Thursday, August 07, 2008

War in Georgia

he Caucasus

Bang bang, who’s dead?
Aug 7th 2008
From The Economist print edition

Sabre-rattling continues in a dangerous corner of Europe

IF IT is not the prelude to a real war, it risks being mistaken for one—and in a corner of Europe where Western and Russian interests could clash nastily. The talk of war has been in the air for months. But in the past two weeks six people have been killed in the breakaway (and Russian-backed) region of South Ossetia.

Claim and counterclaim abound. Russia says that Georgia fired first and is reinforcing its forces as a prelude to war. It sent warplanes into Georgian airspace last month—to deter an attack, it said. It also blames Georgian warplanes for violating South Ossetian airspace. Georgia says this is disinformation: Russia and its South Ossetian allies “are trying to create an alternative reality”, says a spokesman. Georgia has brought foreign ambassadors to inspect its lightly armed guard posts which, it insists, fire only in self-defence. This is by no means the first skirmish in the region. Georgian and South Ossetian politicians wrangled about a possible meeting on August 7th aimed at calming the mood.

But the row has given Russia a chance to step up pressure on Georgia, portrayed in the Russian media as a tiresome and aggressive Western stooge. The South Ossetian leader, Eduard Kokoity, said that he would force Georgian forces out of his self-declared republic (which is a patchwork of villages and small towns, some controlled by Georgian authorities and others by separatists). He says 300 Russian irregulars have come to his aid.

The quarrel in South Ossetia follows an escalation of tension in the other breakaway region of Georgia, Abkhazia. Russia has reinforced its military presence there, which is nominally part of a UN-monitored peacekeeping effort. A German-drafted peace plan for the economic revival of Abkhazia, indefinite autonomy and the return of Georgian refugees has so far stalled. The Abkhaz authorities are uneasy about the Russian embrace, but fear the return of ethnic Georgian refugees, once the largest ethnic group in the region.

The Kremlin’s immediate aim seems to be to force Georgia to return to the Joint Control Commission in South Ossetia. This body comprises Georgia, Russia, South Ossetia and the Russian republic of North Ossetia, just across the border, with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), a Vienna-based multilateral body, as an observer. Georgia thinks that this is intolerably unbalanced and has walked out.

Russia also wants Georgia to give a formal guarantee that it will not use force in either breakaway region. Georgia thinks that unless its refugees can return this would amount to de facto recognition of the secessionists. It wants a stronger OSCE presence, demilitarisation, and international (not Russian) peacekeepers. It also wants joint Georgian-Russian control of the Roki tunnel under the Caucasus mountains. This, Georgia says, is used both for smuggling and for illegal reinforcements to South Ossetia.

Russia’s broader aim may be to try to roll back the advance of pro-Western forces in its “near abroad” by highlighting the West’s inability to help Georgia. The hotting up of Georgia’s conflicts coincided with Kosovo’s declaration of independence, recognised by much of the West, and American pressure for the expansion of NATO to Georgia and Ukraine.

That move has been stymied, mainly by Germany; Georgia was promised eventual NATO membership but no firm plan. Though Georgia has become a vital corridor for oil and gas exports to Europe, this has not brought the support that its leaders had expected. A lame-duck American administration has been able to do little, though Georgians hope a presidential-election victory by John McCain, an ardent supporter, may change their fortunes. The country’s strong-willed and idiosyncratic president, Mikheil Saakashvili, is not seen by all European leaders as quite the paragon of legality, freedom and reform that he claims to be. Georgia’s image was severely dented in November last year by a crackdown against the opposition.

Georgia is in a quandary: its Western friends tell it to stay calm yet seem unable to stop Russian bullying. It is all too easy to imagine misjudgements on either side leading to a real war. Georgian officials will spend August nervously at their desks. Some of their European counterparts may have other plans. As the recipients of an often daily blizzard of alarms and appeals from Georgia, they think that a summer break might be just the ticket.


Unknown said...

Saakashvili behaves like a Hitler.
He tolds that he wants a peace, but at same time kills peace people in South Ossetia. His target are not military, he wants to kill all Ossetian people (non-Georgian) like Hitler wanted to kill non-Aryan people. It is genocide.
He talks a lot of misinformation about Russia. The aim of Russia is to defend their people and peacekeepers. There were no any warplanes bombbing Tbilisi. Russians are only at Tskhinvali as peacekeepers.

Unknown said...

Russia looks good on the surface according your vision, but behind the scenes is a totally differend deal. As always.
Russia simply couldn't care less about minorities - that's the fact as we may know from history about Soviet Unioun. Russia have Americans in mind. Well, it's a good strategy to weaken Gorgia and maybe occupy it in the future. Georgia has an oil pipe in the south side. So why not to have Georgians under contol? It makes perfect sence since Russia wants to control the whole world. It's a step forward.
Pathetic. But that's the genes, ladies and gentlemen. Russia is as bully as you can get.

Oleg said...

Sunking, what you say is laughable indeed! Russia wants to conquer the whole world?? Sure, it was Russia who bombed Serbia, who invaded Iraq two times, who bombed Afghanistan etc.etc.... Don't tell me about oil pipe in Georgia, for Russia has tons of its own oil and pipes. And please, don't forget about big difference between Soviet Union and present Russia. Two absolutely different countries.

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Unknown said...

Jea... well, I think I was talking about the genes of Russia. Part of the genes is that you always justify one bad behaviour by pointing to other bad behaviour (in this case Iraq, Afghanistan...) and you newer look at yourselves. You do not even grieve for the mistakes that's has been make. You proud of your country and buy into the system. Even Putin advocates, or even rewrites history. And you believe. You have no choice unless you travel and embrace other cultures, talk to other people.
So, to me Russia as a country is the worst enemy in the world (because it's powerful) and I am sure every human being knows that. Except the Russians. That's my problem. My headache is Russia, because Russia may invade other country with a blink of an eye and kill those with whom it disagrees.

Anonymous said...

If your media belongs to professional ones, you could not miss the true information. But you either do not want to deliver the truth, or it is forbidden to you.
Didn’t you know, that Georgian heavy artillery during the first 12 hours on 07.08.2008 night (when Russians did not yet move at all) killed almost 1600 civilians in Ossetia? Russian peace-keeping troops were forced to protect the victims, although began their activities too late, the day after, when the Georgian troops had already killed and burned thousands of women and children. This is the truth.
But your media delivers only “trench propaganda” from agressor’s side in style of Dr. Goebbels.
That’s very sorry, that free and independent information does not exist in the West any more!


Anton said...

Oh I beg you, your genetic argument is full of nonsense. Not one nation has participated, started as many wars as the US, what about those genes?

Suking, maybe Russia doesn't care about minorities, not for me to judge, nevertheless it is the Russian doctors and peacekeepers,who are saving lives of S.Ossetians from the Georgian invasion.

If you live your life in accordance to national and historical stereotypes, I can only feel sorry for you.

Poulnes, I also think that the Western media is full of bias and lies, this war has particularly opened my eyes, and made me reconsider Western convictions regarding War on Terror, Iraq and even the tensions with Iran.

Unknown said...

Speaking as someone having been grown up in the Soviet Union, I can assure you I know what I am talking about.
During the times of the Soviet Union we were locked in like dogs inside this Soviet totalitarian mess. That was our nightmare and once it collapsed, I began traveling all over the world. Now I know the difference and my genetic study about Russia, anton, is somewhat mature.
I am also correct predicting that you are having the U.S. in mind ceaselessly, even occupying Georgia at the time.
Let me remind you that you type criticism on computers run by American software, and I guess without acknowledging that your lives have been made healthier and longer by the advances of American medicine. America was the driving force making the creation of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World bank all in 1945 after the stupid war. Over the last twenty years the U.S. actions have been to lift millions of people from poverty. Without America that would very likely not have happened. I suppose you, anton, oleg and the others simply fail to imagine what the world without the U.S. would be like. Do you imagine your country in charge of all that? Let's hope you do not imagine.
So by and large, America is fighting a good war and it is just impossible to compare it to Russia. Georgia is just a muscle flexing deal for Russia and my study is based not on scrutinizing the media. I know how biased the media is all over the world, particularly in Russia, therefore my study is based on imagination and common sense and imagination is more important than knowledge (Einstein).

Anton said...

I will answer your point as someone, who has also lived in several Soviet Republics,someone who has lost relatives and ancestors in days of Stalin's Chistki and someone, whose life has been limited by the Soviet aparatus. Fortunately I haves also lived in Great Britain and Germany, therefore I am fairly open to liberal ideas and the argument at the other side of the table.

Nevertheles... I will agree with you, that the US is somewhat of a kind giant, however it has lost its moral high ground in the last twenty years, having defeated communism,America has lost any sense of opposition, the country does whatever it wishes now... you believe that US is fighting a good war because it is in the interest of the west and yourself perhaps, however it doesn't mean it is a moral war.

Being someone who understands Russia, I can say with full assurance that Russia didn't need this war, it didn't start it, because it has just recently gotten out of war in Chechnya, and despite your "genetic study", you don't understand how much psychological damage has this war done to Russia, it is war fatigue. Russia has plenty of things to do in its country, and the last thing it ever needed is war with Georgia, a brother nation.

As for some historical parallels, two of the worlds most democratic and prosperous nations have also once been on bent on totalitarian wishes to conquer the world, and in the matter of several decades they have become states, that the world looks up to in terms of achievement in democracy and economy. Of course, I have in mind Germany and Japan. So you see, regimes do change, and if Germany's European partners would have treated the Bundesrepublik the way you treat Russia, we wouldn't have EU today.

My point being, regimes change, so do national ideas and aspirations.However, being in your situation you will always recognized Russia, the way you knew it, the Soviet Union, and no matter what happens you will always look for the most negatives sides of that country, because frankly, subconsciously, you hate Russia.

As for your study, I have come across similar genetic projects by Estonian scientists, who were aiming to prove that Russians are disadvantegeous,barbaric and aggressive people. Needless to say, similar genetic and sociological studies have been carried out by Nazi scientists regarding the Jews, the Slavs and everyone else the Third Reich regime hated, it is all to familiar.Russophobia is your pro blem.

Anonymous said...

Please, do not forget historical facts: Ossetia and Abkhazia NEVER WERE a part of Georgia. Only under Stalin's rule they were forced to be nominated as a part of the so called Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. But during all the periods of Georgia's independace (in 1918-1923 and 1991 up to now) Ossetia and Abkhazia constantly lived under a state of war with Georgia, not even one day of peace! So Russia saved these people from total elimination. Now there are NO Russian troops in Georgia, they are only in Ossetia and Abkhazia, whose population never agreed to Georgian rule over them.