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Georgia: "They Started It!"
September 16, 2008 2:34 AM   Subscribe

Georgia offers evidence that Russia made the first move. (login NYT ; Bugmenot)

Georgia is circulating recordings of intercepted telephone calls from the period leading up to the Georgia-Russia war in August, showing that Russian troops were moving through the Roki tunnel into South Ossetia a full day before Georgia started shelling Tskhinvali (the capital of S.O.). Russia claims that it was part of routine troop rotation in the region (where they maintained a peacekeeping force), while Georgia accuses them of invading on soverign territory.

In the meanwhile, NATO gives "partial support" to Georgia.
posted by LMGM (87 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the Financial Times article (link for "partial"), I'm still not clear on what form this support is taking, although part of it seems to involve financial aid for reconstruction.
posted by LMGM at 2:37 AM on September 16, 2008


NYT article without the login here. Sorry, my bad for not figuring this out before posting.
posted by LMGM at 2:40 AM on September 16, 2008


Um, duh?
posted by chillmost at 3:04 AM on September 16, 2008


Georgia shouldn't have been shelling South Ossetia in the first place. Russia invaded and stopped them from killing unarmed civilians. That seems pretty reasonable to me as far as violent confrontations go. It's really sad that many people died in the process. I do wonder what would have happened if Russia hadn't stopped them. Would we have even heard anything about the Georgian violence against innocent people?

Georgia shouldn't be getting any support from NATO. NATO should be patting Russia on the back for doing the right thing.
posted by ioerror at 3:15 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


NATO should be patting Russia on the back for doing the right thing.

I'm sure that a lot of Chechnya is really very fond of the Russians and their pro-independence attitudes.

Perhaps some additional background on doing the right thing.

I'm not condoning anyone's actions, just noting that it's a complicated situation and that "doing the right thing" is way down everyone's list.
posted by mandal at 3:43 AM on September 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


That's pretty weak sauce as evidence. "Some Russian made a phone call, and they may have been moving troops around without us knowing about it. That, like, totally makes our shelling of civilians reasonable and necessary!"
posted by Malor at 3:47 AM on September 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


No matter who started this round of fighting, no matter who is right in any immediate or historical sense, local and global happiness and security probably would increase greatly if the people of these places were allowed to choose their alliances. Ossetia (north and south) probably should unite as A) part of Georgia, or B) part of Russia, or C) a single independent state without arms but with a guaranty of Nato protection. Let them vote and then give them what they choose. Likewise, let the people of Abkhazia decide whether they want to be A) part of Georgia, or B) a single independent state without arms but with Nato protection; it seems they want B.

But that won't happen. Regardless of what the local people want, larger alliances will continue to fight each other for their land and blame each other for the resulting deaths.
posted by pracowity at 4:06 AM on September 16, 2008


Malor: did you read all 3 pages of the article? [not intended as snarky question] Part of the issue here (as well as with the conversation between a Georgian border guard and his supervisor the day before the main conflict) was that Russian troops were entering Georgia in violation of peacekeeping agreements they had signed in 2004. Accordingly, Russian troop movements into the conflict region "could be conducted only in daylight and after not less than a month of advance notification" (page 2). So, if I understand their argument, Georgia is saying that Russia's unannouced troop movements onto their territory seemed to them like a sign of immanent attack. I still think the decision to attack was strategically foolish and unfortunately inspired by Bush-style "pre-emptive strike" philosophies, but your paraphrase mischaracterizes their arguments.
posted by LMGM at 4:09 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


immanent imminent ; must make more coffee.
posted by LMGM at 4:10 AM on September 16, 2008


I have trouble seeing how the reasonable response to "an imminent attack" by Russia is to start an artillery bombardment of Tskhinvali. Earlier, the Georgians said the shelling was to end rioting. I didn't see how that was appropriate, either.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:22 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


mandel, I'm not talking about Chechnya. Please don't try to paint my comments as a blanket endorsement of Russia for the entire course of history. I was making a specific statement about a specific topic relating to Russia and South Ossetia.

We can respectfully disagree that Russia was doing The Right Thing. However, I feel that the Western media has followed the Georgian media in its condemnation of Russia. Red scare! Russia is on the move!

No one seems to care that Georgia was shelling a city full of innocent people. No one seems to care that Russia was stopping this course of action set forth by the Georgian army. Everyone seems to care that Russia stopped them.

I can't quite wrap my head around the support for Georgia. Georgia was killing people indiscriminately by bombing a city!
posted by ioerror at 4:34 AM on September 16, 2008


ioerror,

I am not condoning Georgian forces shelling a "city full of innocent people", I'm just trying to point out background. First up, there has been widespread destruction of Georgian villages in South Ossetia by the South Ossetian militia – under the watch of Russian military – and subsequent displacement of thousands of Georgians in the region. Same applies in Abkhazia, where there was an ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population in the early 1990s (Georgia was still a fledgling state at the time and Abkhasia being backed by Russia militarily). In other words, it's not one-way traffic. If no one seems to care that Georgia was shelling a city full of innocent people, even less attention was focused on the persecution of Georgians in the area.

The article I linked to previously is worth the read to get some idea of the stakes involved for both sides; for Russia this has nothing to do with defending some people from shelling. I mentioned Chechnya as a snarky way of saying that the Russians do not care for anyone's independence and are quite happy to shell civilian populations themselves; I could have found a clearer way to express that.


Oh, also: it's mandal
posted by mandal at 5:09 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Maybe Russia should have just said they were going to look for WMDs.
posted by Vindaloo at 5:17 AM on September 16, 2008 [5 favorites]


At most, this is evidence that Russia was moving troops into South Ossetia in ways not agreed to by both parties previously, a violation, if true, but did it deserve the attack order from Georgian president? This bit from the end of the first article makes it still look like the order to attack the Russians was both stupid and an overreaction:

Matthew J. Bryza, the deputy assistant secretary of state who coordinates diplomacy in the Caucasus, said the contents of the recorded conversations were consistent with what Georgians appeared to believe on Aug. 7, in the final hours before the war, when a brief cease-fire collapsed.

“During the height of all of these developments, when I was on the phone with senior Georgian officials, they sure sounded completely convinced that Russian armored vehicles had entered the Roki Tunnel, and exited the Roki Tunnel, before and during the cease-fire,” he said. “I said, under instructions, that we urge you not to engage these Russians directly.

By the night of Aug. 7, he said, he spoke with Eka Tkeshelashvili, Georgia’s foreign minister, shortly before President Saakashvili issued his order to attack. “She sounded completely convinced, on a human level, of the Russian presence,” Mr. Bryza said. “ ‘Under these circumstances,’ she said, ‘We have to defend our villages.’ ”

General Uvarov, the senior Russian official, contended that the Georgians had acted rashly and without a clear understanding of their own intelligence.


There's no good guy here, just the same old fighting over tribal territory, with gas and oil nearby, but that means it's hard to find much sympathy for Georgia. And certainly none for sending US troops to defend an idiot like Saakashvili.
posted by mediareport at 5:57 AM on September 16, 2008


There's no good guy here

There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here

Repeat as necessary.
posted by spicynuts at 6:01 AM on September 16, 2008 [7 favorites]


Err, from my understanding, the Georgians were shelling rebel entrenchments after a series of cross-border raids into Georgia for a bit of recreational banditry, not a wholesale slaughter of civilians. Their blunder was not paying close attention as to whether Russian "peacekeeper" troops were stationed in the area or not, and for not paying attention to the US when we told them it was a trap.

Given the track record of Georgia, and the track record of Russia under Putin (Chechnia, Ingushetia, rule-by-assassination, etc, etc.) I'm far more inclined to believe Georgia.

Now, though, Europe is a bit miffed. They are acting with glacial and careful slowness, yet acting all the same, and Russia knows it. "Oh, we decided not to put sanctions in place. But we already have them worked out and ready to roll, take a look." When the axe falls, it's going to fall hard - complete economic ruin and international isolation. The US can huff and puff all it wants, but its superpower cred is spent, and will take a decade or more to come back up to snuff. The E.U., on the other hand, is not an economic entity you want irritated with you. They're giving Russia plenty of time and room to back off and save face, but if they don't, Russia's natural gas pipelines won't be enough leverage to hold off what comes next.

I think Iran is about to find itself in a similar situation.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:04 AM on September 16, 2008


I can't quite wrap my head around the support for Georgia. Georgia was killing people indiscriminately by bombing a city!

Oh, brother!

That's true only if you look at the situation in the most narrow terms and exclude any sort of historical rationale. Russia has been attempting to undermine Georgia's sovereignty of South Ossetia. Russia has actively supported anti-Georgian activities on what is internationally recognized as Georgian territory. Russia was trying to get Georgia to provide Russia with an excuse to invade.

I've got no problem criticizing Georgia for taking the bait with what I believe are premature rationalizations. BUT, Georgia wasn't entirely wrong in attempting to do what it did (of course, they could have been less bombastic about it, although it can be said that their actions were clearly modeled after the Russians themselves!)

The Russians were looking to do this; they don't care about the wishes of their own people in terms of self-rule (Chechnya shows this to be a lie), they've constantly sponsored activities which attempt to undermine the self-rule of territories they once controlled by force and they very much would like to take control over territories such as South Ossetia and others, despite the international recognition of those places as belonging to countries such as Georgia.

I lived in a city "indiscriminately bombed" by outsiders, so I've got a lot of sympathy for the many innocent people whose lives are taken or just ruined by such things. But this situation was not so cut-and-dried.

The essential question is this: Would more people have lost their lives in the situation which DID occur than the alternate reality in which Russia had flat out respected Georgia's borders and had not attempted to sabotage its territorial integrity? It is impossible to answer, but the likelihood may be that Russia's activities before this conflict led to many more innocent lives being lost than would have if they'd just left things alone in the first place.

Furthermore, I can't think of a single situation where Russia "intervened" purely for the "right" reasons unless a healthy dollop of self-interest was involved. They've simply got no history of this. One could say the same about America in this sense, but some of America's post-WWII activities at least were slightly credible in terms of altruism. In this case, though, Russia got what it wanted and had tried to achieve for years - there really wasn't much right about it at all. People were potentially saved, but many of those who weren't probably wouldn't have lost their lives in the first place were it not for Russian activities.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:10 AM on September 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, they're so credible.
posted by delmoi at 6:13 AM on September 16, 2008


Now, though, Europe is a bit miffed. They are acting with glacial and careful slowness, yet acting all the same, and Russia knows it. "Oh, we decided not to put sanctions in place. But we already have them worked out and ready to roll, take a look." When the axe falls, it's going to fall hard - complete economic ruin and international isolation. The US can huff and puff all it wants, but its superpower cred is spent, and will take a decade or more to come back up to snuff. The E.U., on the other hand, is not an economic entity you want irritated with you. They're giving Russia plenty of time and room to back off and save face, but if they don't, Russia's natural gas pipelines won't be enough leverage to hold off what comes next.

What the hell is this? You seriously think the EU gives a crap about Georgia? the Russians will be happy to pump their Oil to China if Europe decides they don't want it (which they wont). But more to the point, I keep seeing these idiotic 'analysis' where huge countries (or in this case, groups of countries) are portrayed as having the mental acuity of two year olds playing in a sandbox. Ooh. Europe is "miffed" Whatever. All of these people are looking out for their own interests, including the Georgians.
posted by delmoi at 6:20 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


In other, Georgia related news, the Georgians accuse the Russians of purposefully setting fires in one of the country's natural treasures that resulted in the destruction of 2,500 acres of old growth forest and an estimated loss of 700 million dollars to the tourist industry. (WaPo link)
posted by Atreides at 6:20 AM on September 16, 2008


So the Georgian claim is that Russia sent troops into South Ossetia and Georgia responded by shelling and then invading South Ossetia. Does anyone else think that straight faced claim by Georgia that they sent their military in to go toe-to-toe with the Russian army funny?
posted by jperkins at 6:22 AM on September 16, 2008


The essential question is this: Would more people have lost their lives in the situation which DID occur than the alternate reality in which Russia had flat out respected Georgia's borders and had not attempted to sabotage its territorial integrity? It is impossible to answer, but the likelihood may be that Russia's activities before this conflict led to many more innocent lives being lost than would have if they'd just left things alone in the first place.

Reminds me of this Lincoln quote:
"That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”
In any situation, there is going to be escalation, in this case, the Georgians where the first ones to take violent action, and you could argue that Russia's response was disproportionate. But what you can't do is blame one side for the others violent responses under the theory that, well, the other side provoked the first. The Georgians made a choice to respond to the troop movements of a nuclear power by shelling said troops. That isn't a reasonable response.

Of course, many people say that the Russians were hoping to provoke the Georgians, but the Georgians are ultimately responsible for their actions.
posted by delmoi at 6:28 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Georgia offers evidence that Russia made the first move.

However, what that link fails to mention is that the evidence was re-edited by George Lucas.
posted by you just lost the game at 6:33 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wasn't this clear from the start? Even Sec Rice had warned Georgia not to provoke Russia. And they did.
posted by Postroad at 6:37 AM on September 16, 2008


I don't believe anything either side says about their motives and actions; I will just point out that those who accuse others of ignoring the "ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population" may themselves be ignoring the longstanding Georgian oppression of its ethnic minorities. The Georgians have historically acted towards the Abkhaz, Ossetes, Meskhet Turks, and other minorities exactly as they accuse the Russians of acting towards them. Or, in wise words that have already been repeated above:

There's no good guy here.
posted by languagehat at 6:51 AM on September 16, 2008


I gotta leave work and most likely miss the ensuing comment-cluster-f!@# as the other side of the atlantic wakes up, but there are a few things that I think might be useful for the debate (in the hopes that it doesn't descend into the aforementioned comment-cluster-f!@#):
  1. In the debate over justifications for Georgia's move into South Ossetia, there are at least two registers being debated here, which are often being conflated together: strategic/pragmatic and moral/ethical. There is the question of whether this was a wise tactical move, but there is also the question of whether Georgia had a moral "high ground" going into this. It's possible that one can answer "yes" to one of these questions and "no" to the other.
  2. In this article at least, Georgia seems to be making a moral–ethical claim to justification. Notice that they're using a logic of "first cause" rather than "just proportion"; i.e., they're arguing that they were justified in what they did because Russia acted first, and they're avoiding the question of whether their reaction was appropriate in proportionate.
  3. There are conflicting stories about whether Georgia's first move was to bomb rebel / paramilitary positions or to bomb the entirety of Tsinkhali indiscriminately. Obviously, both sides of the conflict have an interest in claiming one or the other, so it's hard to be sure. What we do know, alas, is that Russian, Georgian and South-Ossetian forces were operating in the area during the time of the conflict and that the result was damage and casualties to both ethnically-Ossetian and ethnically-Georgian residents of the area.
As has already been repeated a few times (thanks, spicynuts!), there are no good guys in this conflict—not even necessarily the South Ossetians themselves, who have been involved in inter-ethnic violence for quite a long time in that region. There are, however, lots of senseless fatalities.
posted by LMGM at 6:56 AM on September 16, 2008


above: "appropriate or proportionate."
posted by LMGM at 6:57 AM on September 16, 2008


languagehat,

As I said early on, I'm not condoning the actions taken by either side. My posts in this thread have been specifically concerned with the notion of Russia deserving a pat on the back for doing the right thing; I brought up the other matters simply to illustrate that, not to defend Georgian actions. The whole area is a mess and the politics and feuding nature of the area are bafflingly complex and not something that could be addressed in a post here without the page scrolling on for several hundred yards.

There's no good guy here.

That was more or less what I was trying to point out in reply to the assertion that Russia was the good guy. It would appear that I didn't manage that very well.

***

I also think that there's two different things going on here. First there's the historical internal politics of the region and the people who inhabit it and, secondly, there's the Russian political agenda. These are distinct things.
posted by mandal at 7:20 AM on September 16, 2008


"Did Saakashvili Lie? The West Begins to Doubt Georgian Leader" (posted by homunculus in the zombie Ossetia thread from a long time ago) offers a very different assessment of the situation.

Furthermore, I can't think of a single situation where Russia "intervened" purely for the "right" reasons unless a healthy dollop of self-interest was involved. They've simply got no history of this. One could say the same about America in this sense, but some of America's post-WWII activities at least were slightly credible in terms of altruism. In this case, though, Russia got what it wanted and had tried to achieve for years - there really wasn't much right about it at all. People were potentially saved, but many of those who weren't probably wouldn't have lost their lives in the first place were it not for Russian activities.


This shows a degree of naivety that I'm frankly surprised to see coming from you. There has been no American intervention abroad that wasn't grounded in cynical calculation, whether internal-electoral or geopolitical. There has been no intervention abroad by any country ever that wasn't grounded in cynical calculation. States are not people. Applying moral categories to state actions is a game for dupes or propagandists.

Russia doesn't go to as much effort to conceal the self-interested nature of its geopolitical game-playing. Certainly no one would believe that the Russians were in any way unhappy about the Georgians shelling Tskhinvali. But comparing an idyllic world where everyone has territorial integrity to the bad present day--and then blaming Russia for the discrepancy!--is utterly wrong-headed. The entire CIS is a battleground between Western and Russian economic and political interests. (Saakashvili, for instance, was installed using American money and American support; without Western cash he would have been just another nationalistic parvenu). Different ways of framing the issue serve different interests. "Territorial integrity" is a Western frame. "The rights of Russian citizens" is a Russian frame. "Restoration of constitutional order" is another Russian frame that was appropriated by Saakashvili. These frames don't have any meaning except as rhetorical tokens--"territorial integrity" guarantees growing external Western involvement in the form of cash, political coups, and military bases, while "rights of Russian citizens" tend to involve unhappy results for the rights of others.

So you could easily have said, not Russian respect for territorial integrity, but American respect for territorial integrity in the form of not installing its henchmen in CIS countries in order to increase its leverage over Russia. Which would have led to the same results--no Russia-Georgia tensions, no needless civilian deaths. But you didn't say that, because you've bought into one particular framing of the issue. (Which is not to say that the other one is any less ideological or interested.) I'd suggest you take a step back and consider the possibility that maybe the Russians aren't the only malevolent mustache-twirling international manipulators here.
posted by nasreddin at 7:21 AM on September 16, 2008 [8 favorites]


irst up, there has been widespread destruction of Georgian villages in South Ossetia by the South Ossetian militia

The mefi party line from the "intellectuals" here is that everything was peachy keen until evil Georgia shot back. There have never been any cross-border conflicts and shelling from South Ossetia, comrade.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:26 AM on September 16, 2008



The mefi party line from the "intellectuals" here is that everything was peachy keen until evil Georgia shot back. There have never been any cross-border conflicts and shelling from South Ossetia, comrade.


Proof?

Otherwise, it would be great if you could keep your "contributions" to yourself while the grownups are talking.
posted by nasreddin at 7:37 AM on September 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here


There is no good guy here.

The mefi party line from the "intellectuals" here is that everything was peachy keen until evil Georgia shot back.

See above. This is a pathetic schoolyard attempt by one bully to prove the other bully started it.

Hopefully the lesson learned is that no way, no how, not in a million-friggin'-years, should Georgia become a member of NATO.
posted by three blind mice at 7:56 AM on September 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here
There's no good guy here


The interesting fact is that Russian market lost over 50% since then, 10% just today and I believe they closed the market for a day.
posted by Darkbird at 7:59 AM on September 16, 2008


I actually had a problem very similar to the issue under discussion. I've got these two friends, Russ and George, who were always fighting with one another. Russ was a big guy, so he would usually win when it came to blows, and George was always trying to get me to help him when an argument started.

I basically told 'em: "listen guys, you've got to work this shit out between you both. Have either of you ever been to a cuddle party?"

Turns out they were up for it, so we all went back to my place, stripped down to our underwear and just - well, we just held one another for a couple of hours. It got pretty emotional, and we even cried, but the mutual support of three grown men just holding one another's naked bodies really close made a real difference to how we relate to one another.

I dunno if your "United Nations" could host a similar event, but - damn - isn't it worth a try?
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:02 AM on September 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


I actually had a problem very similar to the issue under discussion. I've got these two friends, Russ and George, who were always fighting with one another. Russ was a big guy, so he would usually win when it came to blows, and George was always trying to get me to help him when an argument started.

I basically told 'em: "listen guys, you've got to work this shit out between you both. Have either of you ever been to a cuddle party?"

Turns out they were up for it, so we all went back to my place, stripped down to our underwear and just - well, we just held one another for a couple of hours. It got pretty emotional, and we even cried, but the mutual support of three grown men just holding one another's naked bodies really close made a real difference to how we relate to one another.

I dunno if your "United Nations" could host a similar event, but - damn - isn't it worth a try?
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:09 AM on September 16, 2008


The interesting fact is that Russian market lost over 50% since then, 10% just today and I believe they closed the market for a day.

I wouldn't attribute all of that to the Georgia events, though it's certainly part of it. The other two major changes have been a dramatic fall in the price of oil (which is essentially the index to the Russian economy) and the bad news from the United States (with Lehman, etc.), which knocks out a lot of major investments. Actually, I personally strongly doubt that anyone who thought they had sound reasons to invest in Russia before the war would have had their minds changed in any way by these events.
posted by nasreddin at 8:09 AM on September 16, 2008


There has been no intervention abroad by any country ever that wasn't grounded in cynical calculation.
Cubans in Angola?
posted by Abiezer at 8:17 AM on September 16, 2008


What I'm having a lot of issues with is how this all stemmed from a relatively normal seasonal political situation and quickly spun way the fuck out of control. Shooting and bombing between Abkhazia or S. Ossetia and Georgia in the summer is (sadly) incredibly common. I was only in the country about 9 weeks with the Peace Corps when the shit his the fan, and I had received 6 text messages warning about isolated conflict incidents those regions. When I asked volunteers that had been there a year already, EVERY ONE of them shrugged it off saying "This happens in Summer, wait until the weather cools off and no one wants to crawl out of bed."

What was unexpected was the extent that Russia would be involved. My question is "Why now?" I know Russia had been supplying S. Ossetians and Abkhazians with Russian Passports for years, and we had been briefed about how that was a move the US Embassy was keeping an eye on. In other words, Russia's stepping in to "defend Russian citizens" was something that had been in the works for years.

I'm not defending Saakashvili by any stretch. I think there's a good chance Georgia ultimately pushed too hard in their regional struggle. I also think that thanks to the actions of Bush, he had pretty good reason to think the West would back him up. Every Georgian that brought up American Politics to me have me roughly the same speech: "America and Georgia are friends, because OUR PRESIDENTS are friends." Add that to the fact that Georgia had the second largest troop presence in Iraq and Bush had publicly commented that his visit to Georgia was his favorite diplomatic trip, and you could see how Saakashvili might have gotten that opinion.

Honestly, though, I'm still trying to separate my own feelings from these events, and seeing how they are playing out in US Politics, there's not a day that oes by when I don't feel ill from the whole experience.
posted by piratebowling at 8:21 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cubans in Angola?

Hah! Yeah, that might have been one example. There's also the Czechoslovaks in the Russian Civil War, but that wasn't really state action so much as a giant angry mutiny.
posted by nasreddin at 8:22 AM on September 16, 2008


1. Russia is just doing what other states do. Irrelevant. Given Russia's history, unlikely. In the past Russia invaded countries and then subjected them to the most oppressive and militant dictatorship possible. How many other states did that?

2. Russia is protecting its citizens. Huh. Why are so many of its citizens living in other countries? See #1.

3. Russia is responding to provocation from the West. Huh. When you respond to political provocation by invasion of a democratic state, then you aren't playing democracy anymore, you are playing totalitarian dictatorship. Oh, wait, see #1. Its a web they know how to weave.
posted by ewkpates at 8:38 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I still can't believe that expanding NATO to Georgia is considered an acceptable opinion to have in international politics. The obvious answer is that it would be to help protect oil and gas pipelines, but no one important actually says that out loud. When it gets down to it, I don't understand what the point of any NATA expansion is except to needlessly piss off Russia.
posted by afu at 8:43 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


For some reason my first reaction was, "WHAT?!?!?!?!" This, moments later, became, "oh, yeah, duh."
posted by cmoj at 8:45 AM on September 16, 2008


In the past Russia invaded countries and then subjected them to the most oppressive and militant dictatorship possible. How many other states did that?

Well, for one thing, the United States as well as every single Western European country. Or does colonialism not count or something?

Why are so many of its citizens living in other countries?

While it's true that in this case Russia did issue its passports to South Ossetians, it didn't force them to accept. And there are legitimate Russian citizens living all over the CIS, because of the way the Soviet system functioned and collapsed. Russia is dying demographically, and so Russians abroad are a kind of irreplaceable resource that needs to be protected, from its point of view.

When you respond to political provocation by invasion of a democratic state, then you aren't playing democracy anymore, you are playing totalitarian dictatorship


Way to parrot George W. Bush's talking points. And that's an argument that could easily be applied to Saakashvili as well.
posted by nasreddin at 8:45 AM on September 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


nasreddin: "as every single Western European country"

Not to make an argument out of this, but Ireland is a Western European country that never engaged in colonialism, but was in fact subject to it
posted by nfg at 8:53 AM on September 16, 2008



Not to make an argument out of this, but Ireland is a Western European country that never engaged in colonialism, but was in fact subject to it


You're right, sorry. To my knowledge, neither did Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland, or the Scandinavian countries.
posted by nasreddin at 8:56 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why everyone seems to ignore the Russian provocations in the months leading up to the escalation in August.

While certainly the Georgians are not the innocent victims that they would like to portray themselves to be with regard to how they've treated the separatist regions of their country, the Russians have been happily needling them for several years. Russia wants undemocratic, bow to Moscow, countries along its borders, and justifies its intrusion in these countries over the Russian "citizens" who are the descendants of a diaspora, or remnants of the same, that was forced onto these countries by the Russian-controlled Soviet Empire. It would be as outrageous if the United States suddenly issued passports to the Vietnamese children of American GIs from the time period during the war, and then intervened militarily today on their behalf as American citizens.

The basic point is that Russia has a wonderful paranoia that is built on a foundation of xenophobia that the world is out to get it. Hence, it wants buffer states that it can control as a matter of security. With its new found oil-wealth, it finally has a somewhat reliable means to use this money and the new found economic-military sway over its weaker, poorer neighbors, while using the flag of protecting "citizens" that it mailed passports to as legitimizing it's interference. Georgia is one of several of the countries on it's list to make subservient for the cause of security, and while it has successfully gobbled up portions of the country, it's overly bold maneuver may permanently deny it the rest.
posted by Atreides at 9:04 AM on September 16, 2008


There is no good guy here

And with that in mind, Georgia should not get NATO protection, much less membership.
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:07 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Way to parrot George W. Bush's talking points. And that's an argument that could easily be applied to Saakashvili as well.

Say what you will about freedom of press in Georgia, but Saakashvili hasn't had journalists and expatriates murdered for opposing his rule. It's pretty clear that Russia has become a fascistic autocracy under Putin's thumb, in ways Georgia and other neighboring countries very barely approximate.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:35 AM on September 16, 2008


Georgia used cluster bombs on civilians, who provided these outlaw munitions?
posted by hortense at 9:36 AM on September 16, 2008


The mefi party line from the "intellectuals" here is that everything was peachy keen until evil Georgia shot back.

I think you have not been reading the same posts I have.
posted by spicynuts at 9:42 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


While certainly the Georgians are not the innocent victims that they would like to portray themselves to be with regard to how they've treated the separatist regions of their country

Not just "separatist regions." They've been complete shits to the Meskhet Turks, who just want to live quietly in their old homes and not bother anybody.

Oh, and ewkpates? The cold war is over; you can come out of the fallout shelter now.
posted by languagehat at 10:35 AM on September 16, 2008


Did not-Did too with guns.
posted by Cranberry at 10:37 AM on September 16, 2008


I'm pretty sure the US is taking notes on the ingeniousness of Russia just handing out passports. When the water inevitably runs out in this country, and Canada is looking ripe for the pludering, we'll suddenly all be surprised to learn how many US citizens are up there, and how terribly the Canadians have been treating them.
posted by mullingitover at 10:44 AM on September 16, 2008


The important thing here is that no one blinked.
posted by mazola at 10:46 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


I was pretty inclined to roll my eyes at governments doing what they always do- killing human beings for no reason other than power- but that was before the legions of Russian nationalists started spamming EVERY. GODDAMN. FORUM. that I post on screaming about how Russia never invaded South Ossetia and Georgians are scheming evil people and so on.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:49 AM on September 16, 2008


Russian nationalists started spamming EVERY. GODDAMN. FORUM. that I post on screaming about how Russia never invaded South Ossetia and Georgians are scheming evil people and so on.

They probably just cut and pasted from American forums re: Iraq in 2003/4
posted by spicynuts at 10:52 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


languagehat makes exactly the point that is keeping Russia's neighbors awake at night: Is it over? Is it? Or will the new Russia invade the same people it invaded last time? Poland and Ukraine aren't sleeping soundly, you can bet your old hammer and sickle on that my friend.
posted by ewkpates at 10:57 AM on September 16, 2008


Hey, is anyone still playing DEFCON?
posted by Artw at 11:02 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


languagehat makes exactly the point that is keeping Russia's neighbors awake at night: Is it over? Is it? Or will the new Russia invade the same people it invaded last time? Poland and Ukraine aren't sleeping soundly, you can bet your old hammer and sickle on that my friend.

OOOGA-BOOGA! THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING!

(Don't mind ewkpates. He's just tired from staying up all night watching Red Dawn over and over, clutching his shotgun, periodically stepping onto his front porch to watch for signs of the invader.)
posted by nasreddin at 11:04 AM on September 16, 2008


"Wolverines!"
posted by Artw at 11:16 AM on September 16, 2008


There is no chance in hell Russia does anything to Poland. Ukraine would take some serious SERIOUS brass balls, but it is not completely, utterly inconthievable (I do not think that word means what you think it means).
posted by spicynuts at 11:59 AM on September 16, 2008


Same as it ever was... same as it ever was.

There are no good guys here... indeed. There are no good guys anywhere.

We muddled through more than forty years of smouldering hostility... for what.

Just to set us up the bomb?

There is far too much chest pounding all around about... whatever the hell this is. I'm no fan of it. Maybe, just maybe this time will be different... and cooler heads will not prevail... as they have all been removed from positions of decision making. Imagine that... eliminating pragmatic thinkers.

Maybe, just maybe this time we will get around to doing it.

I live betwixt a naval air station, a naval base with aircraft carrier support capabilities, and the Atlantic headquarters for the U.S. ballistic missile fleet.

A brief millisecond of light and heat... then... it's whatever that lies beyond the divide.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 12:06 PM on September 16, 2008


Hey, is anyone still playing DEFCON?

I am I am!

There is no good guy here, and everybody dies.

Also:

You're right, sorry. To my knowledge, neither did Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland, or the Scandinavian countries.

Sorry nasreddin, but you're wrong again. Sweden did engage in colonization, even slave trade.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 12:46 PM on September 16, 2008


So did Denmark. We had Tranquebar! And the Virgin Islands in the Carribean! Oh man Nasreddin, clearly your knowledge of former European colonial rule makes your points about Georgia and Russia completely wrong.
posted by Catfry at 2:10 PM on September 16, 2008


Didn't you used to own Iceland? And Greenland is still yours. Fascists.
posted by Artw at 2:21 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or will the new Russia invade the same people it invaded last time? Poland and Ukraine aren't sleeping soundly, you can bet your old hammer and sickle on that my friend.

The Ukranians aren't sleeping so well, but as a full-fledged member of NATO and the EU, Poland faces no real threat of Russian aggression.

But the point here is that Poland is not Georgia and America and the EU should not bloody act as though it is.
posted by three blind mice at 2:22 PM on September 16, 2008


This intercepted phone conversations bit seems like an attempt to counter the reports from OSCE observers on the ground who said Russia did not enter S.Ossetia until long after Georgia began shelling Tskhinvali. Those reports are summarized here, previously re-linked by Nasreddin. OSCE also listened to telephone traffic. According to them, Georgia began shelling Tskhinvali 10:35 PM August 7. This contradicts Georgian reports that they began shelling the city only after Russian tanks began entering the Roki tunnel around 11:30. The OSCE claims Russian troops did not enter the Roki tunnel until 11 AM the following day. Russian had planes and missiles in the air about 6:30 AM. German General Richter, who was with the OSCE, told government officials in Berlin that Georgia had lied about troop movements.
I understand that people want to believe the Russians are totally at fault here, but the facts don't bear that out.
This story about the defense of Tskhinvali helps explain why the Georgian offensive stalled there.
posted by CCBC at 2:35 PM on September 16, 2008


Medvedev condemns Georgia NATO membership promise

"NATO won't become stronger this way, global tensions won't be reduced. What if Georgia had a NATO membership action plan? I would not wait for a second in making the decision I made at that time. What would the consequences be? They could be much worse."
posted by homunculus at 3:17 PM on September 16, 2008


Catfry - actually, isn't that whole Bjorkish deal with the Faroes?
posted by Artw at 4:14 PM on September 16, 2008


Defending Russia at this point is really quite absurd.
posted by tarvuz at 6:52 PM on September 16, 2008


Defending Russia at this point is really quite absurd.

And it is attitudes like that right there that historically have caused the Russians to say "FUCK YOU, WEST we will do what we need to do to keep ourselves secure and you can shove your opinions up your ass".
posted by spicynuts at 8:05 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ukraine's Ruling Coalition Collapses
posted by hortense at 10:28 PM on September 16, 2008


Artw, the history of danish extra terratorial possessions is pretty convoluted, but currently both Geenland and the Faroes are sort of provinces of Denmark with very extensive autonomy.
Iceland was once part of DK by way of being part of Norway and then Norway becoming danish owned for some time or something like that.

But all those areas have had a weird combination of colonial and provincial rule, compared to the honest to goodness colonies that Denmark had on the Virgin Islands and the various small outposts in and around India. None of those were particularly large scale operations compared to other European powers' operations but they nonetheless existed. I really struggle to think of an European country with autonomous powers during the colonial era that didn't dabble in colonies.

So Nasreddins original claim that all countries look out for their own interests and offering this historical period in the world as the European example seems very valid to me.
posted by Catfry at 5:08 AM on September 17, 2008


I should probably say I struggle to think of an autonomous power during that era WITH THE MEANS TO ACQUIRE colonies that didn't.
posted by Catfry at 5:13 AM on September 17, 2008


Yes, even the plucky little Duchy of Courland (one of my favorite vanished polities) had them.
posted by languagehat at 6:21 AM on September 17, 2008


Defending Russia at this point is really quite absurd.

"And it is attitudes like that right there that historically have caused the Russians to say "FUCK YOU, WEST we will do what we need to do to keep ourselves secure and you can shove your opinions up your ass"."

You almost have that right. The difference being we don't cause Russia to behave like jerks. That is what Russia does naturally. In fact some of the people in power have been quoted as saying they can finally "take of the mask" they have been wearing the past decade or so.

Really, defending Russia at this point is either done in ignorance or Russian ultra nationalistic Putin worship. Russia loves the bullying strong man.

If you don't believe me then just read all the fine opposition journalism coming out of Russia.
posted by tarvuz at 11:28 AM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Catfry - Dude, i am totally from the UK and pulling your chain.

Actually, come to think of it, add the UK to the list of "countries that have been colonised by Denmark". Oppressor!
posted by Artw at 11:35 AM on September 17, 2008


Aww, you scalliwag you! Here, enjoy the startup of the CERM.
posted by Catfry at 5:40 AM on September 19, 2008


Why McCain Loves Misha: Georgia's president is a man after the Republican nominee's heart. That's what worries some advisers.
posted by homunculus at 1:08 AM on September 22, 2008


Freezing out Russia may be risky: Some say efforts to check terrorism and proliferation shouldn't end over Georgia. Cheney and other hard-liners disagree.
posted by homunculus at 1:10 AM on September 22, 2008


Somehow I missed this a few weeks ago: Saakashvili said that Georgia could have defeated Russia -- eventually -- if it had gone to guerrilla war. But that he decided to preserve Georgia as a modern country and go for peace instead. Money quote: “Eventually we would have chased them away, but we would have had to go to the mountains and grow beards. That would have been a tremendous national philosophical and emotional burden.” Link (NYTimes)
Oh, those burdensome beards!
posted by CCBC at 3:11 PM on September 22, 2008


Colin Powell:
SESNO: So you’re saying the Georgians provoked this?

POWELL: They did. I mean, there was a lot of reasons to have provocations in the area, but the match that started the conflagration was from the Georgian side.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:12 PM on September 22, 2008


Wow. Is he still officially "on the fence"?
posted by Artw at 3:18 PM on September 22, 2008


Kirth Gerson writes "POWELL: They did. I mean, there was a lot of reasons to have provocations in the area, but the match that started the conflagration was from the Georgian side."

So there you have it: the Russians definitely started it.
posted by mullingitover at 4:01 PM on September 22, 2008


Broken clock, etc. etc.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:54 AM on September 23, 2008


Top U.S. Officer Pleads for Cooperation With Moscow
posted by homunculus at 3:31 PM on September 24, 2008


Putin warns Ukraine over arms: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has expressed outrage at reports that Ukraine supplied arms and technicians to Georgia before the recent war.
posted by homunculus at 12:36 PM on October 3, 2008


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