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."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Russia Escalating War in Georgia

The Russians and their apologists are saying that the current round of fighting in Georgia is a response to Georgian provocation.  But critics are accusing Russia of using the situation to renew and expand their influence in the region.  

What reveals the Russian moves as rank imperialism and dangerous brinkmanship is the reports coming out now that Russian troops are mobilizing in and around Abkhazia (another region of Georgia on the Russian border that Russia has made claims on and supported rebel groups in). 

The most worrying escalation is that the Russian Black Sea Fleet has sortied out of their base in Sevastapol, Ukraine and threatened to blockade shipping coming in and out of Georgian ports - including Poti which is neither in Abkhazia or South Ossetia but is the terminus of an oil pipeline that runs from Baku through Tblisi then to the Black Sea at Poti.  The Ukrainian government is threatening not to allow the Russian ships back into their ports if they initiate the blockade. 

This is looking more and more like Russia plans to carve out two large chunks of Georgia by force.  


USWest said...

Yes, RBR. And to prove it, they bombed the Tbilisi International airport yesterday, hours before French Foreign Minister Kouchner and Finninsh Foreign Minister Stubb were set to arrive. In addition, they seem to be refusing to speak to the Georgian President Saakashvili who has been trying to contact th Russians all day to organize a cease fire.

You cannot negotiate with Russians. This is what they do. Here is a BBC report.

My friend's mother is now stuck in the country. She was supposed to come here to see her grandchildren for a month following a diplomatic trip to Russia. Now she cannot leave unless she manages to take a bus to Istanbul.

This is a reminder to us all of how small the world is. A conflict that seems far away has hit very close to my home. Even my 83 year old mother, who has never traveled further than Utah, is calling to see how this one Georgian she knows is fairing.

One thing to remember about Ossetia: there are pro-Georgian Ossetians as well. It was 100% in Russia's camp. The Georgians have pulled out of South Ossetia.

I am angry that we, the US, are so weakened, so broke that we can't do much to help our Georgian Friends. Bush did say that this would have long term consequences with the US-RU relations. It will be interesting to see what they come up with. I hope we are supplying the Georgians with hardware, lost of it. The Russians can't be allowed to get away with this.

USWest said...

This is also a great NYT article on the issue.

Raised By Republicans said...

Russia has nukes (and lots of them) so they'll get away with this in the short run.

The best thing we can do to punish the Russians on this is to go all out on developing electric car and renewable energy technology. That would reduce the profitability of oil and Russia's quasi-dictatorial regime would find it difficult to fund its little wars.

USwest said...

I have eyewitness reports that Turkey is sending hardware over the boarder into Georgia. Everyone is condemning Russia's action, even China.

Raised By Republicans said...

The BBC website is now reporting that the Russians are continuing to bomb areas near Tblisi (the capital of Georgia - far from the disputed regions). Russian ships have blockaded the Georgian coast on the Black Sea. All this despite the Georgians essentially admitting defeat yesterday by unilaterally pulling out of Ossetia and calling for a cease fire.

Oh, and by the way, oil prices went up $2 a barrel. More good news for Russian government which will cashing in on that price hike.

The Law Talking Guy said...

It is now pretty well established that RBR is wrong about the Ossetian rebels starting this current round of fighting. The LA Times, NY Times, BBC, and NPR now all confirm that Georgia launched a surprise attack Thursday night in hopes of recapturing South Ossetia and establishing a fait accompli. This was a grave strategic error. It may have been irrational given current knowledge, but people do irrational things sometimes, because they believe they have different information. Plainly, Georgia thought that Russia would not attack them in this way given Georgia's (recently) close relationship with the USA and NATO. As we speak, the USA is ferrying Georgian troops back from Iraq to Georgia.

Russia is taking full advantage of Georgia's error by pushing openly to dominate Georgia in ways that were impossible while there was a facade of peace. It will probably succeed in taking effective control of Abkhazia and S. Ossetia before this is done. I do not think the Russians will capture Tblisi and install a puppet government - that would seem to be overplaying their hand.

I'm not sure why USWest (other than the personal connection) feels so strongly about "our Georgian friends." There are no longstanding American ties with this country which, until 16 years ago, was part of the USSR and ruled directly from Moscow.

We should think about the desires of the Abkhaz and Ossetians for independence and wonder why Georgia should be entitled to rule those areas any more than Russia. I think we would have done well to insist that Georgia allow the peaceful separation of these two wayward provinces some time ago.

Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

Who started anything in the Caucasus is a pointless question to start asking and not just because you can go back and forth on that until you reach the dawn of time. Georgia MAY have pulled the trigger first (we really won't know that for some time in spite of what the media is reporting) but all sides involved were preparing for this specific fight for some months at the very least (stockpiling, positioning, prepping).

I'm not surprised in the least that Russia is taking full advantage of the situation. I would hardly expect less and this a great opportunity handed to them. I also don't think that Russia is aiming to take the whole enchilada and suspect they will be satisfied with purging pro-Georgia elements from South Ossetia and Abkhazia in order to solidify control there.

I also have to agree with LTG's position on Georgia as our friend. Certainly Georgia has been lobbying vigorously for the role but what else would you expect from them given their situation since the USSR dissolved? Them wanting it doesn't make it a fact or even a good idea from our point of view.

We can think about the desires of everyone involved but in the end I think it is important to remember that the entire area is a minefield that we would do well to avoid stepping into.

USWest said...

again LTG: think about post cold war history a bit.

The US did precious little to help Russia because to do so would have been seen as gloating after the collapse of the that country. But we did a lot to support democratic movements in the Baltics and the Caucauses. Georgia was part of that plan. In the world of International relations today, 16 years is a long time as things change very quickly.

Georgia is very important for oil and energy exportation to Europe. It is also important in terms of business opportunities. And yes, it pisses the Russians off who want a "sphere of Influcence" in that region.

As for who started it, that is still unclear. The timelines presented in these sources you mentioned do not go back far enough and they only look at South Ossetia. Now timelines are beginning to stretch back to the Abkhazia isses. The Economist has been following this story for a long time and is careful to point out that there are still arguments in the region about who is to "blame" and there is little 3rd party verifciation of any of these claims. Both nations have propoganda machines, and Russia's is quite sophisticated.

We can think about the desires of these break away regions once there is peace. We did it for Kosovo. (As an aside, this raises and interesting question: how do we decide which little regions should get US support for their autonomy and which ones shouldn't?)In fact, Germany was working, with US support, to broker a deal for Abkhazia with plans for South Ossetia. And just as with the Israeli/Palestinain situation, the hang up was right of return for enthic Georgians were where cleansed from the area. But having peace in Georgia does not benefit Russia in any way. They want the instability because they can maintain some claim and control then of that region by plaing sides against each other.

It is a pattern of Russia that has been played over and over again. Of course, the US has done this in its history as well. We just aren't as good at it as Russia is.

Other than my personal connection, why to I support Georgia so passionately? Because 1) we don't have many solid allies left and they are one of them, even if they are weak. 2) They, unlike Iraq, want desperately to have democracy and a market economy in their country and they have thus far, been willing to sacrifice to get it. They are open to what we have to teach them. They have invited our assistance. How refreshing that is for a change. This is exactly the type of situation we should be looking for in our vast "democratization" plan for the globe. 3) As I have said, strategically they are important for energy and regional security.

If Georgia implodes and Russia steps in, I can see a scenario where tensions will rise into Central Asia or the other former Republics. And if that happens, we will have quite a ballgame where Russia and the US are facing off again. I still think we can avoid that, but the window of opportunity is closing.

One final remark: Russia, LTG, is NOT our friend. They are Germany after WWI. From The Guardian today "There is enough blame to go around. The Russians, the Georgians, the Europeans and the Americans are all responsible for the mess. There is only one victor, Vladimir Putin. If he succeeds in bringing down Saakashvili, it will be a greater victory yet, not only over Georgia, but over the west."

Raised By Republicans said...

LTG, be a little nicer about US West's personal connections to Georgia. After all, if you were to be completely honest, you'd come clean about your own Russophilia. You lived in Russia for a year, speak Russian and generally like all things Russian.

So it's not like you have a claim to being entirely objective here and US West is just being emotional.

USwest said...

Ah ha! The mystery is solved! Thank you RBR!

Withholding vital information, Counselor?! Tisk tisk .;-)