Georgia and Russia: the aftermath
November 18, 2008 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Georgia and Russia: This is the most balanced and informative discussion I've seen since the invasion over three months ago (MeFi thread). If you've been wanting to catch up, this essay and its many useful links are the way to go. The author, Donald Rayfield, is professor of Russian and Georgian and knows both countries well. (Via wood s lot.)
posted by languagehat (12 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Fine work...thanks for not letting this get lost in the post-election glow.
posted by availablelight at 9:22 AM on November 18, 2008

Yeah, this is a great analysis.

The other point that's worth mentioning is that announcements of a newly powerful Russia's arrival on the world scene have turned out to be premature. The economic crisis has utterly destroyed the Russian stock market for the foreseeable future and oil prices will take some time to recover. I think the country has enough currency reserves to tide it over without resorting to a default, but it's clear that the kind of long-run stable infrastructural and social investments needed to maintain stability in this situation had not been sufficient at all. (Pastabagel was right, as usual.)

Also, Russia as a country is literally, without exaggeration, doomed: the population has fallen by 300,000 this year alone and no real baby boom is in the offing (natality is still below even 1990 levels). My own generation is far too small, and the kind of economic development needed to promote population growth and quality of life outside of the regional centers of European Russia just has not taken place.

It looks like Putin is going to return to power next year, this time for a 6 year term (effectively for 2 terms at 6 years each). It remains to be seen whether he's actually an effective leader or he just happened to come along at a convenient, high-oil time. If not, things are going to go to shit even further than they already have.
posted by nasreddin at 9:31 AM on November 18, 2008

Thanks, this was great. I was reading quite a bit about it when it first happened, and was always upset with the blanket American support of Georgia. It's good to see this thorough follow-up and be educated on the details.
posted by aliceinreality at 9:55 AM on November 18, 2008

I want a little copy of this article to carry around with me so that I can just hand it someone when Russia-Georgia comes up.
posted by cimbrog at 10:05 AM on November 18, 2008

Great post - thanks.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:51 AM on November 18, 2008

What a great article. Whilst the coverage in the British press has been more balanced than that of the US media, this is actually what I've been wanting to read since the whole mess began.
posted by ob at 11:58 AM on November 18, 2008

See also: "The War Nerd: Please don't help the Georgians"
posted by limited slip at 2:28 PM on November 18, 2008

Heh, I was there driving past deploying tanks (picture - and a few after that in the album) on the highway about 20km from Gori as I was going to Gori's basroba to get a kebab and some clothes. Th. It was moderate fun. It was however *absolutely* clear that the Russians didn't want an all-out war as the column was bumper to bumper and the Russian planes didn't just bomb the back and rear then go up and down with cluster bombs. I was a little worried. All of the soldiers were in the back of the trucks with nothing but cloth on top. I don't recall if you can see it, but some of the trucks towed really really small bits of artillery on the back, and I recall looking in and seeing unhappy soldiers squeezed in. The whole of their military looked like it would be easily rolled over in any real war. Also it seemed like a few of the US advisors were out in the field. They were given away by the different haircuts, uniforms, and far more expensive equipment. Interesting given that CNN seemed to insist that they were not deploying at all and played no part in things.

It was a random day really, we missed the Gori market bomb by two hours. I'm likely to be back this summer for an internship in the President's office so we will see what happens.

I wrote more about that day on this blog entry:

"Well, this drive is eventful. It started normally enough, and our plan was to stop off at the Gori market and Stalin museum. The roads were snarled up with traffic, and people have again been failing to pick a lane on a two lane highway, meaning that we are consistently 30cm from death. The roads are full of military hardware also, and it is clear the Georgian Army is in full deployment. Their equipment and tactical knowledge seems poor: the troop carriers are simple cloth backed trucks that tow CCCP-era small (very small) manual artillery pieces. I can't help thinking that if they go up against the Russians in a big way with this kit they will all die, and they are on the highway bumper to bumper with no room to leave the road. If I were a Russian pilot with a cluster bomb or two I'd just need to line them up right to kill hundreds of Georgians...and I dislike this given that I am having to drive on the same straight road. Apart from this, on a professional level it's always annoying to see poor tactical discipline. There is a little armour, but only really tanks. These again look like they were old at the point of independence, and I have an odd feeling they are going to get spanked. We proceed along at a minimal pace, merrily in the middle of the bombable military convoy. It feels quite pleasant, there's a fatalism mixed with an interested excitement. Russians to easily win if it comes to it though, these boys mostly suck. The only modern kit they have are some mobile missile launchers plainly supplied by the US and these are again stuck in the same line. I sigh for their mothers. Nati is also a bit worried, and I think she's only just realised I wasn't kidding about it being a bit more serious.

Well, no kebab at Gori market for me. Gori is *full* of soldiers and police as Gori market was bombed a couple of hours ago by the Russians. Where's my damn kebab and tourist nicknacs, Russia? Back to Tbilisi with our good health and pleasant thoughts that the convoy was not after all cluster bombed or strafed, I guess."

There's also an entry about the anti-Russia protests in Tbilisi I attended...but basically Russia owes me a kebab from Gori, damnit.
posted by jaduncan at 3:28 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, and this was the bombing we missed.
posted by jaduncan at 3:29 PM on November 18, 2008

They've assembled some really good writers at openDemocracy. Whenever the subject is something I'm reasonably informed about I can see for myself that they're getting good analysis (even where I don't agree), which of course makes your more confident of taking the word of writers they have commenting on things I don't know at all, like this. Add in all the linkage and the above-par comments from readers and it really is some of the best of the web.
posted by Abiezer at 4:31 PM on November 18, 2008

This is good. Thanks, languagehat.
posted by homunculus at 7:21 PM on November 18, 2008

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