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August 09, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

By: Bernard Chazelle

With friends like this, little wonder the West can't catch a break. Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili is one of our most devoted lapdogs. He even sent troops to Iraq (which he might soon recall home to protect him in his bunker). If you define liberty properly, you'll find that encircling Russia and weakening it is part and parcel of the freedom agenda. And of all our allies in this cause, none is more gung-ho than our Georgian puppy, Saak. He is dying to join NATO. So is Bush. But it was up to Angela Merkel to point out that the "A" in NATO stands for a big ocean that's two-and-a-half trillion miles away from Tbilisi. OK, we'll wait. Today's events means we'll wait for ever.

Georgia and Russia have been sniping at each other ever since the Soviet Union broke apart, but this was a major offensive that must have been prepared long in advance. Mikhail Saakashvili thought he was one smart puppy to attack South Ossetia when everyone was too high on Beijing's polluted air to pay attention. (Mikhail: for spoiling China's coming-out party, no invitation to the Great Happy Communist Sunshine Youth Festival for you!) Maybe Saak thought that attacking South Ossetia would invite Russian retaliation (he was right), which then would cause Bush to say, "OMG, get Georgia into NATO presto!" No such luck.

Some perspective: the Kremlin hates Saakashvili and has always wanted to cause mischief in South Ossetia. The territory voted overwhelmingly to be independent 2 years ago. Ossetians are mostly ethnically non-Georgian and speak their own language. Their economy is entirely dependent on Moscow. They carry Russian passports, the currency is the Ruble, etc. While Georgia may have a claim on Abkhazia, it has less of a claim on Ossetia than Serbia has on Kosovo. Papa Stalin divided up Ossetia into South (for his native Georgia) and North (for Mother Russia).

I suspect Putin and Medvedev are delighted. They've been eager to teach Saak a lesson (as Reagan would have if Mexico had pursued membership in the Warsaw Pact) and reassert to the world that after the Chechnyan nightmare, Russia is back. They might even want to draw the West into the fight (there are US military advisors in Georgia), confident that they will win that one.

Russia is no angel. It's pursuing its interests ruthlessly (who is not?) and its destabilizing role in the region is legendary. And feel Georgia's pain: it is seeing 3 minority enclaves (Adjaria and Abkhazia being the others: reconquering the latter might have been the ulterior motive for Georgia's current attacks) clamoring for independence and, understandably, does not like it.

But this week's events were triggered by Georgia. Its president planned a major military offensive which began with massive killing of civilians and Russian "peacekeepers." War is a ghastly beast and, as we speak, human suffering in the region is enormous. Saak miscalculated badly, as Bush lapdogs tend to do. There's simply no way Putin will fold, no matter the cost. After Kosovo, after the missile defense system in Eastern Europe, after the constant humiliations from the West, Russia will not concede that point. Georgia, with all its shiny new US military equipment, will lose that war.

Saakashvili gambled with the lives of others. No wonder he's Bush's friend.

But which side will the US media take? In the Times, James Traub quotes approvingly from a "senior American official." :

Russia has become "a revisionist and aggressive power," and the West "has to be prepared to push back."

Translation: Russia is not willing to roll over and let the US control the energy routes in the Caucasus.

Saakashvili compared Georgia to Czechoslovakia in 1938, trusting the West to save it from a ravenous neighbor.

It's Munich 1938!

the border where Georgia faces Russia, with South Ossetia and Abkhazia between them, has become a new cold war frontier.

Oops, no, it's Prague 1968!

Traub assures us in his best purple prose that:

Georgia ardently aspires to join the peaceable kingdom of Europe.

The trouble for the West is that it is divided over Russia. The US/UK and Eastern Europe want to weaken Russia in the Caspian/Black Sea/South Caucasus regions; hence the NATO push, but France and Germany (despite Merkel's strong anti-Russian sentiment) won't play along.

Meanwhile, people are dying.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at August 9, 2008 11:51 AM

Ossetia? Sure, that place near Batavia (NY) with the funny old diner.
Meanwhile, and "more importantly" -as our ungrammatical scribes say-God has forgiven Edwards.
Is this a great country, or what?
(Latest poll: Great Country 56.2%, Or What 43.0%, Dan Quayle 0.8 %)

Posted by: donescobar at August 9, 2008 01:13 PM

Thanks for the background info and I think you are right about Putin not backing down. Russia still has the second most powerful military in the world and the U.S. only attacks victims who are weaker militarily and cannot fight back like South Dakota. However, as Juan Cole pointed out having the U.S. military transporting 2,000 Georgian soldiers to fight the Russians won’t appear to be a friendly gesture on our part.

Posted by: Rob Payne at August 9, 2008 01:42 PM

Ther is an excellent article in The Nation,
'Getting Georgia's War On'

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 9, 2008 03:15 PM

Sorry about the error. My typing skill is atrocious.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 9, 2008 03:19 PM

Rupa, thanks for the link. Here is another good link on the same topic.

Posted by: Rob Payne at August 9, 2008 03:26 PM

Please stop genocide of Ocetian nation!

Starting 1989 nationalistic fascist Georgian government tries to annihilate and expel Ocetian nation from its territory. As the result of Georgian warfare against small nations, tens thousands of Ocetian, Abhasian, Armenian and Russian people died since 1991. The scale of genocide is concealed by Georgian mass media. Brutality of Georgian fascists and freaksville torture of the local population overrode the torture of fascists during the Second World War.

Georgian mass media stir up the sickness of Georgian nation – they believe they are only people deserving life on Georgian territory, they are exclusive, elitist; other nations should move out or be killed.

At the moment the tragedy is happening – Georgians systematically shooting dead the Ocetian people in their own houses or burying under the falling homes.

Georgian fascists destroyed Ocetian settlements and town Tskhinvally – they lay even with the ground.
The number of victims buried by Georgian fire under the ruins cannot be calculated – it is amounted to thousands.
Georgians destroyed all hospitals. Medics cannot work under the fire of Georgians. People saved in underground stores do not have food, water, electricity, gas for 3 days – they cannot go out because of Georgian fire and cannot move out of town because Georgians are trying to take hold with tanks and armored vehicles of the only road from the town to tunnel controlled by Russians.

At that Georgian president insincerely is saying that he tries to make constitutional order and peace, and suggesting lefthandedly to cease fire. All his actions are aimed towards USA and NATO (he even speaks with his nation in English so that you understand him).

USA has strategic interest in region – pipeline going through Georgia. So official government of USA will never realize that Georgian president is criminal politician betrayed its nation (in fact people in Georgia do not want war), instead government of USA will support him (several hours ago a train with NATO armored machines came to Georgia).

The next victim of Georgian fascists will be Abhasian nation.

People in USA and Europe please force your politicians to stop Georgians.

Posted by: Mikhail at August 9, 2008 06:25 PM

Rob, Thanks for the link.
The responsibilty for the atrocities ( in my vocabulary, wars are atrocities )being committed as a result of the new cold and hot wars ( deaths of civilians, creation of refugees and IDPs) rests squarely at OUR doorsteps. Wonder if anything will change after November elections!!!!

ps I posted the same comment earlier. Do not know where it disappeared!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 9, 2008 06:36 PM

Rupa, I don't think things will change much, the system won't allow it.

Posted by: Rob Payne at August 10, 2008 12:41 AM

I'm pretty sure the Black Sea is technically part of the Atlantic Ocean, they just need to change the name to NEWSATO. It would increase margins for the networks too! Instead of paying Charlie Gibson to read their press releases aloud, they could just do it themselves. NEWSATO: The Most Trusted Name in Public Relations.

Posted by: buermann at August 10, 2008 01:22 AM

There is another twist to the story!
and the information given in the article is in the link below:

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 10, 2008 01:12 PM

It is erroneous to state that these events have been "triggered by Georgia." It is necessary to go back to the history of these "separatist" movements, back to 1992, 1993. After the break-up of the USSR, Russia backed rebels with arms and finances to forcibly expel the Georgian majority from South Ossetia and Abkhazia, thus creating hundreds of thousands of refugees. The UN sat back and let RUSSIAN peacekeepers have responsibility for these regions, which are part of Georgia. And now all of a sudden GEORGIA is the aggressor???

Something does not add up. Georgia is not a threat to Russia; Russia is the one who decided to meddle in affairs outside its borders and frankly has no place whatsoever Georgia's internal affairs.

Here is a blog which I believe states the history correctly and will shed some different light on this situation.

Posted by: Dustin at August 11, 2008 05:51 PM