The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
High Stakes Poker in Georgia
Although analysts may debate how far Putin decides to go on Georgia will go, its actions are indistinguishable from a campaign that intends to go “all the way”. It’s forces are thrusting deep into Georgian territory and are now menacing the Georgian capital. Clearly, Russia’s ceasefire has turned out to be ‘just another scrap of paper’ and heavily discounts any future or past assurances. Putin’s statements have shown themselves to have a low and possibly negative truth value, and he may have lied about events in Georgia from the beginning. That means that nothing Putin says matters. Only what the West actually does will have any significance.Lots of interesting discussion here. Ralph Peters puts the whole thing in perfect perspective here:
Russia is in the middle of a Great Game: a multi-front competition with China, India, Iran and the West for resources and influence in Central Asia. It’s long term position is poor. It’s demography is falling and apart from the energy sector — itself a spoil of Russia’s Great Game — its economy is less dynamic than China’s or the West. Russia is therefore engaged in a two-front “war” for resources and the control of communications links that it cannot afford to wage and which it has no good long-term prospects of winning. In this competition, the prizes are rail links, roads and pipelines. That is what Putin wants in Georgia. The Left, always on the lookout for a “war for oil” can’t see Georgia for what it is: Putin’s attempt to control the pipeline from the Caspian Sea to Turkey and thence to the European gas grid.
The US decision to send a military airlift into Tsibilsi and dispatch a naval convoy bringing humanitarian supplies sends a signal eerily reminiscent of the 1948 Berlin Airlift. The use of military and naval assets simultaneously lays the framework for future action with the same vehicles. Like Putin’s cooing threats, the humanitarian effort is intentionally ambiguous. Vladimir Putin has told America to “choose” between Russia and Georgia. He was really asking the United States to choose between conflict and appeasement. By sending a mini-Berlin airlift into Georgia, Bush is giving no answer, only repeating the question: Mr. Putin, choose — choose what comes next.
Let's be clear: For all that US commentators and diplomats are still chattering about Russia's "response" to Georgia's actions, the Kremlin spent months planning and preparing this operation. Any soldier above the grade of private can tell you that there's absolutely no way Moscow could've launched this huge ground, air and sea offensive in an instantaneous "response" to alleged Georgian actions.
As I pointed out Saturday, even to get one armored brigade over the Caucasus Mountains required extensive preparations. Since then, Russia has sent in the equivalent of almost two divisions - not only in South Ossetia, the scene of the original fighting, but also in separatist Abkhazia on the Black Sea coast.
The Russians also managed to arrange the instant appearance of a squadron of warships to blockade Georgia. And they launched hundreds of air strikes against preplanned targets.
Every one of these things required careful preparations. In the words of one US officer, "Just to line up the airlift sorties would've taken weeks."
Working through their mercenaries in South Ossetia, Russia staged brutal provocations against Georgia from late July onward. Last Thursday, Georgia's president finally had to act to defend his own people.
But when the mouse stirred, the cat pounced.
The Russians know that we know this was a setup. But Moscow's Big Lie propagandists still blame Georgia - even as Russian aircraft bomb Georgian homes and Russian troops seize the vital city of Gori in the country's heart. And Russian troops also grabbed the Georgian city of Zugdidi to the west - invading from Abkhazia on a second axis.
Make no mistake: Moscow intends to dismember Georgia.
This is the most cynical military operation by a "European" power since Moscow invaded Afghanistan in 1979. (Sad to say, President Bush seems as bewildered now as President Jimmy Carter did then.)
This attack's worse, though. Georgia is an independent, functioning democracy tied to the European Union and striving to join NATO. It also has backed our Iraq efforts with 2,000 troops. (We're airlifting them back home.)
This invasion recalls Hitler's march into Czechoslovakia - to protect ethnic Germans, he claimed, just as Putin claims to be protecting Russian citizens - complete BS.
It also resembles Hitler's invasion of Poland - with the difference that, in September '39, European democracies drew the line. (To France's credit, its leaders abandoned their August vacations to call Putin out - only Sen. Barack Obama remains on the beach.)
Yet our media give Putin the benefit of the doubt. Not one major news outlet even bothers to take issue with Putin's wild claim that the Georgians were engaged in genocide.
I lack sufficiently powerful words to express my outrage over Russia's bloody cynicism in attacking a small, free people, or to castigate our media for their inane coverage - or to condemn our own government's shameful flight from responsibility.
Just as Moscow has reverted to its old habit of sending in tanks to snuff out freedom, Washington has defaulted to form by abandoning Georgia to the invasion - after encouraging Georgia to stand up to the Kremlin.
Reminds me of 1956, when we encouraged the Hungarians to defy Moscow - then abandoned them. And of 1991, when we prodded Iraq's Shia to rise up against Saddam - then abandoned them. We've called Georgia a "friend and ally." Well, honorable men and states stand by their friends and allies. We haven't.
Oh, we sure are giving those Russians a tongue-lashing. I'll bet Putin's just shaking as he faces the awesome verbal rage of Condi Rice. President Bush? He went to a basketball game.
The only decent thing we've done was to reveal, at the UN, that the Russians tried to cut a deal with us to remove Georgia's president.
Shame on us.
Meanwhile Charles Krauthammer is not suggesting that the US respond with immediate military confrontation--but he does note that President Bush and the the Europeans do have some strong cards to play, including booting the neo-Sovs from the G-8 and blackballing them from the WTO. But now is no time for meekness or appeasement:
The most crucial and unconditional measure, however, is this: Reaffirm support for the Saakashvili government and declare that its removal by the Russians would lead to recognition of a government-in-exile. This would instantly be understood as providing us the legal basis for supplying and supporting a Georgian resistance to any Russian-installed regime.Indeed.
President Bush could cash in on his close personal relationship with Putin by sending him a copy of the highly entertaining (and highly fictionalized) film Charlie Wilson’s War to remind Vlad of our capacity to make Russia bleed. Putin would need no reminders of the Georgians’ capacity and long history of doing likewise to invaders.
President Bush needs to make up for his mini-Katrina moment when he lingered in Beijing yukking it up with our beach volleyball team while Putin flew to North Ossetia to direct the invasion of a neighboring country. Bush is dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to France and Georgia. Not a moment too soon. Her task must be to present these sanctions, get European agreement on as many as possible and begin imposing them, calibrated to Russian behavior. And most important of all, to prevent any Euro-wobbliness on the survival of Georgia’s democratically elected government.
We have cards. We should play them. Much is at stake.
So, let's see: Putin suggests that we choose "partnership" with Russia or we choose Georgia, have I got that right? What "partnership"?? The one where they block us in the UN at every turn? The one where they sell nukes to Iranian Islamic nutjobs? The ones where they provide billions of dollars of weapons to Venezuela, kick British Petroleum out of its "joint venture" deal, and send spies to London to murder Russian dissidents?
Putin wants a choice, does he? Fine: give me Georgia. And throw in the Ukraine while we're at it...
Victor Davis Hanson has got it exactly right:
The new reality is that a nuclear, cash-rich, and energy-blessed Russia doesn’t really worry too much whether its long-term future is bleak, given problems with Muslim minorities, poor life-expectancy rates, and a declining population. Instead, in the here and now, it has a window of opportunity to reclaim prestige and weaken its adversaries. So why hesitate?Emphasis is mine. Read the whole thing.
Indeed, tired of European lectures, the Russians are now telling the world that soft power is, well, soft. Moscow doesn’t give a damn about the United Nations, the European Union, the World Court at the Hague, or any finger-pointing moralist from Geneva or London. Did anyone in Paris miss any sleep over the rubble of Grozny?
More likely, Putin & Co. figure that any popular rhetoric about justice will be trumped by European governments’ concern for energy. With just a few tanks and bombs, in one fell swoop, Russia has cowed its former republics, made them think twice about joining the West, and stopped NATO and maybe EU expansion in their tracks. After all, who wants to die for Tbilisi?
Russia does not need a global force-projection capacity; it has sufficient power to muscle its neighbors and thereby humiliate not merely its enemies, but their entire moral pretensions as well.
The Russians have sized up the moral bankruptcy of the Western Left. They know that half-a-million Europeans would turn out to damn their patron the United States for removing a dictator and fostering democracy, but not more than a half-dozen would do the same to criticize their long-time enemy from bombing a constitutional state.
The Russians rightly expect Westerners to turn on themselves, rather than Moscow — and they won’t be disappointed. Imagine the morally equivalent fodder for liberal lament: We were unilateral in Iraq, so we can’t say Russia can’t do the same to Georgia. (As if removing a genocidal dictator is the same as attacking a democracy). We accepted Kosovo’s independence, so why not Ossetia’s? (As if the recent history of Serbia is analogous to Georgia’s.) We are still captive to neo-con fantasies about democracy, and so encouraged Georgia’s efforts that provoked the otherwise reasonable Russians (As if the problem in Ossetia is our principled support for democracy rather than appeasement of Russian dictatorship).
From what the Russians learned of the Western reaction to Iraq, they expect their best apologists will be American politicians, pundits, professors, and essayists — and once more they will not be disappointed. We are a culture, after all, that after damning Iraqi democracy as too violent, broke, and disorganized, is now damning Iraqi democracy as too conniving, rich, and self-interested — the only common denominator being whatever we do, and whomever we help, cannot be good.
We talk endlessly about “soft” and “hard” power as if humanitarian jawboning, energized by economic incentives or sanctions, is the antithesis to mindless military power. In truth, there is soft power, hard power, and power-power — the latter being the enormous advantages held by energy rich, oil-exporting states. Take away oil and Saudi Arabia would be the world’s rogue state, with its medieval practice of gender apartheid. Take away oil and Ahmadinejad is analogous to a run-of-the-mill central African thug. Take away oil, and Chavez is one of Ronald Reagan’s proverbial tinhorn dictators.
Russia understands that Europe needs its natural gas, that the U.S. not only must be aware of its own oil dependency, but, more importantly, the ripples of its military on the fragility of world oil supplies, especially the effects upon China, Europe, India, and Japan. When one factors in Russian oil and gas reserves, a pipeline through Georgia, the oil dependency of potential critics of Putin, and the cash garnered by oil exports, then we understand once again that power-power is beginning to trump both its hard and soft alternatives.
It is getting ugly folks...
So... do you really think a that President Obama is prepared to deal with the real world?? Mr. Peace, love, hope, change, why-can't-we-all-just-"talk"-and-get-along and read our copies of Das Kapital?
In a pig's eye. Putin may be taking the world to the brink of global war--but he also may have just ensured the election of John McCain.
Maybe we should send some of those troops from Iraq to the Ukraine for some "exercises" of our own.