention elsewhere.

Simultaneously, as the contest of wills between Georgia and Russia intensified, the strong support of the United States for Mr. Saakashvili created tensions within the foreign policy establishment in Washington and created rival views.

Some diplomats considered Mr. Saakashvili a politician of unusual promise, someone who could reorder Georgia along the lines of a Western democracy and become a symbol of change in the politically moribund post-Soviet states. Mr. Saakashvili encouraged this view, framing himself as a visionary who was leading a column of regional democracy movements.

Other diplomats worried that both Mr. Saakashvili’s persona and his platforms presented an implicit challenge to the Kremlin, and that Mr. Saakashvili made himself a symbol of something else: Russia’s suspicion about American intentions in the Kremlin’s old empire. They worried that he would draw the United States and Russia into arguments that the United States did not want.
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This feeling was especially true among Russian specialists, who said that, whatever the merits of Mr. Saakashvili’s positions, his impulsiveness and nationalism sometimes outstripped his common sense.

The risks were intensified by the fact that the United States did not merely encourage Georgia’s young democracy, it helped militarize the weak Georgian state.  In his wooing of Washington as he came to power, Mr. Saakashvili firmly embraced the missions of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. At first he had almost nothing practical to offer. Georgia’s military was small, poorly led, ill-equipped and weak.  But Mr. Saakashvili’s rise coincided neatly with a swelling American need for political support and foreign soldiers in Iraq. His offer of troops was matched with a Pentagon effort to overhaul Georgia’s forces from bottom to top.  At senior levels, the United States helped rewrite Georgian military doctrine and train its commanders and staff officers. At the squad level, American marines and soldiers trained Georgian soldiers in the fundamentals of battle.  Georgia, meanwhile, began re-equipping its forces with Israeli and American firearms, reconnaissance drones, communications and battlefield-management equipment, new convoys of vehicles and stockpiles of ammunition.

The public goal was to nudge Georgia toward NATO military standards. Privately, Georgian officials welcomed the martial coaching and buildup, and they made clear that they considered participation in Iraq as a sure way to prepare the Georgian military for “national reunification” — the local euphemism of choice for restoring Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Georgian control.

All of these policies collided late last week. One American official who covers Georgian affairs, speaking on the condition of anonymity while the United States formulates its next public response, said that everything had gone wrong.  Mr. Saakashvili had acted rashly, he said, and had given Russia the grounds to invade. The invasion, he said, was chilling, disproportionate and brutal, and it was grounds for a strong censure. But the immediate question was how far Russia would go in putting Georgia back into what it sees as Georgia’s place.  There was no sign throughout the weekend of Kremlin willingness to negotiate. A national humiliation was under way.

“The Georgians have lost almost everything,” the official said. “We always told them, ‘Don’t do this because the Russians do not have limited aims.’ ”

« Last Edit: August 11, 2008, 01:41:35 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2008, 12:33:22 PM »

Crafty,

Russia has hardly been a friend in regards to Iran and has done more to impede progress than help. It's been nothing but a chess piece for them. Georgian troops have fought alongside ours, it's long past time we start acting with honor towards our friends rather than abandoning them when it's useful.
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« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2008, 01:44:14 PM »

And now it serves their interest to help Iran with Anti aircraft missiles and nixing economic pressure via the UN.

You're a bright and unusually well informed man GM.  Specifically what do you suggest we do?
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« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2008, 02:22:59 PM »

1. A "Berlin airlift" support of food, medicine and weapon to Georgia.

2. A "come-to-jesus" meeting with Putin. Medvedev can sit in if Vladi wants. We explain that Georgia's borders will be respected, and guarded by US military assets. If Putin wants a war, we make it plain he'll get one.

3. Immediate air cover for Georgia. Establish a line that Russia can decide to cross or not.
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« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2008, 02:31:17 PM »

http://michellemalkin.com/2008/08/11/is-georgia-in-2008-like-hungary-in-1956/

Is Georgia in 2008 like Hungary in 1956?
By see-dubya  •  August 11, 2008 07:27 AM

I’ve said before that America needs to take up for her allies. It keeps the world safe:

The world works as well as it does–and, granted, that’s pretty marginal–in large part because the United States guarantees the security of its allies. Places like Taiwan and South Korea churn out magic toilets and miniature automobiles knowing that the United States will respond to incursions and aggression with overwhelming and sustained force. So far, our defense of the fledgling Iraqi government has confirmed that arrangement.
America does what it says. If you have an American security guarantee–and I’m looking at you,Saudi Arabia and Pakistan–you don’t need to build a nuclear arsenal. America honors its commitments, and the world keeps ticking–well, arrhythmically stuttering, anyhow–because there are big U.S. guns ready to retaliate against aggression. No better friend. No worse enemy. If America is backing you, you’re golden.
Unless I’m mistaken, we’ve signed no security guarantees with Georgia. But we are discussing bringing them into NATO, we’re training and supplying their soldiers, and they’ve been fighting in Iraq on our side.
So we’re not bound to do anything to help Georgia–except by our commitment to supporting freedom and opposing tyranny around the world. We’ve staked much of our identity as a nation on exactly that commitment, and as Georgian President Saakashvili notes, our reputation is under scrutiny:
If Georgia falls, this will also mean the fall of the West in the entire former Soviet Union and beyond. Leaders in neighboring states — whether in Ukraine, in other Caucasian states or in Central Asia — will have to consider whether the price of freedom and independence is indeed too high.
________________________________
We’ve faced such a situation before, and we chose, I think, quite poorly. We promised too much, and we delivered too little.
In 1956, Hungary was a member of the Warsaw Pact. After Stalin’s death, when Krushchev came to power, there was a bit of liberalization in Russia and Hungary picked up on that. In fact, they decided, spontaneously, to have a revolution and kick the commies out. Which they did, smashing the statue of Stalin in the process*, until Russia said “oh no you didn’t” and marched back in on November 4th and took it over again, with much repression and execution in their wake.
The story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution is laid out here. This assessment bears excerpting:
Although the governments of the free world watched the Hungarian Revolution with deep admiration, they never seriously considered providing military support, nor condemnation strong enough to stop the brutal actions of the Soviet Union.
However, the heroes of 1956 did not die or suffer in vain. They demonstrated such uncommon bravery, such a universal yearning for freedom from foreign tyranny, that the whole world was forced to see the true face of communism at last.
If it is condemnation of Russian aggression that may make a difference, we’ll have plenty of that. Russia is, as Saakashvili notes, at war with Georgia, and their war has spread far beyond South Ossetia and into the rest of the country. Putin’s transparent rationalizations hide an avaricious agenda of conquest, and he must be opposed. We see the true face of Putin at last, and he’s every bit as ugly as the totalitarian Evil Empire which proceeded him (to which he bears an unmistakable family resemblance.)
Russia’s attacks are not only without justification, but they’re also indiscriminate and far out of any doctrine of proportion. No imminent threat justifies their actions. Nothing except a desire to punish and subjugate Georgia motivates their shelling of civilian targets far from South Ossetia. Russia should be ashamed of itself and of its leader.
I hope this naked aggression backfires on Russia like their catastrophic invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. They poured blood and treasure into that project for years, and earned the world’s opprobrium even as they hastened their empire’s downfall through their folly. We helped that defeat happen, of course, and I want to see us help out again.
Exactly how we do so…well, that’s the tough part, isn’t it?
On the other hand: one controversial detail of the uprising is whether or not Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty had extended false hope to the revolutionaries of military relief from America and/ or the U.N. A contemporary analysis of RFE/RL programmimg (available in pdf here) suggests there is some truth to that charge.
We must be careful in Georgia not to repeat that mistake. We must not bluff, and we can’t promise or imply what we will not back up. The stakes are too high.
But they’re too high to do nothing, as well.
*The Times of London article linked above notes that a statue of Stalin still stands in the town of Gori, Georgia –because it’s Stalin’s birthplace. No wonder Putin wants it back. It’s like Mount Vernon for him.
______________________________
{Post by See-Dubya.} Some more good points here at the Sundries Shack and at Ace’s. Oh, and once again, Tom Clancy’s writing…well, a Clancy-branded video game…feels eerily prophetic about world events.
I don’t like it when Clancy proves prophetic about world events. They’re never nice events.
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« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2008, 06:33:38 PM »

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1218446173615&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter

Bear claw on the trigger
Aug. 11, 2008
DAVID STROMBERG , THE JERUSALEM POST

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was Russia's last voice of conscience, binding it morally to the horrors of its Stalinist period. Josef Stalin, born Dzugashvili, was of course Georgian, but was famously ashamed of his ethnicity and, like Solzhenitsyn, was a believer in the greatness of Russia. And while it's difficult to overstate Solzhenitsyn's role in exposing the brutality of the Gulag, the Russia that reemerged and eventually embraced both him and Stalin has again become an imperialist aggressor.

Less than a week after Solzhenitsyn's death, Russia has entered into its first post-Soviet armed conflict outside its borders. Did Solzhenitsyn see this coming? He might have: In February of this year, Dmitry Rogozin, Moscow's representative to NATO, threatened the use of armed force in support of Serbia during the riots surrounding Kosovo's declaration of independence. An alarming statement, though it would have been complicated for Russia to navigate tanks to Belgrade through the former Eastern Bloc, more than half of which is now part of the European Union. Russia barked, but couldn't bite. And so it waited.

ON THURSDAY night, Russia got the provocation it needed: Georgian troops launched a surprise attack in a bid to take control of Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, a region that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili had promised to reintegrate into Georgia's territory. This time, the maneuver was much simpler: Reinforcements for the peacekeeping troops already stationed there had only to travel through a long tunnel that connects the breakaway region to North Ossetia, which is part of the Russian Federation.

And it seems that the bombers shown off at last year's air show in Moscow were also standing by. They struck the Georgian city of Gori, the outskirts of the capital of Tbilisi and the Black Sea port of Poti - which are, respectively, 13, 91 and 189 kilometers from South Ossetia. Parts of Russia's Black Sea fleet are converging on the coast of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia. All of which Solzhenitsyn might also have seen coming.

The decidedly westward-leaning Saakashvili gained power in the Rose Revolution of 2004, posing trouble for Russia with his proclaimed alliance with the US. In March 2006, after many tough words, Russia banned the import of Georgian wine and sparkling water - two key revenue producers for the country. This was done on the pretext that the products were of poor quality.

But Saakashvili wasn't intimidated, and in October of that year Georgia arrested and deported four Russian military officers it accused of spying. Russia severed all ties and enforced a total land, air and economic embargo. Then it started harassing all Georgian nationals in a hunt for illegal workers. In a Solzhenitsyn-like twist, there were reports that police called public school teachers asking them for the addresses of children with Georgian last names, whose parents they would then arrest. Georgians started to be deported by the planeload.

SAAKASHVILI FACED calls from the opposition to step down because of the great economic and social distress caused by his policies, and so in 2007 he called early elections, which he won by a slim margin. This gave him confidence to continue the pursuit of yet another campaign goal: to make Georgia a NATO member. Georgia's candidacy was raised at a NATO summit in April, only two months after Rogozin's warning to NATO about Russia's readiness to use force. Russia stated that it would regard Georgia's entry into NATO as a direct threat. The US backed Georgia's bid, while France and Germany made up the main opposition. Ironically, as a NATO member, Georgia would never have been able to mount this week's arguably misguided offensive.

And like several other conflicts in the world, this one also involves oil: The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which runs from Azerbaijan through Georgia and Turkey, brings oil directly from Central Asia to Europe, bypassing Russia. The issue isn't just Russia's monopoly and the subsequent danger of lost revenue. Russia uses its status as Europe's main supplier of natural gas to exert or divert diplomatic pressure, so any energy inputs it doesn't control threaten that power.

As small as it is, Georgia is the first country in the world to take a stand against Russia. From Russia's point of view, a pipeline in Georgia would be less dangerous if its leader kowtowed to Vladimir Putin - the same president-turned-prime minister that Solzhenitsyn befriended toward the end of his life, implicitly and explicitly approving Russia's intentions of imperialist, Eastern Orthodox-tinged aggression.

And while Solzhenitsyn earned the status of a saint for protesting the repression he experienced in the Soviet Union, by supporting the current Russian authority - and being blind to its tightening grip on Mother Russia and its neighbors - he has forfeited the possibility of being called a prophet.

The writer is editor of Zeek: Russified, a volume of works by contemporary Russian Jewish writers, poets and artists.


I definitely feel that the US should help militarily  and economically but where are we going to get the  troops from?   huh
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« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2008, 06:43:19 PM »

Rachel,

We have lots of fighter jocks that haven't had much to do as our enemies in the sandboxes have no air forces to speak of. We could rapidly deploy air assets to Georgia to enforce "no fly zones" and provide intel, medivac and close air support as needed. Let's just see how far Pootie-poo wants to push this.
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« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2008, 07:59:56 PM »

We don't even have enough troops for both Afg/Pak and Iraq-- let alone to keep pressure on Iran and you think we can take on the Russkis on their own border?

I agree about the consequences throughout the momentarily free FSU. 

Once again (NK, Syria, Iran, etc) the Bushies have barked without bite and yet again have gotten caught at it.  Good job getting Ukraine into the orbit of the free.  Good job getting Poland and ______ to take the Star Wars missiles to defend Europe from Iranian missiles.  STUPID to push the Russkis by backing the separation of Kosovo-- and the same logic we used there, they use now in Georgia.  STUPID to push for Georgia into NATO.  5-10 years ago it may have made sense to diminish Russia while it was down, but with the oil revenues, the fact that our forces are at full capacity and our "allies" are weenies, and Putin having re-established the strong Russian state wiser hands would not have pushed it so far so fast so overextended.

BTW a friend with contacts in Russia told me of a phone conversation he had yesterday.  He said his Russian friend was VERY guarded on the phone, but did mention a book which is going round called "The Northern Alliance" wherein the Russians ally with Iran.  For the Iranians the motive is to bring down Israel and for the Russians its to drive the US out of the MidEast.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2008, 08:05:58 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2008, 08:14:46 PM »

Crafty,

Air power only.
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« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2008, 08:41:29 PM »

GM,
What happens after you use air power only. What then? Air Power worked great in Afghanistan and Iraq at first. It doesn't win the whole war.   You don't think there could be consequences  huh

A couple more jpost articles


This sort of fits in with the northern alliance  idea 
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1218104259162&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Analysis: Back to the USSR
Aug. 10, 2008
ISABELLA GINOR and GIDEON REMEZ , THE JERUSALEM POST

As we write, reports are coming in that after a bombardment by Russia's aircraft, its tanks are advancing on the Georgian town of Gori - the birthplace of Iosif Djugashvili, better known as Stalin.

This throwback to the heyday of the Soviet Union is more than symbolic. Historical analogies are never perfect, but our sense of déjà vu was acute as we watched Moscow's Soviet-style move to reassert its domination of the USSR's former fief.

Moscow perceives a threat to its strategic interests from a small regional actor. It prods its neighboring clients to commit such provocations that the adversary is drawn into military action that "legitimizes" a massive, direct intervention to "defend the victims of aggression."

In our recent study Foxbats over Dimona: The Soviets' Nuclear Gamble in the Six-Day War, we demonstrated that this was the scenario employed by the USSR to instigate the 1967 conflict. Then, it was the unexpectedly devastating effect of Israel's preemptive strike that thwarted the planned Soviet intervention. Against Georgia this week, the ploy has so far worked much better.

As in our Middle Eastern precedent, a major motive for Moscow's move was to prevent its encirclement by nuclear-armed Western pacts. When the United States announced its intent to deploy missile defenses in the new NATO members Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia declared this to be a measure that would be met with a military response. Its alarm grew when President George W. Bush visited Ukraine and Georgia, inviting them, too, into NATO. But at the pact's summit in Bucharest in April, when the European allies demurred, Russia saw its chance - and pounced.

Georgia has assiduously courted US protection, if not a full NATO guarantee. It sent 2,000 soldiers to Iraq, who are being recalled to face the Russian invasion. Washington has provided Georgia with materiel and advisers, and so did Israel - at least until Russia pressed it to stop, reportedly in return for promises to withhold advanced weapons from Syria.

The South Ossetia separatists are already claiming US intervention - saying there are black people among the Georgian casualties. But even if some American personnel went discreetly into action, that would not suffice to deter Russia from bringing Georgia to heel, if not physically occupying the country. And then the Western loss will not be limited to the independence of a small, remote, struggling democracy.

Russia would achieve another strategic goal: regaining control of the vital flow of Caspian Sea oil to Western (and Israeli) consumers via pipelines that pass through Georgia to its own ports - now already blockaded by the Russian navy - and to Turkey's.

But Moscow's apparent disregard for the hitherto internationally sacrosanct borders and sovereignty of the 15 former Soviet Socialist Republics may have even farther-reaching consequences. Russia itself enjoyed immunity for its suppression of Chechnya's independence bid, as the latter was only an autonomous component of the Russian Federation. By the same token, South Ossetia and Abkhazia (where Russian marines have landed to assist separatists in opening a second front) are integral parts of Georgia. In calling these often-arbitrary borders into question, Russia has opened a vast Pandora's box.

Absent a resolute Western response, the next in line for Russian designs will be another would-be NATO candidate: Ukraine, which Moscow has already berated for backing Georgia. Ukraine's eastern mining and industrial regions are heavily populated by Russian-speakers; the Crimea, whence Ukraine seeks to eject the Russian Black Sea Fleet's main base, was part of Russia until the 1950s.

After "coming to the rescue of Russian citizens" in South Ossetia (locals who were issued Russian passports, or actual settlers from across the border), Moscow may demand the repatriation of its people from Ukraine - along with their land.

In respect to Israel, too, Russian leaders often proclaim a "special relationship" based on the "hundreds of thousands of Russian people" who reside here. This may still be far over the horizon - but you read it here first: Some day, a "representative delegation" of these "Russians" may invoke the Ossetian precedent to appeal for protection from Moscow. With a large part of the Russian fleet moved by then from Sevastopol, Crimea, to Tartus, Syria, such an intervention may be at least as feasible as in 1967.

Former Georgian: South Ossetia is like our Golan

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1218104259179&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter

Former Georgian: South Ossetia is like our Golan
Aug. 10, 2008
abe selig , THE JERUSALEM POST

As fighting between Russian and Georgian troops in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia continued to escalate on Sunday, feedback about the conflict from Russian and Georgian-Israelis seemed almost as complicated as the fighting that's raging between their countries.

In Neve Yaakov, a northern Jerusalem suburb home to many Georgian immigrants, support for their country remained high.

"South Ossetia is like our Golan Heights," said Sara Tzur, who was born in Georgia but came to Israel at a young age. "We're like the Israelis, and the Russians are like the Syrians - they want to take a mountainous, beautiful part of country away from us."

Tzur explained that while she has no problem with the Russians living in Israel, she is worried about her family members that remain in Georgia.

"Ninety percent of my family is here," she said, "But a few of them are still there in Gori, which is where a lot of fighting has been going on, we've been in touch with them, but it's hard to say what will be."

Down the street, Mordechai Achyashmini said the situation was troubling.

"I came here in 1974," he said. "And even then, they were fighting over South Ossetia. It comes as no surprise."

But Achyashmini also asserted that he had no problem with Russians or Ossetians, and that the problem was a political one, not ethnic.

"Even there, there were very few problems between us," he said. "The problem now is that a lot of people are being killed and people on both sides are losing family and friends. That is how long wars get started, and if Russia goes all the way in, they will cause a lot of damage."

Another Georgian woman, who preferred to remain unnamed, said she supported her native country but understood the Russian side.

"Georgia has to show that it's strong," she said, but Russia also has to make sure that these smaller countries around her know she is still in control. So I say, at what cost? If Georgia tries to take on Russia, they'll surely lose."

But inside a Russian bookstore in downtown Jerusalem, Baruch Sorokin had a different opinion.

"Ultimately the Russians will lose," he said of his former countrymen. "They say that a man who sits on a tank of gasoline shouldn't smoke, but that's exactly what the Russians are doing, they're sitting on top of Georgia and smoking."

Sorokin explained that in trying to exert their control over former Soviet satellite nations such as Georgia, the Russians were going into a fight that had been smoldering on the Georgian side for years.

While the South Ossetians are loyal to Moscow, Georgians as a whole resent Soviet rule to this day, and align themselves with the West in order to prevent Russian meddling in their affairs.

"Of course the Russians can win militarily," he said. "But they lost control over these regions when the Soviet Union collapsed, so going back and trying to show strength will only cause them distress, in the long-term."

Sorokin also gave three reasons for the current military flare-up, citing the Ossetian issue, political ramifications, including Russian animosity towards the West over what they saw as interference in Kosovo in the 1990's, and thirdly, what Sorokin stressed most of all, oil.

"There's an oil pipeline that runs through Azerbaijan and the Russians want control over it," he said. "If the Georgians gave them that, the Russians would stop fighting and abandon the Ossetians immediately. That's all they really want," he said smiling, "oil."

Nearby, inside the Five Brothers Plus Russian supermarket, other Russian immigrants chimed in.

"The Georgians say the Russians started it, the Russians say the Georgians started it, but who really knows?" asked Nina, as she worked at the butcher counter in the back. "All I know is they're fighting terribly there, and I feel bad for them, I love Georgians, they come in here all the time."

Another woman, Marina from Belarus, said she remembered the hatred for Georgians she heard growing up. "The Russians hate all of them," she said. "The Georgians the Caucasians, the Ossetians, it doesn't matter, they just want to control everyone."

But a second woman behind the butcher counter interrupted her, "You don't know what you're talking about. I'm from Moscow and my son still lives in Moscow, and as bad as they want to make us look, it's the government. The Russian government is doing what they please, the Russian people don't have anything to do with it."
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« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2008, 10:02:30 PM »

Rachel,

I'm no military expert, but to the best of my understanding, air power could make a difference right now, and it's the only thing we could have positioned in Georgia anytime soon. As mentioned before, most of our ground forces are kind of busy right now and couldn't be deployed in any significant numbers to make a difference.

Besides, if we own the skies, then it would stop Russia's bombing of Georgian cities quickly.
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« Reply #15 on: August 12, 2008, 12:04:58 AM »

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Trouble with Georgia

Ryan suggested that I weigh in on the current conflict in South Ossetia and in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which I mention in passing in my book as one of the bigger post-Soviet political fiascos.

It turns out that I am somewhat qualified to write on the subject: when I was in grad school (linguistics) I studied Abkhaz, the curious language spoken by the indigenous population of the separatist republic of Abkhazia. (Abkhazia is involved in the current conflict, working to flush Georgian forces out of the Kodor gorge, which is the one piece of their territory that remains under nominal Georgian control, as well as providing volunteers to help the South Ossetian side.) Later, finding that the Abkhaz side was woefully underrepresented, I started a web site, Apsny.org ("Apsny" being the Abkhaz word for Abkhazia), where, with help from Prof. Hewitt of the School of Oriental and African Languages in London, Prof. Chirikba, an Abkhaz linguist, and many others, I tried to present facts uncurried by extreme nationalist sentiments. At that time, the internet was dominated by the Georgian side, which was eager to accuse the Abkhaz of atrocities while discounting their own role in the bloody and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to regain control of the breakaway republic, in which some ten thousand people had died and many more had been displaced. For my diligent service, which spanned more than a decade, I received voluminous hate mail and many death threats from the Georgian side, as well as official expressions of gratitude from the Abkhaz side. Be that as it may, I find both the Georgians and the Abkhaz quite amazing, I am sure that the world would be much poorer without them, and I wish they would leave each other in peace, so that I can go and visit either place as I wish.

For obvious reasons, my view of the Caucasus region has always been colored by my interest in linguistics. While the Caucasus mountains are certainly some of the highest and most impressive in the world, it is also a mountain of exotic and often unrelated languages. While Abkhaz, Chechen, and some others form a single North Caucasian family of languages, Georgian (Kartvelian) is only vaguely related to Basque, spoken in France and in Spain, while Ossetian is distantly related to Persian. For thousands of years, the region has been a mosaic made up of fiercely independent tribes, of which Georgians (Kartvelians) were only one of the largest. This made them more capable of forming a viable political entity (a kingdom, initially), but never could they aspire to dominating their neighbors, to whom they were not even vaguely related, either ethnically or linguistically. And language did play a big role: although bilingualism and even multilingualism were by no means rare, none of the tribes were too eager to learn the language of any other tribe en masse. For instance, prior to their being conquered and absorbed into the Russian Empire, the Chechens were a trilingual society, using Arabic in the mosque, Turkish in the market, and one of the "home languages" in the home village. After the Russian conquest, which was very bloody and resulted in the annihilation of several smaller tribes, among them the Ubykh, who simply would not surrender, the Russian language became the lingua franca of the entire region.

To the conquering Russians, Georgia represented the rich, creamy heart of the incredibly tough nut of the Caucasus region. In contrast to the many small and taciturn mountain tribes, many of them either Moslem or animist, here was an Orthodox Christian nation with great traditions of art, music, architecture, poetry, an unparalleled joie de vivre, and a delicious national cuisine. Georgians easily secured for themselves a pleasant role within the empire. Leaving administrative chores to the Russians and commerce and the trades to the Armenians, they were free to indulge in more pleasant pursuits, such as feasting, falconry, and entertaining foreign visitors. This trend had carried over into Soviet times, making Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic a favored tourist destination, a prosperous place complete with amusing wines, delicious food, an exuberantly friendly population that spoke your language, and majestic mountains for a backdrop. In the interest of maintaining public order, the Russians tried to be even-handed in their treatment of the non-Georgian tribes. Knowing full well just how much trouble they can be, they administered their territories as autonomous units within Georgia. One of the more glaring exceptions to this was the arbitrary administrative inclusion of Abkhazia within Georgia, which was done by Joseph Stalin (Dzhugashvili), who was a Georgian, and which in many ways laid the ground for the current conflict.

Their being so well coddled within the fold of the great empire cultivated in the Georgians a sense of exceptionalism and entitlement vis à vis their smaller and poorer neighbors, which, once the Soviet Union collapsed and the Russians departed, gave rise to a particularly rabid, venomous, and ultimately self-destructive brand of nationalism. The first post-independence Georgian leader, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was killed rather quickly. Part of his nationalist rhetoric involved labeling other tribes, such as the Abkhaz and the Ossetians, as newcomers and gypsies, who are only welcome as "guests" on Georgian soil. Next up was Eduard Shevardnadze, who was Foreign Minister of the USSR under Gorbachev, and who was more or less handed Georgia as his personal fiefdom by the West, as his reward for idly standing by and smiling pleasantly while the Berlin wall was being torn down. He was given UN recognition and foreign aid, and told to go ahead and try to preserve "Georgia's territorial integrity." At this he failed miserably, causing a senseless bloodbath and a flood of refugees. Shevardnadze slowly sank into a morass of corruption and national decay, until finally even the West decided that he smelled bad and unceremoniously replaced him with a shiny new face: the American-educated Mikhail Saakashvili. And this brings us to the current conflict, which he started. It is unclear why he decided to start it, but then his American education might offer a clue: the US doesn't seem to need good reasons to start wars either.

It may be difficult for some people to grasp why it is that the Abkhaz or the Ossetians do not much fancy suddenly becoming Georgian, so let me offer you a precise analogy. Suppose Los Angeles, California, were to collapse as the USSR once did, and East L.A. quickly moved to declare its independence. Suppose, further, that the 88% of its population that is Hispanic/Latino voted that the other 12% were free to stay on as "guests," provided they only spoke Spanish. The teaching of English were to be forbidden. After some bloody skirmishes, East L.A. split up into ethnic enclaves. Then some foreign government (say, Russian, or Chinese) stepped in and started shipping in weapons and providing training to the Latino faction, in support of their efforts to restore East L.A.'s "territorial integrity." As a non-Hispanic resident of East L.A., would you then (1) run and hide, (2) stay and fight, or (3) pick up a copy of "Spanish for Dummies" and start cramming?
 
 
 
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The Abkhaz and the South Ossetians have made their preference very clear by applying for and being issued with a Russian passport. That's right, the majority of the present native population of these two "separatist enclaves" are bona fide citizens of the Russian Federation with all the privileges appertaining thereto. Lacking any other options, they are happy to accept protection from Russia, use Russian as their lingua franca, and fight for their right to be rid of Georgians once and for all. One of the privileges of being a Russian citizen at this stage, when Russia has recovered from its political and economic woes following the Soviet collapse, is that if some foreign entity comes and shells a settlement full of Russian citizens, you can be sure that Russia will open one amazingly huge can of whoop-ass on whoever it feels is responsible. Add to that the atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the Georgian forces, such as finishing off wounded Russian peacekeepers, and you can see why the normally shy and reticent Russian army might get behind the idea of making sure Georgia no longer poses a military threat to anyone. The Georgians have really done it to themselves this time, and we should all feel very sorry for them. They are not evil people, just incredibly misguided by their horrible national politicians. The West, and the US in particular, bear responsibility for enabling this bloodbath by providing them with arms, training, and encouraging them to fight for their "territorial integrity."

This, it will no doubt turn out, was the wrong thing to do. The term "Georgia's territorial integrity" has been bantered about and proffered lamely as an excuse for an untenable status quo for almost two decades now, with poor results. In the meantime, the territorial integrity of another semi-defunct state, Serbia has been sacrificed on the altar of geopolitics. Kosovo, which is Serbia's historical homeland, has been cleansed of Serbians, and alienated from Serbia proper. For those who are vague on the details of that conflict, here is a summary. Kosovo became majority-Albanian due to Albanians' higher birth rate. The Albanians then formed Kosovo Liberation Army, which fought Serbians for independence and lost. Albanians then fled en masse to Albania. The US and NATO then intervened, bombed Kosovo and Serbia, repatriated the refugees, and turned Kosovo into a UN protectorate. The next step from the West's point of view is to recognize Kosovo's independence, taking it away from Serbia forever.

If Kosovo is to Serbia as Abkhazia and South Ossetia are to Georgia, what, you might ask, is the key difference that mandates a different outcome for the latter? Well, there are quite a few (neither is Georgia's historical homeland, both fought for independence and won, both are populated by indigenous tribes rather than newcomers from across the border), but the most salient seems to be this one: Serbia, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia are all BAD (aligned with Moscow) while Georgia is GOOD (aligned with the West and US, and wants to join NATO). Morality, which, I am sure, underpins Western and US foreign policy, dictates that the bad be punished, and the good rewarded. I submit to you that such self-serving logic is a political dead end, and that if senseless bloodshed is to be stopped and peace is to be restored to the Caucasus, Western and US leaders will have to activate several additional brain cells, and stop mindlessly repeating the meaningless phrase "Georgia's territorial integrity."

http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/
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« Reply #16 on: August 12, 2008, 12:21:19 AM »

Funny enough, Beslan is located in North Ossetia. I have studied the Chechens as well, still I had no clue as to the complexities of this region's ethnicities and history.
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« Reply #17 on: August 12, 2008, 10:12:59 AM »

@GM: That was a very interesting piece, wasn't it?

@Rachel:  We appreciate your posts from Israeli sources.

From a very different POV, here's the WSJ:
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Vladimir Bonaparte
August 12, 2008; Page A20
The farther Russia's tanks roll into Georgia, the more the world is beginning to see the reality of Vladimir Putin's Napoleonic ambitions. Having consolidated his authoritarian transition as Prime Minister with a figurehead President, Mr. Putin is now pushing to reassert Russian dominance in Eurasia. Ukraine is in his sights, and even the Baltic states could be threatened if he's allowed to get away with it. The West needs to draw a line at Georgia.

No matter who fired the first shot last week in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, Moscow is using the separatist issue as an excuse to demolish Georgia's military and, if possible, depose its democratically elected government. Russian forces moved ever deeper into Georgia proper Monday. They launched a second front in the west from another breakaway province, Abkhazia, and took the central city of Gori, which lies 40 miles from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. These moves slice the country in half and isolate its ports, most of which Russia has bombed or blockaded. Moscow dismissed a cease-fire drawn up by European nations and signed by Georgia.

Russian bombers have also hit residential and industrial areas, making a mockery of Moscow's charge that Georgia is the party indiscriminately killing civilians. Russian claims of Georgian ethnic cleansing now look like well-rehearsed propaganda lines to justify a well-prepared invasion. Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of tanks, ships and warplanes were waiting for Mr. Putin's command.

While the rape of Chechnya was brutal, this is the most brazen act of Mr. Putin's reign, the first military offensive outside Russia's borders since Soviet rule ended. Yet it also fits a pattern of other threats and affronts to Russia's neighbors: turning off the oil or natural-gas taps to Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, and even to NATO-member Lithuania; launching a cyberassault on Estonia; opposing two antimissile sites in NATO members in Eastern Europe that couldn't begin to neutralize Russia's offensive capabilities.

Our emphasis on NATO here is no coincidence. The Georgia invasion is a direct slap at the Western alliance. Tbilisi, like Kiev, has been pushing for NATO membership. Mr. Putin decided to act while some alliance members, led by Germany, dallied over their applications. Georgia was first. Ukraine, which has been pushing Russia to move its Black Sea fleet's headquarters out of the Crimea, could be next.

The alliance needs to respond forcefully, and it can start today. NATO officials have granted Russia a special meeting before deciding what to do about Georgia -- though we don't recall Russia briefing NATO about its plans in the Caucasus. The meeting is an opportunity to relay to Moscow that Georgian and Ukrainian membership is back on the table and that the alliance is considering all options for Georgia, from a humanitarian airlift to military aid, if Russia doesn't withdraw immediately.

Mr. Putin is betting that the West needs him for oil and deterring Iran's nuclear ambitions more than he needs the West. He's wrong -- not least since his "cooperation" on Iran consists of helping Tehran stall for time and selling the mullahs advanced antiaircraft missiles. Russia also needs the West's capital and especially its expertise in developing its oil and gas fields at least as much as the West needs Russian energy supplies.

The U.S. and Europe need to make all of that clear. Forcing Russia to veto a strong condemnation of its own actions at the U.N. Security Council would be one way to turn the pressure up. And speaking of pressure, where are all the peace protesters during this war? They can't all be in China.

As for the U.S., this is perhaps the last chance for President Bush to salvage any kind of positive legacy toward Russia, amid what is a useful record elsewhere in Eurasia. While Mr. Bush has championed the region's fledgling democracies, he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice badly misjudged Mr. Putin. Now would be a good moment for Mr. Bush to publicly acknowledge his misjudgment and rally the West's response.

John McCain had the Russian leader pegged better, which speaks well of his foreign-policy instincts. The Republican Presidential candidate has long said that Russia should be booted from the G-8 and yesterday he outlined a forceful Western strategy on Russia that stops short of military action. Barack Obama has in the past indicated support for the Georgia and Ukraine NATO bids, but the Democratic candidate has yet to explain in any detail how he would respond to the current conflict.

There's one other way the U.S. could hit Russia where it hurts: by strengthening the dollar. The greenback's weakness has contributed greatly to the record oil prices that have in turn made Russia flush with petrodollars and fueled Mr. Putin's expansionist ambitions. Crude prices continued to fall yesterday, below $115 a barrel, and further deflating that bubble would do more to sober up an oil-drunk Kremlin than would any kind of economic sanctions.

* * *
Vladimir Putin's Russia isn't the former Soviet Union, bent on ideological confrontation around the world. But it is a Bonapartist power intent on dominating its neighbors and restoring its clout on the world stage. Unless Russians see that there are costs for their Napoleon's expansionism, Georgia isn't likely to be his last stop.
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« Reply #18 on: August 12, 2008, 10:18:00 AM »

And one more, this from the ever thoughtful Stratfor:

The war between Georgia and Russia appears to be drawing to a close. There were Russian air attacks on Georgia on Sunday and some fighting in South Ossetia, and the Russians sank a Georgian missile boat. But as the day ended the Russians declared themselves ready to make peace with Georgia, and U.N. officials said the Georgians were ready to complete the withdrawal of their forces from South Ossetia.

At this point, the Russians have achieved what they wanted to achieve, quite apart from assuring South Ossetia’s autonomy. First, they have driven home the fact that in the end, they are the dominant power not only in the Caucasus but also around their entire periphery. Alliance with the United States or training with foreign advisers ultimately means little; it is not even clear what the United States or NATO would have been able to do if Georgia had been a member of the alliance. That lesson is not for the benefit of Georgia, but for Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, and even Poland and the Czech Republic. The Russians have made it clear that, at least at this moment in history, they can operate on their periphery effectively and therefore their neighbors should not be indifferent to Russian wishes.

The second lesson was for the Americans and Europeans to consider. The Russians had asked that Kosovo not be granted independence. The Russians were prepared to accept autonomy but they did not want the map of Europe to be redrawn; they made it clear that once that starts, not only will it not end, but the Russians would feel free to redraw the map themselves. The Americans and Europeans went forward anyway, making the assumption that the Russians would have no choice but to live with that decision. The Russian response to the Georgian attack on South Ossetia drives home the point that the Russians are again a force to be reckoned with.

There has been sharp rhetoric from American and European officials, but that rhetoric can’t be matched with military action. The Europeans are too militarily weak to have any options, and the Americans have quite enough on their plates without getting involved in a war in Georgia. In some ways the rhetoric makes the Russians look even stronger than they actually are. The intensity of the rhetoric contrasted with the paucity of action is striking.

The Americans in particular have another problem. Iran is infinitely more important to them than Georgia, and they need Russian help in Iran. Specifically, they need the Russians not to sell the Iranians weapons. In particular, they do not want the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles delivered to the Iranians. In addition, they want the Russians to join in possible sanctions against Iran. Russia has a number of ways to thwart U.S. policy not only in Iran, but also in Afghanistan and Syria. These are areas of fundamental concern to the United States, and confronting the Russians on Georgia is a risky business. The Russians can counter in ways that are extremely painful to the United States.

There is talk that the Russians might want a new government in Georgia. That is probably so, but the Russians have already achieved their most important goals. They have made it clear to their neighbors that a relationship with the West does not provide security if Russia’s interests are threatened. They have made it clear to the West that ignoring Russian wishes carries a price. And finally, they have made it clear to everyone that the Russian military, which was in catastrophic shape five years ago, is sufficiently healed to carry out a complex combined-arms operation including land, air and naval components. Granted it was against a small country, but there were many ways in which the operation could have been bungled. It wasn’t. Russia is not a superpower, but it is certainly no longer a military cripple. Delivering that message, in the end, might have been the most important to Russia.
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« Reply #19 on: August 12, 2008, 03:21:11 PM »

I'm reminded of a Chinese phrase "Kill the chicken to scare the monkey". It strikes me that this may be exactly how China moves on Taiwan. A blitzkrieg while the free world dithers.

Best line I saw about this: "A Tsar is born. "

I'm curious to see how much Obama's standing in the polls was affected by this crisis.





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« Reply #20 on: August 12, 2008, 05:17:23 PM »

I agree completely that China must be getting ideas.

Here's a bigger thought piece from Stratfor:

The Russian invasion of Georgia has not changed the balance of power in Eurasia. It simply announced that the balance of power had already shifted. The United States has been absorbed in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as potential conflict with Iran and a destabilizing situation in Pakistan. It has no strategic ground forces in reserve and is in no position to intervene on the Russian periphery. This, as we have argued, has opened a window of opportunity for the Russians to reassert their influence in the former Soviet sphere. Moscow did not have to concern itself with the potential response of the United States or Europe; hence, the invasion did not shift the balance of power. The balance of power had already shifted, and it was up to the Russians when to make this public. They did that Aug. 8.

Let’s begin simply by reviewing the last few days.

On the night of Thursday, Aug. 7, forces of the Republic of Georgia drove across the border of South Ossetia, a secessionist region of Georgia that has functioned as an independent entity since the fall of the Soviet Union. The forces drove on to the capital, Tskhinvali, which is close to the border. Georgian forces got bogged down while trying to take the city. In spite of heavy fighting, they never fully secured the city, nor the rest of South Ossetia.

On the morning of Aug. 8, Russian forces entered South Ossetia, using armored and motorized infantry forces along with air power. South Ossetia was informally aligned with Russia, and Russia acted to prevent the region’s absorption by Georgia. Given the speed with which the Russians responded — within hours of the Georgian attack — the Russians were expecting the Georgian attack and were themselves at their jumping-off points. The counterattack was carefully planned and competently executed, and over the next 48 hours, the Russians succeeded in defeating the main Georgian force and forcing a retreat. By Sunday, Aug. 10, the Russians had consolidated their position in South Ossetia.





(click image to enlarge)
On Monday, the Russians extended their offensive into Georgia proper, attacking on two axes. One was south from South Ossetia to the Georgian city of Gori. The other drive was from Abkhazia, another secessionist region of Georgia aligned with the Russians. This drive was designed to cut the road between the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and its ports. By this point, the Russians had bombed the military airfields at Marneuli and Vaziani and appeared to have disabled radars at the international airport in Tbilisi. These moves brought Russian forces to within 40 miles of the Georgian capital, while making outside reinforcement and resupply of Georgian forces extremely difficult should anyone wish to undertake it.

The Mystery Behind the Georgian Invasion
In this simple chronicle, there is something quite mysterious: Why did the Georgians choose to invade South Ossetia on Thursday night? There had been a great deal of shelling by the South Ossetians of Georgian villages for the previous three nights, but while possibly more intense than usual, artillery exchanges were routine. The Georgians might not have fought well, but they committed fairly substantial forces that must have taken at the very least several days to deploy and supply. Georgia’s move was deliberate.

The United States is Georgia’s closest ally. It maintained about 130 military advisers in Georgia, along with civilian advisers, contractors involved in all aspects of the Georgian government and people doing business in Georgia. It is inconceivable that the Americans were unaware of Georgia’s mobilization and intentions. It is also inconceivable that the Americans were unaware that the Russians had deployed substantial forces on the South Ossetian frontier. U.S. technical intelligence, from satellite imagery and signals intelligence to unmanned aerial vehicles, could not miss the fact that thousands of Russian troops were moving to forward positions. The Russians clearly knew the Georgians were ready to move. How could the United States not be aware of the Russians? Indeed, given the posture of Russian troops, how could intelligence analysts have missed the possibility that the Russians had laid a trap, hoping for a Georgian invasion to justify its own counterattack?

It is very difficult to imagine that the Georgians launched their attack against U.S. wishes. The Georgians rely on the United States, and they were in no position to defy it. This leaves two possibilities. The first is a massive breakdown in intelligence, in which the United States either was unaware of the existence of Russian forces, or knew of the Russian forces but — along with the Georgians — miscalculated Russia’s intentions. The United States, along with other countries, has viewed Russia through the prism of the 1990s, when the Russian military was in shambles and the Russian government was paralyzed. The United States has not seen Russia make a decisive military move beyond its borders since the Afghan war of the 1970s-1980s. The Russians had systematically avoided such moves for years. The United States had assumed that the Russians would not risk the consequences of an invasion.

If this was the case, then it points to the central reality of this situation: The Russians had changed dramatically, along with the balance of power in the region. They welcomed the opportunity to drive home the new reality, which was that they could invade Georgia and the United States and Europe could not respond. As for risk, they did not view the invasion as risky. Militarily, there was no counter. Economically, Russia is an energy exporter doing quite well — indeed, the Europeans need Russian energy even more than the Russians need to sell it to them. Politically, as we shall see, the Americans needed the Russians more than the Russians needed the Americans. Moscow’s calculus was that this was the moment to strike. The Russians had been building up to it for months, as we have discussed, and they struck.

The Western Encirclement of Russia
To understand Russian thinking, we need to look at two events. The first is the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. From the U.S. and European point of view, the Orange Revolution represented a triumph of democracy and Western influence. From the Russian point of view, as Moscow made clear, the Orange Revolution was a CIA-funded intrusion into the internal affairs of Ukraine, designed to draw Ukraine into NATO and add to the encirclement of Russia. U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton had promised the Russians that NATO would not expand into the former Soviet Union empire.

That promise had already been broken in 1998 by NATO’s expansion to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic — and again in the 2004 expansion, which absorbed not only the rest of the former Soviet satellites in what is now Central Europe, but also the three Baltic states, which had been components of the Soviet Union.

The Russians had tolerated all that, but the discussion of including Ukraine in NATO represented a fundamental threat to Russia’s national security. It would have rendered Russia indefensible and threatened to destabilize the Russian Federation itself. When the United States went so far as to suggest that Georgia be included as well, bringing NATO deeper into the Caucasus, the Russian conclusion — publicly stated — was that the United States in particular intended to encircle and break Russia.

The second and lesser event was the decision by Europe and the United States to back Kosovo’s separation from Serbia. The Russians were friendly with Serbia, but the deeper issue for Russia was this: The principle of Europe since World War II was that, to prevent conflict, national borders would not be changed. If that principle were violated in Kosovo, other border shifts — including demands by various regions for independence from Russia — might follow. The Russians publicly and privately asked that Kosovo not be given formal independence, but instead continue its informal autonomy, which was the same thing in practical terms. Russia’s requests were ignored.

From the Ukrainian experience, the Russians became convinced that the United States was engaged in a plan of strategic encirclement and strangulation of Russia. From the Kosovo experience, they concluded that the United States and Europe were not prepared to consider Russian wishes even in fairly minor affairs. That was the breaking point. If Russian desires could not be accommodated even in a minor matter like this, then clearly Russia and the West were in conflict. For the Russians, as we said, the question was how to respond. Having declined to respond in Kosovo, the Russians decided to respond where they had all the cards: in South Ossetia.

Moscow had two motives, the lesser of which was as a tit-for-tat over Kosovo. If Kosovo could be declared independent under Western sponsorship, then South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two breakaway regions of Georgia, could be declared independent under Russian sponsorship. Any objections from the United States and Europe would simply confirm their hypocrisy. This was important for internal Russian political reasons, but the second motive was far more important.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin once said that the fall of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical disaster. This didn’t mean that he wanted to retain the Soviet state; rather, it meant that the disintegration of the Soviet Union had created a situation in which Russian national security was threatened by Western interests. As an example, consider that during the Cold War, St. Petersburg was about 1,200 miles away from a NATO country. Today it is about 60 miles away from Estonia, a NATO member. The disintegration of the Soviet Union had left Russia surrounded by a group of countries hostile to Russian interests in various degrees and heavily influenced by the United States, Europe and, in some cases, China.

Resurrecting the Russian Sphere
Putin did not want to re-establish the Soviet Union, but he did want to re-establish the Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union region. To accomplish that, he had to do two things. First, he had to re-establish the credibility of the Russian army as a fighting force, at least in the context of its region. Second, he had to establish that Western guarantees, including NATO membership, meant nothing in the face of Russian power. He did not want to confront NATO directly, but he did want to confront and defeat a power that was closely aligned with the United States, had U.S. support, aid and advisers and was widely seen as being under American protection. Georgia was the perfect choice.

By invading Georgia as Russia did (competently if not brilliantly), Putin re-established the credibility of the Russian army. But far more importantly, by doing this Putin revealed an open secret: While the United States is tied down in the Middle East, American guarantees have no value. This lesson is not for American consumption. It is something that, from the Russian point of view, the Ukrainians, the Balts and the Central Asians need to digest. Indeed, it is a lesson Putin wants to transmit to Poland and the Czech Republic as well. The United States wants to place ballistic missile defense installations in those countries, and the Russians want them to understand that allowing this to happen increases their risk, not their security.

The Russians knew the United States would denounce their attack. This actually plays into Russian hands. The more vocal senior leaders are, the greater the contrast with their inaction, and the Russians wanted to drive home the idea that American guarantees are empty talk.

The Russians also know something else that is of vital importance: For the United States, the Middle East is far more important than the Caucasus, and Iran is particularly important. The United States wants the Russians to participate in sanctions against Iran. Even more importantly, they do not want the Russians to sell weapons to Iran, particularly the highly effective S-300 air defense system. Georgia is a marginal issue to the United States; Iran is a central issue. The Russians are in a position to pose serious problems for the United States not only in Iran, but also with weapons sales to other countries, like Syria.

Therefore, the United States has a problem — it either must reorient its strategy away from the Middle East and toward the Caucasus, or it has to seriously limit its response to Georgia to avoid a Russian counter in Iran. Even if the United States had an appetite for another war in Georgia at this time, it would have to calculate the Russian response in Iran — and possibly in Afghanistan (even though Moscow’s interests there are currently aligned with those of Washington).

In other words, the Russians have backed the Americans into a corner. The Europeans, who for the most part lack expeditionary militaries and are dependent upon Russian energy exports, have even fewer options. If nothing else happens, the Russians will have demonstrated that they have resumed their role as a regional power. Russia is not a global power by any means, but a significant regional power with lots of nuclear weapons and an economy that isn’t all too shabby at the moment. It has also compelled every state on the Russian periphery to re-evaluate its position relative to Moscow. As for Georgia, the Russians appear ready to demand the resignation of President Mikhail Saakashvili. Militarily, that is their option. That is all they wanted to demonstrate, and they have demonstrated it.

The war in Georgia, therefore, is Russia’s public return to great power status. This is not something that just happened — it has been unfolding ever since Putin took power, and with growing intensity in the past five years. Part of it has to do with the increase of Russian power, but a great deal of it has to do with the fact that the Middle Eastern wars have left the United States off-balance and short on resources. As we have written, this conflict created a window of opportunity. The Russian goal is to use that window to assert a new reality throughout the region while the Americans are tied down elsewhere and dependent on the Russians. The war was far from a surprise; it has been building for months. But the geopolitical foundations of the war have been building since 1992. Russia has been an empire for centuries. The last 15 years or so were not the new reality, but simply an aberration that would be rectified. And now it is being rectified.
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« Reply #21 on: August 12, 2008, 05:42:14 PM »

I hope I do not overload, but here is another-- this one forwarded to me by a friend in Germany.  He comments that he disagrees with the idea that Merkel is friendly to Putin, but on the whole thinks the piece sound.
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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article4488503.ece
August 9, 2008
How Georgia fell into its enemies' trap
The fighting in the Caucasus should be a deafening wake-up call to the West
Edward Lucas
When is a victory not a victory? When it dents your country's image, scares your allies and gets you into an unwinnable war with a hugely stronger opponent.

That is the bleak outlook for Georgia this weekend, after what initially looked like a quick military win against the separatist regime in South Ossetia. Georgia's attack followed weeks of escalating provocations, including hours of heavy shelling by the Russian-backed breakaway province and signs of large-scale Russian reinforcement.

Thanks to American military aid, Georgia's 18,000-strong armed forces are the best-trained and equipped fighting force in the Caucasus. But it is one thing for them to defeat the raggle-taggle militia of a tinpot place like South Ossetia (population 70,000). It is another for a country of less than five million people to take on Russia (population 142 million). Now the Kremlin is reacting strongly. Russian warplanes are reportedly striking targets in Georgia. Reinforcements are pouring in. And the Kremlin's mighty propaganda machine is lumbering into action while a cyber-attack appears to have crippled Georgia's websites.

For it is the information war, not what happens on the ground, that will determine the victor of this conflict. Russia is portraying Georgia as the aggressor, an intransigent and unpredictable country determined to restore its supremacy over an unwilling province by means of military force and “ethnic cleansing”. Such a country, clearly, would be unfit to receive Western support.

Background
Russia and Georgia on brink of war
Georgia pounds Russian-backed rebels
Tensions for Nato over Georgia and Ukraine
Analysis: global energy threatened by conflict
That seems to be working. European leaders have long been dubious about Mikhail Saakashvili, a charismatic US-educated lawyer who stormed to power in the Rose Revolution of 2005. Where the fans of the Georgian President see charm and brains, his critics - such as the German Chancellor Angela Merkel - see a dangerously headstrong and erratic leader. A crackdown on the Opposition in November, bullying of the media and instances of abuse of power among senior officials have allowed detractors to draw uncomfortable parallels between Georgia and Vladimir Putin's Russia.

These are misplaced: Georgia is not perfect, but it is not a dictatorship. Its leadership does not peddle a phoney ideology, such as the Kremlin's mishmash of Soviet nostalgia and tsarist-era chauvinism. It has a thriving civil society, vocal opposition and ardently wants to be in the EU and Nato. Moral grounds alone would be enough reason for supporting it against Russian aggression.

But on top of that is a vital Western interest. The biggest threat Russia poses to Europe is the Kremlin's monopoly on energy export routes to the West from the former Soviet Union. The one breach in that is the oil and gas pipeline that leads from energy-rich Azerbaijan to Turkey, across Georgia. If Georgia falls, Europe's hopes of energy independence from Russia fall too.

Yet the West is both divided and distracted. America will be furious if reports turn out to be true that Russian warplanes bombed an airfield where Pentagon military advisers are based. But a lame-duck president is not going to risk World War Three for Georgia. In Europe, Georgia's allies are mostly small ex-communist states such as Lithuania; heavily outnumbered by those such as Germany that prize their relations with Russia, seemingly, above all else. It seems Russia is ready to hit back hard, in the hope of squashing the West's pestilential protégé.

In short, it looks more and more as though Georgia has fallen in to its enemies' trap. The script went like this: first mount unbearable provocations, then wait for a response, and finally reply with overwhelming military force and diplomatic humiliation. The idea that Georgia sought this war is nonsense. Recovering control of South Ossetia from its Russian-backed rulers has been a top priority for the Georgian authorities for years. But nobody thought it would come by military means. The Georgian strategy had been to use soft power, underlining its prosperity and the corruption-

busting successes of Mr Saakashvili's rule. That contrasted sharply with the isolation and cronyism of South Ossetia, which survives only on smuggling and Russian subsidies.

Now that strategy is in ruins. As things stand, Georgia will be fighting not to regain South Ossetia or even to deter aggression, but to survive. It is hard to see any good outcome. Georgia has failed to win a quick victory: crucially, it failed to block the Roki tunnel under the Caucasus mountains, normally used as a smugglers' highway, but now the route for Russian heavy weapons that Georgia cannot counter for long. Worse, the authorities in Abkhazia, Georgia's other breakaway region, may mount an attack, either on its own or with Russian help.

The fighting should be a deafening wake-up call to the West. Our fatal mistake was made at the Nato summit in Bucharest in April, when Georgia's attempt to get a clear path to membership of the alliance was rebuffed. Mr Saakashvili warned us then that Russia would take advantage of any display of Western weakness or indecision. And it has.

Edward Lucas is the author of The New Cold War (Bloomsbury)
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« Reply #22 on: August 12, 2008, 06:54:26 PM »

I agree with those assessments. We Fcuk'ed up badly.  undecided
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« Reply #23 on: August 12, 2008, 11:16:05 PM »

The way I see it, the world currently has three superpowers, America, Russia and China. The rest of the world including EU, Africa. the Middle East, Latin America, etc, are just fillers with no real power (NATO has a serious lack of testosterone).  Each superpower has its sphere of influence which also acts as its security buffer. Tibet belongs to China, The Caucasus belongs to Russia and the Caribbean belongs to the USA. Cuba is a curious exception and it is socialist only because whoever was in charge of the Bay of Pigs invasion made a major botch of it to the point of forcing Kennedy into the undesirable position of having to trade trucks, busses, spare parts and other hardware for the Bay of Pigs prisoners of war.

America did not help Hungary in 1956 and it did not help Czechoslovakia later. On the other hand America did help Britain to regain the Falklands from Argentina. If the Georgians expected help from America or the EU they were badly mistaken because neither party is in a position to take on the Russians. The most Bush could and did do was to fire off speech number 15 which was promptly ignored by Putin and company, the people who were calling the moves in this particular game.

This particular incident calls for the intervention by the UN, the perfect cover for talking loudly and doing nothing.

This is how I see it from my rather cynical sideline.
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« Reply #24 on: August 13, 2008, 11:55:26 AM »

Welcome Back
To the Great Game
By MELIK KAYLAN
August 13, 2008; Page A17



Last year, President Mikheil Saakashvili invited me along on a helicopter flight to see Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's capital, from the air. We viewed it at some distance to avoid Russian antiaircraft missiles manned by Russian personnel.

He pointed out a lone hilltop sprinkled with houses some 10 miles inside Georgian territory -- scarcely even a town. Much of the population, namely the Georgians, had long ago been purged by Russian-backed militias, leaving behind a rump population of Ossetian farmers and Russian security forces posing as Ossetians. "We have offered them everything," he said, "language rights, land rights, guaranteed power in parliament, anything they want, and they would take it, if the Kremlin would let them."

 
AP 
Russian armed vehicles en route to Tskhinvali, Aug. 9, 2008.
Moscow's thin pretense of protecting an ethnic group provided just enough cover for Georgia's timorous friends in the West to ignore increasing Russian provocations over the past few years. Moscow, it now seems, intends to "protect" large numbers of Georgians too -- by occupying and killing them if that's what it takes -- and prevent them from building their own history and pursuing their democratic destiny, as it has for almost two centuries.

As we worry about another Russian imperialist adventure in Georgia, we shouldn't lose sight of the bigger picture either: To wit, Moscow has always had a clear strategic use for the Caucasus, one that concerns the U.S. today more than ever.

Having overestimated the power of the Soviet Union in its last years, we have consistently underestimated the ambitions of Russia since. Already, a great deal has been said about the implications of Russia's invasion for Ukraine, the Baltic States and Europe generally. But few have noticed the direct strategic threat of Moscow's action to U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Kremlin is not about to reignite the Cold War for the love of a few thousand Ossetians or even for its animosity toward five million Georgians. This is calculated strategic maneuvering. And make no mistake, it's about countering U.S. power at its furthest stretch with Moscow's power very close to home.

 
The pivotal geography of the Caucasus offers the Kremlin just such an opportunity. Look at a map, and the East-meets-West, North-meets-South vector lines of the region illustrate all too clearly how the drama now unfolding in the Caucasus casts Moscow's shadow all across Central Asia and down into the Middle East. In effect, we in the West are being challenged by Russian actions in Georgia to show that we have the nerve and the stamina to secure the gains not just of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but of the entire collapse of Soviet power.

Between Russia and Iran, in the lower Caucasus, sits a small wedge of independent soil -- namely, the soil of Azerbaijan and Georgia combined. Through those two countries runs the immensely important Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which delivers precious oil circuitously from Azerbaijan to Turkey and out to the world. This is important not just because of the actual oil being delivered free of interference from Russia and Iran and the Middle East, but also for symbolic reasons. It says to the world that if any former Moscow colonies wish to sell their wares to the West directly, they have a right to do so, and the West will support that right. According to Georgian authorities, Russian warplanes have tried to demolish the Georgian leg of that pipeline several times in the last days. Their message cannot be clearer.

Besides their own pipeline, Georgia and Azerbaijan offer a fragile strategic conduit between the West and the "stans" of Central Asia -- including Afghanistan -- an area that the Soviets once controlled in toto. We should remember that an isolated Central Asia means an isolated Afghanistan. Look at the countries surrounding Afghanistan -- all former Soviet colonies, then Iran, then Pakistan.

The natural resources of Central Asia, from Turkmenistan's natural gas to Kazakhstan's abundant oil, cannot reach the West free of Russia and Iran except through that narrow conduit in the Caucasus. Moscow's former colonies in Central Asia are Afghanistan's most desirable trading partners. They are watching the strife in Georgia closely. It will tell them whether or not they will enter the world's free markets without a Russian chokehold on their future -- or, whether they, and their economies, are doomed for the foreseeable future to remain colonies in all but name. And it won't be long before Moscow dictates to them exactly how to isolate Kabul. Moscow is perfectly aware, even if we are not, that choking off the bottleneck in the Caucasus gives Iran and Russia much say over our efforts in Afghanistan.

In Iraq too, the Kremlin's projection of power down through Georgia will soon be felt. Take another look at the map. If Russia is allowed to extend its reach southwards, as in Soviet times, down the Caucasus to Iran's borders, Moscow can support Iran in any showdown with the West. Iran, thus emboldened, will likely attempt to reassert itself in Iraq, Syria and, via Hezbollah, in Lebanon.

We could walk away from this challenge, hoping for things to cool off, and let the Russians impose sway over the lower Caucasus for now. But no one will fail to notice our weakness. If we don't draw the line here, it doesn't get easier down the road with any other border or country. We would be risking the future of Afghanistan, and the stability of Iraq, on the good will of Moscow and the mullahs in Tehran. This is how the game of grand strategy is played, whether we like it or not.

Mr. Kaylan is a New York-based writer who has reported often from Georgia.
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« Reply #25 on: August 13, 2008, 03:20:15 PM »

Bush and Georgia
August 13, 2008; Page A16
On June 13, 1948, the day after the Soviet Union took the first step in its blockade of Berlin, U.S. General Lucius Clay sent a cable to Washington making the case for standing up to the Soviets. "We are convinced that our remaining in Berlin is essential to our prestige in Germany and in Europe. Whether for good or bad, it has become a symbol of the American intent." The Berlin Airlift began 13 days later.

Sixty years on, U.S. credibility is again on the line as the Bush Administration stumbles to respond to the Russian invasion of Georgia. So far the Administration has been missing in action, to put it mildly. The strategic objective is twofold: to prevent Moscow from going further to topple Georgia's democratic government in the coming days, and to deter future Russian aggression.

* * *
President Bush finally condemned Russia's actions on Monday after a weekend of Olympics tourism in Beijing while Georgia burned. Meanwhile, the State Department dispatched a mid-level official to Tbilisi, and unnamed Administration officials carped to the press that Washington had warned Georgia not to provoke Moscow. That's hardly a show of solidarity with a Eurasian democracy that has supported the U.S. in Iraq with 2,000 troops.

Compared to this August U.S. lethargy, the French look like Winston Churchill. In Moscow yesterday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, acting as president of the European Union, got Russia to agree to a provisional cease-fire that could return both parties' troops to their positions before the conflict started. His next stop was Tbilisi, on the heels of a visit from Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

If both sides agree to a cease-fire, Mr. Sarkozy promises that Europe will consider sending peacekeepers to enforce it. We trust he will find volunteers from the former Soviet republics, which see the writing on the wall if Russian aggression in Georgia is left unchallenged. The leaders of Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia flew to Tbilisi this week in a show of solidarity.

NATO also met yesterday and denounced the invasion, while stopping short of promising military aid to Georgia. Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the allies "condemned and deplored [Russia's] excessive, disproportionate use of force," and demanded a return to the status quo ante.

The NATO leader also said Georgia's potential membership remains "very much alive" and that it would be a member of NATO one day. Georgia and Ukraine's applications come up again in December, and perhaps even Germany, which blocked their membership bids earlier this year, will now rethink its objections given that its refusal may have encouraged Russia to assume it could reassert control over its "near abroad."

Much as it respects and owes Georgia, the U.S. is not going to war with Russia over a non-NATO ally. But there are forceful diplomatic and economic responses at its disposal. Expelling Russia from the G-8 group of democracies, as John McCain has suggested, is one. Barring Russia's long desired entry into the World Trade Organization is another. Russian leaders should also be told that their financial assets held abroad aren't off limits to sanction. And Moscow should know that the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea are in jeopardy. A country that starts a war on the weekend the Beijing Olympics began doesn't deserve such an honor.

The Georgian people also deserve U.S. support. One way to demonstrate that would be a "Tbilisi airlift," ferrying military and humanitarian supplies to the Georgian capital, which is currently cut off by Russian troops from its Black Sea port. Secretary of State Rice or Defense Secretary Robert Gates should be in one of the first planes. After the fighting ends, the U.S. can lead the recovery effort. And since the Russians are demanding his ouster, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili deserves U.S. support too. Moscow wants a puppet leader in Tbilisi, and U.S. officials are playing into Valdimir Putin's hands with their media whispers that this is all Mr. Saakashvili's fault.

Reshaping U.S. policy toward Russia will take longer than the months between now and January 20, when a new President takes office. But Mr. Bush can at least atone for his earlier misjudgments about Mr. Putin and steer policy in a new direction that his successor would have to deal with. If that successor is Barack Obama, this is an opportunity to shape a crucial foreign policy issue for a novice who could very well go in the wrong direction.

* * *
The alternative is ending Mr. Bush's tenure on a Carter-esque note of weakness. To paraphrase General Clay: Whether for good or bad, how the U.S. responds to Russia's aggression in Georgia has become a symbol of American credibility. By trying to Finlandize if not destroy Georgia, Moscow is sending a message that, in its part of the world, being close to Washington can be fatal. If Mr. Bush doesn't revisit his Russian failures, the rout of Georgia will stand as the embarrassing coda to his Presidency.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
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« Reply #26 on: August 14, 2008, 01:35:34 AM »

A Georgian-Russian Peace Deal and the French Connection
August 13, 2008
According to French President Nicholas Sarkozy, an agreement has been crafted that would end the war between Russia and Georgia and creating a framework for implementing a peace plan. According to Russian media, Russia has agreed to a cease-fire and a withdrawal from Georgian territory. Russian troops would continue to be based in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, while Georgia would agree not to use force and would permit humanitarian aid into areas of conflict. Georgia would also agree to the start of international talks on the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia has not agreed to this yet, but Sarkozy’s next stop is Tbilisi where he will put the proposal in front of the Georgian government.

The proposal boils down to this. Militarily, both sides will return to the status quo ante. However, now there will be Georgian and international recognition of the right of Russian troops, called peacekeepers, to be stationed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Most important, Georgia will agree to formal discussions on the status of these two regions. That means that Georgia acknowledges that their status is not settled but is subject to negotiation. Implicitly that recognizes that Georgian claims to the two regions as integral parts of Georgia are suspended pending negotiation. Georgia, in effect, would formally give up the right to unilaterally decide the future of regions inside its own borders.

The Georgians now have a problem. If they accept these terms, they are in practice accepting the redrawing of Georgia’s borders. In any negotiation involving the Ossetians, Abkhazians or Russians, no one will agree to return these regions to Georgian control. Given the military reality of the presence of Russian troops, Georgia’s wishes will be irrelevant. On one hand, all this does is continue the de facto situation of the last 16 years. On the other, it forces the Georgians to cross a psychological and political line, similar to what Serbia faced with the independence of Kosovo. This is the Russian intent.

However, if the Georgians reject the plan outright, they appear to be intransigent in the face of hard reality. If they put Sarkozy in the position of having to return to Moscow without a Georgian agreement, they have no assurance of continued mediation — let alone protection against the Russians, who are still on Georgian soil and who hold the upper hand militarily. Without a long-term cease-fire, the Russians are free to resume combat operations, this time with the excuse that Georgia has rejected their attempts to offer peace terms that seemed reasonable to the president of France and the European Union. The Georgians might make a counteroffer, but it is unlikely that Sarkozy wants to play shuttle diplomacy between Moscow and Tbilisi, and it is unlikely that the Georgians are going to get a better deal.

They face a stark choice: accept the idea that South Ossetia and Abkhazia will not return to Georgian rule, or resume fighting — only this time they will also appear to have torpedoed a chance for peace rather than accept the status quo that existed before. It will be hard for the Georgians to accept this arrangement, but it will be impossible for them to refuse. This will create a political crisis in Georgia that will focus on the judgments made by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. The Russian desire to see him replaced might come true democratically, as the romance of resistance fades into the bitterness of defeat.

The United States has expressed satisfaction with the evolution of events in Georgia. Having made suitable gestures of disapproval, the United States is quite happy to see the crisis ended. This will of course generate major repercussions in the region — a crisis of confidence in guarantees from the West in general and from Washington in particular. This will be particularly intense in Ukraine, which sees itself as an American ally, and in the Baltics, which are members of NATO. All are under Russian pressure to some extent and all are questioning the value of Western guarantees.

In some ways, the willingness of Sarkozy to negotiate a settlement and deliver it to the Georgians makes the situation worse. It is clear that France, the United States and the rest of the Western alliance have no appetite for confronting Russia over Georgia. Sarkozy’s eagerness to put an end to the conflict without protecting Georgia’s territorial claims makes perfect sense under the circumstances, but it can also be seen as an eagerness to end the war and return relations with Russia to their prior state.

There are some extreme measures NATO could take, from forward-deploying substantial forces in the Baltics to announcing the admission of Ukraine and even Georgia into NATO or at the least deploying some troops to Georgia. The agreement does not seem to preclude the latter. So the United States might deploy a small number of troops to Georgia to guarantee its future security against Russia. The problem with this is that it comes after the crisis, not during, and that Russia doesn’t seem to be easily impressed these days.
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« Reply #27 on: August 14, 2008, 09:12:14 PM »

Aug 14, 2008 23:32 | Updated Aug 15, 2008 2:17
Analysis: What does Moscow want in Georgia?
By BRENDA SHAFFER
The Jerusalem Post

 
In the last two weeks, many of us have learned that Tskhinvali is the capital of South Ossetia; that South Ossetia is a region a bit bigger than Luxembourg that is legally part of Georgia but ruled de facto by Moscow; that the guy who formally replaced Putin is Dmitry Medvedev; that the president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, has two "a"s in a row in his surname and is a Columbia University graduate.

What is this conflict about? What are the ramifications, regionally, globally and for the Middle East? And is there a viable way to solve this conflict?

The South Ossetian conflict with Georgia is not about nationalism or religion. It is about power politics and Moscow's desire to retain influence in the former Soviet states that border it.

During the Soviet breakup, hundreds if not thousands of groups were concerned about their future security and would have been happy to use the opportunity to gain independence.

In fact the real story of the Soviet breakup is not about conflict, but its absence.

Only six conflicts emerged in the region after the breakup - two wars and four secessionist conflicts. While hundreds of ethnic and religious groups live side-by-side in the Caucasus and Central Asia, few actively sought independence following the end of rule from Moscow, which teaches us that ethnic conflict is not the main source of violence, but rather something else.

The only groups that achieved de facto independence within former Soviet republics were those that Moscow supported.

Moscow actively aided the de facto independence of groups that resided in geographically strategic points: Nagorno-Karabagh (ethnic Armenians in Azerbaijan); South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia; and Transniestria in Moldova.

Moscow's support of these groups' secession provided leverage for Russia in these new states during the Soviet breakup and until today. Minority groups in Georgia were especially enticing objects for support: Georgia is the key to the land-locked Caspian region. If you control Georgia, or it is unstable, there is no need for Russia to muscle the rest of the Caucasus and Central Asia: all these land-locked states need Georgia to access the sea and to export their energy resources to Europe without transiting Russia.

In contrast, the Kremlin didn't support its fellow Russians, for example in the Baltic states, who were shipwrecked abroad when the Soviet Union collapsed, without language or citizenship rights.

The South Ossetian conflict emerged in the early 1990s, on the eve of the Soviet breakup.

Why did it reerupt now?

Five factors seem to be at play. First, this spring Georgia asked to join NATO. Despite Washington's unequivocal support for Tbilisi, European states expressed reservations about accepting Georgia before it resolved its border conflicts with Russia. The re-firing of the conflict will surely increase the potency of that concern and push Georgia's NATO membership beyond the horizon.

Second, Russia wants to retain its domination of the European natural gas market. Europe's energy dependence on Russia is growing from day to day, and this endows Moscow with significant income and political clout. A large part of the natural gas that Russia markets to Europe is actually from Central Asia, and Moscow coerces those states to sell it to Russia at half the price for which it then resells it to Europe. In recent months, Central Asian states have explored circumventing Russia and transporting their gas resources directly to Europe via Georgia. The present conflict clearly upsets these plans.

Third, the Kremlin made it clear that if Washington recognized the independence of Kosovo (as it did), Moscow would recognize and support the independence of the secessionist regions in the Caucasus. Russia is extremely vulnerable to ethnic conflict (remember Chechnya and friends?) and did not want the Kosovo precedent on the table.

Fourth, Moscow wants to foil US plans to deploy ballistic missile shields in Eastern Europe. Threatening a close ally of the US gets the message to Washington.

Fifth, following the installation of Dmitri Medvedev as president of Russia, in-fighting in the Kremlin seems to be at play, and Moscow's disproportionate response to Tbilisi may be influenced by this.

What does this new war mean for the Caucasus region, globally and for the Middle East? If Washington fails to act effectively, the conflict will deal a big blow to US credibility in the former Soviet Union and beyond. If Georgia, Washington's darling, is not supported in its hour of need, then how can Tashkent or Baghdad feel at ease?

This war also has ramifications for the international efforts to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. Russia's policy toward Iran is generally affected by the state of US-Russian relations. If the sides do not come to an understanding on the Georgia conflict soon, Moscow can not be expected to cooperate with the US on Iran.

Is there a way out of this crisis? There seem to be two policy options on the table. One is that the US, the states of the former Soviet Union and newly independent countries in Eastern Europe take a united and tough stand.

The second option is that the US offers a new grand bargain to Russia: Washington gives in on issues that are important to Moscow, such as missile defense and Kosovo, and the US gets its way in the Caucasus and Iran.

The second option seems the best for the US and Israel, but the first seems the most likely, considering the current climate of relations between Washington and Moscow.

Dr. Brenda Shaffer is a faculty member at the University of Haifa, specializing in the politics of the Caucasus, Central Asia, Iran and energy issues.

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1218710367279&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
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« Reply #28 on: August 15, 2008, 10:38:34 AM »

I trust we all know who the author of this piece is:

WSJ
 
How the West
Fueled Putin's
Sense of Impunity
By GARRY KASPAROV
August 15, 2008; Page A13

Russia's invasion of Georgia reminded me of a conversation I had three years ago in Moscow with a high-ranking European Union official. Russia was much freer then, but President Vladimir Putin's onslaught against democratic rights was already underway.

"What would it take," I asked, "for Europe to stop treating Putin like a democrat? If all opposition parties are banned? Or what if they started shooting people in the street?" The official shrugged and replied that even in such cases, there would be little the EU could do. He added: "Staying engaged will always be the best hope for the people of both Europe and Russia."

The citizens of Georgia would likely disagree. Russia's invasion was the direct result of nearly a decade of Western helplessness and delusion. Inexperienced and cautious in the international arena at the start of his reign in 2000, Mr. Putin soon learned he could get away with anything without repercussions from the EU or America.

Russia reverted to a KGB dictatorship while Mr. Putin was treated as an equal at G-8 summits. Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and Germany's Gerhardt Schroeder became Kremlin business partners. Mr. Putin discovered democratic credentials could be bought and sold just like everything else. The final confirmation was the acceptance of Dmitry Medvedev in the G-8, and on the world stage. The leaders of the Free World welcomed Mr. Putin's puppet, who had been anointed in blatantly faked elections.

On Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sprinted to Moscow to broker a ceasefire agreement. He was allowed to go through the motions, perhaps as a reward for his congratulatory phone call to Mr. Putin after our December parliamentary "elections." But just a few months ago Mr. Sarkozy was in Moscow as a supplicant, lobbying for Renault. How much credibility does he really have in Mr. Putin's eyes?

In reality, Mr. Sarkozy is attempting to remedy a crisis he helped bring about. Last April, France opposed the American push to fast-track Georgia's North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership. This was one of many missed opportunities that collectively built up Mr. Putin's sense of impunity. In this way the G-7 nations aided and abetted the Kremlin's ambitions.

Georgia blundered into a trap, although its imprudent aggression in South Ossetia was overshadowed by Mr. Putin's desire to play the strongman. Russia seized the chance to go on the offensive in Georgian territory while playing the victim/hero. Mr. Putin has long been eager to punish Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili for his lack of respect both for Georgia's old master Russia, and for Mr. Putin personally. (Popular rumor has it that the Georgian president once mocked his peer as "Lilli-Putin.")

Although Mr. Saakashvili could hardly be called a model democrat, his embrace of Europe and the West is considered a very bad example by the Kremlin. The administrations of the Georgian breakaway areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are stocked, top to bottom, with bureaucrats from the Russian security services.

Throughout the conflict, the Kremlin-choreographed message in the Russian media has been one of hysteria. The news presents Russia as surrounded by enemies on all sides, near and far, and the military intervention in Georgia as essential to protect the lives and interests of Russians. It is also often spoken of as just the first step, with enclaves in Ukraine next on the menu. Attack dogs like Russian nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky are used to test and whip up public opinion. Kremlin-sponsored ultranationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin went on the radio to say Russian forces "should not stop until they are stopped." The damage done by such rhetoric is very slow to heal.

The conflict also threatens to poison Russia's relationship with Europe and America for years to come. Can such a belligerent state be trusted as the guarantor of Europe's energy supply? Republican presidential candidate John McCain has been derided for his strong stance against Mr. Putin, including a proposal to kick Russia out of the G-8. Will his critics now admit that the man they called an antiquated cold warrior was right all along?

The conventional wisdom of Russia's "invulnerability" serves as an excuse for inaction. President Bush's belatedly toughened language is welcome, but actual sanctions must now be considered. The Kremlin's ruling clique has vital interests -- i.e. assets -- abroad and those interests are vulnerable.

The blood of those killed in this conflict is on the hands of radical nationalists, thoughtless politicians, opportunistic oligarchs and the leaders of the Free World who value gas and oil more than principles. More lives will be lost unless strong moral lines are drawn to reinforce the shattered lines of the map.

Mr. Kasparov, leader of The Other Russia coalition, is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal
 
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« Reply #29 on: August 16, 2008, 09:42:05 AM »

http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=303690021329576

Verbatim of the press conference with Georgia President and Secretary Rice
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« Reply #30 on: August 16, 2008, 09:54:16 AM »

Note the date of this one


THE GOLDEN FLEECE OF FREEDOM     
Written by Dr. Jack Wheeler     
Thursday, 12 May 2005 
When you were a kid, do you remember reading the great epic of Greek mythology called Jason and the Argonauts? Sent on a mission he is not expected to survive by the man who has usurped his throne, Jason assembles a crew of heroes, including Hercules, Orpheus, Castor and Pollux, and sails in the great ship Argo across the Euxine Sea to the distant land of Colchis to capture the legendary Golden Fleece.

It’s a marvelous adventure story which the ancient Greeks believed was not myth but true. And sure enough - it turns out that Colchis was a real place and there really was a Golden Fleece. At the east end of the Black Sea (the Greeks called it the Euxine), there is a range of huge mountains called the Caucasus. The mountain streams that poured down the Caucasus and into the Euxine carried so many particles of gold that the folks who lived there - the Colchians - would peg sheep skins in the streams to trap the gold particles in the wool.

Colchis is one of the most ancient lands in the world. It’s where the original Caucasians came from. Today it is called Georgia. This week, George Bush sailed in Air Force One to modern Colchis to be wildly welcomed by hundreds of thousands of Georgian Argonauts thanking him for rescuing the Georgian Golden Fleece from its former conqueror, Russia.

It’s hard to even begin describing how cool Georgia is. Here’s an example:

 

This is the fortress town of Shatili in an extremely remote Caucasus region in Georgia called Khevsureti. It was built by the Crusaders 1,000 years ago. The Khevsur people who live here trace their ancestry back to these Crusaders and until the 1930s still wore chain mail in feud-battles with other towns. I took this picture in 1991.

Or how about this:

 

This is Ush-Guli high in the Caucasus in a region known as Svanetia. It’s the highest village in Europe and even more remote than Khevsureti. Although it’s a World Heritage site, very few people ever are able to reach it. I got there by helicopter. The people of Ush-Guli are overwhelmingly friendly - perhaps a bit too much so. Having a meal with Svanetians involves endless toasts, drinking from ram’s horns filled with their local firewater. The drunkest I ever got in my life was in Ush-Guli.

Then again, most everywhere you go in Georgia, people are overwhelmingly friendly. Great food, great wine, those endless toasts, thousands of years of history - yet they spent those millennia fighting off foreign invaders: Romans, Persians, Arabs, Seljuk Turks, Mongols, the hordes of Tamerlane, Safarid Persians, Ottoman Turks, and finally the Russians who annexed Georgia in 1801.

Throughout the centuries - centuries of attempts to force Islam upon them - they clung to their Christian faith, which they had adopted in the 1st century AD. Many of the oldest Christian churches in the world are in Georgia. The very country is named after its patron saint, St. George (fl. 300 AD), with a long succession of kings named Georgi.

When the Bolsheviks took over the Russian Revolution on October 25, 1917, Georgians broke free, declaring an independent state on May 26, 1918. The new Soviet Russian government signed a treaty recognizing Georgian independence on May 7, 1920. It was of course a ruse. The Red Army invaded in February, 1921. Even though the leader of the Soviet Union, Josef Dzhugashvili - who assumed the name Stalin or “steel” in Russian - and his head of the Soviet KGB, Lavrenti Beria, were both Georgian (Stalin was born in Gori in 1879, Beria in Mingrelia in 1899), they oppressed their fellow countrymen worse than the Czars.

Just as they rejected Islam and remained Christian, so did the Georgians reject Communism. When the Soviet Union began to disassemble after the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989), they broke free again, led by Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the Father of Georgian Independence.

I first met Gamsakhurdia in June, 1991. He had written the Georgian Declaration of Independence passed by parliament on April 8, and had been elected president on May 26 - while Gorbachev was still trying to hold the USSR together. It was an intense time and he was a little preoccupied. Nonetheless he had me and my son Brandon (age 7) flown all over the country in his private helicopter. I fell in love with the place.

But the next dozen years were not kind to Georgia. A former Soviet apparatchik, Edvard Shevardnadze, was able to stage a coup in December 1991, and had Gamsakhurdia assassinated on December 31, 1993. Not until December 2003, with the “Rose Revolution,” did Georgia at last become democratic and truly free.

Well, maybe. It almost seems that Russians have a defective gene that compels them to be imperialists. If they can’t re-colonize Georgia, then they’ll do their best to bite off parts off it. Notice on this map of Georgia the regions of Abkhazia, Ajaria, and South Ossetia:

 

In all three regions, the Kremlin stationed Russian troops, supported separatist movements, and instigated civil wars. The new Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, was finally able to kick out the mafiocracy of Aslan Abashidze from Ajaria in May 2004, but the Russians refuse to get their soldiers out of Abkazia and South Ossetia to this day.

So little wonder that over a quarter million Georgians turned out to hear the President of the United States celebrate the day, April 9, 1991, the statue of Lenin was pulled down at the very spot where he was speaking, and tell them “Americans respect your courageous choice for liberty - as you build a free and democratic Georgia, the American people will stand with you.” They cried tears of gratitude when his words were meant for Russia: “The territory and sovereignty of Georgia must be respected by all nations.” (You can read the entire speech here .)

The people of Georgia recognize George Bush as the savior and protector of freedom that he is. Why can’t the Russians? Churchill said Russia was an enigma wrapped in a riddle inside a puzzle. Why can’t they live in peace with their neighbors instead of always wanting a piece of their neighbors? Part of the answer must lie in there being no word for “peace” in the Russian language.

The Russian word mir is always translated as “peace.” But mir doesn’t mean peace, it means order. For us peace means freedom, people being left alone without violence so they can conduct their lives and work towards their goals peacefully. For Russians, peace means conformity: when people are all good little boys and girls and do what they are told by their rulers, you have order and therefore peace.

Put succinctly: “Peace” in English means the absence of violence. “Peace” in Russian - Mir -- means the absence of disobedience.

Mir, Russian peace, can only come by being forcefully imposed on people and is always win-lose. As Lenin said, there is but one question of any importance in human relations: Kto-Kovo? Who-Whom? Who wins, who loses? For Lenin, the only way to win was to make someone else lose. The concept of win-win, of mutual cooperation for mutual benfit was incomprehensible to him (literally, like creating something out of nothing). Putin, the ex-KGB agent looks at the world the same way. It’s the Russians’ fatal mind-flaw.

Until Putin and his fellow Russians abandon Kto-Kovo, the people of Georgia and those of other former Russian colonies will continue to look upon them as threats - and to seek protection from America. The people of Georgia are determined that their Golden Fleece of Freedom never be stolen from them again.
 
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« Reply #31 on: August 17, 2008, 02:02:49 PM »

While it is easy and perhaps right to admire and respect the Georgians, one needs to be practical too.  And, sometimes one needs to be fair and put ourselves in the other (Russian) person's shoes.  Aren't we being a little bit hypocritical in our condemnation of Russia when we would probably have done the same thing if Mexico became a close Russian/Iranian/North Korean ally with talk of a missile defense system?

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-react17-2008aug17,0,2584755.story

A good point is raised.


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« Reply #32 on: August 17, 2008, 02:27:45 PM »

While nearly everyone here touts McCain's foreign policy experience, and rightfully so, one must questio the reason for his position on Georgia given that McCain's top foreign policy and national security advisor Scheunemann up until May 15th of this year was still being paid by the government of Georgia as a lobbyist. "There's been an exchange of money (a lot of money) when he's been advising McCain to take some action".    Surely McCain could do better?

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-advisor17-2008aug17,0,6476734.story


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« Reply #33 on: August 17, 2008, 02:39:29 PM »

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2008_08/014312.php

August 16, 2008
BUSH AND SAAKASHVILI....Josh Marshall on the Russo-Georgian war:

The truth is that the US screwed up here in a big way. This isn't to excuse the Russians. But we pumped the Georgians up as our big Iraq allies, got them revved up about coming into NATO, playing all this pipeline politics, all of which led them to have a much more aggressive posture toward the Russians than we were willing, in the final analysis, to back up. So now they've gotten badly mauled.

I've read variations on this theme about a hundred times now, and I really feel like some pushback is in order. The idea that we somehow prompted Mikheil Saakashvili to undertake his invasion of South Ossetia last week just doesn't bear scrutiny.

Look: Saakashvili came to power on a Georgian nationalist platform of recovering Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He's been jonesing for an excuse to send troops in for years, regardless of anything the U.S. did or didn't do. Likewise, Putin has been eagerly waiting for an excuse to pound the crap out of him in return — again, regardless of anything the U.S. did or didn't do. (You don't think Russia was able to mount a highly precise counterattack within 24 hours just by coincidence, do you?)

Now sure, in general, Kosovo + missile shield + NATO enlargement + resurgent Russian nationalism formed the background for this war, and maybe the U.S. has played a bad hand on this score. But Bush administration officials have said for months (i.e., before the war started, meaning this isn't just post hoc ass covering) that they've urged Saakashvili to stay cool. And I believe them. What else would they do, after all? There was never any chance that we were going to provide Georgia with military help in case of a Russian invasion, and it's improbable in the extreme that anyone on our side said anything to suggest otherwise. When Saakashvili says, just hours before sending troops into South Ossetia, that he understands this means war with Russia but he "cannot imagine the West not coming to Georgia's aid," he's being delusional.

The U.S. should have played a smarter, longer-term game here. But that said, supporting Georgia's future entry into NATO and helping to modernize their military really isn't the same thing as encouraging Saakashvili to start a war with Russia. It just isn't.

—Kevin Drum 1:37 PM
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« Reply #34 on: August 17, 2008, 03:08:52 PM »

While it is easy and perhaps right to admire and respect the Georgians, one needs to be practical too.  And, sometimes one needs to be fair and put ourselves in the other (Russian) person's shoes.  Aren't we being a little bit hypocritical in our condemnation of Russia when we would probably have done the same thing if Mexico became a close Russian/Iranian/North Korean ally with talk of a missile defense system?

**I very much doubt it. We don't act now, with multiple Mexican military incursions onto US soil, attacks on border law enforcement.**

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-react17-2008aug17,0,2584755.story

A good point is raised.




**It's hardly a good point. We freed the Iraqis from Saddam and are rebuilding the country. I doubt very much Russian troops are building schools and giving medical treatment to Geogians right now.**
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« Reply #35 on: August 17, 2008, 05:38:09 PM »



**It's hardly a good point. We freed the Iraqis from Saddam and are rebuilding the country. I doubt very much Russian troops are building schools and giving medical treatment to Geogians right now.**
[/quote]

Ahhh lately we sure aren't doing a very good job of rebuilding ; and we did a heck of a job destroying Iraq.

– Education: According to a 2005 analysis by the United Nations University, since the 2003 invasion, 84 percent of Iraq’s higher education institutions had been “burnt, looted or destroyed.”

– Medical Care: Before the U.S. invasion, there were 34,000 doctors registered in Iraq; an estimated 20,000 have left since then. “It’s definitely worse now than before the war,” Eman Asim, a Ministry of Health official who oversees the country’s 185 public hospitals, told the New York Times in 2004.

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« Reply #36 on: August 17, 2008, 06:01:37 PM »



**It's hardly a good point. We freed the Iraqis from Saddam and are rebuilding the country. I doubt very much Russian troops are building schools and giving medical treatment to Geogians right now.**

Ahhh lately we sure aren't doing a very good job of rebuilding ; and we did a heck of a job destroying Iraq.

– Education: According to a 2005 analysis by the United Nations University, since the 2003 invasion, 84 percent of Iraq’s higher education institutions had been “burnt, looted or destroyed.”

– Medical Care: Before the U.S. invasion, there were 34,000 doctors registered in Iraq; an estimated 20,000 have left since then. “It’s definitely worse now than before the war,” Eman Asim, a Ministry of Health official who oversees the country’s 185 public hospitals, told the New York Times in 2004.


[/quote]

**Yeah, good to cite old and probably misleading sources, and again missing the point. What we do and why we do it is different than what is done elsewhere.**
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« Reply #37 on: August 17, 2008, 06:41:02 PM »

Actually, the source I quoted was approximately two years after the invasion; rather appropriate timing I would think given that the purpose was  a comparison of damage caused by the two actual invasions.  And you brought up schools and medical; I simply pointed out "what we did" i.e. the result IS the same.    My point, the article's point is that we shouldn't be hypocrites.  As to the "noble" cause WHY we we invaded Iraq?  Well, Bush keeps changing the answer so often, I have lost track of the all the given reasons.  It seems like lie after lie; I am still waiting for the truth... oil maybe? 
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« Reply #38 on: August 17, 2008, 06:46:37 PM »

Well, Saddam's thugs aren't feeding dissidents feet first into industrial plastic shredders anymore. His two sociopathic sons have committed their last rapes. People vote. Iraqi Kurdistan is a major success story.

No, Iraq won't be a setting for Club Med resorts anytime soon, but at least they have a chance at a better future. Expect Russia to do anything like that?
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« Reply #39 on: August 17, 2008, 06:52:33 PM »

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/movieDetails/256405

Check it out and see just how wonderful life was under Saddam.
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« Reply #40 on: August 17, 2008, 07:53:30 PM »

Saddam was not a nice guy; but check out the players in Sudan, N. Korea, Africa etc. etc. etc; they are/were worse; why don't we go after them?   In the end, Bush decided he really didn't like Saddam; personal I guess, but not really a good reason to go to war.  All of Bush's original "logical" reasons seemed to have been disproved as lies, mistakes and mirrors.

And since we invaded Iraq, according to the W.H.O./Iraq study over $200,000 innocent civilians have died. Other studies have put the number at over 400,000+ innocent deaths directly caused by the war; collateral damage I think they call it.  But I doubt if it was your family that you would call it "collateral damage".  Not to mention as pointed out above the damage to the infrastructure.  Plus I don't think anyone (as you have pointed out) is offering any guarantees that the killing will stop after we leave - it may even get worse.  One must wonder, given the hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths, the destruction of the country, and the potential for a bloody civil war if Iraq is truly better off?  And is the world safer?  Time will tell...

My point and the article's point?  America should not be a hypocrite.  I don't approve of Russia going into Georgia, but we too have caused death and destruction.  And I bet we would do it again if Russia or Iran or N. Korea came calling and wanted to be close friends with our Mexico neighbor, putting "defense" missiles in our back yard.

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NYT
« Reply #41 on: August 18, 2008, 08:26:29 AM »

Its the NYTimes so caveat lector.  That said, this seems to be an interesting read.
=================


Helene Cooper, C. J. Chivers and Clifford J. Levy and written by Ms. Cooper.

 WASHINGTON — Five months ago, President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, long a darling of this city’s diplomatic dinner party circuit, came to town to push for America to muscle his tiny country of four million into NATO.
On Capitol Hill, at the State Department and at the Pentagon, Mr. Saakashvili, brash and hyperkinetic, urged the West not to appease Russia by rejecting his country’s NATO ambitions.

At the White House, President Bush bantered with the Georgian president about his prowess as a dancer. Laura Bush, the first lady, took Mr. Saakashvili’s wife to lunch. Mr. Bush promised him to push hard for Georgia’s acceptance into NATO. After the meeting, Mr. Saakashvili pronounced his visit “one of the most successful visits during my presidency,” and said he did not know of any other leader of a small country with the access to the administration that he had.

Three weeks later, Mr. Bush went to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, at the invitation of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. There, he received a message from the Russian: the push to offer Ukraine and Georgia NATO membership was crossing Russia’s “red lines,” according to an administration official close to the talks.

Afterward, Mr. Bush said of Mr. Putin, “He’s been very truthful and to me, that’s the only way you can find common ground.” It was one of many moments when the United States seemed to have missed — or gambled it could manage — the depth of Russia’s anger and the resolve of the Georgian president to provoke the Russians.

The story of how a 16-year, low-grade conflict over who should rule two small, mountainous regions in the Caucasus erupted into the most serious post-cold-war showdown between the United States and Russia is one of miscalculation, missed signals and overreaching, according to interviews with diplomats and senior officials in the United States, the European Union, Russia and Georgia. In many cases, the officials would speak only on the condition of anonymity.

It is also the story of how both Democrats and Republicans have misread Russia’s determination to dominate its traditional sphere of influence.

As with many foreign policy issues, this one highlighted a continuing fight within the administration. Vice President Dick Cheney and his aides and allies, who saw Georgia as a role model for their democracy promotion campaign, pushed to sell Georgia more arms, including Stinger antiaircraft missiles, so that it could defend itself against possible Russian aggression.

On the other side, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and William J. Burns, the new under secretary of state for political affairs, argued that such a sale would provoke Russia, which would see it as arrogant meddling in its turf, the officials and diplomats said.

They describe three leaders on a collision course. Mr. Bush, rewarding Georgia for its robust troop contribution to Iraq — at 2,000, the third highest, behind the United States and Britain — promised NATO membership and its accompanying umbrella of American military support. Mr. Putin, angry at what he saw as American infringement right in his backyard, decided that Georgia was the line in the sand that the West would not be allowed to cross. And Mr. Saakashvili, unabashedly pro-American, was determined to show, once and for all, that Georgia was no longer a vassal of Russia.

With a vastly more confident Russia, flush with oil money, a booming economy and a rebuilt military no longer bogged down in Chechnya, the stars were aligned for a confrontation in which Russia could, with a quick show of force, teach a lesson to the United States, Georgia and all of the former Soviet satellites and republics seeking closer ties with the West.

“We have probably failed to understand that the Russians are really quite serious when they say, ‘We have interests and we’re going to defend them,’ ” said James Collins, United States ambassador to Russia from 1997 to 2001. “Russia does have interests, and at some point they’re going to stand up and draw lines that are not simply to be ignored.”

Georgia Makes Its Moves

The stage for the confrontation was set in January 2004, when Mr. Saakashvili handily won the presidency after leading protests against a rigged election the previous year. He made the return of separatist areas to Georgian control a central plank of his platform.

It was a potent theme. Georgia had lost the wars against separatists in the 1990s, and Russia’s involvement stung Georgians. Mr. Saakashvili saw international law on his side. His young government, a small circle of men in their 30s with virtually no military experience, openly endorsed this thinking.

Georgia increased its troop contribution to Iraq, and in return the United States provided more military training. The Georgians clearly saw this as a step toward building up a military that could be used to settle problems with the separatists at home.

Whether they intended to build a military for fighting or deterrence is unclear. American officials said they repeatedly and bluntly told their Georgian counterparts that the Iraq mission should not be taken as a sign of American support, or as a prelude, for operations against the separatists. And it was obvious that Russia’s army, which at roughly 641,000 troops is 25 times the size of Georgia’s, could easily overwhelm the Georgian forces.

====================

Page 2 of 3)



Nevertheless, the career foreign policy establishment worried that the wrong signals were being sent. “We were training Saakashvili’s army, and he was getting at least a corps of highly trained individuals, which he could use for adventures,” said one former senior intelligence analyst, who covered Georgia and Russia at the time. “The feeling in the intelligence community was that this was a very high-risk endeavor.”

 
Mr. Saakashvili proceeded against other separatist enclaves — retaking one, Ajaria, in 2004, and advancing high into the mountains of the upper Kodori Gorge in Abhkazia in 2006 to sweep away bands of criminals who had long controlled the place.

Georgia labeled it a police operation, but it was a military one: Mark Lenzi, then the country director for the nonprofit International Republican Institute, visited the region and says he saw that military markings on a helicopter had been freshly painted over with the word “police.”

Mr. Lenzi, who worked with Mr. Saakashvili’s young government, says that in retrospect, there were risks that were not adequately assessed. “It was a combustible,” he said. “But it was a little bit of the price we were willing to pay for the military cooperation in Iraq.”

He added: “I go back to the democracy thing. I’m not saying I gave them a big pass here. But looking back I should have pressed harder.”

By last November, Mr. Saakashvili’s democratic credentials were becoming checkered. Accused by the opposition of corruption, arrogance and centralization, he struck back against demonstrators and declared a state of emergency. After he won a snap election this year on a vote that the opposition said was subtly rigged, Mr. Saakashvili turned his attention back to the enclaves.

Georgia had new military equipment and the experience of Iraq. Russia had engaged in several brief air attacks and had shot down a pilotless reconnaissance plane over Georgian soil.

Inside the Saakashvili government, officials were seething. Batu Kutelia, a first deputy minister of defense, framed the presence of Russia in the enclaves with intensity. “Tell me,” he asked a reporter over dinner this spring, “would you share your wife?”

Several Georgian officials said that night that seizing South Ossetia would be militarily easy. But there was a difference between any operation in the remaining enclaves and the successful reclamation of Ajaria and the Kodori Gorge: the remaining enclaves had large numbers of Russian troops.

Russian Anger

Russia, too, was laying down its markers, strenuously protesting the West’s intention to recognize the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo, set on independence after the long Balkans wars of the 1990s. The Russians insisted that independence for Kosovo would be a serious affront. Last February, the United States and the European Union, over Russia’s vehement objections, recognized an independent Kosovo.

Mr. Putin and other Russian officials drew a parallel with Kosovo: If the West could redraw boundaries against the wishes of Russia and its ally Serbia, then Russia could redraw boundaries in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

By April, before the Russians had a chance to grow accustomed to an independent Kosovo, they were being confronted with what they saw as more meddling in their backyard. On April 3, the night before the NATO summit meeting in Bucharest, Romania, Mr. Bush attended a dinner with European leaders and annoyed the Germans and French by lobbying long and hard for Ukraine and Georgia to be welcomed into a Membership Action Plan that prepares nations for NATO membership.

Mr. Bush lost that battle, but won two others the next day that would anger Russia: NATO leaders agreed to endorse a United States missile defense system based in Eastern Europe, and the Europeans said invitations to the membership plan for Georgia and Ukraine might come in a year, at the next summit.

NATO leaders had invited Mr. Putin to Bucharest to speak, seeking to offset the impression that the alliance was hostile to Russia. He was cordial but clear, saying that Russia viewed “the appearance of a powerful military bloc” on its borders “as a direct threat” to its security. “The claim that this process is not directed against Russia will not suffice,” Mr. Putin said. “National security is not based on promises.”

The next day, Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin went to Sochi. “It definitely wasn’t what I would call a ‘look-into-your-eyes-and-see-your-soul’ meeting,” said a Bush administration official, referring to Mr. Bush’s famous line after he first met Mr. Putin. Mr. Bush had dinner with Mr. Putin and his protégé and successor, Dmitri A. Medvedev, at the Russian resort, which is near Georgia. The official said the discussion centered on Ukraine and Georgia, and Mr. Putin warned, again, against the NATO push.

Asked how Mr. Bush reacted to the warning, the official said: “It wasn’t anything we hadn’t heard before.”

=============================
Page 3 of 3)


It appeared that the Bush administration misread the depth of Russia’s fury. A Bush administration official said the Americans understood that Russia was angry, but believed that they could forestall a worsening of the relationship by looking for other possibilities for cooperation.

 
Ms. Rice offered up an 11-page “strategic framework declaration” examining areas where the two nations could work together, which was hammered out with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, that night in Sochi. The statement included language describing how they would in the future address the issue of missile defenses the United States had proposed basing in Eastern Europe. The United States promised to work toward “assuaging” Russian concerns.

Washington Weighs In

Nine days later, on April 16, Mr. Putin took action. In one of his last formal acts as president, he issued an order that Russia was broadly expanding support for Abkhazia and South Ossetia and would establish legal connections with the regions’ separatist governments.

Washington was quick to rally around Mr. Saakashvili. Senator John McCain, whose campaign foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, had represented Georgia as a lobbyist, was the first to blast Russia. Mr. McCain, who already was the Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee, telephoned Mr. Saakashvili to offer support, and then told reporters on April 17 that “we must not allow Russia to believe it has a free hand to engage in policies that undermine Georgian sovereignty.” On April 21 came a statement from a “deeply troubled” Senator Barack Obama, the leading Democratic candidate.

“There’s no doubt that the Georgians have carefully cultivated a broad base of support in Washington,” said Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign who has hosted dinner parties for Mr. Saakashvili in Washington.

Within the Bush administration, “the fight between the hawks and the doves” erupted anew, said one administration official. In this case, the people he called the “hawks” —Mr. Cheney and the assistant secretary of state for Europe, Daniel Fried — argued for more American military aid for Georgia; the “doves” — Ms. Rice, Mr. Hadley, Mr. Burns — urged restraint.

The United States was already providing Georgia with military aid, equipment and training, and Ms. Rice, for the time being, won the fight against adding American-provided Stinger missiles to Georgia’s arsenal.

On April 21, Georgia accused Russia of shooting down the pilotless Georgian plane over Abkhazia and released what it said was a video of the encounter. Mr. Putin responded that he had expressed “bewilderment” to Mr. Saakashvili at Georgia’s sending reconnaissance planes over Abkhazia.

A senior adviser to Mr. Saakashvili said Mr. Cheney’s office was more openly critical of the Russians after the episode than was the State Department, which struck a more balanced tone, asking Russia to explain their actions.

Bush administration officials have been adamant that they told Mr. Saakashvili that the United States would not back Georgia militarily in a fight with Russia, but a senior administration official acknowledged that “it’s possible that Georgians may have confused the cheerleading from Washington with something else.”

In May and June, Russia increased the number of troops in South Ossetia and sent troops into Abkhazia, who Moscow said were going for humanitarian purposes, Georgian and American officials said.

Ms. Rice traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia, in July, where, aides said, she privately told Mr. Saakashvili not to let Russia provoke him into a fight he could not win. But her public comments, delivered while standing next to Mr. Saakashvili during a news conference, were far stronger and more supportive.

And when she brought up NATO membership, mentioning that the Bush administration had pushed for it in Bucharest, Mr. Saakashvili jumped on the opportunity to get a public commitment that the administration would bring the matter up again with NATO before leaving office.

“So are you going — I understood you are going to give a tough fight for us in December,” he said.

Ms. Rice: “Always, Mr. President. We always fight for our friends.”

The Buildup

The Russians and the Georgians give different accounts of who provoked whom in the weeks before Aug. 7. Each side accuses the other of premeditated attack. While the public line from the Bush administration has been that Russia and Mr. Putin are largely to blame, some administration officials said the Georgian military had drawn up a “concept of operations” for crisis in South Ossetia that called for its army units to sweep across the region and rapidly establish such firm control that a Russian response could be pre-empted.

They note that in January, the Georgian Ministry of Defense released a “strategic defense review” that laid out its broad military planning for the breakaway regions. As described by David J. Smith of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, the document sets out goals for the Georgian armed forces and refers specifically to the threat of conflict in the separatist regions.

American officials said that they had clearly told their Georgian counterparts that the plan had little chance of success, given Kremlin statements promising to protect the local population from Georgian “aggression” — and the fact of overwhelming Russian military force along the border.

The shelling from South Ossetia to Georgia proper increased significantly in August. On the morning of Aug. 1, five Georgian police officers were wounded by two remotely detonated explosions on a bypass road in South Ossetia, Georgian officials said. Troops from Georgia battled separatist fighters, killing at least six people; the Georgians accused the South Ossetian separatists of firing at Georgian towns behind the shelter of Russian peacekeepers.

On Aug. 6, the separatists fired on several Georgian villages, Georgian officials said. The Russian Defense Ministry and South Ossetian officials say that Georgians provoked the escalation by shelling Russian peacekeeping positions in the region’s capital of Tskhinvali, along with civilian areas.

The Georgians said the separatists stepped up their shelling. Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili of Georgia called Mr. Fried and told him that her country was under attack, and that Georgia had to protect its people. Mr. Fried, according to a senior administration official, told the Georgian not to go into South Ossetia. The Georgians moved in on Aug. 7.
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« Reply #42 on: August 20, 2008, 06:00:49 PM »

**It always amazes me how the left seems not to care how many lives are lost by the people they claim to care for so much. Never a dictator you can't side with, so long as he's anti-american, right JDN? Who cares about the Vietnamese and Cambodians the left delivered into mass graves, right? Why not do the same to the Iraqis and Georgians too? Keep the left's streak going.**

Pinning Civilian Deaths on the Great Satan   
By Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, October 13, 2006

A British medical journal is once again inflating the number of Iraqis killed during the U.S.-led liberation of that country -- and pillars of the Religious Left have welcomed the chance to demonize the United States. The Lancet, is claiming that the freeing of Iraq has caused more than 600,000 deaths. The study interviewed 1,849 families and found that 547 people died in the post-invasion period, whereas these families remembered only 82 dying during a similar period before the invasion. From these 465 additional deaths, the study confidently extrapolated that 654,965 civilians have died from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

As one blogger points out, the study claims that more Iraqi civilians have been killed over the last three years than were German civilians killed during five years of intense Allied bombing during World War II.

That is a remarkable claim indeed, but one eagerly embraced by Religious Left activists Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Bob Edgar of the National Council of Churches, who are eager for macabre new grist for their antiwar, anti-American tirades.

“From now on, any political debate on Iraq must start here and be disciplined by these FACTS,” Wallis asserts. “Not by politics, not by arguments, not by visions of democracy in the Middle East, but by the deaths caused to so many of God’s children.”

Edgar sounded a similar note of confidence about the study’s assertions. “When I first heard that nearly two-thirds of a million Iraqis have been killed I was shocked and horribly saddened,” he said. “The perpetrators of this war can no longer tell us this is 'collateral damage' as they prosecute this war. They must face up to the widespread death and destruction that is being inflicted daily upon innocent men, women, and children living in a country that never attacked the United States.”

Even the study acknowledges that two-thirds of these supposed 600,000-plus civilian deaths were caused by insurgents and sectarian violence, not by the Allied forces. At least Wallis makes reference to this. But naturally he and Edgar will latch onto the study as definitive validation of their demand for immediate U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, although such a precipitous withdrawal would certainly increase the sectarian strife, send an invitation to jihadists, and result in a bloodbath as did our withdrawal from Vietnam (which Edgar and Wallis also supported).

“Any politician speaking about the war should be asked how they intend to stop the violence and blood-letting that has overwhelmed that country,” Wallis demands, assuming it is within the power of U.S. politicians to stop Sunnis and Shiites from killing each other. ”Every candidate running for the U.S. Senate or Congress should be asked how they feel about the loss of all these lives and how they intend to stop it,” Wallis further opines, without explaining how any member of the U.S. Congress could stop all “the violence” in any country.

Edgar insists that “nearly every major Christian church leader spoke out against this war before the invasion” because the war “did not remotely meet the criteria of a just war.” Of course, neither Edgar nor Wallis have ever described what exactly would constitute a just war. Wallis is pacifist who believes that force is never justified, and Edgar, although disclaiming the label, is at least opposed to wars waged by the U.S. military, most especially those waged against Communists.

Wallis and Edgar have long experience in opposing the America at war. Both came of age politically by opposing the Vietnam War. Edgar as a young Democratic U.S. Representative from Philadelphia was even a member of the notorious 94th U.S. Congress, which refused to aid the drowning South Vietnamese in 1975 as they were overrun by North Vietnam's Soviet-supplied tanks.

Like others on the anti-war Left, Wallis and Edgar saw the Vietnam War as purely the invention of U.S. interventionism and imperialism. All killed Vietnamese and U.S. servicemen were victims of U.S. folly. American withdrawal from Southeast Asia was the end of Wallis’ and Edgar’s interest in any killing there. The victorious Communists murdered millions in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. Thousands more “boat people” would drown at sea or be killed by pirates as they attempted to flee from their “liberated” lands.

We will never know how many more countless deaths occurred because of the corruption and oppression of the Marxist police states that governed Cambodia for another two decades, and which still govern Laos and Vietnam. The sum total of human suffering caused by the poverty and oppression of those tyrannical regimes is incalculable. Southeast Asia without Communism could have replicated the prosperity and freedom of today’s South Korea, Taiwan, or Singapore.

But old Religious Left activists like Edgar and Wallis ignore the fruits of their activism, trying to relive those youthful days today. Even now, they avoid commenting about the many ongoing crimes of the Vietnamese and Laotian Communists, who came to power thanks in part to the causes Wallis and Edgar led, and whose 30 years of persecutions include the torment of Christians and other religious believers.

Similarly, Edgar and Wallis never had much to say about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis whom Saddam Hussein murdered, a number that would have been even higher without the U.S. and British air forces giving 10 years of protection to the Kurds and southern Shiites. Like others on the left, Edgar and Wallis exclusively blamed the U.S for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who ostensibly died from United Nations sanctions against Saddam’s regime. Saddam’s own role in hoarding cash, medicines, and food for his own supporters, while withholding such essentials from his perceived enemies, was largely unremarked upon.

Edgar and Wallis do not have the nerve to assert it specifically, but the obvious implication of all their frenzied activism and statements before and after the U.S. led overthrow of Saddam’s regime is that Iraq would be better off if the dictator had been left in power. They should simply say it. At least their argument would be an honest one. Dictators, however brutal, at least can offer a terrible stability.

Perhaps Edgar and Wallis should go a step further. In his bold and ridiculous new 9/11 conspiracy book, Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11, David Ray Griffin blames the United States for 180 million deaths around the world every decade. Griffin, a professor emeritus at United Methodist Claremont School of Theology in California, claims that the U.S., as the hegemon of a global capitalist empire, is responsible for nearly every premature death everywhere. As such, it is worse than Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and is today the “chief embodiment of demonic power.” Ray’s book, which alleges the Bush administration actually blew up the World Trade Center and Pentagon, was published by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) publishing house.

Edgar and Wallis, who are eager to accept the dubious claim that the U.S. has killed 600,000 Iraqi civilians, may as well accept Griffin’s bracing thesis in full. Like Griffin, and at variance with traditional Christianity, they see the world as basically an innocent place, sullied only by the demonic presence of the United States. Edgar says he is praying for an end to the “unspeakable horrors” endured by Iraqis, by which he means chiefly the U.S. presence. But the poor Iraqis were suffering unspeakably long before U.S. forces appeared.   

A premature exit by the U.S. from Iraq, as from Southeast Asia 30 years ago, could expand those horrors exponentially. But Edgar and Wallis prefer to slay their own favorite, and largely imagined dragon.

Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

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« Reply #43 on: August 21, 2008, 08:51:35 AM »

The Left, Georgia and Double Standards   
By Steven Plaut
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, August 21, 2008

Putin's Russia is, at this very moment, in the process of inventing a new "nation" that is in need of "self-determination" as a shrewd and brutal ploy to break up Georgia. It is has shrewdly coordinated moves by separatists inside Georgia to serve as a justification for its own invasion.

The Putin regime articulates outrage about the mistreatment of the Ossetians, while mysteriously being totally callous about its own human rights abuses inside Russia, especially in Chechnya. It is obvious that the  Russians are preaching human rights and self-determination as a weapon to engage in aggression. 

The story brings to mind two historical parallels. The first is the campaign by Nazi Germany on behalf of "self-determination" for the Sudeten Germans inside Czechoslovakia in the 1930s.  Germany also invented a "people" in need of self-determination inside the small state it had designs on. Thus, it invented claims of human rights abuses and then used the separatist activities of the Sudetens as an excuse to invade and demolish Czechoslovakia. It goes without saying that human rights were respected much more inside Czechoslovakia than inside Nazi Germany.  And ethnic Germans already had their own sovereign countries they could migrate to if they were unhappy in the Sudeten areas of Czechoslovakia.

The other historical parallel concerns the invention of a "Palestinian people."  The Arabs use the "Palestinian" separatist movement in a similar way to how Russia uses the Ossetian separatists.  The Arabs and their apologists invent tales of "human rights abuses" by Israel of "Palestinians" much like Russia invents stories about Georgian mistreatment of Ossetians. Never mind that the human rights of Arabs inside Israel are respected infinitely better than are those of Arabs inside Arab countries, and that non-Arabs inside Arab countries are treated even worse.  The world is up in arms about so-called Israeli "apartheid," while in reality Israel is the only Middle East regime that is not an apartheid regime.

Yes, the Georgians did sometimes mistreat the Ossetians and the Ossetians have a far stronger case for self-determination than the "Palestinians."  The Ossetians speak their own language unrelated to that of their neighbors and have their own culture.  In comparison, the "Palestinians" are far less different culturally and less distinct linguistically from the Arabs in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria (whence most of them migrated into "Palestine" in the late 19th and early 20th century).

These phenomena beg a serious question: If the world is horrified at Russian aggression and behavior towards Georgians, where is its outrage at Arab aggression towards Israel and behavior identical to that of Russia?  Why are those who dismiss the claims of a right to self-determination by Ossetians not dismissing as a similar Sudeten-style ploy the demands for "Palestinian self-determination?" Why are Palestinians, who enjoy treatment far better than that of the Ossetians and the Chechens, the focus of countless media exposes about their imaginary mistreatment by Israel?

And where are all those solidarity protesters? Where are the "International Solidarity Movement" protesters who like to attack Israeli troops and police and to serve as "human shields" to protect the Palestinian "victims" of Israeli self-defense? Why are they not rushing to Ossetia and Georgia to stand up to the Russian troops, throwing rocks at them and singing Kun-Ba-Ya? 

Where are the leftist human shields blocking the path of Russian military vehicles the same way they block Israeli Defense Forces operations? Are they afraid they will not be served the same nice gourmet lattes they get when Israeli forces apprehend them for hooliganism in the West Bank?

Why are leftists not organizing ships to break the Russian blockade of the Georgia coast the same way they are trying to provide sea-borne aid to the Hamas in Gaza?  Where are the Rachel Corries and why are they not challenging Russian bulldozer crews?  Why are the Anarchists against the Wall not hopping planes to Tbilisi to challenge Russian construction crews erecting walls in Abkhazia and Ossetia?  Why are the Israeli leftist professors not holding pro-Ossetian poetry readings and solidarity rallies in Tbilisi?

Here we have the hypocrisy of the members of the political faith exposed for all to see.

Steven Plaut is a professor at the Graduate School of the Business Administration at the University of Haifa and is a columnist for the Jewish Press. A collection of his commentaries on the current events in Israel can be found on his "blog" at www.stevenplaut.blogspot.com.
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« Reply #44 on: August 21, 2008, 09:37:29 AM »

Ahhh I have always liked the quote, "I don't care if he's a dictator as long as he's (America) our dictator".  So true; we have supported so many despots and butchers to further our own gain and oddly quite a few have come back to bite us.  And only then do we act noble and indignant. 

We can't be the policeman of the world; tragedy happens, or as GM said, "War is brutal and horrible."  GM, I believe YOU said, "If I had to choose between dead enemy civilians and dead US troops, I'ld choose for dead enemies."  Obviously, you don't care a whole lot for those innocent civilians - so what's your point or criticism of the "liberal left"?
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« Reply #45 on: August 21, 2008, 09:42:07 PM »

Ahhh I have always liked the quote, "I don't care if he's a dictator as long as he's (America) our dictator".  So true; we have supported so many despots and butchers to further our own gain and oddly quite a few have come back to bite us.  And only then do we act noble and indignant. 

**Let's just put aside what we did in rebuilding Germany and Japan post-WWII and examine other dictators we were aligned with. Taiwan and South Korea spring to mind. Initially they were both quite totalitarian when we aligned with them out of pragmatism. Over time, we were able to pressure them into becoming very decent nations with human rights and free elections, not to mention quite a bit of prosperity. Which side of the Korean border would you rather live on? Would you rather live in Taipei or Beijing?**


We can't be the policeman of the world; tragedy happens, or as GM said, "War is brutal and horrible." 

**It is brutal and horrible. There is nothing romantic or wonderful about war, much like choosing to have a limb amputated, it's something to do only when there is no other viable option. True enough that we at any one time can't address every wrong in the world and confront every dictator, this does not mean that we can't act in a manner that furthers the cause of human freedom as well as our national interest.**

GM, I believe YOU said, "If I had to choose between dead enemy civilians and dead US troops, I'ld choose for dead enemies."  Obviously, you don't care a whole lot for those innocent civilians - so what's your point or criticism of the "liberal left"?

**If I had to choose that an utterly sterile war could be fought where no innocents at all were killed or wounded, that would be my preference. If there was never a need for war ever, that would be even better. The US goes to incredible lengths to avoid the deaths of innocents and tries to provide humanitarian aid while engaging in combat operations. This is because of core American values. The left loves to claim to care about people, but does nothing but love and support the worst dictators and ideologies on the planet, so long as they are sufficiently anti-american.**
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« Reply #46 on: August 22, 2008, 07:58:37 AM »

The Real World Order
By George Friedman   

   
On Sept. 11, 1990, U.S. President George H. W. Bush addressed Congress. He spoke in the wake of the end of Communism in Eastern Europe, the weakening of the Soviet Union, and the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. He argued that a New World Order was emerging: "A hundred generations have searched for this elusive path to peace, while a thousand wars raged across the span of human endeavor, and today that new world is struggling to be born. A world quite different from the one we've known. A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. A world in which nations recognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice. A world where the strong respect the rights of the weak."

After every major, systemic war, there is the hope that this will be the war to end all wars. The idea driving it is simple. Wars are usually won by grand coalitions. The idea is that the coalition that won the war by working together will continue to work together to make the peace. Indeed, the idea is that the defeated will join the coalition and work with them to ensure the peace. This was the dream behind the Congress of Vienna, the League of Nations, the United Nations and, after the Cold War, NATO. The idea was that there would be no major issues that couldn't be handled by the victors, now joined with the defeated. That was the idea that drove George H. W. Bush as the Cold War was coming to its end.

Those with the dream are always disappointed. The victorious coalition breaks apart. The defeated refuse to play the role assigned to them. New powers emerge that were not part of the coalition. Anyone may have ideals and visions. The reality of the world order is that there are profound divergences of interest in a world where distrust is a natural and reasonable response to reality. In the end, ideals and visions vanish in a new round of geopolitical conflict.

The post-Cold War world, the New World Order, ended with authority on Aug. 8, 2008, when Russia and Georgia went to war. Certainly, this war was not in itself of major significance, and a very good case can be made that the New World Order actually started coming apart on Sept. 11, 2001. But it was on Aug. 8 that a nation-state, Russia, attacked another nation-state, Georgia, out of fear of the intentions of a third nation-state, the United States. This causes us to begin thinking about the Real World Order.

The global system is suffering from two imbalances. First, one nation-state, the United States, remains overwhelmingly powerful, and no combination of powers are in a position to control its behavior. We are aware of all the economic problems besetting the United States, but the reality is that the American economy is larger than the next three economies combined (Japan, Germany and China). The U.S. military controls all the world's oceans and effectively dominates space. Because of these factors, the United States remains politically powerful - not liked and perhaps not admired, but enormously powerful.

The second imbalance is within the United States itself. Its ground forces and the bulk of its logistical capability are committed to the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States also is threatening on occasion to go to war with Iran, which would tie down most of its air power, and it is facing a destabilizing Pakistan. Therefore, there is this paradox: The United States is so powerful that, in the long run, it has created an imbalance in the global system. In the short run, however, it is so off balance that it has few, if any, military resources to deal with challenges elsewhere. That means that the United State s remains the dominant power in the long run but it cannot exercise that power in the short run. This creates a window of opportunity for other countries to act.

The outcome of the Iraq war can be seen emerging. The United States has succeeded in creating the foundations for a political settlement among the main Iraqi factions that will create a relatively stable government. In that sense, U.S. policy has succeeded. But the problem the United States has is the length of time it took to achieve this success. Had it occurred in 2003, the United States would not suffer its current imbalance. But this is 2008, more than five years after the invasion. The United States never expected a war of this duration, nor did it plan for it. In order to fight the war, it had to inject a major portion of its ground fighting capability into it. The length of the war was the problem. U.S. ground forces are either in Iraq, recovering from a tour or preparing for a deployment. What strategic reserves are available are tasked into Afghanistan. Little is left over.

As Iraq pulled in the bulk of available forces, the United States did not shift its foreign policy elsewhere. For example, it remained committed to the expansion of democracy in the former Soviet Union and the expansion of NATO, to include Ukraine and Georgia. From the fall of the former Soviet Union, the United States saw itself as having a dominant role in reshaping post-Soviet social and political orders, including influencing the emergence of democratic institutions and free markets. The United States saw this almost in the same light as it saw the democratization of Germany and Japan after World War II. Having defeated the Soviet Union, it now fell to the United States to reshape the societies of the successor states.

Through the 1990s, the successor states, particularly Russia, were inert. Undergoing painful internal upheaval - which foreigners saw as reform but which many Russians viewed as a foreign-inspired national catastrophe - Russia could not resist American and European involvement in regional and internal affairs. From the American point of view, the reshaping of the region - from the Kosovo war to the expansion of NATO to the deployment of U.S. Air Force bases to Central Asia - was simply a logical expansion of the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was a benign attempt to stabilize the region, enhance its prosperity and security and integrate it into the global system.

As Russia regained its balance from the chaos of the 1990s, it began to see the American and European presence in a less benign light. It was not clear to the Russians that the United States was trying to stabilize the region. Rather, it appeared to the Russians that the United States was trying to take advantage of Russian weakness to impose a new politico-military reality in which Russia was to be surrounded with nations controlled by the United States and its military system, NATO. In spite of the promise made by Bill Clinton that NATO would not expand into the former Soviet Union, the three Baltic states were admitted. The promise was not addressed. NATO was expanded because it could and Russia could do nothing about it.

From the Russian point of view, the strategic break point was Ukraine. When the Orange Revolution came to Ukraine, the American and European impression was that this was a spontaneous democratic rising. The Russian perception was that it was a well-financed CIA operation to foment an anti-Russian and pro-American uprising in Ukraine. When the United States quickly began discussing the inclusion of Ukraine in NATO, the Russians came to the conclusion that the United States intended to surround and crush the Russian Federation. In their view, if NATO expanded into Ukraine, the Western military alliance would place Russia in a strategically untenable position. Russia would be indefensible. The American response was that it had no intention of threatening Russia. The Russian question was returned: Then why are you trying to take control of Ukraine? What other purpose would you have? The United States dismissed these Russian concerns as absurd. The Russians, not regarding them as absurd at all, began planning on the assumption of a hostile United States.

If the United States had intended to break the Russian Federation once and for all, the time for that was in the 1990s, before Yeltsin was replaced by Putin and before 9/11. There was, however, no clear policy on this, because the United States felt it had all the time in the world. Superficially this was true, but only superficially. First, the United States did not understand that the Yeltsin years were a temporary aberration and that a new government intending to stabilize Russia was inevitable. If not Putin, it would have been someone else. Second, the United States did not appreciate that it did not control the international agenda. Sept. 11, 2001, took away American options in the former Soviet Union. No only did it need Russian help in Afghanistan, but it was going to spend the next decade tied up in the Middle East. The United States had lost its room for maneuver and therefore had run out of time.

And now we come to the key point. In spite of diminishing military options outside of the Middle East, the United States did not modify its policy in the former Soviet Union. It continued to aggressively attempt to influence countries in the region, and it became particularly committed to integrating Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, in spite of the fact that both were of overwhelming strategic interest to the Russians. Ukraine dominated Russia's southwestern flank, without any natural boundaries protecting them. Georgia was seen as a constant irritant in Chechnya as well as a barrier to Russian interests in the Caucasus.

Moving rapidly to consolidate U.S. control over these and other countries in the former Soviet Union made strategic sense. Russia was weak, divided and poorly governed. It could make no response. Continuing this policy in the 2000s, when the Russians were getting stronger, more united and better governed and while U.S. forces were no longer available, made much less sense. The United States continued to irritate the Russians without having, in the short run, the forces needed to act decisively.

The American calculation was that the Russian government would not confront American interests in the region. The Russian calculation was that it could not wait to confront these interests because the United States was concluding the Iraq war and would return to its pre-eminent position in a few short years. Therefore, it made no sense for Russia to wait and it made every sense for Russia to act as quickly as possible.

The Russians were partly influenced in their timing by the success of the American surge in Iraq. If the United States continued its policy and had force to back it up, the Russians would lose their window of opportunity. Moreover, the Russians had an additional lever for use on the Americans: Iran.

The United States had been playing a complex game with Iran for years, threatening to attack while trying to negotiate. The Americans needed the Russians. Sanctions against Iran would have no meaning if the Russians did not participate, and the United States did not want Russia selling advance air defense systems to Iran. (Such systems, which American analysts had warned were quite capable, were not present in Syria on Sept. 6, 2007, when the Israelis struck a nuclear facility there.) As the United States re-evaluates the Russian military, it does not want to be surprised by Russian technology. Therefore, the more aggressive the United States becomes toward Russia, the greater the difficulties it will have in Iran. This further encouraged the Russians to act sooner rather than later.

The Russians have now proven two things. First, contrary to the reality of the 1990s, they can execute a competent military operation. Second, contrary to regional perception, the United States cannot intervene. The Russian message was directed against Ukraine most of all, but the Baltics, Central Asia and Belarus are all listening. The Russians will not act precipitously. They expect all of these countries to adjust their foreign policies away from the United States and toward Russia. They are looking to see if the lesson is absorbed. At first, there will be mighty speeches and resistance. But the reality on the ground is the reality on the ground.

We would expect the Russians to get traction. But if they don't, the Russians are aware that they are, in the long run, much weaker than the Americans, and that they will retain their regional position of strength only while the United States is off balance in Iraq. If the lesson isn't absorbed, the Russians are capable of more direct action, and they will not let this chance slip away. This is their chance to redefine their sphere of influence. They will not get another.

The other country that is watching and thinking is Iran. Iran had accepted the idea that it had lost the chance to dominate Iraq. It had also accepted the idea that it would have to bargain away its nuclear capability or lose it. The Iranians are now wondering if this is still true and are undoubtedly pinging the Russians about the situation. Meanwhile, the Russians are waiting for the Americans to calm down and get serious. If the Americans plan to take meaningful action against them, they will respond in Iran. But the Americans have no meaningful actions they can take; they need to get out of Iraq and they need help against Iran. The quid pro quo here is obvious. The United States acquiesces to Russian actions (which it can't do anything about), while the Russians cooperate with the United States against Iran getting nuclear weapons (something Russia does not want to see).

One of the interesting concepts of the New World Order was that all serious countries would want to participate in it and that the only threat would come from rogue states and nonstate actors such as North Korea and al Qaeda. Serious analysts argued that conflict between nation-states would not be important in the 21st century. There will certainly be rogue states and nonstate actors, but the 21st century will be no different than any other century. On Aug. 8, the Russians invited us all to the Real World Order.

http://www.investorsinsight.com/blogs/john_mauldins_outside_the_box/archive/2008/08/21/the-real-world-order.aspx


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« Reply #47 on: August 22, 2008, 04:27:21 PM »

US Ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, admits that Russian response to Georgian attack was justified.

How about that!

Denny Schlesinger


John Beyrle: Russia provides adequate response to Georgia`s aggression against S. Ossetia

Russia provided an adequate response to Georgia`s aggression against civilians in South Ossetia and Russian peacekeepers staying in the area, U.S. ambassador to Moscow John Beyrle told in an interview with the ‘Kommersant’ daily. According to Mr. Beyrle, Washington had repeatedly warned Georgia against the use of force in South Ossetia. The ambassador emphasized that the six-principle Medvedev-Sarkozy plan should be strictly observed by all the sides involved and added that it would be better if Georgia`s territorial integrity was respected. However, Mr. Beyrle said, the conflict cannot be settled without taking into account the right of the peoples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on self-determination. Mr. Beyrle welcomes Russia`s WTO membership and opposes the country`s isolation on the international level.
22.08.2008

http://www.ruvr.ru/main.php?lng=eng&q=31505&cid=45&p=22.08.2008
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« Reply #48 on: August 26, 2008, 06:24:31 AM »

The Russians still have not completed withdrawal from Georgia. It is clear that, at least for the time being, the Russians intend to use the clause in the cease-fire agreement that allows them unspecified rights to protect their security to maintain troops in some parts of Georgia. Moscow obviously wants to demonstrate to the Georgians that Russia moves at its own discretion, not at the West’s. A train carrying fuel was blown up outside of Gori, with the Georgians claiming that the Russians have planted mines. Whether the claim is true or not, the Russians are trying to send a simple message: We are your best friends and worst enemies. The emphasis for the moment is on the latter.

It is essential for the Russians to demonstrate that they are not intimidated by the West in any way. The audience for this is the other former Soviet republics, but also the Georgian public. It is becoming clear that the Russians are intent on seeing Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili removed from office. Moscow is betting that as the crisis dies down and Russian troops remain in Georgia, the Georgians will develop a feeling of isolation and turn on Saakashvili for leading them into a disaster. If that doesn’t work, and he remains president, then the Russians have forward positions in Georgia. Either way, full withdrawal does not make sense for them, when the only force against them is Western public opinion. That alone will make the Russians more intractable.

It is interesting, therefore, that a U.S. warship delivered humanitarian supplies to the Georgians. The ship did not use the port of Poti, which the Russians have effectively blocked, but Batumi, to the south. That the ship was a destroyer is important. It demonstrates that the Americans have a force available that is inherently superior to anything the Russians have: the U.S. Navy. A Navy deployment in the Black Sea could well be an effective counter, threatening Russian sea lanes.

While it was a warship, however, it was only a destroyer — so it is a gesture, but not a threat. But there are rumors of other warships readying to transit into the Black Sea. This raises an important issue: Turkey. Turkey borders Georgia but has very carefully stayed out of the conflict. Any ships that pass through Turkish straits do so under Turkish supervision guided by the Montreux Convention, an old agreement restricting the movement of warships through the straits — which the Russians in particular have ignored in moving ships into the Mediterranean. But the United States has a particular problem in moving through the Bosporus. Whatever the Convention says or precedent is, the United States can’t afford to alienate Turkey — not if there is a crisis in the Caucasus.

Each potential American move has a complication attached. However, at this moment, the decision as to what to do is in the hands of the United States. The strategic question is whether it has the appetite for a naval deployment in the Black Sea at this historical moment. After that is answered, Washington needs to address the Turkish position. And after a U.S. squadron deploys in the Black Sea, the question will be what Russia, a land power, will do in response. The Europeans are irrelevant to the equation, even if they do hold a summit as the French want. They can do nothing unless the United States decides to act, and they can’t stop the United States if it does decide to go.

The focus now is on the Americans. They can let the Russo-Georgian war slide into history and deal with Russia later on, or they can act. What Washington will decide to do is the question the arrival of the U.S.S. McFaul in Georgia posed for the Russians.

stratfor
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« Reply #49 on: August 30, 2008, 11:02:56 AM »

 

GEOPOLITICAL DIARY: TURKEY'S OPTIONS

With Cold War tensions building in the Black Sea, the Turks have gone into a
diplomatic frenzy. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan had his phone glued to his
ear on Thursday speaking to his U.S., British, German, French, Swedish and Finnish
counterparts, as well as to the NATO secretary-general and various EU
representatives. The Turks are also expecting Georgian Foreign Minister Eka
Tkeshelashvili to arrive in Istanbul on Aug. 31. And Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov is due to arrive for a separate meeting with Turkish leaders early next week.
 
The Turks have a reason to be such busy diplomatic bees. A group of nine NATO
warships are currently in the Black Sea ostensibly on routine and humanitarian
missions. Russia has wasted no time in sounding the alarm at the sight of this NATO
buildup, calling on Turkey -- as the gatekeeper to the Dardanelles and Bosporus
straits between the Black and Mediterranean seas -- to remember its commitment to
the Montreux Convention, which places limits on the number of warships in the Black
Sea. As a weak naval power with few assets to defend itself in this crucial
frontier, Russia has every interest in keeping the NATO presence in the Black Sea as
limited and distant as possible.
 
Turkey is in an extremely tight spot. As a NATO member in control of Russia's
warm-water naval access to the Black Sea, Turkey is a crucial link in the West's
pressure campaign against Russia. But the Turks have little interest in seeing the
Black Sea become a flashpoint between Russia and the United States. Turkey has a
strategic foothold in the Caucasus through Azerbaijan that it does not want to see
threatened by Moscow. The Turks also simply do not have the military appetite or the
internal political consolidation to be pushed by the United States into a potential
conflict -- naval or otherwise -- with the Russians.
 
In addition, the Turks have to worry about their economic health. Russia is Turkey's
biggest trading partner, supplying more than 60 percent of Turkey's energy needs
through two natural gas pipelines (including Blue Stream, the major trans-Black Sea
pipeline), as well as more than half of Turkey's thermal coal -- a factor that has
major consequences in the approach of winter. Turkey has other options to meet its
energy needs, but there is no denying that it has intertwined itself into a
potentially economically precarious relationship with the Russians.
 
And the Russians have already begun using this economic lever to twist Ankara's arm.
A large amount of Turkish goods reportedly have been held up at the Russian Black
Sea ports of Novorossiysk, Sochi and Taganrog over the past 20 days ostensibly over
narcotics issues. Turkish officials claim that Turkish trucks carrying mostly
consumer goods have been singled out for "extensive checks and searches," putting
about $3 billion worth of Turkish trade in jeopardy. The Turks have already filed an
official complaint with Moscow over the trade row -- with speculation naturally
brewing over Russia's intent to punish Turkey for its participation in the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and to push Ankara to limit NATO access to the Black
Sea.
 
But the Russians are playing a risky game. As much as Turkey wants this conflict to
go away, it still has cards to play -- far more than any other NATO member -- if it
is pushed too hard. As Turkish State Minister Kursat Tuzmen darkly put it, "We will
disturb them if we are disturbed. We know how to disturb them." If Turkey gets fed
up with Russian bullying tactics, there is little stopping it from allowing an even
greater buildup of NATO warships in the Black Sea to threaten the Russian
underbelly.

The Turks could also begin redirecting their energy supply away from the Russians,
choosing instead to increase their natural gas supply from Iran or arrange for some
"technical difficulties" on the Blue Stream pipeline. The Russians also ship some
1.36 million barrels per day of crude through the Black Sea that the Turks could
quite easily blockade. These are the easier and quicker options that Turkey can
employ. But there are some not-so-quick and not-so-easy options for Turks to
consider as well, including riling up the Chechens in the northern Caucasus or the
Turkic peoples in Central Asia and within the Russian Federation to make trouble for
Moscow.
 
These are not options that Ankara is exactly eager to take, but they remain options,
and will be on both the Turkish and Russian foreign ministers' minds when they meet
in the coming days.

Copyright 2008 Strategic Forecasting, Inc.
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