2008-08-11

Five quick points about Georgia

The first one: It is a matter of no consequence whether South Ossetia is a part of Georgia or not. It is a matter of tremendous consequence how people live in the whole region regardless of borders.

The second one: Russia is determined to show how powerful it is again in a way that other countries will recognise. It would be good to find ways to let this expression be made that do not involve endangering or killing people.

The third one: The choice of means offers a pretty good sign of who is in power in Russia. This will not make anything easier, and a strategy of confrontation will only confirm their power.

The fourth one: The Georgian government calculated badly in tying its foreign policy position to the United States. As convenient as the US may have found it to have a client in the region, it is not going to challenge a regional hegemon or take any other risks for its client's sake.

The fifth one: A lot of people in the US and Europe will find it hard to resist the tasty new Cold War bait that is being offered. This would make a few arms manufacturers happier and wealthier but would not help anyone else. If nothing else has become clear over the past seven years, it is that a failure of diplomacy cannot be covered over by an excess of belligerency.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

good points. I think Russia has played well and the Georgian government is on its way out - what jerks!

point #1 is what it's all about.

ida said...

The Russians have captured American mercenaries, and among the dead they have seen two black soldiers (believed to by U.S. African-Americans).

The Russians believe the same U.S. groups behind Croatia's operation storm was involved here in the blitzkrieg and attempted total takeover by Georgia of South Ossetia.

Georgians killed around 2,000 South Ossetian civilians in less than 2 days. People are still buried under rubble. The people have no water or electricity and Georgian tanks were firing into the homes and throwing grenades into them as well.

The hospitals were completely destroyed in Georgia's initial attack. Obviously Georgia wanted to make South Ossetia completely ethnically cleansed and unlivable for Ossetians - just like the Croatian Army achieved with the Krajina.

Only Russians came in to save the Ossetians (they are delivering humanitarian supplies and shutting down the Georgian war criminals).

Georgia military needs to be neutralized to stop its threat to Russia and potential to cause WWIII.

Additionally the Russian have Reuters photos which show photo-shopping and people acting/posing as dead. The pictures like a lot like the Ron Haviv ones of Bosnia which he staged.

steve albert said...

Eric,

Not matter how the Georgian government played this ,Putin is up to no good.

Nobody is really suggesting a strategy of confrontation with Russia. If the Russians only wanted the Georgians out of South Ossetia, they would have accepted the EU cease-fire plan. Both the E.U and the U.S. would have been happy that this confrontation was over.

The Russians didn't even consider the E.U. plan.

Their forces are continuing to advance when they could have won a settlement on the terms of their formal demands.

Putin clearly has wider aims. I don't think his plans bode well for stability in the region or the independence of the countries on Russia's borders.

ida said...

"If the Russians only wanted the Georgians out of South Ossetia, they would have accepted the EU cease-fire plan."

But the Georgian forces are STILL bombing around the capital in South Ossetia - this reported even by the western press, The Times.

Plus, Macedonia reports it too. The Georgians have not ceased their attack. Their actions do not match their rhetoric. They are lying.

The Russians too need to neutralize the Georgian forces to prevent such a surprise attack blitzkrieg on civilians.

Here is an article today about reporters witnessing 6 Georgian helicopters still involved.

http://www.makfax.com.mk/look/novina/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=2&NrArticle=121305&NrIssue=735&NrSection=30

Georgia helicopters bombed South Ossetia

Gori /11/08/ 17:52

At least six Georgian helicopters on Monday bombed targets near Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia.

World news agencies reported that the helicopters, which took off Georgia's territory, bombed targets in the separatist region of South Ossetia.

Bombing targets in that region contradicts previous Georgia's announcements it has ceased military actions in this territory.

Georgian foreign ministry, late Sunday, handed the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi a note that its armed forces are ceasing all military actions in South Ossetia.

Eric Gordy said...

Ida, I'm not buying it. If the Georgians had high-level assistance, they would have had a better strategy.

Steve, yes, I think it is fairly clear that for Russia this is not just about that little province, but also eliminating regional challenges and control of energy supplies.

Anonymous said...

Putin's allegations of genocide suggest that the strategy is to depict the situation as paralleling the intervention in Kosova and so that the eventual detachment solution can be justified on similar grounds.

The butcher of Chechnya presumably knows what he's talking about.

Georgia is presumably the pillar-box for a warning message to Ukraine and others.

ida said...

"The butcher of Chechnya presumably knows what he's talking about."

Actually Chechnya has a pro-Russian government and Chechen units are fighting with the Russians.

Further the numbers of Ossetians killed in two is more than in the year of fighting in Kosovo - which was initiated by the KLA.

The KLA was kidnapping Serb civilians and police, planting bombs, throwing grenades in cafes.

The KLA also killed the parents of the adopted daughter of former NBA star Vlade Divac. He adopted the girl in February 1998 before NATO's bombing when the girl was 4 months old.

The Albanians killed her parents when they were on the way to market in late 1998.

As well in Kosovo it was the NATO bombing which started the refugee movement towards Macedonia and Albania. Whereas the Ossetian refugees started fleeing when the Georgians flatted their city - all within 2 day.

The hospitals were destroyed and left non-functioning.

In the Balkans wars the hospitals were still standing and operating throughout the wars.

Additionally, the U.S. has killed far more civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan than were killed in the Chechen war.

Antiwar.com has a count of over 1.2 million Iraqi civilian lives lost since the U.S. decided to attack it.

As well the U.S. bombed Afghans at a wedding a few weeks ago and killed around 47, with 39 of those being women and children.

The mainstream media never makes a big deal out of all the Iraqi and Afghans dying due to U.S. bombing operations.

ida said...

"He adopted the girl in February 1998"

I meant February 1999 was when he adopted her. Her parents' deaths at the hands of the KLA were just a small fraction of atrocities they were committing against the Serbs.

Eric Gordy said...

Ida, at least keep your propaganda on the point. We are not talking about KLA or NBA here.

ida said...

Have you seen the footage of the 1st day of the Georgian attack? It is frightening. EXTREMELY heavy barrages upon and then within the South Ossetian capital started in the middle of the night.

I have a link to the news report which soon after it starts has some of the footage which - and I quote a guy named Kevin from Australia who says: "The Georgians were so confident that they released their own film footage of their rocket attacks against a sleeping civilian population."

It's easy to see how so many civilians died in such an intense attack with heavy weaponry.

Day one of the Georgia-South Ossetia military conflict
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hil7k58bFJM

steve albert said...

Eric wrote:

I think it is fairly clear that for Russia this is not just about that little province, but also eliminating regional challenges and control of energy supplies.

It would be interesting to know how Putin defines a regional challenge,or even who he believes has to take Russian interests into account and how.

I am sure that the reactions of Poland, the Ukraine, and the Baltic states to this crisis stem from a belief that Putin's ambitions are not limited to Georgia.

As Anne Applebaum pointed out in a recent article in the Washington Post,Russia isn't an open society, and gauging the ambitions of its rulers is not an easy proposition.

However, this crisis has repercussions on everything from E.U .expansion to the West's relations with Russia and these questions are well worth pondering.

Eric Gordy said...

In the last day it looks like the presidential candidates of both of the large parties in the US have made statements calling for Georgia to be accepted into NATO. It is hard to see this as anything other than an invitation to confrontation.

I think the Russian government has two main goals: 1) to project its power (there it is certainly succeeding, but at a cost to its reputation), and 2) to maintain control over the flow of oil and gas to the former Soviet states and states west of those (this is for now the factor on which its power depends).

The motivations of the Georgian government are less clear. Surely they did not think they could win against a much larger and better supplied military. It seems that they fell into a trap there. And why set the trap? Hardly anybody cares one way or another about Ossetia, but perhaps Russia found an easy way to spend a couple days making the point to other states that they intend to maintain their dominant position.

I have seen the charges of genocide Russia has made against Georgia. If I were a Russian politician, the last thing I would want would be to open up an exchange of accusations about genocide. My guess is they will hush that business up pretty quickly.

Anonymous said...

Ida, I haven't seen a figure of 10,000-14,000 dead in South Ossetia in two days suggested.

Steve Albert said...

,

" eric gordy said...

In the last day it looks like the presidential candidates of both of the large parties in the US have made statements calling for Georgia to be accepted into NATO. It is hard to see this as anything other than an invitation to confrontation."

Eric,

It is rare enough that McCain and Obama agree on anything. Maybe they have a point.

I'm not sure that Georgia actually joining N.A.T.O. would be a recipe for confrontation. Russia has never attacked a N.A.TO. nation.

It goes without saying that N.A.T.O membership isn't simply a guarantee of safety ,it requires N.A.TO. nations to adhere to common standards, N.A.TO. should a have a policy that deals with Russian provocation without losing its bearings.

I think that, at the very least, the Ukraine should join N.A..T.O. I'd hope that, after Mladic ends up in the Hague,the Balkan states would join as well.


As for how Russia views all this,let's just say that its behavior over the last week is proof, if proof were needed ,that it should not be able to dictate what organizations its neighbors join.

One last thing. If both candidates are talking so much about N.A.T,O.,its because one fifth of a century after the Berlin Wall fell, the E.U. still doesn't have anything like a serious foreign policy posture, Nor, can it independently project military power. It is still dependant on the U.S. and resentful of American power. That in and of itself can lead to Putin overestimating what he can get away with.

Eric Gordy said...

Steve, I think your analysis is fine as it goes, but the premise is that there always has to be tension between Russia and Europe. That might be true given the developments of the last several years -- an intransigent government in the US and an authoritarian retrenchment in Russia. But it would certainly be helpful to think of alternatives, and of interests that Russia and Europe have in common. In that case Georgia might be the wrong cause celebre.

Another point worth considering: we like to think that Russia presents a big danger now because the high price of oil has made it prosperous and ambitious. But imagine how dangerous it will be when the price of oil crashes and there are no decently functioning channels of negotiation. I would really like to see policy makers in the US and EU capable of doing more than responding in confusion to the next surprise.

ida said...

Owen,

"Ida, I haven't seen a figure of 10,000-14,000 dead in South Ossetia in two days suggested."

You got a decimal point wrong. The tally was 1,400 (not 14,000) after the first 36 hours or so.

Now it is up to 2,000, but there are probably many people dead under the rubble - the city was smashed - almost completely destroyed.

The survivors are now talking to western reporters in South Ossetia and they are saying they were hiding in their basements and rubbled houses for days and that they would have died under the rubble if the Russians didn't come.

The Georgians would not quit their attacking of civilians and civilian structure. Even just 2 days ago they were firing into civilian apartments. Just yesterday/last night in western press (and I could post link if you don't believe) it was witnessed by western reporters the attack by 6 Georgian helicopters on South Ossetia. They kept coming back.

But now they are diminishing and the Russian are picking off remnant snipers in the hills. They insist many of these are military because there are blacks among them. (I await photos/video of the claimed captured black mercenary or pictures of the dead for it to be proved to me, however.)

Did you watch that youtube link which shows footage of the initial nightly attack - just watch the first few minutes? The noise and the seemingly hundreds of missles lighting up the sky at once - all of them aimed horizontally (and not for instance up in the sky like anti-aircraft would be doing) meaning they will hit people, homes, buildings.

____________

Eric Gordy,

The genocidal accusations are also coming from the South Ossetians.

If you have 2,000 or greater number of civilians out of a total population of 70,000 killed in 2 days along with complete destruction of civilian infrastructure and dwellings reduced to rubble, half the population fleeing in 3 days, plus survivors being run down by Georgian tanks, then it is an obvious attempt at annihilating the entire population - and that includes women and children.

I had not heard of any Georgian civilians being killed by the South Ossetians in the weeks prior to this attack by Georgia.

There were exchanges of fire on the border where Georgian troops were building up forces, but only a few Georgian soldiers were killed after they had killed either S. Ossetian civilians or forces.

Eric Gordy said...

This press release is vague:

http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/140/14659.pdf

It announces that Georgia has made a filing against Russia at the ICJ for violation of the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), specifying Articles 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and Article 22. And it "reserves its right to invoke Article IX of the Genocide Convention." These articles are all general, having to do with jurisdiction, so it does not a give a clue as to the substance of the complaint.

The press release says the text of the complaint "will be available shortly."

Eric Gordy said...

Update on that last comment -- here is the complaint: http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/140/14657.pdf.

The elements of it (dating from 1991): expulsion, prevention of return, discriminatory granting of citizenship, support of separatist movements in the implementation of discriminatory policies.

That's just the first quick read, I haven't had time to do a proper analysis.

Anonymous said...

Ida, using the suffering of the people of Tshkhinvali is quite a clumsy way of shop-windowing your views on Kosova.

Steve Albert said...

ErIc wrote:

The premise is that there always has to be tension between Russia and Europe. That might be true given the developments of the last several years -- an intransigent government in the US and an authoritarian retrenchment in Russia. But it would certainly be helpful to think of alternatives, and of interests that Russia and Europe have in common. In that case Georgia might be the wrong cause celebre.

Eric,

I don't believe that Georgia is a cause celebre. Russia's flattening of Grozny was a sign of the authoritarian direction in which it was going. That didn't make the Chechens saints. Grozny didn't have to be Sarajevo for what the Russians did there to be seen for what it was. Their actions there and in Georgia can be judged on their own merits.

About Russia and Europe, I don't think that the Presidents of Poland, the Baltic states and Ukraine flew to the Georgian capital yesterday to speak at a public rally only because of their sympathy for Georgia.

They saw Russia's actions there as threatening to them. I don't think their concerns were out of place. Russia's excellent adventure in Georgia can't be seen in a vacuum. When the internet in Estonia is shut down by Russian cyberwarriors,or when Russia shuts off gas supplies to its neighbors in the dead of winter, there is reason enough for concern.

Poland and the Baltic states are members of the E.U, and N.A.T.O What does this crisis tell us about how safe they would feel if Putin puts pressure on them?

They have the example of Sarajevo, Vukovar,Dubrovnik and Srebrenica to show them that Western Europe does not always take attacks on European civilization seriously.

The E.U. has a border with Russia. Its GDP is far greater than that of the Russia. Yet, if the U.S. did not exist, how able would Europe be to influence Russian behavior and have its concerns taken seriously? Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the answer to that question is far from clear.

Anonymous said...

Ida, I'd just like to come back on your comments about Ron Haviv. Can you provide me with an explanation how Haviv managed to stage those imaginative pictures of men with rib-cages like wash-boards in Serb concentration camps? (And before you start talking about TB perhaps you could tell me about the daily menu at Omarska)

When you talk about "staged" photographs of Georgian citizens I presume you're referring to the ones published by Reuters that have been the subject of imaginative discussion at South Ossetian websites.

If you're asking me not to believe the evidence a generally authoritative source is offering me I need some fairly authoritative refutation as well. And I'm not really inclined to accept tangential badmouthing of someone like Ron Haviv without solid evidence from someone that I have equal respect for.