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Russian tanks and jets roll into Georgia
August 8, 2008 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Reports are coming in of up to 150 armoured vehicles entering South Ossetia.

Russian peacekeepers have been on the ground in Georgia since 1992, and have reported being attacked in the last 24 hours during heavy fighting between seperatist forces and Georgian troops.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev claims "Georgian peacekeepers opened fire on the Russian peacekeepers with whom they are supposed to work together to carry out their mission of maintaining peace in this region." and goes on to say
It is these circumstances that dictate the steps we will take now. We will not allow the deaths of our fellow citizens to go unpunished. The perpetrators will receive the punishment they deserve.
Georgian politicians say 'this means war'.
posted by Happy Dave (372 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Soviet Union II, the Summer blockbuster of the year.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:01 AM on August 8, 2008


This is not a constructive comment, but it does express my feeling on the matter:

Shit.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:02 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


o man they need to get that male military choir posse back together and get all basil poledouris on that shit
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:03 AM on August 8, 2008


Sorry for my total ignorance, but can someone give/point to a synopsis of the context here?
posted by DU at 8:05 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm with DU. I realize this is a Bad Thing, but could use some context on why tanks are running about.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:08 AM on August 8, 2008


Does anyone have an alliance with Georgia?
posted by drezdn at 8:09 AM on August 8, 2008


Unreal. They're counting on the Olympics to suck up all the air for the next couple of weeks. What a cynical bunch of bastards.
posted by felix betachat at 8:10 AM on August 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


DU, c_m: Georgian-Ossetian conflict.
posted by phooky at 8:12 AM on August 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Let's just cut to the chase, shall we? Here's your context:

Existing and planned natural gas pipelines in and around the Caspian Sea.

Oil Export Issues in the Caspian Sea Region.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:12 AM on August 8, 2008 [17 favorites]


I was wondering abou the Olympics angle, too. Apparently, the country of Georgia does have a team there, but all the stories on that Yahoo! page are about athletes from the American state of Georgia. Whoops.
posted by yhbc at 8:13 AM on August 8, 2008


Soviet Union II, the Summer blockbuster of the year.

This is a dramatic oversimplification and is not constructive.
posted by nasreddin at 8:14 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


It won't happen, obviously, but the IOC should condemn the Russian attack and send its delegation of athletes home. Using a global festival of sport as a cover for a nationalistic land grab and the murder of civilians is disgusting.
posted by felix betachat at 8:16 AM on August 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


Here's a Timeline.

I've always wondered about situations like this, because it seems like Russia is basically saying: "You will be a part of our country, and we'll keep bombing you till your grateful for that fact."

I mean, does that ever really work? (exempting things like the Civil War, naturally.)
posted by quin at 8:17 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


The wikipedia page phooky linked to above seems written by Russian psyops.. eg. "Men from the 113th elite bataillon from the Georgian army are charging up a hill where Ossetian rebels are entrenched. They are shooting from their positions on top on that hill."
posted by acro at 8:18 AM on August 8, 2008


I mean, does that ever really work?

I think there are a lot of ethnic Russians in the region, so if they can terrify the population sufficiently, there'll be a bunch of refugees and the place will be ethnically cleansed de facto. Historically, the Russians/Soviets have been very canny about sending ethnic Russians into border regions to lay the groundwork for a later claim of sovereignty.
posted by felix betachat at 8:20 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


nasreddin, I recognize that. I'll be sure to write a monograph about the topic before I post next time.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:20 AM on August 8, 2008 [7 favorites]


Invasions as punishment ALWAYS WORK!
posted by blue_beetle at 8:20 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Georgia split off from the old USSR, and immediately made nice with the west (wanted to join NATO, etc, pissing off Putin). One enclave (S. Ossetia) wants to stay part of Russia, and wanted to separate from Georgia.

The Ossetians have started shooting at Georgian troops, Georgian troops are being accused of ethnic cleansing, Russia has sent tanks in to "assist" their peacekeepers, and may be bombing civilian areas.

NATO has ties with Georgia and may be involved if Russia continues to escalate their response.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:21 AM on August 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


What drama. Putin and Bush are sitting in the same stadium today.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:23 AM on August 8, 2008


I guess I should have known that MeFi would be a contentless, evidenceless "OMG RUSSIANZ R EVIL" echo chamber. Go ahead, accuse me of being a Putin stooge.
posted by nasreddin at 8:25 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow, hope mefite piratebowling is hanging tough... she's in Georgia right now with the Peace Corps.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 8:26 AM on August 8, 2008 [11 favorites]


Lending it no credence myself, the real conspiracy theorists claim the Georgian move is to distract Russia from responding to an upcoming US attack on Iran.
posted by orthogonality at 8:27 AM on August 8, 2008


I just got back from Georgia a few weeks ago and my sister is still there doing humanitarian aid work.
Basically, there has been tension building for a while in the South Ossetia region and the Abkhazia region, both of which include a mix of Georgian nationalists and separatists who side with the Russian nationalists. Russia and Georgia have each been beefing up their military forces in these regions for at least a few months now, and everyone's been on edge waiting for full-scale violence to erupt from the random bouts of aggression.

I don't know what happened first- if the Georgians started bombing Ossetia or if the Russians provoked them by bringing extra tanks in, but now the conflict has begun in earnest.

Each side has been appealing to their larger, more powerful friends: Russia for the Ossetian separatists and the US for Georgian nationalists. Georgia tried to join NATO this year and got turned down but has been successful in other measures to align with the West and backs the US in Iraq. Making things more interesting, Bush is currently in Beijing with Putin.

More violence in Ossetia and new eruptions of violence in Abkhazia should be expected.
I hope (for the sake of Georgia, and my sister, and PirateBowling who is there) the conflict stays out of Tblisi, the capitol of Georgia.
posted by rmless at 8:27 AM on August 8, 2008 [13 favorites]


Oh, and for a more Georgian-centric view of the conflict (to provide a counterpoint to these Russian-centric links) here is an interview with the Georgian president.
posted by rmless at 8:29 AM on August 8, 2008


I guess I should have known that MeFi would be a contentless, evidenceless "OMG RUSSIANZ R EVIL" echo chamber. Go ahead, accuse me of being a Putin stooge.

No, you're just the first to rush to Putin's defense every time. The last time I paid attention to you, you were going to bat for good old Volodya on the subject of Litvinenko and Politkovskaya.
posted by Krrrlson at 8:30 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Am I over-reacting by having a nauseous, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach?

Yes?
posted by humannaire at 8:31 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ok please pardon me but at what point did they know Internal Affairs was on to them? (Simpsons... Homer at the brain washing camp???)

Seriously tho, is Russia invading Georgia because they are killing South Ossetians (humanitarian reason?)... or is Russia invading Georgia just because they want to (Red Dawn reason?) I get a little antsy when super powers invade anyone... expect for America tho.... because... err... ummm.... Oohhh... we always have an excellent reason for invading another sovereign nation.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:31 AM on August 8, 2008


nasreddin: if you have some knowledge of the situation, it would be nice if you let the rest of us in on it.
posted by Leon at 8:34 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I guess I should have known that MeFi would be a contentless, evidenceless "OMG RUSSIANZ R EVIL" echo chamber. Go ahead, accuse me of being a Putin stooge.

Do you have anything but pure carping? The links in this thread has been informative; you're hanging your overheated rhetoric on a single hyperbolic comment.
posted by grobstein at 8:34 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


So this is a viral for Watchmen, right?
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 8:36 AM on August 8, 2008 [24 favorites]


See also, recent news about pipeline fires and sabotage in the region.

At this point, I humbly suggest that all fpp's about conflicts in this region be accompanied by pipeline maps or oil field maps. We all know these conflicts are about energy, but the conflicts are going to be spun in the media and by governments as ethnic conflicts or battles for political (rather than economic) independence solely to agitate the local people to action and to keep the corporate and ruling class's interests safely hidden.

People are going to fight and die to enrich others without ever knowing that is what they are doing. We are going to hear tragic personal stories of loss but those tragedies will never be laid at the feet of the companies and politicians who stir up ethnic tension solely for the purpose of enriching themselves. If this is a conflict that is just starting, then we should assume for the outset that everything you read is a well-constructed fabrication. Now matter how many times you read it, EthnicGroup X does not hate EthnicGroup Y enough to want to kill them, and this is true for all values of X and Y. That the tanks are rolling means someone's cash flow has been cut off.

Maybe they are legitimately entitled to that cash flow, maybe not. But I bet you the flow of news will be 100 stories about how relations between X and Y have been tense for years but is now "bubbling over" for every 1 story in some esoteric news outlet about who actually owns and controls the economic resources in the region.

Starting now, everything you read about this conflict will contain lies. Our job is to find the lies, find out who is lying, and why. And that's when we'll discover the truth.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:36 AM on August 8, 2008 [95 favorites]


Shit, here's hoping she and hers are okay.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:38 AM on August 8, 2008


Seriously tho, is Russia invading Georgia because they are killing South Ossetians (humanitarian reason?)... or is Russia invading Georgia just because they want to (Red Dawn reason?)

I don't think we know yet; other reasons this may be happening are that Russia is invading for economic reasons (oil), for strategic reasons (prevent the expansion of NATO into their border), or for internal political reasons (give the new Russian President a chance to be in charge while Putin is off watching gymnasts).


It's possible that the Russians are being the good guys here- it's more likely that there are a mix of motivations, and that this invasion is serving multiple purposes.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:39 AM on August 8, 2008


No, you're just the first to rush to Putin's defense every time. The last time I paid attention to you, you were going to bat for good old Volodya on the subject of Litvinenko and Politkovskaya.

You are referring to this, I assume? Where I admitted the Politkovskaya thing but noted that the Litvinenko thing was more complicated than typically presented? Yeah, you can definitely call that comment "going to bat for Volodya." Because as we all know, Putin is the only bad guy in Russian politics, and accusing his enemies of ever having done something bad is prima facie evidence of Putin apologism.
posted by nasreddin at 8:40 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


putin stooge is a great band name.
posted by quonsar at 8:41 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Excellent post Pasta... I think you hit the nail on the head.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:43 AM on August 8, 2008


Unless it's on The Big Picture, it didn't happen.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:44 AM on August 8, 2008


Go ahead, accuse me of being a Putin stooge.

"Metafilter is oppressing Mother Russia! Look at me! Look at me!"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:46 AM on August 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Pastabagel writes: Starting now, everything you read about this conflict will contain lies. Our job is to find the lies, find out who is lying, and why. And that's when we'll discover the truth.

Amidst the usual snarking, lulz and straw men, it's really nice to read a serious comment that actually aspires to something. Thanks, Pastabagel.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:47 AM on August 8, 2008


quin writes "I mean, does that ever really work?"

It doesn't matter whether it works.

Ossetians are just pawns in this game. Putin's using them, and this invasion, to do two things: to secure more leverage over Black Sea oil, and to distract the Russian people from totalitarian repressions at home with nationalistic foreign adventures. If that reminds you of the aims of Bush's imperialistic policies, it should.

It's the same imperialistic Great Game the Britain and Russia contested at in the 19th Century in Afghanistan and the Crimea and the Middle East; it really never ended, and the same interests are being served.
posted by orthogonality at 8:48 AM on August 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Starting now, everything you read about this conflict will contain lies. Our job is to find the lies, find out who is lying, and why. And that's when we'll discover the truth.

FTFY
posted by DU at 8:52 AM on August 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


We all know these conflicts are about energy...

How, exactly, do we all know this? (NB: honest question)
posted by MarshallPoe at 8:54 AM on August 8, 2008


MarshallPoe: Cui Bono. Russia has been antagonistic about every previous attempt for western europe to diversify its natural gas supplies, they've been using energy policy as a bludgeon for a few years now. This fits well.

Also if anyone has good sources for live or live-ish information for details that would be nice. CNN is pretty useless.
posted by Skorgu at 9:00 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't the Georgians attack first, literally hours after Saakashvili announced a unilateral cease-fire...? I have no love for the Russian government or Putin or his current stooge, but I think this thread is loosing sight of the facts, which is that both Georgia and (possibly) Russia are doing questionable things. There is no good guy here.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 9:01 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Only on MetaFilter could you have a heated discussion (without the slightest trace of irony) about a placed called "Georgia" that is not in the US, and a place called "South Ossetia" (as opposed to "North Ossetia"), while throwing around names like Volodya, Litvinenko and Politkovskaya.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:04 AM on August 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


Skorgu: my sister recommends www.civil.ge but I seem to be having problems getting there now. I bet they have more traffic than they ever planned for today.
posted by rmless at 9:04 AM on August 8, 2008


DU, c_m: Georgian-Ossetian conflict.

This is a good link. As you can read in that wikipedia article, South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in 1990, when both Russia and Georgia were still part of the Soviet Union. The Georgians don't recognize the validity of Ossetia's elections and have sent in troops repeatedly to prevent Ossetia from separating. On Thursday night, Georgian heavy artillery almost entirely destroyed Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's capital, despite the fact that a ceasefire had been signed with the separatists.
posted by nasreddin at 9:05 AM on August 8, 2008


Metafilter: There is no good guy here.
posted by Debaser626 at 9:06 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I guess I should have known that MeFi would be a contentless, evidenceless "OMG RUSSIANZ R EVIL" echo chamber. Go ahead, accuse me of being a Putin stooge.

I think you know I'm not about to do that, but surely you're not saying Russia comes out of this looking particularly good, or claiming they're in it to support the poor beleaguered Ossetians? Yes, Georgia's been oppressing its minorities ever since they've had the chance (ah, the joys of independence), but come on, Russia doesn't give a rat's ass about that. This is all about oil and associated rights, n'est-ce pas? You can say Russia isn't behaving any worse than any other oil power that wants to keep a tight control on its neighborhood, and that's true but not exactly a ringing endorsement.
posted by languagehat at 9:07 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Some previous stuff: Russian airforce shoots down Georgian UAV (drone). Russian Energy Policy [pdf]. "Terrorists" attacking Georgia/Russia nat gas pipelines (2006). Russia cuts off energy supply to Ukraine (2006).
posted by Skorgu at 9:11 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


PostIronyIsNotaMyth: didn't the Georgians attack first

That seems to be pretty unclear so far from the conflicting news sources.
Both sides say the other one was the first to attack and both sides are saying that the other has planned this to coincide with the Olympics.

I agree with you that there is no good guy.

I do think that if you stop to think about it, it would be a pretty bad move for Georgia to attack unprovoked and start a war with Russia. They know Russia is going to retaliate, they know that Russia is closer than any aid they might get, and they know their biggest ally, the US, is already entangled and has committed their forced to a different bad-idea war.
I'm not saying that they didn't shell S. Ossetia and that their aggressive actions are excusable, but I don't think Georgia started this out of the blue, as someone might interpret from your comment. They aren't that ignorant of the way this is likely to turn out for them.
posted by rmless at 9:12 AM on August 8, 2008


How, exactly, do we all know this? (NB: honest question)
posted by MarshallPoe at 4:54 PM on August 8 [+] [!]


Ok. I'll name names:

Gazprom. Gazprom. Gazprom. Gazprom. Gazprom.

Never heard of them? They're the 3rd largest corporation in the world.
posted by vacapinta at 9:12 AM on August 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


What are the implications of this conflict for the broader region, i.e. Turkey, Armenia, possibly Iran?
posted by The Straightener at 9:12 AM on August 8, 2008


You can say Russia isn't behaving any worse than any other oil power that wants to keep a tight control on its neighborhood, and that's true but not exactly a ringing endorsement.

No, I'm not saying Russia isn't doing it for the oil. Or to control its neighborhood. What I'm opposed to is the reflexive "Russians are the bad guys, so the Georgians must be the good guys! Plus, they're pro-Western!" It's a regional power struggle with no good guys, like the Iran-Iraq War or the India-Pakistan conflict in Kashmir. If we can agree on that--as many people in this thread have been doing--then I've got no claims beyond that, and wouldn't dream of whitewashing Russia's CIS policy. The knee-jerk "oh no, Russia's poor defenseless neighbors are being oppressed again" response tends to poison the well for people who disagree.
posted by nasreddin at 9:16 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Let me amend the above. My first instinct was conditioned by the past incidents of Russian aggression toward Georgia; I assumed that Russia was the instigator here as well. But it does look as if the Georgians are admitting that they've initiated the violence. If the Georgians are the opportunists, then the IOC should send both countries' delegations home. In classical Greece it was customary to declare a broad cease fire to allow athletes to travel safely to and from the Games. Apparently in our more "enlightened" times, the custom has become to employ the Games as a cover for brutality.

Also, if Saakashvili was thinking that NATO was going to have his back, he's in for a rude awakening. Even if Cheney wanted to go to war to protect the Georgian pipeline, he scarcely has the resources to do it. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
posted by felix betachat at 9:18 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


If the Georgians are hoping for help from the West, particularly from the U.S., I think they're going to be disappointed.

They'd probably do better to just capitulate to the Russians if that's their plan (unless they fancy martyrdom); the U.S. isn't in much of a position to help anyone at this point. It's probably going to be a decade or more before we can seriously consider much in the way of power projection again, short of an air strike or token peacekeeping operation now and there. Taking on the Russians in a proxy war just isn't happening.

Frankly, I think the only logical thing for the next U.S. president to do is go to the Russians, hat in hand, and basically let them have their way with the whole region in return for some policy concessions and not upsetting U.S. interests too badly. We no longer have the resources to play empire in Eastern Europe or the Middle East; they do.

By throwing our chips in with the Russians, we might get a lot more say in the outcome of the post-American world order (which will inevitably be dominated either by Russia and its energy supplies or the Chinese and their industrial base and population) than by vainly resisting until we're completely irrelevant.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:21 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Diversionary tactic to draw Russian military attention away from the gigantic naval attack fleet heading for Iran with the intent to set up a naval blockade. Citation.
posted by Aquaman at 9:22 AM on August 8, 2008 [11 favorites]


I was alerted to this development through this post. Then I started reading the comments. I guess I'll go elsewhere. Any suggestions as to where I can follow what's happening without any in fighting/snark?
posted by tellurian at 9:22 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's a regional power struggle with no good guys, like the Iran-Iraq War or the India-Pakistan conflict in Kashmir. If we can agree on that--as many people in this thread have been doing--then I've got no claims beyond that, and wouldn't dream of whitewashing Russia's CIS policy.

Then I think we're all in agreement.

If the Georgians are hoping for help from the West, particularly from the U.S., I think they're going to be disappointed.

No kidding. Add them to the list of hapless suckers who have paid too much attention to rhetoric and too little to Realpolitik, from the Hungarians in '56 to the Kurds in the '80s.
posted by languagehat at 9:24 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Holy shit. Aquaman, do you have a non-oddball-blog citation for that?
posted by felix betachat at 9:24 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


the post-American world order (which will inevitably be dominated either by Russia and its energy supplies or the Chinese and their industrial base and population)

I'm going to go with China. Russia's economy is slightly bigger than France's, and less than Canada and Mexico combined. China's, on the other hand, is rather big.
posted by oaf at 9:33 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


As far as I recall Blackwater mercs have been stationed in Georgia, training QRF security teams for the pipelines. I wonder whether they will be withdrawn or take part in any hostilities.
posted by longbaugh at 9:37 AM on August 8, 2008


Wait, wait, wait...the Georgians aren't actually fighting Russians, right? Or, at least, not yet. They're fighting South Ossetians (Georgians?). That seems like a pretty significant distinction.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 9:37 AM on August 8, 2008


By throwing our chips in with the Russians, we might get a lot more say in the outcome of the post-American world order (which will inevitably be dominated either by Russia and its energy supplies or the Chinese and their industrial base and population) than by vainly resisting until we're completely irrelevant.

I suspect it'll be both, actually. China needs energy resources too, and as long as they let the Russians do their thing in the CIS, the Russians are more than happy to let China do its thing in Tibet and Taiwan. It'll be a mutually beneficial alliance against the US.
posted by nasreddin at 9:37 AM on August 8, 2008


How, exactly, do we all know this? (NB: honest question)
posted by MarshallPoe at 11:54 AM on August 8


Because at this stage in history, all conflicts are over scarce resources. The ascendance of China and India more than doubles the number of people competing for the resources that 15 years ago were consumed primarily by North Americans, Europeans, and the Japanese.

Oil and energy are not the only resources. Nations care about industrial metals like copper and aluminum as well. They also care about agricultural resources like fertile land, corn, wheat, etc.

Metals are recycled. Just because you used aluminum to make a can doesn't mean that quantity of aluminum vanished from the earth. When you're done with the can, that Al can get turned into a wire or an aircraft part or another can.

Corn is renewable. You eat it, excrete it, and grow more.

Oil is burned. Once oil is used, there is no reusing it. It's gone from the face of the earth. 600 million years ago a sea dinosaur died was buried at the bottom of the prehistoric ocean. Over the course of 600 million years its remains mingled with others under heat and pressure and became a hydrocarbon sludge called oil. 3 months ago that oil was sucked out of the ground, shipped to a refinery, cracked, turned into gasoline, trucked to a service station, where you paid $3.95/gallon to put that dead Tiger in /your Tank. Moments later, you incinerated all that was left of that dinosaur when you stomped on the gas to pass the old lady in the fast lane.

So oil is unique among the resource we compete over. No oil in the next 20 years = industrial and economic death for the first world.

More specific to this conflict, Europe loves natural gas. Europe does not love Russia, despite the fact that the best writers and musicians are all Russian. This dislike is unfortunate because most of Europe's natgas and oil comes from Russia. Good for Gazprom and Putin, bad for BP and Exxon.

"But Exxon is a U.S. company!" U.S. companies and the US government never miss a chance to destabilize a market. And Americans are better than anyone at competing for scare resources. We invented a science about it. The U.S. is no fan of Russian oil. The President held Saudi King Fahd's hand at Crawford. He calls the former Russian president by his last name. To this end, the U.S. is a heavy backer of a pipeline (illustrated here) that will bring mideast natgas from the middle east, through Turkey and into Europe, bypassing Russia completely. Nabucco is how you say "Fuck you, Russia" in American.

The pipeline is indicated on this map in a broken red line. See Georgia there? Notice which part of Georgia the broken red line goes through?

Bonus points: See how the broken red line extends north out of Georgia into the unlabeled light green region. That region is Russia. "But I thought you wanted to avoid Russia!" Silly duck, that part of Russia is also known as Chechnya. There's a war there too, but I'm sure it has nothing to do with any of this.

Double bonus points. See how the pipeline also extends down into northern Iraq? Guess which part of Iraq that is. That's right! That's the Kurdish North of Iraq, you know, the part of Iraq the U.S. contacted first before the war, the part it stabilized first, and the part you never hear about on the news because its so politically and economically stable and freedom loving and wonderful. Except when it gets invaded by Turkey, that is.

But the Russians, not to be outdone, are building their own pipeline from Russia into South Ossetia. I suppose they think that the planned Nabucco pipeline might accidentally get broken a few dozen times, slowing its construction. But for the downstream countries like Turkey and through Eastern Europe to realize any return on their investment in Nabucco, they will have to pump something through their part of the line, so its a good thing they'll be a functioning Russian pipeline next to the perpetually broken Georgian American-E.U. one.

Notice how at no point in my description do I mention the ethnicities, religions, animosities or any of the cultural groups you'll read about in the breathless CNN and Time magazine articles that are surely being written right now.

That is because they don't matter to the companies and countries playing connect-the-dots with pipelines and oilfields.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:39 AM on August 8, 2008 [368 favorites]


Stereotyping Russia.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:40 AM on August 8, 2008 [7 favorites]


Apologies for typos up there. Ugh.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:40 AM on August 8, 2008


Russians probably see this as an opportunity for the new President to establish his political will and authority, and certainly see it as necessary to assert and re-establish Russian political will and authority.

I am afraid this won't go well for the Georgians, who have been dominated by the Russians for centuries. The Russians have supported Ossetian separatism, knowing full well it would vex the Georgians. They probably were hoping for this exact scenario to play out. This won't end at the border of Ossetia, either.

I can guarantee you that Washington won't make much of a stink about this, despite the fact they issued some diplomatic objections already. Even if the U.S. really cared, we are impotent to do anything about it.

What concerns me is that if this turns into a long term guerrilla war, it could be very, very ugly.
posted by Xoebe at 9:42 AM on August 8, 2008


The Straightener writes "What are the implications of this conflict for the broader region, i.e. Turkey, Armenia, possibly Iran?"

NATO, which never wanted to include Georgia as a member-state, because that would be too provocative, "gives" Georgia to Russia in exchange for Russia not fulfilling its promises to Iran when NATO blockades Iran and Israel with covert American elint support bombs suspected nuclear sites.

Russia gets the Black Sea oil, and in the near-term increases oil and natural gas supplies to Europe. Europe gets bought off with promises of future Iranian "oil concessions" when the Iran regime is changed, to offset Russia's control of Black Sea oil.

Iran responds by stepping up the insurgency in Iraq, ending any hope of an American pull-out and providing a pretext for another surge. American forces remain in Iraq for John McCain's "100 years", protecting US oil concessions. The US continues to try to destabilize Iran with no-fly zones and covert action from forces in neighboring Iraq.

Muslim immigrants in Europe continue to provide excuses for security crackdowns and "anti-terrorism" legislation, and Europe like the US continues down the road to "surveillance states". Surveillance and massive integration of government and corporate databases means any middle-class dissenters are marginalized by losing credit, jobs and mortgages, so most get in line and toe the line, stripping off their clothes for body-searches whenever they enter an airport or a government building.

The poor, having few other options, join the mercenary occupation armies required to pacify our overseas oil territories.

The hereditary rich are guarded by personal liveried armies of ex-mercenaries, and served by an increasingly squeezed and impotent middle class.
posted by orthogonality at 9:46 AM on August 8, 2008 [23 favorites]


I was watching the BBC report at lunch time.

Interesting snippets:
"Russia's president earlier promised to defend his citizens in South Ossetia.

Moscow's defence ministry said more than 10 of its peacekeeping troops in South Ossetia had been killed and 30 wounded in the Georgian offensive. At least 15 civilians are also reported dead."


and

"Georgia accuses Russia of arming the separatists. Moscow denies the claim.

Russia earlier called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to respond to the crisis, but members failed to agree on a Russian statement calling on both sides to renounce the use of force. "


It would appear that they at least made a token effort to not need to invade - I've not read why the UN security council decided not to agree to the ceasefire statement.
posted by kothar at 9:48 AM on August 8, 2008


Oil and energy are not the only resources. Nations care about industrial metals like copper and aluminum as well.

What do you think Aluminium is made of (that matters)?
posted by Kwantsar at 10:19 AM on August 8, 2008


felix betachat: "It won't happen, obviously, but the IOC should condemn the Russian attack and send its delegation of athletes home. Using a global festival of sport as a cover for a nationalistic land grab and the murder of civilians is disgusting."

Punishing the athletes is rather unfair.

While I know the Olympics (and particularly the IOC) falls far short of its ideals, sport and politics should be separate and, as has happened before, boycotts of sporting events for political reasons do little other than punish the athletes who've sacrificed much and trained to hit their peak for a specific sporting event, and pulling them out at the eleventh (or event the thirteenth) hour is, frankly, just cruel...
posted by benzo8 at 10:24 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


See? This is what happens when you get rid of the stars and bars. Serves 'em right.
posted by wfrgms at 10:27 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


orthogonality pretty much gets it right.
posted by Xoebe at 10:30 AM on August 8, 2008


To answer my own question from before...it looks like the Russians are now in vicinity of Tskhinvali (and the Georgian military). If they weren't fighting each other before, they are now.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 10:38 AM on August 8, 2008


Kwantsar: Aluminum's made of....aluminum. Or are you referring to the amount of energy it takes to extract aluminum from its ore?
posted by echo target at 10:40 AM on August 8, 2008


Stereotyping Russia.

Thanks for that link, stinkycheese. That's a good little read, if anyone needs a refresher in recent history and bias.
posted by languagehat at 10:42 AM on August 8, 2008


the post-American world order (which will inevitably be dominated either by Russia and its energy supplies or the Chinese and their industrial base and population)

I'm going to go with China. Russia's economy is slightly bigger than France's, and less than Canada and Mexico combined. China's, on the other hand, is rather big.
posted by oaf


Or both plus Europe. Eurasia. It is funny how Emanuel Todd predicted this and also how he pointed out what the interest of the US is in this separatist movements in different Russia-associated countries.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 10:50 AM on August 8, 2008


Just think all this could be stopped if alternative fuels were allowed to be developed....... but then again that would cut into profits and save too many lives. Somewhere there is a manish creature dressed in green with horns and a tail laughing his ass off right now.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 10:56 AM on August 8, 2008


Pastabagel - your links is broke. but thanks for the good talking points.

Um, separately, I went to usatoday to read the headlines and clicked on the georgia article (the one under the pic of all the missiles letting fly)... and my antivirus blew up on me (google desktop jumped in to say 'tilt,' too.) But I'm sure it's not because I wanted to read about the tail waggin the dog, right?

right?

and does anyone have a spare wad of tinfoil I can borrow?
posted by ilovemytoaster at 11:00 AM on August 8, 2008


That is some pretty stark-looking video on CNN right now, apart from any of the talking-head breathlessness.

In any event, no reaction from Bush in Beijing thus far. McCain says that Russia should "immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations and withdraw all forces from sovreign Georgian territory" and that the US should put pressure on Russia "to reverse this perilous course that it has chosen."
posted by blucevalo at 11:07 AM on August 8, 2008


Aluminum's made of....

electricity. So much so, that it's cheaper to site the smelter near electricity sources and move the bauxite 1000's of kilometers rather than smelt near the mines.

Here's a map of one of the major producers: notice how far apart the yellow mines are from the dark blue smelters. The blue smelters are all sited to be near (as possible) to hydroelectric sources and deepwater ports. Smelting, followed by transport costs dominate aluminum prices. The cost of raw materials comes third.
posted by bonehead at 11:08 AM on August 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


There is live coverage on a channel called Russia Today on Time Warner Cable in NYC. It is channel 135. Currently reporting 1400 dead. I've never seen this channel before. Anyone know it's reputation?
posted by spicynuts at 11:13 AM on August 8, 2008


Thanks, everybody, for the links and perspective. This is both fascinating and horrifying.
posted by rocketman at 11:17 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, I don't know how she manages it, but this blonde talking head babe is managing to discuss civilian and military deaths while smiling pleasantly and jovially. Maybe she thinks it's a movie?
posted by spicynuts at 11:17 AM on August 8, 2008



"While I know the Olympics (and particularly the IOC) falls far short of its ideals, sport and politics should be separate"

Hostilities in the original Olympics were supposed to halt for the duration. I see no problem with punishing a country for misbehavior. And as far as I can tell, "no politics in the Olympics" seems to ignore all the national showcasing that goes on in the event (projections of national power, in other words, politics). It also tends to ignore past history (Russian / American Rivalry, Hitler's Olympics).

To those who say the Olympics aren't political, what would you say to an Olympics held in Darfur? How about Myanmar? It seems to me that this crowd is far more interested in the sports and are just burying their heads in the sand about the ugly things surrounding them.
posted by dibblda at 11:22 AM on August 8, 2008


Pastabagel's oil explanation was interesting but doesn't sit quite right with me. Incidentally, I'm amazed we've got this far in the discussion without mentioning the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan Pipeline - the key to oil politics in the region.
I read quite a lot about this region this area before I went to the Caucasus last summer, and visited the closed border between Russia and Georgia. From what I can make out this is more dick-waving than petro-politics. Here's how I see it: Georgia in Nato is basically Russia getting it's balls cut off. Georgia was essentially a part of Russia for a good two hundred years before the break up of the Soviet Union. Earlier this year they came pretty close to joining NATO, that pisses the Russians
Georgia wasn't allowed in because they were deemed too unstable, Nato doesn't want to admit any members that it might actually have to go to war for. So if Russia keeps Georgia unstable, there's no way the pro-western government will be allowed into NATO or the EU or any of those Western clubs. Eventually Georgia will give up and turn back to Russia.
posted by greytape at 11:25 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not qualified to judge it, but this seems to add a lot of detail about how even the internal power strugges in Moscow might explain aspects of the whole mess:

South Ossetia Crisis Could Be Russia's Chance To Defeat Siloviki
posted by Iosephus at 11:37 AM on August 8, 2008


From what I can make out this is more dick-waving than petro-politics. Here's how I see it: Georgia in Nato is basically Russia getting it's balls cut off. Georgia was essentially a part of Russia for a good two hundred years before the break up of the Soviet Union. Earlier this year they came pretty close to joining NATO, that pisses the Russians

I have no doubt that there is some degree of dick-waving on the part of Russia going on here. But what about on the Georgian side? Is the emphasis on the breakaway regions some sort of attempt by the Georgian government to stoke nationalist feelings domestically and to maintain popular support for anti-Russian politicians? Did they just miscalculate what the Russian response would be?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:41 AM on August 8, 2008


On the lighter side, I live in georegia but i dont see rusia no where not even sound but they says theres tanks should i be worrie
posted by GuyZero at 11:44 AM on August 8, 2008 [12 favorites]


Are the links in my comments actually broken? They work for me...

We can be glib about alternative energy and the fact that everything has energy as an input, but oil is not energy and vice versa. A lot of oil is used for energy, but it's only about 50%-60%. An almost equal amount of oil is used for chemicals and materials. You can have an electric car, but you'll need to lubricate the chassis and the gears. Lubricants come from oil. Household products inordinately come from oil, from the chemicals inside them to the packaging they come in. And plastic recycling is very inefficient, and in many cases ineffective.

So we could replace all the oil used for fuel with alternatives all we want, we're just delaying the inevitable. The reason we are fighting these conflicts is not because we are using too much oil for fuel, it's because even as a raw material rather than a source of energy, oil is a production input for everything. If you own oil, you get to take a percentage of the economic activity of the world, because all that economic activity uses oil. No other business can tax the whole of economic activity (except governments). Whether there is 10 years of oil left in the world or 500 years, it's easier to fight these conflicts now than to wait until later.

Another thing. People in this thread are talking about "we" and "they" in reference to the U.S. and Russia respectively. Let me remind you that while the U.S. was engaged in and often leading these gambits to undermine or subvert Russia, President Bush refused to bug Putin's hotel room because he considered him a friend, based on a handful of phone calls they had. And I have no doubt that they are friends, or at least colleagues. This is all a game to them, because they win no matter what. They rule their respective massive countries. Oil could quadruple in price tomorrow, and there will still be cars and helicopters to shuttle them from one palace to another.

But I assure you, regardless of the outcome, "we" are going to get screwed. "We" do not own or control the oil industry, "we" do not operate defense contractors. "We" are the people in Russia and America and everywhere else, slaving away in the fields to pay taxes to our respective kings. When the taxes aren't enough for Our Majesty's liking, we offer up our first born to go fight the first born in another kingdom and take whatever pittance those peasants have and deliver it back to our King. We will do this gladly, as our patriotic duty. We will pray for our knights as they go off to battle, and glorify them and sing songs to remember their valor and honor on the battlefield.

And throughout it all we will forget that our royal family has married into their royal family, and that our king considers their king "a friend."
posted by Pastabagel at 11:50 AM on August 8, 2008 [36 favorites]


Interviewing "Russian" refugees now on Russia Today. Quote: "Thank you, Russia for your help!"

PM of Georgia claiming that Russian jets have been bombing Georgian cities outside of the conflict zone since late last night and this is the reason for Georgian "retaliation".
posted by spicynuts at 11:51 AM on August 8, 2008


From the yahoo answers link above:

"Да, вся ваша база принадлежат нам!"

Yes, all your base are belong to us.
posted by spicynuts at 11:54 AM on August 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


but oil is not energy and vice versa

If you have oil, it's obviously easy to make energy from it.

If you have enough energy, it's easy to make oil from it.

They're not the same thing, but they're fungible enough that running out of only one isn't a long term problem.
posted by roystgnr at 11:59 AM on August 8, 2008


Some of the TV news coverage is coming very close to this...
posted by tapeguy at 12:06 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


roystgnr, the key word there is "enough."
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 12:26 PM on August 8, 2008


But what about on the Georgian side? Is the emphasis on the breakaway regions some sort of attempt by the Georgian government to stoke nationalist feelings domestically and to maintain popular support for anti-Russian politicians? Did they just miscalculate what the Russian response would be?

The sense I got while I was in Georgia was of a very shaky state. Georgia just wants to secure its borders. This is a country that until four years ago had, in addition to South Ossetia and Abkhazia,a third break away region in it's territory. Georgia is lucky if keeps it's head above the water. Look at the history of Georgia's recent relations with Russia, it's pretty hairy. Why on earth would they be sabre rattling with a superpower?

(This is not to condone Georgia's actions in South Ossetia, which might be genocidal for all I know, but Russia's involvement is pure geopolitics.)
posted by greytape at 12:29 PM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sadly appropriate.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:20 PM on August 8, 2008


It begins in 2008, with civil unrest in Russia. Ultra-nationalists have seized power in Moscow, with plans to rebuild the Iron Curtain. Their first step is clandestine support of rebel factions in Georgia and the Baltic States. Battles erupt with South Ossetian rebel forces from the north of Georgia, who are harassing the legitimate government and its allies.

The Russian government complains to the United Nations that the Americans have interfered in their affairs, and eventually they send in their army to aid the South Ossetian rebels.

After Georgia falls, the Caucasus region is vulnerable to further attacks. The Georgian government, Great Britain, Germany, and the U.S. all protest the Russian invasion, but Moscow ignores this. Russia then focuses on invading the Baltic States on Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.


Source: www.bbcnews.co.u, no, kidding, it's the plot to Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon.
posted by Adam_S at 1:38 PM on August 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


Iosephus: Interesting link, but Yulia Latynina is out there on the fringe (from Wikipedia: "Yulia Latynina is known for her sharp and polemic statements. She claimed that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, French President Jacques Chirac, Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schröder, and U.S. President George W. Bush have all been successfully 'recruited' by Vladimir Putin to serve his political objectives.[...] Latynina expressed her opinion in a 2004 article that the Russian Federation is breaking up into six to eight independent territories"), and I would take anything she says with lots of salt unless you see it confirmed elsewhere.
posted by languagehat at 1:40 PM on August 8, 2008



Source: www.bbcnews.co.u, no, kidding, it's the plot to Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon.

Damn, I knew this was familiar from somewhere.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:45 PM on August 8, 2008


no, kidding, it's the plot to Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon.

Give me a PS2 controller stat. I'll handle this.
posted by clearly at 1:52 PM on August 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


There is live coverage on a channel called Russia Today on Time Warner Cable in NYC. It is channel 135. Currently reporting 1400 dead. I've never seen this channel before. Anyone know it's reputation?

According to ARD, that figure comes from Interfax, which is relying on the word of South Ossetian president Eduard Kokoiti. ARD also says that Tskhinvali is "largely destroyed."
posted by oaf at 1:56 PM on August 8, 2008


I see no problem with punishing a country for misbehavior.

You're not punishing the country, you're punishing the athletes. Leave politics out of the Games.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:59 PM on August 8, 2008


OOOOH Shit is Going DOWN!!
posted by Student of Man at 2:01 PM on August 8, 2008


According to ARD, that figure comes from Interfax, which is relying on the word of South Ossetian president Eduard Kokoiti. ARD also says that Tskhinvali is "largely destroyed."

Yes..they have been touting that over and over. They also have some American guy whose credentials I can't figure who continues to vehemently editorialize that any Georgian claims of Russian aggression are ludicrous and not in touch with reality and that these peacekeepers were invited to Georgia by the Georgian government and for them to fire upon and kill Russian peacekeepers is evil in the extreme. Like I said, I've never seen this channel before, but they have yet to bring someone on from the Georgian perspective so I'm suspect. Also, all clips of the Georgian PM are introduced by said American with a huge amount of editorializing to the effect of 'he is lying straight to your faces'. So....grain of salt.
posted by spicynuts at 2:08 PM on August 8, 2008


Here's A Fistful of Euros on this topic. Several links are given in the story and the comments, such as this blog from Tbilisi. The commentors are also citing press reports from a half-dozen countries. AFOE has had background articles on Ossetia, Abkhazia, Transnistria, etc. often in the past.

BTW, Georgia has announced it is going to pull its 2000 troops out of Iraq and send them to fight the Russians. It's unlikely they will get there in time to do much of anything so this is probably a bit of handwaving to get US attention. But if the US decides to help its erstwhile NATO partner...
posted by CCBC at 2:10 PM on August 8, 2008


The Athletes are ambassadors for the countries they represent. We have kicked ambassadors out before in the US. What would be your stance if the games were held in Myanmar of Darfur? Would you want to continue to "Keep politics out of the games"? The games are a showcasing of a countries power when they hold the Olympics and a showcasing of a countries top athletes when they compete, both are political in nature. Politics are already in the games.
posted by dibblda at 2:19 PM on August 8, 2008


Pastabagel, thank you for your contributions to this topic. Your insight into and context of the situation is much appreciated.
posted by clearly at 2:22 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Politics are already in the games.

Yes, exactly. And when those athletes are being used by their own countries as a diversionary tactic, their presence at the Olympic Games is an insult to the rest of their competitors. Sanctions against the athletes would help restore the non-political aspect of the Games. To have them there, and by their presence distract from the fact that aggression is taking place and people are being murdered, is the very essence of politicization. The Olympics are not merely a venue for personal athleticism. Competitors represent their home countries. Sanctioning them is a perfectly legitimate way to assert that the Games will not be used as a fig leaf for monsters.
posted by felix betachat at 2:31 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


spicynuts - Russia Today is a channel whose goal is to promote a positive image of Russia abroad. I believe it is partially or wholly owned/backed by the Russian goverment, but I could be wrong.
posted by wretched_rhapsody at 2:56 PM on August 8, 2008


Did the U.S. Prep Georgia for War with Russia?
posted by homunculus at 3:10 PM on August 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Soviet Union II,

Russian Empire III? I'm not saying that the Georgians aren't bad guys in this, but Russia does have a history of imperialism and invading neighboring states that goes back a bit earlier than the Soviet Union. Finland, the Baltics, the Balkans, Great-Game-era Afghanistan, Manchuria, etc. I wouldn't buy "but this time it's not imperialistic" from the Russians in this case any more than I expected anyone to buy that from the U.S. in Iraq.
posted by XMLicious at 3:10 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


International relations vs. human relationships:

Best case scenario
We share the same values, work together on projects, have each other's back, pool our economic resources, eventually we trust one another enough to allow barrier-free exchange of bodily fluids [migration and trade], and come to form a lasting union.

Worst case scenario
I'm slapping you around and I'm only doing it for your own good [democracy] and because I love you [your freedom-loving oppressed citizens]. But all I really want is to get in your pants [oil supply].
posted by wretched_rhapsody at 3:10 PM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili: "What we have here is a full scale Russian invasion of Georgian territory."

Not sure if this has been covered yet here, but here's some related background material:

U.S.-Georgia training begins amid Russia strain (July 15, 2008, Reuters):

One thousand U.S. troops began a military training exercise in Georgia on Tuesday against a backdrop of growing friction between Georgia and neighboring Russia.
Officials said the exercise, called "Immediate Response 2008," had been planned for months and was not linked to a stand-off between Moscow and Tbilisi over two Russian-backed separatists regions of Georgia.


Israel backs Georgia in Caspian Oil Pipeline Battle with Russia (August 8, 2008, Debka-file):

Last year, the Georgian president commissioned from private Israeli security firms several hundred military advisers, estimated at up to 1,000, to train the Georgian armed forces in commando, air, sea, armored and artillery combat tactics. They also offer instruction on military intelligence and security for the central regime. Tbilisi also purchased weapons, intelligence and electronic warfare systems from Israel.

**

So, is this a possible proxy war between the US and Russia over who will control Caspian oil and gas?

I don't know the answer, but Turkey, Turkmenistan, Azarbaijan, Iran and Iraq all come into play here. According to the 2nd link above (yes I know Debka can be unreliable as a source): Israel offered Russia a stake in [a pipeline] project but was rejected.

Other possibly related background:

Georgia opposition leader dies suddenly in London (Feb. 13, 2008, Mail & Guardian): Patarkatsishvili (52) a wealthy and prominent figure in his native Georgia, had been living in London since last year after Georgian authorities accused him of plotting a coup against the president and issued a warrant for his arrest.

Georgia’s ex-President Eduard Shevardnadze says Georgia’s former PM Zhvania was murdered (WaPo/Caucaz, 2006)
posted by ornate insect at 4:17 PM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Other possibly related background:

Georgia opposition leader dies suddenly in London (Feb. 13, 2008, Mail & Guardian): Patarkatsishvili (52) a wealthy and prominent figure in his native Georgia, had been living in London since last year after Georgian authorities accused him of plotting a coup against the president and issued a warrant for his arrest.

Georgia’s ex-President Eduard Shevardnadze says Georgia’s former PM Zhvania was murdered (WaPo/Caucaz, 2006)


The lesson you should learn from this is that Soviet-style apparatchik power politics dies hard, and no one's hands are clean--no matter if they're playing the pro-Western or pro-Russian line. You just don't get to be in power in a post-Soviet country if you're not a) a part of the establishment, which is overwhelmingly composed of former Communist Party and Komsomol bureaucrats, and b) willing to play dirty.
posted by nasreddin at 4:23 PM on August 8, 2008


Regarding the US-Georgian military training exercises ("Immediate Response 2008") reported in the Reuters/MSNBC article I linked to in my previous post: it's hard for me to believe that's just coincidence.

Methinks the US military doth protest too much in that article: their insistence that the exercises were "NOT linked" to the tension between Moscow and Tbilisi seems dubious.

Given the Georgian army's participation in "Operation Iraqi Freedom", one has to wonder what's really going on here.
posted by ornate insect at 4:47 PM on August 8, 2008


First reaction: yikes! :0

And then, on reading more, that fishy feeling that this US gov't regime had a big hand in this. ugh.

U.S. troops start training exercise in Georgia Tue Jul 15, 2008

The United States is an ally of Georgia and has irritated Russia by backing Tbilisi's bid to join the NATO military alliance.

From the U.S Depart of Defense:
American Troops Training, Equipping Georgian Military
WASHINGTON, May 30,
2002
posted by nickyskye at 4:54 PM on August 8, 2008


Well, here we go again. Think this will re-light the Chechen conflict as well?
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:03 PM on August 8, 2008


felix betachat: "Politics are already in the games.

Yes, exactly. And when those athletes are being used by their own countries as a diversionary tactic, their presence at the Olympic Games is an insult to the rest of their competitors. Sanctions against the athletes would help restore the non-political aspect of the Games. To have them there, and by their presence distract from the fact that aggression is taking place and people are being murdered, is the very essence of politicization. The Olympics are not merely a venue for personal athleticism. Competitors represent their home countries. Sanctioning them is a perfectly legitimate way to assert that the Games will not be used as a fig leaf for monsters.
"

You yourself admit they're being used, yet you still feel that sanctioning them is valid...

If the Games weren't held at an eminently predictable time every four years, you might have a case - it might be that the athletes were involved in the planning, the timing, the arrangement of the diversion and were complicit.

But they're not. Their Government may hve chosen a time when they were there to be used as a smokescreen, but the culpability is not theirs. It's like blaming the moon for night-time raids - armies choose the cover of darkness but blowing the moon out of orbit because it was shining at the time is pretty nonsensical...

Sending the athletes home would make a statement - that you were vindictive and thoughtless and were throwing your toys as far from the pram as your little arms could reach...
posted by benzo8 at 5:10 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Training Center of Georgian Army

**

From this Chechen internet news agency (be sure to check out their home page for the lovely picture of the Umara of Caucasian Mujahideen) comes this quote: Martin McCauley, a London-based Russia analyst, told Al Jazeera: "You can argue that the president of South Ossetia, who wants independence from Georgia, is deliberately provoking Tbilisi and is trying to suck Russia in."

**

nickyskye--yeah this is not a good situation.

Certainly Washington's (and by Washington I mean largely the Bush neocon hawks and the think tank complex from which they sprang) true intentions remain unclear, but our buddy-buddy relations with the Georgian military have already raised Moscow's ire.

I'm sure the State Department will be issuing "put out this fire" statements soon.

One contextual view is that the Cold War never really ended: that the U.S. has been covertly seeking to destabilize Moscow's power through its former satellite states, and has been doing so both economically and militarily (through support and covert operations) since the mid 1990s. It's a fascinating thesis, but one that would likely derail the thread.
posted by ornate insect at 5:17 PM on August 8, 2008


One contextual view is that the Cold War never really ended: that the U.S. has been covertly seeking to destabilize Moscow's power through its former satellite states, and has been doing so both economically and militarily (through support and covert operations) since the mid 1990s. It's a fascinating thesis, but one that would likely derail the thread.

For what it's worth, this thesis has been not only common knowledge but the fundamental presupposition of all foreign policy in Russia for at least a decade. A significant part of it is the traditional Russian (Slavic?) obsession with sabotage by the West, but there's more and more evidence every year that the US is doing something like that. Just look at the missile shield situation for an obvious example.
posted by nasreddin at 5:22 PM on August 8, 2008


PostIronyIsNotaMyth: "There is no good guy here."

There are no good guys anywhere.

Any good guy who stuck his neck out at this point, would get mowed down.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:31 PM on August 8, 2008


The hilarious part is that there are at least 1000 people in the US, (and this is probably a wild underestimate), who believe that Russian troops are attacking the deep south this very moment.
posted by mullingitover at 5:40 PM on August 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'm wondering, as a practical matter, if the US forces (over 1000 troops as recently as the 15th of last month, according to the Reuters link in my post up-thread) in Georgia are still on the ground there. Does anybody know the answer to this?
posted by ornate insect at 5:43 PM on August 8, 2008


PostIronyIsNotaMyth: "didn't the Georgians attack first"

Was it the Hatfields first or the McCoys?

The Montagues or the Capulets?

The Jets or the Sharks?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Does it ever really matter, beyond academia?

No. It doesn't.

One thing J.C. reportedly said, "forgive seven times seven, and then again... Turn the other cheek."

The fact is, both sides attack; neither side forgives. That's the real sin. Of course, if one side attacks and the other side forgives, guess who wins? I guess even J.C. was wrong about that one. The only real way to win at war, is not to play, but try convincing Georgia and Russia of that. They're both too busy right now, thinking there's something to win.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:47 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I guess I should have known that MeFi would be a contentless, evidenceless "OMG RUSSIANZ R EVIL" echo chamber. Go ahead, accuse me of being a Putin stooge.

Actually, I think it's more hilarious that someone who's so ready to wax loquacious on the evils of Western imperialism you've got such a knee-jerk defence going there about the Russian flavour.

I guess we all have our little blind spots.

If the Georgians are hoping for help from the West, particularly from the U.S., I think they're going to be disappointed.

I doubt most Western nations really want to risk a direct, hot war with Russia right at the moment.

The sad thing is, whether or not assisting Georgia would be the right thing to do (and that, of course, is a very open question) it sure as hell wouldn't be the smart thing to do.
posted by rodgerd at 5:54 PM on August 8, 2008


I didn't know nasreddin was waxing loquacious.

As to our assisting Georgia, given that we've been working very closely with their military--training them, supplying them, and as recently as a few weeks ago performing military exercises with them in Georgia--as well as helping Georgia politically in their EU and NATO ambitions, I would say we're already assisting them.
posted by ornate insect at 6:00 PM on August 8, 2008


Rodgerd, RTFThread.
posted by Student of Man at 6:38 PM on August 8, 2008


It is honestly shocking to me how well Parag Khanna called this in his book.

Also, thanks for the posts, Pastabagel.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:53 PM on August 8, 2008


There's some interesting speculation by Douglas Muir on A Fistful of Euros.
Who started it? — Looks like Georgia. The sniping earlier came from both sides, but the Georgians have clearly launched a major ground offensive, and that doesn’t just happen by accident.

Why? — What follows is a mishmash of guesses. Take it with a big grain of salt.

South Ossetia has always been vulnerable to a blitzkrieg attack. It’s small, it’s not very populous (~70,000 people), and it’s surrounded by Georgia on three sides. It’s very rugged and mountainous, yes, but it’s not suited to defense in depth. There’s only one town of any size (Tsikhinvali, the capital) and only one decent road connecting the province with Russia.

That last point bears emphasizing. There’s just one road, and it goes through a tunnel. There are a couple of crappy roads over the high passes, but they’re in dreadful condition; they can’t support heavy equipment, and are closed by snow from September to May. Strategically, South Ossetia dangles by that single thread.

So, there was always this temptation: a fast determined offensive could capture Tsikhinvali, blow up or block the tunnel, close the road, and then sit tight. If it worked, the Russians would then be in a very tricky spot: yes, they outnumber the Georgians 20 to 1, but they’d have to either drop in by air or attack over some very high, nasty mountains. This seems to be what the Georgians are trying to do: attack fast and hard, grab Tsikhinvali, and close the road.

So, is it working? — It’s too early to tell, but it’s not looking good. There’s not much solid information, but it appears that (1) the Georgians don’t have firm control of Tsikhinvali yet; (2) they don’t seem to be anywhere close to the tunnel; (3) the Russians have reacted with unexpected speed and energy, so that Russian troops are already on the ground in the province, and (4) the Russians have grabbed control of South Ossetia’s airspace. Things are still fluid, but it’s not looking good for the Georgians.

(Saakashvili’s actions this afternoon seem to reflect this. He’s visibly shaken, and he’s been yelling for help from the US and the EU. That’s not going to happen.)
The International Crisis Group has some background information on Georgia, including a useful map. Georgia Conflict Alert: The Need for an Immediate End to Hostilities in South Ossetia.

Given that Georgia is right in Russia's backyard, it seems unwise for the US, NATO, or the EU to get involved in the conflict in a significant way. I'm very surprised that NATO's been holding membership talks with Georgia--would NATO really ever go to war with Russia over Georgia?
posted by russilwvong at 9:44 PM on August 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


russilwvong--thanks for your analysis; it was most helpful. I too was surprised that Georgia was pushing to get into NATO: that just seems so unlikely I wonder if the US was promising them all kinds of things that could never be delivered. Even Georgia getting in the EU seems like an incredible long shot to me. Which brings me back to the question of what's going on here: I was wondering what your thoughts were on the fact that the US has been so actively involved in both beefing up Georgia's military and in aligning itself politically with Georgia. Does it not seem possible that the US was hoping to instigate something here? I realize that's extremely speculative, but the timing of all this, and the speed with which it has unfolded, feels forced somehow. In the grand chess game having Moscow entangled in Georgia seems to help the US, especially with regards to having a bargaining chip to use against Russia vis a vis Iran, does it not?
posted by ornate insect at 10:48 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


US has political, economic stake in farflung spat
By ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer
Fri Aug 8, 6:17 PM ET

There's more than meets the eye to the frantic U.S. efforts Friday to talk Russia and U.S. ally Georgia out of war over an obscure mountain tract most Americans have never heard of.

A look at the map and your gas credit card bill shows why.

South Ossetia is claimed by Georgia, the former Soviet republic that cast its lot with the United States and the West to the eternal irritation of Moscow. The breakaway province has been under Russia's sway for years.

Georgia sits in a tough neighborhood, shoulder to shoulder with huge Russia, not far from Iran, and astride one of the most important crossroads for the emerging wealth of the rich Caspian Sea region. A U.S.-backed oil pipeline runs through Georgia, allowing the West to reduce its reliance on Middle Eastern oil while bypassing Russia and Iran.


.....

The pipeline that crosses Georgia can pump slightly more than 1 million barrels of crude oil per day, or more than 1 percent of the world's daily crude output. The 1,100-mile pipeline carries oil from Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea fields, estimated to hold the world's third-largest reserves. Its potential vulnerability was already in the spotlight after it was sabotaged this week, apparently by Kurdish separatists.

Most of the oil is bound for Western Europe, where gas prices are even higher than the $4 and more a gallon that U.S. consumers are now paying. With only so much oil to go around, what the pipeline carries affects prices elsewhere. The United States also hopes it will be a model for other development projects that could have a more direct effect on the U.S. market.

......

Hundreds were reported dead in the worst outbreak of hostilities since the province won defacto independence in a war against Georgia that ended in 1992. Witnesses said the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali was devastated.

South Ossetia is one of the few places where ethnic, nationalist or other complications mean that the Cold War went dormant but didn't die. U.S diplomats refer to these neighborhood squabbles as "frozen conflicts," a euphemism that belies the long-recognized threat that seemingly petty disputes can easily provoke a wider war.


......

At the Pentagon, a senior defense official said Georgian authorities have asked the United States for help getting its approximately 2,000 troops out of Iraq. The request is apparently related to the fighting in South Ossetia.

Georgia has been the third-largest contributor of combat troops after the United States and Britain.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions have been private, said no formal decision has been made on whether to support the departure, but said it is likely the U.S. will do so.

posted by ornate insect at 10:59 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


ornate insect: russilwvong--thanks for your analysis; it was most helpful.

That was actually Douglas Muir's analysis, not mine. I'm afraid I don't know enough about the US-Georgia relationship to comment on the US's role here. Looking at it from Georgia's point of view, though, I'm dubious that Saakashvili would have attempted to seize South Ossetia at the US's instigation, though--the US isn't really in a position to help out if Georgia got into serious trouble. It seems more likely to have been locally initiated, by Saakashvili, as Muir suggests.

Taking a longer view, for the US to be messing around in the Russian sphere of influence is playing with fire. See Owen Harries, The Dangers of Expansive Realism, National Interest, Winter 1997.
posted by russilwvong at 11:28 PM on August 8, 2008


for the US to be messing around in the Russian sphere of influence is playing with fire

Which is part of what makes this whole thing so surreal, given that just a few weeks ago 1000 American troops were in Georgia training their military in mock exercises: a fact that Russia is no doubt aware of, just as it is aware of--and has been irked by--our recent support of Georgia's NATO and EU ambitions.
posted by ornate insect at 11:46 PM on August 8, 2008


Even small countries can have big dreams.

In two elections Georgia's Saakashvili has made promises to pacify rebelling states with tough measures. His populacy is tied to those promises and reflections on that can be seen in his reactions. He too seems to want to be a wartime leader. There have been preparations for having somekind of local conflict: training by U.S. and israeli experts - probably not for all-out war against Russia, but against separatist and other threats for the pipelines.

Having NATO on his back was supposed to provide a protection against direct russian intervention, or at least provide some diplomatic pause when Tshinval could be occupied and pacified. When that is done, negotiating with Russia with backing of western powers to accept the new situation (no South-Ossetian separatist movement anymore) could have worked.

Time for that plan was running out: Russia was more and more keeping an eye on situation and gathering forces for a quick exchange of opinions and whoever gets elected in the U.S. wouldn't be so eager to intervene for Georgia. Also U.S. plans for Iran would soon mean that there wouldn't be any force behind their dismay if Russia reacts strongly.

So, they launched their blitzkrieg party and Russia jumped on them. Even if you are a tool of superpower politics, you have your local dreams -- wars at Balkans should have taught us that. Saakashvili has been a very successful leader, but 'uniting the country' has always been the thing that puts leaders to history. Russia has had interests to see that doesn't happen. Also using force to pacify a minority rebellion is no longer acceptable as a purely domestic issue. With Balkans, Rwanda, Iraq etc. the diplomatic rhetorics can call it ethnic cleansing and make it an issue worth of forceful intervention. Especially when they are seen as your people they are cleansing. I just get a feeling that Saakashvili miscalculated here.
posted by Free word order! at 3:27 AM on August 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Background, a little old but still useful, with a map of the Baku Supsa pipeline which is run by BP; who incidentally have just had a few problems in Russia recently.
posted by adamvasco at 5:47 AM on August 9, 2008


South Ossetia is claimed by Georgia

What bullshit. That's like saying "Maine is claimed by the United States." The Ossetians may not like it, and Russia may not like it, but South Ossetia has been part of Georgia, internationally recognized, for centuries. The Ossetians fled from the Mongols to the Georgian principality of Samachablo in the Middle Ages; they were happy for Georgian protection then, now they want the keys to the family car.

This is a great discussion, everyone. Keep the links coming!
posted by languagehat at 6:33 AM on August 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Not sure if the links have anything that hasn't shown up in thread, but, for posterity, here's an accidental double.
posted by cortex at 6:46 AM on August 9, 2008


Dumb me, double posted. Internet has been out in Armenia since bombing began, so I didn't see this post. Here's my double.

I was in Georgia last weekend. Glad I got out in time. :(

I know that people with evacuation insurance are being evacuated to here (Armenia) and in the next few days the other Americans will be too. Flights out of Tbilisi have all been canceled for the next 3 days.
posted by k8t at 6:46 AM on August 9, 2008


Also in Armenia, as 80% of the imports come through the Georgian border, I went to the grocery store and prices for goods have already gone up. We'll be hard-pressed to get foreign goods now, except through Iran.
posted by k8t at 6:51 AM on August 9, 2008


This seems to be what the Georgians are trying to do: attack fast and hard, grab Tsikhinvali, and close the road.

So, is it working? — It’s too early to tell, but it’s not looking good.
Considering that Georgia is already crying uncle, we can most probably say that no, it didn't work.
posted by vivelame at 7:28 AM on August 9, 2008


languagehat: That's like saying "Maine is claimed by the United States."

Not sure that's the best analogy. In the case of Maine, the status quo is accepted by Canada, the United States, and people in Maine itself, while in South Ossetia, the South Ossetians and the Russians are opposed to the status quo.

A better analogy might be Kashmir.

(According to the AFP story posted by vivelame, witnesses are reporting hundreds of civilian dead in Tskhinvali; the South Ossetians are going to be even less inclined to accept Georgian rule.)

k8t, thanks for the additional links--the Slate article is really good.
posted by russilwvong at 8:13 AM on August 9, 2008


US, Europe scramble to stop Georgia-Russia war
posted by ornate insect at 8:31 AM on August 9, 2008


Georgia declares state of war with Russia (23 minutes ago):
TBLISI, Georgia (CNN) -- Georgia's parliament Saturday approved a request by President Mikhail Saakashvili's to impose a "state of war," as the conflict between Georgia and Russia escalated, Georgian officials said.

Saakashvili accused Russia of launching an unprovoked full-scale military attack against his country, including targeting civilian homes, while Russian officials insist their troops were protecting people from Georgia's attacks on South Ossetia, a breakaway Georgian region that borders Russia.

Russia's Interfax news agency said the death toll was at least 2,000 killed in the capital of South Ossetia and claimed the city has been destroyed.


NATO encouraged Georgia – Russian envoy
August 9, 2008, 4:36
NATO encouraged Georgia – Russian envoy
Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has sent an official note to representatives of all member countries in Brussels in connection with Georgia’s military actions against South Ossetia. He’s calling on them not to support Mikhail Saakashvili.
“Russia has already begun consultations with the ambassadors of the NATO countries and consultations with NATO military representatives will be held tomorrow," Rogozin said. "We will caution them against continuing to further support of Saakashvili."


U.S., Georgia start joint drills near Tbilisi
TBILISI, July 15 (RIA Novosti) - A joint Georgian-U.S. military exercise, Immediate Response 2008, has started near Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, and will continue throughout July, the Georgian Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

A total of 1,650 personnel, including troops from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine, are taking part in the $8 million exercise, planned by the U.S. Armed Forces European Command and financed by the U.S. Defense Department.

posted by ornate insect at 9:01 AM on August 9, 2008


Pipeline Map
posted by adamvasco at 9:10 AM on August 9, 2008


All those troops for that training have left the region. When I was in Tbilisi last weekend, a few of them were doing some vacationing, but the bulk had left.
posted by k8t at 9:11 AM on August 9, 2008


1,500 Reported Killed in Georgia Battle
New York Times
By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ, ANNE BARNARD and C. J. CHIVERS
This article was reported by Michael Schwirtz, Anne Barnard and C. J. Chivers and was written by Ms. Barnard.
GORI, Georgia — The conflict between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia moved toward all-out war on Saturday as Russia prepared to land ground troops on Georgia’s coast and broadened its bombing campaign both within Georgia and in the disputed territory of Abkhazia.

**

My own take: after reading the excellent Slate article linked above by russilwvwong (originally linked by k8t), it seems South Ossetia is caught between a rock and a hard place: both Moscow and Georgia wanted to rule over them, and given how small they are the possibility of real independence seemed historically unlikely. But it also seems most South Ossetians, given the violent conflict they had with Georgia a decade ago, much prefer being ruled by Moscow over being ruled by Tbilisi. Thus, South Ossetia's "semi-independent" status has meant a lack of political resolution, and such a conflict as we are seeing unfold now seems, in retrospect, inevitable. At the same time, however, this quote from Saakashvili in the CNN link above--"I think what is at stake here is the post-Cold War order"--seems accurate. I tend to agree with him that the Russians were looking for an excuse to invade. How this plays out now is anybody's guest, but it's a really volatile situation (as many here have noted).
posted by ornate insect at 9:50 AM on August 9, 2008


anybody's guess, not guest.
posted by ornate insect at 9:52 AM on August 9, 2008


I have little useful to add, but I keep wondering why no one points out that Gori was Stalin's birthplace.
posted by dilettante at 9:53 AM on August 9, 2008


Gori is a creepy town. We went to the Stalin museum last weekend and even though it was clear everywhere else, there was a huge black cloud over the town of Gori.
posted by k8t at 10:22 AM on August 9, 2008


It's almost bedtime here in the Caucasus. Everyone please keep their fingers crossed that it is a peaceful night.
posted by k8t at 10:25 AM on August 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Not sure that's the best analogy. In the case of Maine, the status quo is accepted by Canada, the United States, and people in Maine itself, while in South Ossetia, the South Ossetians and the Russians are opposed to the status quo.

I'm obviously not claiming that Maine is in the same situation as Ossetia, I'm saying the history of international recognition is the same. Even if Mainers got fed up with being in the U.S. and decided they wanted to be part of Canada, and the Canadians started encouraging them, it would be absurd to say Maine was "claimed" by the United States. Maine is part of the U.S., and if it wanted to leave it would be a case of secession. Same is true of South Ossetia.

A better analogy might be Kashmir.

No, because there were no separate states prior to 1947, just a united British India, so it is irrelevant to the situation of South Ossetia, which was uncontroversially part of Georgia (a separate state) for centuries until Russia gobbled up Georgia. Now that Georgia is independent Russia is using it as a catspaw.
posted by languagehat at 12:54 PM on August 9, 2008


The Maine analogy is not useful at all.

The Georgian-Ossetian conflict of 1991-92 emerged in the immediate aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and was never fully resolved--as today's headlines reveal.

Georgia was part of the USSR, and has only been an internationally recognized independent country since 1991. Maine has been a state since 1820. There's a big difference between almost 190 years of peaceful statehood, and less than 20 years of civil war and unresolved conflict in the case of South Ossetia. The latter has had at best only an extremely brief and tenuous stability, and most of its inhabitants appear to be either separatists or are OK with being Russian. No one there seems to want to be Georgian, while presumably most Mainers are not looking to secede.

posted by ornate insect at 1:16 PM on August 9, 2008


To anyone catching up on this thread: please see also this deleted and redundant post by bicyclefish, especially as it links to James Traub's lengthy and quite insightful background analysis in the NYT about the genesis of this conflict.
posted by ornate insect at 1:27 PM on August 9, 2008


Georgia pulls 1,000 troops from Iraq
posted by ornate insect at 2:05 PM on August 9, 2008


Some well-thought-out analysis at DailyKos, of all places.
posted by nasreddin at 2:09 PM on August 9, 2008


Georgia: Roots of the South Ossetia conflict (Telegraph, UK)
posted by ornate insect at 2:13 PM on August 9, 2008


nr: and more good dkos analysis w/links is here
posted by ornate insect at 2:19 PM on August 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Azerbaijan halts oil exports via Georgia ports: state oil firm
posted by ornate insect at 2:33 PM on August 9, 2008


off the wires:
South Ossetia refugee buses arrive in Russia
BP unaware of pipeline bombing in Georgia
In pictures: Ossetia crisis deepens

more background:
Russo-Georgian Convulsions (2006)
posted by ornate insect at 2:43 PM on August 9, 2008


Georgia was part of the USSR, and has only been an internationally recognized independent country since 1991. Maine has been a state since 1820.

Did you miss the whole part about how South Ossetia has been part of Georgia since the Middle Ages? Furthermore, Georgia has been an independent country (or, like China, from time to time broken up into two or three closely related states), off and on, for far longer; it was converted to Christianity in the early 4th century, and as far as we can tell people ethnically and linguistically related to modern Georgians have lived there indefinitely (there is no evidence of their having come from elsewhere, though obviously they came Out of Africa like everybody else). If you prefer not to think about anything prior to 1989 or 1917, that's fine, but don't ask me to go along with it. South Ossetia has a much longer history as part of Georgia than Maine does as part of the U.S.

That said, thanks for all the great links, and keep 'em coming.
posted by languagehat at 3:01 PM on August 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


And nasreddin, that's a great DKos link. Pull quote: "This is not about democracy vs dictature, brave freedom lovers vs evil oppressors, but a nasty brawl by power-hungry figures on both sides, with large slices of corruption. The fact that this is turned into a cold-war-like conflict between good and evil is a domestic political play by some in Washington to reinforce their power and push certain policies that have little to do with Russia or Georgia."
posted by languagehat at 3:05 PM on August 9, 2008


languagehat--well, like Northern Ireland, Iraq, Kurdistan, Cyprus, Basque country, Kashmir, the Balkans, the entire dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Israel/Palestine or any other place where there's been conflict over land, culture, and political control, one can find heated arguments, acrimony, and long memories from either side stretching back all the way to antiquity. What seems perfectly natural to one side is seen as totally unnatural to the other. One can enter a pub in Belfast and hear about Cromwell as if he just left Ireland, one can talk about how the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown by the states, one can hear very real grievances from Palestinians that reference Koranic times as if they were yesterday. Where there is conflict of this kind, memories are long. That's precisely why there are conflicts. The case of South Ossetia and whether or not Russia or Georgia has the greater historical, political, and cultural claim upon it is not one I have a personal stake in: I can see both sides in this war. However, whenever someone blithely dismisses both the past 80 years and the will of the people (it seems most people living in South Ossetia who currently live there want to either become independent or be aligned with Moscow), it's worth noting that what is being presented is skewed by an agenda. I don't know if you have a stake here, if you are Georgian or what, but the fact of the matter is not nearly as neat and tidy as you make it out to be. Good and bad cases can be made for Ossetia being independent, being under Russian control, or being under Georgia control. Given what's happened in the last 24 hours, however, I think the sympathy for Georgia will be very low in South Ossetia. Frankly, both Russia and Georgia look bad here: in their tug of war, they've effectively destroyed the very region they both claim to want to save.
posted by ornate insect at 4:42 PM on August 9, 2008


Slideshow: Russian Bombardment in Georgia
posted by ornate insect at 5:06 PM on August 9, 2008


it's worth noting that what is being presented is skewed by an agenda. I don't know if you have a stake here, if you are Georgian or what, but the fact of the matter is not nearly as neat and tidy as you make it out to be.

This is not directed primarily at you, ornate insect, because I know you're a smart person and I always enjoy your contributions here, but this is an example of a way of thinking that baffles and infuriates me and that I see all too often on MetaFilter. "You're saying something that contradicts or complicates my view of the situation, therefore you must have a personal stake and in fact are probably a member of Group X." It's hard enough to communicate without that shit.

See up there where I said, in my very first comment, "Georgia's been oppressing its minorities ever since they've had the chance"? Does that sound like I'm a closet Georgian? See up there where I quoted with approval, in my most recent comment, "This is not about democracy vs dictature, brave freedom lovers vs evil oppressors, but a nasty brawl by power-hungry figures on both sides, with large slices of corruption"? Does that sound like I have a fucking stake? The only "stake" I have is in the truth, or as close as we can get to it. I happen to know a shitload about the history involved here, I've studied Georgian and read Russian fluently, and please take my word for it that I hold no brief for the politicians or nationalist theories of either side.

Russians, Georgians, and Ossetians are all suffering (as are my people, the Americans) from the cynical, corrupt actions of their bastardly politicians, who should all be tied to heavy weights and dropped into the ocean. I don't care who "wins" this or any other such confrontation, because the people of all sides are all going to lose. But when I see lies or oversimplifications about what's going on, I'm going to say something about it. Maybe you don't like history and don't want your view complicated by it, but I'm not the one trying to make it "neat and tidy," you are, and I don't appreciate your trying to dismiss my contributions with suggestions that I'm making them because of my supposed nationality. (And if you knew how reluctant Georgians are to leave Georgia, and how few of them there are in the U.S., you'd find that idea as amusing as I do.)
posted by languagehat at 5:38 PM on August 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


But when I see lies or oversimplifications

Where do you think I have a lied or oversimplified? I'm genuinely curious; examples please.

you must have a personal stake

I did not accuse you of being partial; I asked if you were; there's a difference.

I'm not the one trying to make it "neat and tidy," you are

How am I trying to make it neat and tidy? An example might help.

I don't care who "wins" this or any other such confrontation

I suppose that makes two of us. Since we both seem to agree that Russia and Georgia have blood on their hands here, and that their leaders are cynically using S.O. as a chess piece, maybe you could refresh my memory about what it is we're arguing about in the first place?

As far as I can tell, you have asserted that Georgia has more claim to S.O. than Russia does; I have counter-asserted that this question is not so simple: anymore than it is in the numerous examples of other territorial disputes I mentioned.
posted by ornate insect at 6:23 PM on August 9, 2008


The only "stake" I have is in the truth, or as close as we can get to it.

I happen to have this stake as well, and for me the truth of the matter at hand is that it is not by any means transparently obvious that Georgia has a clearly superior argument for keeping S.O. Georgian rather than Russian. If it were transparently obvious, there would be no conflict. I have not taken a side on whether or not S.O should be independent, Russian, or Georgian. It seems to me you have taken a side on this.
posted by ornate insect at 6:32 PM on August 9, 2008


ornate insect, I could be wrong, but I believe languagehat was simply referring to the loaded language in the phrase 'claimed by'. If you're an Ossetian looking to be ruled by Moscow you say that South Ossetia is claimed by Georgia. If you're part of the Georgian power elite, you say the Ossetians are trying to secede. If you're a spectator like nearly all of us, you probably go with what everyone else seems to be saying. I think languagehat is pointing out that in cases like this language is sometimes implicitly biased towards one point-of-view or the other, and we should be aware of that. I'm fairly sure that languagehat's personal biases don't feature in that argument.
posted by Ritchie at 6:43 PM on August 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ritchie--"claimed by" seems like a fairly neutral term to me: both Russia and Georgia claim S.O. as rightfully theirs, and now the stakes have been raised in their claims. For approximately 15 years this question went unresolved. languagehat has, if I read him correctly, made repeated assertions that the Georgian claim to S.O. makes more sense (historically, politically, culturally) than the Russian claim does. It seems less clear to me whether this is the case, although I do not have strong feelings about it either way.
posted by ornate insect at 6:50 PM on August 9, 2008


Also, the post in which I brought up what lh's angle was contained a lot more than just that. I apologize about the way in which I raised that question, but I think the rest of my post deserves more consideration.
posted by ornate insect at 6:53 PM on August 9, 2008


Has Georgia Overreached in Ossetia?
posted by ornate insect at 7:06 PM on August 9, 2008


Seems to me that the whole South Ossetia part of this is a huge red herring that languagehat and ornate insect are splitting hairs over. When marketing a war or an invasion, it's always best to first put forth a plight of some people. The humanitarian angle is always a great emotional cover. I do think it's just a ruse, and I think languagehat's pullquote from the Kos article cuts closer to the bone. Didn't the United States use the humanitarian angle in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq? There's horrific things going on around the world, and they're convenient when needed, but ignored when not.

I'm just hoping that this isn't a part of a run-up to a new world war over energy and economics. I've always thought that the next true world war would be economic in nature, but I've never figured on how much physical war would be a part of it. The interesting part is how obvious the various parties need each other, so perhaps a full on War like the two in the previous century aren't warranted, but then there's the ego fueled entropy that could perhaps tip the scales. In the end., it'll be the bottom of the pyramid, like me, that ends up carrying the burden.
posted by Eekacat at 7:57 PM on August 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


I read that piece at Daily Kos and after the article laid bare the case, the comments became a convention of anthropology and linguist experts so erudite, it puts the best mefi thread to shame. Almost as if they'd rather talk about ANYTHING but the real issue.

Also, I hate it when people say that "the millitary is streched too thin" or we're losing Iraq as if THEY would know. If you knew the initial intent of the war --we are not losing. If you're comparing body counts--we're not losing, If you want to keep your RV, keep food prices affordable, pay no more that $4.00 a gallon for gas, & similar quality of life, economic stability for the next fifty years--- we are not losing...So just stay fat and dumb and shut up---and smile

I'm a fan of history as much as the next man. But don't think you are getting anywhere debating the morality of this war and who to root for. What's most interesting is the Wests role. Georgian-Russian History is much to long and complex and not where rub lies folks. I can't fathom why you are interested in it.

If I were you I'd be much more interested in the whole, ugly truth and deal/discourse accordingly. Instead of self rigghteous-grandstanding-mock dissent as I reach for the next hot-pockets at my armchair.
posted by Student of Man at 9:20 PM on August 9, 2008


Pastabagel, late to the party, but that is truly worthy of applause. Well done.
posted by mwhybark at 10:42 PM on August 9, 2008


Lots more evacuations of foreigner today. That's all to report as of this morning.
posted by k8t at 11:32 PM on August 9, 2008


This is major fucked up right here.

My heart goes out to everyone caught up in this bullshit, especially those who lose loved ones to such needless violence. Nothing is of greater value than living free, and I really hope humanity figures that out before we all kill each other over trifles.

Student of Man: "...So just stay fat and dumb and shut up---and smile"

Just be good little lobsters while we slowly increase the temperature of the water. Don't scream. It does you no good, and it might upset our customers. You're going to taste so nice.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:25 AM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


The term 'peace keepers' is a pretty hilarious euphemism to give to Russian regulars occupying the sovereign state of Georgia. By this measure, what do we call aggression Russia has been committing in Chechnya?
posted by robox at 12:52 AM on August 10, 2008


What bullshit. That's like saying "Maine is claimed by the United States."

No it isn't. The United States' control over Maine is hardly disputed, whereas Georgia's control over South Ossetia is limited at most. Unless you would like to provide a map of which villages in Maine are under Washington control?

I agree that "claim" is a loaded word, languagehat - and I feel your basic point stands.

But when you proceed to illustrate this with a flawed analogy, defend it til the cows come home, and start randomly swearing at your interlocutor, I really wish you wouldn't be such an ass about these things.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:03 AM on August 10, 2008


In the thirteenth century, Ossetians arrived on the south side of the Caucasus Mountains, in Georgian territory, when the Mongols drove them from what is now the North Ossetian Autonomous Republic of Russia.^
The Mongols started it! I should've known. Pesky world conquerors.

After a search of the thread I note that languagehat already mentioned this.
posted by XMLicious at 2:28 AM on August 10, 2008


We went to an ex-pat-y cafe for lunch and it was overflowing with ex-pats from Georgia.

I made up a little city guide (on Facebook, sorry) for any visitors trying to figure out what to do/how to get around.
posted by k8t at 4:31 AM on August 10, 2008


Brits are told to get out.
posted by k8t at 5:23 AM on August 10, 2008


ornate insect, I could be wrong, but I believe languagehat was simply referring to the loaded language in the phrase 'claimed by'. ... I think languagehat is pointing out that in cases like this language is sometimes implicitly biased towards one point-of-view or the other, and we should be aware of that. I'm fairly sure that languagehat's personal biases don't feature in that argument.

Bingo, and thanks for saying it.

Seems to me that the whole South Ossetia part of this is a huge red herring that languagehat and ornate insect are splitting hairs over.

Yes and no. Obviously nobody gives a damn about South Ossetia and the Ossetians per se, it's all about power politics and energy, but the fact is that South Ossetia happens to be the area they're fighting over, and it's worth trying to sort out the history involved.

Georgian-Russian History is much to long and complex and not where rub lies folks. I can't fathom why you are interested in it.

Uh, sorry for being interested in something you're not. I guess.

The United States' control over Maine is hardly disputed, whereas Georgia's control over South Ossetia is limited at most. Unless you would like to provide a map of which villages in Maine are under Washington control?

RTFT.

I agree that "claim" is a loaded word, languagehat - and I feel your basic point stands.


My "basic point" was my only point, which some got and some didn't.

But when you proceed to illustrate this with a flawed analogy, defend it til the cows come home, and start randomly swearing at your interlocutor, I really wish you wouldn't be such an ass about these things.

There was nothing wrong with my analogy. Analogies are not equations. And I presume when you are accused of holding your views because you have a personal stake in the situation, you respond with cheerful equanimity. I'm sorry I'm not as admirable a person as you.
posted by languagehat at 6:27 AM on August 10, 2008


Also:

Since we both seem to agree that Russia and Georgia have blood on their hands here, and that their leaders are cynically using S.O. as a chess piece, maybe you could refresh my memory about what it is we're arguing about in the first place?

We were arguing because you (apparently) misunderstood what I was saying in the first place and thought I was defending Georgia rather than complaining about biased language in the press, so you insulted me and I defended myself. Since you've apologized for the insult, which I appreciate, I think we're done with the argument, and hopefully there are no hard feelings.
posted by languagehat at 7:57 AM on August 10, 2008


lh--no hard feelings. Also, for what it's worth, I tend more and more to agree w/the poster above who wrote that this conflict has very little to do with S.O. per se. Instead, S.O. is being used as an excuse for a series of power-plays between Moscow, Tbilisi, and Washington, DC. It has much more to do with the petro-politics of Eurasia than with national identity. Follow the money, as the saying goes.
posted by ornate insect at 8:47 AM on August 10, 2008


War in the Caucasus: Inside the battle zone
posted by Artw at 8:59 AM on August 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Great links. Thank you.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:20 AM on August 10, 2008


Just a quick note to thank homunculus for this link, way up-thread. There are so many good links on this thread, but I wanted to re-link this one if anyone missed it--as I think it warrants serious attention.
posted by ornate insect at 9:47 AM on August 10, 2008


Looks like most Americans are getting out by tomorrow. The Armenian government, kindly, is waving all visa costs and the 'airport tax' - saving people about $100.

Another night falls, let's hope for the best again.
posted by k8t at 10:06 AM on August 10, 2008


Georgia Under Online Assault
posted by homunculus at 10:08 AM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tbilsi is being bombed now. Friends can hear it. :(
posted by k8t at 10:23 AM on August 10, 2008


re: Georgia Under Online Assault

Georgia is also blocking .ru and Russian language TV. It goes both ways.
posted by k8t at 10:25 AM on August 10, 2008


Homunculus's link is describing hacker attacks that are designed to prevent anyone, anywhere on the internet from accessing the Georgian web sites under attack - not just making them unavailable from within Russia.
posted by XMLicious at 10:43 AM on August 10, 2008


Georgia just hasn't hired DoS hackers yet. It will soon enough. Misha is quite the savvy dictator. He is great at talking the democratic talk, but, as he has shown in the past 2 elections, he is quite good at taking his opponents down BAMN.
posted by k8t at 10:54 AM on August 10, 2008


Great posts PastaBagel, but I am having trouble finding any reference to planned pipelines through South Ossetia/Chechnya/Dagestan beyond the map you linked to. It seems that the "Nabucco Pipeline" is just the segment that would run from Turkey to Europe. What is the name of the planned segment through Russia and Georgia?
posted by thrako at 11:27 AM on August 10, 2008


A Fistful of Euros continues to have excellent coverage of these events. Pretty much all their front page has articles on the subject with links and pertinent comments, although their correspondent on the scene has evacuated. One link that is interesting is to this article. The comments contain a lot more info and opinion. The basic question: how much responsibility for this belongs to the US, if any at all?
posted by CCBC at 4:18 PM on August 10, 2008


At Olympics, Russian and Georgian shooting medalists share podium, embrace.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:00 PM on August 10, 2008


US claims Russia aiming for 'regime change'

The hypocrisy of the US is astounding here.
posted by empath at 6:36 PM on August 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


[few comments removed - metadiscussion really needs to go to metatalk, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:41 PM on August 10, 2008


I'm not really certain that Russia really gives a shit what George Bush thinks about anything theses days. I mean, let's face it, most people in his own country don't.
posted by Artw at 6:49 PM on August 10, 2008


A tidbit by Dan Conley at Taegan Goddard's Political Wire w/r/t the implications of the US presidential candidates' reactions to the Russia/Georgia conflict.
posted by manguero at 6:52 PM on August 10, 2008


Oh, and thanks for the great links, everyone.
posted by manguero at 6:52 PM on August 10, 2008


There is an interesting piece in the Guardian by Oxford history don Mark Almond. Subhead: "It is crudely simplistic to cast Russia as the sole villain in the clashes over South Ossetia. The west would be wise to stay out."
posted by grouse at 9:43 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wisdom doesn't come into it.
posted by pompomtom at 11:58 PM on August 10, 2008


"It is crudely simplistic to cast Russia as the sole villain in the clashes over South Ossetia. The west would be wise to stay out."

Heh. Don't blame Russia! Georgia tempted Russia! "She was askin' for it!"
posted by ZachsMind at 12:09 AM on August 11, 2008


Well, it was Georgia that broke the cease-fire and sent in tanks. The question is, did Russia tempt Georgia? And Grouses's link to the Mark Almond post is a good one. Most of the thoughtful links above -- whether they think Russia is in the wrong or not -- refer to the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and the creation of an independent Kosovo as precursors to this mess. Almond:
In the Balkans, the west promoted the disintegration of multiethnic Yugoslavia, climaxing with their recognition of Kosovo's independence in February. If a mafia-dominated microstate like Montenegro can get western recognition, why shouldn't flawed, pro-Russian, unrecognised states aspire to independence, too?
posted by CCBC at 1:00 AM on August 11, 2008


War in Georgia: The Israeli connection.
posted by adamvasco at 2:43 AM on August 11, 2008


The War Nerd weighs in. Warning for those new to Gary Brecher's writing, he doesn't mince words and can come across as a bit bloodthirsty.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:19 AM on August 11, 2008


Thanks, Happy Dave, that's a great analysis (and I love the style). Executive summary:
Saakashvili just didn’t think it through. One reason he overplayed his hand is that he got lucky the last time he had to deal with a breakaway region: Ajara, a tiny little strip of Black Sea coast in southern Georgia. This is a place smaller than some incorporated Central Valley towns, but it declared itself an “autonomous” republic, preserving its sacred basket-weaving traditions or whatever. You just have to accept that people in the Caucasus are insane that way; they’d die to keep from saying hello to the people over the next hill, and they’re never going to change. The Ajarans aren’t even ethnically different from Georgians; they’re Georgian too. But they’re Muslims, which means they have to have their own Lego parliament and Tonka-Toy army and all the rest of that Victorian crap, and their leader, a wack job named Abashidze (Goddamn Georgian names!) volunteered them to fight to the death for their worthless independence. Except he was such a nut, and so corrupt, and the Ajarans were so similar to the Georgians, and their little “country” was so tiny and ridiculous, that for once sanity prevailed and the Ajarans refused to fight, let themselves get reabsorbed by that Colussus to the North, mighty Georgia.

Well, like I’ve said before, there’s nothing as dangerous as victory. Makes people crazy. Saakashvili started thinking he could gobble up any secessionist region—like, say, South Ossetia. But there are big differences he was forgetting—like the fact that South Ossetia isn’t Georgian, has a border with Russia, and is linked up with North Ossetia just across that border.
posted by languagehat at 6:14 AM on August 11, 2008


'US incited Georgia offensive in S. Ossetia': In a Friday press conference, Chairman of Russia's State Duma Security Committee Vladimir Vasilyev said without US aid, Tbilisi would have been unable to start military operation in South Ossetia.

Dead Mercenaries Found in Tskhinvali

U.S., Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Ukraine conduct exercise in Georgia (July 13, 2008; Blackanthem Military News)

The War in Georgia is a War for the West (Saakashivili's op-ed in WSJ)

Russia criticises US for flying Georgian troops back from Iraq

2 Israeli Security firms say they left Georgia before fighting
posted by ornate insect at 8:21 AM on August 11, 2008


Russia seizes Georgia military base, opens second front

Georgia Fight Spreads, Moscow Issues Ultimatum

McCain's Top Foreign-Policy Adviser Was Lobbyist for Georgia

Georgia conflict hits Russian shares and sends rouble plunging

G-7 call for Russia to halt attacks

Developments in Georgia, Aug 11 (Reuters AlertNet)

Russia Sinks Georgian Missile Boat

Defiant Russia continues to blitz Georgia
posted by ornate insect at 8:37 AM on August 11, 2008


Given that Tbilisi airport may have been hit, given that Russian troops have advanced into Georgia proper, given that fighting continues and Putin has both ignored demands from the West for a halt to his military expedition and has also suggested the war will come to "its logical conclusion," one can only conclude that Moscow will not be satisfied until Russian troops are occupying Tbilisi and Saakashivili is removed from power. Saakashivili seems to be betting (see his WSJ op-ed) that the West will come to his aid in such a worst-case scenario. But for the West to do so would almost certainly ignite a World War. I'm interested to see how others here think this might play out. So far the signs for a peaceful resolution are not good.
posted by ornate insect at 8:55 AM on August 11, 2008


Some interesting diplomatic analysis from Russia's Daily can be found here. As far as I can tell the Georgian embassy in Moscow and the Russian embassy in Tbilisi are both still open and operational, although presumably both are heavily guarded. Can anyone confirm whether or not that is the case?

Also, although there appear to be some protests by Georgians in front of the Georgian embassy in Moscow, I am wondering if there will be any larger protests in Russia by ordinary Russians against Moscow's continued military push into Georgia? Presumably the thought of an extended conflict with Georgia is unpopular, and most Russians are either against escalating the conflict, or are at the least very weary of bucking world opinion in order to settle a score in Georgia--and thus beginning Russia's own "Iraq."

posted by ornate insect at 9:18 AM on August 11, 2008


This thread seems over, but here's one last link (honest): On Slog to Safety, Seething at West. From yesterday's NYT, it shows how some Georgian soldiers and civilians were counting (naively, I would say, but also touchingly) on immediate support from U.S. and the West.
posted by ornate insect at 9:30 AM on August 11, 2008


I am wondering if there will be any larger protests in Russia by ordinary Russians against Moscow's continued military push into Georgia? Presumably the thought of an extended conflict with Georgia is unpopular, and most Russians are either against escalating the conflict, or are at the least very weary of bucking world opinion in order to settle a score in Georgia--and thus beginning Russia's own "Iraq."

Hah! You're thinking like a Westerner. The ordinary Russian relishes nothing more than finally seeing Russia decisively win a real, conventional war instead of spending four decades bogged down picking off Chechens or Afghans. As for world opinion, it has about as much credibility in Russia right now as the French did in America in early 2003.

Now, if Russia ends up still in Georgia in a year (which I doubt, I suspect they'll be gone in a month or two), the war might start getting unpopular. Now, not so much.
posted by nasreddin at 9:37 AM on August 11, 2008


ornate insect: Its just about night now in the caucasus. OP's and analysis are beng written for tomorrows papers. I think Russia will definitely continue to punish Georgia by bombing infrastructure and the Russians might well push back the borders of the separatist enclaves of S. Ossetia and Abkhazia into Georgia and then they will be in a very strong position to negotiate a ceasefire. They want Saakashvili gone and have already said they will not negotiate with him. They will stop short of a full invasion but will make sure Georgia is economically and militarily crippled. To the Russians this is a little border war and they can gain a huge propaganda coup at home as well as embarrass the West.
posted by adamvasco at 9:55 AM on August 11, 2008


AdamVasco is right on, IMHO. Georgia is going to play up the Russians not signing the cease-fire and the invasion of Gori. Good luck Georgia.

And night has fallen, 1000s of foreigners have crossed the border and Yerevan is abuzz with people looking for places to stay and flights out.
posted by k8t at 10:11 AM on August 11, 2008


And I have to publicly barf from watching too much pro-Russian news ALL DAY LONG.
posted by k8t at 10:15 AM on August 11, 2008


Institute for War and Peace Reporting - an excellent regional news source - just came out.

South Ossetia: An Avoidable Catastrophe by Tom DeWaal, one of the best journalists in the region

and

Fear and Defiance Mingle on Tbilisi Streets
posted by k8t at 11:37 AM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Estonia, Google Help Cyberlocked Georgia
posted by homunculus at 1:16 PM on August 11, 2008


Check out this "typo" from an ABC News article entitled Fighting Escalates Between Russia and Georgia: Cheney Vows Russian Offensive Will "Not Go Unanswered"...

Bush, who was attending the Beijing Olympics, told NBC Sports that the Soviet offensive was unacceptable.

Is this one of those Fox-News-style "typos" like Barack Osama? WTF?
posted by ornate insect at 1:17 PM on August 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


I highly recommend the De Waal story k8t posted, and I'd like to thank her and ornate insect (don't go away!) for all the great links.
posted by languagehat at 1:24 PM on August 11, 2008


As an update, five articles from a Russian news site (in Russian):
1) Saakashvili says the Russians have captured the central highway and split the country in half
2) Russian peacekeepers have left Senaki
3) Russia will meet with NATO at a special summit tomorrow
4) The Georgians targeted a convoy of Ossetian refugees
5) Two battalions from Chechnya are being transferred to Georgia
posted by nasreddin at 1:44 PM on August 11, 2008


Diplomatic mood darkens in Georgia (good BBC article just posted from Tbilisi)
posted by ornate insect at 1:48 PM on August 11, 2008


Unsurprisingly, Wall Street's looking for a silver-lining in the conflict; as if the military-industrial complex has not had a "gravy train" in Iraq...

Georgia conflict could revive big military spending
Analyst recommends defense issues, but others say clash will be brief
By Christopher Hinton, MarketWatch
Last update: 3:07 p.m. EDT Aug. 11, 2008

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- A prolonged conflict in southwest Asia between Russia and Georgia could eventually benefit military contractors that build heavy weapon systems such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing Co., one analyst said Monday.

"No less than the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1978, [the] events of the past several days are a bell-ringer for defense stocks," said Paul Nisbet, an analyst with JSA Research, an aerospace equity research firm. "We strongly urge purchase of aerospace/defense issues, a sector which has declined with the broad market since the start of the year."

Heavy weapon systems, such as the F-22 Raptor being built by Lockheed (LMT:112.88, +0.82, +0.7%) and Boeing (BA:66.62, -1.24, -1.8%) , along with ships, tanks and artillery, will be in higher demand as the U.S. positions itself to check the growing challenges posed by Russia and China, Nisbet wrote in an industry note.

But the Cold War gravy days for the military-industrial complex may not be entirely at hand.
"This conflict is likely to be brief and fit into a general pattern of tensions within the former borders of the Soviet Union," said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank.


***

Georgian exit leaves vacuum near Iranian border
By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer, 56 minutes ago

BAGHDAD - The departure of 2,000 Georgian soldiers from Iraq leaves a question mark over the future of a series of checkpoints along smuggling routes near the Iranian border, forcing the U.S. to shuffle units to fill the vacuum.

Three Georgian checkpoints on highways surrounding the area's main city of Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, were empty on Monday, residents and Iraqi officials said.

But many Iraqis aren't sorry to see the Georgians go. They say the Georgians were rude, disrespectful and ineffective.

posted by ornate insect at 2:05 PM on August 11, 2008


Georgia appeals for help over Russia "invasion"
By Matt Robinson
41 minutes ago
TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgia appealed for international intervention on Monday and pulled its battered forces back to defend the capital, as Russian troops moved further into its territory, ignoring Western pleas to halt.

"The Georgian army is retreating to defend the capital. The Government is urgently seeking international intervention to prevent the fall of Georgia," a Georgian statement said.

President Mikheil Saakashvili said Russian forces had taken control of Georgia's main east-west route, effectively bisecting the country. He urged Georgians to stay home and not panic.

posted by ornate insect at 2:14 PM on August 11, 2008


ornate insect: "...Soviet offensive was unacceptable."
Is this one of those Fox-News-style "typos" like Barack Osama? WTF?

This is the way it's being reported by many outlets. Headlines refer to Russia as the invader while the body of the piece gives a more nuanced story. Check out these headlines. Russians "advance" or "invade", Georgia asks for help or pledges a cease-fire.
posted by CCBC at 2:27 PM on August 11, 2008


Mark Ames' piece in The Nation (also on the eXile site) may have been linked before but here's an interesting tidbit:
The invasion was backed up by a PR offensive so layered and sophisticated that I even got an hysterical call today from a hedge fund manager in New York, screaming about an "investor call" that Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze made this morning with some fifty leading Western investment bank managers and analysts. I've since seen a J.P. Morgan summary of the conference call, which pretty much reflects the talking points later picked up by the US media.

These kinds of conference calls are generally conducted by the heads of companies in order to give banking analysts guidance. But as the hedge fund manager told me today, "The reason Lado did this is because he knew the enormous PR value that Georgia would gain by going to the money people and analysts, particularly since Georgia is clearly the aggressor this time." As a former investment banker who worked in London and who used to head the Bank of Georgia, Gurgenidze knew what he was doing. "Lado is a former banker himself, so he knew that by framing the conflict for the most influential bankers and analysts in New York, that these power bankers would then write up reports and go on CNBC and argue Lado Gurgenidze's talking points. It was brilliant, and now you're starting to see the American media shift its coverage from calling it Georgia invading Ossetian territory, to the new spin, that it's Russian imperial aggression against tiny little Georgia."
The Ames article also has a critique of McCain's position on Georgia and the under-reported fact that the Security Council (i.e., the US and Britain) "backed the Georgians in rejecting a phrase in the three-sentence draft statement that would have required both sides 'to renounce the use of force,' council diplomats said." (citing a Reuters report). Got that? Georgia refused a cease-fire because it required the renunciation of force. But the talking points have Georgia demanding a cease-fire and the Russians continuing their "offensive".
posted by CCBC at 2:59 PM on August 11, 2008


CCBC--The "typo" I was referring to the word "Soviet." So far as I could see, explicitly referring to Russia as the USSR (which, as we know, no longer exists) was not in any of the headlines you linked to.
posted by ornate insect at 3:04 PM on August 11, 2008


My bad, ornate, I thought you were referring to something else.
posted by CCBC at 3:46 PM on August 11, 2008


Who tempted who? This expert claims Russia suckered Georgia into attacking, a view held by others. But this Russian source sees it the other way:
Saakashvili’s bet — perhaps with tacit U.S. encouragement — might have been to reclaim South Ossetia by force, if Russia did not get involved militarily. Another strategy may have been to provoke Moscow to respond militarily and then retreat under Russian fire, claiming an act of aggression against Georgia. In either case, it seems that Saakashvili’s intention was to bolster his domestic support by appearing strong and standing up to the Russian bear, while making a serious move to restore Georgia’s sovereignty over South Ossetia. He achieved most of his objectives. It was a win-win for Saakashvili and a perfect trap for Medvedev.

posted by CCBC at 4:30 PM on August 11, 2008


Fred Kaplan at Slate: Lonely Night in Georgia: The Bush administration's feckless response to the Russian invasion.
posted by homunculus at 5:36 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just heard from PirateBowling and she is fine.
She was doing Peace Corps in Georgia for anyone who didn't know...
Here is what she said:
"I'm out now, and in Armenia. Things are pretty crazy and the situation in Georgia is terrifying, but I felt safe the whole time. Now we sit and wait to see what happens."

My sister is also in Armenia, but she is flying out to Europe soon. Seems to be the place to be from her descriptions. The Best Western (shouldn't that be Best Eastern?) there is an expat outpost!
posted by rmless at 5:54 PM on August 11, 2008


...no, kidding, it's the plot to Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon.

Yeah, I was watching this on the news, and there was footage of a building exploding, and 'Achievement Unlocked' popped up down the bottom.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:05 PM on August 11, 2008


Rice refuses to ‘interrupt her holidays’ to deal with Georgian conflict.

Wow, just like Katrina.
posted by homunculus at 9:09 PM on August 11, 2008


WTF? I thought this was something she was actually supposed to be an expert in?
posted by Artw at 9:20 PM on August 11, 2008


Wikipedia has a nice ethno-linguistic map of the Caucasus.
If SVG doesn't do it for you, here's a big png version.
posted by ryanrs at 10:23 PM on August 11, 2008


More Gwynne Dyer - Abkhazia: Russian Bluff:
If Russia one day recognises Abkhazia's independence without Georgian consent and Security Council approval, it will mean that Moscow has finally lost its faith in international law and accepted that the world has reverted to jungle.
posted by Chuckles at 11:42 PM on August 11, 2008


And his most recent column - Russian triumph as Saakashvili's gamble fails:
The Bush Administration's ambition to extend Nato into the Caucasus mountains is dead, which will please the French, the Germans and other Nato members who always found it bizarre and wilfully provocative.

Russians, who were the target of the provocation, will be quietly pleased with the speed and effectiveness of their Government's response. There is no great moral issue here. What Georgia tried to do to South Ossetia is precisely what Russia did to Chechnya, but Georgia wasn't strong enough and South Ossetia had a bigger friend. There is no great strategic issue either: apart from a few pipeline routes, the whole Transcaucasus is of little importance to the rest of the world.

In six months' time, we probably won't even remember this foolish adventure.
With George around to mess things up, one can only hope..
posted by Chuckles at 11:52 PM on August 11, 2008


You forgot Cheney.
posted by grouse at 11:57 PM on August 11, 2008


Dmitry Orlov : It turns out that I am somewhat qualified to write on the subject: when I was in grad school (linguistics) I studied Abkhaz, the curious language spoken by the indigenous population of the separatist republic of Abkhazia.......
posted by adamvasco at 12:45 AM on August 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Who tempted who?

The devil! The devil went down to Georgia...
posted by XMLicious at 6:00 AM on August 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Medvedev has ordered the cessation of military operations in Georgia.
posted by schroedinger at 6:48 AM on August 12, 2008


Well, thank God that's over.
posted by nasreddin at 6:51 AM on August 12, 2008


Photos of the war
posted by nasreddin at 7:39 AM on August 12, 2008


Thanks for the Gwynne Dyer columns, Chuckles; the guy knows his stuff and has a balanced position.
posted by languagehat at 8:07 AM on August 12, 2008


McDonalds in Russia. McDonalds in Georgia.

Burp.
posted by dgaicun at 8:46 AM on August 12, 2008 [7 favorites]


Heh. Yes, I thought about that too.
posted by Artw at 8:46 AM on August 12, 2008


Thats a great observation dgaicun.

We now have to switch to post-McDonaldian theory in which the unifying effects of capitalism give way to the all-or-nothing fight for dwindling planetary resources.
posted by vacapinta at 9:34 AM on August 12, 2008


Georgia says bombing continues after Russian order
posted by ornate insect at 9:39 AM on August 12, 2008


Has any country WITHOUT a McDonalds bombed another country recently?
posted by Artw at 10:11 AM on August 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention
posted by triggerfinger at 11:12 AM on August 12, 2008


(This has been a great thread btw, thanks to everyone for the discussion).
posted by triggerfinger at 11:14 AM on August 12, 2008


FWIW for several days now I’ve been playing a game where I check the CNN homepage and see what the lead item is. Guess what story it’s never been?
posted by Artw at 11:32 AM on August 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


The beeb is presenting the pipeline angle now too.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:52 AM on August 12, 2008


All conflicts are NOT all about resources. Resources have always been a determinant in conflicts and the modern world is no different. Ignoring and dismissing the other causes soley for the most unpublicized one is being too much of a mefite know-it-all for my tastes. The need for autonomy, controlled borders, elimination of rebels, ego, madness, hate, and security are just as powerful.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:57 AM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


So this'll be like Russias Six Day War?
posted by Artw at 11:59 AM on August 12, 2008


I am up to my ears in Georgian ex-pats, but any MeFites in Armenia now, please feel free to msg me for assistance etc. in Yerevan.
posted by k8t at 12:49 PM on August 12, 2008


Recalling the NATO summit in Bucharest this past April, in which the U.S. pushed for Georgia to become part of NATO, one must now, in light of the past week, ask: did the neocons in the Bush administration give Georgia the green light to provoke Russia into war?
posted by ornate insect at 1:21 PM on August 12, 2008


FWIW for several days now I’ve been playing a game where I check the CNN homepage and see what the lead item is. Guess what story it’s never been?

Bah. That time it was. Bad luck uncute chinese singing girl.
posted by Artw at 1:58 PM on August 12, 2008


Pastabagel, thanks for the brilliant, informative and interesting comments.
posted by nickyskye at 5:44 PM on August 12, 2008


homunculus' link to the Kaplan article is worth a serious read.
posted by malaprohibita at 6:13 PM on August 12, 2008


A few people have mailed me about the reliability of the maps and other sources I linked. Okay, so it was my mistake posting links to wikipedia articles at the outset of a war. Specifically, the article on the Nabucco pipeline has recently been changed to include a map drawn by the person who posted it, that shows a lot of oil pipelines, but not the actual Nabucco gas pipeline.


This is the actual, correct market data from the Nabucco Consortium for natural gas entering Europe.
We care about nat gas here, not oil as much. The reasons for this are many, but they boil down to the fact that nat gas is extremely costly to ship globally on tankers etc. Much easier to find a local source and pipe it in.

These are the documents from the Nabucco consortium that show the correct maps, and more importantly the market data. Nabucco would replace Russia as the largest supplier of natgas to Europe. More importantly, however, Nabucco is an opportunity for upstream suppliers to put natgas on the market by bypassing Russia.

This means that for everyone that isn't Russia, it is suddenly considerably more important and valuable to (a) have a natgas pipe from the Caspian run through your soil, (b) get a project started to build such a pipe, or (c) extend your territory to the shores of the Caspian or Black Sea. If you are Russia, it is suddenly considerably more important to stop (a)-(c).

Russia has tremendous incentive to reduce the number of independent nations through which pipelines run, and to reduce the number of nations on the Black and Caspian Seas. So you can see that existing and potential pipeline locations can dictate economic interest of the nations in the regions and incentivize various courses of action.

The other point I was making in my posts is not what is suggesting in this comment:

Ignoring and dismissing the other causes soley for the most unpublicized one is being too much of a mefite know-it-all for my tastes. The need for autonomy, controlled borders, elimination of rebels, ego, madness, hate, and security are just as powerful.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:57 PM on August 12


All the ethnic religious historical, etc explanations for this conflict are post hoc. The powers driving the conflict have very rational economic interests for wanting to redraw borders or not redraw borders. By when it comes time to rally people to action, stating the reason as "I like a pipeline so I can get rich" rarely inspires the troops. So instead the reasons for war are presented as political or historical as a way of stirring up the populace. That doesn't mean that those historical precedents aren't real or accurate, only that they are not instructive for ascertaining the motive behind the conflict.

There's always some division between groups of people that can be activated when that division maps to present day economic interests. If the pipelines were somewhere else, then the target groups would be different and the historical precedents cited would be different.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:18 PM on August 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


The Russo-Georgian War and the Balance of Power (Stratfor)
posted by pandaharma at 8:32 PM on August 12, 2008


Nabucco would replace Russia as the largest supplier of natgas to Europe.

I'm looking at their documents, and I'm looking at the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, and that particular claim doesn't look credible. First of all, Nabucco says they're getting natural gas from Russia among other nations, and that's a copout if I've ever heard one. Second, the only map that seems to show this effect happening is the one with big green blobs and big pink blobs on p. 6 of the presentation. I don't know exactly what this is supposed to be showing. It seems to be natural gas reserves, since no one produces that much gas. If so, then the problem is twofold: first, their claims of vast Middle East gas reserves are overstated because Middle Eastern countries' gas production is vastly underdeveloped (the ME has the largest reserves/production ratio in the world, by a factor of like 4)--even assuming it does get developed, it won't reach Russia's capacity in a long time. On the BP production chart, you can see the problem: the only ME country with anything more than a very modest growth in production is Qatar, and I just don't think they're big enough to compete with Russia. Second, the country with the largest reserves in the ME is... Iran. Somehow, I don't think American and European governments will be nearly as eager to fight proxy wars for a pipeline that only helps them shake off the Russian yoke in favor of an Iranian one.

I don't know about the other claims, but maybe they're all just marketing speak too. What about the fact that the pipeline only has a maximum capacity of 31 bcm per year? That's about 16% of European imports, which is substantial but not nearly enough to totally upend the geopolitical calculus surrounding natural gas.
posted by nasreddin at 9:51 PM on August 12, 2008


Mikhail Gorbachev in the Guardian - "We had no choice".
posted by Happy Dave at 6:48 AM on August 13, 2008


Lead Soviet agrees with expansionist agenda. Heh, how predictable. Man, it feels like the cold war right about now.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:01 AM on August 13, 2008


That Gorbachev column is from the Washington Post; the Grauniad simply reprinted it. And frankly he sounds pretty sensible to me.
posted by languagehat at 7:24 AM on August 13, 2008


Yes, the military action outside of Ossieta is completely sensible. People unrelated to the conflict do deserve to die, eh, tovarishch? Perhaps this guy can stop whining and deal with his home in Gori destroyed by Russian troops.

Stop whining! Gorby wrote a column!!
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:36 AM on August 13, 2008


And frankly he sounds pretty sensible to me.

COMMIE
posted by cortex at 7:39 AM on August 13, 2008


Yes, the military action outside of Ossieta is completely sensible. People unrelated to the conflict do deserve to die, eh, tovarishch? Perhaps this guy can stop whining and deal with his home in Gori destroyed by Russian troops.

Stop whining! Gorby wrote a column!!


Oh, for God's sake. So the US shouldn't have bombed North Korea during the Korean War even if their intervention in South Korea was reasonable?

Gorby is "Lead Soviet" like Hitler was "Lead Weimar Republic politician." Stop fighting the Cold War.
posted by nasreddin at 7:49 AM on August 13, 2008


There is no great moral issue here. What Georgia tried to do to South Ossetia is precisely what Russia did to Chechnya, but Georgia wasn't strong enough and South Ossetia had a bigger friend. There is no great strategic issue either: apart from a few pipeline routes, the whole Transcaucasus is of little importance to the rest of the world.

In six months' time, we probably won't even remember this foolish adventure.

posted by stinkycheese at 7:59 AM on August 13, 2008


Gorbachev: By declaring the Caucasus, a region that is thousands of miles from the American continent, a sphere of its "national interest", the US made a serious blunder.

This is the premise of the article, that the sphere of US national interest extends no further than North America. Gorbachev is basically dividing up the world geographically, and assigning the Americas to the U.S. and the Balkans and Asia Minor to Russia. But what is the basis for this? Why should Russia get to influence its neighbors free from U.S. interference? Simply because of geography? How does Gorbachev argue from a consistent premise that South Ossetian independence is acceptable but Chechen independence is not? The only consistent logic is that these positions maximize Russia's influence in the region.

The sphere of U.S. national interests extends to every place on the planet and in space that the U.S. depends on for trade, resources, and security. There is no shame in admitting that the U.S. depends on the middle east for oil or on Japan and Korea for trade, and it also has the benefit of being true. We need oil and we need trade to survive. That's the reality.

Of course the U.S. is going to agitate on Russia's border! Does anyone not think that the U.S. is hard at work in Chechnya making things difficult for Russia? Borders are meaningless. Where are the resources? Where are the most economical routes for tapping those resources? That's the map that everyone looks at. If someone is already claiming those resources, get them to sell, force them to sell, encourage them to leave, force them to leave, try to steal it out from under them, and failing all that, just kill them.

Do you really think that because the U.S. has bungled Iraq that it bungles everything everywhere? If that were true, would this country ever have achieved the level of power and influence it has in the world?

Despite Iraq and Afghanistan, despite a weak dollar, massive debt, and dependence on China, the U.S. provoked Russia to start a war. Did it ever occur to anyone that perhaps that was the U.S. objective all along?
posted by Pastabagel at 8:20 AM on August 13, 2008


Its russian manifest destiny. They have a big military so why not beat up your neighbors? At least two people here agree with Gorby.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:26 AM on August 13, 2008


After Mixed U.S. Messages, a War Erupted in Georgia

Condi Rice to Travel to Georgia
posted by ornate insect at 8:26 AM on August 13, 2008


But what is the basis for this? Why should Russia get to influence its neighbors free from U.S. interference? Simply because of geography?

So how's that Monroe Doctrine working out?
posted by nasreddin at 8:30 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]



Despite Iraq and Afghanistan, despite a weak dollar, massive debt, and dependence on China, the U.S. provoked Russia to start a war. Did it ever occur to anyone that perhaps that was the U.S. objective all along?


If so, then the US is either working for the Russians or bungled it anyway. This war has been nothing but a victory for the Russian government--internally, because it got to demonstrate its firmness, and externally, because it got to flex its muscles. And it gets de facto control of two chunks of Georgia with minimal casualties and resources spent. What exactly was the downside to this war? Unfavorable perceptions in Europe and the US? The Russians don't give a damn about that, and besides, the Americans and Europeans would have interpreted everything along Cold War lines whatever Russia did.
posted by nasreddin at 8:34 AM on August 13, 2008


from the NYT link I just linked to:

The United States took a series of steps that emboldened Georgia: sending advisers to build up the Georgian military, including an exercise last month with more than 1,000 American troops; pressing hard to bring Georgia into the NATO orbit; championing Georgia’s fledgling democracy along Russia’s southern border; and loudly proclaiming its support for Georgia’s territorial integrity in the battle with Russia over Georgia’s separatist enclaves.

But interviews with officials at the State Department, Pentagon and the White House show that the Bush administration was never going to back Georgia militarily in a fight with Russia.


**

I still find it hard to believe Saakashvili would have taken on Russia unless he thought the U.S. would come to his aid, but yet I also find it hard to believe he is naive enough to think the U.S., already fighting two wars, would risk a world war to defend Georgia militarily.

Although we've trained and armed them, and although we airlifted their troops from Iraq back to Georgia once the conflict began (something Putin criticized yesterday), I don't see even Bush rushing headlong into a war with Russia.

Although the U.S. support for Georgia (McCain said that "Today, we are all Georgians") is in some ways understandable and predictable, one has to wonder whether Saakashvili was given the green light by someone in the Bush administration to go ahead and take on Moscow. Saakashvili seems surprised the U.S. did not do more. But who would honestly be surprised by this?

By the way, Rice should have flown to Moscow and Tbilisi last week. She waited too long.
posted by ornate insect at 8:40 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


So how's that Monroe Doctrine working out?
posted by nasreddin at 11:30 AM on August 13


Not so well, considering Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, etc. On the other hand, it work as well as it need to for the time in which it was uttered.

This war has been nothing but a victory for the Russian government--internally, because it got to demonstrate its firmness, and externally, because it got to flex its muscles. And it gets de facto control of two chunks of Georgia with minimal casualties and resources spent.

Every single person in Europe is less comfortable relying on Russia for their energy than they were two weeks ago. That means more projects linking Europe to the Middle East, in which U.S. companies get to participate, and more resistance to Russian participation in those projects.

Furthermore, this is hardly a victory for Russia. Flex its muscles? South Ossetia is less than 100 miles across. Anything other than a swift and resounding win would be a total failure for Russia. See also, Chechnya.

This isn't over. Just wait until the car bombs start going off.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:47 AM on August 13, 2008


Furthermore, this is hardly a victory for Russia. Flex its muscles? South Ossetia is less than 100 miles across. Anything other than a swift and resounding win would be a total failure for Russia. See also, Chechnya.

Chechnya has been a low-grade counterinsurgency, fought almost entirely by local (republic) authorities, for several years now. It's mostly just an annoyance that helps justify militarization and repression. The main guerilla leaders are dead, and there are only a thousand or so insurgent fighters left.

Also, I don't see how "this isn't a victory" follows from "anything less than a swift and resounding win would be a total failure," given that Russia accomplished its objective in less than a week with the defeat and humiliation of the Georgian army. It's about the best thing Russia could have expected.

Every single person in Europe is less comfortable relying on Russia for their energy than they were two weeks ago. That means more projects linking Europe to the Middle East, in which U.S. companies get to participate, and more resistance to Russian participation in those projects.


This isn't a new thing--the Europeans have been unhappy with Russian control of gas for a while, and this episode has only played into a long and well entrenched narrative. But see my comments on the Nabucco pipeline above. Russia doesn't care about being well-liked, it cares about its ability to dictate terms, and nothing seems to be coming down the pike to seriously threaten its domination. You can bet that if it did, the Europeans would jump on it right away.
posted by nasreddin at 9:00 AM on August 13, 2008


Russia doesn't care about being well-liked, it cares about its ability to dictate terms

To expand on this, read the Stratfor article above. All Chomskyite realist conspiracy theories notwithstanding, the most obvious outcome of the conflict is that America has been revealed as a paper tiger that's only willing to talk the talk, not walk the walk. That means former Eastern Bloc countries will be significantly less likely to buy into American promises in the future, and hence the American encirclement agenda has suffered a serious setback. That cramps various Western resource-control plans, including Nabucco, which runs through Bulgaria among other countries.
posted by nasreddin at 9:08 AM on August 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Every single person in Europe is less comfortable relying on Russia for their energy than they were two weeks ago.

Oh, please. This surprised nobody in Europe. Europe's over-reliance on Russian energy is an old story over here. Here's a BBC Editorial from 2006:

"Europe at the mercy of Russian gas" is the headline in the French left-leaning Liberation.

"Russia's showdown with Ukraine over gas is a stark reminder for the European Union of its energy dependence," the commentary warns.

"Thirty years after the oil shocks of the 1970s, the European Union hits its first real energy crisis, and it does so from a position of weakness."

According to France's Le Monde, "Russia has just pressed the energy button", and "the first war of the 21st Century has been declared".

posted by vacapinta at 9:23 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


the most obvious outcome of the conflict is that America has been revealed as a paper tiger that's only willing to talk the talk, not walk the walk. That means former Eastern Bloc countries will be significantly less likely to buy into American promises in the future, and hence the American encirclement agenda has suffered a serious setback.

That's a little simplistic.. What this really does is raise the stakes on every military treaty type issue that comes up - both sides resorting to cold war brinkmanship instead of diplomacy. Don't dismiss the idea that this suits American interests too. They clearly worked hard to set the groundwork for this marvelous Russian triumph, there must have been some American intention involved..

Maybe this is an August surprise: 'merca's gonna need a Pres'dent who can stand tuff!
posted by Chuckles at 10:03 AM on August 13, 2008



That's a little simplistic.. What this really does is raise the stakes on every military treaty type issue that comes up - both sides resorting to cold war brinkmanship instead of diplomacy. Don't dismiss the idea that this suits American interests too. They clearly worked hard to set the groundwork for this marvelous Russian triumph, there must have been some American intention involved..

Maybe. I suspect they were mostly just testing the waters to see how Russia would react. And it's possible that in the long run, US credibility won't suffer all that much. But in the short term this certainly looks like a victory for Russia.
posted by nasreddin at 10:24 AM on August 13, 2008


So anyone seriously think America is going to go to war against someone who can actually fight back these days? I mean, really?
posted by Artw at 10:34 AM on August 13, 2008


Georgian president to McCain: Move 'from words to deeds'

August 13, 2008 (CNN) – Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili on Wednesday called for John McCain and other American leaders to do more for Georgia in their response to the conflict in his country.

“Yesterday, I heard Sen. McCain say, ‘We are all Georgians now,’” Saakashvili said on CNN’s American Morning. “Well, very nice, you know, very cheering for us to hear that, but OK, it’s time to pass from this. From words to deeds.

posted by ornate insect at 12:07 PM on August 13, 2008


Wow, he sounds so embittered by the whole experience. "I feel like Poland felt, like Czechoslovakia felt in Munich in 1938, like Hungary felt in 1956, you know...the whole world is watching on, the murder of the country is reported live." You almost feel bad for the guy.
posted by nasreddin at 12:31 PM on August 13, 2008


You almost feel bad for the guy.

He certainly sounds desperate, but I'm amazed he feels so snubbed. It's really weird: did he actually expect the U.S. to dive headlong, without any deliberation, into a full-blown military confrontation with Moscow, and risk a world war, over the fate of South Ossetia?
posted by ornate insect at 12:46 PM on August 13, 2008


he should have waited till January 20th for that - McCain might have been stupid and crazy enough to do it.
posted by Artw at 12:51 PM on August 13, 2008


he should have waited till January 20th for that - McCain might have been stupid and crazy enough to do it.

But Obama would have been cool and collected enough to use diplomacy right away to ease the situation; it's frankly fucking insane that the U.S. has waited almost a week to send a major diplomat (Rice) over to the area. So this whole thing is yet one more reason to elect Obama. Yes. We. Can.
posted by ornate insect at 1:02 PM on August 13, 2008


Uh oh.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:33 PM on August 13, 2008


Mr Bush hinted that Russia could be jeopardising its international ties.

I just...I can't...uh...I...

*HEAD EXPLODES*
posted by stinkycheese at 1:37 PM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


stinkycheese--thanks for the link. The mods were right to kill it for reasons of redundancy, but I'm not sure the question it asks is merely a chicken-little bit of speculation (as cortex seems to think): the fact that Bush is using military craft to deliver humanitarian aid (ostensibly) to Georgia is, given the volatility of the situation, not especially reassuring.
posted by ornate insect at 1:40 PM on August 13, 2008


stinkycheese--thanks for the link. The mods were right to kill it for reasons of redundancy, but I'm not sure the question it asks is merely a chicken-little bit of speculation (as cortex seems to think): the fact that Bush is using military craft to deliver humanitarian aid (ostensibly) to Georgia is, given the volatility of the situation, not especially reassuring.

Nah, nothing's going to happen. This is just something that lets the US a) look vaguely threatening and in control and b) claim to be helping the Georgians. They'll just posture a little bit and go home, while Abhazia and S. Ossetia will remain in Russian hands.
posted by nasreddin at 1:46 PM on August 13, 2008


I think the post was pretty Chicken Little, validity of the question is was crudely built around notwithstanding, basically.
posted by cortex at 1:53 PM on August 13, 2008


Maybe this is an August surprise: 'merca's gonna need a Pres'dent who can stand tuff!

You're not the only one wondering about that: Georgia War a Neocon Election Ploy?
posted by homunculus at 1:54 PM on August 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Nah, nothing's going to happen.

Well, certainly no one intends for anything to happen. But it is kind of a classic set-up for an accident that escalates into a mess.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:54 PM on August 13, 2008


You're not the only one wondering about that: Georgia War a Neocon Election Ploy?

Perhaps, but fighting Russia would certainly help Dubya and Cheney's friends in the energy business maintain record high profits in the face of falling crude oil prices, as well as their military contractor friends supplying both sides with materiel.

Helping elect McCain would only be a bonus insofar as it would help keep warmongers in power to help their friends keep raiding the US Treasury and larger economy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:14 PM on August 13, 2008


from homonculus' link:

Randy Scheunemann, for four years a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government who ended his official lobbying connection only in March, months after he became Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser.

Previously, Scheunemann was best known as one of the neoconservatives who engineered the war in Iraq when he was a director of the Project for a New American Century. It was Scheunemann who, after working on the McCain 2000 presidential campaign, headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which championed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.


Add to that the quote I copied up-thread from the NYT:

The United States took a series of steps that emboldened Georgia: sending advisers to build up the Georgian military, including an exercise last month with more than 1,000 American troops; pressing hard to bring Georgia into the NATO orbit; championing Georgia’s fledgling democracy along Russia’s southern border; and loudly proclaiming its support for Georgia’s territorial integrity in the battle with Russia over Georgia’s separatist enclaves.

One can infer here that the Russian-Georgian war of 2008 was/is more than likely a proxy war between the Bush administration and Moscow; and that it has been timed perfectly as the ultimate election distraction. Suddenly Russia, which was until last week likely not even going to be mentioned at all in the presidential debates, is now almost certainly a major topic of discussion. Funny how that happened.
posted by ornate insect at 2:50 PM on August 13, 2008


Saakashvili is now implying (or overstating out of desperation?) that the U.S. military will take control of the Gerogia's ports and airports, and is referring to the impending U.S. intervention as "a military-humanitarian operation."
posted by ornate insect at 3:19 PM on August 13, 2008


Suddenly Russia, which was until last week likely not even going to be mentioned at all in the presidential debates, is now almost certainly a major topic of discussion. Funny how that happened.

As an Obama supporter, the fact that a complex military situation overseas has been brought to national prominence is encouraging. I'm looking forward to a couple months of McCain accidentally referring to Russia as Soviets and Tblisi as Atlanta.
posted by maus at 3:30 PM on August 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Did Google remove all info from maps of Georgia while the war was going on? Google says they didn't. Then who started the story that they did? Was this Azerbaijani disinformation?
posted by CCBC at 4:05 PM on August 13, 2008


Video of McCain proclaiming, “In the twenty-first century nations don't invade other nations.”
posted by XMLicious at 6:18 PM on August 13, 2008


And here's me thinking that that was a defining characteristic of the twenty-first century.
posted by pompomtom at 7:09 PM on August 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Putin's war enablers: Bush and Cheney. Russia's escalating war on Georgia reveals the consequences of the Bush administration's long assault on the international rule of law
posted by homunculus at 9:29 PM on August 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Graham, Lieberman To Visit Georgia
Kris Alingod - AHN News Writer
Washington, D.C. (AHN) - Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Wednesday that two of his top campaign surrogates, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), will visit Georgia to assess the ceasefire situation in the former Soviet Republic.

Graham and Lieberman are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and high-profile supporters of the Arizona senator. Graham is a general co-chairman of McCain's campaign while Lieberman is a co-chairman of the campaign's Connecticut Leadership Team.


In other words, let's all grandstand and play cold war politics in a war zone during an election year.
posted by ornate insect at 9:05 AM on August 14, 2008


Target Sevastopol: The Next Ossetian War Could Be With Ukraine
posted by homunculus at 9:22 AM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


US Deters Israel from Attacking Iran; Russian Cooperation seen Key to Dissuading Tehran's Nuclear Program
posted by homunculus at 9:29 AM on August 14, 2008


Target Sevastopol: The Next Ossetian War Could Be With Ukraine

Everyone reading this thread needs to read this article. It's bullshit-free, clear, insightful, and, unfortunately, highly likely to be accurate.

I suspect that Ukrainian politics--unlike Georgian politics--means that there are powerful forces in the Ukraine for whom losing a war with Russia would be a great publicity coup, and who would get substantial political benefits if Yuschenko ends up behaving like Saakashvili and losing. These forces will coordinate with the Russians, as Yuschenko's will coordinate with the Americans, and the strategic calculus of both sides will push inexorably towards an escalation. We may be able to avoid all-out war, but a situation like pre-August Georgia looks almost inevitable.

Sevastopol, for the Russians, is probably more symbolically important than the entire Caucasus. (not to mention an amazing and beautiful city). It represents Russia's permanent, and perhaps tragically doomed, struggle with the West: not only was it the site of one of the most important battles of the Crimean War (which the Russians lost after heroic resistance), it was also besieged by the Nazis (and lost after heroic resistance) in 1941. In 1920, the Crimea was the site of the White general Wrangel's last stand, after which the Civil War was effectively over.

In other words, Sevastopol is in some ways like Russia's Kosovo. And, unlike Serbia, Russia has the resources to fight for it. But will the West be willing to fight another Crimean War?
posted by nasreddin at 9:43 AM on August 14, 2008


Leo Tolstoy, Tales of Sevastopol
posted by nasreddin at 9:50 AM on August 14, 2008


Sevastopol, for the Russians, is probably more symbolically important than the entire Caucasus

That was an exaggeration. But it's certainly more important than Ossetia or Abkhazia.
posted by nasreddin at 9:58 AM on August 14, 2008


From homonunculus' link to the Juan Cole article in Salon (above):
All sides have committed massacres and behaved abominably. There are no clean hands involved, notwithstanding the strong support for Georgia visible in the press of most NATO member countries. (Georgia has been jockeying to join NATO, something Moscow stridently opposes.) Still, not everyone in NATO agrees that Saakashvili is a hero. While traveling with the negotiating team of President Nicolas Sarkozy, one French official observed that "Saakashvili was crazy enough to go in the middle of the night and bomb a city" in South Ossetia. The consequence of Russia's riposte, he said, is "a Georgia attacked, pulverized, through its own fault."
posted by tizzie at 11:13 AM on August 14, 2008


After reading the links here it sounds like if McCain is voted into office he will take us kicking and screaming into a war with Russia. And all I have to say is thank God bush is almost gone! "Mr Bush hinted that Russia could be jeopardizing its international ties.

I just...I can't...uh...I...

*HEAD EXPLODES*"

Me too stinkycheese.... me too.

*gooy bits of cheddar cheese fly all over the place*
posted by Mastercheddaar at 12:09 PM on August 14, 2008


After reading the links here it sounds like if McCain is voted into office he will take us kicking and screaming into a war with Russia. And all I have to say is thank God bush is almost gone!

Yeah, that was my initial impression when I saw that McCain's from-the-hip condemnation of Russia as the bad guys had been discredited. Rush to judgment based on faulty intelligence... where have we heard that one before?
posted by XMLicious at 12:28 PM on August 14, 2008


sounds like if McCain is voted into office he will take us kicking and screaming into a war with Russia.

Yup.
posted by ornate insect at 1:00 PM on August 14, 2008


This talk about the Ukraine ignores the fact that, whatever Yushchenko might want, he does not represent all, or even the majority, of Ukrainians. The Orange Revolution was very nice and all but Yushchenko has needed the support of pro-Russian politicos to form a working government. Ian's comment at FireDogLake that, if he were Russia, he'd invade Ukraine, is just silly. Russia has a lot of cards to play to keep Ukraine close.
posted by CCBC at 1:34 PM on August 14, 2008


In other words, Sevastopol is in some ways like Russia's Kosovo. And, unlike Serbia, Russia has the resources to fight for it. But will the West be willing to fight another Crimean War?
posted by nasreddin at 12:43 PM on August 14


First of all, anyone who is paying attention knows that there will be a confrontation, political or military, between Russia and the Ukraine. But why would the West (i.e. the United States) fight a war with Russia? I think you are grossly overstating Russia's power in the world. They are certainly able to project power in their own backyard, but did anyone think they couldn't, or wouldn't?

I said in an earlier comment that all wars in this time period are over resources, I did not limit that to all American wars. America is not morally worse or better than anyone else. But I do believe that America is far better at playing the long-term strategic economic game than anyone in the history of the world ever. I promise you that in the next fifty years we will see China fighting a war in Africa, Russia fighting wars in the Balkans and with every other southern ex-Soviet Republic.

All of Russia's power today stems from high gas and oil prices. Gas and oil are 64% of Russia's export revenues. When gas and oil were at historic lows in 1998, Russia was content to privatize everything and anything resource related in the name of cash almighty. But when the price rose and supplies dwindled, Russia consolidated its resources into state-owned monopolies again, because monopolies can both charge higher prices and reduce supply.

The reason Nabucco and the myriad of other Western pipeline projects are important to Russia is not that they will supplant Russia's dominance with someone else's dominance, but that they will break the current gas oligopoly and replace it with a competitive gas market in which prices are set competitively, instead of set by or influenced by Russia. If Russia does not dominate gas into Europe, Russia is dead. If the price of gas falls, Russia is dead. This is also why it doesn't matter if Russian gas goes through the Nabucco pipe -- Russia won't control what else is in that pipe, and it won't control all the other pipes.

Furthermore, the strategic objectives of the United States are not to blindly oppose whatever Russia is doing. The objective of the United States is to ensure there is no other nation on earth powerful enough to do what it did in Iraq. What did it do in Iraq? Seize control over, surprise, Iraq the world's largest oil reserves.

The situation in Iraq is certainly ugly, brutal and perhaps morally reprehensible, but we aren't talking about that. We are talking about strategic behavior of nations in relation to resources, which at this stage in history determine nations' ability to compete and survive. It is very easy to say the U.S. could have done much better in Iraq, but it is hard to argue that the United States would have been better off in the long term if those Iraqi oil reserves were totally outside of its control, or worse in Iran's or someone else's control.

Russia had to win in Georgia. The U.S. only had to participate. The parties invested resources in the conflict commensurate with what they had at risk. The outcome follows from that. The U.S. will never fight Russia directly, because Russia has nothing the U.S. wants.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:49 PM on August 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


This talk about the Ukraine ignores the fact that, whatever Yushchenko might want, he does not represent all, or even the majority, of Ukrainians.

So what? All, or even the majority, of Ukrainians, aren't running the country, he is. And nothing's easier than to start a war on stupid nationalist grounds and drag your country with you (see: Saakashvili). Only a minority of Slovaks wanted independence from the Czechs, but in 1992 Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar declared independence, and that was that. You're assuming leaders are rational and/or devoted to the interests of their people, and that's just nuts.
posted by languagehat at 1:53 PM on August 14, 2008


I said in an earlier comment that all wars in this time period are over resources, I did not limit that to all American wars.

While I didn't think much of dda's contribution to this thread, you didn't really respond to his argument at all. The burden is on you to prove that all states are perfectly rational actors in the classical sense. In the absence of such a proof, explanations from resource control are just as much post-hoc just-so stories as are explanations from culture or morality. In the meantime, I can think of a dozen conflicts in the post-war period alone that were quite clearly not based primarily on resource competition--the American interventions in Lebanon, Granada, Afghanistan, Somalia, Korea, and Vietnam; the Cuban interventions in Angola and Bolivia; the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan; the Falklands War; the war in Chechnya; and the long India-Pakistan conflict, including Kashmir. While it's possible to construct a more or less far-fetched economic realist explanation for each one, in the majority of these cases that approach simply beggars credibility. States don't always, or even most of the time, pursue policies that are optimal for their survival. The claim that America attacked Iraq to "take control" of its oil reserves is grossly overstated; it could have achieved that end by bribing or toppling Saddam without an invasion, as it did with Iran back in the '50s. Now America has expended far too much capital on a project that only decreased its power.

Chomskyite explanations are popular, because they make us believe that we have finally cracked the nut of the machinations of world powers, that we can make perfect rational sense of the mysterious agents that control our lives. But it's a form of analysis as limited in its explanatory power as Marxism is. Is the state an executive committee of the ruling class? Yes, if you're committed enough to seeing it that way; no, if you've got no ulterior reason to prefer the Marxist view. It is same way with geopolitics, which is far more based on irrational factors than I suspect you are willing to admit.

If John McCain gets elected president, with his apparently psychopathic obsession with kicking Russky ass, then when he starts a war with Russia it won't be because he's magically become a sensible, hard-headed realist. It's because he's nuts.

I think you are grossly overstating Russia's power in the world. They are certainly able to project power in their own backyard, but did anyone think they couldn't, or wouldn't?


I don't think Russia is a global power in the sense that America and China are. But it is a regional great power. The Americans have a lot of cultural baggage that makes them pick fights with the Russians, and the encirclement agenda is in part determined by that baggage. There is no other sensible explanation for the missile shield project.
posted by nasreddin at 3:15 PM on August 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


I don't think Russia is a global power in the sense that America and China are.

There are all those nuclear bombs, old as they may be.
posted by GuyZero at 3:30 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


languagehat: All, or even the majority, of Ukrainians, aren't running the country, [Yushchenko] is. And nothing's easier than to start a war on stupid nationalist grounds and drag your country with you (see: Saakashvili). [...]You're assuming leaders are rational and/or devoted to the interests of their people, and that's just nuts.
Yushchenko hardly has the same grip on Ukraine that Saakashavili does on Georgia. He shares power with pro-Russian politicos. Now, how much control does he have over the armed forces..? Anyway, my point was that Russia doesn't neeed to invade to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence.
posted by CCBC at 5:41 PM on August 14, 2008


I've been following this situation pretty closely, because my sweetheart has a Georgian foster brother (let's call him Z.) This thread has been an excellent source of links to a wide variety of perspectives on the history and context of this conflict, and I am grateful to all contributors.

So, my foster-brother-out-law Z came here in his mid-teens to avoid conscription during the previous South Ossetia war, in '91-'92, which Z calls the Georgian Civil War. Z now has his master's degree in economics and international relations, and teaches economics. I thought I'd share his perspective, which is found in bits and pieces in some of the links and analysis above but not in this exact form, I don't think.

First, he says that the situation in South Ossetia now is very different than it was during the earlier war. Then, atrocities were committed on both sides, and the end result was that South Ossetia became something of a desolate no man's land. The population is greatly reduced, and a significant portion of what remains consists of bandits, Russian irregulars, and illegal immigrants from North Ossetia. The rest are small scattered villages, some of which are ethnically Georgian, and some of which are ethnically Ossetian. Furthermore, a majority of the "government" (Z's quotes) of South Ossetia are former Soviet apparatchiks and KGB bureaucrats, and said government provides few of the social services a modern government is supposed to. In Z's view, South Ossetia as a country is more of a blind/puppet organization for Russian forces and influence to work through than anything resembling a real country.

His theory on the current conflict was that it was engineered by the Russians from the very beginning, and that it has gone according to their plan every step of the way. Over the weeks leading up to the Georgian invasion of Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian's provocation of Georgian forces had been growing and growing. Prompted and supplied, Z believes, by the Russians, the Ossetian forces had been shelling both civilian and military targets on the Georgian side of the border. For quite some time, Saakashavili ignored the provocation, somewhat at the behest of Western diplomats urging moderation. Ironically, it was the Russian "peacekeeping" forces in the region, brought in after the '91-'92 war, who were supposed to be preventing just such attacks; obviously, they were doing quite the opposite.

Finally, there was a cease-fire signed; famously, Saakashavili that very night ordered the attack on Tskhinvali. Why? Two reasons, according to Z: Because the Ossetian forces were continuing to attack civilians in Georgian villages in South Ossetia, and because he had finally gotten the word that just past the town, in the only tunnel connecting South Ossetia to Russia, the Russian army was poised to sweep in to South Ossetia, and Saakashavili wanted to take that tunnel before they could in order to prevent the invasion of Georgia.

Obviously, this attempt failed, and Z says that it failed because the Russians were far more prepared for the Georgian offensive than anyone suspected they would be; they responded immediately with a level of force that indicates that they had been amassing troops and weapons in the area in great numbers, very recently. (A side question is why the United States, whose spy satellites surely must have picked up on this buildup, didn't see fit to inform Saakashavili about it, or if they did, why did he think he had a chance? What explicitly false intelligence or promises was he given?)

Z also says that independent human rights organizations who have visited Tskhinvali report that it is not the devastated wasteland that the Russian media reported it to be after the initial Georgian offensive; that there were several blocks that had been damaged, which were the ones seen in the Russian press, but that the town as a whole was not that badly damaged. He says that Russia has been winning the media/PR/propaganda war from the beginning, and it's only in the last couple of days that that has started to turn around; but Z believes they had their disinfo campaign ready to go from the beginning.

Not many months before, Putin had told Saakashavili that he could take the promises of the West and stick them up his ass -- literally. Putin, the seasoned intelligence operative, pushing his patsy to the breaking point however he could, is how Z interprets it.

So, in this interpretation, Saakashavili -- a fool, perhaps. But not exactly someone who did "start a war on stupid nationalist grounds and drag your country with you (see: Saakashvili)." After all, what was he supposed to do? Keep on taking the provocation, the attacks on his people, without responding? How long would he last as President of Georgia then? So asks Z.

Z is an interesting guy. He's a citizen of the world, and one of the most informed people I've ever met in international affairs. He can see all the perspectives on this situation, and the power plays likely to be involved, though he surprisingly downplays the importance of pipelines in this situation. At the same time, though, he has fierce loyalty to Georgia and the Georgian people (which does not translate to uncritical support of its leadership, far from it, but the leadership is still Georgia's, and not imposed by Russia -- for now.) You can see a nationalist fervor struggling with a sophisticated worldview in Z. It's like he says: "Sure, you can see Georgia as a pawn of the US and Ossetia as a pawn of Russia in some great game. But it's not a game -- my people are being slaughtered!" He also says that none of the small countries around Georgia think it's any kind of game, either, or that Russia wants anything else but to dominate everything around it however it can (which is why they've all tried to get into NATO as quick as they could, for protection.) He says that if you're from that part of the world you can feel it, the bear always ready to roll over you at the slightest opportunity.

So, that's his $.02. I don't believe I personally know even slightly enough to judge the reality of all this, but Z's arguments are extremely compelling.
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 10:14 PM on August 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


Your friend's perspective is interesting, but, as you acknowledge, it's necessarily parochial. I can be aloof and enlightened in any matter that doesn't concern Russia--but when my country is involved in something, I reflexively defend it, I can't help it. Your friend seems to be the same way. (Interestingly, I think Americans, of all the people that I've met, are the freest from this effect).

Anyway, I think O. Henry's story "A Cosmopolite in a Cafe" applies here, as it often does.
I was sure that I had found at last the one true cosmopolite since Adam, and I listened to his worldwide discourse fearful lest I should discover in it the local note of the mere globe-trotter. But his opinions never fluttered or drooped; he was as impartial to cities, countries and continents as the winds or gravitation. And as E. Rushmore Coglan prattled of this little planet I thought with glee of a great almost-cosmopolite who wrote for the whole world and dedicated himself to Bombay. In a poem he has to say that there is pride and rivalry between the cities of the earth, and that "the men that breed from them, they traffic up and down, but cling to their cities' hem as a child to the mother's gown." And whenever they walk "by roaring streets unknown" they remember their native city "most faithful, foolish, fond; making her mere-breathed name their bond upon their bond." And my glee was roused because I had caught Mr. Kipling napping. Here I had found a man not made from dust; one who had no narrow boasts of birthplace or country, one who, if he bragged at all, would brag of his whole round globe against the Martians and the inhabitants of the Moon...
posted by nasreddin at 10:43 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


slappy: Russia wants [...] to dominate everything around it however it can (which is why they've all tried to get into NATO as quick as they could, for protection.)
This is a false hope, referred to in several of the links in this thread. Will NATO go to war for Georgia? Not likely. Will Georgia ever be part of NATO? No. Ukraine is a little different. Maybe it will get some kind of associate status in the EU but nothing more. A survey early this year showed that, if a referendum were held on Ukraine joining NATO, it would fail with more than 60% voting No. The next president of Ukraine may be Tymoschenko, who is a fervent Russophile. I think (but am less certain) that Belarus is also turning pro-Russkie. Georgia and, of course, Chechnya are the oddballs. Some day, some historian will look back at all this and hypothesize about the Bush administration losing Cold War II.
posted by CCBC at 11:43 PM on August 14, 2008


It's funny to hear Ukraine has Pro-Russian..... My great grand parents were both from Ukraine and they would say to my grand parents and my mom that you can never trust a Russian or a Serb. I never met one so I can't comment.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 9:19 AM on August 15, 2008


slappy_pinchbottom: Z also says that independent human rights organizations who have visited Tskhinvali report that it is not the devastated wasteland that the Russian media reported it to be after the initial Georgian offensive; that there were several blocks that had been damaged, which were the ones seen in the Russian press, but that the town as a whole was not that badly damaged.

It's not just the Russian press. Refugee accounts make the damage sound pretty bad.

That said, thanks for posting Z's perspective--it's good to get the Georgian side as well.

--what was he supposed to do? Keep on taking the provocation, the attacks on his people, without responding?

Charles Burton Marshall, writing in the afterword to The Limits of Foreign Policy: It's a mistake to assume that the alternative to an unacceptable situation is preferable, for it may well be worse.
posted by russilwvong at 10:38 AM on August 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Mastercheddar:My great grand parents were both from Ukraine and they would say to my grand parents and my mom that you can never trust a Russian or a Serb.
When Russian immigrants (Doukhobors) acted up in my part of the world, the RCMP used Ukrainian mounties to go after them. One of the three parties to this equation is less admirable than the others.
posted by CCBC at 11:14 AM on August 15, 2008


Bush promised Georgia he would send warships and Saakashavili responded enthusiastically. Now it appears it won't happen. Not only is Turkey reluctant to let warships through the Dardanelles but there aren't any vessels that can manage the voyage on short notice.

And here's a bit on the cyberwar.
posted by CCBC at 11:51 AM on August 15, 2008


This thread seems to be dying down but here's a bunch of pics from the last week or so. Some may be NSFW.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:33 AM on August 16, 2008


Wow, stinkycheese, great find (and quite gory). I'm always amazed at how, no matter how much I've thought about the existence of all the bloodied and dead casualties from a war, actually seeing them has such an emotional impact.

Does anyone know what the brick-shaped things on the turret of this tank are? Are they some kind of armor? I've seen several tanks like that now.
posted by XMLicious at 11:08 AM on August 16, 2008


It's reactive armor.
posted by CCBC at 1:04 PM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wondered it that would be what it was. The first thing I thought when I saw it was that it reminded me of the bricks they line the underside of the Space Shuttle with to reduce heat on re-entry. The inside of a tank would be a very, very hot place at the best of times, I'd imagine.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:16 PM on August 16, 2008


Here's more Gwynne Dyer on Georgia.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:19 PM on August 16, 2008


Another excellent Dyer column. Here's a convenient historical summary for anyone who wants to catch up:
The current mess arose almost 20 years ago when South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which had been rolled into Georgia but given self-governing status by Stalin, began talking about complete independence as the Soviet Union stumbled towards collapse in 1990. The first post-Communist Georgian leader, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, replied by suppressing their autonomy entirely.

When the South Ossetians and Abkhaz revolted against this, Georgian troops were sent in to crush them but proved unable to do so. Several thousand people were killed, far larger numbers became refugees, and the quarrels ended up as two of the "frozen conflicts" around the fringes of the former Soviet Union, patrolled by Russian and Georgian peace-keeping troops.

Nothing much changed until the "Rose Revolution" that brought Mikhail Saakashvili to power five years ago promising to reintegrate the lost districts into Georgia. The Bush administration saw an opportunity to create a military foothold on Russia's southern border, and began supplying Saakashvili with military equipment and training for his forces. Which brings us, fairly directly, to today.
I must admit, I still find it hard to believe U.S. officials can keep a straight face while blustering about violation of international rules and a country's sovereignty and "this will not stand." Respectively: Kosovo, Iraq, and what exactly are you going to do about it?
posted by languagehat at 3:04 PM on August 16, 2008


You know things are bad when you agree with Pat Buchanan.
posted by nasreddin at 3:55 PM on August 16, 2008


Anything new in this mess?
posted by Artw at 7:14 PM on August 16, 2008


Wow, it's amazing how much better this post turned out than the one Artw linked to. Thanks for putting a little effort into it, Happy Dave.
posted by grouse at 7:39 PM on August 16, 2008


A couple more links:

Today's Toronto Globe and Mail has a profile of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. He's young--only 40.
After the Soviet Union fell apart and Georgia became an independent state, Mr. Saakashvili received a U.S.-government sponsored fellowship to continue his law studies at Columbia University, from which he graduated in 1994.

While in New York, he did exactly what the U.S. State Department had hoped when it sent him and thousands of other young students from the former Soviet Union to schools in the U.S: He fell in love with America.

He initially intended on settling in New York and practising law, but in 1995 he was personally headhunted by Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze, who was looking to surround himself with talented young Georgians unhindered by old ideas. Mr. Saakashvili came home and, at just 26, was elected to parliament, along with Zhurab Zhvania and Nino Burdjanadze, two other young Georgians recruited to the cause. The young lawyer quickly made a name for himself as an anti-corruption campaigner and within five years his mentor made him justice minister.
He later split with Shevardnadze, was backed by George Soros and the US, and led the "Rose Revolution" in 2003 which inspired similar people-power movements in Ukraine and Kyrgyztan.

New York Times: US officials are saying that far from giving Georgia a green light to attack South Ossetia, they urged him not to. But the Times points out that mixed messages were a big problem, because in public, the US made many strong statements supporting Georgia's territorial integrity (i.e. its claim to South Ossetia and Abkhazia).
During a private dinner on July 9, Ms. Rice’s aides say, she warned President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia not to get into a military conflict with Russia that Georgia could not win. “She told him, in no uncertain terms, that he had to put a non-use of force pledge on the table,” according to a senior administration official who accompanied Ms. Rice to the Georgian capital.

But publicly, Ms. Rice struck a different tone, one of defiant support for Georgia in the face of Russian pressure. “I’m going to visit a friend and I don’t expect much comment about the United States going to visit a friend,” she told reporters just before arriving in Tbilisi, even as Russian jets were conducting intimidating maneuvers over South Ossetia.
This kind of empty rhetoric is a perennial problem in US foreign policy. Contrast with George H. W. Bush's "Chicken Kiev" speech in 1991, urging Ukraine to go slow in seeking independence: Yet freedom is not the same as independence. Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local depotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred. Of course US public opinion wasn't impressed by such caution, no matter how well-founded.
posted by russilwvong at 9:37 PM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, it's amazing how much better this post turned out than the one Artw linked to. Thanks for putting a little effort into it, Happy Dave.

My pleasure - I'm a little taken aback at how many 'sky is falling' threads appeared, not to mention the new press refrain about 'a new Cold War'. It's infinitely more complex and messy than that.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:25 AM on August 17, 2008


Ukraine Baits the Bear While Condi and Dubya Do Nothing
posted by homunculus at 9:40 AM on August 17, 2008


Russia agrees to truce; key Georgia bridge blown up
posted by homunculus at 4:19 PM on August 17, 2008


Yet another lesson in geography for those who still insist this has not been about oil.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:32 PM on August 17, 2008


Speaking about oil: Did you hear that Alaska has more oil than the Middle East? Busting the myths about cheap and unlimited oil being broadcast by Rush Limbaugh, Jerome Corsi and other ignoramuses.

[/derail]
posted by homunculus at 9:51 PM on August 17, 2008


Gorbachev:We Had To Do It
posted by hortense at 12:43 PM on August 18, 2008


stinkycheese's link to photos is good. Here's another link to some of the same series. But this one has some comments. The tank graffiti identifies this as an "East" unit and "Chechnya, Chechnya, Chechnya" or comments indicating a "veteran of Yamadan" is written on some tanks. It's hard to know what we are seeing. Some of the first photos show Ossetian refugees fleeing up one side of the road while Russian vehicles stream down the other. Some appear to show Ossetian Army fighters. Some of these pictures were made by Russian photogs in the Tskhinavli onslaught which was mis-identified as Gori by Western news outlets to villify Russia. This Fox Report from an eye-witness cuts off when it turns out she is identifying Georgia as the aggressor. What is proved here is that these were veteran Russian troops and that US media sucks.
posted by CCBC at 1:33 AM on August 19, 2008


Interesting, dark and cynical long-term analysis of the situation from an Asia Times writer.
posted by nasreddin at 10:30 AM on August 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


A good look of how things went from a perspective of Finnish foreign minister, OSCE negotiator on ground. "quite surreal". He is also blogging about it, (almost every day in finnish). And in saturday, that marathon went in 3.31.25. I'm starting to respect this guy, even as he looks weird, is pro-Nato and conservative.
posted by Free word order! at 11:55 AM on August 19, 2008


Russia and Georgia: The Battle for DC
posted by homunculus at 8:55 PM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Trying to make sense of Condoleezza Rice's latest statement.
posted by homunculus at 3:11 PM on August 20, 2008


Russia never wanted a war
posted by hortense at 7:29 PM on August 20, 2008


Did the US State Department give Russia the okay to punish Georgia?
Here's a bit (from a Georgian) about how Gamskhurdia started this whole mess.
An historical analogy: the Second Balkan War/ Georgia vs. Russia. The comments include a convuluted (and easilly disproved) conspiracy theory about Russia's provoking this attack that may pop to the surface, like an unflushed turd, later in the debate about this problem.
There's probably more to be said -- American news outlets seem to turning against the Bush admin's Russo-policy, for instance -- but that's probably obvious. Here's something though: Georgia is building on its specific ethnicity -- Ossetians and Armenians are cleansed -- but Russia is opting for a multi-ethnic state -- if you have a Russian passport, you're a Russian. One of these options sounds more, um, modern than the other. If you were presented with this proposition -- multi-ethnic state vs. single tribal entity -- and didn't know the names of the states involved, which would you opt to support?
posted by CCBC at 2:54 AM on August 21, 2008


Russia never wanted a war

That's like reading the onion.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:48 AM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Iraq invites Russian oil major back

Dick Cheney isn't going to like this.
posted by homunculus at 12:51 PM on August 21, 2008


Missile Defense in Europe = Russia Bait?
posted by homunculus at 12:53 PM on August 21, 2008


Russia Never Wanted a War: NYTimes Op-Ed By Mikhail Gorbachev
posted by acro at 4:17 PM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


NYT article questioning the strength of NATO's commitment to collective defense:
... back in 1949, the alliance was formed with a central tenet of collective defense. The famous Article 5 of the NATO Charter stipulates that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all, a principle that assured Western Europe during the cold war that America would come to its defense if Moscow encroached.

But the notion of collective defense is a more complicated matter now that NATO has expanded to include 26 countries, foreign policy experts said, including former Soviet republics like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, not to mention the Czech Republic and Poland. Although some said that NATO might at least try to rustle up a defense for those countries if they were attacked, the concept of collective defense falls apart completely in the case of Georgia and Ukraine — both smack in Russia’s backyard and sphere of influence — even if they were NATO members.

... it is doubtful that the United States, its military stretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, would go to war with Russia to defend Georgia even if it were a member of NATO, said George Friedman, chief executive of Stratfor, a geopolitical risk analysis company.

“The assumption that everybody made was that a mere guarantee by NATO would preclude any threat because the Russians would never dare displease NATO or the United States,” he said. Except now, he said, Russia has called the West’s bluff.
Back when NATO was proposed, the State Department's Policy Planning Staff cautioned against extending NATO beyond the Atlantic area:
The Policy Planning Staff is of the opinion that the scope of a pact of this sort should be restricted to the North Atlantic area itself, and that attempts to go further afield and to include countries beyond that area might have undesirable consequences.

In the first place, the admission of any single country beyond the North Atlantic area would be taken by others as constituting a precedent, and would almost certainly lead to a series of demands from states still further afield that they be similarly treated. Failure on our part to satisfy these further demands would then be interpreted as lack of interest in the respective countries, and as evidence that we had "written them off" to the Russians. Beyond the Atlantic area, which is a clean-cut concept, and which embraces a real community of defense interest firmly rooted in geography and tradition, there is no logical stopping point....

To get carried into any such wide system of alliances could lead only to one of two results; either all these alliances become meaningless declarations, after the pattern of the Kellogg Pact, and join the long array of dead-letter pronouncements through which governments have professed their devotion to peace in the past; or this country becomes still further over-extended, politically and militarily.
JCS 1769/1 explains the rationale for guaranteeing the security of the Atlantic nations:
In the case of an ideological war the most vulnerable side of our defense area will be in the Atlantic. Also, unless we can retain allies on the eastern side of the Atlantic strong enough, in the event of an ideological war, to hold the Soviets away from the eastern shores of the Atlantic, the shortest and most direct avenue of attack against our enemies will almost certainly be denied to us. Further, almost all potentially strong nations who can reasonably be expected to ally themselves with the United States in such a war are situated in western Europe. Moreover, two world wars in the past thirty years have demonstrated the interdependence of France, Great Britain and the United States in case of war with central or eastern European powers. In war these nations not only need one another but are in mortal peril if they do not combine their forces. In the past war it was demonstrated that France could not stand without Great Britain and that when France fell the British Isles were in mortal peril. If Britain had fallen, the Western Hemisphere would have been completely exposed, and the United States would have had to defend itself in the Atlantic before it could have thought of resisting the Japanese conquest of China, the East Indies, the Philippines and the Far Pacific. That the defense of the United States and Canada in North America and of Great Britain and France in western Europe is inseparable from the combined defense of them all is not a question of what men think now, but is something that has been demonstrated by what we have had to do, though tardily, and therefore at greater risk and cost, in actual warfare in the past.
posted by russilwvong at 10:31 PM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


billmon provides a detailed discussion of NATO's eastward expansion over the last two decades.
Our story begins at the end of the last Cold War, when the former Soviet satellites of the Warsaw Pact were freed from their bondage to Moscow and immediately began looking West for protection from a future resurgence of Russian power. They all clamored for admission to the NATO club, the sooner the better. Given their history, who can blame them?

But the realists of the first Bush Administration looked upon this idea with all the enthusiasm of an experienced hunter asked to take care of some lost bear cubs. Mama Bear might not be around now, but when she shows up, you know there’s going to be trouble. Indeed, the Russians later claimed that Bush and Baker had promised them, at the time of Germany’s reunification, that NATO would not be pushed any further east than the Oder River (Germany’s border with Poland). I don’t know if this is true, but the Russians seem to believe it.

Not for the last time, though, the incoming Clinton team showed itself more susceptible to interventionist impulses and began pushing for NATO expansion – with, it should be added, the enthusiastic support of most of our European allies, who saw expansion both as a safeguard against Russian revival and a way to keep the US engaged in European affairs. (It’s hard to remember now that the big worry back then was that the US would disengage from the world, instead of trying to dominate it.)
posted by russilwvong at 9:22 AM on August 23, 2008


Georgia has blocked access to .ru websites.

Moldova is warned that Transnistria should not become another South Ossetia.
posted by CCBC at 3:08 PM on August 26, 2008


Why was Cheney's guy in Georgia before the war?
posted by homunculus at 3:24 PM on August 26, 2008


Russia, ignoring U.S., recognizes breakaway Georgian regions
posted by homunculus at 3:28 PM on August 26, 2008


The Truth About Russia in Georgia
posted by homunculus at 3:31 PM on August 26, 2008


Why I had to recognize Georgia’s breakaway regions By Dmitry Medvedev
posted by hortense at 3:55 PM on August 26, 2008


The Truth About Russia in Georgia

Ethnic power struggles? Russia putting groups against each other for its own ends? Puppet governments? I dont get it. The "intellectuals" have already decided this war is soley about a single gas pipeline and these things do not exist, comrade.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:09 PM on August 26, 2008


Dick Cheney isn't going to like this.
Dick and Cindy,
posted by hortense at 9:00 PM on August 26, 2008


homunculus' link seems to contain the Georgian narrative (the Russians and Ossetians actually attacked them first, etc.) that is becoming the general narrative for anti-Russkies that tell the story. It's hard to say how true it is. Totten's informants add a veneer of mea culpa by admitting to the ethnic cleansing of Gamskhurdia's regime but they mention the 1991 - 93 wars without clearly laying the blame on Georgia -- Russia, at the time, was pretty well on the skids. And there is this worrisome bit: Totten's informants say it was a mistake for Georgia to buddy up to the US, look for NATO membership, and so on -- "sticking Russia in the eye" -- but they don't really square that up with supposed Russian provocation of the conflict. In other words, they're saying that Russia's at fault because Georgia provoked them.

One other thing: people keep talking about the Russians being provocative by shooting down unmanned drones over Abkhazia. Anyone who's followed the Afghan struggle knows that these things are often armed and used to kill people. I'd shoot them down, too.
posted by CCBC at 12:25 AM on August 27, 2008


Dave Emory has Georgia on his mind, and adds interesting background in his most recent radio program (mp3)
posted by hortense at 1:42 AM on August 27, 2008


In other words, they're saying that Russia's at fault because Georgia provoked them.

So youre saying that when an independant state decides to join an organization like NATO then Russia has the right to be aggressive? I think a lot of people still dismiss Georgia as being a client state that must do what russia tells it to do, and if it doesnt then it 100% deserves what it gets.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:49 AM on August 27, 2008


I think a lot of people are unwilling to accept the fact that Georgia is just as brutal to its minorities as Russia is to Georgia. It's amazing to me that people are willing to take sides in that particular squabble.

Also, if you're stuck living next to a hungry, ill-tempered lion, you don't poke the lion with sticks. That's Realpolitik 101. It's a hard world, but it's the only one we've got.
posted by languagehat at 7:07 AM on August 27, 2008


damn dirty ape:So youre saying that when an independant state decides to join an organization like NATO then Russia has the right to be aggressive?
"An organization like NATO" has specific military purposes. NATO is a military alliance. Suppose Mexico decided to join an anti-NATO, a Warsaw Pact successor, would the US have the right to be aggressive? Suppose Cuba allied itself with Russia, would the US have the right to treat it as an enemy, invade it (albeit unsuccessfully), embargo it..? you get my drift. Toying with NATO membership was a deliberately provocative, aggressive act.
posted by CCBC at 2:45 PM on August 27, 2008


It's too bad politics is always so behind the current reality,
And this will only get worse if we allow politicians (who are mostly good at selling themselves and what the constituents want to hear)
To continue to be the prime decision-makers.
These conflicts have just been made obsolete
By the fact that we can now extract the remaining oil in 'depleted fields'
In the form of natural gas (by using bacteria).

If we make consultation or voting on issues by qualified, knowledgeable people
(scientists, experts, engineers, etc)
A mandatory part of passing a law, then we would get the best solution
And not just the best-sounding solution.
posted by rickwestra at 1:57 AM on September 1, 2008


Soviet Union’s Fall Unraveled Enclave in Georgia

Excellent NY Times piece by Ellen Barry on how it all started back in 1989 and how it's affected those who left and those who stayed.
On the street in Tskhinvali, small changes began to appear.

Ms. Alborova’s aunt was exasperated to go to the store and see that pasta manufactured in Russia had been put in packages labeled with Georgian script. Her neighbor Emma Gasiyeva kept hearing slogans: “Brush them out with a broom!” and “Who are the guests, and who are the hosts?” a reference to the theory that Ossetians had been brought to the area as agricultural workers.

In 1989, Ms. Alborova was 15, and she saw only shadows. She heard that her Georgian classmates were gathering for some kind of meeting, but she was not invited. “They stopped talking to us,” she said of her Georgian neighbors. “It was done very quickly.”

Over the next three years, Tskhinvali became something like Belfast in Northern Ireland....
posted by languagehat at 12:20 PM on September 7, 2008


The Ukraine coalition has broken apart. If it is not patched soon, there will be an election. Tymoshenko says she does not want an election; Yushchenko says that her party must indicate support for Georgia. Yanukovich is pro-Russian, so is Tymoshenko (but with a nationalist twist). This is a test of how US/Russian power is seen in the country. Cheney is (or was) visiting, FWIW. BTW, Tymoshenko and Yanukovich hold enough seats between them to easilly win any Parliamentary vote. Yushchenko says that would mean a "Prime Ministerial dictatorship". Immediate issues include removing power from the Presidency to local governments. But Georgia and relations between the Ukraine and greater powers are important concerns.
posted by CCBC at 1:08 AM on September 8, 2008


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