Monday, August 11, 2008

War Continues in South Ossetia and Georgia

The Russians continue their bombardment of Georgian cities and towns, and they're complaining that the US is airlifting Georgian troops who were previously stationed in Iraq as part of Georgia's commitment there. Georgia had sent 2,000 peacekeepers to Iraq to help with the US efforts in Iraq.

Now, they're needed back home as Russia continues its assault on Georgia. Georgian civilians are paying the price as they are the ones who are suffering for Russia's militarism.

For those who were wondering what the US could possibly do to help the Georgians, that's about it. As it is, this clearly puts the US in Georgia's corner, and anything more could trigger a direct confrontation between the US and Russia, which neither side wants.

Strategy Page
notes that the Russians have maintained a persistent and troublesome presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which the Georgians consider part of their own territory. Those "peacekeepers" have thwarted Georgian control over the whole of its nation, and the Russians have been exploiting this situation for years.

Even as the Russians bombard the Georgians from the air, the Russian navy is providing a second front in their war, and had sunk a Georgian missile boat, although Georgian forces deny that.

Tigerhawk wonders where all the anti-war protesters went. You know the answer to this. Those anti-war protesters are really anti-US protesters, and if the Russians wanted war, they can have as many as they can seemingly handle, even if they're the aggressors and are attempting to exert their influence over the former Soviet republics.

Don't count on the UN to act to stop the war, since Russia maintains a veto on the Security Council. It's a fool's hope to even consider that the UN can act to draft a weakly worded statement, let alone a resolution that forces the Russians to back off. The US and other big powers are calling for a truce, but the Russians are out to teach the Georgians and the rest of the former Soviet Union states a lesson in power projection and fealty. Russia wants to maintain its control and dominance over the nations that border it, and Georgia's independence and close ties to the US could not be tolerated.

Russian propagandists and apologists keep claiming that the Russians were simply responding to Georgian advances into South Ossetia and that they're protecting the territorial integrity of South Ossetia. That rationale goes out the window when you keep seeing reports of Georgian towns all over the country coming under fire from Russian aircraft and artillery.

Prime Minister Vlad Putin
is saying that the US is backing Georgia. Well, many think the US isn't doing nearly enough to help an ally in a time of need, but the logistical support provided thus far, may be all that the US can do without getting US forces directly into a shooting match with the Russians at a time when it isn't in the strategic interests of the US to do so.

The propagandists have also claimed that the Georgians engaged in ethnic cleansing, but the only violence perpetrated against civilians right now is the ongoing bombardment of Georgian cities. Gori is on the cusp of being overrun.

To underscore the point that this was not about South Ossetia, but rather Georgia's insistence on allying with the US and the West, it appears that the Russians demand nothing less than Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to step down. This fight was gamed by the Russians to their advantage, using their presence in South Ossetia and ongoing skirmishes with Georgian forces to instigate a wider conflict.

Is Reuters stage managing photo opportunities inside Georgia? It certainly seems that way based on the photo sequences provided by Reuters photographers there. The level of violence against the Georgians doesn't need to be exaggerated or stage managed - there's more than enough carnage without this. As for why you're not seeing photos of South Ossetia, maybe you should be asking the Russians who are controlling that area with an iron fist. The reflexiveness to blame everything on Georgia for the crisis - and the US because it happens to be an ally and supporter of the Georgian democracy - is not altogether astonishing. After all, Bush hatred dies hard.

Powerline has a good post on the current situation there, including where we suspect Russian units are operating and where they may be headed next. (ht: at lgf)

The Russians are now talking about a ceasefire and Georgian withdrawal from South Ossetia at the UN - a return to the status quo ante, although the Russian "peacekeepers" will remain in place, even if they are engaging in operations.

The Russians are also busy claiming that attacks on civilians are unfortunate incidents and they didn't mean to do so. Take with a grain of salt given the Russian penchant to run up body counts wherever they go to war.
Russia will consider ceasefire and withdrawal of forces only after Georgia returns to pre-clashes status-quo and pulls its troops from "occupied" areas of South Ossetia, Vitaly Churkin, the Russia''s UN ambassador, said on 10 August.

But he also stressed that return to status-quo should no way apply to the Russian forces currently fighting with the Georgian troops in the region.

"There must not be any illusions about that," Churkin said. "In order to consider withdrawal of our forces we must make sure that there is no chance of genocide there."

He was speaking after an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council - the third one in last few days. The Council has again failed to reach an agreement on the wording of an appeal for an end to the hostilities.

"There is a straightforward way to stop fighting, to stop killing: for Georgians to withdraw and then to have an agreement on non-use of force signed and then we can talk on other verity things, including [on] military and political arrangements," Churkin said.
Something doesn't quite make sense. From all various reports from the region, the Georgians have been forced from South Ossetia since yesterday, and the Russians are continuing to advance into Georgian territory. They're not merely content with status quo ante (a return to the situation pre-conflict), but are attempting to create a new geopolitical situation there.

Putin is attempting to spin that it is the Georgians engaged in war crimes and ethnic cleansing (again). Pradva concurs.

The fact is, if Russia were truly serious about just protecting the status quo and preventing Georgian forces from acting there, stop at the border. Instead, they are looking to overthrow the Georgian government.

President Bush made a brief statement on the ongoing crisis, but will not commit military forces to assist the Georgians. He will have to rely on the bully pulpit to cajole the Russians into stopping the fighting because the US simply does not want to risk getting into a shooting war with the Russians over the Georgians, even though we risk losing an ally in the region and perhaps future potential allies may reconsider acting.

One may further trace the Georgia's failings to the NATO refusal to grant Georgia entry, which gave Russia an opening to seize its objectives in South Ossetia and wrest control from the Georgians.

It's also curious that the Russian investment community is dealing with a slumping stock market there just as this conflict has heated up. What do they know that the Russian government doesn't? Well, they know that Russia needs to maintain ties with the West, and if they continue down this path, their economy could take a big hit. However, I don't see this thwarting Putin's plans for Russian foreign policy.

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