Saturday, August 30, 2008

Daily Telegraph: Putin's pipeline to power

Russia is fighting a new Cold War with banks and pipelines, not tanks and warplanes

By Edward Lucas

In classical mythology, Georgia was the land where the Argonauts had to harness bulls with bronze hooves to win the Golden Fleece. Modern Georgia is the source of a treasure scarcely less precious: oil and gas from central Asia and the Caspian, piped along the only east-west energy corridor that Russia does not control. But whereas Jason and his comrades triumphed, our quest has ended in humiliating failure.

As the occupying power in Georgia, Russia can close or destroy those pipelines whenever it wishes. The only country in the region that even came close to sharing Western values, one vital for our energy security, has been humiliatingly defeated and dismembered.

As politicians and voters in the free world return from their holidays, two big questions require answering. What happens next? And how do we stop it?

Decoding the Kremlin’s precise intentions is as tricky now as it was in the days of Kremlinology – a discipline as archaic as Morse code. But the outlines are clear.

Russia wants to recreate a “lite” version of the Soviet empire in eastern Europe and to neutralise the rest of the continent. Unlike the old Cold War, military action is a last resort: for the most part, it is banks and pipelines, not tanks and warplanes, that are doing the dirty work.

This may sound strange, given what has happened in Georgia. But it is vital to realise that this was not the beginning of a new Russian push, but part of something that began in the mid-1990s.

Russia has nobbled Belarus – the only other country, apart from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, that is ready to recognise the new statelets of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It props up the narco-state of Tajikistan, cossets the dictatorship in Uzbekistan and woos the benighted despots of Turkmenistan. It has a cautious alliance with China, in the form of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, an outfit dedicated to fighting “extremism, terrorism and separatism” (although this last “-ism” has evidently been forgotten when it comes to Georgia).

It has stitched up energy deals in North Africa; it flirts with Iran and sells weapons to Hugo Chavez, the America-hating windbag who runs Venezuela. And by using energy diplomacy and divide-and-rule tactics, it is stitching up Europe country by country, from Cyprus to the Netherlands.

And it works. Over the crisis in Georgia, Europe has shown astonishing softness. The leaders of the EU have been all but invisible.

Where is the supposed foreign-policy chief, Javier Solana? Or the foreign-affairs commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner? Meanwhile, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has been humiliated by the blatant Russian breaches of the ceasefire agreement that he negotiated. Europe’s weakness is the result of multiple forms of soft-headedness and short-sightedness.

Partly it is simple anti-Americanism: if Vladimir Putin is making life difficult for George Bush, he must be a good guy. That attitude lies behind the astonishing opinion polls in countries such as Germany, which show that people have more trust in xenophobic, authoritarian Russia than they do in the world’s most powerful democracy.

There is also a mistaken belief that Russia is an ally in the struggle against globalisation: here is a country, argue intellectuals such as the British historian Correlli Barnett, that does not let itself be pushed around by multinational companies and the meddling do-gooders of the self-appointed “international community”.

But this is to misunderstand Russia under its kleptocratic and chauvinist ex-KGB rulers. Russia likes multilateral organisations, so long as it dominates them. It runs a whole bunch: for example, the “Commonwealth of Independent States”, which it is using to legitimise its occupation of Georgia.

Russia is also advocating a new pan-European security organisation, with formal legal status. This, it hopes, will exclude the United States, and tie up the West in the knots of international law, so that military intervention of the kind seen in the former Yugoslavia becomes all but impossible.

Similarly, although the Kremlin makes life difficult domestically for Western oil companies and tightly restricts foreign investment in any industry that it dubs “strategic” (which potentially covers almost anything), it is another story abroad. Russia delights in the possibilities of the global economy. If regulators in New York are sniffy about listing stolen companies on the stock exchange, there is always London. And if you fail even London’s undemanding test, Dubai, Bombay and Shanghai await with open arms.

Russia also uses its colossal war chest, fuelled by oil and gas revenues, to buy up assets in other countries. And that is the taproot of European softness: money.

In the Cold War, doing business with the Soviet Union was a rare and suspicious activity. Now Russia has penetrated our markets and businesses to a huge degree. Energy companies such as Austria’s OMV, Germany’s E.ON and Italy’s ENI work hand-in-glove with outfits such as Gazprom, which is nominally Russia’s biggest company, but better described as the gas division of Kremlin, Inc.

This directly affects politics. Germany, with Russia, is building the Nord Stream gas pipeline along the Baltic seabed to bypass Poland. Russia has already cut off energy supplies to punish Lithuania, the Czech Republic and other countries. When Nord Stream is built, it will be able to do the same to Poland.

Yet even now, after a clear and brutal demonstration of Russian imperialism, Germany refuses to consider cancelling the pipeline. Angela Merkel was willing to pay a high-profile visit to the Baltic states – a likely target for Russia’s next push westwards – to offer support. But she would not even contemplate ending her energy alliance with Russia.

And it is hard to see this changing: European consumers will not pay hugely higher energy prices to finance alternative supplies, nor will politicians give the EU the weight it needs to bargain properly with Russia (a country, don’t forget, that is three times smaller in population than the EU, with an economy roughly a tenth of the size).

With the EU and Nato hopelessly divided, Russia can dismiss our toothless whimpers about Georgia. That leaves Eastern Europe to base its security on the United States.

Yet even America’s willingness to confront Russia is limited. Every incoming president since Bill Clinton has criticised his predecessor for being soft on Russia. But none has proved any better. For all John McCain’s fighting talk, and Barack Obama’s belated belligerence, neither man will be able to take a hard line. America needs Russia – for nuclear security, to hold back Iran, to contain North Korea, as a supply route to Afghanistan, in hunting down terrorists. And Russia knows it. If the mood in Washington is frosty, the Kremlin need only flirt more intensively with Iran, Venezuela and China, or withhold co-operation on some pressing topic, and America will buckle.

On top of all that, Russia’s leaders have a massively secure position at home. Their central bank has nearly $600 billion in hard-currency reserves, while their popularity is far greater than the Politburo ever dreamed of. Mr Putin, and the war in Georgia, are acclaimed – a view stoked by the docile media, which portrayed the conflict as a valiant crusade against genocide and Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili as a murderous fascist.

Abroad, Russia senses that power in the world is shifting east and south, to countries such as India and China, which see Georgia very differently. They may not much like separatism, but they also think that the West is practising double standards: America would not tolerate the Kremlin’s meddling in its backyard, so why should Russia have to put up with an America protégé in the Caucasus?

The German philosopher GF Hegel wrote that the owl of Minerva spreads her wings only at dusk: we perceive historical changes only when they are almost complete. We have enjoyed an extraordinary 20-year period in which Russia was weak and seemingly benign. Europe became (mostly) whole and free.

The idea that the continent could again become a battleground between East and West is unwelcome, and to many still inconceivable. But it is happening: and our resurgent enemy seemingly holds most of the cards.

There is, however, one chink of light, for us if not for the Russians. In the long term, the Putin regime means catastrophe for his country. The political system is opaque and fossilised, unable to respond to the needs of a changing economy or to rein in corruption, let alone deal with the fast-growing Muslim population, which has soared to 25 million – a 40 per cent rise since 1989 – as the birthrate among the Slavs has plunged. Modernisation of public services and infrastructure, in a country awash with money, has been dismally slow.

Foreign adventures are the traditional way for autocratic rulers to distract public opinion from problems at home, and Russia is no exception. The regime running Russia will come unstuck in the end. But the cost in the meantime will be dreadful.


Brutus said...

O. ZHURAVLEVA: Do you expect that there will be a third world war?

A. PROKHANOV: There will be no third world war. The Americans are in no condition to fight a third world war, they have a terrible crisis, their civilization is falling apart, let the Americans pay back all the dollars they owe China. They have a trillion dollar national debt, their richest billionaire, the richest…

O. ZHURAVLEVA: But you also say that it's the most powerful empire there is.

A. PROKHANOV: Don't put words in my mouth. Maybe Pozner says that. What I am saying is that this empire is at its last gasp, their chief imperialist, their richest banker Buffett, (inaudible) Buffet, the richest man in America, he has said that America is in a state of collapse, a catastrophe awaits it. It consumes twice what it produces. America is a vampire that is sucking all the juices out of the world, and the world is refusing to pay it and feed this.

O. ZHURAVLEVA: So why wage war with it then, if it's going to collapse anyway?

A. PROKHANOV: We're not waging war with it, it's the cold war, as a result of the cold war that it will collapse.

O. ZHURAVLEVA: Then why be afraid of NATO or whatever else, let them play their games, who cares, there will be no third world war, because people are not fools, they don't want to destroy themselves. America will collapse of its own accord. So to hell with it.

JP said...

Usual nonsense.

"In the Cold War, doing business with the Soviet Union was a rare and suspicious activity." Er, no it wasn't Edward, the West bought gas and oil from the Soviet Union, and they happily sold it to us. Don't you remember?

Some light editing. How about this, Edward:

"Foreign adventures are the traditional way for autocratic rulers to distract public opinion from problems at home, and [delete Russia, replace with Georgia] Georgia is no exception."

Дмитрий Мынзэрарь (Dumitru Minzarari) said...

To JP:

I do not want to be rude, but what I see many times in the comments on Western web-resources on issues related to Russia is their ignorance and insufficient knowledge of the discussed subject and of the history around it. You only relate usually a small bit of the whole picture, a tiny part of the puzzle, and try to build your argument on these half-stories. In this particular post you contest that doing business in the Cold War with Soviet Union "was a rare and suspicious activity", pointing out USSR sold to the West oil and gas. Well, it also sold from time to time wheat to the West, starving its own people, because it needed foreign currency.
If you have a hostile relationship between two sides, where one in order to develop its military might, sponsor its proxy-wars around the world, and survive (compensating the loses of its planed and ineffective economy) is selling few raw materials it has to the other side, does it mean the business between them is not "rare and suspicious"? At that time only the West could have paid the very much needed hard currency and it was exactly this currency that the Communist Party of the USSR needed to support leftist movements around the world, sustaining its status of a superpower, behind having nuclear weapons.

On your editing attempt - perhaps you also, like many other people, believe that South Ossetia is not internationally recognized as a part of Georgia? Well, be informed then - it is. And, to the contrary, neither South Ossetia, nor Georgia is part of Russia. Then, my question is how on earth you came up with your editing? - What are exactly the "foreign adventures" that Georgia launched? Please, bring examples, since informed people cannot rely only on someone’s bare word.

Then, regarding the "autocratic" part - I was an elections observer at the last elections in Georgia, and while there were certain violations (which were the ones you could see also in the West, to a lesser extent), it was incontestable that Saakashvili and his party had the largest support around the country. And you cannot anyway judge a transition political system, which 16 years ago got independence after the collapse of the USSR and had no history of democratic rule under the same rigors you would judge a Western liberal democracy. It took at least 100 years to bring Western countries to what they are, and for the last some 50 years they were under U.S. security umbrella, allowing them to develop the economy and consolidate their political system. Georgia, on the other side, was confronting for the whole 16 years of its independence an external threat of annihilation from Russia, which inflicted unimaginable burden on the process of its economic and political development. Foreign threats have always created obstacles to democratic transition.
When we talk terms it is better we understand them, and don't use "autocratic" in the same unsubstantiated fashion that Moscow today use the world "genocide". Georgia, comparing its political system and procedures with Russia's, is a model of democratic development.

JP said...


It was not rare and suspicious, it was worth millions of dollars, as you said. It was actually wide-ranging and of mutual benefit. Thanks for adding wheat, which shows it was even more common than my rather restricted list. So Edward is wrong.

I'm pleased that observers are impartial.

I should have also deleted foreign, you are entirely correct. But, hey, with 17 years of autonomous rule ..... every year peoples become more foreign.

I'm actually not judging Georgia ( a great country and one struggling with many problems), I'm judging the autocratic rule of Mr Saakashvili. He evidently used force to distract from problems at home.

Let's think why else he would think force was a good idea. Because he wanted to seduce the Ossetians into reintegrating? I don't think so. Because he had tried force before, and it worked? Perhaps. Or because he has autocratic tendancies and sought to distract from problems at home.

And perhaps because he thought, if he was successful, his friends would have tolerated the killing of his own citizens, without too much complaint. Nice?

Дмитрий Мынзэрарь (Dumitru Minzarari) said...

Maybe you should then make a difference between trading some commodities, and doing business. How many Western companies were able to invest and run business activities in the USSR? Business implies trust and a set of agreed rules, while USSR and the West had between them suspiciousness, marginal toleration, and a relationship resembling the “Russian roulette”. So Edward is not as much wrong, as it is you that tend to oversimplify things at the expense of a more realistic picture.
Only an informed person can make sound judgment, and one that does it without informing oneself makes many mistakes. Just read the ODIHR report on elections.
Ossetians and Abkhazians are not foreign to Georgians – we are talking now about the Georgian side, so their perceptions should be counted. Without “foreign” your point is useless, at least in the international law, where a country has sovereignty (to a great extent) over its own territory – a principle Russia is backing furiously… when talking about her own territory, like Chechnya.
South Ossetia is “at home” for Georgians, and it (as a problem) was there for as long as their country gained independence since the collapse of the USSR. How this would distract them from problems at home more than it does? Have you ever been to Georgia, do you understand the way Georgians are thinking?
I don’t get a bit the logic of your argument – why Russia has the right to use force in Chechnya, UK in Ireland, Spain in Bask territory, Turks against Kurds, Germans did against its violent leftist groups, and so on, and Georgia cannot use force to regain its control over the rebel region, which separatism was inflamed, supported and defended by a foreign country, Russia? Saakashvili had the right to use force as much as did the other countries in my examples above. The problem is what is perceived in the West as “2000 civilian casualties, and a destroyed Tskhinvali”. However, if you again do a bit of homework, then these facts does not resist any scrutiny. The Russian office of HRW talked about 44 dead and 400+ wounded, right after Russians took back control over South Ossetia. They admitted there could be more casualties but not significantly more and pointed out that the Russian authorities immensely inflated the figures. They also pointed out that the South Ossetia’s authority when counting casualties included in their numbers the paramilitaries that actually fought, not discriminating between civilians and people carrying arms and fighting. There are many facts like this, and either because you don’t know, or because you deliberately ignore them, - these make your point week. You should also see the satellite pics of the destruction of Tskhinvali, and the surrounding Georgian villages, to refresh your opinion.
Regarding the reasons why Tbilisi attacked Tskhinvali – this is my opinion (Maybe you should then make a difference between trading some commodities, and doing business. How many Western companies were able to invest and run business activities in the USSR? Business implies trust and a set of agreed rules, while USSR and the West had between them suspiciousness, marginal toleration, and a relationship resembling the “Russian roulette”. So Edward is not as much wrong, as it is you that tend to oversimplify things at the expense of a more realistic picture.
Only an informed person can make sound judgment, and one that does it without informing oneself makes many mistakes. Just read the ODIHR report on elections.
Ossetians and Abkhazians are not foreign to Georgians – we are talking now about the Georgian side, so their perceptions should be counted. Without “foreign” your point is useless, at least in the international law, where a country has sovereignty (to a great extent) over its own territory – a principle Russia is backing furiously… when talking about her own territory, like Chechnya.
South Ossetia is “at home” for Georgians, and it (as a problem) was there for as long as their country gained independence since the collapse of the USSR. How this would distract them from problems at home more than it does? Have you ever been to Georgia, do you understand the way Georgians are thinking?
I don’t get a bit the logic of your argument – why Russia has the right to use force in Chechnya, UK in Ireland, Spain in Bask territory, Turks against Kurds, Germans did against its violent leftist groups, and so on, and Georgia cannot use force to regain its control over the rebel region, which separatism was inflamed, supported and defended by a foreign country, Russia? Saakashvili had the right to use force as much as did the other countries in my examples above. The problem is what is perceived in the West as “2000 civilian casualties, and a destroyed Tskhinvali”. However, if you again do a bit of homework, then these facts does not resist any scrutiny. The Russian office of HRW talked about 44 dead and 400+ wounded, right after Russians took back control over South Ossetia. They admitted there could be more casualties but not significantly more and pointed out that the Russian authorities immensely inflated the figures. They also pointed out that the South Ossetia’s authority when counting casualties included in their numbers the paramilitaries that actually fought, not discriminating between civilians and people carrying arms and fighting. There are many facts like this, and either because you don’t know, or because you deliberately ignore them, - these make your point week. Maybe you should also have a look on the satellite pictures of the destructions in Tskhinvail and the surrounding Georgian villages - that might act refreshing on your opinion.
Regarding the reasons why Tbilisi attacked Tskhinvali – this is my view (

JP said...

Well, Dumitru, trade is doing business. Commodities for money, money for commodities. Doing business with the Soviet Union is a historical fact, but it doesn't fit into Edward's argument that somehow Putin, as successor to the USSR, will shut of the oil and gas whereas, of course, the USSR did not shut off the oil and gas (or grain) even in the Cold War.

And doing business with the Soviet Union was a fact of life, realpolitik. Much like doing business with the communist state that is the People's Republic of China.

I read your article. I'm a little disturbed that an elections observer can be so uncritical of the Georgian government. Just to show you that I'm not what you think, I do not support Russian actions in Chechnya (begun when Russia was friendly to Western interests), I believe that terrible things are taking place in Ossetia as we write. It is a tragedy for the people of Georgia.

You are wrong about international law; sovereignty imposes responsibilities and obligations. I have no doubt that the other countries can be seen as having broken that sacred link. But in the real world it is a question of degree. I don't remember the Spanish having used rocket launchers and tanks against cities (are you going to tell me that did not happen). As for casualties, they could have been more, they could have been less. Was this even an issue for the Georgian government? If so, there are better ways of keeping casualties down. Russia's response similarly discounted the need to keep casualties down.

Georgian Ministry of Defence spending has increased sharply in recent years and Ukrainian tanks were purchased. Whilst there is a view that Georgian spending had to increase to equip its troops for Iraq, and update its military generally, there is also a convincing argument that the monies were being used to prepare for a forceful settlement of the Abkhaz and Ossetian issue. Bases were built at Senaki and Gori. The latter was seen as a provocation by the Ossetian 'government'. That's a two way escalation of the conflict, Georgia's government is as guilty as the separatists. Then there were the drones, and the military exercises in the summer of 2008. You have to be fair. This is not just about Russian agression. There's Georgian aggression too, stoking the crisis and then, of course, escalating it into a war. That's adventurism. And the Georgian government certainly did distract its people from their unenviable domestic situation. To what end? The forceful inclusion of people who did not want to be part of Georgia?

Perhaps we should run the world so that when our friends do evil, we say nothing. i don't think so.

I don't hope to convert you.

Дмитрий Мынзэрарь (Dumitru Minzarari) said...

What I want to say, JP, is that business engulfs much more than trade. The Ancient Rome did some trade with nomads and barbaric tribes, it was trade, but would you call it business in its modern meaning? I should ask once again – how many Western companies (or any companies except the Soviet government) had business in USSR? The economic activity that took place between the West and USSR can be called business with some reserves and I would guess the expression of Edward that you picked up was meant to show this.
However, I strongly believe that Putin’s (or Medvedev’s) Russia is able to shut off the gas and oil they are exporting to the West. And there are many shouting signals that this is a real scenario. As I wrote above, for the USSR oil and gas were the very few commodities that they could sell to get hard currency, which they tremendously needed. They had little choice in a way, spending 30% of their budget on military purposes. Also, I would claim the Soviet leaders were somehow more predictable, since they really believed the world was close to the threshold of a nuclear war, and deterrence worked a great deal. They also already had the status of a superpower and were more pragmatic than emotional in their foreign policy. How many times did they even hint at the possibility to use energy as a weapon of pressure?
To the contrary, today Russia’s foreign policy is here and then emotional, it seems like Kremlin is playing a game of chicken with the West, testing its credibility and the extent of its tolerance towards what I would call ‘diplomatic piracy’. They years-long chanting of the West of “how important and irreplaceable Russia is in solving international security problem” and “how vital is Russian energy for the Europeans” convinced Kremlin that they can push for virtually anything short of a nuclear war and get away with it. In fact Russia used many times the energy weapon, both against its former satellites and even against the EU members – Czechs for example were faced with an invented “technical problem” right after they signed the agreement on missiles defense with USA. Another technical issue happened with the gas exports to EU right during the EU emergency meeting on 1 September, when measures against Russia were discussed in relations with the Caucasus war. In Moscow they believe that Russia can live a bit in harsh conditions, and the authoritarian system will manage it and the population, counting also on Russians’ historical tolerance to hardship and their resilience. And they are convinced that Europe cannot do without Russian gas, because the “spoiled Europeans” will start to protest against their governments, pressing them to make concessions to Russia. I am amazed that you say Putin cannot shut off gas and oil, just because USSR did not do it – we are talking about two different realms, which need to be analyzed separately. Same goes about comparing Soviet Union with China.

I hope your comment about the “uncritical observer” is not an attack “to kill the messenger” because you do not anything enough serious to oppose the message itself. First of all I am not an observer anymore, and even if I was – an election observer’s job is not to criticize the government, but to monitor, observe, analyze and report on the election process and procedures and their conformity with the international standards. And we are not discussing here Georgian government but your assessment of certain parts of the article as being “usual nonsense”.

What you are doing, is switching towards the moral side of the issue, which also cannot be discussed since we do not know for sure who is the villain, whether one or both sides, and which one is worse than another. Russians say Georgians have shelled Tskhinvali deliberately and you believe them. Georgians say they did not do it deliberately, and they targeted only the combat positions of the Ossetians, which fired on them from inside the city (which is in fact a huge village). Why don’t believe Georgians but instead believe Russians? And there are many instances when even Russian journalists say that Russians and Osseitians also shelled Tskhinvali, using the same armament systems. And there are many signals that show the beginning of the war was not as Russians portray it, and it was not the Georgians who broke the ceasefire. Therefore, until Russians allow international investigators into the regions they control, we cannot blame Georgia based on the information that was produced by Kremlin. Do you agree? You might say CNN or other Western media reported this, but ask yourself: at the beginning where from did they get their news material? They were not allowed in the combat area, so they were reporting what Russian media would publish/broadcast, or what Russian officials would claim. Maybe they grasped well enough the general picture, but it is the details that are important, and that can drastically change the situation, and they were not reported.

Also, stop speculating that casualties were not an issue for Georgian government – we don’t know this. I don’t understand why you have an issue with the Georgian military increasing its combat capabilities. When you have two separatists conflicts on your territory, supported and financed by your bigger neighbor to the north, which by the way used to rip you off your sovereignty and independence few times in history and doing the same now, what would you do, being a country leader? Does it tell you anything that Russia was periodically deploying its military and civilian governmental employees to South Ossetia to run their the Tskhinvali “government” and it was basically a region run by Russian citizens and Russian governmental employees with Russian government’s money and defended by Russian military under the disguise of peacekeepers? Perhaps digging more details about the conflicts would be useful before actually discussing them.
You said I was wrong about international law – tell me exactly where I was wrong, and what provisions of the international law Georgia violated. I agree it was not very smart of Tbilisi to attack Tskhinvali, but what I do not see them going against the international law. They had armed rebels on their territory, questioning the constitutionally elected authorities, and going against every legal provision of Georgia. You criticize the Georgian building of military bases, but wait! – it is their territory - and they had the right to do it, since it was supported by the majority of the population. You say Spain did not use artillery against its separatists, but look, the separatists in Spain were not armed with reactive artillery, armed vehicles, tanks, and other sort of conventional heavy weapons, and they did not get help let’s say from the French Armed Forces. You talk about Georgian aggression, but in all these talks you need a reference point – what is yours? – Is it international law, is it Oxford dictionary, or anything else? I know between states there is a defined notion of aggression, and Russia definitely violated anything, when it attacked a member of UN, without a Security Council sanction or even without building a coalition to get more legitimacy (because nobody would have joined Russia) Again your biggest mistake is to draw wrong parallels in details, and seemingly failing to grasp their essence. That’s my feeling.

We are not (I hope) here to convert each other, but to bring some clarity into a very contradictory and unclear subject, through logic, facts and sound judgment.

JP said...


Economic activity between the West and the Soviet Union is an established fact. It was trade, it was business. Sure there were barriers, but it was largescale.

You seem to think that should there be a new Cold War, things would be different. But this is conjecture. Putin knows that his country's main source of wealth stems from oil. He does not want to impose hardship on his people, his entire aim was to bring stability. It is his only card.

You believe that every interruption of the supply of oil and gas has a sinistter motive. i do not. I look and see the efforts Russia makes to export that oil and gas, and see how important that market is to them. Should not the Georgian war itself affected the price of oil? Yet, it is going down. If everything about Russian policy was sinister, they would have done more to break Georgia as a transit route. Yet the oil still flows.

I don't believe the Georgians because I know that if you want to target purely military positions you do not use rockets. I have also read that the Georgian airforce bombed the town, but I see no confirmation of this. Both sides have, however, confirmed that the opening barrage used weapons that could not be relied upon for the pinpointing of pure military targets, and indeed there is evidence that the barrage was much more indiscriminate. History will tell us more, no doubt.

There was Russian aggression, there was Georgian aggression. In some villages the Georgians would have been welcomed. In Tskhinvali there was dancing in the streets when the Russians arrived. Please don't pretend that the traffic goes only one way. I hope facts, logic and sound judgement will prevail. They will show that both sides acted in their own interests, the way things always have been.

Have a nice evening.

JP said...

Oh, and you asked about Western companies that did business with the USSR. I didn't have a chance to list them earlier, but here's a quick response.

Doing business (beyond swapping oil for cash) with the Eastern Bloc was wider than you would like to think.

Western companies involved in doing business included Renault (Dacia, of course!), Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Clark, Toyota, Perkins diesel engine, Pirelli. The much-derided Volga car was the product of an agreement signed with Fiat and other Italian interested partners in 1966 (a joint project) and a Soviet bank (Vneshtorgbank). There was IBM. Brie and Roquefort were manufactured in Bulgaria under licence. In 1967 a Japanese-Bulgarian shipping consortium was established. Toshiba produced turbines. Coca-Cola signed agreements in the 1960s. Puma and Addidas were active in Bulgaria in the mid-1980s, producing five million pairs of trainers.

How about this in 1982:

"Mr. Reagan's decision lifted the ban on sales of oil and gas transmission and refining equipment [to the Soviet Union], including, for example, pipelayers made by the Caterpillar Tractor Company and turbines to pump gas through a pipeline made by the General Electric Company. Such products can now be shipped without a validated export license, said Bohdan Denysyk, deputy assistant secretary for export administration."

That's at:

You'll find plenty more if you ever study revisions to the the COCOM embargo list, a process which began in 1954. That essentially freed up the situation for the export of non-military goods to the USSR. Of course, Finland did not buy in to the CoCom idea, and already had quite open trading relations.

Are you still going to say there was no business? I'm not even talking about the 1920s and Stalinist era (when there was more active business). Between 1923 and 1933 there were 170 contracts signed for technical assistance from the West, only 37 remained dormant. In 1933 there were 6550 foreign engineers and technicians in the USSR.

I don't like attempts to distort the present by distorting the past. History is so much more murky than Edward's morality tale presented to knock whoever is not currently our sonofabitch.

Oh, and another thing. The USSR borrowed money through banks in London and Frankfurt. Are you going to say that didn't happen too?

Oh, and I can't resist a final example. There is the Bryant Grinding Corporation's export of 168 ball-bearing grinders. These were used to develop precision guidance equipment for Soviet missile systems.

It was two-way of course. I can't check this at the moment but I read that General Dynamics purchased a licence for a photogrammetric positioning device from East Germany for the F-16 aircraft. And soft contact lenses were initially developed by the Czechs and sold by licence to the US.

I think Edward should be more careful with his facts, otherwise I might start to doubt anything he says is true!

Дмитрий Мынзэрарь (Dumitru Minzarari) said...

well, what I am saying again, is that you distort things, trying to prove your case with unrelated facts. First of all, it is a big error to say Soviet Union why meaning also other countries from the Warsaw Pact, or say Warsaw Pact and not make a difference between other countries and the Soviet Union. If you talk to people from Poland, Romania, Hungary, etc., they will tell you that in some of these countries they even did not have the collective farms, so compulsory in the Soviet Union, that Moscow did not mingle very much with the Church affairs in Poland, and there were even some sort of private property in few Warsaw Pact countries. The example of Romania is very telling, whose leaders did not want to listen to Moscow's orders. You can investigate that further, but I just want to point it, that Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact members – these were different stories. Now this is what Edward has written:
"In the Cold War, doing business with the Soviet Union was a rare and suspicious activity."
Pay attention - he talks about business with the SOVIET UNION, and DURING THE COLD WAR. So your examples before the Cold War - they are interesting, but not to the point of our argument. Your examples of business with the Warsaw Pact members except the Soviet Union - not related to our discussion. Which leaves us with the interesting example of Volga car and Fiat involvement. I guess every case has an exception - but look, this exception does nothing than to confirm my case. Read this (,9171,903900,00.html) as you can see, Soviets needed to build their automobile industry and approached it getting Western experience, which was not very pleasant and rewarding for Fiat. This is another good reading ( I don't know how many other Western companies have done work with Soviets after this and how often was it. In fact, again, I still find Edward’s explanation of business with USSR then quite descriptive, don't you agree?
I know that Soviet Union was buying IT stuff and other hi-tech by did it through sub-contractors, through its KGB-networks of third parties, because of many restrictions that West had on the trade with the Soviets. I also know about many stories how the Communist “Party gold" has disappeared after the collapse of USSR, through Vneshtorgbank, which was run under the control of the top party leaders and KGB. Still, everything fits very well into the article's description, in my opinion.
Getting back to your previous post – I believe you misread what Putin thinks, and in fact I suspect you do not follow Russian events very often. Putin and Medvedev, whatever is the relation of this power tandem, are ready to stop oil and gas. Medvedev literally said during the EU meeting on 1 September that "we have already experienced harsh time in the past, we are used to it and we can do it again, but I don't think the Europeans are able to face it". He added that Europe is more dependable on Russia than vice versa, and they were going to prove it if the West pushed it. They know they are dependant, but as I said it looks like they want to play a chicken game race, and see who would yield first.
Then, I did not say "if a new Cold War" - I agree that we already have one ongoing. What in fact was the Cold War? That's an extract from another article of mine "The Cold War was characterized by the Soviet disregard of international law, the use of proxy wars to compete for world influence with the United States, and efforts to undermine the authority of the West. That’s not much different than what Russia is doing today." People often say that the main descriptive feature of the CW was the ideological clash. I would say ideology was only a tool, now it is replaced by anti-Americanism and Russian protection for authoritarianism regimes against the Western pressures. USSR used to support and finance leftist regimes that would be friendly to Kremlin, now it does quite the same with anti-American governments and authoritarian regimes.
I don't buy your argument that "If everything about Russian policy was sinister, they would have done more to break Georgia as a transit route" - actually that is exactly why they moved further into Georgia besides their initial intention to somehow do a regime change. There were very strong signals from the West that stopped Russian military from taking control over Tbilisi. Instead they took over the port of Poti, destroyed the railway going to the West of the country, dropped few bombs in the vicinity of the BTD pipeline - did a lot of things that were meant to show how risky is to have the pipeline in that country and obstructed the exports of oil through Georgia. It is another story that you don't get always the results you count on, either because of miscalculations or due to variables that were not considered in your model. I guess somewhere Russian plans were faulted, and it is quite obvious their estimation that Georgians would go against Saakashvili was wrong too.
The energy weapon: I gave you examples - do you really think that it was a coincidence to have a technical problem with the gas pipeline right during the EU emergency meeting on 1 September and have it fixed after the EU decision on Russia was made public, being a soft one? Do you think it is a coincidence that every time Russia has a quarrel or an issue with a country, it finds right away a technical problem either with their trade items (meet, agriculture, wine, etc.) or with the pipeline, be it oil or gas? Wake up JP! This ain't any coincidence!
It is always that sides try to act in their self-interest - I fully agree here. But we should be able, as people with good judgment do, to make the correct difference between facts and appearances and avoid using false logical links. I see it straight - Russia has violated the UN Charter, launching an armed aggression against Georgia, after 16 years putting pressure on Tbilisi using indirect aggression tools. There cannot be any excuses for it, like “the West did it too”, or “how can the West ask for Russia’s troops withdrawal as long as they keep military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq” – sheer nonsense spoken by uninformed people. The cases are so monumentally different (and I spend hours listing them on my blog to the stubborn Russian visitors intoxicated with false patriotism) that I am even amazed at the very limited ability of such people to make a sound analysis and judgment. However, I do agree that these cases are not always clear and need additional time to research, which not everyone has time to do. I’m writing too much.
Good night.

JP said...


There is no distortion. Business with the Soviet Union was widespread. I gave some examples relating to business with the other Eastern Bloc countries; I know there is a difference. There's more to it than just Fiat, yiu are cherry picking from my list. What about the text from 1982? You ignore it and distort my posting. Just look at one example I did not go into. The management of the Soviet Union's debt. You can squabble as much as you like about trainers, cars and coca-cola. Look at the amounts of money lent to the Soviet Union. Doubtless you will write back to me and say that is not business ....

My examples from the 1920s and 1930s were there to show that business is business, even with an internationally-despised regime.

You do make me laugh. IBM did business openly across the Eastern Bloc. Leave your KGB out of it.

You suspect I do not follow Russian events very often? Mmm, a little superior of you, I think.

There is a fundamental flaw. The height of the crisis was when Russian troops went beyond Ossetia. They did not make for the pipeline, they did not switch off the gas, they did not disrupt their own oil supplies to those countries openly expressing support for Georgia. The price of oil did not go up, Russia did not cut production. It had all these cards and did nothing. Why? Because of the West? You are entitled to think so. Or perhaps because Russia needs us and we need Russia.

Again, if Russian policy was so sinister, how do you explain Russian support for the removal of Shevardnaze? And the closure of Russian bases and pulling back of troops which began after the Rose Revolution? How do you explain that? Russia, had it been operating in a way as you suggest, simply would not have done this. And, as part of the agreement stipulating that Russia would close bases in Georgia, the following concession was expressed:

"Mikheil Saakashvili declared that no other foreign military bases
would be created in Georgia after the Russian withdrawal and that Georgia planned to
adopt a law to that effect."

Interesting, isn't it? Russia working with the Georgian government? Mmmm? Can you explain the offer of a land route into Afghanistan to Nato? If you didn't see things through your tinted spectacles, you would see that things are a bit more fluid than you think (with all your impressive knowledge).

Дмитрий Мынзэрарь (Dumitru Minzarari) said...

Look, our argument about the scale of business done with Soviet Union during the Cold War does not seem to be very productive. I see your point, and I cannot say you are completely wrong when you insist there was (SOME) business with USSR, but at the same time I insist that in ANY analysis you make needs to be based on a certain reference point. Something can be good or bad, but comparing to what and in what period of time? In fact, your initial opinion was that Edward made an error stating the business with USSR during the Cold War was a "rare and suspicious activity". Was the business with USSR less (and how significantly less) frequent than with Japan or Germany at that time? Was it less complex and intense and for what reasons – because of trust, legal norms, etc.? There is even another point – was that business activity with USSR “rare and suspicious” comparing to contemporary business standards, because the article was written in our days? Do you see what I mean? Anyway, I suggest we agree to disagree at this stage.
And following your following paragraphs, the business with the IBM does fit the pattern I described, and does conform to the description given in the article (see this
I assumed you don’t read that much on Russia based on your comments – your posts and judgment indicated to me that you either ignore some important details, or you do not know them. We all are allowed to make assumptions, especially when we can logically explain them.
I want to enforce my initial assumption – I want to claim you misread Russian goals and actions. What you say trying to explain why you believe Russia did not want to use the energy weapon ‘because the West and Russia need each other” is based on a linear thinking. It means that if A does not like B, than it will show it in an obvious way, punching B, for example. However, international affairs (and much of the real life) is based on a non-linear model. There are many intervening variables, that if not considered will skew your analysis so much that you can reach the wrong conclusions. If you follow the pattern of the Russia foreign policy during the few last years, it resembles quite a lot the Soviet model – they violate agreements and international law, presenting invented and artificial excuses. They are subtle, and indirect. Just research the Georgian case and think what does it mean for its economy and the alternative energy roads the actions of that Russia did there. Blowing up the railway connecting the east and the west of the country, taking over Senaki and Poti, which serve as a link in the oil transportation route, bombing around BTD, bombing the Tbilisi international airport and other civilian infrastructure – that seems to be related to the military operation but only at the first glance. For Russia it was CRUCIAL that the world perceives its actions in Georgia as bearably legitimate, they did not want to seem as if they’ve done it to make their energy weapon more effective and to increase Western dependency on Russia. It was meant to be a warning, and not a direct threat. Russia does not want to act openly aggressive, it will use various (however questionable) excuses. Russia does need the West, abut it want to create a relationship of asymmetric dependence – where the West believes it depends more on Russia and is ready to make concessions on a number of issue that Russia wants. That is how I see things.
Your references are interesting but again –they do support my point. Few questions first – where did you get it that Russia supported the removal of Shevardnadze? To my knowledge the “rose revolution” has upset very much the people from Kremlin. I can also give you my opinion about the closure of the Russian base on the Georgian “core” territory. Unlike in Moldova (where their military base is in Transnistria, a friendly enclave), the bases that Russia withdrew from Georgia were surrounded by an unfriendly environment. They would have become liabilities for Russia (hostages if you wish) since the Georgian government could have cut electricity, water, and could have blocked even the supplies to the base, as well as their access route to and from the base. So, Russia decided to withdraw the bases, since they anyway were not of much use on the territory controlled by an unfriendly Georgian government. However, they did continue to stay in Abkhazia and South Ossetia – where the authorities were backed by Moscow and where Moscow actually ruled them like its own provinces. Russia needed leverages over Georgia and the two separatists regions gave them to her. After the invasion, when even Merkeli insisted Georgia does have a NATO future, Russia has recognized the two rebel regions, since they were not any more effective to Kremlin as obstacles towards Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration. That’s how I see it.
The Afghanistan issue – it is in the very interest of Russia that Afghanistan is more or less stable. Since it does not want to go there herself, and wishing to see NATO and US tied up there as long as possible, Russia does offer certain assistance, when this is in the Russia’s interest. Especially because it can then shout out laud how indispensable Russia is for the West. Moscow is willing to make concessions when they are easy for it, and allow her to claim some favor in return. They tried to portray their withdrawal from Germany and other Warsaw Pact as an act of good will, hiding it was out of impotency, and asking for return concessions. Russians do read Sun Tzu, Thucydides, Machiavelli, de Jomini, Clausewitz and others – they just interpret these authors a bit differently. Why should Moscow oppose the Western presence in Afghanistan when it solves one of its main problems in its south, and basically with no own effort; additionally it keeps the attention of the West drawn to that area, making a lower priority of the former USSR countries, which are a current priority for Russia. This result in little opposition towards Russian moves in these countries. Everything is so perfect, let US and NATO get swamped in other regions, including Afghanistan. I will not be surprised at all, knowing the Russian strategic culture, to hear one day that Moscow has helped somehow the US and NATO enemies as well.
Actually I like to think that I do see a lot of things, even “through my tinted spectacles”, and my response above may suggest you that there is certain ground why I like to think this way. Do you think I am walking the wrong way?

JP said...


My argument was with Edwatd's choice of words. There was business, and I showed that it was more widespread than he wanted to suggest. That's because he'd like to think of a western world united and dedicated to destroying the Soviet Union. But the truth does not entirely support that. There was money to be made.

His generalised statement is actually incorrect, because even those States very hostile to the USSR (even under Reagan!) did wideranging business with the Soviets. Other states such as Finland were much more involved. And international bankers, across the world. The overall picture is one where business was not rare and, as debt, licences and law was involved, it can not be cast aside as suspicious either. Countries do not exchange valuables for large sums of money unless they can be sure of the deal. Repeated dealing shows trust.

You think I ignore or am ignorant of facts, but in truth you are just not very pleased that I don't agree with you.

You then go on to make some sweeping assetions about Russian activities in Georgia. Could I just ask for one favour: your source for 'blowing up the railway'. And why bomb around the pipeline, but not hit the pipeline itself. As a warning? All that and just as a warning? They had every chance to destroy the pipelines, but they didn't 'just to show the west'. My friend, I think you are seriously anti-Russian and you'll be like that for the rest of your life.

The bases in Georgia (had they not been evacuated by the Russians), had they been surrounded, would have given Russia an excuse to intervene, surely? Your's is not a logical argument. Or, if Russia was seeking to completely dominate the Georgians, they could easily have expanded the bases and sat and watched. If you say Russia engineered (and started)the war, the evacuation of such bases is a surprising step. It coul dhave given them the justification they were waiting for. But they pulled back. It does not fit your theory, therefore there must be another explanation.

I like your touch of comedy at the end. Explain to me the sentence "wishing to see NATO and US tied up there [Afghanistan] as long as possible, Russia does offer certain assistance". A land route not relying on Pakistan is extremely valuable. Russia offered one to NATO to assist in the pacification of Afghanistan, speeding up that process. How is that "wishing to see Nato tied up there as long as possible". Making life harder for Nato makes the conflict last longer, not offering assistance.

The Russians might as well become totally wicked and enjoy themselves, you'll never see anything positive from that country. Do you actually know anyone in the Russian government? You seem to claim great knowledge of their little schemes.

Дмитрий Мынзэрарь (Dumitru Minzarari) said...


That's getting too long. Look, I told you my opinion, now it's up to you to accept it or not. I don't have any single interest in trying to convince anyone. Now you're
bringing in Finland - do you know what was the relationship between Finland and USSR? It's not the best example, at all. Same about the 80s- that was a part of the Cold War when there was some 'warming" of the West-USSR relations, and yet, the business still was rare and suspicious. I told you my reasons why I believe the article was rather correct in pointing the nature of business between the West and USSR during the Cold War (see the comparative approach I suggested), listing them in the few lengthy comments above. You want to ignore these arguments? - Your choice, and I can't do anything (and don't want to).

I don't really have any problem when people disagree with me, and I even accept other points of view, if they are convincing to me. Yours were not, and I explained where I saw their fault.
I also stressed it very well the difference between a linear and non-linear approach in foreign policy, and it seems it just did not touch your view at all. Tell me please, how smart would be of Russians, that built the whole invasion on Georgia on the claim they needed to defend their citizens and stop genocide, to bomb and destroy BTD? I mean this is so obvious! Instead, you can bomb the vicinity - nobody can say you destroyed something that has nothing to do with your declared military campaign goals (discrediting them), nobody will sue you in international courts, and still you have sent a strong signal to foreigners that Georgia is not a safe route for hydrocarbons transportation. That is why Russia did not have to bomb BTD, and did not want to destroy it. It would have been so stupid, because they claimed legitimacy of their actions. It is a no-brainer, man.
On the destroyed railways(-bridge) it was in the media, both Western and Russian. You can say there is no proof that was done by Russians - at least I haven't seen any. But likewise there was no proof of who's warplanes were crossing the border between Russia and Georgia into Georgian territory. the area where the bridge was destroyed was under the surveillance/control of the Russian troops, and it had a strategic significance for Tbilisi. Do you think Georgians have blown up that railway bridge themselves? Funny.
I am not anti-Russian, actually most of my friends and acquaintances speak Russian. I'm an analyst specializing on Russian foreign and security policy, and I take additional effort than average person to see facts and not get carried away by emotions or any kind of preferences.

Russia does not seek to completely dominate anyone from the former Soviet Union republics - it is not very wise, too obvious and too costly. Instead Moscow tends to have in former USSR republics authoritarian governments that are loyal to Russia, and in exchange get support and assistance from Russia to stay in power.

On the military bases - mine was a very logical government, consider the timing of withdrawal, the international and regional environment. Consider the recent changes like NATO Bucharest Summit, and followed after, to understand a change in approach towards Georgia. I repeat, Russia will not act like Hitler's Germany, but much more subtle - they will act under certain rhetorical cover, convincing at least for some part of the international community. Prestige is a very important element of a great power's ability to influence international affairs, and Russia striving to achieve this status will do many things to not lose prestige. In fact they miscalculated the reaction of the West towards their war against Georgia, but still, they believe the West will "swallow" it, and get back to a more "pragmatic" approach towards Russia.

As long as NATO and USA are involved in Afghanistan they cannot focus efforts and resources towards the former USSR states around Russia, and that gives Moscow a chance to act freely or facing less opposition. And at the moment the CIS countries are Russia's top priority (see their Concept on Foreign Policy and president's declarations, supported actually by their policy actions). Also, as I stated previously and as you selectively picked up only one element of my argument, Russia is interested that Afghanistan is not too unstable, because it will then became a threat to Russia itself. They are happy to have a directed or managed instability, if you can call it this way. Therefore Russia does not want failures of the West there.

And, given its own experience in 80s, Moscow believes NATO and US are there for a long time. Kremlin is skeptical of the Western ability to make Afghanistan stable, but it believes they can keep the flame under certain control. So their choice is between a) a very possible NATO failure in Afghanistan, if it cannot secure a safe logistic /transportation route; and b) a somewhat managed instability, that anyway will drag the Western attention and resources, if they managed to identify such a route. a1) Moscow has the option to state loudly it behaves so kindly and offer this route to NATO, by this able to request a return favor and confirm its stance of an important, strategic ally; b1) not allow NATO to use the route from the North of Afghanistan, discrediting its stance of a Western important strategic ally, consolidating an image of a troublemaker, deliberately creating obstacles towards Western efforts to solve key international security problems; a2) Moscow can offer the route, taking the credit and ripping the benefits; b2) it can risk that the West might be getting a stronger foothold in the former republics of the Soviet Union bordering Afghanistan, when starting negotiating directly with these countries, which are also very interested that the chaos in Afghanistan is under control, and the Jihadism does not spill over the borders into their countries. As I said - politics is a non-linear process, and there are so many factors that we might overlook leading to a poor judgment.

I don't know many people working in their government although I met few. however i hope you don't count that Russian government employees are telling around what their country is going to do and how?:-)

Another area of my interests is "their little schemes" - my research and professional interests include the so-called "indirect aggression", also known as covert warfare, political subversion, non-violent intervention, unrestricted warfare - as it was labeled at different times and by different researchers. And I can see a very strong similarity between the techniques that Russia is using today and the ones USSR used during the Cold War, when waging proxy wars and engaging in confrontations over the world influence with the West.

JP said...

Oh, dumitru, you do make me laugh with your assertions. " I take additional effort than average person to see facts and not get carried away by emotions or any kind of preferences", you say. So you are entirely objective in your analysis of Russian policy. Of course you are. And then you add "And I can see a very strong similarity between the techniques that Russia is using today and the ones USSR used during the Cold War, when waging proxy wars and engaging in confrontations over the world influence with the West." That's such an objective view, and makes you seem such a moderate.

I stick to my previous assertions. I really don't think that bombing around a pipeline does anything at all. That's a rather laughable plan. If that's the best they can do with all their covert operations, I don't think you have much to worry about. The fact is the oil is flowing and the oil price is falling, both facts which completely blow your strange little argument out of the water. if it was a warning, the oil traders aren't listening! They are normally so sensitive.

Дмитрий Мынзэрарь (Dumitru Minzarari) said...

@ JP Let’s do some thinking exercise before laughing, since we are not in circus, and I am not a clown. How an ordinary citizen gets and treats his/her news –just watches TV and reads newspapers, on-line articles usually delivered by favorite media outlets. Probably he/she might check another 1 or 2, but not very often, and very seldom will an ordinary person go to read foreign resources, also due to the language barrier. There are of course exceptions, but they are statistically insignificant. A researcher instead, will be trained to work with multiple sources, not related to each other, crosschecking the facts and looking for logical coincidence or contradictions, the nature of the sources and so on. It is an important part of the researcher’s job to be aware of the existing danger of falling into the bias trap. And if you want to take an absolutist approach, it is not possible to be completely objective, but it is realistic to be as close to objectiveness as possible.
You sometimes make some very questionable statements, and when I bring arguments showing the weak sides, you pick up on something else, and the story continues again and again. What are you really up to?
I told you about the similarities between the today’s Russian foreign policy and the one employed by Soviet Union: the conflicts in the CIS are proxy wars; Russia builds obstacles to the solution of international security issues, and then declares how important it is, because these issues cannot be solved without Moscow; its mainstream media writes and broadcasts so similar to how USSR media used to work (even some Russian columnists recognize it –,, using the same phrases and expressions; they interfere in the domestic policies of Ukraine and Moldova very much the way they used to interfere in the politics of third countries where it wanted to put into power loyal governments; it negotiates the building of Russian military bases on the territory of the CIS countries similar to how it used to do during the Cold War in the Third World countries – the list can be continued.
Russian foreign minister Lavrov is stating in front of the whole world that Russian military is not bombing Georgian territory outside of South Ossetian administrative borders, and that there are no Russian troops into the “core” Georgia. At the same time many TV channels showed Russian planes bombing Tbilisi and Gori, and Russian troops stationed in Poti and around Gori. Kremlin has claimed Georgia has killed 2000 civilians in the first day of the attack on Tskhinvali, but nobody thought about the peculiarity of such a figure, considering that there were around 1000 casualties during the whole conflict with South Ossetia in the 90s. And nobody was interesting to see how on Eho Moskvy Russian journalists recognized that the figure was probably made up by Kokoity on the evening of the second day in Djava (a village to the north of Tskhinvali). He had no chance to have any such data because he fled Tskhinvali among the first people, and the town was mostly controlled at the time by Georgians so there was no way to get any numbers on casualties. How can I trust Russian media and officials, when that country does not have a free and independent mainstream media and the government is authoritarian and resurgent, and I see their news are full of errors and disinformation? How can I trust Russian claim that they wanted to defend their citizens, when few years ago they’ve destroyed completely Grozny, and killed many more thousands of their own citizens using tanks, artillery and aviation? I still check the facts they provide, but each time I just end up seeing another piece of misguiding news. When Reuter journalists provided images of destroyed buildings and dead people in Gori after Russian bomber missed and hit a block of flats, Russians said the images were actually fake. It was very similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis case when the Soviet authorities stated in Pravda that the images of the Soviet missiles in Cuba provided by Americans were "falsified" by Americans to discredit the peaceful USSR.
Finally, if my view is subjective, then say why it is so, come up with facts and arguments, and don’t just say I’m wrong. I met so many Russians in the West that lacked the debating culture, and that most of the time would just say “you’re wRong”, with no follow up. The purpose of a researcher/journalist and anyone working with information is basically not to be moderate (as you hint to), but to provide as objective as possible picture of the occurring events.
What you think is not relevant in this particular case (in your last post) – what is relevant is how investors and the governments of other countries perceive that bombing around BTD, what is the message they get, because that will influence their future decisions and policies, bringing up some real and objective developments. Your main counterargument on why I am wrong in the assessment of the intentions behind the bombing,- that “oil is flowing and the oil price is falling” is very superficial. First – Russians could have been wrong in their calculations. Second, their purpose could have been not to make oil prices go up, as you assume, (BTD does not make such a considerable quantity of supply %-wise to influence world prices) – but to scare investors out of Georgia, and disturb Georgia’s economy. Third, there is more than one factor influencing the world prices on hydrocarbons. Therefore your argument is out of place, showing an erroneous assessment of yours.

I’m a bit tired of our fruitless discussion – please do not get offended if I chose not to respond, when you will again switch subjects and not support your insinuations with sound arguments. Thanks.

JP said...


I know the difference between a researcher and an ordinary person, as you would have it the difference between you and me. Yet being a researcher, and spending your time with material, is no indication of impartiality. To me when you write about Russian foreign policy you seem like a Jesuit writing an account of Protestantism. You study it, you read about it but you can not get over that fundamental hostility which you have to Russian polity. I can’t square your texts with objectivity.

Russia might well be behaving in similar ways to 25 years ago, and even using some of the same language. Do you really think that Nato isn’t? That Cheney doesn’t? Come on, both sides are feeding this problem. Those days are actually gone, Russian society is very different and the ideological factor is weak. Edward Lucas is a Cold Warrior, so it isn’t just some Russian mainstream media, it also happens in the West.

I’m sure Russia has told lies about what happened in Georgia. It is what governments tend to do when fighting wars. If you have studied any history, you will know that the Western (free) press accused the Germans of eating Belgian babies. As nobody can be sure of the casualty figure yet, and you have said so yourself, why don’t you just wait and see. You have predetermined that the figure will be low, because that fits your bias. However many were killed – the guilt lies with the Georgians for launching the attack. Thomas de Waal, not an ordinary person like me, but a researcher, wrote:

“Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili seems to care less about these people than about asserting that they live in Georgian territory. Otherwise he would not on the night of 7-8 August have launched a massive artillery assault on the town of Tskhinvali, which has no purely military targets and whose residents, the Georgians say, lest we forget, are their own citizens. This is a blatant breach of international humanitarian law.”

I can trace a line whereby Georgia slipped from a political solution of the separatist problem (a real problem with Georgia’s ethnic makeup). There was success with Adzharia, after a coup, but failure in 2004 in Ossetia (and loss of life). Negotiations were then failing, but Georgia was receiving much support from the US. So the Georgians went for the option of force, with the results we see today. That use of force triggered Russian intervention.

Here’s Thomas de Waal again:

“On 7 August, after days of shooting incidents in the South Ossetian conflict-zone, President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia made a speech in which he said that he had given the Georgian villagers orders not to fire, that he wanted to offer South Ossetia "unlimited autonomy" within the Georgian state, with Russia to be a guarantor of the arrangement. Both sides said they were discussing a meeting the next day to discuss how to defuse the clashes. That evening, however, Saakashvili went for the military option.”


I still say that bombing around a pipeline is a ridiculous tactic. Nobody is there to see it. What you do is hit some of the storage sites and the area of the port used for the transfer of oil to ship. That’s expensive and sends out a signal. You don’t miss pipelines.

You can’t say they had this plan, but it didn’t work so that’s why we are not seeing the effects. Produce the plan, let us see it. You could make anything up. How is that evidence. That’s conjecture.

You are also on difficult ground when you talked about Russia pulling its bases back from Georgia. I would say that this is an indication that Russia wanted to engage with Georgia, send Georgia a positive signal. Or, at the very least, show that the two sides can agree. It does disprove the notion that Russia had some overarching strategy to make life difficult for the Georgians. It withdrew its troops. Had it kept them there it would have discomforted the Georgians and provided a possible justification for intervention. But it withdrew. At that date, Russian policy was clear. It was Georgia which then raised the military stakes.

Your argument about the bases in Georgia being a liability for Russia so that’s why they shut them down is odd, especially as, on other occasions you assert that Russian bases in the near abroad are a fundamental part of their strategy. Here you are on Transnistria:

“If Russian military withdraws, it will be extremely difficult for them to return back, while a limited presence can always be extended to a full military base. This is the ongoing tendency, given Kremlin's efforts to assert itself regionally and globally - it can do it only through the foreign military deployment, such as military bases and installations on foreign soil. The news claiming Russia's intention to open military bases in Syrian sea ports of Latakia and Tartos confirms the claimed trend. The development of the Russian military air-base in Kant, Kyrgyzstan is another example.”

Дмитрий Мынзэрарь (Dumitru Minzarari) said...

JP, you seem to pay attention to some of my points, but ignore others, that fit you. When giving a detailed explanation of my view why Russia withdrew their bases from the Georgian controlled territories, I pointed out to the key factor of the location of the bases. They withdrew them from Georgian-controlled territory because they became liabilities. You try to hit me back with a Transnistrian example, but you ignored what I wrote about the Russian base in Transnistria, that they WERE ON A TERRITORY CONTROLLED BY FRIENDLY FORCES TO RUSSIA. Stop this selective approach to facts and arguments, JP. The Russian base in Transnistria is similar to the Russian bases in Abkhazia and South Osseita, but not to those on the Georgian controlled territory that Russia withdrew, if you see what I mean.
The comparison of a researcher with a Jesuit is ill-conceived – a contemporary, educated person should better know the difference between scientific reasoning, and theological argument. I have no preconceived dislike of anything Russian, or anything else. I did agree with the Russian foreign position on Kosovo, and criticized in my articles those Western countries that recognized the independence of Kosovo. But I cannot support a foreign policy based on the principles that it has “historic” and “privileged” areas of interests, and the right to dominate other countries in its vicinity. Does your point mean that you accept such a claimed right of Russia?
You say ideology factor is gone, but what do you know about ideology? What is ideology? Do you call ideology only the Soviet Union Communist Party platform? The belief in a “democratic peace” theory? The aim of establishing a “global caliphate”? What do you know about ideology factor in Russia, JP? What about the idea of a “Third Rome”, the “Eurasian” idea, the “chosen-by-God-nation” belief shared by growing number of Russians, the strong belief of a “great mission of Russia”, or the right to establish its lost greatness, meaning, as you could guess controlling its former satellites through overt or covert forms? Russian society is not different, JP. The ones that were educated during the Soviet Union as you imagine did not change much, as political culture concerns. The youngsters are educated in a spirit of anti-Americanism and using the “NATO is aggressor” principle, in a media space absolutely dominated by anti-Western news and interpretations. Do you have a chance to read through the Russian blogs, or comments to the newspaper articles? I’d advise you to do so, to get a better understanding of the Russian mentality today.
I do agree that there are “Cold Warriors” on the both sides, but again, in all you judgments you make the mistake of considering the West and Russia as identical actors. They are not identical, and their difference is what changes the whole picture, which you are describing selectively.
Were the Georgians guilty of launching the attack? On one side they had the right to recover their control over the rebel region; on the other side they were guilty of casualties among civilians. This is how the picture is described by Thomas de Waal (according to you), who is in fact a journalist, very educated and informed, but still not exactly a researcher. Now, I would like to ask you a question, which somehow will question your quotes of Mr. de Waal. What he insists is the point of view presented by the Russian media, which basically dominated the media market regarding these specific events, at the beginning of the conflict, and which were republished by many other Western media. However, if we consider also the Georgian point, which is by the way confirmed when one puts together the bits and pieces from the news provided by Russian reporters, that had some access to the area, then the Georgians did not start artillery fire first, and Tskhinvali did have military targets. If the Georgians were right, then responding with artillery fire against the positions of their opponents that were shelling them, and Georgian villages, would mean the same crime that de Waal is accusing Georgians. It would mean many killed and displaced among Georgians living in the area. Besides, Tbilisi had the duty of defending the Georgians and other people living there, that were shelled from Tskhinvali. South Ossetians (SO) officials stated to the HRW investigators and Russian journalists that every single family in the city (which is in fact a big village) had men with arms fighting in trenches. There were heavy artillery pieces in Tskhinvali at the time, and few days before Kokoity helped by the Russian main TV channels organized a large show of how they have evacuated their females and children out of Tskhinvali to Russia. Why would they do this, on 4th, only 2 days after Russia has finished a very big military exercise (Caucasus -2008) right to the north of SO, still keeping forces there? Then, when Georgia did not even know that it was going few days later to attempt taking control of Tskhivali? Why South Ossetians started to shell after this the Georgian positions, having evacuated many women and children (got ready for war?) from Tskhinvali, and did not want to negotiate the ceasefire proposed by Saakashvili. Why they continued shelling Georgians, and why the car of the Russian diplomat on his the way to Tskhinvali to reportedly help Georgian official in starting negotiations to stop fire suddenly broke, while the Russian diplomat did not pick up his phone (according to Yulea Latynina, Eho Moskvy Radio Station)?
Does is still look that black-and-white to you and Mr. de Waal, that “Georgians shelled Tskhinvali that had no military targets”? Mr. de Waal accuse Georgia of violating the humanitarian law, but why for 15 years the international community violated this humanitarian law, allowing for the Russian-led separatist regime to do ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia (180,000-200,000 Georgians expelled from their houses), and many human rights violations in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia? What Georgia did, it tried itself to defend its citizens against the rebels that had foreign military support. If any of the Georgian politicians have violated the international law, then investigate them, but do the same to the Russian officials. If you cannot bring to justice both sides, then getting back to your moral authority argument, what right do you have to judge only one side? Mr. de Waal says that there was an agreement to hold talks and then he went on accusing Saakashvili of choosing the military option, but he did not explain what was the reason why Georgia chose the military option. What he wrote is a usual journalistic account, while a researcher would also look to understand why this has happened.
My comments that I wrote on this blog, were over the obvious violations of UN Charter by Russia, and a military aggression against a UN member. You jump from one issue to another, chaotic and which is of little help if we want to reach a point. You compare Russia with Cheney (how bizarre!) when one is a country and another is a politician. You also compare Russia with NATO, which again (behind the point that the comparison itself was not supported with detailed explanation of your claim why they are similar) is faulty, as I argued in one of my previous comments on another thread.
You consider bombing in the vicinity of pipeline a ridiculous tactic. But do you have the knowledge and background to possibly understand the repercussions of this act on politicians and investors whose interests are affected? Nezavisimaya Gazeta, where many Russian military experts contribute, has written an article which had the following headline: “The war in Georgia has proven to the West that Georgia is dangerous as an alternative energy route”. It seems at least for the Russians the bombing the vicinity of the pipeline was a subtle yet a clear message to the West. You can miss pipelines if you want to miss and if it sends the right signals.
I start to believe that our discussion is futile, since while you have little to oppose my arguments and facts that I bring, you also do not want to accept them. But, I cannot ignore, that what you do on this blog is selectively picking insignificant moments and trying to say the author was misinforming the readers, as well as stanchly advocating for Russia case by pointing to what Georgia has done, and ignoring the bigger violations that Russia made. You also have no strong arguments, prefer selective interpretations, and often refuse to account the arguments provided to you, which make a constructive discussion with you close to impossible. I can’t go forever like this, sorry JP . Can’t say it was my pleasure, but it was certainly instructive. Take care.

JP said...

I have many arguments with you, but I can see we are never going to get any change of views on any of them. That goes for me, that goes for you.

It is because I believe your methodology is flawed. You have already made your mind up about the righteousness of the Georgian cause and the righteousness of her actions. Regardless of the fact that these are two different things, there is evidence which shows that Georgia does seem to have been the agressor here. De Waal probably uses similar sources to the ones you use (which mostly seem to be journalistic), even if you claim he is a journalist rather than an analyst, but he comes up with very different conclusions. Is he pro-Russian? Or are his sources at fault?

Georgia had a duty to all the inhabitants of the region, but selected force. It initiated the switch from a series of provocations, to launching a major offensive. It did so only hoping there would not be consequences, that it would get away with it. It was criminally irresponsible. There were provocations on both sides, but Georgia was the one to escalate the situation, and took the consequences. I actually think that's a tragedy for the Georgian people.

Are you suggesting that planning for war is the same as preparing to launch a war? Evacuation of children is very sensible, given the circumstances.

I still think there is a basic flaw in your argument about bases. Why withdraw bases from hostile territory if you believe you are the chosen one, the inheritor of past greatness. Or need them to weaken your neighbour.

As for having bases on friendly territory, it is by mutual consent, and bases are often there for historical reasons.

As for the pipelines, we won't agree. Georgia should have thought about its position when it elected to use force to tame its separatists. Without that, there would have been no Russian intervention.

Did you go to Columbia University? Wasn't Saakashvili there?

I'm not a staunch supporter of Russia; I just see things differently from you with your desire that democratic Georgia be portrayed as the entirely innocent party. Put me in Mr de Waal's camp if you will simplify things that way.

Дмитрий Мынзэрарь (Dumitru Minzarari) said...

Now I understand :). You brought everything here - the historical reasons of Russia, the "series of provocations" on the side of Georgia, Georgia as aggressor - it is exactly the English translation of the Russian spin-doctors theories and versions. Who are you Mr. JP? Do you mind saying few words about yourself, as you can see I am writing openly (and you've even been able to learn few things about me), as does Edward and few others.

Where are your "many arguments" that you insisted on? So far you've only quoted Mr. de Waal, and over an issue which was far from the subject that we initially started to dispute in this thread.

I don't know what were the sources used by Mr. de Waal, but many things have popped up rather recently, when more journalists and other observers started to get little access into the Georgian area controlled now by Russia. When was the piece you've quoted here written? And, again, a researcher will spend days looking into an issue, reading through many sources, while a journalist does not have this luxury of a time. Besides, I don't know whether Mr. de Waal reads Russian or if he had time to talk both to Russian and Georgian officials to compare their views, and so on.

Scroll up and see what was your initial point, and when I faced you with good arguments, you started to slip into different areas. What is that you exactly argue for Mr. JP?
You say Georgia is an aggressor, but what is your starting point? What definition of aggression do you use? The one agreed upon at the UN General Assembly and largely accepted? I don't think so, because that definition describes an attack of one country against another country. That is what Russia has done. You talked about provokations of Georgia - what are the sources that inspired you? I did bring reference to what has stated Yulia Latynina from Echo Moskvy, which visited Georgia. I can bring again references to Kommersant, i.e. These are reputable media outlets. What do you base you words upon?

You don't want to recognize a simple thing JP: evacuating children means very high conviction that the war will take place, given it has never done before during more than 10 years of the conflict, and given that Georgians reportedly did not even know yet that they were going to attack Tskhinvali. Why don't you read a thorough chronology of events in the region, starting August 1st, for example? :) There should be few around on the Internet.

On the military bases paragraph of yours - you talk such a nonsense there. What does the "greatness" belief of the large population, promoted by their leaders to mobilize them, has to do with the pragmatic calculations of military and civilian leadership of the country. Stop twisting everything that I am writing, this is getting ridiculous. Not everything added together make sense JP, try to be more selective a bit.

The bases issue continued - what are the historical reasons you invoked when explaining why Russian bases where on the territory of Georgia/Moldova (that's what we talk about)? And do you call the Soviet invasion of Georgia in the 1920s, or the Soviet invasion of Moldova in 1940s a "mutual consent" on the establishment of Soviet (later Russian) military bases? That's quite an interesting interpretation of the notion "mutual consent", don't you think so?

I did go to Columbia, although I went to SIPA. President Saakashvili went to the Law School. But so did many thousands of other people, including Russians that today work for the Kremlin and create the logic, which you try to promote on popular English language blogs.

Nobody here said Georgia was innocent, but we were discussing a different topic. Anyone who would like to see the beginning and the course of this discussion can read the comments, and see how you have been jumping from a point to another. Be consistent, Mr. JP, because there is no way anybody is going to put you in Tom de Waal's camp, that will be soooo flattering to you.

JP said...

oh, steady now.

Yes, in this case, Georgia was the aggressor. It launched an offensive, and said goodbye to dialogue. It lost its claim to this territory, and more by default.

Take a look at openDemocracy, they have a number of pieces which claim the same thing.

So, what are your sources? You mostly cite this or that 'respected' journalist. One that works for a publication free of influence, I suppose. You told me that the left-wing media is full of lies, so that rather narrows your options. My guess is that if it is generally anti-Putin, you deem it a reliable source.

Mr de Waal, on the other hand, seems much more balanced, even if he is just a journalist (a journalist is as good as an analyst who relies on journalism, wouldn't you say). He wrote on 12 August, and has done so again since. I haven't seen anyone counter his view convincingly.

i actually talked about provocations, not provocations by Georgia. Provocations also camme from the Ossetian side, and indeed from the Russian. But you have jumped in and say I'm talking about Georgian provocations, which is not what I was saying. Guilt attaches itself to the Georgian shock and awe offensive. The responsibilies invested in a government to respect the lives and livelihoods of its citizens, and as Georgia claims the Ossetians were its own citizens, then it evidently failed.

Evacuating children does mean that war is feared, yes. I would say it was a natural precaution given te rising tension. One which turned out to be sensible. When did Georgia decide to attack Tskhinvali? Who knows. The Ossetians didn't, but they probably suspected there might be such an assault. All that Georgian build-up over the years, then the drones, then the tension over the summer and the military exercises.

Actually I was quoting your own "What about the idea of a “Third Rome”, the “Eurasian” idea, the “chosen-by-God-nation” belief shared by growing number of Russians, the strong belief of a “great mission of Russia”, when I mentioned Russian bases. Mutual consent in Syria, and probably now in Ossetia too. Historical reasons in Georgia (now closed). i didn't say anything about mutual consent in relation to Moldova (Romania) in the 1940s. You added that, and its pretty much beyond our discussion.

Columbia, thought so. Actually, I don't promote the Kremlin's logic. I wish you would stop doing that. I have my own logic. And discussions do jump from one topic to another; do you not have many conversations?

I'm in Mr de Waal's camp because I generally support his point of view. He sems reasonable. He'd be more likely to write something which is nuanced and balanced, and les likely to paint the world as a contest betgween black and white.

As I remember it we began with our discussion about whether trade with the SU was quite common (it was), and my assertion that Georgia acted to distract its people from domestic concerns. Seems about right to me.

Дмитрий Мынзэрарь (Dumitru Minzarari) said...

Look, I'm getting tired of it, honestly. I brought to your attention opinions of the people that WERE in the war zone, during the war, on BOTH sides, that SAW WITH THEIR OWN EYES events – meaning they were somewhat impartial WITNESSES and not just "respected" journalists. If you all the time ignore the core content of my arguments, take them out of context and twist them changing the message they were communicating, then I have no more desire to discuss with you, because I don't want to waste my time. Actually you treat my arguments similar to how you treat Edward’s posts – you can’t object to the main idea, so what you do is picking on specific insignificant or unrelated issues and trying to develop another discussion. Bringing confusion into it, you attempt to question the initial point that you could not attack directly.
I asked you "what definition of aggression do you use?", what is your reference point, and you just continue to repeat the same again and again. Can't you see, you need to accept a system of logic coordinates to discuss this issue, otherwise I talk international law, and you respond with some kitchen chat. You state Georgia "lost its claim to this territory" - but WHY? I am very straightforward and honest with you - as long as you use laud statements with no palpable logic behind them, with no explanation, it is useless to have any discussion with you. Save your time and the time of others, and either adopt a civilized and informed debate style, or don't get annoyed when nobody will respond to you, except the newcomers (until they understand what you are).
That is how you wrote about "provocations" : "It initiated the switch from a series of provocations, to launching a major offensive", talking about Georgia. Wasn’t it about Georgia?
Next, yes, you quoted me with the “Third Rome” but as I said in the above message, and you again seem to not understand, you quoted it in the wrong context. And I gave a comprehensive explanation about it in my previous posts.
Your "mutual consent" claim can work in the example of Syria, because you talk about two states, but it is wrong to use it in the case of South Ossetia, because this is a region of Georgia, and what you say means that Russia have violated the territorial integrity of Georgia. Your (unclear) historical reasons in Georgia are non-existent, and my example of how Moldova was convinced to agree on this “mutual consent” is similar to how other soviet republics were created, including Georgia. It is very much related and not beyond our discussion, unlike some of quotes and examples you used.
So what about Columbia – I’m rather curious? Discussions do tend to jump from one topic to another. But usually that happens when you ‘re done with a topic, and not because you can’t prove one topic that you switch to another.
Mr. de Waal is promoting another idea, and not the one that Georgia was an aggressor, if you can understand it. Besides, there are many opinions that disagree with him, which are not necessarily only on OpenDemocracy. And you know what? I am not sure if I write a well argued response to one of Mr. de Waal’s articles, that the editors from Open Democracy would like to publish it.
I showed your initial claims were based on a faulted ground, and you moved now into forcing the idea that Russia was right and Georgia was an aggressor. Isn’t this a radical switch? Besides, you seem to not accept as a basic of our discussion the international law, instead you base your opinion on some sort of your own principles, which are unclear to me. You also ignore any had evidence that I bring, and you seem either to not know many elementary things about Russia, and other areas of our discussion, or to pretend you don’t, which altogether makes any constructive talk with you rather difficult. In other words it looks like I’d show you a red brick saying – it is a red brick, to which you respond that I hold a piece of wood. You arguments about the Russian bases on the territory of Georgia are wrong, and if you do not want to accept my reasoning, look to what Russian military experts wrote about this, or talk to Western military experts. I do believe that the hidden reasons were those presented by me, while the surface reasons included the Russian show about how Moscow carries out its obligations and promises. Btw, I am military officer by training, although I am not anymore with the military.
Nope, you are not in Mr. Waal’s camp, because he supports his ideas with understandable arguments based on a widely acceptable system of logic coordinates. One knows that he can have a constructive discussion with him, because it is clear what he bases his logic on. You, on the other side, do the opposite – so far I have no idea what are you basing your logic on? Why Georgia is an aggressor, and why Russia is not, even though Russia did violate the UN Charter, while Georgia did not. Russia did violate also the Helsinki Final Act, recognizing the two rebel regions (even though in an unseen hypocrite gesture it stated it was in accordance with it), and it promised before that it will not recognize their independence, but it did anyway. You don’t want to accept hard evidence communicated by journalists who have witnessed the war, and are Russian (so you cannot accuse them of being anti-Russian). Well, and many other things. Therefore, since we both accepted we will not reach an agreement, why don’t we conclude our futile discussion?