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Russia's Next Move in Georgia

Fred Weir has a solid report in the Christian Science Monitor on the conflict between Russia and Georgia. Russian officials, so far, are saying that they will not escalate the conflict beyond Georgia's breakaway republics, Abkhazia and South Ossetia:

"Russia is not at war" with Georgia, defense ministry spokesman Anatoly Nagovitsyn told journalists in Moscow Sunday. "Our main goal is to stabilize the situation in South Ossetia."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Krasin, talking to journalists in Moscow Sunday, did not rule out peace talks but suggested that they would be difficult and could only begin when Georgia meets certain conditions.

If Russia indeed keeps this conflict restricted, as the spokespersons hint, it might win or force a draw in the post-war battle of words that will be waged in the west. There are strong parallels with the recent actions of NATO in Kosovo, which Russia is actively drawing:

There are growing hints, however, that Russia may be planning to use its military victory to permanently dismember Georgia. Russian officials are employing language uncannily similar to that used by NATO when it seized the Albanian-populated province of Kosovo in a 1999 war and then recognized its permanent break from Serbia earlier this year.

"The actions of the Georgian leadership in South Ossetia are a crime against their own people," said Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who flew to the Russian republic of North Ossetia on Saturday. "There are elements of some kind of genocide against the Ossetian people. It's hard to imagine, after all that's happened, that they'll be able to convince South Ossetia to be a part of Georgia."

The current situation does not only have analogies with Kosovo, the conflict is at least in part caused by the recognition of Kosovo, which Russia responded to by strengthening ties to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, triggering a more aggresive posture by Georgia. This was in fact something many talked about in advance, as Steve Clemons makes clear on the Washington Note.

However, there are also other aspects to this crisis, one of which is the restoration of Russian self-confidence in its sphere of influence. In that light, an analogy could be drawn with Operation Urgent Fury, the 1983 US-led invasion of Grenada. This is a much larger scale, however, and if Russia actively tries to conquer Georgia and depose its democratically elected government, it would antagonise the west for decades.

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SC on :

If your analogy to Operation Urgent Fury is correct, then what is your prognosis for the success of a negotiated end to this? Did Krasin happen to expand on what those "conditions" are that Georgia must meet _before_ talks can even begin? And that's only speaking of S. Ossietia. What will be demanded with respect to Abkhazia, I wonder? Tick tock, tick tock . . . So far, it doesn't appear that Russia is all that concerned about the "long-term damage" to its relations with either the US or Europe and maybe they should be; in particular, with Europe. The point has been made in the previous post by Professor Wolff that perhaps the EU is best positioned to affect a negotiated end. I'm willing to accept that he's right, given that the US is a bit preoccupied at the moment. Good time for the EU membership to step up. So, short of granting Moscow carte blanche in dictating the terms of the peace to come, what exactly are the EU nations prepared to sacrifice to make credible a threat of damage to relations? And failing to do this - a very small chance to be sure - what will be the fall out?

Nanne on :

I honestly don't know what Europe is willing to do if Russia chooses to wage an all out war on Georgia. One thing it could do in response, to force a stand-off, is admit Ukraine into NATO and rush troops in, as well as detach troops and a few squadrons of fighters to the north-east of Turkey. In cooperation with the US. This is all speculation, though. If Russia does not move to conquer Georgia, which I deem to be the most likely scenario, Russia will have a very strong hand in post-war negotiations, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia will likely be put on a path towards independence (e.g. scheduling a referendum in x years) as part of the terms. What we could get in return is an agreement to put an international peacekeeping force in, to which Europe could contribute (part of) the necessary troops. Prior to this war, there were 1,500 'peacekeepers', and something along the lines of 2,000 to 4,000 troops would be managable.

Marie-Claude on :

"This conflict, then, has the potential to be a proxy war between Russia and the West, except that this is an outcome that every Western leader wants to avoid. Britain would be faced with a very different situation now if Georgia were not a candidate member of Nato but a full partner. We should be obliged to view any attack on Georgia as an attack on Nato and respond accordingly. Membership is not a vague statement of friendship. It carries with it grave responsibilities." OK, thank you Frau Merkel and Mr Sarkozy !!!! http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/leading-articles/leading-article-a-war-on-our-blind-side-889635.html "If you are in Moscow and you are looking at the tools that the U.S., NATO and the EU have, what are they?" asked a former senior State Department official who requested anonymity to speak more freely. "Nobody is going to send troops, so you are going to get away with it." http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/v-print/story/47174.html

SC on :

Any fast tracking of the Ukraine into NATO, at first glance seems like a worthy reward for Russia's recent moves. But I wonder how ready NATO's membership - much less the EU - would be for that given the growling that would commence from Moscow and the ethnic tensions which Russia could just as easily foment both in the Ukraine and in Moldova (a neighbor of current NATO member Romania) as it has in Georgia. Threatening to put NATO on a collision course with Russia seems like the antithesis of soft-power and might put member states at odds with one another. While you're probably right that Russia doesn't wish to be seen as "conquering Georgia", since it can achieve it's ends - whatever they may be - short of that, they may not be fully in control of events, again, think Abkhazia. I believe there are other players in the region as well besides these two. The problem with playing the ethnonationist card is that others get the idea that they can play too. So, to stabilize Ossetia, and Abkhazia to come, may require effectively conquering Georgia. The problem for EU member states is that short of economic reprisals down the road, I don't see much leverage that it can threaten use. This seems unlikely given that the pain would be felt as much, or more, by Europeans as by Russians. There's no happy ending here. But given the success of Russian arms in dismembering a sovereign state in the Caucasus, and the lack of effective European response, I wonder what the effect will be within Europe. Already there seems to be a more aggressive stance taken by Eastern European nations relative to their western partners. What tensions will this engender. Any effects on a common defense policy? I wonder. Bear in mind that these kinds of instabilities and inadequacies have historically been concerns held in Washington and are what has kept American arms in Europe for more than 60 years now. So, we were supposed to have moved past all that?

Nanne on :

South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been de facto independent for around 15 years, and Russia moved several thousand troops down into Abkhazia as well over the weekend. Of course the caucasus is a hotbed, Russia is still fighting a low-intensity guerilla war in the south of Chechnya. But it has steadily been expanding its control over the area. You are right to note that there are also ethnic and cultural issues in the Ukraine, mainly, in the east where people are culturally more attuned to Russia and large Russian majorities exist (principally, in the Crimea). Currently the Russians are signalling that their operations are nearly complete (Medvedev) and one of their generals said that they will not push further. However, they have refused the ceasefire proposed by French Foreign Minister Kouchner. Despite whatever words are thrown out now, I think the war is winding down, unless the Georgians want to try their hands at another offensive.

SC on :

Yes, I think the Russians understand the game of diplomatic chess. They're demonstrating that they don't need the EU, NATO or anyone else to take care of matters. However, I won't be surprised if they allow a show of EU participation in the end game - particularly if something can be extracted for the consideration. In a televised interview this morning in Beijing, when asked what he had said to Putin, Bush responded saying that he had expressed his grave concern with Russia's disproportionate response outside of Ossetia. He said it carefully and was in his diplo-speak mode and manner. In particular with respect to any suggestions that Russia played Georgia in this affair, I think it an understatement to suggest that Georgia's President and government have not enhanced their desirability in the eyes of the NATO membership through this escapade; particularly as it seems to have been undertaken without consulting any of their presumed future partners. Whether or how this effects a potential Ukrainian application remains to be seen. Circumspection by all aspirants may be very much appreciated the by EU, NATO and the most particularly the US, at this moment.

Nanne on :

The big question is whether Russia considers the likely response of the west very important. It should, of course. But the situation is uncertain. The latest news is that Russia has apparently [url=http://www.russiatoday.com/news/news/28829]launched an attack[/url] to the west of Abkhazia, capturing a military base, and is also alleged to have [url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article4507980.ece]taken Gori[/url] (to the south of South Ossetia) by the Georgians, although Russia [url=http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSLB16164520080811]denies it[/url].

SC on :

Nanne, why should Russia care? Has it paid any significant price for Chechnya? What price will it pay if chooses to take Tblisi under the pretext that it's just trying to prevent further Georgian aggression in S. Ossetia? I know you're not a diplomat and carry no portfolio with responsibility for decisions or for having gamed these things out, but I was being polite in my response to your proposed actions to be taken if Russia expanded it's actions - as they now appear to be doing - for the following reasons: I doubt that you could point to anything which suggests that European governments are either willing, much less capable, of the actions you propose: Immediate admission of Ukraine to NATO; moving squadrons of aircraft to Turkey? Remember, I was suggesting actions to be taken by way of sacrifice by Europe, and by that I meant . . . alone. What meaningful response could EU nations mount alone in response to a Russian incursion into the Ukraine? What about a similar incursion into Latvia or Lithuania? Oh, that would be different because they are in NATO and . . . . Right. We come back to lessons learned and effects in Europe. What will they be I wonder? Marie-Claude has suggested one course in her expressed admiration for Gorbachev's proposal of a united Europe around the Russian pole. I'm sure she's not alone in that hope: perhaps even more so in the aftermath of all this? How's it all looking now? So, is this the change we can all believe in, folks?

Nanne on :

SC, I already stated upfront that I had no idea what the EU governments are willing to do and that this was all speculation. "Much less capable" is not accurate, however. The combined militaries of the EU NATO countries are perfectly capable of forcing a stand-off with Russia in the Eastern Europe theatre. They have greater manpower (nearly 2:1) and better equipment. I'm not suggesting anything that is militarily impossible. I don't feel like going into further speculation as to which actions by the Russians will drive which kind of response by Europe. We will see how this develops over the following days.

SC on :

The questions were rhetorical and simply point to things that bear watching in the future; well, at least ones I think will be interesting in the future. Granted, the combination of NATO-EU forces are more than capable of taking care of matters if and when deployed. But you have to admit, the Russians aren't showing much in the way of care about that or much concern over political fallout.

SC on :

I should have added that, in the matter of capabilities, I was thinking in terms of purely European forces absent American contributions. In that regard, you might agree that my comments have some relevance: for example, think that the US heavy lift, and logistical, capabilities generally would be sorely missed. In terms of lessons learned, I shall watch with interest how this will affect European discussions related to purely joint EU military forces and security issues as well as individual member states actions related to defense; i.e. budgets and the like. To quote one famous American: "You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun." -Al Capone :) Good to keep in mind, just in case we haven't completely made it to a postmodern Utopia. ;)

SC on :

By the way, any word yet on those additional demands of the Georgians deemed necessary by the Russians before any peace talks can commence? Not having heard or searched for them myself, I'm willing to hazard the following guess as to one of them: that Saakashvili resign as President. Oops . . . just checked and it appears that Khalilzad claims that the demand was made. If that turns out to be the case, will the EU representatives advocate for or against? Saakashvili was democratically elected, you might recall. Now reports in the NY Times are that Russian forces have moved beyond S. Ossetia http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/12/world/europe/12georgia.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1 and appear to have Gori in their sights. If you're out there reading Joerg, would this be unacceptably far enough beyond S. Ossetia to merit a few tsk, tsks here? And, Nanne, someone might want to quiz that Russian general as to his definition of "further" and Medvedev, if not Putin, as to what "completion" will look like. I had to laugh when I read this in the article linked above: "The Bush administration said it would seek a resolution from the United Nations Security Council condemning Russian military actions in Georgia." Well, this serves to show that our diplomats and governement have a sense of humor. And apparently the Russians too have one if the following is to be believed: "Russia dropped a bomb on Tbilisi’s international airport shortly before Mr. Kouchner, the French foreign minister, was due to land, Georgian officials said."

Joe Noory on :

I would suspect that they're willing to do absolutely nothing that would require comprimise on the part of the Russians. They reason Kouchner's there right now is because he'll tell it to people's face, and the Russians didn't kill his trip in one phone call because he knows where western Europe gets it's energy. As for the rest of the population, a much more predictable collection of opinions is emerging from our [url=http://no-pasaran.blogspot.com/2008/08/we-are-all-russians-now-georgian.html]wise lesson givers[/url].

joe on :

nanne You asked what Europe could do. The answer other than making a lot of noise is NOTHING. There are lots of reasons for this two being it lacks the means and it lacks the will to do anything. So much for NATO. I would suggest you consider the message and the responce (or lack of ) from the West to Russia and the nations of central Europe. I find it to be chilling frankly

Marie-Claude on :

Kossovo cause : http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/238172/8b28a847e2/542001500/ce988f0798/ http://www.dedefensa.org/article.php?art_id=5337 "and if Russia actively tries to conquer Georgia and depose its democratically elected government, it would antagonise the west for decades." I have read somewhere that he was elected with an impossible score, 76 % or 96 % (I must refind the source), plus that his opponant was found dead, mysteriously, so ?

Pat Patterson on :

Why print the rumor and then suggest you might have to check your facts? Wouldn't checking the facts, Saakashvii won with 53.47% of the vote in 2008, be the first thing to do rather than the last? And the one opponent, Badri Patarkatskshvii, who died after the 2008 election did so in England after meeting with his Russian business partners.

Don S on :

Pat, that's a bit of a trend in the UK. An ex-USSR emigrant suddenly (or not so suddenly) drops dead after 'meeting with Russian business associates. The Brits are getting very disturbed by this afer a case 3 years ago when a associate of Berenovsky (the former oil billionaire on Putin's 'most wanted dead' list) died after being poisoned by a radiocative substance not commonly available on the street after a meeting with such people. But most European countries seem unconcerned by Putin's increasingly open threats, open KGB operations on the streets of European cities, and now a war. I learned last week that the Georgian war was 'an act of hegenomy'. I was about to agree when it became clear that the person meant 'an act of US hegenomy'. Too subtle for me, possibly Bush has some kind of mind control ray which he uses on Putin?

SC on :

Not Bush: Rove's evil mind rays. Geez, Don. Everyone knows that. Don't you know? Bush isn't trusted with them: a fear that he might zap himself.

Marie-Claude on :

ok, you have the source ?

Pat Patterson on :

For some reason I can't get the link to Open Democracy to work but that is where the 53% figure comes from via an article by Robert Parsons on Nov. 1, 2008. A higher figure of 59.2% is mentioned in the CIA World Factbook; https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gg.html#Govt As to the death of Badri Patarkatsishvii initial suspicion fell on the Russians, he had an outstanding felony warrant there, but multiple sources, take your pick, describe his death as from natural causes due to a massive heart attack. But then this is what you should have done before hitting Submit Comment and then demanding someone else do your homework.

Marie-Claude on :

than you Pat I found also the percentage astonnishing, anyway, I have been reading so many papers, I can't figure anymore where it was. I'll try tomorrow

SC on :

Zbig speaks and recommends doubling down: "In view of what has happened, NATO ought to extend the membership action plan to Georgia, therefore reinforcing the commitment NATO made in Bucharest last March to the effect that NATO intends, at some future point, to include Georgia." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-gardels/brzezinski-russias-invasi_b_118029.html

Marie-Claude on :

Zbig is the idiot that has the responsability of the big mess from the last quater of the 20th century, that we watch the results today

SC on :

Well, you won't find me defending Zbig. I posted this for two reasons: His is one voice among many who are already considering the fallout. But also, Zbig has been a foreign policy adviser to Senator Obama: Is this "the change you can believe in", Marie-Claude? :)

Pamela on :

However, there are also other aspects to this crisis, one of which is the restoration of Russian self-confidence in its sphere of influence. In that light, an analogy could be drawn with Operation Urgent Fury, the 1983 US-led invasion of Grenada. --------------------------- Grenada? Are you out of your mind? What are you smoking? I want some. It's probably legal in Amsterdam. So, I'm sitting here watching how all the EU 'soft power' is working out. Should be interesting. Don't bother calling, we're busy.

Nanne on :

Pamela, I'm not going to implicate myself by telling you what I'm smoking, of course ;-) The Grenada analogy is meant to show the symbolic importance of a successful military operation. Grenada was important for the USA in terms of its self-confidence (damaged after Vietnam and Iran and Lebanon). It was also a sign that the US did not tolerate further encroachment in its sphere of influence. The scale was completely different, as I noted. As for 'don't bother calling', the USA has been the principal supporter for Georgian membership of NATO in the recent past, alongside former communist countries like Poland and the Baltic states.

Pamela on :

Grenada was important for the USA in terms of its self-confidence (damaged after Vietnam and Iran and Lebanon). -------------------- Nanne, I love ya but this is where we part company. Granada meant nothing to most Americans. Stand in Times Square or Main Street Wichita Kansas and ask any American, "So what does Grenada mean to you?". Better yet, ask them to spell it. Blank looks are guaranteed. Yes, the U.S. has supported Georgia's accession to NATO. Talk about not tolerating encroachment on a sphere of influence. Georgia is going down and the U.S. will do nothing. And this means what for Europe?

SC on :

Nanne, I don't think you mean to go down the road of "blame America" for this mess in your post above. However, let me make this one small point: I think the admission of Poland and the Baltic countries to NATO was one hook with future accession to the EU another that was meant to tie all them into a larger western European community. Enlargement of this community, and most particularly its values, ought always to be seen as something positive not something to regret, even at times like this.

Nanne on :

I indeed don't mean to go down that road. The blame for this would go out to Saakashvili and the Kremlin. There are some background events that had a negative influence (e.g. Kosovo), but those were not just American decisions. The decision to allow Poland and the Baltics (and a slew of other former communist states) into NATO was taken by NATO in its entirety, and indeed seemed to function as a stepping stone for getting into the EU. So it was at least as much a European as an American policy. It would be easy to blame America for all developments that turned out to have the side-effect of antagonising Russia, but most if not all were joint decisions with Europe, or decisions fully supported by the European countries.

Fuchur on :

[i]So, I'm sitting here watching how all the EU 'soft power' is working out.[/i] And I'm sitting here watching how the famous American 'hard power' will, like, totally intimidate Russia... [i]Don't bother calling, we're busy.[/i] Gee, that's interesting. So you mean to say that the UK, Italy, Poland, the Ukraine, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, the Czech Republik, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Norway etc. shouldn't expect anything in return for their troubles on your behalf?! I guess American gratitude and 50 Cent will buy you a nice lollipop these days...

Fuchur on :

70 as of 2004; according to this site: http://www.pwhce.org/willing.html

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Thanks, Fuchur. I also did some googling in the meantime and learned from a [url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6433289.stm]BBC article [/url]in 2007: [quote]Georgia has announced that it will more than double the number of troops it has serving with the US-led forces in Iraq from 850 to 2,000.[/quote] Wow, I wonder why they send so many more troops to Iraq in 2007... They probably expected some favor in return with push comes to shove.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"Don't bother calling, we're busy." The European Union is not calling the US as far as I know... And it seems Georgia is not calling the US either. Saakashvili is posing with the EU flag in the background, not the star spangled banner... I wonder why...

SC on :

Whew! Thank goodness! We're off the hook this time. ;)

Pamela on :

And it seems Georgia is not calling the US either. Saakashvili is posing with the EU flag in the background, not the star spangled banner... I wonder why... ----------------------- Um, ----------- We helped in Iraq - now help us, beg Georgians As Russia forces its neighbour to retreat from South Ossetia, the people of Gori tell our correspondent of betrayal by the West. (...) ---------------------- It is long past time that Europe figures out that guns and ammo are worth something. You can whine all you want about the U.S. not helping Georgia. We can but we won't. Hard to swallow. I hate it. You simply can't. And it's time you started looking over your shoulder. Because you're next.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ Pamela [i]"And it's time you started looking over your shoulder. Because you're next."[/i] There is no need for the EU to increase defense spending. [url=http://www.monkeyreview.co.uk/index.php/2008/04/01/russia-vodka-yoga]Alcoholism in Russia[/url] will work in our favor. ;-)

SC on :

You mean, it's not about oil . . . it's about the WINE!!! :) Sorry, couldn't help it. God, I gotta get back to work! ;)

Pamela on :

. it's about the WINE!!! :) WHINE fixed.

SC on :

Good, you appreciate dreadful puns too, Pam. You realize there's a special place in Hell awaiting us - or so I've been told. :) Now I really do have to go. Mathematics calls and there's a paper to write. Cheers!

StopGang on :

No. That's absolutely about blood. Bear is hungry.

Pat Patterson on :

No, it's the potatos dude! Part of all four food groups and construction materials in Russia today.

StopGang on :

Alkoholism is used there to control masses , make them happy and better than neighbours.

StopGang on :

there's old anecdote about 2 russians walking down the street in Germany. One tells another after some time: - Vasia, let's hit faces of these ..(censored)... that walk ahead of us and dare to speak strange language! - What if they will knock our faces? - Us? For what ?!

Pamela on :

Германия делает одну из двух вещей. Попытка завоевать. Другой - сдача. Каково население, которое предпочло бы жить позади стены? Better start learning Russian.

Thorsten on :

[quote]Германия делает одну из двух вещей. Попытка завоевать. Другой - сдача.[/quote] Я лично предпочитаю первое. Это - pursuit of happiness. [quote]Каково население, которое предпочло бы жить позади стены?[/quote] Если мы действительно бы то предпочитали, мы стену бы не снесли. Но вы этого не знали, правильно? [quote]Better start learning Russian.[/quote] We do know Russian. Why did you learn Russian?

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