Monday, August 11, 2008

Russia & Georgia

We are still forming opinions on the Russia-Georgia conflict. Here are some early thoughts, some early clips, and some additional links.

Our thoughts:

1) Russia's aggression gives the US and Israel a green light for strikes against Iran. Let the cycle of violence continue!
2) Russia's aggression gives the US a powerful reason to begin drilling - everywhere. The hint of US drilling has brought the oil price down from $150/barrel to today's $113/barrel. Putin/Medvedev & Co. feel this dip, and deserve to feel more.
3) As a US taxpayer, I'd prefer my tax dollars to go towards a large, covert shipment of anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles to Georgia.
4) The whole "Democracies don't go to war with democracies" theory is dead. New rule: "Powerful democracies ruled by thugs go to war with other democracies".
5) This is all about Georgia's desire to join NATO. Russia caring about their peacekeepers in South Ossetia? If anything, Russia wanted their peacekeepers attacked to give some credibility to military action. The level of military action shows this has nothing to do with the well being of the Russian peacekeeper.
6) With over 2000 dead in three days, many of them civilians, we're still waiting for Pelosi, Reid and Obama to denounce this illegal war.

Ok. Maybe we have formed some conclusions...

We're learning the history in this region as the story develops. We turned to the WSJ for some core facts:

Marc Champion and Andrew Osborn write the first full WSJ piece in Saturday's (Aug. 9) paper, Russia, Georgia Clash Over Breakaway Province:

The U.S. has strongly supported Georgia's bid to join NATO. Late last month, the U.S. conducted joint military exercises that included 1,000 U.S. troops and 600 Georgian troops just outside Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. The exercises were called "Immediate Response."

Both the Georgian and the Russian sides have been upping the ante of late. Moscow in April persuaded Germany, a NATO member, to block Georgia's bid to start membership talks, in part because of the unresolved disputes with Russia and separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But NATO also set a date in December to review the question.

Since then, Russia has taken a series of provocative steps. They include offering legal recognition to Abkhazia's separatist government, sending additional troops into the territory, and shooting down a Georgian drone aircraft. Georgian officials have said these moves amount to a creeping annexation.
"We are being attacked because we want to be free," President Saakashvili told CNN. Separately, he told a news briefing that Russia's actions flouted Georgia's sovereignty. "One hundred fifty Russian tanks, armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles have entered South Ossetia," he said. "This is a clear intrusion on another country's territory."

Same paper, editorial War in the Caucasus:

"War has started," Vladimir Putin said yesterday as Georgian and Russian forces fought over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. War is certainly what the two countries have seemed to want for some time, and the chances of avoiding a drawn-out conflict now are slim.

It's unclear at this stage which side is more at fault for the current fighting. Georgia says it moved on the South Ossetian city of Tskhinvali yesterday after rebels there broke a cease-fire. But President Mikheil Saakashvili has long pledged to retake South Ossetia and another separatist area, Abkhazia, and may have underestimated Moscow's reaction.
The biggest question now is whether Moscow will simply try to restore the previous status quo in South Ossetia -- with Russia and the rebels controlling most of the territory -- or go further and crush Georgia while deposing Mr. Saakashvili. Russian state TV yesterday reported that Georgian soldiers had killed at least 10 Russian troops and were "finishing off" wounded Russians, a worrisome sign that the Kremlin is trying to inflame public opinion ahead of a major operation.
Western leaders should have seen this coming. Russia has baited the hot-tempered Georgian leader with trade and travel embargoes as well as saber-rattling. Georgia has had to tolerate a few thousand Russian troops on its soil -- only Moscow recognizes the self-declared independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. 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: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged yesterday to "protect the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, no matter where they are located."

Other Links:

HotAir - Ukraine Enters Caucasus Fray

Washington Post, Robert Kagan - Putin Makes His Move

This war did not begin because of a miscalculation by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. It is a war that Moscow has been attempting to provoke for some time.
His war against Georgia is part of this grand strategy. Putin cares no more about a few thousand South Ossetians than he does about Kosovo's Serbs. Claims of pan-Slavic sympathy are pretexts designed to fan Russian great-power nationalism at home and to expand Russia's power abroad.
Historians will come to view Aug. 8, 2008, as a turning point no less significant than Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell. Russia's attack on sovereign Georgian territory marked the official return of history

New York Times, Bill Kristol - Will Russia Get Away With It?

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.

WSJ, Georgia President MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI - The War In Georgia is a War For the West

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.

Blog Link - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia is blogging the war.


Nandin said...

Georgians have killed several hundred womans and children on August 8 2008г in South Ossetia.
You know?

Karl said...

Fingers can point in both directions, as our posts show. It doesn't change the fact that Russia entered Georgia with two mech divisions, proceeded past Russian enclaves, signed then ignored cease-fire agreements, targeted Georgian infrastructure (bridges, pipeline, etc.), and threatened the capital and the elected government.

One party in this crisis is a military superpower led by former KGB thugs bent on intimidating the region. The other appears to be a victim, despite your point of possible crimes in S. Ossetia.