Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Georgia at War

While we all sat awed at the opening Ceremonies last night, George Bush sat next to Putin and told him to pull his troops back from the Republic of Georgia. And my Georgian friend sat Skyping her family in Tbilisi. Her mother is a diplomat who was supposed to go to Moscow on Friday. She is now stuck at home with Russian planes flying over and bombing villages and cities around Tbilisi. I am quite biased in favor of Georgia. It is a sovereign country.Russia is in violation of international law.

Here is a map from the NYT to sort or orient yourselves:

1)Georgia has two autonomous republics, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia. North Ossetia is part of Russia. CIA world Factbook confirms that Russia has been supporting these breakaway regions who have unrecognized governments of their own. Russian peackeepers have been stationed in these regions for years. The Georgian central government exercises no control over these regions.

2) In Ossetia, there are Ossetians and a small minority of Russians. This minority is how Russia justifies its claim to the area, that and the fact that Ossetia wants its own country.

3)Claims of ethnic cleansing have been made by both sides and there has yet to be much evidence of such a thing going on.

The fact that Russia has continued to mettle in these regions is part of the reason Georgia has not been able to negotiate a deal there. In fact, in the Spring, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, began to make diplomatic overtures toward these regions to try and work out a deal. Russia did not like that and did all it could to undermine progress.

In 2006 and 2007, Georgia experienced a GDP growth of over 10%. It is working on three oil pipelines with its neighbors and has worked out deals for natural gas with Azerbaijan, which make it less dependent on Russian oil and gas imports. Russia was quite good at shutting off the tap in the winter. Russia has also been "discouraging" Georgians living in Russia to leave, as it has with all of those from its former Central Asian republics. Russia has a record of covert activity that is meant to undermine the government of breakaway areas, especially Georgia.

The US has been training Georgian troops in Georgia in preparation for their deployment to Iraq. Georgia is a very pro-western, pro-American nation that is as strategically important to US interests as is Turkey. It is an important gateway into the Central Asia. Georgia has asked for acceptance into NATO, which Russia strictly opposes and my Georgian friend believes that the current war is Russia's revenge for Georgia's desire to enter NATO. It is Russia's way of reminding the West that it is still alive, influential, and can do what it pleases.

If a cease fire negotiation is unsuccessful, this conflict, oddly enough, could reignite the Russia-West conflict. The Russians have chosen the perfect time, when NATO is tied down in Afghanistan, the US in Iraq, and the world is focused on China.

Whatever "wrong" the Georgians may have committed, and I don't think they really instigated this, the Russian response is far from proportional. They are positioning their fleet on the Black Sea for invasion. The NYT reports that there are 150 Russian planes filled with troops arriving the the area. Towns and villages around Tiblisi have been bombed and causality numbers vary, depending which side is providing the news.

This is not a good addition to the conflicts currently waging around the world. Teh West cannot allow Russia to continue on like this.


Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

So in the spirit of "Free Tibet!" shouldn't we in the U.S. support South Ossetia and Abkhazia in their desire to be free of Georgia?

Sure Russia has meddled but that doesn't change the fact that Ossetians (and Abkhazians) genuinely want independence from Georgia, eh?

Raised By Republicans said...

As a matter of principle, the Tibetan situation vis a vis China and the situation with Russia and the independent states that used to be part of the Soviet empire are very similar. Both Russo-philes and Sino-philes like to claim historical "facts" argue against anything other than domination by either Moscow or Bejing in the respective countries. In both cases, Russo-philes and Sino-philes refuse to acknowledge even the possibility that self-determination and sovereignty concerns might apply.

Raised By Republicans said...

The BBC posted a kind of timeline here that places the blame for this latest flare up at the feet of Ossetian groups not the Georgians.

That version of events makes MUCH more sense than LTG's scenario of Georgia picking a fight with the Russians.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Reports are coming in of 1,500+ dead, mostly civilians, and that the situation is "nearing all-out war" between Georgia and Russia. This is moving quickly to become a major disaster.

OK, Senator McCain, your move... How exactly are you going to bring about peace when Republican policies have ensured the rest of the world doesn't even want to listen to us?!

Dr. Strangelove said...

Russia insisted Chechnya was its own internal affairs. Apparently, it does not give Georgia that respect regarding South Ossettia and Abkhazia. It's really hard not to see this as just another example of the mean Russian bear beating up on its neighbors. Kind of like how the US used to treat Central America, come to think of it...

Raised By Republicans said...

"Kind of like how the US used to treat Central America, come to think of it..."

Good analogy.

USWest said...

Bert, no one can "free" these regions if we don't free Georgia of the Russian yoke.

I have no problem using diplomacy with the Georgians to cut a deal with Ossetia and Abkhazia. That, in fact, is what the Georgians were trying to do early in the the spring. And the minute they started to make headway, the Russians started engineering "attacks" and accusing the Georgians of doing them.

I learned today that only about 80% of Georgia's borders are delineated. They are negotiating the other 20%. But for now, these regions are viewed as Georgian territory. They definitely aren't Russian territory and don't want to be. And by going to bed with the Russians, they may wake up with an unwanted pregnancy. They say they want to be independent. They had a better chance of working out an arrangement with Georgia than by working with Russians.

Claims of Russian citizenship in these territories are bogus. The Russians started passing out Russian passports to Ossetians. In reality, these people are ethnically separate and apart from Russians, and probably Georgians as well.

It is a lot like what the U.S did in Latin America. That is the sad part. It doesn't make it right or acceptable.It also has tones that remind me of Serbia and Kosovo, only the Georgians weren't really acting against these autonomous regions so much as co-existing with them, or trying to.

Russia does not like US presence, even though it is minimal, in the area. They do not like that Georgia was beginning to pull itself together like a real country. They do not like that NATO was encouraging Georgia. Russia has hassled all of its former republics, but none so much as Georgia and Ukraine. Remember the elections in Ukraine? Russians are masters at playing ethnic differences against each other. Divide and conquer.

The Latvians, Estonians, and Ukrainians have all pledged help. I really think that is great! THe former Soviet republics must ban together to stand up to the bullying of Russia. It is the only way they will stand a chance. This is going to get very ugly very quick. The US needs to consider funneling hardware to the Georgians through allies, like Turkey.

USWest said...

BTW: Interesting thought. Where would Iran side in all of this? I could make the argument either way, but I'd say Russia.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Iran will not side with Russia while Russia does in Chechnya what it is threatening to do in Georgia. Iran has helped arm Chechnyan militants. There is a lot of bad blood there.

The Law Talking Guy said...

The timeline RBR posted clearly states that the Georgians launched a surprise attack and reaching the capital of S. Ossetia. On NBC, another commentator (Stanford professor this time) referred to the Georgians as trying to take control of Ossetia. Whatever provocation there was, Georgia made a serious and idiotic effort to retake South Ossetia, probably believing the Russians would accept this chess move.

USwest said...

I am sorry, LTG. I don't think it is useful to say "who started it" because in conflicts like this, the blood goes back far and each side tits for tat against the other. The Russians have also occupied to the fullest Abkhazia, which was not necessary and they have launched an all out war against Georgia. South Ossetia is internationally recognized as Georgian Territory. It wasn't Russia's place to do anything. It was a conflict between the Ossetians and the Georgians. And the Russian military movements show that this has been well planned for a long while. 10K troops? You don't just put 10K troops in there overnight. US military trainers were reporting troops building up on the borders for weeks.

The Russians are bullies and brutes plain and simple. They want to take over all of Georgia. The Georgians wouldn't have picked a fight they knew they couldn't win, as RBR pointed out.

USWest said...

one additional note: The timeline RBR shared is only a small sample of episodes between Russia and Georgia. Two things to be aware of: Russia is good at propaganda and if you listen to what they are saying, they sound nearly as nuts as the Iraqi information Minister did back in the day. An example: "Georgia's aspiration to join NATO ... is driven by its attempt to drag other nations and peoples into its bloody adventures," he said, adding that Georgian action bore "elements of some kind of genocide against the Ossetians." I would be very, very surprised if there is any truth to that statement.

Russians were supposed to be in Ossetia as peacekeepers. HA. What a joke. What a pretense.

Raised By Republicans said...


I do believe the BBC changed the story! When I first looked at the timeline it talked about Ossetians firing on the Georgians and the Georgians responding.

US West,

You are right that debating who shot first isn't really the point here. At this stage, Russia is in control of the pace of the fighting. Also, Russian troops as peackeepers in a territory they had sought to annex is a joke.

The real issue here is - will the international community be able to do anything to preserve the integrity of Georgia's borders and sovereignty or will Russia be allowed to use this situation to gobble up part of Georgia?

Raised By Republicans said...

"And by going to bed with the Russians, they may wake up with an unwanted pregnancy."

Or a nasty case of the clap...

Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

@uswest: "Bert, no one can "free" these regions if we don't free Georgia of the Russian yoke."

My point was more that we should not be "freeing" any of these places. Rather we should let them sort it out. Getting dragged into it would have nothing even remotely positive for us.

The Law Talking Guy said...

"The Georgians wouldn't have picked a fight they knew they couldn't win, as RBR pointed out."

That is just false. Iraq invades Kuwait in 1990. Serbia defies the west in Kosovo in 1999. Argentine invades Falklands in 1982. Pearl Habor in 1941. Governments make bad strategic caluclations all the time. Usually the calculation is not believing they can defeat the adversary, BUT the belief that the adversary will not really strike back.

Georgia screwed up. Russia is taking full advantage of this to bully them. Bush had it right (!)when he said last night that the status quo ante of August 6, 2008 was the goal - NOT Georgian control over Abkhazia and Ossetia (McCain's position).