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War by Miscalculation?
August 14, 2008 8:48 AM   Subscribe

The Russo-Georgian War and the Balance of Power- the Russian invasion of Georgia has not changed the balance of power in Eurasia. It simply announced that the balance of power had already shifted.

(the real meat and taters starts after the first gray box)
posted by notsnot (75 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
It is remarkable how quickly other people’s bloody tragedies can be transformed into simple morality tales by Western observers sitting in cushioned, air-conditioned offices.
posted by infini at 8:56 AM on August 14, 2008 [11 favorites]


It has no strategic ground forces in reserve and is in no position to intervene on the Russian periphery. This, as we have argued, has opened a window of opportunity for the Russians to reassert their influence in the former Soviet sphere.

Pshaw. Even in the '90s we would not have been able to intervene. It's one thing to thump your chest and take on tin pot dictators in Iraq, but quite another to take on the Russian bear in its own backyard.
posted by caddis at 9:14 AM on August 14, 2008


If any of you watched mens gymnastics last night and saw the russians, you'd know they aren't the bear they once were. We could take 'em.

:
posted by ChickenringNYC at 9:17 AM on August 14, 2008


I just posted the following on the other thread, but it might also make sense here:

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.

***

And over on this NYT blog thread, I came across this comment from a poster--which I thought was about right:

It’s important not be be overextended and to try to defend places that cannot realistically be defended. One glance at a map tells you that neither Georgia nor the Ukraine can be successfully defended by the USA. Draw the lines of the NATO alliance in places where they make sense. Aside from the fact that Georgia is in a place that cannot realistically be defended, it also has an ongoing territorial dispute ... As an “ally” of the USA, Georgia is more of a liability than an asset, and could become a flashpoint for a completely unnecessary conflict.
posted by ornate insect at 9:21 AM on August 14, 2008


you'd know they aren't the bear they once were. We could take 'em.

Us and what army?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:22 AM on August 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


the other secret that doesn't seem to be talked about much is that neither russia or china really want the west going as far as bombing iran to stop their nuclear program and they're willing to go pretty far to stop it

this is the real consequence of the iraq invasion - russia and china think that we intend to interfere in all of asia carelessly and thoughtlessly and they're not willing to allow that - by invading iraq, bush made a solution of the iran problem much less likely
posted by pyramid termite at 9:47 AM on August 14, 2008


russia and china think that we intend to interfere in all of asia carelessly and thoughtlessly

Don't we?
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:01 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Target Sevastopol: The Next Ossetian War Could Be With Ukraine
posted by homunculus at 10:35 AM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


US Deters Israel from Attacking Iran; Russian Cooperation seen Key to Dissuading Tehran's Nuclear Program
posted by homunculus at 10:36 AM on August 14, 2008


notsnot - shouldn't the main link point to the stratfor article that the link appears to get most of it's meat from?

just saying.

I would have been more inclined to click on a stratfor link first. instead I read infini's link first. then circled back for the FPP.

both fascinating, though. go internets for giving something else to chew on besides mainstream partyline.

from the stratfor article:
"It is inconceivable that the Americans were unaware of Georgia’s mobilization and intentions."
posted by ilovemytoaster at 10:44 AM on August 14, 2008


It’s important not be be overextended and to try to defend places that cannot realistically be defended. One glance at a map tells you that neither Georgia nor the Ukraine can be successfully defended by the USA.

Why can't they be successfully defended by Georgia and the Ukraine?

Tiny Finland once fought a vastly superior Soviet army to a standstill, because they could. Why can't these supposedly freedom loving countries at least make a show of defending themselves.

If Georgian soldiers are not willing to defend their country why should anyone else be?
posted by three blind mice at 10:52 AM on August 14, 2008


It seems to me that any neo-con, con or politico/military official of any stripe in the U.S. would not be surprised that this happened, given that the US had training forces on the ground in Georgia up to what...a week before this happened? Therefore I'm highly skeptical that there was not some bizarre US plan to use the Georgians as a proxy to 'test' (distract?) the Russians. This to me puts some doubt on the statement that 'the balance of power had already shifted'. I think there's something else going on here and that what has happened is right in line with what policy makers in the US wanted to happen. Whether it ends the way they wanted is yet to be seen.
posted by spicynuts at 10:57 AM on August 14, 2008



Tiny Finland once fought a vastly superior Soviet army to a standstill


Tiny Finland was/is an ethnically, economically and politically homogenous/stable society, not a 'country' held together by force. Does Georgia have the ability to prevent itself from fracturing into a few dozen "South Ossetias" a few months into a war with Russia?
posted by spicynuts at 11:00 AM on August 14, 2008


The second is that the United States, along with other countries, has viewed Russia through the prism of the 1990s

Or, as I stated above, the third reason is that the US has something else up its sleeve.

it meant that the disintegration of the Soviet Union had created a situation in which Russian national security was threatened by Western interests.

OH how history repeats herself! Will the west never understand this??
posted by spicynuts at 11:04 AM on August 14, 2008


Tiny Finland once fought a vastly superior Soviet army to a standstill, because they could.

The Finns lost. Also I believe the Russian army had not recently been purged by Stalin, and that the Russian airforce may be a significantly more deadly threat these days.
posted by Artw at 11:05 AM on August 14, 2008


What Artw said.

That, and many of the Russian soldiers who fought in that war were brought up from the south, unready for the blistering harshness of a Finnish winter.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:19 AM on August 14, 2008


Why can't they be successfully defended by Georgia and the Ukraine?

georgia's too small - and for all we know, the ukraine may be able to defend themselves - by the way, does anyone remember reading something a few years back about some nukes in the ukraine which had come up missing?

Tiny Finland once fought a vastly superior Soviet army to a standstill

the soviet army was not vastly superior and general winter was on finland's side

---

The Finns lost.

compared to what the soviets had wanted to do to finland, no, not really
posted by pyramid termite at 11:19 AM on August 14, 2008


The Russians had tolerated all that, but the discussion of including Ukraine in NATO represented a fundamental threat to Russia's national security. It would have rendered Russia indefensible and threatened to destabilize the Russian Federation itself.

Can anyone tell me what the author means by "indefensible" here?
posted by slickvaguely at 11:24 AM on August 14, 2008


If Georgian soldiers are not willing to defend their country why should anyone else be?

Oh, I see the problem here. See, in our timeline, the Georgian army didn't all refuse to show up for duty, abandoning their responsibilities without putting up a fight.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:33 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


While the United States is tied down in the Middle East, American guarantees have no value. This lesson is not for American consumption. It is something that, from the Russian point of view, the Ukrainians, the Balts and the Central Asians need to digest. Indeed, it is a lesson Putin wants to transmit to Poland and the Czech Republic as well. The United States wants to place ballistic missile defense installations in those countries, and the Russians want them to understand that allowing this to happen increases their risk, not their security.

I think this really does need to be "for American consumption". The sooner we come to accept it, the better. And not solely because a foreign policy of unjustified and unreinforceable hubris is suicidal. We should really see this as America's maturing period. We're not some scrappy new kid in school with something to prove to everyone, able to throw our weight around and strong-arm the smaller kids for their lunch money. Instead of seeing this as a shift of power in the world, we should consider a shift of priorities in our country. How about slicing off a corner of our current military budget to make university more affordable? For starters.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:34 AM on August 14, 2008


Can anyone tell me what the author means by "indefensible" here?

unable to be defended? (from land invasion). Imagine if Quebec seceded from Canada and became a militant Franco-Islamic state. Kind of like that.
posted by msalt at 11:34 AM on August 14, 2008


Slickvaguely...imagine if Mexico joined a defense treaty alliance with China and Russia. I doubt the 'indefensible' part, but having a giant military base full of NATO (read..American) troops sitting on a massive border is not going to make Russia feel very safe. Cuz let's face it, if Ukraine joined NATO, the US would be building air bases etc in there like Starbucks in the late 90s.
posted by spicynuts at 11:36 AM on August 14, 2008


Switzerland isn't homogenous, but they've still fought off all invaders. Small countries like Finland and Georgia need universal male conscription for training & reservist duty. No one will occupy a country where everyone has some basic level of combat training and access to guns. Georgia does not apparently take such a serious position with respect to its defense.

I don't see how Georgia can possibly take back South Ossetia now; plus Ossetia passed a referendum on independence two years ago. So instead they should use these events to install universal male conscription and request additional U.S. investment. If they improve their economy, South Ossetia may eventually reject Russia and rejoin Georgia. Or better yet seek independence from Russia for North Ossetia.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:43 AM on August 14, 2008


Oh, as I think of it, one great book that sheds a lot of light about the relationship between Russia and the Caucus region is Crying Wolf, by Vanora Bennett. It's main focus is Chechnya, but the same dynamics apply to the entire region.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:49 AM on August 14, 2008


Imagine if Quebec seceded from Canada and became a militant Franco-Islamic state.

Or an even better analogy I think, since the quote was about the Ukraine joining NATO, would be if Canada had joined the Warsaw Pact; that would similarly render the US indefensible. A great many installations essential for US national defense are up in Canada.

(Also, I must say that injecting Islam into this for no apparent reason seems a bit questionable to me.)
posted by XMLicious at 11:49 AM on August 14, 2008


Injecting "Islam" into it is exactly what Russia and others intend to do to distract from the real issue which is GAS PIPELINE.
posted by spicynuts at 11:52 AM on August 14, 2008


the Russian airforce may be a significantly more deadly threat these days.

Especially with no other air force of consequence in the region. Control of the air = doom
Unless of course, somehow the Georgians wind up with an ample supply of shoulder launched AA to stave off the Russian planes. Where would they get those...

Interesting article notsnot. Sheds some light on the whole situation.
posted by a3matrix at 11:52 AM on August 14, 2008


Where's Postroad?
posted by spicynuts at 11:53 AM on August 14, 2008


Control of the air = doom

Didn't the Soviet Union have control of the air in Afghanistan?
posted by spicynuts at 11:53 AM on August 14, 2008


Gas pipeline to Europe isn't it spicy?
IE: Nato: stop that
Russia: EMBARGO ON! NO GAS FOR YOU!
Nato: It's winter and we are cold
Russia: Fuck off
posted by a3matrix at 11:54 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can anyone tell me what the author means by "indefensible" here?

Something tells me you find the word-choice misleading? I'll concede "indefensible" is an overstatement, but the recent historical background here provides context: it seems clear that it was intentionally provocative of the US to promote, these past few years, the inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO . Such a thing was bound to piss Moscow off. The Bush neocons, in their zest for wanting to re-draw geopolitical maps, seem to be operating under the cold-war assumption that chipping away at Moscow's power through its former satellite states is necessarily a good thing. But a better argument might be that, if such a thing is pushed to far and too fast, destabilizing what remains of Russia's post-Soviet zone of influence only promises to make the situation throughout the region worse for all parties concerned: do we really want more Abkhazias and South Ossetias to contend with? Sometimes the devil you know is better than one you don't (case in point: Iraq).
posted by ornate insect at 11:54 AM on August 14, 2008


Didn't the Soviet Union have control of the air in Afghanistan?

Unless of course, somehow the Georgians wind up with an ample supply of shoulder launched AA



They did, until someone sent them a shit load of stingers. Then helicopters and planes started falling from the sky.
posted by a3matrix at 11:55 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Such a thing was bound to piss Moscow off.

And anyone who has a modicum of historical knowledge could come to that conclusion by referencing the last days of WWII. Of course, neo-cons have clearly shown what they think of history.
posted by spicynuts at 11:57 AM on August 14, 2008


The conflict between Russian and Georgia is certainly important -- but the majority of the rhetoric in the United States has been overheated.
posted by moonbiter at 12:02 PM on August 14, 2008


Ah, the $5 I spent to support this site/post comments was so worth it. Go, people who like to talk about the former Soviet Union! Go people who can name all the 'Stans!

Ahem, please continue.
posted by staggering termagant at 12:07 PM on August 14, 2008


My recent post and one of the best articles I have seen recently.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 12:34 PM on August 14, 2008


Control of the air wins you the portion of the war where the oposition has thinsg like cities, vehicles, airfields, armies, etc... Beyond that you may find that you are no longer winning a war but attempting not to lose an occupation.
posted by Artw at 12:36 PM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Injecting "Islam" into it is exactly what Russia and others intend to do to distract from the real issue which is GAS PIPELINE.

Oh, well if the Russians are doing it themselves then it's perfectly okay for the rest of us to randomly inject Islam into any geopolitical discussion related to Russia.

(I'm not saying msalt did that consciously, but using "Islamic Quebec" as the analogy for Orthodox Christian Ukraine joining NATO seems an apples-and-oranges comparison to me and seems like it's using Islam as a euphemism for danger.)
posted by XMLicious at 12:37 PM on August 14, 2008


The Finns lost.

compared to what the soviets had wanted to do to finland, no, not really


The Finns had a limited supply of people and cared if they lived or died. Stalin, not so much.

They got Zerged.
posted by Artw at 12:38 PM on August 14, 2008


spicynuts - Does not cold-war style aggression play well into a scenario for a conservative getting elected in the US?
posted by ilovemytoaster at 12:39 PM on August 14, 2008


Beyond that you may find that you are no longer winning a war but attempting not to lose an occupation.

Ooh, I like that Art. Well said. Crafty even.
posted by a3matrix at 12:40 PM on August 14, 2008


msalt, spicynuts: yeah, I get it, hostile force on border = bad, but my (unclear) question was:
is there something about the geography that I'm not seeing that makes Ukraine a "must have" or at least a "must not lose"?

ornate insect: I'll concede "indefensible" is an overstatement
But is it? Or is there something that Stratfor/US/Russia sees that we don't? or haven't mentioned yet. (BTW, thanks for interpreting me correctly)

Losing Ukraine to NATO would certainly put a nasty hole in their buffer zone, and allow for troops to be massed up directly on their border as opposed to a border over, but Estonia is a NATO member and borders Russia, so I'm like, all, huh?

Ukraine is important.

Why? (that's what I meant to ask the first time)
posted by slickvaguely at 12:42 PM on August 14, 2008



How about slicing off a corner of our current military budget to make university more affordable? For starters.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing


Um. No one makes more frivolous comments on metafilter than myself.
But come on. "Make university more affordable"
Just how many billions of dollars do you expect Halliburton/Brown/Kellog to make running school cafeterias and providing campus security?
posted by notreally at 12:43 PM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]



Switzerland isn't homogenous, but they've still fought off all invaders.



Muahahah. The biggest legend of Switzerland. And every Swiss will tell you this.
Fact is, Hitler planned to occupy Switzerland in WWII. Expected time necessary: 1 week (still 4 days more than the Netherlands, you would have to give credit for this).
In the end Switzerland was not occupied. Not because their defenses (they had no bunker the German army was not aware of) but because Switzerland was more useful as an independent country for money laundring, diplomatic contacts and production of war goods since the US did not bomb Swiss factories that were producing ammunition and other stuff for the German army.

So the Swiss are good and smart for business but are a joke as soldiers.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 12:50 PM on August 14, 2008


Ukraine is important.

Why?


See homunculus' link up-thread: it has a critical port, among other things.
posted by ornate insect at 12:50 PM on August 14, 2008


Why can't they be successfully defended by Georgia and the Ukraine?

Because Ukraine will not fight for Georgia for fear of losing Russian energy imports.

compared to what the soviets had wanted to do to finland, no, not really

I have to disagree. The Soviets wanted to protect the northern approaches to Leningrad. They proposed to swap a much larger piece of territory for the smaller piece they wanted in a more strategic (and populated) area. The Finns rightfully refused. Although the Red Army was tactically stymied for a while, their superior numbers beat the Finns and obtained the strategic goals of the conflict.

More importantly, the Winter War is no template for such a battle today, more than 60 years later. The Red Army (still called that) would crush Georgia in days using today's technology.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:51 PM on August 14, 2008


So the Swiss are good and smart for business but are a joke as soldiers.

I'd also have to disagree with this assessment. First, we don't know how long an invasion of Switzerland would have taken. Second, the fact that one of the greatest fighting machines in the world would have been able to conquer Switzerland in relatively short order does not mean that the Swiss are a joke as soliders. In terms of total training, they likely have the most trained male population in the world, or at least second to Israel.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:53 PM on August 14, 2008


No one will occupy a country where everyone has some basic level of combat training and access to guns.

Uh, please review the following: US invasion of Iraq.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:57 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


@ Ironmouth

does not mean that the Swiss are a joke as soliders.

Only because you don't know the Swiss...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 1:00 PM on August 14, 2008


EVERYONE in Iraq had basic combat training??
posted by spicynuts at 1:00 PM on August 14, 2008


First, we don't know how long an invasion of Switzerland would have taken.

Ask Napoleon. He did OK.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:06 PM on August 14, 2008


See homunculus' link up-thread: it has a critical port, among other things.

Thanks. (are you people all like freakin speed readers or something?)

from the link:
As Brezezinski said in The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives:

Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.


So, if they move on Ukraine that would pretty clearly demonstrate their intentions? ie, Eurasian Empire.

Often in these discussions I get the feeling that people think the US is the only country that has any imperial intentions and that we are going to get our come-up-ance when such and such. I'm just fearful that the cure might be worse than the sickness.
posted by slickvaguely at 1:08 PM on August 14, 2008


Ukraine is important.

Why? (that's what I meant to ask the first time)


Even though Russians have been calling the Ukrainians names ever since the Orange Revolution, they are still in the habit of thinking of them as "brothers". Ukraine has been a part of Russia as long as they can remember and even though the fall of the Soviet Union might have changed that, it didn't change the old habits. A large number of Russians probably still think the Ukrainians would come back to them if they only saw the error of their ways. "Losing" Ukraine to NATO would be like losing a bit of their own territory.
posted by daniel_charms at 1:09 PM on August 14, 2008


Only because you don't know the Swiss...

They make chocolate that hurts. How wrong is that?
posted by Artw at 1:09 PM on August 14, 2008


The man is a tool, He is dramatizing everything as if the blogs haven't jumped on all this ages ago. He even goes on to (incorrectly) say Russia has not decisively made a millitary move since the late 70's and 80's. I guess he never heard of Chechnya.
posted by Student of Man at 1:24 PM on August 14, 2008


More importantly, the Winter War is no template for such a battle today, more than 60 years later. The Red Army (still called that) would crush Georgia in days using today's technology.

That was what any reasonable observer would have said about Finland's war with Soviet Russia.

In 1939, Stalin sent 20 divisions of the Red Army (some 250.000 soldiers) into the Karelian Peninsula. They were opposed by 11.000 regular Finnish soldiers and an equal number of reservists quickly called into action.

Finland sent 50,000 of its children to safety in Sweden during the Winter War. (There is a plaque on the wall around the corner from where I am writing these words in Stockholm's old city thanking Sweden for sheltering these children.) They prepared for war and fought like they meant it. The Finns invented the Molotov cocktail to deal with Russian tanks.

What was supposed to be a walkover, turned into a humiliating stalemate for Russia and an armistice which enabled Finland to avoid becoming a Soviet satellite state when the war was finished.

Russia is never so weak and never so strong as they appear.
posted by three blind mice at 1:24 PM on August 14, 2008


So the Swiss are good and smart for business but are a joke as soldiers.

have you seen the outfits Swiss guards wear while defending the Pope? (example) I assume you have to be pretty bad-ass to get away with looking that silly.
posted by sineater at 1:31 PM on August 14, 2008


McCain's Top Foreign Policy Adviser Lobbyed For Georgia: What Did He Tell Tbilisi?

After Signing New Lobbying Contract, Scheunemann Riles Georgians With Tough Talk
posted by homunculus at 1:38 PM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth : I'm not sure Iraq is going all that well for the occupying power. ;) Indeed said occupying power has only done this well because many factions there feel like they'll end up with more power eventually. I don't know about Hitler vs. Switzerland, but the French made the occupation fairly costly for Germany, so I imagine a society trained for asymmetrical warfare would've cost much more per capita.

But my point was : What were you thinking, Georgia? Your neighbor is Russia? Every male between 20 and 40 needs basic asymmetric warfare training. Any who like it should also be trained either as snipers or with anti-aircraft missiles. Oh, you also need to not piss off major minorities. I'm not sure how you managed pissing off the Ossetians, but there isn't much excuse. I mean you could always just ask the CIA for money to buy them stuff. How did you screw this up?

p.s. Russia was kinda the inheritor of the Roman empire up until the Bolsheviks. In some sense they still are the remnants of the Roman empire.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:41 PM on August 14, 2008


I see homunculus found what they were thinking. :)
posted by jeffburdges at 1:43 PM on August 14, 2008


p.s. Russia was kinda the inheritor of the Roman empire up until the Bolsheviks. In some sense they still are the remnants of the Roman empire.

Third Rome
posted by Artw at 1:47 PM on August 14, 2008


injecting Islam into this for no apparent reason seems a bit questionable to me.

Well, I mentioned it because of the alarm and calls for action it would cause in the general population. Yes, Warsaw Pact is a cleaner analogy but I doubt many Americans would even remember what that is, much less worry about Quebec (or Mexico) joining it. Not saying that's the wise view, but I think it's the popular view.
posted by msalt at 2:04 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Understandably, there are grey areas in war"

Apparently the next time they showed the interview the caption read "12 Year-old Girl - (D)"
posted by fullerine at 3:19 PM on August 14, 2008


Ukraine is important.

Why? (that's what I meant to ask the first time)


Apart from any immediate political, economic, or strategic benefit it may derive from keeping Ukraine within its sphere of influence, Russia has very strong historical and emotional links to Ukraine. Both slavic countries lay claim to the medieval state of Kievan-Rus' as the birthplace of their nations, and consequently many Russians still view Ukraine as an inherent part of Russia. They might view Ukrainians as "brothers", as daniel_charms mentions, but it's most often as little brothers, with all the power imbalance that that implies. (The term "malo-ruski" or "small-russians", from Russian Imperial days, is sometimes used pejoratively today). For Russia, control of Ukraine will always be a matter of pride.

Think about the nationalistic emotions involved in the China/Taiwan dispute, and you sort of get the idea. (Although the analogy is far from perfect.)
posted by Kabanos at 3:20 PM on August 14, 2008


Ironmouth writes "please review the following: US invasion of Iraq."

Boy I sure am glad you guys that that all tied up and that $300 million a day is buying park benches and memorial hospitals.
posted by Mitheral at 3:54 PM on August 14, 2008


Missiles Over Georgia; Interceptors in Poland?
posted by homunculus at 3:55 PM on August 14, 2008


Mitheral writes "Boy I sure am glad you guys thatgot that all tied up and that $300 million a day is buying park benches and memorial hospitals."
posted by Mitheral at 3:55 PM on August 14, 2008


People keep making this mistake, but there are three parties involved here, Georgians, Russians and South Ossetians. Now you may argue that South Ossetians take their orders from the Russians, but I'm going with official positions at the moment; until a certain surge happened, Russians were ostensibly keeping the peace between South Ossetians and Georgians. This is also the position they're falling back on, now they've 'dismantled' military apparatus on proper Georgian soil, around the city of Gori, for example.

As I understood the events, one of the three parties blinked in a highly militarized, triggers-held-close-to-heart theater; 'regular' shelling suddenly erupted into heavy fighting, what with Russia sending a convoy across the single tunnel connecting South Ossetia with Russia, and Georgia shelling bases from outside South Ossetia, near Gori, for example.

Catastrophically for Georgia, whatever the provocation, they quickly realized that Tskhinvali to Tblisi was only an hour and a half for a determined tank convoy, and so they quickly escalated the conflict even more, possibly firing at everything that could move at South Ossetia.

The essential problems here, as I see it, is a) the continued military tension in the region, and b) no way around it, the essential _smallness_ of Georgia. The only way to de-escalate military tension is to i) get both parties to forward locations from where they cannot attack on a moment's notice (so both armies stay away from positions on a ridge, for example, and instead are around it and tell each other their exact locations), ii) convince each other of the intent. A marauding army will be scary if others around them aren't told about these two specific pieces of information; 'intent' as an operational point is inherently political, and that's where, say, having a hotline between Tblisi and Kremlin would help. Then again, this is also where Russia's apparent beligerence would come into play, wouldn't it; ostensibly, they wouldn't want to 'engage' lesser powers with diplomatic niceties, possibly.

(One of the lessons we learnt in Delhi during the political jujitsu over the nuclear deal is that it's best to ignore public pronouncements from the US completely. The current American leadership has a way of shooting its collective mouth off without giving any thought to nuance, context or consequence, placing itself in a position where it shouldn't be in the first place. Nothing about reduction of American softpower, more about its absolute misuse, which of course would lead to a long-term reduction. )
posted by the cydonian at 6:47 PM on August 14, 2008


Eight years of 9/11 and Iraq and no WMDs and Afghanistan and whatever the holy hell we have no clue about. And now Russia is offering the choice between it and Georgia, and the United States is choosing…Georgia, effectively reviving the Cold War. I guess we conquered Afghanistan and Iraq, skipped Iran and went directly to Moscow because hey…whatever works. Especially when you’re in a pinch. We have to be “at war” to elect a Republican because Karl Rove knows that the American public does not like to change leadership during times of war. Deceptive and desperate, boys. That is how you look.
posted by infini at 8:44 PM on August 14, 2008


Russia was kinda the inheritor of the Roman empire up until the Bolsheviks. In some sense they still are the remnants of the Roman empire.

The Third Rome was always a tenous link. Russia has nothing at all to do with Rome. Although they did hold a bit of Roman territory (Romania during WWII), they have nothing to really link them to Rome other than their own dreams.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:40 PM on August 15, 2008


Georgia: Russian Cluster Bombs Kill Civilians
posted by homunculus at 4:11 PM on August 15, 2008


Stop Using Weapon Banned by 107 Nations

Guess who isn't one of them?
posted by Artw at 4:16 PM on August 15, 2008


Who?
posted by homunculus at 8:37 PM on August 15, 2008


They obviously don’t teach cold war history at the law schools at Columbia in New York or George Washington in the nation’s capital, otherwise Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, who attended both institutions, would have thought twice about encouragement from the US for his ill-fated attack on South Ossetia a week ago.

Russia won't back down, and the U.S. can't do shit about it, aside from continue to flood the new "republics" with bribed officials and black-market weapons.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:21 AM on August 17, 2008


Blowback from Bear Baiting
posted by caddis at 9:05 AM on August 18, 2008


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